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Jesus Christ Divine Mercy And His Apostle St Faustina Kowalska

April 21st, 2020

Jesus Christ Divine Mercy And His Apostle St Faustina Kowalska

Jesus Christ Divine Mercy And His Apostle St Faustina Kowalska
“...so many hearts I find, broke like yours and mine
torn by what we’ve done and can’t undo ...
but there were sorrows to be healed and mercy, mercy in this world...”
Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)
from his “Song of Bernadette”
“My Jesus, grant that I may have love, compassion and mercy for every soul without exception. O my Jesus, each of your saints reflects one of your virtues; I desire to reflect your compassionate heart, full of mercy; I want to glorify it. Let your mercy, O Jesus, be impressed upon my heart and soul like a seal, and this will be my badge in this and the future life. Glorifying your mercy is the exclusive task of my soul.” (Diary 1242)
“Jesus, make my heart like unto yours, or rather transform it into your own heart that I may sense the needs of other hearts, especially those who are sad and suffering. May the rays of mercy rest in my heart.” (Diary 514)
In many ways, Faustina’s personality reminds me of Bernadette. Both so humble and open to transmit, without any embellishment, the vision and message they were given. I’d like to end with a quote from one of my favorite scripture scholars. I carried, and read on the subway in Manhattan in 1981, then copied down so many passages from his commentary on Revelation and the Gospel of Luke. This is my favorite quote:
“The only requirement for entrance into the kingdom of God is an emptiness only God can fill.”
From his commentary on the Gospel of Luke by GB Caird (1917-1984)
A most blessed and needed Divine Mercy Sunday !
Fr Bill McNichols 19 April 2020
St Faustina Kowalska Apostle Of Divine Mercy 094 by William Hart McNichols

Holy Theologian Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar

April 21st, 2020

Holy Theologian Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar

Holy Theologian Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905 - 1988)
“Even if a unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is.” (And)
“Wastefulness is the original Christian attitude... The entire Passion occurs under the sign of this complete self-wasting of God’s love for the world.” von Balthasar
Literally right before he died von Balthasar was summoned to Rome by St John Paul II, to receive the Cardinals cap. He had refused it twice, joking but also seriously saying to John Paul that he didn’t need a red hat. He had already written about, and told John Paul, that he felt Cardinals were not necessary. John Paul’s answer was to summon him to Rome and receive this honor; von B ( I use this abbreviation affectionately) died just before he was supposed to fly to Rome. He was loved and respected by John Paul and at von B’s urgings, he apologized to the world about 100 terrible things the church has done over the centuries. von B told him, (and it was later formally requested by Cardinal Ratzinger) the church cannot go into the 21st century without this lengthy apology. His final apology was to women. And even though things are not moving fast enough for many people, if you had told me in grade school, in the pre-Vatican II Church, that one day we’d have women lector’s, communion ministers, altar girls, and maybe one day deacons again, I would not have believed you. One of my theologian friends once told me if we could combine von B with Gustavo Gutierrez, Dorothee Solle and Elizabeth Johnson, Thomas Merton, Ilia Delio, Elizabeth Fiorenza, J. Baptist Metz, or the Berrigan brothers, we would have a “near perfect” theology. Other names of prominent women and men could be added of course; living and dead. I think also of my theologian friends John Dadosky, James Martin, SJ, Megan McKenna, James Alison and Christopher Pramuk, and of course Dr St Hildegard . What I’m trying to say is better said by St John Cardinal Newman in a quote that my teacher, Franciscan Brother Robert Lentz placed in the hand of his Icon of St John Cardinal Newman: “The voice of the whole Church will in time make itself heard.” We were introduced to von B by our Novice Master, Fr Vince O’Flaherty, SJ In 1968. He instructed us to read the book “Prayer.” Since that time I personally, have been fed by his writings and during my Hospice years in New York and then in my iconographer’s apprenticeship, I read all 7 volumes of his “Glory of the Lord” series. It was in New York that my deceased friend Eddie Oakes, (Fr Edward Oakes, SJ) who wrote the brilliant book on von B, “Pattern of Redemption ” introduced me to Adrienne von Speyr. Balthasar states that she was so influential in his theology that the two of them must be taught and read together. He speaks about their mission together in his book “Our Task.” I have written about her, and shown the icon I wrote of her, in one of my Facebook blogs. I am introducing you to von B now because I’d like to write about my icon of Holy Theologian Adamantius Origen in a blog around the feast of his father, (April 22) Holy Martyr St Leonides of Alexandria. And I must use von B’s dramatic and scholarly rehabilitation of Origen, to write about him.
During this time of the pandemic, we are all quarantined and I’m trying to see it (as I tried during the many years of the AIDS pandemic) as a possible contemplative opportunity to go deeper into God and point ( as always with images and icons) to the guides who also had to endure many different kinds of suffering and still held onto the Hope that is in God’s eternal love for us.
The first volume of the 7 in “The Glory of the Lord” series is about beauty, and it’s called “Seeing the Form.” Here is a part of the opening of the book.
“The word with which we embark on in this first volume of a series of theological studies is a word with which the philosophical person does not begin, but rather concludes. It is a word that has never possessed a permanent place or an authentic voice in the concert of the exact sciences,and, when it is chosen as a subject for discussion, appears to betray in him who chooses it an idle amateur among such very busy experts. It is, finally, a word untimely in three different senses, and bearing it as one’s treasure will not win one anyone’s favours; one rather risks finding oneself outside everyone’s camp...
Beauty is the word that shall be our first... We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past whether he admits it or not - can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.”
To me just thinking that this was first published in English in 1982, before there was much talk about the possible devastation of the earth, I think in this area alone, of global warming and infection in every way ... was/is prophetic. And like all prophets contains a warning and a hope.
A blessed Easter season, stay safe during this painful ,crucial, and yet Holy Kairos Time.
Fr Bill McNichols April 2020

