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Christ the King The Bridegroom

November 21st, 2017

Christ the King  The Bridegroom

Christ the King : The Bridegroom
(O Nymphios - in Greek)
“The Lord comes out before the people, attired in the signs of his nonfulfilled kingship. In this nonfulfillment of his rule, his entire mission is contained. For if it had been fulfilled on earth, it would have been limited in space and time and thus would not be his mission...in all areas, he only made starts, only sowed beginnings...on some hearts, he engraved the sign of the Divine Always-More, the sign of what is unfulfillable in this world. To be a Christian means this: to close nothing off as completed, but to open oneself up into the always-more of the Son’s love for the Father...As the nonfulfilled and thus, for the world, the contemptible-he is displayed to all. In himself, he wants never to be fulfilled, but only to live in the ever-greater fullness of the Father. And thus he is presented to the world.”
Adrienne von Speyr
Commentary on the Gospel of St John, volume 4.
“Christ the Bridegroom is the central figure in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13); Christ is the divine Bridegroom of the Church as described in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 54, as well as the primary image of Bridegroom Matins. The title is suggestive of his divine presence and watchfulness, ‘Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night...’ “
Orthodoxwiki.org
As a child our familiy’s first parish home was Christ the King, and later, St John the Evangelist (now renamed Good Shepherd) and Mother of God Church-all three in Denver, Colorado. The theology of the Sisters of the Precious Blood who taught at Christ the King is very evident to me when I look back at one of my first drawings of the Crucifixion, “colored and drawn” at age 5. You can see it if you go to the “drawings, illustrations ,images” gallery on the website. Although the Crucified King is right there in that early drawing, I have to say my understanding of Him has grown over the years through the writings of William Stringfellow, Jim Douglass, Dan and Phil Berrigan, Dorothy Day, Pope Benedict and Adrienne von Speyr... to name just a few...as well as a host of scripture scholars. Listen to this: “...God did not intend Israel to have a kingdom. The kingdom was a result of Israel’s rebellion against God...The law was to be Israel’s king, and through the law, God himself...God yielded to Israel’s obstinacy and so devised a new kind of kingship for them. The King is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself...The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.” Pope Benedict XVI . The story the Pope refers to can be read in the Book of Samuel (1 Samuel 8:5-22). This is one of the most chilling passages in all of scripture, and lays bare our lust for nationalism and war. The people demand from the prophet a human king. Samuel is disgusted with their request and warns them, “...If you have a king he’ll make an army and take your sons. He will enslave your daughters, maidservants and manservants. He will take your property, your vineyards, your livestock.”...nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel...”we will have a king over us; that we may be like all the nations.” And the Lord said, “they have not rejected you Samuel, but they have rejected me that I should not reign over them.” When a child (or adult) is Baptized the deacon or priest says I Baptize you as a priest, prophet and king (or queen). This is not just a quaint or complimentary designation, but the absolute truth. We are destined to be Kings and Queens in the only kingdom that will last forever, as we say in the Nicene Creed on Sunday’s , “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”
Here is a beautiful Orthodox exaposteilarion hymn from Holy Tuesday:
“I see Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, but have no wedding garment that I may enter. O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul, and save me.”
Our desire to be with God even though we often feel unworthy, reminds me of the death of St Thomas More in the play/film “A Man For All Seasons” by Robert Bolt. More tells the executioner to do his duty because he will send More to God. Then Archbishop Cranmer says how can you be so sure? More replies because, “ He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to him.”
Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday in the church year, this year, November 26. On the following Sunday, December 3 ,Advent begins...O Come, O Come Emmanuel...and Christ the King, the true Desire of All Nations.
Fr Bill McNichols
November 2017
For the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

