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St Ignatius At Prayer In Rome

August 11th, 2020

St Ignatius At Prayer In Rome

St Ignatius At Prayer In Rome (illustration from 1991)
“I will ask for what I want: here I ask for interior knowledge of the Lord ... Take,
Lord receive all my liberty, my memory, my intellect, and all my will - all that I have and possess. You gave it all to me; to you Lord I give it all back. All is yours, dispose of it entirely according to your will. Give me the grace to love you, for that is enough for me.”
St Ignatius Loyola - from his
Spiritual Exercises: Contemplation for attaining love
“...finding
God
in agony
first but then
in
stars by night
and
later at day
in
a blade of grass
an orange leaf
he began his
mornings with
‘What shall we
do
for God today ?’
letting the Spirit
blow
through his soul
as
wind through
a
field of poppies...”
Fr James Janda
In the year 1991, the Society of Jesus and the world celebrated the 600th anniversary of the birth in 1491 of the Basque saint, Inigo de Loyola. Archbishop (now Cardinal) Stafford of the Archdiocese of Denver, wanted to make a holy card to give to all the people of the Archdiocese. He had seen this drawing I did of Ignatius praying in Rome and asked me if he could use it. During my first two years as a Jesuit, 1968-70, I heard the often repeated Jesuit “in joke” about an older Jesuit on his death bed struggling mightily with anxiety and terror. A fellow Jesuit nearby, attending the dying man, assured him that God was all forgiving and he had nothing to fear. Then the old man says, “It’s not God I’m afraid of, it’s St Ignatius !” That joke hit me hard in my heart, and oddly, very personally, as if my own father was being terribly misunderstood . I swore then, as a 20 year old boy, that I would try to do everything possible to show the many sides of Ignatius. Throughout the years I began to draw him in my career as an illustrator, and then as an iconographer. Tonight on the eve of his feast, I stepped outside and looked into the beautiful glowing moon and felt his love and spoke my love back to him. I have felt like he’s my “second Dad” since I began to know him more intimately in 1968. So many Jesuits during the 35 years I was an official member, taught me about him through their writings, retreats and most of all their genuine guidance and faithful love. And they still do. One thing I’ve learned from Ignatius’ daily Examen, or examination of conscience, is that you can always, always, begin again. The great mystic Adrienne von Speyr said of her heavenly mentor, “No one points to God with such shrewd intelligence, as St Ignatius.” I am constantly amazed and thankful that he is still with me. He continually challenges me to “find God in all things and people.” My favorite writings are his Spiritual Diaries. There, his love for God flows out along with his inability to stop the tears of love he felt, most of all before, during and after celebrating the Holy Eucharist.
Holy Father Ignatius,
Please keep leading me to that knowledge of God
that animated every moment of your life.
Teach me daily, to say with you,
“What shall we do for God today ?”
Then let me use every gift from God to
answer that question.
Help us all to navigate these awfully
anxious, seemingly endless times of this present pandemic.
Dear Holy Father Ignatius,
I love you.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols

Elijah McClain

August 11th, 2020

Elijah McClain

Elijah McClain ? 25 February 1996 - 30 August 2019
"But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest. For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years ... There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living with sinners he was taken up lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul...Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness. Yet the people saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God's grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones."
~ Wisdom 4
I recently painted this image of the very gifted, talented and beautiful soul, Elijah McClain. I used his photograph but added light around his head and golden colored shirt to echo scripture's prophetic words about the chosen ones of God. The red buttons signify his terrible death - red being the color of the Martyrs. I asked my dear friend and theologian, Christopher Pramuk, author of many truly unique and brilliant books, including Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton, Hope Sings So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line, and The Artist Alive: Explorations in Music, Art and Theology, to write a reflection on Elijah McClain.
~ William Hart (Fr. Bill) McNichols
If a sacrament can be described as something that attaches itself to one's heart, and in doing so, becomes an instrument of communion and grace, then Fr. Bill's new painting of Elijah McClain has become for me a most powerful sacrament.
At first, I resisted, I didn't want it to be so. Like grace itself, attachments of the heart can be both beautiful and dangerous. They demand vulnerability, commitment, risk. When Fr. Bill shared Elijah's image with me, I didn't want to let it in. I didn't want to allow him, those penetrating eyes, to gaze into my eyes, afraid of what he might uncover there. I resisted because Elijah's story, and Fr. Bill's image, struck too close to my father's tender heart.
My wife Lauri and I have two children from Haiti, adopted in 2010, just after the earthquake. Sophia, 17, is now on the verge of young adulthood; Henry, though just 11, could pass as 17, when seen from a distance. While Sophia is small in stature, Henry, with his broad face, huge hands, and legs twice as thick as mine, is a gentle giant. Except when he isn't.
Henry suffers from crippling mental illness, rooted in trauma and neglect during his first year of life. One afternoon a few years ago, I was called urgently to come to his school. For the third time in as many weeks, Henry had gotten upset and had bolted out the building's front door before staff could restrain him. I arrived to find my son sitting in a vacant lot near the school, surrounded by five police cars, lights flashing.
Flight - or what the therapists call "elopement" - is Henry's first and last means of escape when big feelings overwhelm him. Lauri and I know that flight for Henry is self-protection, literal survival. Our neighbors, strangers at the grocery, police officers, don't know this. To the police, flight is often, and sometimes fatally, mistaken as fight, defiance, disrespect. Especially when the prey, now backed into a corner, is a young black man.
When I first saw Fr. Bill's painting, the heartrending outlines of Elijah McClain's story were familiar to me, as they have become intimately familiar to so many here in Colorado, and now, around the world. He was 23, a massage therapist much loved by his clients, killed by an encounter with police that involved a carotid choke hold and a disabling dose of ketamine that left him in a coma for six days.
"It doesn't make sense," said one of his clients, calling the police response "brutal." "He was the sweetest, purest person I have ever met. He was definitely a light in a whole lot of darkness." Pictures of Elijah playing the violin to the animals in a local shelter during his lunch break have circulated all over the internet.
When police officers bore down on Elijah - he was wearing a face mask and waving his arms around, probably singing, his friends say, as he walked home from a convenience store - the young man repeatedly begged the officers to forgive him.
"I can't breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That's my house. I was just going home. I'm an introvert. I'm just different. That's all. I'm so sorry. I have no gun. I don't do that stuff. I don't do any fighting. Why are you attacking me?" He also told the officers, "You are all phenomenal. You are beautiful. And I love you."
"He had a child-like spirit," another long-time client says. "Elijah McClain was not conditioned to the norms of America...He lived in his own little world. He was never into, like, fitting in. He just was who he was."
Years ago, I was reading an article by the eminent Black Catholic theologian M. Shawn Copeland, when I came to a line that stopped me cold. In a deeply racist US society, people of color, she wrote, are "overdetermined in the flesh." I did not, perhaps could not, understand such a statement until I became the father of two black children. Whether I am with them at the mall, walking through our neighborhood, or behind the wheel of a car, I am chronically aware that the warm glow of white privilege that now surrounds and protects my kids will not be there forever. I cannot look at a photograph of Sandra Bland without also seeing my daughter Sophia, herself full of fierce, feminine strength, lying face-down in the grass with a police officer's knee on her neck.
Elijah McClain, thanks be to God, "was not conditioned to the norms of America." Neither was Sandra Bland. In Fr. Bill's painting, the glimmer in Elijah's eyes returns my gaze with love. The hints of blue in Elijah's face remind me that we never walk alone in the valley of the shadow of death. Like a mother's cloak, the Spirit of the Living God gently surrounds each of us, and flashes like the sun from within. She is the divine Child who plays "hide and seek" within all the people, daring us not to conform to the dictates of a rapacious and violent society. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, She says, "I love you," and "I'm just different," and "Why are you attacking me?" in the face of the world's power.
"Elijah McClain, pray for us. Pray for our children, especially all young men and women of color. Give strength to every anxious parent's heart. Help us reclaim the light of God within, which endures even in the face of physical death. Teach us to remember and cherish the animals, as you did with your gift of music. Dear Elijah, may you dwell now in deep peace, and feel the infinitely accepting love that we so often fail to give."
And Fr. Bill, thank you for once again enkindling the flame of faith, hope, and love in a sea of gathering darkness. Your art, your attunement to the divine mystery written in human flesh, is a tremendous gift to the world.
July 25, 2020
Christopher Pramuk

