The two words I wrote were, “Embrace Grace.” I shared this message, because it was the deep and tangible need for peace I was longing for during that season of my life.
It is often wonderful and easy to comfort other people, all the while, beating ourselves up relentlessly for every failure. God’s grace on the other hand is given to each and every one of us. This message has kept me grounded, allowing me to start afresh over and over again.” - Ronnie Ongolo
Caradonna, meaning, “dear woman,” began in Rome four years ago. The event helps empower women to creatively share a message with other women by writing a word or phrase they are passionate about on their bodies.
The women then model their bold messages in a photoshoot, and a month later, the photos are showcased at an art gallery on International Women’s Day. A central desire for the event is that participants are not only inspired to share their messages in an artistic way, but that they recognize they are deeply loved and valued, both by other women and by their Creator, God.
Erica, a graduate of La Sapienza University, attended Caradonna before she was a Christian. She noticed the intentionality and care the other women displayed toward her. She experienced something unique and palpable; a strong bond between and among the women:
“I had a beautiful impression of the women at Caradonna. It was a positive environment where everyone I interacted with was genuine and authentic. It was a place to create deep and sincere relationships.”
As I listened to stories from women such as Erica and Ronnie about their experiences at Caradonna, I was amazed by the power of women coming together in order to express a message close to their hearts. The event gives women a sense of purpose and value, allowing their inherent worth to be celebrated. As an artist reflects upon his or her work after creating, so God looks down with gladness upon each individual He created. Caradonna helps to display the work of The Artist through women created in His image.
The city of Rome itself contains a significant amount of art history. Art can be found in the most unexpected places around the historic city, from a tiny painting in a street-corner niche to a huge mosaic on the outside of a cathedral. For hundreds of years, artists have been creating and expressing the story of humanity in original ways throughout the city. In present day Rome, Caradonna is one other avenue through which women seek to communicate deeper existential realities. Creative expression helps give voice to aspects of the soul that may be difficult to unearth otherwise. As Ronnie mentioned, the very act of sharing a message written on her body helped her reflect upon her season of life in a way she would not have otherwise.
As Caradonna grows and ripples outward to other cities across Europe, women will continue to recognize their inherent value through the event. Further, they will have opportunities to engage in reflective, creative expression, sharing messages dear to their hearts with other women around them. The hope for Caradonna is that women will begin to recognize that they themselves are pieces of art created by God to reflect His intentional design for humanity.
About the author: Melissa Crutchfield was part of an Agape "Summer Spotlight" team that aimed to highlight how God is at work in Europe. Melissa served as a staff member of Cru in Bologna, Italy, Fort Worth, Texas and also Denver, Colorado. She recently completed a master’s in counselling. She enjoys the outdoors, playing guitar, photography and connecting with people.
Last Saturday morning, I woke up to the shouts and shrieks of children playing in the park below our apartment. Confused and a little annoyed, I shuffled sleepy-eyed to the window to see what the commotion was about.
"Europe needs more Jesus." - Christian Pichler, speaker at Revive Europe.
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A Return to What Matters