The Non-Violent Cross and The Holy Cross of Talpa

November 8th, 2017

The Non-Violent Cross and The Holy Cross of Talpa

The Non-Violent Cross: and The Holy Cross of Talpa
I was twenty years old and a Jesuit Novice when I read the theological masterpiece by Jim Douglass, “The Non-Violent Cross”, at a very humble place called” Charboniere Villa” (an old, warm, charming and slightly broken down house with bunk beds) which was the Jesuit Novices’ villa. We went there for two weeks in the summer and most weekends during the year while we were imbibing St Ignatius’ Spirituality at St Stanislaus Seminary, formerly in Florissant, Missouri. This was for me during the years, 1968-1970.
I remember sitting on an old wooden chair reading by the window, on a very hot and humid summer day. As I read Jim’s understanding of the changes in Christianity, after Constantine (in the year 312) saw the vision in the sky of the Cross, and the now legendary words around the Cross, (in Greek but translated into Latin) “In hoc signo vinces-In this sign thou shalt conquer!” I could barely go on, I was stunned and fixed to my chair. This book was something completely new to me but also something I had intuitively known in my soul and body since early childhood. Jim basically says (and please read his book for yourselves ) that the Sign was the non-violent Cross. The very meaning of the Cross is non-violence...no retaliation, no vengeance, on and on...flowing from the Beatitudes of Jesus given in his Sermon on the Mount, in what the scripture scholar G.B. Caird, in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke, calls Jesus “inaugural speech.” And in this book “Holy Theologian” Jim Douglass reminds us of the true meaning of the Sign, and warns us, that we’ve taken down the Cross in the sky and turned it into a sword ever since that vision given to Constantine.
Last night the young artist and filmmaker, Christopher Summa (“The Boy Who Found Gold”) emailed me an article printed from the Chicago Tribune “Why church shootings don’t intimidate the church”by Russel Moore. It overwhelmed me in the same spiritually enlightening way as my first encounter with Jim’s Douglass’ book. Mr Moore seems to me, to be saying that Christianity is Only enlivened by the Cross, and that the pompous triumphal christianity, we want because it is safe, yet numbing, leads to our personal and collective soul death. As St John says in the Apocalypse, “See, the Lion of Judah has conquered...then I saw a Lamb...” (Revelation 5:5,6)
“...For John looks for the Lion from the tribe of Judah and sees a Lamb.” (Page 74, G.B. Caird “The Revelation of St John.”)
The Cross I chose to illustrate this blog was commissioned by the deceased, and much beloved artist (d+2013) and my friend from Talpa (a small village within Taos) Charlie Strong. His widow Lyn B. Strong has been trying to find a church or “perfect home” for the 6ft Cross ever since the death of Charlie. It was made at his instruction with a small painting of Charlie and Lyn’s adobe home in Taos, modeled after the Ranchos de Taos Church,in the right panel near the body of Jesus. I decided to set the scene of the Cross in the Talpa night, using the Catholic symbolism of Mary as the Moon, the reflected light of the Sun...her son. I was very influenced by the gorgeous night paintings of Frederic Remington (1861-1909) and of course, the Italian master and teacher of Giotto, Cimabue (1240-1302).
This work, entitled “The Holy Cross of Talpa” was first shown in my exhibit at the Millicent Rogers Museum, “Silence in the Storm” in September 2008. It was a very difficult time for me personally so, in my mind the Cross shows and bears that difficulty in its essence. Because of that serious “discomfort,” I chose to place a small mandorla (almond shaped or egg shaped-form) with the hint of the Russian-Protecting-Icon, “She Who Reigns” hovering above Charlie and Lyn’s home in the night sky. This icon is said to have appeared right before the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia telling the people that Jesus and the Mother of God were/are the true and only rulers of the Russian people. As we near the feast of Christ the King of the Universe, it’s a reminder for our entire world. I don’t pretend to have an answer for the daily shootings and murders we are living in now. But I do know people have lived through plagues, pandemics, natural disasters, mass murders and wars since the first murder in Scripture of Abel by his brother Cain. I always remember and have quoted this before in other writings, that Holy Prophet Daniel Berrigan would often say, “The first murder in the Bible was of a brother by a brother and it’s been that way ever since.” When Mr Russell wrote in his article about the true nature, meaning and comfort of Christianity returning or staying with the Cross, I felt awakened again out of numbness and helplessness. This is a great mystery and can only be found through meditating or contemplating the Cross of Jesus and it’s meaning for us today, right now as we wait for Thanksgiving, Christ the King, and moving gradually as “the Shekhinah “ (or as some people experience it-the spirit of Advent“) descends gently, palpably to earth for the brief four weeks of the Holy Season of Advent; into the Christmas Season.

Let me sum all this up with a quote from St Louis de Montfort (1673-1716)the founder of the women’s religious order the Daughters of Wisdom :
“Wisdom is the Cross, the Cross is wisdom.”

