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Ave Maris Stella Hail Star Of The Sea

August 9th, 2019

Ave Maris Stella Hail Star Of The Sea

AVE MARIS STELLA
Hail Star of the Sea!
Hail Lady Mary,
our gentle candle
in the darkness!
Send us the light
when we are
falling into sorrow
when we are
cast about by waves
of fear and anger
when we are
drowning in despair.
O Mother of Holy Hope
renew us with the
child-like trust and joy
of your son Jesus.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
4 August 2019

St Ignatius Amidst Alaska

August 9th, 2019

St Ignatius Amidst Alaska

St Ignatius Amidst Alaska
“...at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth...”
Philippians 2:10 (King James Bible)
Of all the many icons and numerous drawings I’ve done of St Ignatius, this is my personal favorite. When I was a Jesuit novice in 1968, there was a joke often told , that went something like this. An old Jesuit was dying and he was showing considerable fear. A fellow Jesuit near him, could not understand and reminded him that he was a good man and had nothing to fear from God. The old man responded, it’s not God I’m afraid of, it’s St Ignatius !
The first time I heard that joke I didn’t laugh, but felt very sad that many Jesuits felt that way, and most of the the portrait art, of a chilly, austere, and severe man, had something to do with it. That was one of the turning points for me in terms of St Ignatius. There are two others I feel I can talk about. Another was an encounter with two comments made by Adrienne von Speyr . The first comment was that “No one points to God with such shrewd intelligence as St Ignatius.” The other was “St Ignatius has gotten to know St John the Evangelist in Heaven, and if he could start his order (the Society of Jesus) over again, he would wish it to be more Johannine.” So one incident in the late 60’s and another in the mid-90’s, set flame to a lingering desire to do my best to make Ignatius not just more approachable, but loved.
During the 1990’s I used to go to Holy Spirit Jesuit Retreat house in Anchorage, Alaska to give retreats on certain themes. During those times a friend of mine, Maureen Cowles talked the retreat house staff into ordering an icon (my first Mary Magdalen) of “St. Mary Magdalen Apostle to the Apostles.”
(http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/…/st-mary-magdalen-…) After that icon, more came, one very large icon of “the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life” (http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/…/the-holy-spirit-t…) another of “The Woman Given Eagle’s Wings”and a companion piece, to the hunted Woman of the Apocalypse or Revelation, “St Ignatius Amidst Alaska.” I’d very much like to discuss the Woman from the Apocalypse sometime - because the icon is so relevant today, and when I was speaking at Georgetown, I had the privilege to work with Craig R. Koester the author of two books on the Book of Revelation. His love and scholarship, changed my mind and heart about the meaning of a book which has always been thought of as a tragic and violent end. That blog is coming sometime soon, perhaps in another Marian month (like May) ...in August which, like December, has three Marian feasts. The Assumption, The Queenship, and Our Lady of Knock, Ireland. My question at the time of the commission, is how to connect the two icons ? If you put them together they are companions. But what connects them ?
The image of the Woman being hunted, because she is pregnant with the Word is given Eagle’s Wings to escape the devouring dragon. Ignatius is in adoration of the face of Christ , portrayed in the Orthodox way of the icon of the Mandylion or Face of Christ , because the Orthodox Church were the first to bring Christianity into Alaska.
In this icon I “felt” Ignatius adoration and immense love of Jesus. At times in his personal diary, he records the fact that, at times, during Mass, he would have to stop because he was weeping , overcome with emotion.
“The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them.”
Mark Rothko
As a final aside, the only time I’ve wept in an exhibit, was in New York walking into a room full of Rothko’s...
PS) just look into Rothko’s painting, “Saffron, 1957.”
For 31 July 2019
Fr Bill McNichols

