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Pentecost Sunday and Mary Mother of the Church - Come Holy Spirit

November 11th, 2021

Pentecost Sunday and Mary Mother of the Church - Come Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday and Mary Mother of the Church : Come Holy Spirit
“In Roman Catholic Mariology, Mother of the Church (Latin: Mater Ecclesiae) is a title officially given to Mary by Pope Paul VI. The title was first used in the 4th century by St Ambrose of Milan, as rediscovered by Hugo Rahner, SJ. (author of the book Our Lady and the Church) It was also used by Pope Benedict XIV in 1748 and then by Pope Leo XIII in 1885. Pope St John Paul II placed it in the Catechism of the Catholic Church ... in 2018, Pope Francis decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church be inserted into the Roman Calendar on the Monday after Pentecost (also known as Whit Monday) and to be celebrated every year.”
Wikipedia
“One interesting bit of church architecture is known as the ‘Holy Ghost Hole.’ It consists of a large opening purposely left in the ceiling. This was most commonly done in Medieval churches throughout Europe, but has been repeated in other places throughout the world. The tradition was meant to remind the faithful of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and to be a visible reminder that the Holy Spirit continues to descend upon Christian Disciples. The spiritual symbolism was further reinforced on Pentecost day, when someone would climb up onto the roof and send down various symbols of the Holy Spirit. Fr Francis Weiser explains in his book ‘Holyday Book’ that live doves or pigeons would sometimes be used, as well as burning pieces of straw...”
Philip Kosloski
Eight years ago I was assigned by Archbishop Michael Sheehan to help out at St Joseph on the Rio Grande Church. And nearly every time I’ve celebrated Mass there, while I’m sitting in the celebrant’s chair I look up into the large hole in the beautifully crafted wooden ceiling. And though I did not know about the ancient tradition of the Holy Ghost Hole until today, it is exactly what I’ve been praying for all during these past years. Pope Francis has spoken beautifully about the Church as Mother in his homily for Monday’s feast, and I know he would like to see more women and lay men involved in the decisions and hierarchy of the Church. This is one of those issues where the need is so great, and many people are angry that it’s still taking so long. I personally believe Francis is doing everything he can to make this a reality. But I am fully aware that’s my personal belief in Pope Francis . I think it comes from growing up with my Dad who was Governor of Colorado, and watching him try to make advances for so many people and being continually opposed. Yet in his obituary the Denver Post ended this way: “He combined his dedication to the underdog with his courage to stake his all on what he believed was right. Each of the other governors elected to succeed him exceeded his longevity in office; none has exceeded his accomplishments.” Right before he died in 1997 he wrote me a very personal and beautiful letter. In it he spoke about my need to listen for and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It was most unusual for Dad to write this way so it has stayed with me all these years as a kind of prophetic word. In this icon Mary is solemn with an ever so gentle upturning of her mouth, as if she is awaiting the arrival of the Spirit, as she did in the first Pentecost. As Mother of the Church she knows our problems and what is needed most of all right now to keep us all following the Gospels. She knows the Holy Spirit never goes backwards but always creating anew. Her throne is not made of gold, but Hildegardian greens and warm colors. The Flame of the Spirit hovers above her. Doctor St Hildegard of Bingen saw the Holy Spirit as the “greening agent” of the Most Holy Trinity, and she put these inspirational visions into some of her 77 songs as well. In this era of urgent need to protect Mother Earth, as St Francis of Assisi called her, I have great hopes that young people will be given some “miraculous inspirations/interventions” from the Holy Spirit and help to save our world.
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the
fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 Pentecost 2021

