The Pro-Life Vivaldi

While being taken around to various churches in Venice looking at art – Italy may be working on the Separation of Church and State, but there isn’t much of a Separation of Church and Art – we happened to stumble on a situation connecting Music and care for unwanted children.

Antonio is the 18th century Venetian composer whose “Four Seasons” are quite popular today. Well, it turns out his day job was to conduct and write music for the choir of a “foundling home” (a more accurate term than “orphanage” for many of the world’s “orphanages”) for young girls whose parents or mothers could not take care of them or be responsible for them. These girls did not all grow up to be nuns; many of them learned skills, ultimately married and had bourgeois family lives. As with the relationship in Orange County between the Pacific Symphony and the Rescue Mission Village of Hope, I was struck and pleased by the link between the arts and social services for those in need, especially nowadays when the arts are often rivals with social services for money. (But then again it has probably always been so; one of my favorite sayings of my father is “Things aren’t what they used to be, and furthermore, they never were!”) Of course the matter has a special meaning for us because of our concern about what is to be done about “unwanted” and inconvenient children. Many today advocate “abortion rights” as a solution. This is ethically repulsive. So finding an 18th century example of positive care for unwanted children, linked to a famous composer, is quite inspiring.

The church that stands now, Our Lady of the Visitation, is often called “Vivaldi’s church,” was actually finished after his time. But the head picture behind the altar is a picture of the event called the Visitation – the event described in Luke where Mary goes to meet her elderly cousin Elizabeth who is also pregnant. Mary is visibly expecting in the picture. An appropriate dedication for a church in a compound for “crisis pregnancy” children, and an image not much seen. Annunciations and Madonnas are everywhere, but a picture with Jesus in the womb is rare – and a delight.

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