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The Bride - The Church

September 9th, 2018

The Bride - The Church

“The Bride : The Church”
At the heart of most of the recent Marian apparitions is the prophecy that the Church will undergo death and resurrection to be conformed to the Lamb of God. This past August a staggering new pageant of victims of violent abuse came forward as the Retinue of the Lamb. New Mexico had gone through this same horror in the early 1990’s, before most every other diocese. During that time I had to find an image of the Church that has always existed and will always exist . I turned to Cardinal Henri de Lubac, SJ’s written masterpiece “The Splendor of the Church” ( which he wrote while being silenced by the Church) in which he identifies the image of the Bride as eternal, coming originally from the Letter to the Ephesians by St Paul, as well as the Hebrew Bible’s beautiful marriage symbolism with God.
In my image of the Bride are representations of the Trinity. The Bride is always young moving toward Jesus Christ, her Groom, through two thousand years of the existence of the Church. She is pregnant with the ever-new members of the Church to be born until the return of Christ the King. On all sides she is threatened by violence from within the Church and without. But, the protective Radiance of the Trinity surrounds her, and she cannot be touched or harmed. This is the only image of the Church ( as well as the millions of loving Christians that still love her in their frailty too ) that gives me comfort in our very vulnerable and fragile world. I hope you will find some loving icons of guides in this exhibit , none who are perfect, but still (while they were on this earth) moving forward towards the Groom, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fr Bill McNichols
For the Exhibit in Denver 20 September 2018 “Light In All Darkness”

St Tarcisius of Rome

September 9th, 2018

St Tarcisius of Rome

St Tarcisius of Rome

The Invisible Companion
(Patron of Children who are bullied)
“The philosophers and the orators have fallen into oblivion; the masses do not even know the names of the emperors and their generals; but everyone knows the names of the martyrs, better than those of their most intimate friends.”
It is in these terms that Theodoret bishop of Cyrrhus sought to convey the extent of the triumph of Christianity: by the mid-fifth century, the cult of the saints had ringed the populations of the Mediterranean with intimate invisible friends. ‘The invisible friend’ - the ‘intimate friend’ - these are terms on which Theodoret and his contemporaries dwelt lovingly in relation to the saints. What we shall follow in this chapter is the manner in which new invisible companions came to crowd in around the men and women of late antiquity and the early middle ages. In so doing, we shall touch upon the subtle transformation of immemorial beliefs that was involved when Mediterranean men and women, from the late fourth century onwards, turned with increasing explicitness for friendship, inspiration and protection in this life and beyond the grave, to invisible beings who were fellow humans and whom they could invest with precise and palpable features of beloved and powerful figures in their own society.
From The Cult of the Saints : It’s Rise and Function in Latin Christianity
By Peter Brown
The legend of St Tarcisius of Rome is one of the most memorable of the early child martyrs and we would probably know him a lot better if his feast did not fall on the Assumption of the Mother of God, August 15th. Tarcisius was a young boy thought to be anywhere from the age of 10-14 years old, who lived in the third century during the persecutions of Emperor Valerian. Because the early Christians were forced to hide in the Roman catacombs, and have their services beneath the ground, someone, usually a Deacon would be required to take the Eucharist from Mass and carry it to the Christians in prison. One day, for whatever reason, a Deacon was unavailable and so little Tarcisius was asked to carry the Eucharist to the prisoners. While he was on his way a group of Roman boys grew curious about what the child was carrying. They stopped him and demanded to see what he held so close to himself. Tarcisius refused to let the bullies touch the Eucharist and they began to beat him until he fell face down, protecting the Eucharist, and was ultimately beaten to death. A Roman soldier is said to have stopped the boys, who ran off and then he carried Tarcisius away, the child still holding tight to his Lord. For this reason he is a patron of altar servers and children who today, more than ever, experience bullying.
There is a novel called “Fabiola : The Church of the Catacombs” written by Cardinal Wiseman in 1854, which makes use of actual young martyrs as characters, like Sts. Agnes, Emmerentiana, Sebastian and Pancratius. This novel greatly influenced my childhood, and introduced me to these young people who were so extraordinarily courageous. The model for this icon is Calvin Rupoli, my greatnephew who is now 11 years old.
We all have and hold Christ inside our hearts and souls . St Tarcisius help us to hold Him close during these dark times and let His light shine out with great brilliance and courage from us all.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
15 August 2018

St Vasily the Holy Fool of Moscow

August 10th, 2018

St Vasily the Holy Fool of Moscow

St Vasily the Holy Fool of Moscow
“If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool.”
1 Corinthians 3:18