La Sagrada Familia -The Holy Family

November 11th, 2021

La Sagrada Familia -The Holy Family

La Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family)
“The spiritual life is a long strange business and you’ve got to be quiet and docile enough to go on learning.” Iris Murdoch
The month of May is always associated with the Mother of God. In 1870 Pope Pius IX declared St Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church and in 1955 Pope Pius XII established the Feast of St Joseph the Worker on May 1 as a counter-celebration to the communists’ May Day. Which means Mary’s husband ushers in her month. And since I recently showed the image I painted of St Joseph the Worker, here on Facebook, I decided to show the first icon I painted of Joseph and The Holy Family, in 1991, which is a companion to The Risen Christ, both icons reside at Risen Christ Church in Denver, Colorado. During this year dedicated to Joseph, I continue to learn from him what I call “Joseph’s way” which is a radical trust in God, made so clear and simple in the beautiful Don Dolindo Novena I’ve spoken of so often. But I have to keep at it because I have a tendency to fall back into worry more often than not ! In the mystical Life of St Joseph by Maria Cecilia Baij , OSB, she tells us that during his life, God allowed Joseph to be continually afflicted by worries concerning the care of his wife and child, but also he knew what an extraordinary privilege he was given, to see and care for them every day. Recently our administrative assistant at St Joseph on the Rio Grande Church, Mrs Dawn Wenzl surprised me with a gift of an icon she wrote/painted of St Joseph with the Holy Child . It is very tender and touching. I felt like Joseph was reminding me that he is with me and continuing to guide me in his year. This also reaffirmed for me the power of icons to bring the presence of a heavenly being into your house and life. Images, paintings and icons have been my work for the past 30 years and I always remember what a gift it is to share them with others. I think of a Dominican motto, “Contemplata aliis tradere” - to share what you have contemplated.
Here is a lovely prayer I found in a book of prayers for Fathers :
“Lord Jesus, through the life You chose to lead on earth You showed forth the resplendent value of human work - though often done in toil, all Your work was a prayer, a sacrifice pleasing to God. Grant me too, my Savior, the grace to realize the magnificent potential of work to transform me, making me more patient, diligent, generous and fruitful. And most especially, my Lord, bestow on me the grace to bring to the work of each moment an air of peacefulness and prayerfulness. Through the intercession of St Joseph, patron of workers, I ask all this through Your holy name. Amen”
A most happy feast of St Joseph‼️
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 May 2021

Litany to The Divine Mercy

April 29th, 2021

Litany to The Divine Mercy

Litany to The Divine Mercy
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Divine Mercy, greatest attribute of God, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, unfathomable love of the Sanctifier, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, incomprehensible mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, expression of the greatest might of God, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in creation of heavenly spirits, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in calling us forth from nothingness to existence, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, encompassing the whole universe, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, endowing us with immortal life, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, shielding us from deserved punishment, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, lifting us from the misery of sin, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, justifying us through the Person of the Incarnate Word, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, which flowed out from the wounds of Christ, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, gushing forth from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, giving us the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of Mercy, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in revealing the mysteries of God, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the founding of the Holy Church, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in instituting the Holy Sacraments, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, first of all in the sacraments of Baptism and Penance, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of Holy Orders, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in calling us to the holy faith, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the conversion of sinners, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in sanctifying the just, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in perfecting of the pious, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, fount of help for the sick and the suffering, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, sweet relief for anguished hearts, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, only hope of despairing souls, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, accompanying us in every moment of our life, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, anticipating our needs with graces, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, repose of the dying, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, heavenly delight of the saved, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, respite and relief of the souls in Purgatory, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, crown of All Saints, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, inexhaustible source of miracles, we trust in You.
Lamb of God, who revealed the greatest mercy in redeeming the world by dying on the cross, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who mercifully offers Yourself for our sake in every holy Mass, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away our sins with inexhaustible compassion, have mercy on us.
V: The Mercy of God is above all His works.
R: Hence, we will praise The Divine Mercy forever and ever.
Let us pray:
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, King of mercy, who with You and the Holy Spirit shows us mercy now and forever. Amen.

The Risen Christ

April 29th, 2021

The Risen Christ

The Risen Christ
During the dark winter nights I decided to listen to a long (over 20 hours) Audible book on the music and life of J S Bach; “Bach : Music in the Castle of Heaven” by John Eliot Gardiner. It opened my ears to The St John Passion, and the incredible emotional pull and power of the first word, over and over again...Lord. I was familiar with the magnificent St Matthew Passion as well as many other of Bach’s masterpieces, and Gardiner is such a great writer and natural, born teacher, who clearly loves and understands Bach. He also taught me a lot about the Lutheran Church during Bach’s time. And of course, his personal life...tragedies, triumphs and joys. I really loved this book and I think you will too.
Recently I got a request to use the Triptych of the Passion from Pastor David Hansen of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, for the Easter Vigil. I noticed the opening prayer was very beautiful.
“Sisters and brothers in Christ, on this most holy night when our Savior Jesus Christ passed from death to life, we gather with the church throughout the world in vigil and prayer. This is the Passover of Jesus Christ. Through light and the word, through water and oil, bread and wine, we proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection, share Christ’s triumph over sin and death, and await Christ’s coming again in glory.
Eternal God, in Jesus Christ you have given the light of life to all the world. Bless this new fire at the banquet of eternal light; through the Sun of righteousness, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the ending. To Christ belongs all time and all ages; to Christ belong glory and dominion now and forever.
The light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.
Amen”
A Blessed Easter Season and may it bring you a deeper assurance of the continual loving call for intimacy with the Risen Lord !
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 Easter 2021