The Risen Christ

April 21st, 2020

The Risen Christ

The Risen Christ
“The valley is dark...
you walk through the shadows
uncertain and surely hurting ...
and though you trust the light
towards which you wend your way
sometimes it feels all that you wanted
has been taken away...
You will walk
You will walk
You will walk in good company.
I love the best in you
you love the best in me
though it’s not always easy
lovely, lonely.
We will walk
We will walk
We will walk in good company,
The shepherd upright and flowing,
You see.”
“The Valley” by Jane Siberry sung by kd lang on “Hymns of the 49th Parallel”
“This is the Risen Lord, standing as Lord for all time, in all places. He stands bearing the wounds of his passion and death, his devotion and obedience and love. And he stands greeting us with open arms amid the blue mandala of eternity. This is the One that the just man Job cried out to in belief: ‘For I know that my Redeemer lives and that he, at the last, will take his stand on earth.’(Job 19:25)... This is the cornerstone and heart of our religion and faith...St Antony of Egypt tried to say it this way: ‘By the word of His power He gathered us out of all lands, from one end of the earth to the other end of the world, and made resurrection of our minds, and remission of our sins, and taught us that we are members one of another.’ This mystery of the Word rising in our hearts will one day raise our bodies to glory. We stand, we kneel, we sit at the table of the Risen Lord, and our minds are opened to the Scriptures and our heats are stirred to fire and hope again, always. Amen “
From “Christ All Merciful: Icons by William Hart McNichols” by Megan McKenna
Orbis Press 2002
“...God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more; mourning, and crying and pain will be no more...See I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:3-5)
Fr Bill McNichols - Easter 2020
💢Holy Week Meditation💢
“We will not find Christ in our Churches this year because He is out in the streets.
Christ rushes to our side with the first responders.
He is with the medical workers risking their own lives to save others.
He shares the fear and loneliness of the hospital patients fighting for their lives.
He feels the hunger and anxiety of the poor.
He is in all those who leave their families at risk in order to protect our fellow citizens and loved ones.
He is with the pastors who pray humbly with their flocks via social media.
He labors with the truck drivers bringing food to our tables and the pharmacists and shop keepers providing for our needs.
He trembles with those who have seen more suffering than they can bear and mourns with those who lost dear loved ones.”
Archbishop Castillo
Lima, Peru