St Vasily, the Russian Orthodox saint, is also known as ‘yurodivy’ or holy fool for Christ.
He was born of serfs in a village near Moscow in December 1468. Legends say he was born on the portico of the local church. As a young apprentice shoemaker, he became incensed at the Russian government’s carelessness and disregard, especially towards the poor and sick. He was known for mocking the Tsar, then Ivan the Terrible to provoke change and ran naked through Moscow’s snow filled streets, weighed down with chains.
The Tsar and high-ranking government officials tried to cajole Vasily with gifts, to silence him,but he gave everything away to those in need. He was clairvoyant and often warned people of their future tragedies, to beg them to become humble before God. Upon his death, August 2 1557, the humiliated Ivan the Terrible served as his pall bearer and then commissioned the magnificent church of St Vasily (St Basil) in Red Square, the Church that you see almost every night on the news, with the glorious multi-colored domes of the Holy Spirit’s tongues of flame, that we call “onion domes.”
I suppose that the closest thing we have to Holy Fools in the western church would be St Francis of Assisi and especially his most memorable foolish Friars, Brother Juniper and Brother John the Simple, or St Benedict Joseph Labre.
Troparion for the feast of St Vasily the Holy Fool of Moscow:
“Your life, O Basil (Vasily) was true and your chastity undefiled/ In fasting, vigilance and exposure to heat and frost/You subdued your flesh for the sake of Christ/ Therefore your countenance shone with the brilliance of the sun./Today the faithful glorify your Holy falling-asleep./ Implore Christ to deliver us from all bondage, dissension and war./ And to grant mercy to our souls.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
August 2018

Our Lady of Mt Carmel

August 10th, 2018

Our Lady of Mt Carmel

A blessed feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel to all the Carmelites including the Third Order Carmelites. This order according to an ancient tradition was inspired by Holy Prophet Elijah, and has for centuries, given us such great saints as Simon Stock,Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Edith Stein, Titus Brandsma, to name just a few...
Our Lady of Mt Carmel pray for us!

Holy New Martyr Tsarevich Alexei

August 10th, 2018

Holy New Martyr Tsarevich Alexei

“Many historians have suggested that Stalin was responsible for a death total of around 20 million, citing much higher victim totals from executions, Gulag camps, deportations and other causes. Simon Sebastian Montefiore suggested that Stalin was ultimately responsible for the deaths of between 20 and 25 million people ...
The dangers to journalists in Russia have been well known since the early 1990s but concern at the number of unsolved killings soared after Anna Politkovskaya’s murder in Moscow on 7 October 2006. While international monitors spoke of several dozen deaths, some sources within Russia talked of over two hundred fatalities...(and you can actually read this long list of names) The evidence has been examined and documented in two reports, published in Russian and English, by international organizations...The Remembrance Day Of Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty is observed on 15 December every year.”
(From the Wikipedia article on the list of journalists killed in Russia and deaths under Josef Stalin)
During my first year as an apprentice to the Russian American Master iconographer, Friar Robert Lentz, I was approached by a friend who suffered from haemophilia, to paint for him a patron he designated as, Alexei Romanov. I had been introduced to Russia in a way, by my Father who as governor had traveled to Russia in 1959 and met, and sparred with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. He brought home stories of Soviet Russia I will never forget. In November 1981, the Romanov Family was canonized as the first martyrs of the Revolution, along the servants who died with them and 860 other martyrs, as confessors and passion bearers of the faith. If you watch the 1971 film “Nicholas and Alexandria” and follow it with the 1965 classic “Dr Zhivago,” you get a cinematic history of Russia, before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution. I myself traveled to Magadan, Far East Russia in 1995. I was commissioned by Archbishop Hurley of Anchorage to paint an icon honoring the thousands of deaths in the death camp in Magadan, which was finally closed by Kruschev in 1955. This visit so haunting, beautiful and frightening has never left me. To prepare to do the icon of Our Lady of Magadan I read a most unique and unforgettable book by Nathaniel Davis, called “A Long Walk To Church.” It is a history of the Russian Orthodox Church during the most desperate and fearful times. Google Books has this to say, “Making use of the formerly secret archives of the Soviet government, and first-hand personal experiences, Nathaniel Davis describes how the Russian Orthodox Church hung on the brink of institutional extinction twice in the past sixty-five years. In 1939, only a few score widely scattered priests were still functioning openly...”
I think to see and feel the soul of Russia, I would suggest watching Andrei Tarkovsky’s masterpiece, “Andrei Rublev” who is the patron of iconographers and whose feast In Russia is celebrated tomorrow, July 4th. The original film was so threatening to the soviets that it was cut dramatically, so that it didn’t make much sense, but was still considered a great film. The new restored version is 206 minutes, and you cannot help but see how Tarkovsky was trying to wake up the soul of Russia. It is a long,black and white, (lots of snow) contemplative view of medieval life in Russia for the first 200 minutes ! Then the last few minutes it bursts into color as Tarkovsky’s camera slowly, lovingly pores over Rublev’s Trinity and other icons.
A blessed 4th of July and feast of St Andrei Rublev!
Fr Bill McNichols
3 July 2018