St John the Theologian

August 9th, 2019

St John the Theologian

St John the Theologian
“It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards, even unto our names.”
Yann Martel, “Life of Pi”
“Who’s gonna pay attention
To your dreams ?”
The Cars
The words from the strangely enigmatic novel by Yann Martel, are quoted at the beginning of Robert Ellsberg’s newest book, “A Living Gospel : Reading God’s Story in Holy Lives.” I loved the book, “Life of Pi,” and I confess I watched Ang Lee’s adaptation on film every single night for two weeks, before I left Taos to move to Albuquerque in 2013. I have not watched it since that time, but it was a healing transition story, and as real art does, it got me through the wrenching move.
Visually, it’s one of the most beautiful movies ever made, but for me, all of Ang Lee’s movies are near perfect, without being so tight that they squeeze the life out of anything or anyone in the films. I think for instance, of that opening of “Brokeback Mountain.” You see the lights in the early morning darkness (signaling the spiritual desolation of isolated western lands) a large truck driving alone, dwarfed against an enormous mountain landscape, and you hear one note of a guitar, so poignant and lonely, it sets the mood for the entire needless tragedy which follows. Then you see obvious stark silhouette Crosses of telephone poles that prophesy innocent and brutal death to come.
For my 70th birthday, Robert gave me his book with a cover of a beautiful old icon, in the style of Simon Ushakov, similar to my icon of St John the Theologian. I was very blessed in so many ways, to visit Robert and Monica Ellsberg for my birthday, one I’ll never forget, because of their flowing, freely given hospitality, kindness and joy. So I decided to tell you a little about this wonderful book, and save my reflections on St John for another time. I love John and have so much I’d like to share of my growing understanding of him. In my 40’s I was able to read Adrienne von Speyr’s four volumes on John’s Gospel, which she claims were dictated by St. John himself. Those books are so rich with inspired insight, one paragraph is enough for a day.
I read almost all of Robert’s book on the plane ride home from New York, through Atlanta, and then home to Albuquerque. Most of the time in my life, (although like all of us I’ve had some pretty harrowing flights and lengthy bouts of purgatory in impossibly noisy airports) plane rides are natural spiritual experiences for me. They can be almost “brief retreats” where I’m literally lifted up and my attitude or heart, reaches for the Transcendent.
Although the book is only 157 pages, and written in a warm, personal and seemingly effortless way, anyone who struggles to live the vocation of an writer/artist and activist knows that this book took all of 64 years (Roberts age now) to write. It’s a book you want to read to someone you love, out loud, just like when someone read to you as a child. And in my opinion, someday another artist, will be writing such a book about Robert and Monica too. Robert has written at least 6 books about hundreds of saints and not yet canonized holy women and men, and edited at least 14. He is also editor of Orbis Books. I don’t know of any more fluent and gifted living hagiographer. He is capable of lengthy portraits and those in brilliant “Haiku-like -briefness” he writes for the daily Catholic missalette , published every month, “Give Us This Day.” Finally let me quote from Robert’s introduction and the very end of the book :
“It is a mistake to think that only officially canonized saints can open our hearts to the sacred, or inspire us to love our neighbors or stand up for a just cause. The power of great minds and souls is not restricted to those who pass the rigorous test of canonization. I find encouragement from no less a source than Pope Francis, who organized his talk before Congress in 2015 around ‘four great Americans’: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day herself - only two of them Catholics, only one of them an actual candidate for canonization. Such figures,he said, offer ‘a new way of seeing and interpreting reality.’ In those words, I dare say the pope has offered a new way of seeing and interpreting the function of saints.
But that wide perspective extends far beyond Pope Francis or Dorothy Day. We might trace it back to the gospels and see how often Jesus looked past the good religious people of his day to exalt those on the margins - whether outsiders, foreigners, or ‘sinners’ - as models of faith and charity. We should also recall how Jesus described the criteria of our salvation: ‘I was hungry and you fed me ... I was a stranger and you welcomed me... I have spent a large portion of my life reflecting on the saints, drawn not just by their heroic virtue and noble achievements but by the story that God tells us through their lives. By reading those stories,we may become more adept at discerning the presence of God in our own story...as Jean Pierre de Causadde wrote ,
‘Our lives become a parchment; our suffering and our actions are the ink. The workings of the Holy Spirit are the pen, and with it God writes a Living Gospel.’”
Robert Ellsberg - A Living Gospel
Fr Bill McNichols 17 July 2019 St Alexis Day