Holy Week and Our Lady of Magadan

April 21st, 2020

Holy Week and Our Lady of Magadan

Holy Week and Our Lady of Magadan
I believe it was during this same time, Holy Week in 1994 that I completed this commission for (now deceased) Archbishop Hurley of Anchorage, Alaska to give to the Orthodox Bishop of Magadan, Far East, Russia. Magadan is so distant it's not called Siberia , but Far East it's actually "above" Japan and only 4 hours flight from Anchorage, in the Bay of the Sea of Ohotsk.
Archbishop Hurley wanted to open a Catholic parish in Magadan and he longed to give a gift of an appropriate icon.
Magadan was a concentration camp of the former Soviet Union from 1938 under Stalin until it closed in 1955 under Krushchev. No one knows how many thousands of people died in the prison camps and are buried there. I traveled there in October 1995, and could write many pages on my short but indelible visit; most of all I remember the incredible generosity of the Pastor Fr Michael Shields and the Russian people. And I also visited the Lavra (monastery) of St Sergius of Radonezh, where the Orthodox monks commissioned another icon, Our Lady of Pochaev, which is now in their monastery church. An honor I will never forget.
When designing the icon for Magadan, with its tragic history, I could only imagine a Pieta. I added the pastel or Easter colors to give a sense of what the grieving Mother would soon experience through her Risen Son.
I dedicate this icon and the prayers it hopefully inspires to a world of all God’s children afflicted and suffering from the covid 19 virus.
Fr Bill McNichols
Holy Week 2020

Hagia Hesychia - Jesus Christ Redeemer Holy Silence

April 6th, 2020

Hagia Hesychia - Jesus Christ Redeemer Holy Silence

Hagia Hesychia : Jesus Christ Redeemer Holy Silence (Holy Wisdom)
“And when I breathed, my breath was like lightening...I cured with the power that came through me...” Nicholas Black Elk (1 December 1863 - 19 August 1950)
A Mass was celebrated by Bishop Robert Guss of Rapid City, South Dakota on 21 October 2017 to formally open the cause for Canonization of the Holy Medicine Man (Wicasa Wakan) Nicholas Black Elk. Around the age of 60, in the 1930’s, Black Elk finally told his formative vision (Hanbelachia) and life story to
John C. Neihardt and it gradually became a world wide bestseller called “Black Elk Speaks.” This incredibly beautiful book is sheer poetry and can be read or listened to on Audible books. I read it after making a life-changing retreat at Holy Rosary Mission, South Dakota in 1971. And while I was recovering from my heart collapse in April-May of 2012 I listened to it on Audible. I was semi-delirious from an induced coma, with nine drugs still swimming inside me. I was in that coma from April 27 until I was “miraculously” awakened on May 11. I too was in need of a “Hanbelachia” (vision quest) and Black Elk’s words washed over me in the most holy and profoundly,deeply comforting way.
“This famous book, however, leaves out the vast majority of how Nicholas Black Elk, (baptized on December 6, St Nicholas Feast) embraced the Catholic faith in 1904, recounted his life to Neihardt in the 1930’s . Black Elk became an energetic Catholic Catechist, retaining Lakota practices that harmonized with his Catholic Faith ... Jesuit Father Michael Steltenkamp, author of “Nicholas Black Elk: Medicine Man,Missionary and Mystic” And “Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala, interviewed numerous Jesuit contemporaries of Nicholas Black Elk, gaining a vastly more complete portrait of Black Elk’s path of holiness...
‘ Whatever vision he had as a youth, it was so influenced over the years by his life as a Catechist, that the vision and his Catholic life became one life-inspiration,’ Father Steltenkamp said...Black Elk predicted that God would give them a sign at his death. They testified that on the nights between his death and funeral, the sky seemed as bright as day, filled with spectacular displays of falling lights - like a water fountain with lights splashing ...even contemporary journals across North America noted the event, calling it a very unusual aurora borealis...”
From the National Catholic Register by Peter Jesserer Smith October 2017
One of the most beautiful declarations of Vatican Council II, is that the Holy Spirit is in, and speaks through all people’s. Personally I have to say that in my reading of Native American Wisdom, I think they got everything right, including almost all tribes (pre-Freudian) designation of gay people as Two Spirit Ones.
Recently my brilliant artist sister Marjory McNichols Wilson sent me this recent message from a visionary Hopi woman named White Eagle she shared on 16 March 2020. I chose this icon of a Holy Wisdom (Sophia) figure called Holy Silence to illustrate this blog, and I also painted an image of Black Elk you can look into on my website, which I have already written about. So now, here is the holy wisdom of White Eagle.
Message from White Eagle, Hopi indigenous on 03/16/2020:
VISION QUEST 🔥👁️
“This moment humanity is going through can now be seen as a portal and as a hole.
The decision to fall into the hole or go through the portal is up to you.
If you repent of the problem and consume the news 24 hours a day, with little energy, nervous all the time, with pessimism, you will fall into the hole. But if you take this opportunity to look at yourself, rethink life and death, take care of yourself and others, you will cross the portal.
Take care of your homes, take care of your body. Connect with your spiritual House.
When you are taking care of yourselves, you are taking care of everything else. Do not lose the spiritual dimension of this crisis, have the eagle aspect, that from above, and see the whole; see more broadly.
There is a social demand in this crisis, but there is also a spiritual demand. The two go hand in hand. Without the social dimension, we fall into fanaticism. But without the spiritual dimension, we fall into pessimism and lack of meaning.
You were prepared to go through this crisis. Take your toolbox and use all the tools available to you.
Learn about resistance of the indigenous and African peoples: we have always been and continue to be exterminated. But we still haven't stopped singing, dancing, lighting a fire and having fun. Don't feel guilty about being happy during this difficult time.
You do not help at all being sad and without energy. You help if good things emanate from the Universe now. It is through joy that one resists. Also, when the storm passes, each of you will be very important in the reconstruction of this new world.
You need to be well and strong. And, for that, there is no other way than to maintain a beautiful, happy and bright vibration. This has nothing to do with alienation.
This is a resistance strategy. In shamanism, there is a rite of passage called the quest for vision. You spend a few days alone in the forest, without water, without food, without protection. When you cross this portal, you get a new vision of the world, because you have faced your fears, your difficulties ...
This is what is asked of you:
Allo yourself to take advantage of this time to perform your vision seeking rituals. What world do you want to build for you? For now, this is what you can do: serenity in the storm. Calm down, pray every day. Establish a routine to meet the sacred every day.
Good things emanate; what you emanate now is the most important thing. And sing, dance, resist through art, joy, faith and love.
Resist - Be reborn”