The Passion Triptych- Our Lady of Sorrows-Jesus Christ Extreme Humility-St John the Apostle

April 29th, 2021

The Passion Triptych- Our Lady of Sorrows-Jesus Christ Extreme Humility-St John the Apostle

The Passion Triptych (Our Lady of Sorrows, Jesus Christ Extreme Humility, St John the Apostle)
“The Lord not only takes leave of the things of this world; he begins to see them disappear one by one. His body, his whole humanity become distant to him in a completely new way...He has to part from his disciples, and he recognizes how imperfect he leaves them behind... He has to part from his mission. The mission was to bring the world back to the Father...Humanely seen, not even a fragment of the total has been achieved...Everything that unites him with the Father and the Spirit is clouded over already by the shadow of the darkness of the Cross. Everywhere he hears the sound ‘too late.’ It is rolling toward him, is approaching...Taking leave of human bonds. Of his Mother, of the Beloved Disciple, of all these touching people who were attached to him and believed in him, for whom he worked miracles, whom he loved with full human affection. The more he gave them, the more he loved them. He loved them with a childlike heart....
Taking leave of prayer. The uninterrupted communion with the Father begins to break off. Everything recedes now into the land of estrangement...All his life long the Son lived on earth in twosomeness and threesomeness with the Father and the Spirit, but now he falls into the lonesomeness of being merely human, that very loneliness from which he wanted to redeem his fellowmen. His desire was to draw all men (people) into this prayer to preserve them from being forsaken. They were to be with the Father in the Spirit. But this is now taken away from the Son...All this is waiting outside the door, and the door will open. There are many doors, but whichever he chooses, it leads to the Passion.”
From “The Passion From Within” by Adrienne von Speyr
There are so many women and men theologians, and we all have our favorites.
I’m not reading Adrienne this year because I’m trying to stick with my favorite books on St Joseph:
“The Shadow of the Father” (also published as “Discovering St Joseph”) by Fr Andre Doze and
“The Life of St Joseph” by Sister Maria Baij, OSB
But during this season of the Passion I always return to the beautiful writing and brilliant insights of Adrienne. And I turn to the two Passions (John and Matthew) composed by J.S.Bach. Adrienne said something in one of her books which was so poignant, heartbreaking...that I never forgot it and use it in homilies all the time. But I couldn’t find the quote so I’ll have to tell it to you as I remember it. (So I’m obviously paraphrasing!) She said (hold onto your seats) that in Heaven, before the third person of the Blessed Trinity was sent to earth to take a body, “he” was so excited and anxiously awaiting the daily opportunity to tell humans about ,and literally show them the love of the Father. But once he got here, he was shocked at how far we are from God. And how little we wanted to know about God, as is evidenced in the Gospels. He is outright blocked, viewed with insidious jealousy, ridiculed, argued with continually and even called a demon. Any of us who want to bring the love of the Father know this anguished frustration. Part of it is we are broken vessels and easy to write off as so. But the other parts are that people can lack any semblance of humility and refuse to budge from their positions be they the right or left wings of the Church; if you are rigid or absolutist, there’s just no opening. I’m so fond of quoting G.B. Caird in his commentary on Luke, where he says something like “The only requirement for entrance into the kingdom is an emptiness only God can fill.”
I often joke that I was a lot smarter when I was young. Youth can be arrogant with the little knowledge they gain. But I’ve come to appreciate this time of my age where I find myself turning to God with so many unanswered questions and more than willing to wait. I think of St Francis at sunset on 3 October 1226, as he lay dying on the ground, naked, he covered his wound in his side and told those with him, “I have done what was mine to do. May God teach you what you are to do.” All this coming week we watch this innocent man we all love so deeply, go towards his Passion. This past year so many have lived through their own passions physically and spiritually. I know that this week will be like no other because of the many circumstances of this past year. And I am convinced that Graces will flow in some surprising and unexpected ways, because the outpouring of love of the Father never ceases.
Dear Jesus,
Watching you again move toward Calvary and in most ways I feel terribly helpless in the face of the enormous pain and suffering of these days in our world. I can stand beneath the Cross, but I can’t take away the pain or get you or us... down off the Cross. But... I can stand and I won’t leave. And that, as a young man dying of AIDS once told me, is enough and truly comforting. I know there are new graces of life and hope you want to give us this year, just as you did in Advent and the Christmas season. Keep me open to receiving them, and may you continue to teach me what I am to do for you, my dear Lord.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 28 March 2021

