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The Sire Of Sorrow- Jobs Sad Song

March 8th, 2017

The Sire Of Sorrow- Jobs Sad Song

"With all this, Job did not offend, nor did he put blame on God
...My heart is bursting within my breast .."
Job 1:22 and 19:27

The Sire Of Sorrow (Job's Sad Song)


(Antagonists)
Man is the sire of sorrow
(Job)
I've lost all taste for life
I'm all complaints
Tell me why do you starve the faithful?
Why do you crucify the saints?
And you let the wicked prosper
You let their children frisk like deer,
And my loves are dead or dying, or they don't come near.
(Antagonists)
We don't despise your chastening
God is correcting you
(Job)
Oh and look who comes to counsel my deep distress,
All these pompous physicians
What carelessness!

Joni Mitchell (from Turbulent Indigo, 1994)

"The Book of Job is in several ways the most mysterious book of the Hebrew Bible. Formally, as a sustained debate in poetry, it resembles no other text in the canon...
The poet, having given Job such vividly powerful language for the articulation of his outrage and his anguish, now fashions still greater poetry for God... Poetry of such virtuosity and power, dependent as it must be on the expressive force that the original words and their ordering, is bound to pale in translation....
From Chapter 42 translated by Robert Alter:
"And it happened after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite : 'My wrath has flared against you and your two companions because you have not spoken rightly of Me as did My servant Job. And now take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams and go to My servant Job, and offer a burnt-offering for yourselves, and Job My servant will pray on your behalf. To him only shall I show favor...' "

The Wisdom Books : A New Translation With Commentary by Robert Alter

The great artist and composer, Joni Mitchell , after a life of many physical ailments from polio, as a nine year old child, to morgellons disease, to a brain aneurism last year, distilled the 42 chapters of Job into a seven minute brilliant song.
Martin Pope's magisterial commentary on The Book of Job is 405 pages. Daniel Berrigan's rather recent ( Year 2000 ), written "in his own blood" commentary is 368 pages. Stephen Mitchell has a fairly new poetic translation, Rabbi Harold Kushner has written a comforting, extremely helpful book on Job, "The Book of Job : When Bad Things Happen to a Good Person." But for reasons I'll mention soon, my favorite is by Gustavo Gutierrez, "On Job:God Talk And The Suffering of the Innocent."
I don't think it could have been possible to be a friend and chaplain in the height of the AIDS pandemic in the United States (around the years 83-93) without turning to, contemplating and living inside, The Book of Job. I've tried to write about some of the experiences in "The Stations of the Cross of A Person With AIDS."
We all have times of great, extended physical, emotional and spiritual suffering.
Not only did Job lose a child, which is a terrible life -time wound for any parent, he lost ten children. Even the saints, such as San Isidro and his wife Santa Maria lost a child, and reading Mirjana Soldo's autobiography "My Heart Will Triumph" you see that having frequent apparitions of the Blessed Mother does not mean a lack of suffering will come to you; rather the "world " like Job's friends, tends to inflict more suffering the closer one is to God. Think of the great Carmelites, John of the Cross, Teresa, Therese, Titus Brandsma and Edith Stein. Recently I watched a documentary on the violence and racial suffering of Jackie Robinson, and "Loving" the movie about the interracial marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving in 1958, the tv series, "When We Rise", on Gay and Lesbian lives and response to the AIDS pandemic , and Andrew Garfield's brilliant portrayal of God's suffering servant, Desmond Doss in the film Hacksaw Ridge. Just the tip of the iceberg of those prophets ahead of their time, men and women, like Hildegard, Julian, and our own relatives and people we all look to for guidance - how do you live through such intense suffering without losing faith?
During the time I was a chaplain at St Vincent's Hospice in NYC I often heard from the patients that their greatest suffering was not as much the physical but the emotional and spiritual suffering of abandonment. This has been true ever since, with people recovering from cancer or any major disease, heart failure etc. The reason I am so fond of Gustavo Gutierrez 'book on Job is that he says the same thing about Job's suffering. That Job's deepest pain was feeling abandoned by God, in the same way Jesus felt during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane until his last breaths quoting Psalm 22.
When God finally appears to Job in chapters 38-42, just the appearance is tremendously healing. If I could quote Gutierrez entire book, I would because it's impossible to sum up in a few words such deep theology, born of immense suffering. But let's end with a few of Gutierrez 'profound words which may come to you as an invitation to read his whole book:
"Perhaps those who live, and try to express, their faith and hope amid unjust suffering will some day have to say humbly with Job, 'I spoke without understanding marvels that are beyond my grasp, 'and put aside their harsh language. Yet who knows but that the Lord may tell them, to the surprise of some:
'You have spoken correctly about me. ' "

Fr Bill McNichols : Holy Prophet Job
March 2017

Our Lords message to Lady Julian of Norwich

February 26th, 2017

Our Lords message to Lady Julian of Norwich

"...And All Shall Be Well. "
Our Lord's message to Lady Julian of Norwich
(Julian's Showings as a beginning to this Lent of 2017)

I would guess to some, if not many, Julian might seem an odd choice to begin Lent. She is so hopeful and joyous, in this time of great anxiety and fear, how can Julian speak to our present day? What did she know of great suffering and anxiety?
In 1974 I was just 24 years old and teaching art and theology at Regis High School in Denver, living in a small Jesuit Community only a stones throw away, up a small hill, to the high school itself. The house just happened to be on Julian Street. I received a gift of a book from my mentor Fr John J. Walsh, SJ about the "Revelations of Divine Love" to a medieval Anchoress named Lady Julian of Norwich. What I remember most about the letter he sent with the book, is he considered Julian the most joyful and hopeful of all the Christian Mystics. After reading the book I sent it to my dear friend Fr Jim Janda, SJ and so began a series of inspired events that would lead J Janda to begin to research and immerse himself in the writings of Lady Julian. He had seen the play about the New England poet Emily Dickinson, with Julie Harris as the enigmatic, reclusive Emily, called "The Belle of Amherst" and was intent on writing a one woman play about Julian.
Since that time of my youth, I have returned to Julian consistently, and in January of 2003 taught a one semester course in Women's Studies at the University of New Mexico - Taos on the short text in the original Middle English, of Julian's Revelations or "Showings". In 1978 Paulist Press published its first book on a series of Christian Spirituality and chose a new translation of Julian's Showings. I think it was also the arrival of Julian's theology into the mainstream culture. Since 1978 there have been countless translations and books about Julian, I am partial to my friend Mirabai Starr's recent translation, as a graceful and beneficial beginning to Julian's theology (Hampton Roads Publishing Company). This edition also has a beautiful,and most unusual painting on the cover of Julian in her anchorhold, while the busy townsfolk of Norwich walk by her one open window. From this one painting you get the idea of how Julian became such an important, comforting spiritual guide to her own city of Norwich but also to pilgrims like a contemporary, Margery Kempe who travelled to seek Lady Julian's wisdom.
Fr Walsh was right in that, I have found in Julian a steady, and loving guide to God for over 40 years. Thomas Merton was full of admiration for her, along with John Henry Newman, as the greatest of English theologians, he said "Julian is without doubt one of the most wonderful of all Christian voices. She gets greater and greater in my eyes as I grow older... "this was a woman who lived through three outbreaks of the plague in England and knows well our human anguish and suffering. She contemplated the visions given to her by Jesus in her 3 day near death experience at age 30, until her death over four decades later. Julian was shown, in one vision, a small hazelnut in her hand, telling her this was All that was made ...
"I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought :
What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing. And I was answered in my understanding : It lasts and always will, because God loves it ; and thus everything has being through the love of God...The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God preserves it ...God is the Creator and the Protector and the Lover...
The mother may sometimes suffer the child to fall and to be distressed in various ways, for its own benefit, but she can never suffer any kind of peril to come to her child, because of her love. And though our earthly mother may suffer her child to perish, our heavenly Mother Jesus may never suffer us who are his children to perish, for he is almighty, all wisdom and all love, and so is none but he, blessed may he be ..."

May we find deep peace this beginning of Lent in Our Lord Jesus, with Lady Julian of Norwich as our guide.
Fr Bill McNichols
March 2017

https://www.amazon.com/Showings-Julian-Norwich-New-Translation/dp/1571746919

https://www.amazon.com/Julian-Play-Based-Life-Norwich/dp/0816426325/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488146276&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=julian+by+jim+janda

In The Cloud of Unknowing

February 13th, 2017

In The Cloud of Unknowing

In The Cloud of Unknowing

"Don't give up then, but work away at it till you have this longing. When first you begin, you find only darkness, and as it were a cloud of unknowing...."

Prescient symbolism literally fills the recorded visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. Her life of Christ begins way far back into the Hebrew Bible , with prophecies, symbols, and holy people, as the great scripture scholar G. B. Caird said in his commentary on Luke ....people agog with anticipation for the coming of the Messiah. In the Life of the Blessed Virgin (taken out of the 4 volumes of the life of Christ ) there is the true sign given to Elijah in 1 Kings 18 : 44 of one single cloud appearing in the sky, which ends a terrible drought. Catherine sees the cloud as symbolic of the Blessed Mother herself ; Mary's entrance into our world ends the drought of waiting for the Messiah.
Maybe we are all in a dark cloud at this moment? And some people in the world are suffering in every way - beyond what we can imagine. Whether you have been given the vocation to be an activist or a contemplative or both, you are probably struggling to live in a peaceful, nonviolent way at this time. I first read the anonymous medieval classic The Cloud of Unknowing in 1970 (translation of 1961) when I was still very young, and included the imagined archer and cloud in the border of my last self portrait with symbols. It's still me - trying to pierce the cloud with the arrow of as much love as I can gather inside. There are few writings as beautiful as the cloud, which I'll partially share with you now, I think this is the "right or kairos" time. And this book has been printed so often, even though the author (like the Kabbalah), says not to share it unless people are serious and ready. Ready or not ... here's an excerpt ...which may lead you to actually be ready ?
"God is ready when you are, and is waiting for you...
Lift up your heart to God with humble love:and mean God himself , and not what you get out of him ...Try to forget all created things that he ever made, and the purpose behind them, so that your thought and longing do not turn or reach out to them either in general or particular. Let them go, and pay no attention to them. It is the work of the soul that pleases God most... Moreover, the whole of mankind is wonderfully helped but what you are doing, in ways you do not understand ... But now you will ask me, 'How am I to think of God himself, and what is he? ' For with this question you have brought me into the same darkness, the same cloud of unknowing where I want you to be!...Strike that thick cloud of unknowing with the sharp arrow of longing love, and on no account whatever think of giving up."

From chapters 2 - 6
Just a further note... Carmen Acevedo Butcher who put together a great spiritual reader on Dr. St Hildegard of Bingen, has an excellent new translation of The Cloud of Unknowing. Scholars have conjectured it was written around 1370 in Middle English.
The same Middle English used by Lady Julian of Norwich to write her masterpiece of Showings ( Revelations ) of Divine Love ... which may become the source of another blog to come. And I might write on the self - portraits and what I've learned and haven't yet learned :)

Fr Bill McNichols
February 2017

Holy Passion Bearer Dorothy Stang - Martyr of the Amazon 1931 - 2005

February 3rd, 2017

Holy Passion Bearer Dorothy Stang - Martyr of the Amazon 1931 - 2005

“Holy Passion Bearer Dorothy Stang “

Sr. Dorothy Stang : Martyr of the Amazon
(1931 - 2005) a new Patron of Ecology....along with St Francis and St Hildegard

“I light a candle and look at Jesus on the Cross and ask for the strength to carry the suffering of the people. Don’t worry about my safety. The safety of the people is what’s important.”
Sr. Dorothy Stang

“On the morning of February 12, 2005, Sr. Dorothy Stang, an American-Born nun who had spent fifty years in Brazil, set off for a meeting of landless farmers. Along the muddy trail her way was blocked by two hired gunmen who asked whether she carried any weapon. In reply she produced her Bible and began to read the Beatitudes : Blessed are the poor in spirit...Blessed are the peacemakers. And then they shot her.
Sr. Dorothy, born in Dayton, Ohio, joined the Sisters of Norte Dame de Namur out of high school and volunteered in 1966 to work in Brazil. Eventually she was drawn to the remote regions of the Amazon and the cause of poor farmers who were exploited and robbed by rich loggers and cattle barons. She had come to see the connections between defending the rights of the poor and protecting the ecological balance of the rain forest itself.
Well into her seventies, she trudged through mud and thick forests to attend prayer services and labor meetings. Her efforts on behalf of the farmers and the imperiled rain forest marked her as an enemy by those who hired her assassins.
Her death aroused the government of Brazil and the whole world to the cause of ecology and justice for which she offered her life.”

From the February issue of : “Give Us This Day” page 157

Right after I was ordained in Denver in May of 1979 I was invited by the Sisters of the Precious Blood, who ran the school of Christ the King I attended from kindergarten through sixth grade , to say Mass for them one evening. When I got to the homily, it suddenly occurred to me that sitting before me were the very women who had given me most everything I knew (as well as my parents) of Jesus, the Blessed Mother and my love for the saints. So that was my homily, just thanking these women and telling them that without them, I would not be able to give our faith to anyone. My seventh and eight grade years were spent at St John’s School, with two great lay women teachers and the wonderful Sisters of Loretto.
This particular icon is dedicated to Sister Carolyn Wiethorn, CSJ, and all the holy - great women of our church and the many religious women I have met over the years, especially the Sisters of St Joseph in Baden, Pennsylvania. These religious women, often forgotten, demeaned, and hidden apostles of Jesus, have nourished me and so many thousands, and sometimes even saved my priesthood through their love and wise guidance.

Fr Bill McNichols
February 2017

The Conversion of St Paul - feastday January 25

January 24th, 2017

The Conversion of St Paul - feastday January 25

" The image of the master one glimpse and we are in love."
Zen Master Ikkyu : 1394-1481

" Oh my love for the first time in my life
My eyes are wide open
Oh my lover for the first time in my life
My eyes can see ..."
John Lennon and Yoko Ono 1971

" When evening falls so hard, I will comfort you. I'll take your part
Oh, when darkness comes and pain is all around ..."
Paul Simon 1969

The Conversion of St Paul : feastday January 25

Saul of Tarsus was absolutely sure he was right ; it seems just about everything . It is well known he was at the murder of St Stephen and the men who stoned Stephen to death , laid their garments at the feet of "a young man named Saul." Acts 7 : 54-60
Although I have written (painted) an icon of St Paul for the church named for him in Colorado Springs, I choose to show you this illustration of Jesus I did for a book called The People's Christmas by Gerald O'Collins, SJ, in 1984. Later I made it into a painting for my friend Jim Martin, SJ.
When Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus and the Light knocked him to the ground , he saw Love face to face . It literally blinded him, until he could begin the journey of shedding his certain knowledge and little by little, let the truth seep in. Now it would be not just knowledge of the mind , but also the face of Love and the overwhelming reinterpretation of everything he thought he knew. Some scholars have claimed it took him five years or so, to come into the blinding Love he had seen that day Jesus appeared to him. One of my favorite books on St Paul is by Rev. Robin Scroggs, "Paul For A New Day." It was the book that opened me to my first personal relationship to Paul while I was a theology student in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 76-79.
Conversion is of course, a continual process, a better word, is a continual deepening of love. We are not going to make it through these times without some growing conversion. Something, some ancient wisdom from countries all over the world is being told, actually shouted and screamed at us, as a very, very, young immature nation. If the recent women's marches were just in the US one could write them off as any number of words such as liberals, democrats, progressives etc. But these are world wide cities and nations of people who have been through centuries of suffering at the hands of governments or tyrannies we can't even imagine.
I myself was literally stunned and shocked to see marches in India, Antarctica, London, France, Africa, Belgrade, Melbourne, Lima, Macau, Mexico, Budapest, Georgia, Brazil, Canad, Holland , Belgium, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Italy, Prague, Iraq, Tel Aviv, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Columbia, Finland, Guam, Thailand, Poland, Greece, Ireland, and most chilling of all...Germany. If we choose to ignore these Elders who have nothing to do with our tiny concepts of republicans and democrats, liberals and conservatives ... but are our elder sisters and brothers of the World warning us, and even then ...we refuse conversion ...we do so with incurable hard hearts.
For the great American author, the one to be recognized in Europe as our first American genius, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the greatest sin was a solid cold, hardened heart. He was the descendant of the infamous Judge Hathorne of Salem.
As Psalm 95 begs us and St. Paul to ...
"If today you hear His voice ........then harden not your hearts."
How much more do we need to know, do we need to hear, than the entire ancient cultures of the world speaking to us?
St Paul who once was Saul, continue to pray us into conversion. Pray for us to see the face of life and love that we may fall in love with Jesus in the same way given to you on that day of the beginning of your conversion.

Fr Bill McNichols
January 2017

The Servant Of God Egide Van Broeckhoven, SJ

December 30th, 2016

The Servant Of God Egide Van Broeckhoven, SJ

"Egide Van Broeckhoven was the young worker-priest whose tragic death in Brussels on December 28, 1967, shocked the public. Those who knew him were aware that his work in the factory and his brutal death on the job were nothing else but the conclusion of a passionate quest for God. His life in a poor working-class neighborhood and factory always revealed his lively and friendly spirit : his joviality, his good humor and a genuine love of God and prayer beneath his rough manners and non-conformism.
The "spiritual diary" of Father Van Broeckhoven contained in this book, carefully edited from twenty-six handwritten notebooks he kept during his ten years of factory life, reveals his deep and unceasing search for God through friendship with everyone he knew. They show his lights, his desires, his most profound experiences, all based on God, as the beginning and the end of his life. The diary is at once deep and very simple. It is not sterile introspection or self-complacency. Father Van Broeckhoven was always interested in 'what God is doing in me.'
The basic intuition of the book is indicated on the entry of March 31, 1961 :
'My vocation is to teach men ( people ) the mystical depths of friendship,' and it's content is sketched out in the entry of December 29, 1963:
'Book about friendship : lived experiences, not a philosophical treatise but transparent experiences where each man can recognize his own experiences and see them clearly there until he finds God in them.'
These spiritual notes teem with insights into every aspect of Christian life and contain a living testimony to the richness and value of friendship for our times."

From the inside cover of the book :
A Friend To All Men : Diary Of A Worker Priest by
Egide Van Broeckhoven, SJ
Dimensions Books 1977

I had so many ideas for a New Year icon and message and the through the "Gentle Guiding Hand of Providence" I happened to be meeting Fr Richard Rohr, OFM for lunch today. I wanted to give him Egide's diary as a New Years gift and he brought me the gift of his new book "The Divine Dance." It turns out the Spirit was moving us both, and I believe us All, in the positive direction of embodying the love we believe is needed in 2017. Richard told me a story I'd never heard about St Andrei Rublev's icon of the Trinity; often called "the icon of icons." Richard said that they found out that the rectangle in the middle of the table/altar where the Trinity sits, had residues of glue on that very spot. This led to the thought that someone might have had a mirror glued right there so that as you look into the Trinity of love, you too are present.
I'm sure Richard explains it better in his new book but I did not want to leave 2016 without telling you that .... in the midst of the heart of the most beautiful icon of the Trinity ever created by human hands, imagine a mirror, and see your image within that Circle of Love. And last of all I leave you with one of my favorite sayings, which actually hangs next to my bathroom mirror:
"What a privilege we have been given by God to be able to spend our lives giving his love away."
Don Lessin

Fr Bill McNichols
December 30 2016
and....Happy New Year 2017!