Fr Bill McNichols
November 2017

The Holy Souls - The Souls of The Just Are In the Hands of God -Wisdom 3

October 20th, 2017

The Holy Souls - The Souls of The Just Are In the Hands of God  -Wisdom 3

The Holy Souls : “The Souls of The Just Are In the Hands of God” -Wisdom 3
On April 27 2012 I was walking in the mountains with my friend and great Artist, Warren Kelly and his daughter Kaylie. I was gradually getting breathless, as if my life was a light dimmer - getting dimmer by the second- and mentioned that to Warren. He said “I hope it’s your breath and not your ticker.” At that point I knew it was my heart or ticker. I sat down and within a half hour I think, I was being flown to the Durango, Hospital in Colorado. They put me under and I was then flown to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque. My Doctor, the incredible Doctor Carl Lagerstrom, said when I arrived, on a one to ten scale my heart was a one. I woke up two weeks later partially hallucinating because I’d had nine drugs put in me, but my sister Mary remembers I told her my hero-doctor St Hildegard had been in the room. I don’t remember this, but after that time, well into recovery , I believed she brought me back to life. Since early childhood I’ve been aware of the Holy Souls or the Souls in Purgatory. In grade school we were told that on All Soul’s Day, November 2nd, we could save a soul by saying a set of prayers and going in and out of the church-for each set. I remember not wanting to go home because I thought I could help another soul. I’d love to write in great depth about the change in attitude toward death after Vatican II, but can only say a little...the vestments (for a funeral) went, literally, from black to white. The last church Requiem written for a Funeral Mass was Maurice Durufle’s Requiem (completed in 1948). The music is so tranquil, soft and beautiful it sounds like the soul is floating down a stream, lit like a candle inside a tiny boat . Compare it to Mozart or Verdi, and you’ll see what I mean. There have been requiems written since Durufle but not to be sung at a funeral mass, they are concert pieces. This awareness of the Souls at this time of the year is in many many cultures, for example the ancient Celtic Sawan or Samhain. I personally experience, this “season of the souls” lasts about a month, from October 15-November 15. It’s a time to “embrace” those who have gone be before us and pray for them. The Mexican culture’s Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead) celebrations are entering into more American cities each year. After Raymond Moody’s book “Life After Life” came out in 1975, attitudes toward death began to change rapidly. I am very fond of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s “On Life After Death” and Kenneth Ring’s “Lessons From the Light.” Now there are lots of books on this subject. And so , what is Purgatory? Is it in some ways similar to the Tibetan Toll Houses? Not being a Buddhist I can’t say for sure. But I put myself on a journey to find out what different cultures believed about life after death when I was a Hospice chaplain in NYC in the 80’s. Now I can say that because of many saints and church mystics I believe we ourselves choose Purgatory. The Austrian mystic Maria Simma (1915-2004 - the Church has not officially approved of her revelations yet, so it may not be for you) and St Padre Pio have a lot to say on this, and the Official Catechism of the Catholic Church, is a very good start. But a quick explanation is that when we die there is so much we regret. Mostly withholding love and our human penchant for cruelty, vengeance and the belief we are right...at all costs. We all share in these sins against the unconditional love of God for us. We can also say an absolute no to God and choose Hell, and yet both Origen Adamantius (“rehabilitated” by von B) and Cardinal von Balthasar believed in an empty Hell at the end of time . So imagine the Light of God is so overwhelmingly filled with love that we can only take a little at a time. We feel we are not yet purified enough and we choose to be at a “safe” distance from this Light while still feeling it’s pulling us toward it. Meanwhile we wish we could go back to earth and clean up all the damage we’ve done, but it’s too late. So there is agony in knowing what we did and we can’t pray for or forgive ourselves. Those who have lived with us, and are still on earth, can pray for us and in Purgatory, apparently we feel these prayers like the most soothing balm. Then when the souls go into heaven completely, they never forget the help we gave them. This is why we say Mass for them, and pray the Rosary or any prayers that honestly do touch the Holy Souls. I am well aware this is way too brief but I know you can go on your own journey to look into our Catholic beliefs about Purgatory. I’ll close with an experience of St Gertrude the Great from Susan Tassone’s book “Day By Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.”
“One day St Gertrude was praying for the Holy Souls when Jesus admonished her for not praying with confident assurance, the faith and realized hope, that God hears and answers our prayers. He assured her: ‘It would not be past my justice to release those suffering souls for whom you are praying, immediately, if you pray with confidence for this petition.” Page 281
This image from the Book of Wisdom, chapter 3, was commissioned by my friend Fr Robert Fisher for All Souls Church in Denver, Colorado.
Fr Bill McNichols
“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...”
Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