Retablo de San Jose Obrero- Retablo of St Joseph the Worker

June 28th, 2018

Retablo de San Jose Obrero- Retablo of St Joseph the Worker

Retablo de San Jose’ Obrero:
(Retablo of St Joseph the Worker)
This portrayal of St Joseph and the Child Jesus has a fairly long history. In October 1986 we had the first healing Mass for people with HIV-AIDS at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on 14th street in Manhattan. The Masses were held every month until I left New York for Jesuit Tertianship in 1989. I think it was March of 1987 that the Mass fell on the traditional feastday of St Joseph’s death, March 19th. I used to draw illustrations for the Masses, or for greeting cards, or to illustrate my poetry book. This drawing of St Joseph dates back to that special Mass. Now, here is the part you have to keep secret until June 22...at least from our Pastor at St Joseph on the Rio Grande in Albuquerque. The parish commissioned a surprise icon from me to give to Monsignor Lambert Joseph Luna in honor of his 40th Anniversary of Ordination to the priesthood on June 24; which we will celebrate Friday June 22. I chose to do a retablo instead. Retablos are the traditional religious art form of New Mexico. Female painters are called Santeras and male painters are Santeros. This art is hundreds of years old, and these beautiful and holy retablos grace all the older churches in New Mexico, as well as the newer churches since this art is still very much alive. My friend Roberto Lavadie carved the frame. I painted the drawing I mentioned above from 1987, and added the Child’s cradle, some boards, and an aqua blue table with a royal blue border to bring Mary’s presence into the image. Finally let me quote one of the oldest known prayers to St. Joseph for you and all Fathers:
O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all the spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.
O St Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.
Amen
With much love and gratitude to all our Fathers.
Happy Father’s Day !
Fr Bill McNichols - June 2018

St Joan of Arc and St Michael the Archangel

May 30th, 2018

St Joan of Arc and St Michael the Archangel

St Joan of Arc and St Michael the Archangel
“Life isn’t about finding yourself.
Life is about creating yourself.”
George Bernard Shaw
St Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on the morning of May 30 1431. She was nineteen years old. In Mary Gordon’s book on Joan she keeps referring to her as a teenager and continually makes you aware of how incredible her accomplishments were, for a girl or boy of that age. Mark Twain claims next to Jesus Christ, Joan is the most extraordinary person who ever lived. People have been mystified and have fallen in love with Joan for centuries. At this moment Bernard Shaw’s play St Joan is enjoying a very successful revival on Broadway with Candola Rashad playing Joan. As a child I saw Jean Seaburg on tv in the role, and when I lived in New York I saw Lyn Redgrave. Most recently the Parkland School survivor, Emma Gonzalez’ strong, beautiful and vulnerable face has been compared (in a New Yorker article) to Maria Falconetti who played Joan in Carl Dryer’s 1928 silent film classic, “The Passion of Joan of Arc.” This unforgettable film experience is still available on dvd in the Criterion Collection of great films. When I first saw the film as a theology student in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I remember hearing that Maria Falconetti dove so far into her portrayal of Joan that she never came back. When you see the film that’s very painfully obvious. When I was 11 years old I received a 18 inch plaster statue of Joan that I used to look at with wonder; she was a teenager which to an 11 year old seemed very mature and her facial expression was sure and strong. All through my life Joan has reappeared and it would take me forever to recount all the incidences but I’d like to name just a few. In 1971 I was a philosophy student in St. Louis about to move to Boston, where I simultaneously attended Boston University for art and Boston College for philosophy when I heard on a record, Judy Collins live concert in Central Park. The opening song was Leonard Cohen’s song “Joan of Arc.” Collins version from that concert is still my favorite. It was so hypnotic and haunting that it “set me onto a finding Joan adventure” which has never really ended. When I began painting icons I was commissioned in 1993, to paint Joan and St Michael, for St Michael’s Church in Bedford, Massachusetts. This is the icon you see now. Another dramatic encounter with Joan was reading Adrienne von Speyr’s intimate portrait of Joan in her “Book Of All Saints.” If I could, I’d quote the entire piece, it is so revealing, and like so much of Adrienne’s writings, brings you into a prayer and dialogue with Joan. Finally when I had my heart collapse on April 27, 2012, I came out of the induced coma on May 11th. I was still fairly delirious from the nine drugs in me but I remember when I found out it was May, instead of thinking naturally, it was the month of the Blessed Mother, I thought of Joan. My sister Mary was reading to me from the newly published book “The Maid and the Queen” by Nancy Goldstone. Then, when I could read myself I re-read “The Trial Of Rehabilitation” published by Ignatius Press. The trial has many of Joan’s childhood friends, who at that time were in their 40’s , reminiscing about the strong-willed, holy girl they knew.
This year, it’s impossible for me to think of Joan without begging her to guide and lead into the future, the students like the Parkland Survivors, who are, I believe, are acting with inspired Wisdom. We adults seem to have become too numb and too hopeless to do anything but talk or preach “an eye for an eye...” But these young children with their valiant attempts to awaken us all to the violence and senseless shootings (which now have been occurring nearly once a week) continue to create Holy Hope.
I began with a witty quote from Bernard Shaw about creating yourself, which has some valuable truth in it.
What I really believe, is that if we are humble enough to be pliable in God’s hands, letting God continually mold and create us, each one of us becomes the absolutely unique beings we were always meant from eternity to be.
St Joan lead us and our youth, into God, who alone can give us life now and everlasting life to come!
Fr Bill McNichols
30 May 2018

