June 30th, 2016
Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the Earth.
Inspire us to care for her as well as each other.
Inflame us with the courageous love of Holy Father
Pope Francis to include all people in the voice and
ministry of our Mother Church.
St John XXIII and St John Paul II prayed for a New
Pentecost which has truly, already begun; help us to
receive you Holy Spirit who bring these abundant graces.
Give us wisdom and guidance in our daily lives and lead
us always, through the Gospels into the heart and mind
of Jesus the Lord.
April 19th, 2016
I was asked by Tim Rivera to do something for the room in the Rivera Funeral Home, in Taos New Mexico, which might bring Hope and Comfort to families of all Faiths, as they sit in the main room during a service for their deceased loved ones.
I thought of 3 images of Trees that would convey different seasons, and also the life of the soul.
1 ) Trees of Winter Life
These trees symbolize what seems to be simply cold death, to us who see them.
And yet trees underneath the most bitter and cold snow are not really dead.
A candle burns beneath them symbolizing that they are destined to come back to life. The body dies but the soul is eternal, and the Full Moon is our night light.
2 )Tree of Life
A single pine tree grows out of a sepia-green color.
As it rises, it gains full green and life. The tree is surrounded by a Sun nurturing the climbing growth.
The Rose tops the tree as it's Crown. The Fiery Rose is a famous symbol in T.S Eliot's mystical masterpiece of poetry, The Four Quartets. In the last poem after quoting Julian of Norwich, he ends with:
"When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one."
3 ) Tree of Souls
At Mass we say to God concerning the dead, who have now transformed into souls,
"Welcome them into the light of your face."
How to picture souls rising into a Light which speaks of hope and a beautiful Star guiding them home?
Listening to a book on CDs The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, I heard a longing for an After Life in the two teenagers who are the center of the novel.
In my imagination I saw this Tree.
Fr William Hart McNichols
April 9th, 2016
As we enter Springtime,
I'd like to bring you to Therese.
Although we love all the saints for different reasons, when in great difficulty I always call on her as my 911 Saint . No one else answers so quickly. No one else makes you feel like she knows you and your problems so completely, as if she were your best friend, as Therese.
Several years ago I was living in Arroyo Secco, Northern New Mexico and it was a very harsh winter. Before a Mass on Sunday evening I was praying to her and as I entered the church of the Most Holy Trinity, the music director gave me a book she found that day at an out door sale, it was Kathryn Harrison's Penguin Biography of Therese. It's the most unusual book on Therese , and the one I think she wanted me to read . I've read it several times , I'm reading it right now. What makes it unusual is that Kathryn does her best to try to make Therese real and free from hagiographical touch ups. So that she has been criticized for not understanding the spirituality of the Saint. For me it was just what I needed, in that, it brought me closer to Therese than ever before, and I had first read about her as a child in the Vision Book Series called St Therese and the Roses by Helen Walker Homan. My icon is based on her two names as a Carmelite:
Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
Let me end with the most beautiful poem on St Therese by my deceased friend and mentor Fr Jim Janda:
Therese de l'Enfant Jesus
Clip the bird's
the desire to
the Christ when
only meaning is
an opening rose
as the wafer
and that coughing
means only that
soul will be
from the body
and the only
possible is of
by Fr James Janda +
Fr Bill McNichols
March 27th, 2016
The Risen Lord Appears To His Mother Mary
I think my favorite painting of the Resurrection is the dazzling multicolored rising Lord by Matthias Grunewald where the shroud is lit with color and a large glowing rainbow aureole surrounds Christ. And you often see the stately, serene and victorious Risen Christ in Piero della Francesco's famous painting too. But I chose to copy and simplify the right panel of Rogier van der Weyden's Risen Lord from the Miraflores Triptych because the Lord in this beautiful work seems so tender and still "kind of shaking" as he appears to his mother. Both Teresa of Avila and Ignatius Loyola took for granted that Jesus must have come first to his mother, before anyone else.
At different times in your life, you look into a painting or an icon and it seems exactly right, to speak directly to you as a prayer. I also have a copy of Mark Rothko's "alive" painting called "Saffron:1957" which is a masterpiece evoking pure Resurrection to me.