St Francisco Marto - O Milagre de Fatima do Sol

October 10th, 2017

St Francisco Marto - O Milagre de Fatima do Sol

St Francisco Marto: "O Milagre de Fatima do Sol"
"I have declared from the beginning the former things; they went forth from my mouth and I made them known; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass, says the Lord. Because I knew that you were obstinate, your neck was an iron sinew and your brow was brass. Therefore I have declared things to come to you from of old; before they came to pass I announced them to you, so that you could not say, my idol has done them, and my graven image have commanded them...they are called into being now by the prophetic word...” Isaiah 48:3-7
My cousin Kathi Hart-Cooper and I became close around the time of her first communion October 28 1955. My Mom bought me a statue of Our Blessed Mother to give her as a present, but it was really because Mom had given me (her maiden name) the middle name of Hart that bonded us and we both felt we were more than cousins; I felt I was part Hart. It turns out we would talk almost everyday on the phone from that day until we graduated from high school. These were the days of a hand held phone with the cord running under your room so that both parents knew you were on the phone. And both Kathi and my parents used to say things like "What on earth do you have to say! You just talked yesterday or an hour ago!” We had no idea that we were learning to speak about and process our feelings. I think it kept us both sane through the traumatic years of grade school and high school. In those years I was being bullied continually (up until junior year in high school with an oasis in seventh and eight grade because we moved to a new school). Kathi had and has such a terrific sense of humor she could always make me laugh! I turned quite naturally (for guidance and help) to the child Martyrs of the Roman persecutions and to children like Jacinta and Francisco Marto who were victims of great persecution after they began to see Our Lady of Fatima beginning May 13, 1917. Kathi named her first son Geoff and her second son Billy, after me. This created another bond and Billy asked me to be his Confirmation sponsor, and so I painted/wrote him an icon of St Francisco Marto.
You can google the story of Fatima or rent a movie to see and hear the whole set of miraculous events. Before October of 1917 Our Lady told the children that on October 13 there would be a sign that no one could doubt and that St Joseph would come and bring peace. This is the source of the colors and symbolism of the icon “St Joseph Shadow of the Father.” When Joseph did appear in the sky that day he and the child were both wearing red and I have the child holding a dove (Holy Spirit) of Peace.
Over 40,000 to 100,000 people came to Fatima that day to witness a sign or mock the children if nothing happened. Around noon time it was raining, a cold front filled with freezing rain had moved across the continents from Siberia (this is better explained in Chris Summa’s film "The Boy Who Found Gold”) and it was cold and muddy. The people were getting so angry that the children had to be guarded by the police. Suddenly Lucia (one of the three children) pointed to the sky...
"As if like a bolt from the blue, the clouds were wrenched apart, and the sun at its zenith appeared in all its splendor. It began to revolve vertiginously on its axis, like the most magnificent fire wheel that could be imagined, taking on all colors of the rainbow and sending forth multicolored flashes of light, producing the most astounding effect. This sublime and incomparable spectacle, which was repeated three distinct times, lasted about ten minutes. The immense multitude overcome by the evidence of such a tremendous prodigy, threw themselves on their knees.” Dr Manuel Formigao.
The sun suddenly came hurtling toward the people, and then just before it hit the earth, went back up into the sky. At that moment everyone thoroughly drenched by the rain, discovered instantly they were dry, and safe.
What was the sign of the falling sun about? Some have guessed a warning about a nuclear holocaust as experienced later in Hiroshima and Nagasaki...or one yet to come. Some have thought it was more like a falling meteorite, and some have no idea, but consider it serious enough to ponder with petitionary prayer.
"O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary, Queen of the Rosary of Fatima!
Grant that we may follow the example of Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta, and of all who devote themselves to proclaiming the Gospel.
Thus we will follow all paths and everywhere make our pilgrim way; we will tear down all walls and cross every frontier, as we go to every periphery, to make known God’s justice and peace. In the joy of the Gospel, we will be the church robed in white, the whiteness washed in the blood of the Lamb, blood that today too is shed in the wars tearing our world apart. And so we will be, like you, an image of a column of light that illumines the ways of the world, making God known to all, making known to all that God exists, that God dwells in the midst of his people, yesterday, today and for all eternity...”
From Pope Francis prayer at Fatima -
12 May 2017
Pope Francis canonized Jacinta and
Francisco the next day, May 13.
Fr Bill McNichols for October 13, 2017

