CULLMAN, Ala. – St. Bernard Prep has been gifted a beautiful piece of handcrafted artwork with a very meaningful symbol – the Benedictine cross.
A few months ago Southern Heritage Restoration Owner Paul Moss was working in his shop when a couple walked in to inquire about a custom-made table. As the couple discussed their table, they indicated a desire to create a special piece of art to be hung in the dining hall of St. Bernard Abbey and School. With a design in hand, they told Moss they would like to have it made of purpleheart – a durable, rare type of wood from Southeast Asia – but thought it likely impossible. Purpleheart wood is known to be one of the hardiest and sturdiest types of wood in the world.
The couple presented Moss a pamphlet with the St. Bernard logo and asked if one could be made to measure 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
“Little did they know I had just completed a table made out of purpleheart, and I told them I sure could,” Moss said.
Southern Heritage Restoration specializes in reclaiming high-quality wood from old barns, antique furniture and other structures. Moss had on hand several reclaimed boards that were taken from an old lowboy military trailer. We may never know exactly where this wood originated or what all it has hauled.
“We put a lot of work in this piece, and I can’t thank my guys enough for all of their help,” stated Moss. “We first created a 5-foot by 4-foot square and used a friend’s wood router machine to cut out. Then we brought it back to the shop to take care of the rest. Several of the boards contained holes. We filled the boards with epoxy so that we could sand it, router it out and sand it again. Once it was sanded to our perfection, we coated it with five coats of polyurethane.”
The artwork was delivered to the school, put in place and covered to await its formal presentation. Prior to the unveiling, the St. Bernard Prep band played Mardi Gras music to celebrate Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. All gathered in the dining hall to see the work unveiled. The ceremony itself began with a scripture reading from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, followed by a solemn prayer and a blessing.
Abbot Marcus Voss, O.S.B. and St. Bernard Prep CEO Jim Miller presided over the unveiling of the artwork for St. Bernard in the dining hall. The anonymous donors designed the gift specifically for the front entrance wall, as it is the place where students and guests gather to eat meals. The location also often serves as a stage for events held by the Abbey and school, including daily breaks during the school day.
“This artwork combines the seal of the school and the abbey,” Abbot Marcus said. “It’s presented with the symbol of salvation (the Cross) that always reminds us of the love of the Lord.” As Abbot Marcus blessed the artwork he prayed these words, “May the sprinkling of this holy water remind all of us of our life in Christ that began at our baptism.”
Miller thanked all the benefactors involved in the donation of the artwork, especially Moss, Mike Roberts, Joel Williams, Cyle Lutz and Ethan Ellison — the artists behind the work. “We are so grateful for this beautiful addition to our school,” Miller said. “It will be a legacy piece for future generations of St. Bernard students to enjoy.”
Students, teachers and benefactors stayed after the event to socialize and enjoy delicious king cakes made by the St. Bernard dining hall staff headed by Fr. Bede Marcy. It was a fine Mardi Gras celebration.