Holy Quaker Martyr Mary Dyer

August 11th, 2020

Holy Quaker Martyr Mary Dyer

Holy Quaker Martyr Mary Dyer
Mary Dyer (ca. 1611–1660) was a Puritan
convert to Quakerism who became one of
the four people known as the Quaker martyrs of
Boston. She was publically executed by the Puritans
in Boston on June 1, 1660.
A major theological strand of Puritanism in
the Boston colony had reduced Christian religious
beliefs to moralism, and the fruits were
often a rigid judgmentalism. Violators could be
singled out and ostracized by the community.
Mary, along with her mentor, Anne Hutchinson,
had resisted this strand of Puritanism, favoring an
alternative to strict Puritan theology that emphasized
more of God’s grace and mercy. Mary’s
support for Hutchinson, when the latter was
exiled from the Boston colony, singled her out for
persecution as well. During this theological controversy
in the community, Mary also had a still
birth of a deformed baby, and she had it buried
in secret. This fact eventually came to light, and
the circumstances were used to discredit her in
order to discourage the followers of Hutchinson.
Later, Hutchinson had a miscarriage as well and
was subjected to the same scrutiny. The distorted
theologies prompted their adversaries to construe
these events as God’s punishment upon the two.
Eventually Mary and her family would convert to
Quakerism and relocate to Rhode Island. It was
her return trips to her former home at the Boston
colony that got her into trouble. The Puritans
were threatened by the growing Quaker religion.
The story of these women corroborates the theory
of scapegoating put forth by René Girard, who
argues that these women are singled out because
they threaten the established order, demonized for
their miscarriages, and blamed for bringing chaos
into the community. It also highlights the feminist
critiques of patriarchy, which emphasize how
women have been cast into rigid roles and punished
when they venture outside of them. Patriarchy
includes a preoccupation with women’s bodies.
New England had a significant influence on Bill
in his earlier years of priestly formation and ministry.
Bill copied an illustration as a model for this
icon. He wanted to bring attention to the effect of
New England Puritanism, especially as depicted
in Nathanial Hawthorne’s classic American novel
The Scarlet Letter. The red cross Mary Dyer holds
near her chest in the image recalls Hawthorne’s
image of the scarlet letter A. The light descending
from the cloud refers to the inner light, which is
a central and distinctive aspect of Quaker spirituality—
God’s light dwells within. This means
that everyone is equal, and so the Quaker idea of
church is very simple in its structure. There are no
leaders, and the official name they give themselves
is the Society of Friends.
There is a certain double meaning in the phrase
used by one of Dyer’s accusers when he described
her execution. He stated, “She did hang like a
flag for others to take example by.”However,
her example, rather than acting as a deterrent,
promoted the cause that eventually moved the
Puritan community beyond its persecution of
the Quakers. Her witness was one of genuine
imitation of Christ. Mary Dyer represents someone
who challenges deviated transcendence and
distorted religious practices, especially those who
co-opt genuine religious values and distort them
into vehicles of violence. She represents integrity,
peace, and the compassion of the Gospel; someone who is faithful to her inner light within.
From Book by John D. Dadosky
Image to Insight: The Art of William Hart McNichols