I hope this icon after van der Weyden will bring you the quiet, momentous moment when Mary first sees her risen son, filled with the movement of sorrow-into- joy she must have felt. A blessed Easter season to you All!
Fr Bill McNichols
Easter Sunday 2016
March 23rd, 2016
Holy Week and Our Lady of Magadan
I believe it was during this same time, Holy Week in 1994 that I completed this commission for (now deceased) Archbishop Hurley of Anchorage, Alaska to give to the Orthodox Bishop of Magadan, Far East, Russia. Magadan is so distant it's not called Siberia , but Far East it's actually "above" Japan and only 4 hours flight from Anchorage, in the Bay of the Sea of Ohotsk.
Archbishop Hurley wanted to open a Catholic parish in Magadan and he longed to give a gift of an appropriate icon.
Magadan was a concentration camp of the former Soviet Union from 1938 under Stalin until it closed in 1955 under Krushchev. No one knows how many thousands of people died in the prison camps and are buried there. I traveled there in October 1995, and could write many pages on my short but indelible visit; most of all I remember the incredible generosity of the Pastor Fr Michael Shields and the Russian people. And I also visited the Lavra (monastery) of St Sergius of Radonezh, where the Orthodox monks commissioned another icon, Our Lady of Pochaev, which is now in their monastery church. An honor I will never forget.
When designing the icon for Magadan, with its tragic history, I could only imagine a Pieta. I added the pastel or Easter colors to give a sense of what the grieving Mother would soon experience through her Risen Son.
I dedicate the icon and the prayers it hopefully inspires, this year, to the grieving people in Brussels, Belgium and to anyone suffering from a recent loss.
Fr Bill McNichols
Holy Week 2016
March 11th, 2016
Mary, Mother of Mercy
(Dedicated to Pope Francis in this Year of Mercy)
"...Send your Spirit and consecrate
everyone of us with its
anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy
may be a year of grace
from the Lord, and your
Church, with renewed enthusiasm,
may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to the captives and the
oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.
We ask this through the intercession of
Mary, Mother of Mercy,
you who live and reign with the
Father and the Holy Spirit
forever and ever.
After hearing the truly good news that Pope Francis had planned to consecrate us all in a Year of Mercy, I immediately went looking for a prototype of an icon I could give to people wanting to pray with an icon of Mary and the Child. While looking at many "tenderness icons" I found instead, the Terebinskaya Icon, which is probably one of the happiest icons I have ever seen. This icon caused me to reexamine the whole concept of the joyful effects of Mercy. It would evoke the blessings on the merciful from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount ....how happy, how blessed are the merciful!
Our Mother is praying in the ancient "orans" position with hands outstretched and raised while looking tenderly, with so much love at her Child. The Child seems to literally dance upon the world, as Holy Wisdom in Proverbs 8:30, 31.
As the Messiah he is always bringing, and playfully showering his abundant gifts upon our world.
I used the same green atmosphere around the world as in the Viriditas Icon commissioned by Loyola Chicago last year , to show that , not only is mercy alive, but it continues to actually transform our natural world. For us who at times can be severely limited in our ability to know how to forgive and be merciful, this Child can open and easily create infinite possibilities in our everyday lives - still unknown to us, for the miracles of mercy to happen.
Fr Bill McNichols
February 17th, 2016
Variation On Our Lady of Sorrows
"For I know that my redeemer lives ..."
As a part of the Passion Triptych I had painted (written) an icon of Our Lady of Sorrows that shows the Blessed Mother lifting up one empty hand, the very hand that once held the Christ Child. We see this mother almost every night on tv news, bereft and grieving over the loss of some child or children in one or another recent accident, incident of violence or natural disaster. Then there are flowers brought by people to the scene of death or to the family.
In this image I wanted to symbolically represent both the mother and the flowers.
We usually associate white lilies with Easter. Yet during Lent we are not yet witnessing the Resurrection yet . And so the red lilies speak of the Passion; of the three days before Easter and the passion of terrible grief and loss. God can and will turn our grief into joy, someday - even during our life on earth. And we wait, sometimes for years, in the most stark faith and dark night for Him to return.
