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"...I wish to thank you for your kind letter and the copy you enclosed of your painting of the Deposition. Your reproduction is most impressive and the theme - amor, muerte, vida -is inspiring. I would be quite anxious to see the original painting, for, as I suspect, it must be truly awe inspiring. I was humbled by the fact that you chose my picture as a model for the Jesuit laboring under the burden of Christ. I pray that the Spirit will enlighten and strengthen me to shoulder or 'take on' Christ more completely.
I am pleased with the work you and your fellow artists are doing. In many ways you have re-opened a door to inspired creativity that releases the human spirit from materialistic bondage as it searches for its Creator; thereby you have performed a noble service in your dedication to the following of your chosen apostolate..."
Fr Pedro Arrupe, SJ
Personal correspondence from
December 17, 1975
"I Come With Three Wounds : Llego ' Con Tres Heridas"
(Finding God In All Things)
Often I reference music . It's been a huge part of my life and I think most everyone 's life . My Mom had 78's going continually on the phonograph, she loved Nat King Cole, Perry Como,and Mario Lanza, Rosemary Clooney ... I can still hear her singing "Young At Heart" with Sinatra, this was before we had the 33 and 45 records. My brother Steve had a swing band orchestra , and a Jazz combo, with my other brother Bob on trumpet. They would practice in our basement and I'd sit on the stairs and hear those beautiful melodies of the "crooner era" as well as the genius work of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. I'd go into my brothers' rooms and take their records which included everything from Johnny Mathis, to Camelot , to Elvis etc....and then in 1960 suddenly it seemed, out of nowhere came Joan Baez. To my ears it sounded as if a lonely prophet had made a record for all the suffering souls in our land and world, singing with a strong,fierce, incredibly powerful, plaintive voice - with one guitar and a kind of majestic, noble and ethereal beauty. It's difficult to imagine her solitary impact or her deep effect on an 11 year old boy. Of course there were other folk singers before her , but she was the first one I heard. Joan Baez is still a noble and respected prophet to me. Gradually Beatniks turned into Hippies and the Beatles brought a world change, so much so, that me, a 16 or 17 year old boy in Denver was riding around in the car listening to the sitar and becoming aware of completely different and exotic sounds as well as (through osmosis) other world religions.
In 1974 while I was teaching Art at Regis High in Denver Joan Baez put out her first full Spanish Album "Gracias a la Vida." Ultimately, this would lead me to a deep love and reverence for the Hispanic cultures and specifically to live in New Mexico.
One song on that album was Llego' Con Tres Heridas : I Come With Three Wounds; one of love, one of death, one of life , a poem by Miguel Hernandez who died in Spain in the civil war. During a lonely dark spiritual time I decided to paint an oil painting about what it was like in the world ( Good Friday, Holy Saturday...)when Jesus was dead, because I couldn't feel him. St Therese was once seen (unbeknownst to her) knocking on the tabernacle door saying "Jesu! Are you there !?"
At that time Fr Pedro Arrupe was General of the Jesuits (I was so blessed to meet him "accidentally" in an elevator in St Louis) and I chose his likeness for the man taking down Christ (in art this is called a "Deposition")from the Cross. The sun is eclipsed overhead just as the Gospels describe. The man is struggling to hold him and lets out a cry of grief. I painted him in stripes because in Isaiah the prophet says "...by his stripes (flagellation marks) we are healed," Isaiah 53:5. I sent a copy of the painting to Fr Arrupe and he responded with one of the most humble and beautiful letters I have ever received. The letter is framed and is still next to the painting in the Regis Jesuit Community Chapel. Not only because Fr Arrupe was Basque as was St Ignatius, but we all (well not all, some did not like him) felt he was "kinda" St Ignatius "reincarnated." He fit the description that St Philip Neri, and centuries later Adrienne von Speyr gave of Ignatius. Both saw him as sun-like, emanating light and the love of God . Adrienne said nobody points to God with such shrewd intelligence as Ignatius. Fr Arrupe was exactly that way in his radiance and you felt (as you also did with St John Paul II) that you actually stepped into his sphere of sanctity. There are those people who do not hold back their love, because their love has become transformed into a direct way for God to reach you.
One time I was giving a power point show on my early art and the later images and icons, and I spoke about this 1975 painting. I said I was in a very dark time and didn't feel Jesus was alive for me. A woman raised her hand and said "But look. He's kissing the man on the head!" Even though I was the painter I never realized that until she showed me. That was a powerful lesson for me, that people when they spend the time contemplating a picture or icon, can teach you so much about your own work.
Fr Bill McNichols
31 July 2017
Feast of Holy Father St Ignatius Loyola