Second Self-Portrait With Symbols 2014

August 11th, 2020

Second Self-Portrait With Symbols 2014

Second Self-Portrait With Symbols 2014
“I’m gonna exchange my things for precious wings and fly, over the valley of the kings and queens where the sleeping
cities lie. One bright night I’m gonna fly right out my window.
Gonna fly so high in the night sky, that the people below won’t see me go by...”
“A Famous Myth” by Harry Nilsson 1969
Some songs are so hypnotic that they call to you even when you don’t know exactly what they mean. They express a deep longing or wish that’s unconscious. This might be called the language of Art . To express what cannot be said literally, through enigmatic songs, poetry, images, icons, drawings and paintings...giving form to inner visions. I would imagine music is comforting round the world right now as we all attempt to walk through this dangerous landscape, stalked by an invisible insidious vapor. We mask up outside, our sense of hope that climbing this way, into Noah’s Ark, we have at least taken the warning seriously. And we collectively grieve for those who mock and ignore the warning. My 71st birthday is coming on Friday, July 10th. I remember when I lived in Taos, reading an autobiography by Jane Fonda where she says age 1-30 is act 1. Age 30-60, is act 2, and age 60 to death is act 3. Mary Oliver’s most famous poetic quote comes to mind, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life ?” Or another quote from Georgia O’Keefe, which is really comforting, because her legendary image, persona, is that of an extremely stoic artist; “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” And then you have St Paul forever steeped in his vision of the Risen Lord, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus .” Philippians 4:6-7. To supplement St Paul, I have been dependent upon the Don Dolindo Novena for at least three years now; it’s bound to sink in if I keep at it.
I laugh when I remember that for my Confirmation name I wanted at age 10, to take the name of an older teenage Martyr of the early Church, the 14 year old St Pancratius. Sister thought that was too eccentric and told me to take either Anthony or Dominic. So I took Dominic not knowing then, that along with Veritas, (Truth) the other Dominican motto is “Contemplata aliis tradere” - to share what you have contemplated. This sums up my life and artistic attempts at images and icons. This second self portrait is surrounded by some of the help I found from the age of 27 ( my first self-portrait with symbols) until I decided I needed to do a second one after my heart collapse April 27, 2012. The images in boxes, inspired by one of my favorite children’s book illustrators, the Russian Ivan Bilibin, honor some of this encouragement and help I was given or found. The first, is symbolic of myself and enduring friends, the Kintsugi cracked bowl, with the cracks filled with gold.
As Ernest Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” The second box symbolizes a life of being inspired and blessed by music, in this symbol its a green flame which is in particular the music of St Hildegard of Bingen. The third is from the mystical life of St Joseph given by Our Lord in 1736 to the Italian Benedictine Mystic, Sister Maria Cecilia Baij. She was told at the birth of St Joseph three stars appeared above his house symbolizing that the Earthly Trinity had now begun. The next box is just an arrow flying into the Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous spiritual book on prayer that deeply affected me, in the “first act” at age 21. Then there’s the radiant broken heart, showing the collapse in 2012, and subsequent mending through the Love I was given. Below the heart is my “second Dad” or Holy Father Ignatius Loyola, who truly gave me another birth and life that continues on through “act three.” Dear Holy Father Ignatius who invites all of us to “find God in all things.” Below Ignatius is the image of the Tarot card “Le Pendu” or man hanging upside down. This explanation of my life I found in the extraordinary masterpiece “Meditations on the Tarot : A Journey into Christian Hermeticism” by Anonymous published in English in 1986. Below the hanging man, who is suspended between heaven and earth, is the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, for obvious reasons. Next is the largest image (besides the self portrait) of, in my opinion, the most beautiful church in the world! San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos. I was invited in 1999 by my dear friend Fr Tim Martinez, to paint a large image of St Francis receiving the stigmata, inside, above the main doorway. I ended up staying for 14 years. The raised stigmatized-wounded hand of Jesus symbolizes the 7 years I worked as a Chaplain in the AIDS pandemic in Manhattan and surrounding areas. Above that living wounded hand is Our Lady of the New Advent, which really began my vocation as an iconographer during “act two” from 1990 into “act three.” The Archer is above Our Lady, shooting his arrow into the Cloud, and a symbol for me of a vocation too. I’ll close with a poem I wrote around my birthday in 1993, one month before meeting St John Paul II in Denver at World Youth Day.
Epithalamium
O I am an Archer.
This is the vocation that
I can stand under, that
holds onto me too.
I have run along with hunted
Jonah, year after year,
following him safely into the
Heart of the Sea Creature,
his vast water tomb where
I can rest, long enough to
find a way to serve You,
My Lord.
Now here I am in the Zone at last.
I aim these images and the few words
I have left, into the
Heart of the Church : the Bride.
So this is chapter 8 of my Song of Songs,
my Epithalamium.
One more arrow to let fly.
It says with pure speed
and perfect precision:
“Love is stronger than death, and
many waters cannot quench this
Burning Love.”
Fr William Hart Dominic McNichols
July 1993

