Wisdom on Wednesdays—The Man of Passion

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Via Crucis, oil on aluminum, c. 1936, 18 x 15 in.
This painting, with a frame by the artist’s brother Robert, was given by Carl Schmitt to Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton, Connecticut.  It now hangs in the reconciliation room.

“The avoidance of passion may with justice be said to be one of the chief characteristics of our modern Christian civilization.  But Christ our leader may with justice be characterized as the Man of Passion!  Passion may be defined as the acceptance of those obstacles (according to temperament) which reduce one to desperation but not to despair.

“The passion of Christ in his followers has power itself capable of conquering the violent and carnal passion of the devil and elevating passion to self-conquest, compassion.  Can it withstand the lack of passion?  The world, respectability—complacency, comfort, efficiency and the rest, all [which] cloak the lie of the father of lies?”  (c. 1932)

New issue of Vision going out today

2014-4 newsletter cover

I’m sending out the latest issue of Vision—the CSF e-newsletter—later today, with more memories from his son David Schmitt, Carl Schmitt’s influence on the American poet Hart Crane, and how you can “spread the word” about Schmitt and his legacy.

As always, Vision will feature photos and stories from the archives not seen anywhere else.

To get your copy delivered to your inbox, subscribe by clicking here.

Dad: A civilized man

This week we are honoring David T. Schmitt, Carl Schmitt’s fifth son, who died on March 22 at the age of 89.  Below is David’s portrait of his father, taken from a collection of memories he wrote down not long after his father’s death.

My father was born in 1889 in Warren, Ohio.  He was the second son of Jacob and Grace Schmitt, who had only two boys. His father Jacob taught music in Youngstown and donated his expertise as the choir director for St. Mary’s Church in Warren for over fifty years.  He also played the organ every Sunday for that period.

Jacob Schmitt with his sons Carl (left) and Robert, c. 1905.

From the beginning Dad could always draw, he had the talent of the discerning line.  He pursued this talent and made it his vocation, leaving high school to study art in New York, at the National Academy of Design.  He always knew what he wanted to do and he did it as far as art was concerned. He was given the gift and he knew it was his responsibility to develop it.  He further studied abroad in France and Italy before the First World War.

Later he returned home to marry Gertrude Lord and settle in Silvermine, near Norwalk, Connecticut.  Here he and other like-minded artists founded the Silvermine Guild of Artists, a colony where they could exchange ideas, paint and exhibit their skills.  This included drama, sculpture, painting, drawing, etching, water color, and some crafts such a pottery–they established a shop.

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Self-Portrait, charcoal and pencil on paper, December 1916

My father was what I call a civilized man: you could count on him to not only do the right thing at the right time but from the right motive, and he always knew why he should do things so.  He had good will and intelligence.  He was mature.  He not only nursed the gift of Faith, but he welcomed the gifts of the Holy Spirit, contemplated them, and tried to integrate them into his everyday life as much as possible.

He was civilized in the Christian tradition and he saw God’s creation as a magnificent manifestation of his love, because God is magnificent.  He wasn’t stilted in Puritan observations and taboos because Christ has redeemed creation to the extent that it wants or has cooperated in submission.  Consequently the Holy Spirit has informed nature to raise it above itself through grace.

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Self-Portrait, oil on hardboard, c. 1965, 15 x 12 in.

Mother always said Dad had an “artistic nature” or “temperament.”  In a word, he responded almost innately: dramatically, responsibly to any given situation.  He had instant commitment or involvement, with integrity.  To balance this innate tendency he was also extremely analytical to the point of being almost scientific about evaluating everything.

He was a true contemplative at times and even mystical at others in his deep understanding of the true nature of persons, places, things, situations—he would speak of the symbol and reality of the Trinity again and again in creation!

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Untitled, pastel on paper, 14 x 16 in.

The Schmitt Kids

We present another selection from the recollections of Carl Schmitt’s son David, who died this past month at the age of 89.

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The Schmitt family on the porch of their home, c. 1934.  Left to right: John, Carl, Jr., Michael, Carl with Gertrude in his lap, David, Robert, Gertrude with Christopher in her lap, Austin, Peter, and Jacob (sitting).

We were a big family of ten children, all boys except the youngest.  Her name was Gert.  Chris was the youngest boy.  Both were best of buddies, known as “grease and dirt.”  The got along like a dog and a cat, always at odds with each other, constantly bickering over everything.  I suppose it was the only way they were able to be noticed by the rest of us, a sort of “attention to the noisiest.”

David, Jake and John were the middle kids of the family and were usually left out of everything exciting.  Excitement meant going somewhere.  The four big kids, Bobby, Austin, Michael and Peter always got to go to the beach, the movies or to parties.  Likewise, the three youngest, Carl, Chris and Gert always got to go places too.  At least it always seemed that way.

My father was an artist by profession and painted pictures for a living.  He even painted pictures during the depression when work was difficult to obtain.  He also raised a gigantic vegetable garden to help feed us during the summer months.  Mother would can what she could from the garden for the long New England winters.

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House on the Hill, pastel on paper, 15 x 17 in.  
This work was given to the artist’s good friends Bill and Margaret Ryan as a Christmas gift in 1951.

Although food was not plentiful, we always managed to eat.  We especially appreciated what we thought was a specialty, an orange a piece on Sundays.  But then we also enjoyed, on that same day, something that was not so common, a leg of lamb.  Even today many families do not have lamb.  Dad’s conviction about food was, “Most people eat too much anyhow.”  He always said things like this to assure us.

We all lived in a house with one big bedroom for us kids.  My parents had a room newly built off of that.  Because my dad and my uncle built the house, there was no bathroom, running water or central heating.  Apparently, since they were artists aspiring to great heights, such mundane conveniences as these never crossed their minds.  We did, however, have a well, an outdoor hand pump, a “two holer” back house, two fireplaces, and a Franklin coal stove in the kitchen area.  This old coal stove went day and night in the winter time, trying to keep the rest of the house above freezing.  We all slept under huge piles of blankets stacked ten to fifteen high. If the sheer weight was all but unbearable, we never got cold.

Silvermine house from bottom of hill

The house in Silvermine from the bottom of hill near the Silvermine River.  The “newly built” section can be seen at the left.

Dad made sure we children always said evening prayers together before bedtime.  He would also lead us in grace before meals.  Before we had a car, every Sunday he walked with us to Mass.  He insisted we go to Mass, not because we felt like it or not, but because we owed it to our maker in justice.  He felt we also had the obligation and responsibility as creatures to be grateful to Divine Providence.  His favorite saying to each of us was: “Be a man.”  I interpreted him to mean: practice the natural virtues as well as the supernatural ones.  They belong in the picture too.  What good is a pious person who isn’t honest, or a holy man without courage?  He not only spreads confusion but gives scandal and poor example!