For St Francis Day The Epiphany - Wisemen Bring Gifts to the Child

October 2nd, 2017

For St Francis Day  The Epiphany - Wisemen Bring Gifts to the Child

For St Francis Day: "The Epiphany: Wisemen Bring Gifts to the Child" 1984
"... and St Lawrence the Deacon, led his persecutors looking for the wealth and treasures of the church to a house filled with the poor of Rome. He opened the door and said 'Here are the treasures of the church.' " Legend of St Lawrence
When I was living in Manhattan in the 1980's I was invited to show a "Son et Lumiere "
(sound and light) show I'd been commissioned to do in 1981 by St Joseph's Church in the West Village of NYC. The commission was to honor the 800th birthday of St Francis. There was a small house called the "Little Portion" (English for Porziuncola) founded by Friar Andre' Cirino, OFM, where the Third Order Members of St Francis would have gatherings. They heard about the slide show and invited me to bring it up to the Bronx. After visiting a few times I asked if I could join too. The decision had to be made in Rome, and in 1984 I was accepted. I spent many happy days and nights at the Little Portion and that year did my first painting for the Church....aimed like an arrow to elicit compassion, about people with AIDS. It was called "The Epiphany:Wisemen Bring Gifts to the Child." The Franciscans of NYC made this painting into a holy card and sent it round the world. I did hear later that in his memoir about AIDS, "Borrowed Time" the brilliant writer Paul Monette (1945-1995) referred to this card saying that all the Catholic Church is doing is sending out a holy card, but there were Catholic women and men giving their lives at that time for people with AIDS. This story has yet to be told. When I became an iconographer I painted/wrote an icon specifically for people with HIV/AIDS entitled "Mother of God Light In All Darkness."
There were two saints, in this first painting, I chose as the Wisemen, Sts.Francis and Aloysius bringing the first two men I met through my Hospice work in 1983, to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Santo Nino on her lap. It took six months to complete and was done in watercolor and gouache. Mary and Child were seated on a rainbow and crescent moon from the Book of Revelation. Beneath them are the waters of death we speak about in the funeral prayers, "In Baptism, your child received the Light of Christ. Scatter the darkness now and lead him/her over the waters of death." I had always been haunted by that exquisite song, "Clara, Clara," from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess." It goes "Clara,Clara, don't you be downhearted! Clara, Clara, don't you be sad and lonesome! Jesus is walkin' on the waters, rise up and follow him home, O Lord, O my Jesus, rise up and follow him home, follow him home."So...to symbolize the footsteps of Jesus I have red vigil lite candles bobbing on the waters.
The symbols I chose for St Francis were wishbones falling from the Crown of Thorns, symbols of hope coming from the terrible sufferings. The symbols I chose for Aloysius, (often shown with a shaft of lilies,as with St Joseph a sign of his purity), were three lilies surrounded by fire to show most of us find this inner and outer virtue, through fire. This painting eventually led to my apprenticeship with the Russian American Master Iconographer, Friar Robert Lentz,OFM, because he saw it printed in a magazine and wrote me a rather funny letter, saying, "It looks like you're trying to do Icons you should come to New Mexico and study with me." The magazine never forwarded his letter but through the providential grace of God I eventually was led to ask for an apprenticeship, and then Robert told me about the letter. I think I explained this a little better in Christopher Summa's film "The Boy Who Found Gold."
Later I created a drawing to advertise a play at the Little Portion, called "The Flower in the Hand-The Story of St Francis and the Stigmata-A Love Story, A Love Song," by Roberta Nobleman. This was one of the most beautiful plays I have ever seen, based on the ancient Italian text "The Five Considerations on the Holy Stigmata." I finally made this hand into a painting you can view it under St Francis section on the website.
I never tire of telling people that when the Friars would wash the bandages covering St Francis' wounds, they would use the water mixed with his blood to heal sick animals and people. This is hope for us that our wounds can even now or eventually be used for the healing of others too. I believe most of our ancient and contemporary Prophets, who have been publicly mocked or martyred in various ways, prove that this is so...
"Dearest Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Poor and Oppressed
we watch full of reverence and joy as St Francis and St Aloysius bring the gifts of
these two people afflicted with AIDS to the Holy Child in your arms, who is so eager to receive them.
Teach us to find and embrace your Son Jesus in all peoples, but most especially those who are in greatest need and who suffer most.
Amen" (1984:NYC)
Fr Bill McNichols
October 2017

Holy Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ in Hiroshima with the Christ Child

September 25th, 2017

Holy Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ in Hiroshima with the Christ Child

Holy Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ in Hiroshima with the Christ Child
(For Arrupe College in Chicago)
"violets here and there
in the ruins
of my burnt house"
Shokyu-Ni
1713-1781

"a sparrows' nest
perhaps
inside the A-bomb dome"
Kinichi Sawaki
1919-2001

Dear Fr. Katsouros,
Here are some notes, not really a complete statement yet...a Beginning of my own understanding of what I was given to paint...but with the latest news these days I'm sure this is not all there is to say about nuclear weapons or war. We stand right now in a most dangerous place, again. In fact I may use this as a blog because we are still in the midst of an unresolved crisis.
I wanted to image Fr Arrupe in prayer in Japan but not the Iconic photograph that you always see and is as impossible to recreate in a better way-as is Our Lady of Guadalupe or the Shroud of Turin.
It is not well known that Fr Arrupe survived Hiroshima and the utter devastation. The swirling sun is a visual reference to the bomb and the prophetic miracle of the sun at Fatima on October 13, 1917. We don't know what that spinning sun meant...was it a meteorite, atom bomb, or some other danger of falling fire?
How do you depict that scene of Hiroshima or Nagasaki in a way that is redemptive and not just horrifying?
I found many photographs of the aftermath and one had a, Shinto Gate still standing.
This Torii Shinto Gate symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. This still standing gate is (to me) a miraculous sign that the sacred, of that ancient culture, had not been completely destroyed. There was also a head of a statue of Mary and a Church which was not completely destroyed, if I remember correctly Hiroshima and Nagasaki had the two greatest populations of Christians. But I wanted the visual emphasis on all the Japanese . So I also placed a Japanese looking ( (although he could be seen as "every child") Christ Child near to Fr Arrupe. He is wearing a traditional garb as I found in a picture I'll send you , with an Origami-like dove of the Holy Spirit on his chest... or coming from his heart . The colors most often used for Jesus are blue (divinity) over red (humanity) - here the red has faded into a salmon color and the blue is still vibrant . The Child is looking first at the horrendous scene around him on the ground....devastation everywhere. But beneath his feet, because he is "the resurrection and the life" small flowers or violets begin to sprout.
The letters above the Child are Japanese for "Jesus Christ" and the letters near Fr Arrupe are "Holy Priest Pedro." These were obtained from a friend who knows a Jesuit priest at Sophia University in Tokyo.
I feel this is all I can say now, when I began this icon the nuclear threat was not present and hopefully we will reflect on what has been and listen to the words of the Lost Child from the Gospel of Luke about "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's House?" (Luke 2:49) And maybe we will see the whole Earth as His House we are not permitted to destroy? For further contemplation you might look into Thomas Merton's poem "Original Child Bomb" , the name the Japanese gave to the bomb, which expresses a horrific new child and religion. The poem is written in a chilling bureaucratic style to awaken us from The Nightmare of God ( Daniel Berrigan's title for his commentary on The Book of Revelation) completely antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus. As I write this we still have time and Holy Hope...
Blessings with love and prayers to you and all faculty and students at Arrupe College,
Fr Bill
September 2017

Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge, OFM

September 10th, 2017

Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge, OFM

Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge, OFM
11 May 1933 - 11 September 2001
" A passion-bearer is one who faces his death in a Christ-like manner. Unlike martyrs, passion bearers are not explicitly killed for their Orthodox faith, though they hold to that faith with piety and true love of God."
orthodoxwiki.org
I met Mychal in the late 1980's when he showed up at our monthly Mass for People with AIDS at Our Lady of Guadalupe church on 14st. This was a church where both Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton would go to pray with the Mother of the Americas.
Sometimes after the Mass a group of men and women would go to a diner to get some dinner and Mychal would join us. I remember him as one of those people who had the gift of crossing every boundary Church or politics could imagine, and meet people as they were. I often compare him to Martin Sheen the actor and activist who is the same kind of person. He was very lovable, warm and had a real depth of faith attested to by his spiritual director Fr John McNeill. Mychal also carried an observable aura of sorrow around him, which really made him approachable to those who were feeling abandoned and lonely. I think personally, it's the same kind of gravity mixed with joy you see in many public "saints" like Pope Francis or Fr Jim Martin .I did not get a chance to spend much time with him because we were both so busy, something I now regret. What time we did spend is etched in my memory and soul forever. If you want to go deeper into Mychal's life so much is available on the internet.
This icon was commissioned by one of Mychal's closest friends , Brendan Fay. Brendan also co-produced the film on Mychal, "The Saint of 9/11" directed by Glen Holsten and narrated by Sir Ian McKellen.
The imagery of this icon comes basically from two sources:
First, the icon of The Protecting Veil of the Mother of God. Mary is depicted in these icons holding her own veil, which a few women mystics (i.e. Maria Valtorta) see as the veil she used to cover the nakedness of Christ after he was stripped right before he was nailed to the Cross. The tradition of the veil in these icons, is that Mary holds it over a church which is about to be attacked. Mychal, as the first labeled victim of the terrorism of that horrific day, holds the protecting veil to gather the thousands of souls coming to Heaven.
Second the inclusion of the lamenting figure of St Francis. I will never forget the drawing of St Francis weeping over his city San Francisco and the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk in 1978. It shows the power of art and sums up what many words cannot say. Mychal was a son of Francis and his holy father is nearby to gather the souls with him.
In these days of daily violence, verbal and physical, of ferocious hurricanes, fires, and frightening instability , we turn to the saint of 9/11 for holy protection. I'd like to offer you now his beautiful prayer:
"Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say, and
Keep me out of your way."
Fr Mychal Judge, OFM