Trees for Rivera Funeral Home in Taos, New Mexico

August 11th, 2020

Trees for Rivera Funeral Home in Taos, New Mexico

Trees for Rivera Funeral Home in Taos, New Mexico
In 2014 I was asked by my dear friend Tim Rivera, to do something for the room in the Rivera Funeral Home , in Taos, New Mexico, which might bring Hope and Comfort to families of All Faiths...as they sit in the main room, mourning, grieving, during a service for their deceased loved ones. Now in this particular summer, where souls all over the world are leaving our earthly home, it seems urgent to show this triptych once more for your contemplation. I think all this grief and experience of tragic deaths, began for me in 1983 when I began to work as a Chaplain in the AIDS Pandemic. To date, over 32 million people have died from the AIDS pandemic. Michael O’Loughlin has made a 6 part series on podcast, for America Magazine, about the Catholic response during the 1980’s. The narrative was/is that there was very little help. Michael corrected that narrative through his interviews last winter, right before covid 19 ravaged the world. He recently won an award from the LGBTQ community for his incredible work. I believe he was guided by the Holy Spirit, who offered a kind of premonition, and comfort, in the stories of those still living who lost so many people, and the frontline caregivers of that time.
In 2014, I thought of 3 images of Trees (in art called a triptych) that would convey different seasons, and also the never ending life of the soul.
1) Trees of Winter Life
These trees portray what seems to be simply cold death,
to us who see them.
And yet trees underneath the most bitter
and cold snow are not really dead.
A candle burns beneath them symbolizing that they are destined to come back to life. The body dies but the soul is eternal , and the Full Moon is our night light. In the symbolism of the ancient Catholic Church, Mary is always the Moon; as the reflected light of her Son...sun. I often add a Moon to my images and icons to bring Our Mother’s presence into the picture.
2)Tree of Life
A single pine tree grows out of a sepia-green color.
As it rises, it gains full green and life; St Hildegard of Bingen calls all green life Viriditas. The tree is surrounded by a Sun, (Son) nurturing the climbing growth.
The Rose tops the tree as it's Crown. The Fiery Rose is a famous symbol in T.S Eliot's mystical masterpiece of poetry, The Four Quartets. In the last poem
after quoting Lady Julian of Norwich, in her “Showings (Revelations) of Divine Love,” he ends with:
"When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.”
3) Tree of Souls
At Mass we say to God concerning the dead,
who have now transformed into eternal souls,
"Welcome them into the light of your face."
How to picture souls rising into a Light which speaks of hope and a beautiful Star guiding them home?
Listening to a book on CDs, in 2014, as I was painting this final tree for the triptych, “The Fault In Our Stars”
by John Green, I heard a longing for an After Life in the two teenagers who are the center of the novel.
In my imagination I saw this Tree. Each and every dot in this heavenly tree painting is a Soul rising ... into the Light of God’s presence. During my years as a hospice chaplain, I found the transcendent, heavenly inspired music of Gabriel Faure’ and Maurice Durufle’s Requiems particularly comforting to my body and soul. Maybe these two exquisite musicians will touch you now as well.
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.”
Amen
Fr William Hart McNichols
Summer of 2020
Tree Triptych for Rivera Funeral Home 220 by William Hart McNichols

Jerusalem Icon of the Mother of God

August 11th, 2020

Jerusalem Icon of the Mother of God

Jerusalem Icon of the Mother of God
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her children beneath her wings, and you were not willing.”
Luke 13:34
This passage is especially poignant for me as Jesus speaks, not as a spurned general or ruler, but as a Mother, to this incredibly powerful, and magnificent city.
There are several images of God as Mother in Scripture. Also notably in the “Showings of Lady Julian of Norwich.” For me, the power of Art has always been at times, almost overwhelming. So I began as a child to draw and color the ancient images, symbols, such as the Spirit dove and tongues of Fire, the Lamb, the Star of David, the different symbols of the Sacraments, I saw in the windows and statues in my hometown of Denver. They were of Jesus and Mary , as well as saints of the Church who all had their own symbols. I learned them all just by looking. I slowly became aware one of my vocations was to give them back, through art, so they wouldn’t get lost because they are so powerful and draw you into a prayer. There are two images of Jesus as Mother which in my “illustration life,” before I became an iconographer, I really loved to illustrate. One is the mosaic of Jesus as the Mother Hen, surrounded by her chicks, which is in the Dominus Flevit Church, and the other is the ancient legend of Jesus Mother Pelican, which I’ve used at least three times in Icons. The first in Padre Pio, then Francisco Xavier, and finally (after Beato Fra Angelico) at the top of The Holy Cross of the New Advent .
Through the kindness of Mr Rob Lively, I was able to go on one of my dear friend Fr Jim Martin, SJ’s pilgrimages to the Holy Land. I left Alburquerque on Ash Wednesday, February 26, and returned on St Aloysius’s birthday, March 9.
As one of 100 pilgrims, there is so much to say. Each one of us found different places to be alive with inspiration. I’d like to write about each one but this piece is about an icon we saw everywhere in Jerusalem . As we walked through the city streets, there were vendors selling all kinds of things, and in almost every store was a poster, plaque, refrigerator magnet, or actual reproduction of Our Lady of Jerusalem. There are actually two different icons of Her and the Holy Child. I chose the one we saw most often, and was commissioned by Doctor Michael Lucey and his wife, Doctor Patricia Lucey while we were on the pilgrimage. The actual prototype (original) is covered with a silver colored metal riza (Russian for robe) or an oklad (Russian for covering).
When a riza is on an icon, it’s covering everything except the faces and hands. It’s meant to protect the painting from the smoke of the hanging oil lamps, lampadas , or candles which are often seen all around very revered icons. How was I going to turn metal into paint ? I chose to use a gray-blue for the under painting rather than simply gray. I loved the tenderness and love in Mary’s face and the bright light of the Holy Child holding, as Christ the little king, the orb of the world. This icon I painted (wrote) almost right after I got home. I actually had to finish a 7ft Corpus of Jesus for a 13ft Cross, I’ve named “The Cross of 2020” before I could begin Our Lady of Jerusalem. I hope the pilgrims see this as my gift to each one. And it was a natural way to pray through this time of illness, bravery, quarantine .... and awful awareness of racism, I call again, the Cross of 2020.
My use of Blessed Mother comes from my Mom who always called Mary by this name only...
Dear Blessed Mother Our Lady of Jerusalem,
You the joy of Israel,
You the glory of Jerusalem,
You, the great honor of your people,
You are Seeker After the Lost,
You are Mother of God Similar to Fire,
You are Mother of God Quick to Hear,
You are Our Lady of Perpetual Help...Mystical Rose, Enclosed Garden...
You are the Lady of Kazan, Vladimir, Guadalupe, Montserrat, Lourdes, Mt Carmel, Fatima, Knock, Palestine, Akita, Kibeho In Rwanda, Medjugorje, and a thousand other places.
You come as the people need to see you, in every race, in every country.
However we see you, it is you , Mary the Mother of God we love and trust.
O most compassionate Blessed Mother,
Continue to bring us closer to your Son Jesus, Holy Wisdom.
Intercede for us, especially now, and at the hour of our death.
Amen
Fr William Hart McNichols * June 2020

