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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

St Ignatius and the Passion of the World in the 21st Century

March 27th, 2018

St Ignatius and the Passion of the World in the 21st Century

St Ignatius and the Passion of the World in the 21st Century (2002)
St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) was perhaps one of the most influential saints in the history of Christianity. He founded the Society of Jesus (or Jesuits) and they alone have influenced and shaped civilization in their commitment to education among other postulates.
In many ways Ignatius pre-dated modern psychology with his development of the Spiritual Exercises. The latter is a retreat that is divided into four segments or ‘weeks’. Each week is designed to help the retreatant to discern major decisions in his or her life. Particularly in the third week one contemplates the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion and crucifixion. Through constant periods of prayer and visual meditation one enters into a powerful personal communion with Jesus crucified. This is not a morbid reflection but the pivotal moment and existential contemplation on the transformation of evil into good.
In this image of Ignatius, Bill emphasizes the contemporary relevance of Ignatian spirituality. Ignatius, garbed in the habit of his time, offers an image of the contemporary world to the crucified Christ. The world is in turmoil and reflects the possibility of global annihilation reflective of our age. Blood from the wounds drips down on the world echoing Christ’s response as he gazes on it with compassion. There is hope that the blood of the crucified will be able to transform the world in all its violence.
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

A Meditation On Jesus -1969- By Daniel Berrigan SJ

March 8th, 2018

A Meditation On Jesus -1969- By Daniel Berrigan SJ

A Meditation On Jesus (1969)
By Daniel Berrigan, SJ
9 May 1921 - 30 April 2016

1. The gospel of Jesus is spoken in a world
intoxicated with death
mesmerized by death
convinced of the necessary rule of death
technologizing death
acceding to the omnipresence of death

2. And Jesus says No
to this omnivorous power.
So his word makes the slight
all but imperceptible difference
(which is finally the only difference).
A good man, himself powerless,
stands at the side of powerless men
and says to death No
for them for himself.

3. Can any of you
place before you a single child, smiling
squirming in your arms; and say
The death of this child is a fact of modern war; I accede
to that death. I regret it of course
but what can one do? We have to destroy
in order to save; villages, women, children,
The system traps us all...

4. The system; horrible word! Can the system
trap the conscience of a free man?
Traps are for animals; freedom is for men.
I cannot speak for you
but I will not wait upon Caesar
to instruct me in God's word.
I am a man. I can read:
If a man will save his life, let him lose it.
I say to you love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you.
Whatever you do to the least of these
my brothers, you do to me.
Blessed are you who suffer persecution
for justice's sake.

5. Jesus had nothing to say to "systems",
except to deny their power over him.
He said in effect, violence stops here (pointing to his body)
He said in effect, it is better to die for others
than to live (live?) in a trap.

6. Be concrete, be immediate!
Imagine the world!
If you embrace a child, can you consent
to the death of a child? each human face
leads you (follow!) to every human face.

7. I can only tell you what I believe.
I believe I cannot be saved by foreign policies.
I cannot be saved by sexual revolutions.
I cannot be saved by the gross national product.
I cannot be save by nuclear deterrents.
I cannot be saved by aldermen, priests, artists,
plumbers, city planners, social engineers,
nor by the Vatican,
nor by the World Buddhist Association
nor by Hitler nor by Joan of Arc
nor by angels and archangels,
nor by powers and dominations

8. I can be saved only by Jesus Christ.

9. Take this book with you, please
into the midst of children old men and women
the poor, the defeated, the innocent.
Carry it about with you, let it speak
wherever men struggle, suffer, abandon hope,
Let the book happen to you.
It has no other reason for being,
A man
very like yourself
first spoke the words of these pages,
"a man acquainted with grief,
like us in everything, save sin alone."
He is as near to you/ as your next drawn breath.

10. I do not know
where my life leads.
Do you know where your life leads?
The next note is not struck.
The hands (foul, cleansed) hover
over the instrument.
My friends ask me: After jail, what?
You too (my friends) start awake at midnight,
question the silent lover beside,
the dream-wrapped child;
where? what next?