Christ Emmanuel and Christ Emmanuel Lamb of God

December 30th, 2016

Christ Emmanuel and Christ Emmanuel Lamb of God

Christ Emmanuel and Christ Emmanuel Lamb of God
Today begin the O Antiphons found in the beautiful, haunting, Advent hymn:
"O Come O Come Emmanuel!"
There are two versions of this song, (I am most fond of) which are very different; one is truly stark and thus fitting for waiting in the Dark Night for the Light of the World, it is from Joan Baez 1966 Christmas album "Noel" arranged and conducted by Peter Shickele. The other by Robert Shaw Chorale and the Atlanta Symphony, I think originally recorded in the 1950's, starts off very soft, prayerful, quiet ...by the end the chorus is so full and literally begging, nearly shouting for Emmanuel to come, and us to loudly rejoice with the chorale.... It vibrates all through you, as it should. So many comments about this album say it is the best version of this hymn. When I began to paint (write) icons, my Dad used to kid me about the "homely, ugly babies "it took him awhile to warm up to the way icons present the infant and young Christ. The first one you see here was my fourth icon and I found this in a Russian Icon book my teacher, Brother Robert Lentz, OFM, gave me as a gift. I fell in love with the Buddha-like, large head of the Child which spoke to me of Holy Wisdom. And though I love this icon very much, no one has ever ordered a copy. The other icon you see here was to be a gift to my Dad , Stephen L.R. McNichols 1914-1997.
In November 1997 while Dad was in his last days I decided to copy Simon Ushakov's masterpiece of Christ Emmanuel, which because of his curly hair I titled Cordero de Dios or Lamb of God. Dad died on November 25 that year and did not get to see his icon, but I finished it, silently weeping on the Child, after his funeral . In his obituary, there are many things said about him as Governor of Colorado, which for me, do radically challenge me and all of us today, and also point to the ongoing creation of the true and only - Kingdom of God:
"He left his stamp on much of what is best about today's Colorado ... He had a lifelong commitment to the disadvantaged and distressed ... pushed much -needed new resources into the states institutions of higher education and reformed the shocking conditions that then prevailed in Colorado's mental institutions and prisons ... He combined his dedication to the underdog with the courage to stake his all on what he believed was right. Each of the other governors elected to succeed him has exceeded his longevity in office; none has exceeded his accomplishments."
From the Denver Post November 26, 1997
******
Here now are the O Antiphons listed for each day until Christmas Eve 🎄
Dec 17 : O Sapientia : O Wisdom
Dec 18: O Adonai : O Lord
Dec 19: O Radix Jesse : O Root of Jesse
Dec 20: O Clavis David : O Key of David
Dec 21: O Oriens : O Radiant Dawn or Morning Star
Dec 22: O Rex Gentium : O King (Desire) of All Nations
Dec 23: O Emmanuel : O God With Us
Please have a most blessed last week of Advent and into the Christmas Season
Fr Bill McNichols
Dec 17 (happy 80th birthday Pope Francis!) 2016

Advent 2016

November 26th, 2016

Advent 2016

Our Lady of the New Advent : Gate of Heaven
Our Lady of the New Advent : the Burning Bush

It's often said that one person or event can change your life forever , but can one painting or artwork ...in this case an icon change you forever?
This one did. It was only my third icon and I was not yet comfortable with the entire "genre " or experience or vocation yet. I was in every way a beginner and to be asked to do this icon for the Archdiocese of Denver was a surprise filled with anxiety. But I had the best teacher "in the World" in my estimation, Robert Lentz, (now Brother Robert Lentz, OFM) the Russian American Master of Iconography.
When I finished the icon it was used almost immediately as the cover of a book
"Queen of Prophets : The Gospel Message of Medjugorje"
By Dudley Plunkett
Doubleday Press 1992
I had no idea then (1991) that I'd be taken to visit Medjugorje four times beginning in 1997. I had no idea a print of this icon would be taken to Rome by kids of the Archdiocese of Denver to convince Pope John Paul II to come to Denver for the occasion of World Youth Day 1993. I had no idea I would do a second icon of Our Lady of the New Advent: the Burning Bush for him, and that I'd end up giving it to him personally on 14 August 1993 in Denver...no idea I'd be blessed beyond words to be in the aura of a Saint.
All these miracles small and large came from this icon.
And in 1992 the icon was given a feastday December 16, the next day the 17th the ancient "O Antiphons" begin with "O Wisdom" and bear a different name for Christ each day until the 24th. You can hear the different titles in the song "O Come O Come Emmanuel " sung all through the Advent season. And this song often appears on Christmas CDs.
There is so much more to say about this icon but I'd like to say, that through this icon I also ended up visiting Our Lady of Akita in Japan. I was there in April 1999 when the terrible Columbine Murders struck the world with grief. It was then I saw why the Holy Child was holding the columbines in his hand. They were the children that had been killed. I had been instructed by the commissioner, Archbishop (now Cardinal) Stafford to put the Colorado state flower somewhere in the icon.
As Advent begins we are aware of the coming darkness, I mean that it actually is a darker time. I will never forget a thought I read at the time I was working on this icon, from the book "The Cult of the Black Virgin by Ean Begg." The author said that Black Madonnas are mysteriously popular, they draw you in, because the Black Madonna symbolizes not the darkness of despair but the darkness (or waiting) of pregnancy.
May this icon or any in the world you might choose to pray with, heal you, heal us, this Advent of 2016 when there is great fear of the darkness in our world. May she only shed her light as she presents to you, in a mandorla (almond shape a mandala is round) within her, the Light of the World. May the Archangel Gabriel's words to Mary at the Annunciation (Luke 1 : 30) be spoken within you as well:
(from the Amplified Edition of the Bible)
"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace free, spontaneous, absolute favor and loving- kindness) with God."