Having worked in a hospice for so many years I learned, slowly, reverently, that grief has its own time. You cannot set a time for anyone's grief to end. The Book of Job cautions us about being glib or judgmental with easy answers because we cannot bear to be with someone too long in their grief. Gustavo Gutierrez' book on Job has the most comforting "answer" to Job's grief, that in the end It is simply God's presence, appearance to Job that heals his grief; not an explanation.
And so this symbolic picture of Mary inside the Passion of her Son is a reminder that hers and our grief will one day change with the apparition of the Risen Lord, however and in what way, He chooses to come to us.
Fr Bill McNichols
Passion Triptych http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/passion-triptych-william-hart-mcnichols.html
February 17th, 2016
For Lent 2016: Jesus Christ Morning Star
(Jesucristo El Lucero Radiante del Alba)
Following the murders in 1999 of the teenagers at Columbine High School in Colorado , I began to imagine creating an Icon of Jesus as a teenager. It seems that the world children have inherited is increasingly impossible for them to bear. With the recent massive number of deaths, in so many ways, we all feel the stalking presence of evil.
In 2001 Olga Torres-Reid invited me to create an altar for the Day of the Dead, in an exhibit, held in Taos, New Mexico entitled "Sobre Muerte" which placed me directly at the center of this tension. Death itself is not evil. St Francis of Assisi spoke to death as our friend, Sister Death. However the deliberate murder of innocent people is evil. How to respond to this conflict? Bringing the teenage Christ into the worl , gave me an opportunity to respond through art.
The frame was carved for this exhibit by my friend, the master woodworker and Santero, Roberto Lavadie. I had seen the haunting image of the skull with wings during my years of study in Boston, on the old New England gravestones. What does it mean for a skull to have wings?
I painted the frame black and white and brought a Taos teenager, as Christ, into the ominous landscape and sky, as the color , the light , and the life in the midst of death. Before I finished this work, the horrendous disaster of September 11 shook the world and so I painted the wounds onto the hands of Christ. Jesucristo El Lucero Radiante del Alba comes from the last chapter of the Apocalypse (Revelation), chapter 22 verse 16:
"I am the Light of the Dawn or the Bright Morning Star."
Though surrounded by darkness, death has no dominion over the youthful Lord of Life.
Fr Bill McNichols
Lent of 2016
February 17th, 2016
Michele L. Catanese has a Master’s degree in Christian Spirituality as well as certification as a Spiritual Director and Retreat Director from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. She was a Religious of the Cenacle for 7 years during which time she began training as a Spiritual director. In addition to Creighton University, she did her theological studies at St. Vincent’s Seminary in Latrobe, PA, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA, and Boston College in Boston, MA. She taught Theology, primarily Scripture and Christian Spirituality, at the high school level for 22 years and she offered faith formation, spiritual consultation, and educational formation for faculty. Michele has also taught adult education courses on Scripture, Prayer, and Christian Spirituality. She has given various seminars, days of prayer, and retreats in a number of cities and she has practiced spiritual direction since 1986.
January 26th, 2016
The Silence of St Thomas Aquinas ( feast day January 28 )
In my six year apprenticeship with master Iconographer, Friar Robert Lentz, OFM, I began to experience the importance of the silent mystery in so many enigmatic icons, such as Mother of God Similar to Fire and Jesus Christ Redeemer Holy Silence. I think in the West we are uncomfortable with mystery and silence. We want an immediate explanation of what we are looking at in a work of art, but that kind of impatience will only frustrate the viewer of icons.
This icon of Thomas Aquinas deferring to an apparition of Holy Wisdom, is the result of reading two books on the Angelic Doctor:
Aquinas Search For Wisdom by Vernon Bourke and Silence of St Thomas by Josef Pieper.
(we ) "...man, in his philosophical inquiry, is faced again and again with the experience that reality is unfathomable and Being is mystery - an experience, it is true, which urges him not so much to communicate as to silence. But it would not be the silence of resignation, and still less the silence of despair. It would be the silence of reverence."
Happy Feast Day Angelic Doctor St Thomas!