11. Lover, child, in the immense dignity of birth or death refuse an answer.
There is no answer.
The genius of the gospel is in the name of man
to refuse an answer.
We had best go forward/ as those in love go
Exulting in the breadth of the swath love opens
the sound of a scythe at harvest
the soundlessness of children sleeping a universe
of unanswerable grandeur!

12. If we have awakened to the world
it is probable that our salvation is near.
If we abide in love
we shall be greatly loved.

13. I believe that twelve just men, believing
against all evidence,
may stir the soil or sea
with toilers' hands, bring up intact
something flowerlike, something —

Jesus,
that direct and life-giving man
waits on you.
The world waits on you.
The two statements
are quite simply verified.
Close then open your eyes.

El Lucero Radiante del Alba -Jesus Christ Radiant Light of the Dawn- Teenage Christ

February 19th, 2018

El Lucero Radiante del Alba -Jesus Christ Radiant Light of the Dawn- Teenage Christ

El Lucero Radiante del Alba (Jesus Christ Radiant Light of the Dawn) : Teenage Christ.
This icon was originally painted (written) for an exhibit in Taos, New Mexico called “Sobre Muerte” (About Death) for the annual honoring of the Day of the Dead, November 2, traditionally called All Souls’ Day. I have written about this image often and John Dadosky has written about it, beautifully, in the newly released book from University of New Mexico Press, “Image to Insight.” It was after the Colorado Columbine High School murders that I wanted to paint Jesus as a contemporary teenager, fatally wounded, amidst a cemetery, yet very much Resurrected.
When I was a college student I went to Boston College for philosophy (a Jesuit requirement) and Boston University for Art. I’ve always been enthralled with the everlasting-Puritan influences on the United States. I read into Nathaniel Hawthorne to see what happened to us. It’s all there. I had an incredibly insightful,intelligent teacher for a course in education (before I became a teacher) she told us “You will never understand the United States unless you read “The Scarlet Letter” by Hawthorne. This has never left me. As a young student I would wander in the old graveyards of Boston and Salem and continually see these winged skulls on the tombstones. They spoke of the finality of death but the wings spoke of life after death. My dear friend, Master woodworker, Roberto Lavadie carved the frame for this Young Christ. Just today I read that the teenagers in Florida who survived the latest onslaught of terrifying murders are going to have a march in Washington DC to ask us to protect them, on March 24. Whatever political position you hold, they tell us they are the victims of our moral somnambulant/numbness. I offer this icon of Jesus as the awakening of the children who have seen the Skull-With-Wings , way way way too often.
This is a part of a litany I wrote for this icon...
Jesus Christ
Lamb of God,
Lamp of the Heavenly City.
Jesus Christ
Shepherd of the despised
and rejected,
Lamb led to slaughter.
Jesus Christ
Word of God, Eyes of Fire,
Prophet in exile,
Garment of Blood.
Jesus Christ
Eternal Bridegroom,
Faithful and True.
Jesus Christ
Morning and Evening Star,
Firstborn of the Dead,
Alpha and Omega,
Beginning and the End...
Dear Lord Jesus, we beg you ,please continue to inspire our youth to wake us up with their anguished prophetic cries.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
Second week of Lent 2018
(You can read more about this icon in Professor John Dadosky’s new book.)