St Anthony Heals the Sick

August 11th, 2020

St Anthony Heals the Sick

St Anthony Heals the Sick (1195-1231)
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father...” John 14:12
“He prays with a lot of love, and he takes other people into his prayer with him. He expects a fruit from his prayer that he can bring back to the people. He does not want to hold onto a single thing for himself. All the words that he brings to people, all his sermons, consolations, and encouragements, he draws from his prayer. He allows himself to be led completely by his prayer, allows everything to ripen in it that he has to carry out apostolically. His love for God is childlike, simple, without reservation; he does not want to hide anything, and whenever he realizes that he did not correspond in a certain point or did not hand everything over to the very end, then he is incredibly ardent in presenting everything to God and apologizing to God for having hesitated for so long and asking God to make him so that God can use him to bring to completion everything he has at his disposal...If he does something that does not absolutely please God, then he feels it immediately. He lives in perfect harmony with God.”
Book of All Saints by Adrienne von Speyr
This icon was a commission from St Anthony’s Hospital in Denver. I felt so blessed and honored to do something for a hospital,because I had worked as a hospice chaplain for those 7 years in Manhattan during the beginning of the world wide AIDS pandemic. I saw firsthand what nurses and doctors do, and it was during that time I began to read books by doctors, telling intimate stories about their work, including some disastrous mistakes, which they are never allowed to make. Can you imagine a vocation where you must achieve perfection day in day out ? It’s impossible. These books helped me so much to see my own vocation, and mothers and fathers too. The last one I read was up in Taos, about a Navajo woman surgeon who wrote a book called, “The Scalpel and the Silver Bear.” She was following in the footsteps of the first Native American doctor, Susan La Fleshe, (see the book) “A Warrior of the People” by Joe Starita. Right now is a time when everyone, world wide is seeing and honoring all professional medical workers and anyone on the front lines, including grocery store workers and Fed X drivers, on and on, we suddenly see what they risk. So as well as being a time of quarantine, it’s also a time of great, great, mystery and possibility. “It’s definitely more than a virus’: Author Arundhati Roy reads from ‘The Pandemic is a Portal’ in a short you tube video. At this distance from my Hospice years, I see how it completely changed me and the way I see the world. It would take a book to adequately examine the emotional scars it left on me, but also, the incredible privilege to be allowed into so many people’s lives. The beautiful, blessed vocation of being a “midwife to/for the second birth.”That enormous loving intimacy I experienced in my thirties, is why I chose Adrienne to speak about St Anthony. When I’m dry and can’t feel love inside me, or when we all feel the fear of the present pandemic, conflict of centuries of racism and wrenching divisions, all without any compassionate or even human leadership at the top, then, I, we, have to go into a prayer to have the small pilot light of love, left inside, become a flame of love again. I remember reading in 1982 the same practice in a life of Dorothy Day, by William Miller. Every morning she would go into a room to pray, and come out lit up like a 150 watt light. By bedtime she was down to about 25 watts... and so it goes for most of us. We find our love in God and then give it away.
Dear “San Antonio” the world’s favorite saint !
Teach us your childlike love of God, and willingness to give people everything we find in prayer, just like you dear Anthony; “not keeping a single thing for himself.” You’ve always been the saint we ask to find lost things. Help us find the love we’ve lost for one another, or never had. Don’t let the present divisions, lies, and hate enter our hearts. And when they do get in, let the Holy Spirit burn them away in prayer, so that we can move back again, into the circle of the Most Holy Trinity’s Love.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols * June 2020