Fr Bill McNichols
10 September 2017

The Bride - The Church

September 4th, 2017

The Bride - The Church

The Bride : The Church
"This mystery is very great, but I speak concerning the relationship of Christ and the Church." Ephesians 5:32
This is a very brief description of a complex yet mystical image St Paul calls a great mystery, but I trust you can begin a meditation with what I try to say .As we draw near to the birth of Our Blessed Mother, September 8, I think of the Bride.
This is another image I had wanted to paint for so long but never had the time. It was during the crisis of abuses in the Church that I turned to Cardinal Henri de Lubac's unique and magnificent book called "The Splendor of the Church" written in a form of exile, when he had been silenced. There is no trace of bitterness or victimization in his book, only a scholarly, lovely book about the Bride. It's (Her) beauty is incomparable and if you get a chance to meditate with the book you won't be disappointed.
For many years Church theologians argued about Revelation 12 and the Woman Clothed With The Sun; was this Mary giving birth or was it the Church giving birth? They ultimately decided it was a vision of both.
Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar says that some people are born with a "Church soul." By that he means that they (though imperfect and sinners like everybody else in the church) carry the church with them and worry or continue to love and agonize about Her like some parents do over their children. We have a growing list of 35 Doctors of the Church who are men and women with church souls, as well as a catalog of saints, prophets and holy women and men too numerous to mention.
What is your image of the church? From our two thousand year history we have a few I can mention beginning with the Savior and His apostles and disciples. Then the Woman in Revelation 12. The people in small or large homes gathered around the Eucharist in St Paul's letters, the church of the catacombs, the Ship or Barque of St Peter, the basilicas, Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, the Vatican itself, tiny churches and capillas ... Vatican II renewed and refreshed the striking image of the people of God. We all have so many images of church.
This image is of a radiant Bride who is perpetually young and pregnant. She walks barefoot through two thousand years of history amidst great dangers from within the church and without. But She cannot be touched or hurt. She is clothed with the sun or in this image, a luminous radiance that protects Her. She will keep walking carrying (Andrea della Robbia's medallion of) the Holy Child, the hand of the Father above Her, and the Holy Spirit guiding Her forward; for the Spirit always moves forward with infinite creativity and new life.
I remember reading in Letter XVII of "Meditations On The Tarot: A Journey Into Christian Hermeticism" (by Anonymous 1985, Element Press) that the devil is only capable of repetition, evil ad nauseum, over and over and over. God alone is capable of miracles, of bringing life out of death and it's many grotesque faces we call the culture of death. God alone can put flesh on the dead dry bones in the vision of Ezekiel. The Spirit hovered over the void in Genesis and the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. We say in preface number 6 at Mass that we live and move and have our being in God - as if we're fish in the giant ocean of God - even if we are unaware or too preoccupied to notice we live in Him.
I think our image of the church is as important as our image of God, in that we live as the church we image. I hope for some people this image will be helpful and hopeful.
Happy Birthday Blessed Mother!
You who are an image of the church
Help us to love Her and bring the Gospel of your Son Jesus
Into our waiting world now and until we are forever
Home in the Most Holy Trinity and
Home with you
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
Labor Day September 2017
http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/…/the-bride-the-chu…

Princess Diana - The Queen of Hearts

August 24th, 2017

Princess Diana - The Queen of Hearts

Princess Diana : The Queen of Hearts
31 August 1997. I was living in Albuquerque for that summer to finish a triptych on Jesuit Martyrs for Boston College because I really needed my teacher’s help. I had just completed the massive work and I was going back to Boston in a few days, when a friend called that night of August and said “Billy, quick, turn on the news Princess Diana has been in a car accident.” I was like most people interested in Diana and fond of her for visiting people with AIDS and single handedly changing the world’s attitude towards the disease. I did not think of her as a saint, but as an extremely important woman who had brought the royalty out of the palace and into the streets. As I watched the events for the next few days - nonstop - I found myself painting her image in much the same way I have read that people are gripped by a phenomenon called “automatic writing.” I know that sounds extreme but that’s about the only way I can describe what happened to me. I did not think, should I do this...or even with the little time I had left in Albuquerque, do I even have time to do this? I sat down to paint and it was done in about two days as I remember, and also done (as I was soon to learn) very very naively. I never intended to paint her as an icon but as a woman “moving toward iconic likeness.” Since I was used to painting in an icon style of course it came out that way, was that unconscious? Did I really think deep down her life merited being “pointed to” as exemplary? It was a picture of us all, in a way, paralyzed by our insecurities, faults, ecstatic moments, attempts to live in love, and yet it was a picture of a woman who was given an impossibly complicated public life that she could easily have squandered. A woman who modeled what royalty can be and do. A woman who was trying to break out of the gilded cage to find a personal love to support her. She chose, knowingly at great risk to her life, to take her fame into the care and concern for the sick, the homeless, victims of land mines, people with AIDS, and an endless list of others, and reach down, physically get down, for example, to meet children, eye to eye. No other image I have painted has been so criticized. I will not bother with telling you what has been said and written about this image, but I’m sure you can imagine. The thing is I was so absolutely unaware of that negative possibility when I was painting her. I poured in all the love I had, as I do with all the icons and images I paint. And because I think it came out so well I trust that- more than anything. If an image or something I paint comes out “alive” to me I am not swayed by even the harshest of criticism. And if I don’t like what I’ve done then it’s impossible to convince me otherwise.
Given this 20th Anniversary of her death I don’t think I have to tell you anything about her. More news than ever has been coming out about her life and legacy. Her sons are a living example of her inherent warmth and her concerns put into action. Did she change the world? In my estimation, yes she did. Am I aware of her struggles and the fierce criticism that still stalks her? Yes. Does it change my opinion of her extraordinary life? No. Do I wish we had someone of her selfless compassion in public life? Every single day. Am I glad I did this image now twenty years later ? Yes, and what I’d say to the critics now is, what are you doing that even comes close to what she did for people? As Daniel Berrigan used to say “I like my critics up close. I like to see what they are doing with their lives.” With her bouts of extreme depression it makes her ability to literally push herself out of the palace and into a hospital all the more heroic. I guess that’s the heroism I saw daily with so so many mothers in Ranchos de Taos when I lived there.
I was told by someone that Diana “ran into the St Therese story of her shower of roses” while visiting a Catholic Church and found her idea of help from heaven truly delightful. But I don’t know if that’s true. Her quotes though sound like she must have heard of Therese.
This is a very simple image, with Diana looking into you and raising a hand to help you as if to say :
“Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life. A kind of destiny. Whoever is in distress can call on me. I will come running wherever they are.”
Princess Diana

