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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

St. Padre Pio - Mother Pelican

August 11th, 2020

St. Padre Pio - Mother Pelican

St. Padre Pio : Mother Pelican (25 May 1887-23 September 1968)
“ O Loving Pelican! O Jesus Lord! Unclean am I but cleanse me in Your Blood!”
St. Thomas Aquinas
So many medieval and early Renaissance artists such as Beato Fra Angelico, painted the symbol of Christ as Mother Pelican nested above Crosses or on tabernacle doors. I once saw a giant floor mosaic in a Brooklyn church ( I think it was St Peter’s Church ?) of Her on the sanctuary floor which really moved me. There exists an early legend that if the Mother Pelican had no food for her chicks she would tear open her own side to feed them. This naturally became a symbol of Christ, and for me, a symbol of all the holy women and men who were given the stigmata; they became Christ figures. These saints healed, performed miracles from God, and spiritually fed us with their blood or wounds ... and continue to do so from Heaven. So I decided to put the painted disc of the Mother Pelican in Padre Pio’s hand, and I wondered if he would approve ? Just before I finished the icon I watched a video cassette (early 90’s!) of his last Mass on 22 September 1968. At the end of the Mass he was so weak that he had to have assistance in walking. And, as he turned to leave, I saw the Mother Pelican on the back of his chasuble.
St. John Paul II once made a visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia, Italy, and Padre Pio prophesied that one day he would be Pope. He was canonized by Pope John Paul on 16 June 2002. I have read so many books about him, and there are luckily so many to read, and my favorite is by C. Bernard Ruffin, a Lutheran Pastor, who died just last May 4th in Virginia. It’s called “Padre Pio : The True Story,” 1991, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Company, they now publish a revised, expanded 3rd addition. When you read almost anything about Padre Pio, you cannot feel any distance from him. It’s as though he comes to you immediately. I continue to beg him for help with the most extreme sufferings of friends and anyone who asks me for prayers. His presence in your home is often accompanied by a strong aroma of flowers and other pleasing scents. If you need him, all you have to do, is ask him to be one of his spiritual children, and he never refuses anyone. Now for a couple of his quotes:
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear our prayers... I will ask the Lord to to let me remain at the threshold of Paradise, and I will not enter until the last of my spiritual children has entered...once I take a soul on, I also take on his (her) entire family as my spiritual children.”
St Padre Pio
For 25 May 2020 ... the 41st Anniversary of my ordination in 1979 at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Denver, Colorado.
Dearest friend and father, Padre Pio, who bore the wounds of Jesus Christ for 50 years. Pray, for us, dear Padre, especially now in this time of the world wide pandemic !
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols

Holy Martyr St Dymphna of Ireland

August 11th, 2020

Holy Martyr St Dymphna of Ireland

Holy Martyr St Dymphna of Ireland, for her feast day May 15
Written by my friend, Kathy Hendricks, a mother, grandmother, and author of several books on catechesis, spirituality, and family including "Heavenly Friends – An Introduction to the Beauty of Icons". http://www.twentythirdpublications.com/hefrneintobe.html
Saint Dymphna
When my mother first showed me her medal of Saint Dymphna and told me about this patron of mental illness, I had no idea what a consolation it was to her. Decades later, as a general understanding and recognition of the vast complexity of mental illness have taken place, I’ve come to a better appreciation of why this was so. Although my mother never mentioned the specific causes of two of her sisters’ mental torments – one who committed suicide and another who became submerged in alcohol addiction – I have a better understanding of the devastating impact of clinical depression.
Dymphna’s story is not an easy one to hear. The daughter of a pagan king and Christian mother, she secretly became a Christian at young age. Her mother’s death threw her father into a state of severe grief. After searching in vain for a woman to replace his wife in beauty and temperament, he set his sights on marrying his daughter in whom he saw the resemblance he so missed in his dead wife. In order to escape such a horrifying prospect, fifteen-year-old Dymphna fled her native Ireland with her trusted confessor, a priest named Gerebran. They made their way to Belgium where Dymphna, as part of her passionate love for and commitment to her faith, built a hospital to serve the sick and the poor. Her father soon tracked her down and ordered the murder of Gerebran. After failing to convince Dymphna to return to Ireland and become his wife, he flew into a rage and beheaded her with a stroke of his sword. After he left, the residents collected the remains of both Dymphna and Gerebran and buried them in a nearby cave. The gravesite, upon which a church was eventually built, became a place of healing for those suffering from nervous, mental, and spiritual afflictions. While she herself did not suffer from a form of mental illness, her father certainly did. The experience of attempted incest and brutal murder by her father caused Dymphna to be named the patron of those suffering from mental illness. One might say she is also patron of those affected by those with mental illness.
As the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to play out across the world, the United Nations is predicting a global mental health crisis due to “isolation, fear, uncertainty, and economic turmoil.” This is being felt among health care providers and other essential workers as they cope with stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and grief. The rising number of deaths as well as the resultant aftereffects of the virus are taking a toll on those who have fallen ill as well as those caring for them. Domestic violence is on the rise as well as substance abuse. It’s a grim picture.
My mother mostly shielded us from the anguish she no doubt felt as she watched her sisters suffering from depression and the self-destructive behavior that altered both of their lives. I can imagine, however, that she often turned to Saint Dymphna for prayers on their behalf. Mental illness has many forms and takes its tolls in varying degrees on those tormented by depression, obsessions, and deep-seated grief. It also affects their loved ones who stand helpless in the face of such suffering. One can only imagine the anguish Dymphna felt as she watched her father deteriorate into a state of unhinged obsession and violence. It is an extreme example of mental illness, to be sure, but one that points to the consolation found by turning in prayer to one who suffered at the hand of her own father. As we all weather this current storm, perhaps we can be a source of strength and support for those in need of mental and spiritual healing as well as those who care for and about them.
Prayer for Those Suffering Mental Illness
Loving God,
You alone know the depth of suffering among those with mental or spiritual illness.
Bring them comfort, consolation, and peace as they struggle with inner demons that torment the mind and heart.
Be with those who care for them. Give them strength, courage, and hope, especially when they feel most helpless and forlorn.
May the prayers of Saint Dymphna on behalf of all who suffer bring forth a compassionate and intensified response to the problem of mental illness in our world.
With all faith in your merciful grace, we pray.
Amen.

Mother of Holy Hope

August 11th, 2020

Mother of Holy Hope

Mother of Holy Hope :
“Be thou then, O thou dear Mother, my atmosphere...”
“...A mother came to mould
Those limbs like ours which are
What must be our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man’s mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere...”
Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ (28 July 1844 - 8 June 1889) from his poem
“The Blessed Virgin compared to the air we breathe”
And once again...!
“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...”
Leonard Cohen
(21 September 1934 - 7 November 2016)
“Be that as it may, meetings with the Blessed Virgin are so numerous and so well-attested that one must certainly at least admit their objective reality. I say at least, because this does not satisfy the demands of my conscience. In fact, I would not be entirely honest or frank with you, dear Unknown Friend, if I were not to say what is an absolutely sure result (in the inner forum of my consciousness) of more than forty years of endeavour and experience. It is the following:
One meets the Blessed Virgin when one attains a certain intensity of spiritual aspiration, when this aspiration is authentic and pure...just as the experience of having a mother belongs naturally to human family life on earth. It is therefore as natural for the spiritual domain as the fact of having a mother is natural in the domain of one’s terrestrial family. The difference is that on earth one can certainly be motherless, whilst in the realm of the spiritual this can never happen. Therefore, the thesis that I am advancing with one hundred percent conviction is that every Christian Hermeticist who truly seeks authentic spiritual reality will sooner or later meet the Blessed Virgin.”
from the book “Meditations On The Tarot : A Journey into Christian Hermeticism” by Anonymous (translated from the French Edition by Robert Powell 1985)
I have yet to write about this book which was truly a life-changing school for me personally, (sometime I might try) at the same time, unlike the Holy Scriptures, it is not for everyone, and not necessary to read. It’s just one of the almost infinite variety of spiritual schools the Catholic Church offers to people. The late Cistercian, Fr Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O said this,
“It is without doubt the most extraordinary work I have ever read. It has tremendous spiritual depth and insight.”
With that said, Mary seems most often, to pick the most uncomplicated and truly innocent souls to come to. But I have to say, also, at times in our history, some formidably intellectual souls too. In other words, just about everyone !
I read somewhere, maybe it was St Louis de Montfort, that true devotion to Mary began with Jesus. My relationship with Mary began just by watching my Mom set up a May altar with a statue of Mary. Mom did not preach about Mary or try to convince us about this love; just watching the two Mothers together was enough to convince me. You all know the accusations about Catholics worshipping saints etc. I don’t think you can convince or force anyone to see or love Mary, so I don’t try. I just share or offer my love through these words, quotes, and my illustrations and icons. It’s really very simple to me. God is our Father, Jesus is our brother and Saviour, the Holy Spirit is infinitely creative and whispers to you “the secrets of the kingdom, among other things too many to list here, Mary is the Mother of God and our mother, the saints are our sisters and brothers. The beautiful poetic titles given to Mary in the ancient Litany of Loreto are like the titles of Mary in Icons; rich reminders of her many aspects. Let me finish by giving you another favorite quote about Our Mother in her aspect as “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” (feastday 27 June)
“...Mary has such faith in his ultimate belief and faith in his ultimate redemption that she can calmly hold and reassure her son. If God himself can go to Mary for refuge, then anyone should be able to approach her. Her ultimate belief and faith extends to every one of us, no matter how harshly we may judge ourselves. Our Lady of Perpetual help is said to never refuse a request for help, great or trivial. Despite their reticence to invoke her aid, many have reported hearing Mary’s calm voice saying,
‘Why don’t you just ask ?’ “
A most blessed and happy Mother’s Day to all our Mothers - living or those who have passed into God.
May 2020 * Fr Bill McNichols
Mother of Holy Hope 263 by William Hart McNichols

Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations

August 11th, 2020

Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations

Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations
“...Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra
Matre Terra, laquale ne sustenta et gouerna,
et produce diuersi fructi con coloriti
flori et herba.
Laudato si mi Signore, per quelli ke perdonano
per lo Tuo Amore
et sostengono infirmitate et tribulatione...”
(“ Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister
Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us
and who produces varied fruits
with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, through those
who give pardon for Your Love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation...”)
Canticle of the Sun by St Francis of Assisi
The Canticle of the Sun is first mentioned by Thomas of Celano in the first biography of Francis, written in 1228 just two years after his death. (This is personally my favorite biography of Francis !)
St Francis is thought to have composed most of this timeless song, written in an Umbrian dialect of Italian, in late 1224, near San Damiano. This was after receiving the 5 Wounds of Jesus Crucified (the Stigmata), around the feast of the Holy Cross on Mt La Verna , September 14, 1224. And while he was recovering in a small branch-like covering built by St Clare and the Poor Ladies of her convent, he dictated his final poem, song.
“Though physically blind, he was able to see more clearly than ever with the inner eye of his mind. With unparalleled clarity he perceived the basic unity of all creation and his own place as a Friar in the midst of God’s creatures. His unqualified love of all creatures, great and small, had grown into unity in his own heart. He was so open to reality that it found a place to be at home everywhere anywhere. He was a centre of communion with all creatures.”
From the British Friar, Fr Eric Doyle, OFM (1938-1984)
“ Pope Francis is calling on Catholics to participate in ‘Laudato si Week’ in May 2020 to encourage care for our common home.”
“I renew my urgent call to respond to the ecological crisis. The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor cannot wait anywhere...the urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together, for we know that things can change.”
Reported by Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency
It seems odd but I feel as we get sicker and home bound, nature is getting better, and since we’re not attacking or fracking Mother Earth (I hope and pray) as much as usual, during just one month, she seems to be truly alive and joyful.
This icon was written/painted in Manhattan in 1997. I was going to paint the background deep midnight blue with stars, but one day while I was just beginning the icon, I stepped outside the former Jesuit Community upper west side apartments, on 98th and Broadway at sunset, and between the streets I could see the sun setting over the Hudson River. All the colors were magnificent and I knew I had to try and capture them. Our Mother is cradling our Mother Earth, as St Francis called her, and in a flash, in my imagination I saw 12 flames of the Holy Spirit circle the holy globe. I knew that the message I was given to portray was hope .
Mary stands on a red hot globe, some have seen as the core of the earth which turns rocks into diamonds ! I know I painted it, but am still not sure what the hot red globe is ? Having worked and lived through the AIDS pandemic in the 1980’s I witnessed hundreds of deaths, among the thousands, and yet I believe it ultimately made the lgbtq community stronger, wiser, more compassionate.
In May we wait for God’s Spirit to once again green Mother Earth, inside out.
And we beg Our Mother Mary’s intercession, in her month of May, to help the scientists and doctors to find a way to end this present pandemic.
“ Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary
That never, was it known, that
Anyone who fled to thy protection was left
Unaided. Inspired by this confidence,
I fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins,
My Mother;
To thee do I come, before thee I stand,
Sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
Despise not my petitions but in
Thy clemency
Hear and answer me !
Amen”
“The Memorare” thought to have been composed by St Bernard of Clairvaux
Fr Bill McNichols 2020