Gerard Manley Hopkins Amidst the Fire-folk

August 11th, 2020

Gerard Manley Hopkins Amidst the Fire-folk

“Gerard Manley Hopkins Amidst the Fire-folk” (28 July 1844 - 8 June 1889)
“Look at the stars ! look, look up at the skies !
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air !”
GM Hopkins from his poem “The Starlight Night.”
This is my second icon of this extraordinary man. The first one shows him amidst the industrial revolution with an apparition of a Kingfisher bird coming to enlighten him, as if its a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
There are a few teachers who open worlds to you, pull things out of you that you almost didn’t know you had, and change your life forever. They widen your world, immensely, rather than constrict or make your world smaller, frightening, or xenophobic. Some of the greatest saints are this way too. My freshman year at St John Francis Regis High School in North Denver, I had a teacher like that, his name was Ron Miller. He was a Jesuit scholastic at that time, in 1963-64, who later left, and had very loving, significant relationships. He also was deeply involved with Jewish-Christian dialogue, so so many other things, and he was always a brilliant teacher, in school and out of school. His love of people and life was happily, fortunately contagious. He taught us 14 year olds to love and understand both poetry of all different kinds and Shakespeare’s play, “Twelfth Night.” Quite an accomplishment for very young minds ! Ron loved Hopkins and we were taught to memorize Hopkins’ poem “Pied Beauty.” I heard that he died a few years ago.
Hopkins has been called the “father of modern poetry” and countless poets claim his lasting influence on them, including the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. Cardinal von Balthasar wrote a magnificent essay on him in his book “Lay Styles” where he states that Hopkins truly lamented the industrial revolution’s scars on nature and Hopkins grieved the loss of “the wild.” There is no poet like him and once you encounter his genius (although in his lifetime he only had one poem published) you never forget his poems or prose which contain some journal and notebook entries and selected letters. Like all of our great artists, he connects you quite naturally, and in his case, with a unique musicality, to the Transcendent.
Hopkins died at the Jesuit residence in Dublin, his room overlooking St Stephen’s Green, on June 8, 1889. He was 44. I painted a kind of ode to his eccentric genius, in the large image with icons, called “Viriditas: Finding God in All Things.” Apparently a Jesuit brother once found him standing in the rain looking down at the beauty of the rain soaked pebbles and rocks, and thought he was very odd. But he truly could find God in all things. I added the glistening stones to the Viriditas Image just for him.
He speaks of our fragile mortality in such a knowing, haunting way in one of his brilliant poems:
“....Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.
Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend.
There, eyes them, heart wants, care haunts, foot follows kind,
Their ransom, their rescue, first, fast, last friend.”
Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ
from the poem “The Lantern Out of Doors.”
Fr Bill McNichols June 2020

Dr Martin Luther King - unfinished drawing 1983

August 11th, 2020

Dr Martin Luther King - unfinished drawing 1983

Dr Martin Luther King : unfinished drawing 1983
“Drum Major Instinct"
Event
February 4, 1968
On 4 February 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., preached “The Drum Major Instinct” from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Ironically, two months before his assassination on 4 April 1968, he told his congregation what he would like said at his funeral: “I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody” (King, “The Drum Major,” 185). Excerpts were played at King’s nationally televised funeral service, held at Ebenezer on 9 April 1968.
King’s sermon was an adaptation of the 1952 homily “Drum-Major Instincts” by J. Wallace Hamilton, a well-known, liberal, white Methodist preacher. Both men tell the biblical story of James and John, who ask Jesus for the most prominent seats in heaven. At the core of their desire was a “drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade” (King, “The Drum Major,” 170–171). King warns his congregation that this desire for importance can lead to “snobbish exclusivism” and “tragic race prejudice”: “Do you know that a lot of the race problem grows out of the drum major instinct? A need that some people have to feel superior … and to feel that their white skin ordained them to be first” (King, “The Drum Major,” 176; 178). Conversely, King preached that when Jesus responded to the request by James and John, he did not rebuke them for their ambition, but taught that greatness comes from humble servitude. As King put it, Jesus “reordered priorities,” and told his disciples to “Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love” (King, “The Drum Major,” 181; 182).
King used Jesus’ own life as an example of how the priority of love could provide greatness. In his biographical sketch of Jesus, King preached that Jesus owned nothing, and when public opinion turned against him he was called a “rabblerouser” and a “troublemaker” for “[practicing] civil disobedience” (King, “The Drum Major,” 183). King notes that, although by worldly standards Jesus was a failure, no one else has “affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life” (King, “The Drum Major,” 184).
King concluded the February 1968 sermon by imagining his own funeral. Urging the congregation not to dwell on his life’s achievements, including his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, King asked to be remembered as one who “tried to give his life serving others” (King, “The Drum Major,” 185). He implored his congregation to remember his attempts to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort prisoners. “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice,” King intoned. “Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter” (King, “The Drum Major,” 185–186).
Footnotes
Branch, At Canaan’s Edge, 2006.
Hamilton, “Drum-Major Instincts,” in Ride the Wild Horses!, 1952.
King, “The Drum Major Instinct,” Sermon Delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, in A Knock at Midnight, ed. Carson and Holloran, 1998.

