Meditating with the Old Masters
In the art world, old master refers to a skilled artist from Europe who created works of art before the 1800s. Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Raphael are well-known names that come to mind. Picturesque paintings from the Renaissance and earlier continue to inspire us today.
Mary Ann Roesler takes works of art from the Renaissance and digitally enhances their magnificence to new heights. Not only does she propel fine art to new levels, she directs her God-given talents toward a passion within her Catholic Faith. Mary Ann is the author of Seek Ponder & Pray – Meditations on the Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary.
This is not your average book on the rosary. Not only does Mary Ann guide the reader through the mysteries of the rosary, she includes her award-winning renditions of magnificently blended digital art from the old masters and incorporates meditations composed by Catholic clergy – most from the Diocese of La Crosse.
A journal page for each mystery is included to help the reader with his or her personal meditation. A Marian Catechist since 2002, Mary Ann was inspired to put together a book on meditations and the rosary that would help others. “I love doing religious art,” she says. Religious art done during the Renaissance and earlier was done for catechetical reasons.
Members of Blessed Sacrament Parish in La Crosse, Mary Ann and husband Gene have been married 56 years. Their love for God, for family, and their commitment to each other make up the foundation they live by.
“Gene and I pray the rosary together every morning to start our day,” Mary Ann says. “I hope my book reminds people to pray a daily rosary and take time to meditate.”
Seek Ponder & Pray goes beyond the mysteries of the rosary. It’s the outcome of a story which began in the late 1800s.
Born in Montreal, Mary Ann’s mother, Gertrude, was the 16th child of 17 live births. Eleven of her siblings died at an early age before she was born. During all these years of sadness, St. Andre Bessette was Gertrude’s father’s spiritual director. Felix Dussault and Gertrude’s mother, Lumina Morin, both died before she was six. Once Gertrude was of age, she became a nun and professed her vows with the Little Company of Mary, a nursing Order in Chicago.
Life as a nurse within the Order was hard work. Eventually, Gertrude contracted tuberculosis and asked to leave the Little Company of Mary. She was planning to join a French-speaking Order, the White Sisters of Africa. After attending Mass in Chicago one Sunday, she decided to take part in the parish bazaar. There she met Paul Link, a Seabee from Alma Center who had traveled to Chicago for his job. Gertrude never made it to Africa – she and Paul were married two weeks later. After nine years, their only child, Mary Ann, was born.
Mary Ann holds fond memories of her parents. “I have my mother’s prayer book and the cross she wore with her habit and also my father’s rosary.”
Gene was raised on the family farm in St. Joseph Ridge. He jokes, “I can always get a conversation going by saying ‘Hey, my mother-in-law was a nun.’” Mary Ann and Gene met at Aquinas High School in La Crosse. Married in 1962, they are parents to a son, Ryan, and a daughter, Maureen. Another son, Ramon, died at a young age. The Roeslers are grandparents to three boys, and are awaiting the arrival of their second great-grandchild.
Gene was a police officer for the City of La Crosse for 30 years. After retirement, he drove a semi-truck for 10 years. Mary Ann was an art major at Viterbo College. After Ramon died, Mary Ann started her career working in real estate.
“I used to pray the rosary in the car on my way to work,” Mary Ann recalls. Once she became disabled, Mary Ann made time for daily Mass, Adoration and religious studies.
Her passion for photography goes back many years and began with a local camera club. “I started taking photos and submitting them for competition. I enjoyed the ‘creative’ category the best.”
I hope my book reminds people to pray a daily rosary and take time to meditate.”
Despite living with rheumatoid arthritis since her 30s, Mary Ann continued her photography until four years ago when she was no longer able to hold her camera. Confined to a walker and wheelchair, she decided to do creative work without giving up her love for photography. She taught herself Photoshop, a complex photo editing software program, and the rest is history.
Mary Ann’s photography is internationally acclaimed. She’s won many awards and been published in several magazines. While many of her awards are for her own photographs, others are for composite photos and inspirational art she digitally blended in Photoshop. Doorway to Eden was recently published in the prestigious magazine, Living the Photo Artistic Life.
Seek Ponder & Pray includes digitally-blended art. This process is very extensive. “The Coronation of Mary took me 15 hours to complete. The others took at least five to six hours each after locating the reflective elements. I wanted to have more meditation. I wanted to enhance spirituality.” Of the 20 pieces of artwork in her book, The Visitation is her favorite. Mary Ann used Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Visitation for the background on the second joyful mystery. She began compiling Seek Ponder & Pray in August 2017, with a goal to be finished by the 100th anniversary of Fatima – a goal she was able to meet.
“If I were more able, I’d have liked to have gone to different parishes to tell the story and encourage people to pray the rosary.”
Mary Ann’s health restrictions don’t stop her from doing what she loves. “If everyone could take 15 minutes out of their day to help someone, to say a prayer for them, to help them get to heaven, that would be a wonderful thing. If this book helps two people get to heaven, what a wonderful thing that would be!”
Story by Sharon Sliwka | Photography by Michael Lieurance