Fr Bill McNichols
August 2017

Escaping the Dark Night - August 1578 - San Juan de la Cruz

August 22nd, 2017

Escaping the Dark Night - August 1578 - San Juan de la Cruz

Escaping the Dark Night, August 1578: San Juan de la Cruz

"Before, I knew you only by hearsay
but now, having seen you with my own eyes,
I retract what I have said,
and repent in dust and ashes."
Job 42:5,6

"Where did you hide,
My love, leaving me thus to moan?
Like the stag, you fled,
Leaving in me this wound;
I ran calling loud, but you were gone."
San Juan de la Cruz
Spiritual Canticle

"I, I who have nothing
I, I who am no one
Adore you, and want you so.
I'm just a no one, with nothing to give you but
Oh I love you."
Carlo Donido
Giulio Rapetti

"Oh, there are strange rivers, rivers that we cannot see
And there are strange rivers who know our destiny
And there are strange rivers who run your love to me."
John Stewart

"The summer had inhaled and held its breath too long
The winter looked the same, as if it never had gone
And through an open window where no curtain hung
I saw you
I saw you
Comin' back to me."
Marty Balin

"John of the Cross speaks to people who feel unable to change. We may have sensed in our lives a call to freedom,
to wholeness, to more than what we are now.
John felt this as a call to reach out for God..."
The Impact of God : Soundings From St John of the Cross
by Iain Matthew, OCD

I found this truly wonderful, healing book in a Jesuit House in Dublin. I could tell - practically across the room -by the painted face on the spine of the book, it was either St Bruno or St John of the Cross. In 1998 there were not many books on either man. I then asked the Jesuits there; could I have it ? They said yes . This was late December 1997 and my Father had recently died on November 25, 1997. The book was so healing I just bought a notebook and began to copy it word for word, (and later gave the notebook to my niece Marjy). Now I can't remember if I copied the whole book or just a few chapters, but I've never tried to copy a whole book since that December. I think when you're grieving it helps to do something "mechanical "which doesn't take much thought. Finding words by Iain Matthew, around my grief helped so much, because I could not express what I was feeling- even to myself. This book is still one of the best I know on St John, and I tell everybody about it. Not too long after, in 1999 I met Mirabai Starr who had beautifully translated St John's
"The Dark Night of the Soul" while she was struggling and in the depths of grief , with her daughter Jenny's premature death.
I remember two things vividly from Iain Matthew's book:
That John and his brother Francisco used to love to lay out in the fields at night and look into the stars of the "dark night." Centuries before Dionysius the Areopagite had written mystically about the "dazzling darkness" but John was too young then to know of his work. He and Francisco saw this without prompting.
The other incident that has never left me, is when John escaped from his tiny, latrine, prison cell, in August 1578 (he was imprisoned December 1577) and was very very fragile and emaciated. He made his way to a Carmelite convent and when they saw him, they were so overjoyed the nuns wanted to sing him a happy Te Deum Hymn. John was shaken badly and held onto something like a banister, and motioned to the sisters with one hand - No, no, no. He was not yet ready to rejoice.
St John of the Cross is the poetic giant (at only about 4' 11" tall) who writes achingly and most expressively about our deep life-long longing for God; this is truly an understatement.
Some references for things I have found helpful:
• The icon of Juan de la Cruz by my teacher Friar Robert Lentz, OFM
•"Search For Nothing" by Richard Hardy
a magnificent sung version of the poem The Dark Night, "One Dark Night" by John Michael Talbot and his version of "O Living Flame of Love."
• Mirabai's translations of both John and Teresa of Avila
• St John of the Cross by Antonio de Nicolas
• anything by the Carmelites, Iain Matthew or Noel Dermot O'Donoghue
This monochromatic image of a gaunt and sickly John in prison was a meditation for me - that we do eventually, come out of our dark nights, but no one can tell you when. Grief has its own time and even the One experiencing the emptiness etc, does not know the time of its fulfillment.
I'm going to quote Iain Matthew on St John and Our Mother because it's so relevant for now:
"When John speaks of the Mother of Jesus, it is in this connection. She moved freely, refusing to let herself be paralyzed by past or future. In her mountain climb, she renounced the need for preplanned handholds, opting instead to surrender to the guidance, the hand of Another. Her hope set her free to be possessed fully in each moment by the Holy Spirit.
As with faith, so with hope, John can emphasize a letting-go, in this case of past and future, only because he is convinced that God is hovering, pressing, to come in and fill the gap. And he will fill it:
'Where God is concerned, hope attains as much as it hopes for.' "
Page 107

Dear St John of the Cross
You found God in the most painful situations in your life
by waiting-in-hope-in-the-darkness.
Help us Teach us Show us, your way of trust and
enduring love.
Amen

Fr Bill McNichols
August 2017

 

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