What Does this Wood Carving Mean?

by Steve Ray on October 18, 2018

This was in the hospital. What does it mean?

When I went to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor Michigan the other day for a visit, I stopped by to pray at the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel. In front of the chapel was this wood carving.

I also, like all of you, sat in front of it puzzled. Who are the women; what’s in their hands? What does it mean? Then it came to me. A Catholic hospital, especially one with the word “mercy” in its name, practices the Corporal Acts of Mercy.

The six items held by the women representing the virtues or acts of mercy are taken straight from the Gospels – from Matthew 25:34-36 and are the basis for judging whether people are going to heaven or hell.

From the gospel we read: “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; ?for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, ? I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'”

Humbling words! I think the 5th image represents flowers that are often brought to the sick in hospitals.

Scary words – because Jesus ends up saying,

Then the King will say to those at his right hand, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink” … Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink …”  (Matthew 25:31-46)

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 8.24.55 AM

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Alicja August 11, 2012 at 6:27 AM

My guess is a carving representing all the things we have to leave behind at death e.g food, water, house, clothes, sustenance such as money and in the end the chains of mortality…..I could be wrong of course :))))

Pooh Bear August 11, 2012 at 6:50 AM

Matthew 25:31-46e

Kathy August 11, 2012 at 7:39 AM

I think it’s the Corporeal Works of Mercy minus ‘To Bury the Dead’. Also, I’m not sure why ‘To Visit the Sick’ is a plant branch.

Maucher August 11, 2012 at 8:11 AM

Is it the 6 corporal works of mercy? I don’t know about the fifth one. Which hospital is this carving located?

De Maria August 11, 2012 at 7:34 PM

Perhaps the woman, who is wearing a different hair style in each depiction, represents “Mercy” herself.

And the fifth object is perhaps a “medicinal herb”. They do seem to be straight out of Matt 25:34-36.

Food, drink, home, clothes, visiting the sick with medicine and visiting those who are imprisoned or shackled.


De Maria

Alexander Grabovetskiy @ Woodcarving School November 16, 2017 at 9:37 AM

I am a Woodcarver myself and when I see beautiful work done by other carvers it is just great!

Howard Fulks October 18, 2018 at 10:41 AM

Beautiful work. A very diverse group of women, too!

Grenville Paul October 19, 2018 at 1:07 AM

From what I see is that the Church is telling us that we should do the act of Mercy not only to the people that look like us and dress like us but also to those that don’t look like us and dress like us, hence the carving depicts different eyes and the different hair styles, representing people from all-around the Globe. Acts: 28-28. The fifth Image shows that the figure is caring a herb in her hand to treat sickness and a hand on her heart, showing compassion for someone who is suffering. all the others don’t have their hands on their heart.

Robert Stepp October 19, 2018 at 9:21 AM

Steve, you are an amazing teacher of our church and faith. Here again you tickle my brain with more facts that help deepen malice for God. Please friend meon facebook at, Robert Step. Varney, W. V. yes I too am on a mission to convert. With your help and that of all who support you, many souls can be guided by the Holy Spirit to the fullness of truth. Thank each one of y’all for your efforts in this race. God bless you Steve, and all the loved ones you hold in your heart. I look very forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. Sincerely your very viewing friend in Christ Jesus and Mary….. Robert Stepp

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: