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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

Holy New Martyr Blessed Franz Jaggerstatter

August 8th, 2017

Holy New Martyr Blessed Franz Jaggerstatter

Holy New Martyr Blessed Franz Jaggerstatter
"Through His bitter suffering and death, Christ freed us only from eternal death, not from temporal suffering and moral death. But Christ, too, demands a public confession of faith, just as the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler does from his followers....I am convinced that it is still best that I speak the truth, even if it costs me my life....I cannot and may not take an oath in favor of a government that is fighting an unjust war....I thank you dear Jesus, too, that I am privileged to suffer and even die for Him...The heart of Jesus, the heart of Mary, and my own heart are one, united for time and eternity. Mary with Child so dear, give us all your blessings."

From a letter Franz wrote from prison to his wife and children.
This young Austrian prophet, husband, father, and member of the Third Order of St Francis refused to be inducted into Hitler's Army and was beheaded on August 9, 1943. St Edith Stein died at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.
Franz was beatified and declared a martyr on October 26, 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI. His daughters and wife, Franceska , attended his beatification.

"Born under that murky, ambiguous sign: not a double cross, so to speak, but a bent cross, disabled,tampered with, horribly altered, crooked, nightmarish. Dare we admit it: this is the Cross which (despite all frantic denials) we too are born under? Or the one we create for ourselves? I would not venture that Franz saw this from the first (who does?)-only that he saw it eventually. That cross hideously altered in form: a cross that favors deception, war making, unaccountability. He saw. And he told what he saw. And then he died in witness to what he saw....His world was no vacuum; more like a tornado . The chariot of Nazi Germany rolled on like a wheel of fire, the wheels ground to bits whoever, by mischance or heroic purpose, put themselves in the way. Franz put himself in the way...Indeed, Austria is under the gun (and loves it, as the wild welcome given Hitler and the plebiscite showed !). But for Franz the world is going to very hell. In a tank. In a (newly created) bomber. In a blitzkrieg. In a racing train, as he saw in a dream...This is appalling, unbearable. Christians are climbing aboard. Priests and bishops. And then the faithful...That train, streaming toward him in the darkness: All aboard for hell ! What to do ? The burden of asking one's soul, again and again, and with little help from others - what to do ?
...He was condemned to die; and then to stay dead. Or so they thought , those who thought for, or opined for, church and state...To speak of today: it is no longer Hitler's death train we ride, the train of the living dead. Or is it ? It is. The same train. Only if possible (it is possible), the train is longer, faster, more commodious...As for Franz, he will not go away. He will not go away from the church that sent him on his way alone. His way, which should have been the way of the church. So he lingers, half unwelcome. Like a speechless mouth, like a mysterious cry, hovering on the air, seeking a hearing.
Listen: 'Love your enemies, do good to those who maltreat you. Walk another mile. Refuse the easy ride, damnation as destination. Is this to be accounted the resurrection of Franz - that the gospel should at last gain a hearing ?"
From "The Bride: Images of the Church"
by Daniel Berrigan, SJ
Orbis Books 2000

"Lord,
Fill us with that spirit of courage
which gave your Martyr Blessed Franz
strength to offer his life in faithful witness.
Help us to learn from him to cherish your law
and to obey you rather than men.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever."
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols + August 2017

I Come With Three Wounds - Llego ' Con Tres Heridas

August 1st, 2017

I Come With Three Wounds  -  Llego

"...I wish to thank you for your kind letter and the copy you enclosed of your painting of the Deposition. Your reproduction is most impressive and the theme - amor, muerte, vida -is inspiring. I would be quite anxious to see the original painting, for, as I suspect, it must be truly awe inspiring. I was humbled by the fact that you chose my picture as a model for the Jesuit laboring under the burden of Christ. I pray that the Spirit will enlighten and strengthen me to shoulder or 'take on' Christ more completely.
I am pleased with the work you and your fellow artists are doing. In many ways you have re-opened a door to inspired creativity that releases the human spirit from materialistic bondage as it searches for its Creator; thereby you have performed a noble service in your dedication to the following of your chosen apostolate..."
Fr Pedro Arrupe, SJ
Personal correspondence from
December 17, 1975
"I Come With Three Wounds : Llego ' Con Tres Heridas"
(Finding God In All Things)
Often I reference music . It's been a huge part of my life and I think most everyone 's life . My Mom had 78's going continually on the phonograph, she loved Nat King Cole, Perry Como,and Mario Lanza, Rosemary Clooney ... I can still hear her singing "Young At Heart" with Sinatra, this was before we had the 33 and 45 records. My brother Steve had a swing band orchestra , and a Jazz combo, with my other brother Bob on trumpet. They would practice in our basement and I'd sit on the stairs and hear those beautiful melodies of the "crooner era" as well as the genius work of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. I'd go into my brothers' rooms and take their records which included everything from Johnny Mathis, to Camelot , to Elvis etc....and then in 1960 suddenly it seemed, out of nowhere came Joan Baez. To my ears it sounded as if a lonely prophet had made a record for all the suffering souls in our land and world, singing with a strong,fierce, incredibly powerful, plaintive voice - with one guitar and a kind of majestic, noble and ethereal beauty. It's difficult to imagine her solitary impact or her deep effect on an 11 year old boy. Of course there were other folk singers before her , but she was the first one I heard. Joan Baez is still a noble and respected prophet to me. Gradually Beatniks turned into Hippies and the Beatles brought a world change, so much so, that me, a 16 or 17 year old boy in Denver was riding around in the car listening to the sitar and becoming aware of completely different and exotic sounds as well as (through osmosis) other world religions.
In 1974 while I was teaching Art at Regis High in Denver Joan Baez put out her first full Spanish Album "Gracias a la Vida." Ultimately, this would lead me to a deep love and reverence for the Hispanic cultures and specifically to live in New Mexico.
One song on that album was Llego' Con Tres Heridas : I Come With Three Wounds; one of love, one of death, one of life , a poem by Miguel Hernandez who died in Spain in the civil war. During a lonely dark spiritual time I decided to paint an oil painting about what it was like in the world ( Good Friday, Holy Saturday...)when Jesus was dead, because I couldn't feel him. St Therese was once seen (unbeknownst to her) knocking on the tabernacle door saying "Jesu! Are you there !?"
At that time Fr Pedro Arrupe was General of the Jesuits (I was so blessed to meet him "accidentally" in an elevator in St Louis) and I chose his likeness for the man taking down Christ (in art this is called a "Deposition")from the Cross. The sun is eclipsed overhead just as the Gospels describe. The man is struggling to hold him and lets out a cry of grief. I painted him in stripes because in Isaiah the prophet says "...by his stripes (flagellation marks) we are healed," Isaiah 53:5. I sent a copy of the painting to Fr Arrupe and he responded with one of the most humble and beautiful letters I have ever received. The letter is framed and is still next to the painting in the Regis Jesuit Community Chapel. Not only because Fr Arrupe was Basque as was St Ignatius, but we all (well not all, some did not like him) felt he was "kinda" St Ignatius "reincarnated." He fit the description that St Philip Neri, and centuries later Adrienne von Speyr gave of Ignatius. Both saw him as sun-like, emanating light and the love of God . Adrienne said nobody points to God with such shrewd intelligence as Ignatius. Fr Arrupe was exactly that way in his radiance and you felt (as you also did with St John Paul II) that you actually stepped into his sphere of sanctity. There are those people who do not hold back their love, because their love has become transformed into a direct way for God to reach you.
One time I was giving a power point show on my early art and the later images and icons, and I spoke about this 1975 painting. I said I was in a very dark time and didn't feel Jesus was alive for me. A woman raised her hand and said "But look. He's kissing the man on the head!" Even though I was the painter I never realized that until she showed me. That was a powerful lesson for me, that people when they spend the time contemplating a picture or icon, can teach you so much about your own work.
Fr Bill McNichols
31 July 2017
Feast of Holy Father St Ignatius Loyola