Holy New Martyr Nestor Savchuk 1960 - 1993

December 30th, 2017

Holy New Martyr Nestor Savchuk 1960 - 1993

Holy New Martyr Nestor Savchuk 1960 - 1993
Nestor Savchuk was born in the province of Crimea, southern Russia, as Nikolai Savchuk, in 1960. As a youth he excelled in boxing, wrestling, martial arts, and painting. In his twenties he began to work as an apprentice painting religious murals in Odessa. There, the older artists told him the stories of the Russian saints. Inspired by the saints with a love for God, Nestor set out for the 13th century monastery of Pochaev to become a monk. This love grew naturally and expressed itself through his devotion and prayer with the holy icons, which one day would become the source of his martyrdom. After his ordination his spiritual father advised him to go to an isolated village in the Ukraine, by the name of Zharky. There he found a church dedicated to the Nativity of the Mother of God, which had many ancient icons and from that church he felt a deep mystical feeling and an invitation. There he also found many blocks and difficulties. The church caught fire once and also became the target of an icon stealing ring connected to the Russian mafia. He was warned by the mafia that if he continued to keep the icons from them, he would be killed. Nestor would stay up all night guarding the church. He was then touched with a desire to ask for the grace of martyrdom. He began to pray for long hours. A friend warned him of this prayer and told him he ought to be asking for a long life of suffering for God instead. Nestor replied, “Yes, I understand that, but maybe if I will pray for martyrdom, perhaps I will be able to pray it out.” Late in the dark morning of December 31, 1993, the friend was awakened by a dream of St John the Baptist who told him to, “ Go immediately to Father Nestor.” But he did not go until that morning where he found Nestor murdered, outside his rectory in Zharky.
Adapted from a brief biography in the book “Youth of the Apocalypse” by Monks John Marier and Andrew Wermuth
I was blessed to be asked by the late Archbishop Hurley of Anchorage, Alaska to paint an icon of Our Lady of Magadan, (a former concentration camp from 1938-1955) which is in the Far East of Russia, four hours flight from Anchorage. When I visited there in October 1995, I went to the Lavra (monastery) of St Sergius of Radonezh. The monks there asked me to paint Our Lady of Pochaev for them. I asked if they knew of Nestor and his martyrdom. They said, “No, there are so many new martyrs in Russia.” I was stunned into silence by their answer. Months later I received a picture of Archbishop Hurley giving Our Lady of Pochaev to the monks and one was bending down to kiss the icon. That’s a picture I treasure and a great honor from the Russian Orthodox Church. We are all aware of the great suffering today in Russia and their need to continue to worship God freely. Our Lady of Fatima asked the three children she appeared to in Portugal, in 1917, to pray for the conversion of Russia. This was just months before the bloody Bolshevik Revolution, which Russia recently celebrated in November 2017. St Padre Pio prophesied, “Yes, Russia will be converted as the Blessed Virgin said She would. However, Russia will teach the United States a lesson in conversion.”
In this year of 2018, O Mother of God, Immaculate Heart of Fatima, Magadan, Pochaev, Mother of All Nations, and Holy New Martyr Nestor, help us all move quickly toward the conversion you both desire for us and the entire World.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
30 December 2017

The Nursing Icon of the Mother of God

December 24th, 2017

The Nursing Icon of the Mother of God

The Nursing Icon of the Mother of God (Feastday, along with St Stephen , December 26)
After my Mother died in August 2006, as Advent approached I was still in grief inside and couldn’t feel the usual intensity of the beautiful four weeks before Christmas. I never realized how much (for me) the Mother is Christmas, in that she teaches the whole story to her children and creates the atmosphere inside the house that really begins your understanding of the entire season. This includes the Nativity set (which also contained figures from her childhood) the tree, the lights, the decorations, the candles, the Advent wreath, food, music, and magical presence around the house. So that Advent of 2006 I painted the Nursing Icon as a living memory of Mom. There are hundreds of great Christmas poems, here are a few lines from my favorite one, by St Robert, who had a truly childlike innocence and yet always manages to dazzle you with his theological insights into very deep Christian mysteries.
“Behold the Father is His daughter’s son,
The bird that built the nest is hatc’d therein,
...Might feeble is and force doth faintly creep,
...Up heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace!
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs,
This life, this light, this world, this joy repairs...”
St Robert Southwell, SJ
English Martyr
1561-1595
A most beautiful, Spiritfilled, and joyful Christmas!
Fr Bill McNichols
24 December 2017