Go to Joseph what he says to you do

April 6th, 2020

Go to Joseph  what he says to you  do

“Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.”
Genesis 41:55
"....it was permitted by God that Joseph have this anxious feeling constantly present within his heart. Joseph accepted it with resignation and never appeared outwardly to be restless or disturbed. "
Page 202
The Life of St Joseph
by Maria Baij, OSB
1743-1766
“I only beg, for the love of God, that anyone who does not believe me will put what I say to the test, and he will see by experience what great advantages come from his commending himself to this glorious patriarch and having devotion to him. Those who practice prayer should have a special affection for him always. I do not know how anyone can think of the Queen of Angels, during the time that she suffered so much with the Child Jesus, without giving thanks to Saint Joseph for the way he helped them. If anyone cannot find a master to teach him how to pray, let him take this glorious saint as his master and he will not go astray.”
Autobiography of St Teresa of Avila, chapter 6
I asked my dear childhood friend Kathy Hendricks, the popular speaker, retreat leader and author of many truly inspiring books, including our book together,
“Heavenly Friends: An Introduction to the Beauty of Icons” http://www.twentythirdpublications.com/hefrneintobe.html to write a prayer to St Joseph for his feastday (traditionally honoring the day he died with Mary and Jesus by his side) March 19th. Here is her beautiful prayer:
Prayer to St. Joseph during Times of Fear and Anxiety
Dearest Saint Joseph,
You protected Mary and Jesus when violence overtook
the land.
Pray for all of those most at risk during this pandemic –
the elderly, those with underlying health issues,
the poor, the homeless, and those with no one to care for or about them.
May your example of courage and strength inspire us
to be more cognizant of the common good
and generous in our outreach to others.
You attended to the needs of your family
and remained steadfast in your faith.
Pray for all of those who are responding so generously
in providing for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs
of the local, national, and international community.
May your model of fidelity fill us with the desire
to spread kindness,
consideration,
hope,
and compassion
during this challenging time.
We ask your intercession
so that we might draw together as a human family,
ever aware of and grateful for
the unending love and mercy of God.
Amen.