The Shrine of St Anne

July 26th, 2017

The Shrine of St Anne

The Shrine of St Anne
This was a commission for the Church in Arvada, Colorado with the name The Shrine of St Anne. They were having their 75th Anniversary and I opened my book of Greek Icons and found this lovely depiction of Grandmother Anne holding her daughter Mary, holding the Christ Child. To me it looked so childlike and yet Anne looked so elegant too. The only change I made was to have Anne pointing to the Child...as adult images of Mary shown deferring to Jesus with such profound humility. So it seemed a wonderful way of showing through this icon that St Anne is herself, the shrine. At that time I was reading Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's life of Christ where she begins with lives and tribulations of many of Jesus' ancestors. For some people these private revelations are no more than novels because they are not in the Bible. But for me they are very much worth contemplating because they are fleshed out so intimately that the soul is nourished by reading them. In our tradition over the centuries many holy women have been given these revelations like St Bridget of Sweden, Anne Catherine Emmerich, Maria Cecilia Baij, Maria of Agreda, Maria Valtorta, and Adrienne von Speyr to name a few. Each one brings you something, and I think of them as "homilies" born of great devotion and prayer. As long as you know they are not the Hebrew Bible or the Gospels there is no harm in praying with them. For instance, Bridget talks of seeing the Holy Family gathered at their humble table with not enough to eat. Maria Baij tells of three stars appearing above the house of St Joseph, the night he was born to foretell that the "earthly three or trinity" was just beginning. Maria Valtorta sees St Joseph give the Child Jesus his first carpentry lesson. Anne Catherine watches the Passion of Christ which was so awfully powerful, that when the great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins heard it read by a Jesuit when the community was at table, he broke down sobbing. So one great inspiration feeds another. The legend of St Anne and St Joachim and the birth of Mary has never been painted so beautifully as by Giotto di Bondone in the Enrico Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy (dedicated 25 March 1305). I love the image of the Archangel Gabriel flying through St Anne's window, and St Joachim asleep being visited by the Archangel too. Then the couple joyfully meeting and kissing under the Golden Gate.
Here is a shortened version of a litany to St Anne (who is often lovingly invoked in French Canada to find a spouse)
Good St Anne, Mother of Mary, and Spouse of St Joachim,
Pray for us
Steadfast St Anne, Miracle of Patience,
Pray for us
Holy St Anne, Ark of the Covenant and
Root of Jesse
Pray for us
Gracious St Anne, Dawn of Hope and
Consolation of the Afflicted
Pray for us
Glorious St Anne, Rose of Nazareth and
Grandmother of the Messiah
Pray for us
Fr Bill McNichols
26 July 2017