St Peter Canisius - Doctor of the Church 1521-1597

December 21st, 2017

St Peter Canisius - Doctor of the Church 1521-1597

St Peter Canisius : Doctor of the Church 1521-1597
My friend Fr Paul Begheyn, SJ commissioned this icon for the Dutch Province of the Jesuits in 1996. The first image I had for the icon was Peter wading through a thick,foggy, ominous, Grimm’s German fairy tale-dark-forest, holding a lantern, as in the painting of Christ knocking at the (your) door, (The Light of the World) by William Holman Hunt. This was my image of the dangerous journey Peter Canisius had to manage during the Reformation. God, through the Church, has always produced men and women with what the late Cardinal von Balthasar has called “church souls.” These souls have been given a gift of a profoundly inspired knowledge of what is necessary and what is superfluous. They are not tied to their own times, but seem to have an ancient love for the church, going back centuries before them. Some are very prickly and irascible, ready to fight, and quite up to the task. But I am attracted to the ones who have a supernatural gift of being compassionate in the midst of incredible tempers flying at them while they serenely preach the truth. I think of these Master Apologists as almost “inhumanly human” and yet very much human at their core. Living in this, our time, of great anger and divisions about religion and politics, it’s not hard to imagine these furious battles of opinion, but to imagine the serene preaching and converse of St Dominic, St Catherine of Siena, Blessed Cardinal Newman, or the late Daniel Berrigan, SJ, is obviously miraculous. St Peter Canisius had this gift. There are many more in our history but those saints and prophets, always come to mind first for me. Peter could stand before his enemies and bear the flying rage coming toward him, then simply speak back to them with the truth. He was well aware of the need for a Reformation but saw it coming in a less violent/schismatic way. Today, I think Fr Jim Martin, SJ also has this Apologist’s gift and I admire him so much, with the Internet age, he gets twice, ten times, a hundred times, actually, the irrational, scurrilous rage thrown at him but he manages to remain inside his Lord Jesus who is our way, our truth and our life.
A key to St Peter’s spiritual depth is his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was a gradual transformation within him, or mystical exchange of hearts, that created the heart and soul of Peter. On the day of his final vows Our Lord allowed him to see his Sacred Heart. This of course changed the way he saw and spoke to everyone. He could say no, and create what we call boundaries, or teach someone the depths he had received with an incredible care for them, because his own heart had been transformed. Peter said, “Again, it is a mistaken policy to behave in a contentious fashion and to start disputes about matters of belief with argumentative people who are disposed by their very natures to wrangling. Indeed, the fact of their being so constituted is a reason the more why such people should be attracted and won to the simplicity of the faith as much by example as by argument.” So in this icon I finally decided to show him with Holy Wisdom gently whispering on his shoulder into his “inner ear”. She alone could teach him the countenance and the extremely practical, daily ways of Wisdom. Normally only St John the Evangelist is shown with Holy Wisdom (Sophia) but at the time I painted (wrote) this icon, I saw an icon with St Gregory the Great being similarly instructed by Sophia, so knew I had to portray St Peter with her too. He is prayerfully contemplating the book on his lap, the Prologue to St John’s Gospel, about the Light coming into the darkness and the darkness unable to receive or allow the Light in. If you’re looking for an example of getting through these times, I cannot think of anyone better than St Peter Canisius whom we celebrate, not accidentally, on the Solstice...Light returning.
“Let my eyes take their sleep, but may my heart always keep watch for you. May your right hand bless your servants who love you. May I be united with the praise that flies from you, Lord Jesus, to all your saints; united with gratitude drawn from your heart good Jesus, that causes your saints to thank you; united with your passion, good Jesus, by which you took away our guilt; united with divine longing that you had on earth for our salvation; united with every prayer that welled up from your divine heart, good Jesus, and flowed into the hearts of your saints. Amen”
St Peter Canisius

Fr Bill McNichols
21 December 2017

 

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