‘No hands or eyes but yours’

A sign with a Scripture verse has been hung on a vandalized statue of Jesus in Serenity Park on Peoria's south side. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

During World War II, a French village lost a beloved statue of Christ in a bombing raid. The villagers managed to rebuild the statue, except for its hands. Those pieces were never found in the rubble. Finally, the villagers placed a plaque on the statue with the inscription, “I have no hands but yours.”

The saying calls to mind an instruction from St. Teresa of Avila to her Discalced Carmelite community in Spain: “Christ has no body now on earth, but yours; no hands, but yours; no feet, but yours. It is your eyes through which Christ’s compassion looks out to the world; your feet with which he must walk about doing good; your hands with which he blessed humanity; your voice with which his forgiveness is spoken; your heart with which he now loves.”

That message bears repeating for the Peoria area Christian community after vandals badly damaged an outdoor statue of Christ on the city’s south side on the night of July 2.

The $15,000 statue was imported from Italy only a few months ago to serve as the centerpiece of a park along Jefferson Street to be dedicated to those in the city who have lost a loved one to violence. The 10-foot figure has the message “Love one another as I have loved you” on its base. Now that it has been disfigured beyond repair — the outstretched arms hacked off and the face bashed in — a sign has been hung around the statue’s neck recalling the prayer of Jesus  on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Pierre Serafin is a member of Holy Family Parish in Peoria and his family has owned the UFS Downtown Outlet Center in the neighborhood near the statue since 1977. The business paid for the statue as “a way of reaching out to the community” with a symbol of peace and as “a rally point for prayer.” The green space is known as Serenity Park.

Shortly after the vandals struck, City Council member Denise Moore started a GoFundMe page called “Peace for Peoria” to help replace the statue. As of Tuesday, the effort had raised nearly $3,700.

We invite readers to prayerfully consider supporting the effort. There have been suggestions that a replacement statue might incorporate a security camera to deter such a senseless crime from happening again. But like Jesus broken on the cross, the statue as it now is — while sad to see — offers powerful lessons in love, forgiveness, and the need for followers of Christ to be his body on earth. — Thomas J. Dermody


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