St Mary Magdalen - Contemplative of Contemplatives

July 21st, 2017

St Mary Magdalen - Contemplative of Contemplatives

St Mary Magdalen : Contemplative of Contemplatives
22 July 2017
"This is the kind of story," Dorothy wrote, "that infuriates those who term us superstitious."
Page 104
Dorothy Day : The World Will Be Saved By Beauty
By Kate Hennessy
Perhaps a better word or concept of/for piety, is the Hindu notion of Bahkti which is a Sanskrit word referring to a very warm, devotional and loving means of practicing or praying. It's difficult to describe it's so bodily too. I think especially of the 15th century Hindu poet Mirabai's ecstatic poems of devotion to the "Dark One," Krishna. Piety is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we ask for this gift. Piety sours into something awful when we impose our personal devotions on others. We've all experienced this self-righteous imposition, or we might have done it ourselves to others in a phase of zeal gone blind. Dorothy's daughter Tamar spoke of this painful (for and to others) period of Dorothy's extended conversion. The only check to this kind of soul-abuse is to be aware of our sinfulness (for me the best example is Pope Francis) which can humble you and, in a word or phrase I'd say - it's better to avoid "finger wagging piety" by way of inviting people to share what you love.
My first picture of St Mary Magdalen was the Crucifixion I drew at age 5. I also put her image in Beato Fra Angelico's icon and the first icon I created of her was called Apostle to the Apostles, her title in the Eastern Churches. Then recently I did a round third icon of the legend of Mary Magdalen preaching to Pontius Pilate after the Resurrection. Now I have a fourth icon commissioned of her also. When I was commissioned to do the second icon I remembered those beautiful Giotto paintings of her being lifted daily to heaven by the Angels. These images come from legends of her life I found in Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's Life of Christ and in a biography of Mary Magdalen by Edith Filliette who founded the Mary Magdalen Society in 1979 and died in 1988.
The legends tell of Mary living in a Cave in Sainte Baume, near Marseille and living literally on her very "much alive-memories" of being near Jesus while he was on earth. Testimonies from hardened skeptical witnesses tell of Anne Catherine Emmerich's twelve years of living on nothing but Holy Communion (the Eucharistic Host).They watched her 24/7 and some became close to her after watching, that they became convinced she was "the real thing".
I guess for me these stories are about a love of God so overwhelming that this love is only fed by God. Don't you have times you are so hungry for God and the solace of a spiritual life that you blame everyone and everything around you for not being enough? And then you turn to God in a prayer and slowly get reconciled to your life again? Reading about Dorothy I see her struggling to put together her personal piety and her mission to renew the church like St Francis. Like Mary Magdalen she was an apostle and a contemplative. I'm going to close with a prayer very dear to St Ignatius, who's feast is coming closer, and a prayer which verbalizes this kind of love : (PS for those who like music I think kd lang must've known this prayer when she wrote "Wash Me Clean" it has the same imploring yet uplifting quality ...)
The Anima Christi
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within thy wounds, hide me
Permit me not to be separated from thee
From the wicked foe, defend me
At the hour of my death, call me
And bid me to come to thee
That with thy saints I may praise thee
Forever and ever...
Amen

Fr Bill McNichols
22 July 2017
Dearest Lord,
Send your Holy Spirit to give us the apostolic gift of piety.
St Mary Magdalen and Servant of God Dorothy Day, please be the new patrons of all of us trying to put together so many contradictions in ourselves and especially at this moment in our troubled times. Watching you ,dear heavenly friends, we know this is possible.
Amen... for now

Our Lady of Mt Carmel -16 July 2017

July 14th, 2017

Our Lady of Mt Carmel -16 July 2017

Our Lady of Mt Carmel : 16 July 2017
"As soon as the reader has penetrated to the substance of this book, he will understand why it is dedicated to Our Lady of Mt Carmel. It is chiefly concerned with the doctrine of the Carmelite theologian, St John of the Cross. Then again under her title (among others ) of Our Lady of Mt Carmel the Blessed Virgin is venerated as patroness of contemplatives and, above all, those who try to share with others the fruits of their contemplation. The whole aim of the Order founded in her honor is to enable its members to reach the height of contemplation under her guidance and to bring others to the same end, aided by her intercession.
There is no member of the Church who does not owe something to Carmel. But there are few who owe more to the saints of Carmel and to its Queen than does the author. Above all, this book was written, so to speak, under her direction and tutelage."
From the introduction to:
The Ascent To Truth
Thomas Merton 1951

"This was the first time I had been struck by such a feeling of spirituality in anyone who professed Christianity."
The Dalai Lama

A blessed feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel to all those who love Our Mother and anyone "living in the what" John of the Cross calls the Dark Night... and anyone still seeking, trying to live within a life of prayer. So many of us feel this is a life-long journey. So let's never give up (!) because God blesses all our attempts to come closer to His infinite love.
Fr Bill McNichols