Robert A Johnson in the Golden World

August 9th, 2019

Robert A Johnson in the Golden World

“Robert A Johnson in the Golden World” (26 May 1921 - 12 September 2018)
“You are precious in my eyes.”
Isaiah 43:4
“Teach us the shortness of our lives that we may gain wisdom of heart.”
Psalm 90:12
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God...”
Ephesians 2:8
In a few days,I will turn 70.
Through the magic of the internet I found out I was born on Sunday, July 10th 1949, and that night the Moon was full. I was also born in St Joseph’s Hospital, in Denver, Colorado. St Teresa of Avila advises in her autobiography, that to “find” the contemplative life, you can have no better guide than St Joseph. For the past 7 years I have been helping out at St Joseph’s Church and each time I drive up to that church, I’m aware it’s St Joseph’s. I imagine we all have similar experiences (slender threads) that teach us who we are.
There was a popular children’s rhyme, similar to the song Simon and Garfunkel sang, “April, Come She Will,” that gave a personality trait to a child born on each day of the week; “Sunday’s child belongs to God.” My Mother told me later that both my Grandmothers had predictions for me. My Grandmother McNichols said “He will be your tallest boy, even taller than his father.” My Grandmother Hart said “Don’t get too close to this one, he belongs to God.” Seventy years later I’m still wondering, praying, hoping that “just being open to God and who He designed me to be “ as the cliche goes, is hopefully beginning to fulfill that prediction of my Grandmother Hart. I admit when I heard it from my Mom, it frightened me and “chilled me to my bones.” Throughout my childhood I thought it meant I could never be close to anyone, that I belonged to everyone and no one, that I was in essence a “boy in the bubble.” Had I heard Robert Johnson’s definition of being claimed by the inner life I think I could have grown into the call more gracefully, but his autobiography was published in 1998.
One of my most beloved and wisest of mentors, Fr John J Walsh, SJ told me when I was about 25, “At the end of your life all you remember is the great Loves of your life.” He meant this in the same way as the famous saying attributed to The Servant of God (meaning he’s now being considered for canonization) Fr Pedro Arrupe, SJ : “Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything...” For me this has included people I’ve loved since childhood, family, extended family, as well as saints, authors, artists, teachers, priests, nuns, wisdom guides of other faiths, places ... and “places” in the sense of the magnificent book by Gaston Bachelard, “The Poetics of Space.”
At the age of 27 I was introduced to the great Jungian writer, Robert A Johnson’s book on masculine psychology, called simply “He.” I have always learned best, through stories, so Johnson’s telling of the legend of Parsifal, as a way of mapping out some path for the growth and gaining wisdom of a young man, was perfect for me. I had already stumbled onto this “way” as a child by reading 4 little lives of saints by Daniel Lord, SJ.
But it wasn’t until I was 53 that I found Robert Johnson’s autobiography (with Jerry Ruhl) called “Balancing Heaven and Earth.” In it he tells his life story in the most unusual, respectful way. This is not a “tell all” book but more the life of a soul and the finding of his vocation. When Robert was 27 (see his autobiography) Carl Jung told him that he had been claimed by the inner life. This call or claim would entail that he depend on “slender threads” to lead him from one person or work to the next ... for me it also was another way to explain the idea of a contemplative vocation to both single and married people, who come to me for counsel. Often they respond to a new or contemporary language about something in Catholic Christianity that is very ancient.
In a few very blessed moments, in Robert Johnson’s life, he also experienced the opening of Heaven or as he calls it the Golden World. Both St Hildegard of Bingen and the Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk had similar experiences as children and as adults. I painted this image (rather than icon) of Robert Johnson to honor his entire life of pointing to the “Always Transcendent.”
July 2019
Fr Bill McNichols

San Jose En El Rio Grande

August 9th, 2019

San Jose En El Rio Grande

San Jose En El Rio Grande
Happy Father's Day
Dear St Joseph,
You alone were chosen by the Heavenly Father to love, guide and protect the Mother of God and Jesus the Son of God. You carefully walked with them until it was time for God to take you Home.
Walk beside us too St. Joseph in our brief time on earth and be with us most especially in our dying hours, as Mary and Jesus were with you.
Pray with us that we may pass over the waters of death, and into the Light of the Presence of our Heavenly Father Forever and Ever,
Amen.
16 June 2019

Prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk

August 9th, 2019

Prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk

“There is only Christ : He is everything and He is in everything.” Colossians 3 : 11
In commemoration of my 40th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ , 25 May 1979, I am offering a prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk. I believe that Nicholas Black Elk and St Hildegard of Bingen are The Two Visionaries who offer in their lives and writings a most blessed theology of continued care for God’s Creation, and Our Mother Earth. Separated by over 800 years, each was given visions which are essential and crucial for all of us today.
Fr William Hart McNichols 25 May 2019
Prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk
by Mitakuye Oyasin
“ Grandfather! Great Spirit!
Behold us, who stand
before you, singing our
song of thanksgiving, for
your servant, Nicholas Black Elk.
Faithfully he walked the
Sacred Red Road
and generously witnessed the
Good News of Our Lord,
Jesus Christ among
Native people.
Grandfather, we humbly ask
you to hear the prayers
we plead through his intercession.
We ask Holy Mother Church
to recognize his sanctity, by
acknowledging his presence
among the company of the
saints and as one to
imitate in his zeal for the
Gospel.
Open our hearts to also
recognize the Risen Christ
in other cultures and people’s,
to the glory and honor of
God the Father.
Amen”

San Isidro Feast day is May 15

June 4th, 2019

San Isidro Feast day is May 15

San Isidro y Santa Maria y Niño : San Isidro’s Feast day is May 15
by John D. Dadosky
This image actually recounts two saints. San
Isidro (1070–1130) is especially popular
within the Spanish-speaking Catholic communities
in New Mexico. In Spain, his wife Santa Maria (feast day 9 September)
della Cabeza (d. 1175) is often prayed to in times
of drought.
San Isidro, also known as San Isidro the farmer or
laborer, was born in Madrid in 1070. As a young
man he took employment working on a farm and
labored there for the rest of his life. He married
Maria Torribia, who also became a saint along
with him. She is also known as Santa Maria della
Cabeza, or St. Maria of the head, because the
relic of her head was often used in processions
and for veneration and intercession.
Both saints lived their lives as peasants.
They had only one child, who died in his youth.
They are unique in that they are one of the few
examples of married saints. They also serve as
patron saints to parents who have lost children,
and they serve as patron saints of marriage. In
order to emphasize these two aspects of their
lives, Bill places the family together in this icon.
The husband embraces his family, expressing
admiration and devotion. The mother gazes
affectionately on the boy. The hand gestures of
each figure serve to unite the three figures in the
image, thus opening up the opportunity for the
viewer to begin to resonate with the loss the parents
must have felt when their boy died. There is a
particular depth to grief when a parent outlives a
child. It seems to go against nature. The hole that
the lost child left in their lives became a point for
their mutual compassion and saintliness toward
each other and toward others.
From: IMAGE to INSIGHT
The Art of William Hart McNichols
John D. Dadosky

St Joseph the Worker

May 3rd, 2019

St Joseph the Worker

St Joseph the Worker - May 1st.
By Robert Ellsberg - Author of numerous books about the saints, and Editor of Orbis Books .
“In early centuries, veneration of St Joseph received little encouragement. Much later, in the sixteenth century, St Joseph, in a somewhat romanticized image of the Holy Family, began to figure more widely in popular preaching as the ideal ‘provider and protector.’ In 1870 Pope Pius IX declared him Patron of the Universal Church.
In 1955, however, Pope Pius XII assigned a new feast, May 1, dedicated to St Joseph the Worker. No doubt this was in some ways an effort to assert a Christian hold on a date celebrated by socialists throughout the world as International Worker’s Day. Through St Joseph - now remembered not just as the spouse of Mary and the surrogate father of Jesus, but as a carpenter - the Church found an emblem of Catholic social teaching on the dignity of work and the rights of working people.
Among those who had intuited this connection was Dorothy Day, cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement. Under the patronage of St Joseph, she chose May 1, 1933, to launch her newspaper at a Communist rally in New York city’s Union Square. She wrote: ‘For those who think that there is no hope for the future, no recognition of their plight - this little paper is addressed. It is printed to call their attention to the fact that the Catholic Church has a social program-
to let them know that there are men of God (and we’d add women today...)who are working not only for their spiritual but for their material welfare.’ “
From Give Us This Day ... May 1st.
St Joseph,
in the night
you teach a
hidden way of
retreat in silence,
or in obedience
to dreams.
But by day,
you lead us
in a prayer,
which is simply
to watch
Mother with
Child.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
May 1, 2019