Retablo de San Jose Obrero

April 29th, 2021

Retablo de San Jose Obrero

Retablo de San Jose’ Obrero
“Go to Joseph...” (Genesis 41:55)
This beautiful phrase (loved by one of St Joseph’s greatest promoters, the healer and miracle worker of Montreal, St Andre’ Bessette) from the book of Genesis refers to Joseph, whose father Jacob had given Joseph a lovely coat... “Now Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors.” (Genesis 37:3) Incidentally, in the genealogy of Jesus, “the second Joseph’s” father was also named Jacob... “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.” (Matthew 1:16) I love the way there are no accidents with God, even the names of the fathers of the two Josephs who were chosen to nourish Israel both physically and spiritually.
This particular image of St Joseph was a gift to our pastor Msgr Lambert Luna, from the parish of St Joseph on the Rio Grande, for his 40th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood. Joseph has two major feastdays one traditionally commemorates his death, March 19th, the other is May 1, St Joseph the Worker and patron of the Universal Church. When Pope Francis designated this year as the year of Joseph (from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021) I’m certain he was aware that Joseph is also the patron of a “peaceful, happy death.”
This is because he was attended by his wife Mary, Mother of God, and Jesus Christ. With the thousands of deaths this past year, we are all feeling the losses and are calling on St Joseph to attend to the dying.
This most ancient Novena (9 days) prayer to St Joseph has never been known to fail and tradition claims it dates back to the year 50...
Novena To St Joseph
O St Joseph....
Amen
A blessed feast of St Joseph to you all ‼️
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 19 March 2021
NOVENA TO ST. JOSEPH
O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.
O Saint Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly powerful life , I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.
O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Amen

Holy Living Martyr Dianna Ortiz

April 29th, 2021

Holy Living Martyr Dianna Ortiz

Holy Living Martyr Dianna Ortíz
“Close your physical eye, so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye. Then bring what you saw in the dark into the light, so that it may have an effect on others, shining inwards from outside.”
From the incredible deeply spiritual German Artist, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)
When Robert Ellsberg, editor of Orbis Press, published the book “The Blindfold’s Eyes : My Journey From Torture to Truth” by Dianna and Patricia Davis, in 2004, he sent me a copy, I was living in Taos at that time. I sat up reading for hours. I was going to read the whole thing in one sitting. I had the profound impression I was reading the life of a Martyr who had lived to tell her story. I was so deeply affected by the book that while I was reading that night, my friend and author of a book on my icons and images, (“Image to Insight” published by University of New Mexico Press, 2018) John Dadosky called me, and from everything I was experiencing, including sheer grief, terror, horror, as well as Dianna’s radiant holiness, counseled me to finish the book later. I have never read anything like it before or since. I so wish I could have met Dianna, but never did. There have been numerous articles on her life in many newspapers and online, so you can find so much information now. I can think of so many things she can be called upon to intercede for us now. But especially those who suffer daily from PTSD and they desperately need a patron. I don’t think there’s anything she will not understand if you pray to her. Also there are those who feel like they can never be forgiven and who stay outside the Church because of something inside torturing them. Dianna is here for those people too. I’m not quite sure if this is an icon or an image (like Elijah McClain, Matthew Shephard or Rachel Carson) but I’ll let God decide that. I wanted to portray the blood, (red background) the passion she endured (purple Lenten colors) and the turquoise always associated with New Mexico because she grew up here. I also wanted to portray her Radiant Light which grows brighter each day since her passing into God on this past February 19th. One of the articles I read by the priest who anointed her, said the presence of God was palpable in her room as she was dying. I have felt very close to her since her death and pray to her everyday.
(The prayer I chose is an adaptation of the prayer for the feast of St Sebastian from the old Sacramentary. Sebastian lived through the first attempt to kill him by shooting him with arrows. St Irene found him and nursed him back to life. He then confronted Emperor Diocletian, who thought he was dead, and was finally beheaded, 20 January 288.)
“Dear Lord,
Fill us with that spirit of courage which gave Holy Living Martyr Dianna strength to offer her life in faithful witness. Help us to learn from her to cherish Your law and to obey You rather than men or women. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.
Amen”
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 March 2021