The Holy Feast of Pentecost - Kathi In A Prayer

August 11th, 2020

The Holy Feast of Pentecost - Kathi In A Prayer

The Holy Feast of Pentecost : Kathi In A Prayer
“In my most childlike hour, my heart has not deceived me. I will not break faith with my childlike heart.”
James Finley
Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know you always hear me...”
John 11:41,42
“The acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the main aim of man (people) upon this earth, for it is through this ascetic struggle of ‘pulling down’ the Holy Spirit into a repentant, humble heart that man (people) gains justification before the face of God.”
Abbot Herman, editor of :
The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia
By I.M. Kontzevitch 1952
When I first began my iconographer’s apprenticeship in September 1990, I was also aware I was, by a deep sense of responsibility and respect, called to learn as much as I could about Orthodox Spirituality and Theology. I began by reading Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar’s essay on Vladimir Soloviev, in his book “Lay Styles” and then many books on Russian saints, and spiritual writers. I did not do much reading in Greek Orthodox Theology, because my teacher, was the Russian American Master Iconographer, Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. Much later I was introduced to (now my dear friend) Christopher Pramuk’s masterpiece, including a very beautiful introduction into Russian Spirituality; his book, “Sophia : The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton.” The first quote is by James Finley who is also like Chris Pramuk, (in fact it seems like all my friends named Chris sense a calling from God) a very holy man, spiritual writer, but also, a former novice of Thomas Merton. If you want to read just one thing of Russian Spirituality, I would suggest the story of St Seraphim of Sarov’s meeting with N.A. Motovilov in a winter snow laden forest, where St Seraphim is illuminated, almost like Jesus in the Transfiguration, and thus shows Motovilov what “being inhabited” by the Holy Spirit can do to a person. There are many icons of this luminous transcendent meeting. As we approach the Season of Pentecost I wanted to talk about just a couple of things the Holy Spirit will do for you. One) the Holy Spirit calls you into prayer, or conversation with God. Two) the Holy Spirit can make you weep, (this is just a part of the ancient sequence, or exquisite poem, used on Pentecost Sunday).
“Cleanse our souls from sinful stain, Lave our dryness with Your rain, Heal our wounds and mend our way.
Bend the stubborn heart and will, Melt the frozen, warm the chill, Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful who in You, Trust with childlike piety, Deign Your sevenfold gift to send...”
I painted this image of my dear cousin Kathi as a “spiritual portrait” of her being called into a prayer by the Holy Spirit. I have written about my cousin already, in a blog about St Francisco Marto of Fatima. By suffice it to say now, that because my Mother, Marjory Hart gave me her maiden name as my middle name I became a close friend with Kathi Hart, my cousin around age nine, and much to our parents dismay, we talked on the phone at least once a day, sometimes more, until we were 18. I had no idea that actually, we were learning to process our feelings about just about everything, during those wonderful talks. And it saved my life, in a real way, during a difficult childhood because I was a frightened, bewildered gay boy. One of Kathi’s greatest gift was always making me laugh,
“Lave my dryness...melt the frozen, warm the chill.” I can now see the Holy Spirit which “visits” many of my icons, as the One who suddenly causes you to cry or weep with the palpable sense of the presence of God inside you.
I know now, everyone can experience this sensation, and as another quote says above, “The acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the main aim of (all of us) on this earth...”
I am not going to pretend and tell you that I have reached this level of acquisition, even as I approach age 71, but I can promise you my friends, that I will never give up trying. And that trying brings me new hope and joy for the moments when I am in a prayer, every day. But especially now, when we have been called by quarantine into “the upper room” to wait for the Coming of the Spirit .
“Come Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the Fire of Your Love. Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”
For the Season of Pentecost 2020
Fr William Hart McNichols

 

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