Beato Fra Angelico

February 28th, 2020

Beato Fra Angelico

Beato Fra Angelico (1400-1455) - Patron of Artists - feastday 18 February
“Freely you were given, freely give.” St Matthew 10:8
“On June 23, 1983, Pope St. John Paul II granted official cultus to Fra Angelico, who is now Blessed with an office, a Mass and obligatory memory as Patron of Artists. Fra Angelico, baptized Guido di Pietro, was born around 1400 in Vicchio, a Tuscan town near Florence. At the age of twenty, he entered the Dominican Order at the Priory of San Domenico in Fiesole . He took the religious name of John whence the appellation Fra Giovanni de Fiesole. He died in Rome on February 18, 1455, and is buried in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where his tomb remains an object of veneration...was this remarkable priest a painter of the Middle Ages or the Renaissance? The answer varies with the preconceptions of the critics, many of whom consider him a painter of transition.”
John Rubba, OP, “Fra Angelico”
“Fra Angelico’s life, by evidence, ran its course without a question, without a doubt, in uninterrupted service to God in the exercise of a God-given talent...Fra Angelico managed, as if without trying, to simplify the sometimes rather fussy pageantry of late-medieval painting without thinning it -he weeded it and gave it room to grow-and to unite heavenly sweetness with earthly truth as if any question as to their identity were ridiculous...Because of his gentleness, Fra Angelico is often underestimated as an artist even by his admirers, who tend to settle for his sweetness without recognizing his strength...Fra Angelico reconciled revolution and tradition by reconciling Massaccio’s realism-the projection of figures in light and space on a monumental scale-with the essentially miniature technique of the late-medievalists such as his probable teacher, Lorenzo Monaco.”
John Canaday, “The Lives of the Painters”
The Dominican motto, along with “Veritas,” is “Contemplata aliis tradrere,” (which is to share what you have seen or contemplated), reaches its zenith in Beato Angelico. Our great contemporary Swiss medical doctor and mystic, Adrienne von Speyr (20 September 1902-17 September 1967) sees Fra Angelico, while she is in an ecstatic state under obedience to her spiritual director, Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was also her companion in a Mission, in fact he once said, you cannot separate my theology from hers. She said of Fra Angelico, “I see him (Adrienne smiles). He loves the Way that leads to God and is held in a continual contemplation of this Way. And if he paints, then he paints this Way. The saints he paints, the angels he presents, are all for him the expression of this Way. And in everything he experiences - even theological, philosophical, even if it is something extreme that remains incomprehensible to him -he can only concur if it can be brought into harmony with this Way. As soon as he comes to the Way, everything is clear to him, and he would be very capable of drawing very subtle distinctions. It is as if God had designated him to represent this Way to Him. So everything is also related that is given to him in contemplation, everything that he experiences in prayer and in daily life, everything is referred to this Way leading to God. It is the Way of being like a child, of childlikeness, of the childhood of God. It is the Way of holiness, the Way of renunciation in love of neighbor, which is so far developed that always the Lord and His holiness are seen in the neighbor. Art is given to him. He has not exactly chosen it. It is so much his talent and corresponds to him so much that it chose him more than he chose it. But for him it is one with religion, with love for God...he is one of his smiling saints.”
Adrienne von Speyr, “The Book of All Saints”
A blessed feast of Beato Fra Angelico to everyone especially - all who devote their lives to the vocation and work of Art. And a special thank you to my artist sister, Marjory McNichols Wilson who posts these blogs and helps me in every way!
Fr Bill McNichols - February 2020