Cross of New Life-The Flowering Cross

April 29th, 2021

Cross of New Life-The Flowering Cross

“Cross of New Life:The Flowering Cross” ☦️ (13’6” x 7’9”)
The largest icon of my career is now completed and prepared for its new home. It has been my honor to write the “Cross of New Life: The Flowering Cross”

The ancient Catholic Church has given us the tradition of flowering and jeweled crosses, which are on display in mosaics (specifically in Ravenna, Italy) and paintings throughout the world. This particular Cross is modeled on one by Giotto di Bondone (1226-1337) ... and my additions based on years of looking into painted crosses.
The popular Old English Christmas Carol, inspired the colors of the icon. “The Holly and the Ivy” which dates back before Henry VIII, tells of the lovely green holly producing red berries…
“The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good…”
There are several versions of this Carol, it has become significant for me not only at Christmas time as we wrap the world in red and green, but also watching closely in springtime as trees produce red buds right from the “wounds” in the bark, which become flowers, fruit, or green leaves .
So the Flowering Cross is also, of course, always a sign of the Resurrection to come.
Our Lady of Sorrows, dressed in red, watches over her Son in the round panel at the top. On either side of his body are purple-passion-like panels, 12” x 44”, each bearing 30 bright magenta Japanese stencil flowers which seem to lay nicely next to Jesus’ body, where Giotto uses a very beautiful complex design in his side panels. The cross expertly cut by master woodworker Roberto Lavadie. Our Lady of Sorrows, and the side panels were done in the autumn-winter months 2019. Finally I began the Corpus in January, 2020 and finished April 20, 2020. Marcia Vargas did the gold leafing on the edges of the entire Cross and then Roberto put all the parts together.
This “Cross of New Life: The Flowering Cross” is offered for sale. Price available upon request. Please contact Debra de la Torre at [email protected]
(Professional photograph of the Cross and a photo simulation of the Cross in a church are shown below.)
Only blessings,
Fr William Hart McNichols

The Chair of St Peter

April 29th, 2021

The Chair of St Peter

The Chair of St Peter
“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and walked wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and your arms, and someone else will dress you, and carry you where you do not wish to go.” John 21:18
“Today’s feast, attested as early as the mid-fourth century may have its roots as a Christian substitute for the pagan commemoration of dead relatives and friends celebrated in Rome between 13-22 February. At this commemoration, a chair (cathedra) was left empty for particular deceased persons. Since the actual date of Peter’s death was unknown, it came to be commemorated on 22 February, eventually celebrating his taking pastoral responsibility of the Church of Rome.” From the Ordo, The General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
When I was commissioned to paint/write an icon of The Chair of St Peter I could only contemplate the chair that any Pope would eventually hold, which is the Cross. The legend around the death of St Peter tells us he did not feel worthy to be crucified upright as his Lord Jesus and asked to be crucified upside down. No matter how good or how holy, or how diligently each Pope has ministered to us, they always face incessant criticism and spiritual or actual crucifixion. I have witnessed this in my own brief lifetime from Pope Pius XII to our present day with Pope Francis. This is a very special feastday to honor and pray especially for our blessed Pope Francis.
“...feed the flock of God which is among you, taking care of it, not by constraint, but willingly, according to God, not for filthy lucre’s sake, but voluntarily: neither as lording it over the clergy, but being made a pattern of the flock from the heart. And when the prince of pastors shall appear, you shall receive a never fading crown of glory.” First Letter of St Peter 5:2-4.
“Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.”
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 February 2021