http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/st-joan-of-arc-with-st-michael-the-archangel-042-william-hart-mcnichols.html

The Blessed Virgin Mary- Mother of the Church

May 18th, 2018

The Blessed Virgin Mary- Mother of the Church

“The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church”
(The new feastday proclaimed by Pope Francis, forever to follow Pentecost Sunday... Starting this year, the feast will be 21 May 2018)

When I heard of Pope Francis creating a new Marian feast, I had already been commissioned by Fr Phil Lloyd of St Theresa’s Church (thus the roses that Master woodworker Roberto Lavadie lovingly “set into” the frame) in Houston, Texas. Fr Phil invited me to create a Marian icon, as well as other icons for the church. I was ecstatic that I would have an opportunity to visualize this new icon and hopefully give life to it through the intercession of the Holy Spirit and Our Blessed Mother. I found an old black and white drawing done in 1909, in an old missal; and this became the starting point for my inspiration. I could write an entire blog about how those incredibly beautiful and intricate black and white Catholic Missal drawings, with a veritable encyclopedia of mystical symbols, influenced my entire childhood. And these illustrations have stayed with me into adulthood, as Ever-Bountiful fountains of living waters. In creating this feast Pope Francis wants the Church to reach for a “Marian character,” or to become increasingly Mother-like. What does this mean for us? Let’s look at a couple of theologians who I think begin to articulate the on-going mystery of this new feast. They may seem a bit dense or abstract but they are filled with real life inspiration and instruction, I hope and believe.
“The world is now in the time of choice...The choice facing us has become clearer-to say yes or no to the Risen Christ. In this phase of salvation history, Mary is transferred for the remaining earth-time to what the imagery of the Book of Revelation calls ‘wilderness’ or ‘desert.’ The ‘desert is the place of impoverishment and distress on the one hand, but also a place of rejuvenation, of concentrated attention to God. In the desert Mary remains what she was and will be for all eternity: the mother. This mother gives Christ to the Church and the world ‘not just at one single moment in history but at every moment of the history of the Church and the world.’ In doing this, Mary makes her own the prayer and activity of the Church. This gives confidence in the face of trials. No matter what difficulties come (nowhere can one evade the ‘rage of the dragon against the woman’ and his war ‘with the rest of her offspring,’ the Christians), this woman is nourished through world-time with manna from on high, which keeps her alive and makes her fruitful: the victory of Christ will be hers... At this point we need to recall von Balthasar’s own admonition not to reduce consideration of Mary’s role to devotional piety. She has a social-ecclesial personality. Accordingly, while from the world’s point of view the Woman remains u-topian and without ‘form,’ something of her invisible form is discernible in her genuine children. In them the invisible realities become visible.
Mary continues, as it were, where people become ‘mothers’ of Christ.”
From “The Marian Profile In The Ecclesiology of Hans Urs von Balthasar”
By Father Brendan Leahy
“It is the one who gives the Bride away, the Holy Spirit, who directs this movement of heaven and earth in love, perfecting thus the relationship that was entered into in Christ with the Bride Sion-Mary-Ecclesia. Christians live at the epicenter of this event, which wishes to become reality in them too, and for them, through the gift they make of their own life to love. Their existence is to be an ever-creative translation in the Holy Spirit, an ever-new future of God.”
Explorations III: Creator Spirit
Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar (12 August 1905-26 June 1988)