Holy Theologian Adamantius Origen

August 11th, 2020

Holy Theologian Adamantius Origen

Holy Theologian Adamantius Origen: Spirit And Fire (185-254)
“Jeremiah, while the people are captive in Babylon, makes his lamentations over the city, the country, and the people because of what happened. He makes these laments in individual stanzas beginning with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet...if we see the soul - which is contemplative by nature, able to survey and attend to things that exist...altogether subject to hostile powers, we shall somehow understand both the captivity and the one taking captive. But taking refuge in Christ, who proclaimed, according to the prophet Isaiah, ‘release to the captives’ (see Lk. 4:18; Isa. 61:1), we shall be liberated from captivity...for Jesus came to ‘lead those in bondage out of their bonds and those sitting in darkness from the house of custody.’ “
Origen’s “Commentary on Lamentations”
When Origen was 16 years old his father, St Leonides, (feastday 22 April) was martyred. His mother hid his clothes so that the young boy could not run out and follow his father. This murder left an indelible mark, wound, impression on Origen’s soul. Ever after he would seek ways to give his life in the most extreme and radical ways. He endured theological and physical persecution, torture and finally died at the age of 70 having been broken by his imprisonments and torture. It is only in the recent past, that he has been “rehabilitated’ and given a place of honor as a Holy Theologian and Faithful Son of the very early Church, by Cardinals Danielou, de Lubac, and von Balthasar. I became fascinated with Origen as a young seminarian, hearing extreme and shocking stories about him. Who was this man really ? It so happened that my great teacher and friend, Fr Robert Daly, SJ had translated von Balthasar’s book from the German, called “Origen : Spirit and Fire.” Which I will quote from below. This icon, I felt compelled to write/paint, is of the incredible scholar, teacher, and theologian, shown in Alexandria, holding a chalice with the martyred Christ pouring his blood into the cup; Origen’s cup too. Origen also holds a scroll of Holy Scripture which he loved, contemplated and taught. The flame or fire of the Holy Spirit hovers over his mind.
“ It is all but impossible to overestimate Origen and his importance for the history of Christian thought. To rank him beside Augustine and Thomas simply accords him his rightful place in this history. Anyone who has given long hours to studying the Fathers will have had the same experience as a mountain climber:the slow, steady, receding of the seemingly still-threatening peaks all around him, until, beyond them, the hitherto-hidden dominant central massif rises majestically before him. None of the great Fathers, from the Cappadocians to Augustine, and on up to Dionysius, Maximos, Scotus Eriugena and Eckhart, could escape an almost magical fascination of the ‘man of steel ‘, as they called him. Some were completely swept away. Jerome, when commenting on Scripture, continues to copy straight from Origen’s pages, even after outwardly breaking in anger the chains and fiercely denying the bond that linked him to the master. Basil and Gregory of Nazianzen, in their enthusiastic admiration, make a collection of the most fascinating passages from the inexhaustible works of the one to whom they continually returned when their day to day struggles allowed them a moment of peace. Gregory of Nyssa was even more thoroughly captivated. The Cappadocians transmit him practically intact to Ambrose, who also knew and copied him firsthand. Infact, many of the breviary readings of Ambrose (as well as of Jerome and Bede) are practically word for word Origen. Thus, flowing simultaneously from several directions, the heritage of Origen, already becomes the common possession of the Church, poured over Augustine and through him into the Middle Ages. But in the East he is subject of wave upon wave of enthusiasm...For there is no thinker in the Church who is so invisibly all-present as Origen.”
By Hans Urs von Balthasar, 1938, “Origen: Spirit and Fire.”
Continued Prayers and Blessings of this painful, yet luminous Easter season !
Fr Bill McNichols April 2020

 

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