The Revelations of Julian of Norwich

April 29th, 2021

The Revelations of Julian of Norwich

The Revelations of Julian of Norwich
“Pray, even if you feel nothing, see nothing. For when you are dry, empty, sick or weak, at such a time is your prayer most pleasing to God, even though you may find little joy in it. This is true of all believing prayer.”
Lady Julian of Norwich
In 1974 I moved from Boston, where I’d been attending Boston University for art classes and Boston College for philosophy classes, to my hometown of Denver to begin the Art Department at Regis High School. I was 25 and not that much older than my students, and yet, I tried as best as I could to bring something to them. One elder teacher gave me wise advice : “They may not remember a thing you said, but they will remember that you loved them.” And I did - hoping they remember that now. A few Jesuits did not want to live in the large high school so a house was rented and five of us moved in. The house was very close - walking distance- to the school, and it was on Julian street...so it became Julian House. That same year one of my loving mentors Fr John Walsh sent me a British hard back copy of a book on Julian of Norwich, telling me in his note inside the book, “Dear Billy, you will love Julian. She is the most positive and joyful mystic of all, love, Fr Walsh.” Later I sent that book to another mentor and friend Fr James Janda. He was a magnificently gifted poet and had been very impressed by seeing Julie Harris in a one woman play about Emily Dickinson called, “The Belle of Amherst.” So he spent years researching Julian’s life, finding out she was a contemporary of Chaucer and the first known woman to write in Middle English and that she had survived 3 outbreaks of the Black Plague in England. He decided to write a one woman play about her and I was blessed to do the illustrations. The play “Julian” was published by Seabury Press in 1984. Just this past December my dear friend Mirabai Starr and my new friend Fr Matthew Fox did a series of inspiring talks and classes for Shift Network on Lady Julian. I joined them to discuss her on a “first bonus session” and that’s how I finally met Fr Matt. I believe the first available contemporary English translation was printed by Paulist Press in 1977. Mirabai has a beautiful translation “The Showings of Julian of Norwich,” 2013, Hampton Roads Press.
And Matthew just published “Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic and Beyond,” i Universe Press, 2020. I myself had illustrated the play I mentioned showing Julian as a middle aged woman, but I always wanted to show her as the young, bedridden woman just 30 years old. I finally got a commission to paint/write her icon. Since I make my living on this work - I go from commission to commission and can rarely take off to paint someone just because I love them... but I do sometimes anyway ! At 30 Julian had what we now call a NDE - near death experience. It lasted 3 days and when she emerged she began to write her short versions of the Revelations given to her by the Crucified Jesus. Later in her life as an Anchoress (female hermit) she expanded her work into a much longer version. Since that first edition of 1977 there are now numerous translations and luckily, many many books on Lady Julian.
Both TS Eliot and Thomas Merton were astonished by her theological depth and also her “seemingly effortless” ability to convey complex dogmatic - tightrope walks - to the ordinary reader as well as the theologian. She has been a part of my life since I was 25 and I have returned to her often. I could write pages on just how many ways she has influenced my paintings and images before I began my iconographic apprenticeship. But she seems especially available to us now as we live in our own “Anchorholds” during the continuing pandemic; none of us know when it will lift for good. If you want to know her yourself I’d suggest Mirabai’s translation which I mentioned above. I’ll end now with Julian’s final words in the play:
Life
is a precious thing
to me
and a little thing:
my life is a little thing,
when it will end here
is God’s secret.
And the world
is a little thing,
like a hazelnut
in his-her hand -
but it is in his ever-keeping,
it is in his ever-loving,
it is in his ever-making,
how should anything be amiss?
Yes, all shall be well,
and all will be well,
“and thou shalt see thyself
that all manner of thing
shall be well.”
Kind friends,
I pray God grant you
all your good wishes,
desires, and dreams -
it is all in the choosing,
it is all in the asking.
From the play “Julian” by
Fr J. Janda (1936-2010)
Dear Lady Julian
Please help us now to live through these days when we’re not used to this endless seclusion. It makes us often frightened, irritable, tight, inflexible and then ... we become distant from ourselves and God. You chose relative solitude to listen for the voice of God.
And our patron this year, St Joseph, was given a hidden, secluded life to protect Mother and Child; and he was also schooled during his life to listen for the voice of God. Help us, calm us, teach us to wait and trust that God longs to love us evermore deeply and longs to speak with us in our hearts and souls, until our time on earth is completed and we are within God forever.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 February 2021

 

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