Saint Gemma Galgani

May 3rd, 2019

Saint Gemma Galgani

Saint Gemma Galgani
by John D. Dadosky
From the book ”Image to Insight” UNM Press 2018
Gemma Galgani (1878–1903) was born on
March 12, 1878, in the village of Lucca in
Italy. She lost her beloved mother at the age of
seven. Gemma’s life is characterized by what in
Eastern Christianity is called a podvig—a soul that
suffers spiritually or carries a heavy burden, not for
needless martyrdom but for the sake of others.
She was a mystic who experienced supernatural
visions and physical infirmities. There were some
who persistently questioned the authenticity of
her experiences. At one point she nearly died as a
result of meningitis and was healed, she claimed,
as a result of her intercession to St. Gabriel Possenti
(1838–1862). The latter was a member of the
Passionist community, a community that became
very attractive to Gemma because she identified
with their charism, which focuses on the passion,
suffering, and death of Jesus Christ. She lived a
quiet life, but her interior life was quite active. A
pleasant, quiet, and beautiful young woman, she
refused marriage proposals because she insisted
that she was to be the spouse of Christ. She eventually
received the stigmata, or mystical wounds
of Christ. The wounds would appear on Thursday
evenings and would last for a couple days while she
underwent periods of ecstasy. Afterward she would
return to her normal life.
She died of tuberculosis on April 11, 1903,
during Holy Week. The priest attending her
deathbed reported that she died with a smile on
her face. She was canonized a saint in 1940. Her
feast day is April 11.
Gemma Galgani lived a relatively short life,
but as with many of the saints, her actual temporal
life was like a seed from which an intergenerational
significance sprang forth. The legacy
of these saints persists and accumulates over
generations, and people recognize many things
they can identify with in the saints. In Gemma’s
case her life was quite unique and was filled with
mystical experiences of the passion of Christ.20
There is a certain paradox in Gemma’s life:
while she longed to join the Passionist religious
order during her life, she was prevented from
doing so due to complex circumstances. When
St. Gabriel Possenti appeared to her during her
sickness, she claimed he told her that she was a
Passionist, indicating that it was not necessary for
her to officially join the order. Even though she
never formally became a Passionist in her life time,
today the order claims her as a saint. In this way,
Gemma stands for all of those who feel deeply that
they have vocations in the church but do not have
official or former avenues in order to express them.
Gemma’s vocation matches one of the key teachings
of Vatican II: true communion occurs primarily
according to internal and not external criteria.21
The inspiration for this image was a picture
of Our Lady holding her hands out in prayer at
Pentecost. This image enabled Bill to show the
wounds of the stigmata. The colors reflect the
season of Lent, and she wears the black of a Passionist
habit. Her heart is surrounded with the
crown of thorns, which reflects the spirituality of
the Passionists in their motto: “May the Passion
of Christ always be in our hearts.” It also reveals
the truth of such suffering—the expanding heart
of mercy and compassion.
Because of her experience of the spirituality
of the passion, she was important for Bill during
his work in the 1980s with people with AIDS. He
interceded to her on behalf of many of the victims
to whom he ministered.

Notre Dame

May 3rd, 2019

Notre Dame

The whole world grieves the tragic fires in Our Lady of Paris "Notre Dame of Paris". This is an illustration from The Cathedral Book, 1982, Paulist Press
The Memorare
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins my mother! To you I come; before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen

 

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