The Kenosis of St Bernadette of Lourdes

February 28th, 2020

The Kenosis of St Bernadette of Lourdes

The Kenosis (self-emptying) of St Bernadette of Lourdes
“Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
Barry Lopez from his fable “Crow and Weasel”
“Wastefulness is the original Christian attitude...The entire Passion occurs under the sign of this complete self-wasting of God’s love for the world.”
From “Light of the Word” by Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar
“The Virgin used me as a broom to remove dust. When the work is done, the broom is put behind the door again. “
St Bernadette
“At my third request she (the Blessed Mother) put on a serious air and appeared to humiliate herself. She joined her hands, raising them above her breast. She looked towards heaven, then she slowly separated her hands, leaned towards me and said with a trembling voice: ‘I am the Immaculate Conception.’ “
From “Bernadette: The Only Witness” by Fr John Lynch, SM
“There was a child named Bernadette
I heard the story long ago
She saw the Queen of Heaven once
And kept the vision in her soul
No one believed what she had seen
No one believed what she heard
But there were sorrows to be healed
And mercy, mercy in this world...
We’ve been around, we fall, we fly
We mostly fall, we mostly run
And every now and then we try
To mend the damage that we’ve done
Tonight, tonight I just can’t rest
I’ve got this joy here inside my breast
To think that I did not forget
That child, that song of Bernadette...”
A truly inspiring, lovely song by the great Leonard Cohen (recorded beautifully by Jennifer Warnes in 1986)
In 1943 Jennifer Jones won the Oscar for her luminous portrayal of St Bernadette, in the film “The Song of Bernadette,” based on the 1941 novel of the same name by Franz Werfel. If you watch the incredible transformation on Jennifer Jones’ face when she first sees Our Lady of Lourdes, you see why she won. Her face goes from a shock-like fear, to disbelief or clearly bewildered...then into wonder and finally, total love. Her radiant face reflects the Woman she sees. It helps us all feel how we might feel if we were privileged to see the Mother of God. This icon was commissioned by the church of the Shrine of St Bernadette, here in Albuquerque in the early 1990’s. They asked for Bernadette to be in her religious habit of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers; the order she joined in 1866. I placed a candelabra behind her with 11 candles to signify the first time she saw Mary, February 11th, 1858. She is holding a bowl of water to signify the healing waters of Lourdes. When she was diagnosed with tuberculosis she refused the offer to be taken back from Nevers to Lourdes because she knew the healing waters were not for her. She is shown pouring them out of a bowl, symbolically emptying her life. She died on April 16, 1879 at the age of thirty five. St. John Paul II designated 11 February as World Day of the Sick in May of 1992. He wrote “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding us to see in our sick brothers and sisters the face of Christ...” I’ll end with a most hopeful quote from St Bernadette: “If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again. We can always start all over again. Enjoy God’s amazing opportunities bestowed on us. Have faith in Him always.”
Fr Bill McNichols 💟 February 2020

The Silence of St Thomas Aquinas

February 28th, 2020

The Silence of St Thomas Aquinas

The Silence of St Thomas Aquinas (feast day January 28)
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”
St Thomas Aquinas
My Father, Stephen McNichols, was born on the old feast of St Thomas Aquinas, March 7, and so from my earliest childhood, I felt a connection between this saint and my Dad. He used to tell me stories about a dinner Thomas was invited to with St Louis IX and St Bonaventure. At dinner Thomas was so caught up with solving a problem, that suddenly, when he found the answer he burst out loud with it and everyone was embarrassed for him. But Good King St Louis had a scribe rush over to where Thomas was seated to be sure his thought was taken down in writing. There is another great story that in Thomas’ youth his classmates called him the dumb ox, because his silence was thought to be stupidity.
His holy teacher, the Dominican and scientist, St Albert the Great, (feastday November 15) told the students that one day they would hear a great roar from this dumb ox. As we all know, the world continues to learn from the genius of St Thomas, but who was quite controversial in his own lifetime. It was near the end of his life, on the feast of St Nicholas, December 6, while saying Mass that he had an experience of God so profound, that he gave up writing and said “All that I have written is straw...” (in comparison to his mystical vision or experience). And so Thomas “went into silence.” Another thing I hope we’ve all experienced is a teacher who can change your life. A woman or man who “sees you” and can bring out your God-given gifts. Just recently, a couple of you tubes popped up on my phone. It was two short videos of The Book of Revelation by two young men who call themselves “The Bible Project.” Because they were short I thought, I’ll give them a try and was amazed at the brilliance, masterful teaching, delightful graphics, and the depth they manage to achieve in just a few minutes. Since then I’ve listened to and watched Isaiah, Haggai, Habakkuk, Esther, Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs (the Protestant Bible only contains 3 of the Wisdom Books) .... Matthew, Psalms, Mark and many more, like the ones on just a Hebrew word, or concept, such as “holiness.” I can’t say enough about these wonderful teachers who open books of the Bible for you and then you can meditate on them with reverence “in a prayer.”
In my six year apprenticeship with master Iconographer, Friar Robert Lentz, OFM, I began to experience the importance of the silent mystery in so many enigmatic icons, such as “Mother of God Similar to Fire,” “Mother of God Your Lap Has Become the Holy Table,” or “Jesus Christ Redeemer Holy Silence.” I think in the West we are uncomfortable with mystery and silence. We want an immediate explanation of what we are looking at in a work of art, but that kind of impatience will only frustrate the viewer of icons.
This icon of Thomas Aquinas deferring to an apparition of Holy Wisdom, is the result of reading two books on the Angelic Doctor:
“Aquinas Search For Wisdom” by Vernon Bourke and “The Silence of St Thomas” by Josef Pieper.
(we ) “...man, in his philosophical inquiry, is faced again and again with the experience that reality is unfathomable and Being is mystery- an experience, it is true, which urges him not so much to communicate as to silence. But it would not be the silence of resignation, and still less the silence of despair. It would be the silence of reverence."
J. Pieper
Happy Feast Day Angelic Doctor St Thomas Aquinas!
Fr Bill McNichols 2020