Fr Bill McNichols
Advent 2016

Jesuit Martyr Thomas Anchanikal

October 31st, 2016

Jesuit Martyr Thomas Anchanikal

This recent Jesuit Martyr Thomas Anchanikal was beheaded on October 25 1997 like two of the "Apostles to India" before him, St Thomas the Apostle and St John de Brito. I hope if you are moved to do so, you will look up his story on google. I painted him using the Indian symbol of a tiger killing an antelope to show his gentle yet strong martyr's love for his own people like Jesus. I also used the idea of him holding his severed head after icons of St John the Baptist. The icon is at Santa Clara University in California and I personally believe students are incredibly interested and inspired by true martyrs. The icon then is intentionally "calling" the students to ask questions and look into this Martyr who sought for justice especially for the poorest of the poor.
Fr Bill McNichols
25 October 2016

Nuestro Padre San Francisco de Asis

October 4th, 2016

Nuestro Padre San Francisco de Asis

Nuestro Padre San Francisco de Asis

It’s no exaggeration to say that Francis was probably one of the few true fundamentalists that have ever lived. Once he was converted at age 25 he looked to the Gospels for every step of his way. If Jesus said “ Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me ...“ then Francis named his group the Frati Minori ...the Least Brothers.
Francis only lived to be 44 but two years before he died, he felt like a failure.
His least brothers had grown from 12 to over 3,000 and he could no longer guide or control them. So he had a dream that he was a black mother hen with pink feet surrounded by chicks that were running everywhere. He interpreted the dream to mean he must surrender his order to the Pope and go to Mt La Verna, north of Assisi, to bemoan his sins of failure. He left on August 15, the feast of the Assumption, to make what he called “St Michael’s Lent“ until the feast of the Archangel on September 29 th.
Francis had asked for two graces of Jesus to complete his following the Gospels.One, that he feel in his whole being the feelings and pain of Jesus as He died on Mt Calvary. Two, that he experience the love of Christ that could forgive even from the Cross. Somewhere around the 14th the feast of the Holy Cross and the 17th (the church used to have a feast of the Holy Stigmata on the 17th.) of September Francis saw something no one has ever seen before or since. Out of the sky came a figure of Christ Crucified bearing the six wings of a Seraph. It was the answer to his prayer for the two graces. He felt the pain of Christ and also the Seraphic love of Christ. Francis would live two more years until 3 October 1226, seared with the Stigmata. He was the first person ever to receive them. During those brief years he would continue to heal with his wounds. When the brothers would wash out the bandages, they would use the water to heal sick animals and people. This for me, is the most beautiful part of the story as we are all asked to continue to work with and heal with our wounds; they don’t disappear.
After the Resurrection the Lord Himself shows His disciples His wounds. God could have easily removed them as He did the flagellation marks and all the horrific damage to Jesus’ body. In the great legend of St Martin of Tours (San Martin Caballero) Martin has an apparition of a figure who says he is Christ the King, but Martin knows better because the figure has no wounds. It angrily vanishes in a whiff of sulphur.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve drawn, painted or created icons of the love of Francis for and with, his Seraphic Lord Jesus. It’s a meditation/contemplation I never tire of bringing to life; these wounds so ever present in all of us that Pope Francis has referred to the Church as a “Field Hospital“ where we tend to one another as Church, as if on a field of continuing battles.
I hope this image brings you hours of meditation, seraphic joy and sends you back into the world to share in Jesus’ Healing Gifts.

Fr William Hart McNichols
A happy feast of St. Francis and happy name day to Pope Francis!
October 4, 2016

 

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