Looking For God Outside and Within - Self Portraits With Symbols 1977 and 2014

July 7th, 2017

Looking For God Outside and Within - Self Portraits With Symbols 1977 and 2014

Looking For God Outside and Within :Self Portraits With Symbols 1977 and 2014

In the time of selfies it's probably not necessary to explain why artists have long been commissioned to paint portraits or why they have looked into themselves to find something of the mystery of the meaning of their lives. There is a long tradition of painters placing themselves in their art, such as Beato Fra Angelico, Artemisia Gentileschi, El Greco, Michelangelo, or doing self portraits like Durer, Rembrandt, Mary Cassatt, Edvard Munch, Van Gogh and of course, Frida Kahlo and Joni Mitchell, are some of the most widely known.
I began my first Self Portrait With Symbols in 1977 strongly influenced by the Russian children's book artist Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942). I first discovered his illustrations while teaching high school art at Regis High School, and I fell in love with his drawings and paintings too. On the covers of many of his children's book he would surround the central image with little boxes of flowers, goblins or whatever enhanced the fairy tale.
This Russian tradition began with what is called "talking icons" where the Saint is surrounded by small images from his or her life. This is actually the beginning of children's books. I could go on and on about my favorite illustrators, but I guess the question is why do a self portrait as a cover for a children's story and where did it lead? At that time my dream was to be an illustrator and I really had no idea that two of my favorite artists El Greco and Ivan Bilibin had anything to do with Icons.
In his extraordinary autobiography, "Balancing Heaven and Earth" the great-souled Jungian master Robert Johnson has an honestly-lived theory that God calls some people to be "claimed by the inner life" and if you feel that call, you will be led by "slender threads" which are there for you just in time to lead you to the next part of your life. I did these two self portraits to look into my own beginning of a life as an artist who is also a priest, and then the latter part of trying to live into that continuing mystery. One of the things I have learned is you have to keep something, as Jesus seriously counseled, of the child within you or you cannot see or find the true kingdom of God. When I see my siblings surrounded by grandchildren, I can see God provides this naturally for them. Those without children must work a bit harder to stay young at heart and not become jaded, hard hearted. My prayer for this birthday is to paraphrase the very brief Psalm 131:
O Lord let me not get too stuck in fear or any feelings
inside that stop me from giving You back any gift
You gave to me-to give away.
Make me an "Archer of Love" to send these gifts into the
Church, the Bride and into all the waiting
Human Hearts.
Then let me rest like a little child in Your arms.
Let me continue to see the wonders of life
as a child and not fall into cynicism or despair.
Open my heart (again and again) to You and the
World of people made for Infinite
Love, which is only You.
Amen
Fr. Bill
10 July 2017

Sadhu Sundar Singh

May 26th, 2017

Sadhu Sundar Singh

Sadhu Sundar Singh
3 September 1889 - ? April 1929
I met the Sadhu through a book of his writings published in the wonderful series by Robert Ellsberg and Orbis Press the "Spiritual Masters". Then I read the beautiful biography by A.J.Appasamy which spoke of the miraculous meeting of the Sadhu with the tiger, and I couldn't wait to paint this scene from his life. This one event appeared to be symbolic of the life of a man, who ,like St Francis, seemed to bring Christianity back to life again. Today I have been viewing videos of the Sadhu, and wanted to share this image with you.
In April of 1929 he left for a missionary visit to Tibet where he had previously been welcomed and hated too, in fact he had been stoned, and once thrown into a well. This time he did not return. It is assumed he was martyred during that last visit . I believe when you read about this man, you will never forget him, his life has that luminous power of Christ which flows right into you.
Fr Bill McNichols
25 May 2017

Mother of Fairest Love for Mothers Day 2017

May 11th, 2017

Mother of Fairest Love for Mothers Day 2017

Mother of Fairest Love for Mother's Day 2017
In 1995 I had just finished the beautiful book by Carol Lee Flinders, "Enduring Grace : Portraits of Seven Women Mystics" and was inspired to work on Mechtild of Magdeburg. My Mom called concerned about a young couple she had met and wanted me to paint a very tender Mother of God for them. I had her pick her favorite icon out of a book of Russian Icons I showed her. She choose an exquisite version of the Kasperov Icon. The legend of this icon is that it was so ancient and had been naturally darkened by time, that the features were hardly recognizable. One night in February of 1840 the owner of the icon, Mrs Kasperova had been praying to Our Mother in great need and grief, when she noticed the features of the icon begin to emerge. And so she had the icon cleaned and renewed and this began a series of miraculous events through the intercession of the Mother of God.
Because Mom loved this icon I painted another one for the young couple she was interceding for, and secretly painted the Kasperov Icon for her, as a surprise, "For Marjory With Love." I then placed my Dad's name at the top left side and all my siblings names around the icon : Stephen, Robert, me, Mary and Marjory.
A blessed and happy Mother's Day to all Mothers!

Fr Bill McNichols
May 2017

 

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