St Agnes of Rome

February 28th, 2020

St Agnes of Rome

St Agnes of Rome
(b 291-martyred January 21, 304 AD)
“The end is not an event but a person.” GB Caird
When I was around age 5 I received a set of 4 small books called “Little Lives of the Saints” by Fr Daniel Lord, SJ. One of the first things I did when I entered theJesuit Novitiate in Florissant, Missouri on September 1st 1968, was to find Fr Lord’s grave and pray over it, thanking him for leading me to the saints. There is another indelible book, a novel, by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, called “Fabiola” originally published in 1854. It reimagined the lives of the early young martyrs including Agnes, Emerentiana , Sebastian, Tarcisius, and Pancratius.
When you’re 7 or 8, a twelve or thirteen year old is a teenager, when you’re that young they seem very mature and impressive! Now when I think of them they seem very young and vulnerable. Just days ago, a thirteen year old girl was kidnapped in Springfield, Massachusetts and luckily a couple paid attention to the amber alert and followed the car, going a hundred miles an hour, all the while calling the police.
Thank God, because of that couple she was released unharmed after 6 hours.
We hear of these stories way too often. Sadly, tragically, rarely do they have a happy ending. The child martyrs like Agnes and Pancratius inspired me during a rough childhood of bullying. I can’t imagine what it must be like now for kids who are bullied through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, cell phones etc. I wonder if I’d have made it. So, in my childhood, I identified with the early martyrs and they were like my “imaginary friends” (see also the scholarly, very readable and brilliant book “The Cult of the Saints” by Peter Brown) who kept me alive and hoping. They taught me naturally, to pray by learning to talk with Jesus and His Mother, and our brothers and sisters, the saints. In this icon a young Agnes (whose name comes from the Latin, Agnus, which means lamb) is standing on a shining mandala. Inside is the martyred Lamb of God, standing on the Book of the Apocalypse (Revelation) with its seven seals, and the Lamb carries a green Cross of Victory. I love to speak in homilies, especially at funerals, comparing the vision of a powerful, frightening God in Isaiah 6, with the final scriptural vision of God in Revelation which is a Lamb. GB Caird taught me so much about the Lamb in his genius commentary “The Revelation of St John the (theologian) Divine” which I read with so much joy and interest when I was in my thirties as an art student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Today you hear of a possible Apocalypse all the time. I would suggest Caird’s book, but also Craig Koester’s book “Revelation and the End of All Things.” But if you want, you can look at two brilliant very short videos on you tube by two young masterful teachers, who make short videos on every book of the Bible. They call themselves “the Bible Project.” I can’t say enough good about them. Agnes is patron of young girls, and there are so many centuries of beautiful paintings, statues or sculptures of her. She remains much beloved, through almost every century of Christianity; a sign of the Lamb of the Apocalypse, who conquers not by physical power but with the miraculous power of the Cross and this way of Love.
A blessed St Agnes Day !
Fr Bill McNichols - January 21, 2020

 

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