Fr Bill McNichols
Pentecost 2018

St Martha of Bethany

April 20th, 2018

St Martha of Bethany

St Martha of Bethany
This icon was written for Steve Katsouros, SJ, Dean and Executive Director. Arrupe College, Loyola University Chicago. I asked him to write something after receiving the icon, here it is.

About our friend Martha:

The multi-faceted Martha of Bethany speaks to me in several ways. She is first the exemplar of hospitality, as evidenced by the home she shares with her siblings as a center for conversation and fellowship with Jesus and I am certain others. When her brother dies, she is able to express her anger at Jesus for not being there when she needed him; that said, she also clearly loves Jesus. Martha is like us—complex, capable of holding opposing emotions. She is the best of us, however, because her love is what grounds her—not her anger or resentment. During her exchange with Jesus after the death of Lazarus, when Jesus asks her if she believes in him, she explains that she has “come to believe” that he is God’s son. I find this very consoling. Martha knew Jesus, and yet, her faith in him was not achieved in an instant, with a thunderclap or a burning bush or a eureka. Rather, she came to believe in him—it was gradual, a process, a journey, a series of interactions, conversations, common experiences, meals, during which she came to believe in him. I am reminded that my faith journey is just that, a journey, requiring attention to Jesus, the guest, the companion, the conversationalist, the teacher, the friend.

Back to Martha the hostess. As someone who experiences pressure for taking on too many projects, I can relate to Martha’s frustration in her sister—Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, Martha, fretting about the timing of the dinner or the cleanup afterwards. Jesus’s line about Mary choosing the better portion can be irksome. Like Martha, I came to appreciate Jesus’s response to Martha’s frustration gradually. In my case, our students at Arrupe College served as clarifiers here, as agents of insight, as they often do. My colleagues and I at Arrupe could easily default into Martha’s activity—doing for our students. Jesus reminds us that such a stance is not enough. Rather, it’s about Mary’s approach—being with, rather than doing for. Pope Francis has elevated the word “accompaniment” to deepen our understanding of ministry. We are invited to be with, rather than do for—in my case, I’ve been called at Arrupe to be with our students during their first post-secondary educational experience, rather than doing for—if I simply did for, I’d miss their gifts, just as Martha misses Jesus’s gifts by giving her attention to completing the task at hand.

Despite Martha’s misstep here, I am confident that she experienced the gift of hosting Jesus—part of her gradual “coming to believe” process, part of her being a complex woman who is capable of holding contrasting emotions simultaneously.

Consequently, Martha of Bethany has the capacity to be Martha of 2018–like Thomas the twin, Martha mirrors how we might miss out on what’s really important, how our faith lives are journeys, how at times those faith lives include wrestling a variety of emotions at once. Martha remains anchored in love—and so must we as we come to believe in Jesus during our journeys of missing him and feeling conflicted about him.

Fr. Steve Katsouros, SJ

Nuestro Salvador de las Sandias

April 16th, 2018

Nuestro Salvador de las Sandias

Nuestro Salvador de las Sandias
This icon was inspired in part by the beautiful snow scapes in Akira Kurosawa’s 1990 film Dreams. The icon depicts the resurrected Christ
emerging from the winter. Christ holds a cottonwood branch, one of the first buds to emerge during spring in the Albuquerque region. He wears the color of red for humanity with gold assists, signifying his divinity. The Sandia mountains are purple, characteristic of the hue they acquire in wintertime when they are covered with snow. The moon, which for Bill almost always symbolizes Mary, is present during the day as she waits for her son to rise. Christ appears ethnically similar to many of the people native to the region.
This is Bill’s favorite image of Christ: powerful, strong, and loving. It contains a message of hope. Christ emerges out of the tomb, as this icon was written virtually on the eve of when the sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church broke out in Albuquerque in the early 1990s. Unbeknown to the artist at the time, the icon acquired an ecclesial significance and inspired prayer for the people of Albuquerque and the Church that they be healed from the ramifications of the crisis.
BY John D. Dadosky, S.T.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Theology and Philosophy
Regis College/University of Toronto
From “Image to Insight” Book Available on Amazon

 

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