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Jesus Christ Seraphic Guardian of the Spilled Blood

April 28th, 2017

Jesus Christ Seraphic Guardian of the Spilled Blood

Jesus Christ Seraphic Guardian of the Spilled Blood

Here it is just near the beginning of May and why write a blog about this icon concerning the Wounds? Two reasons :
1) The Season of Easter is the season of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus where he shows us his wounds
2) I am corresponding with a dear Sister in Norwich (Great Britain) who has a metal print of this icon and I owe her an explanation, so ....

Dear Sister,
I've been meaning to write to you for months, about this icon, but now in the Easter season (as well as Autumn when Francis and Padre Pio received the Wounds) seems to be a good time ......One very curious observation and question ; more women have received the wounds than men. Doesn't this make them a second Christ or an icon or image of Christ? With all these contemporary battles in the church about men and women ...I wonder.
We believe the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and my understanding of the gospels is that His body was healed of all the horrific damage of His flagellation and crucifixion, except the five wounds. Have you ever wondered why? Well, I have for over 60 years. In the New Mexican Church which is the oldest tradition in the US, over 500 years, there is also a devotion to the shoulder wound, where he carried the Cross, as well as the other five.
I believe my understanding of the passion, blood and wounds of Christ come very early from my elementary teachers, the Sisters of the Precious Blood. These women laid the groundwork of a devotion, quite naturally, (almost like osmosis) and I drew my first Crucifixion at age 5.
Suffice it to say this pull towards the Wounds of Christ, as well as wounded saints, has been the subject of many drawings and paintings in my life . I am most fond of the painting of Francis receiving the Wounds hanging in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard by Taddeo Gaddi (I once made a retreat in Boston where I visited this painting every day) and of course the Giotto's in Florence and Assisi. This particular two winged Seraph is a copy of a fresco by Giotto I saw in a book in 1992 and cannot find it now, or I'd tell you where to look. Around the same time two events occurred in the News which sparked my desire to paint the Seraph for all those people who are tragically killed and especially the ones no one hears about or knows. The first event was the finding of the Romanov bodies or charred remains in Ekaterinburg, Russia. The second was the violent murder of 22 year old Navy officer Allen Schindler, who was beaten to death because he was gay, by two other fellow shipmates in Sasebo, Nagasaki.
The Russian Orthodox decided to build a church on the spot of the Romanov burial ground called "The Church On The Spilled Blood." I thought to myself , in the west we would never call a church by that graphic, yet profoundly evocative title. Then, I decided to honor every human tragic murder with an icon of Christ which would say in painted form, the words of God in the King James Version of Genesis 4:10 "What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground!"
The late Prophet Daniel Berrigan once said that the first murder in the Bible was a brother killing a brother, and it's been that way ever since.
We all have wounds. Some are hidden, some are even beneficial in that they awaken compassion for others .... and some cause us to wound others. I know for me, mine won't stay hidden so I'm trying to use them to feel the wounds of others as was the idea behind Henri Nouwen's famous book " The Wounded Healer." I'm afraid this is not always the case with Henri or myself. Yet is this the reason the Wounds of Jesus and our wounds do not disappear? Of course Christ was innocent and never intentionally hurt anyone, and as Isaiah said ( 53:5 ) "By his stripes we are healed." Yet we can work toward our wounds being a source of healing for us and others in this way... let me end with one of my favorite stories of the Wounds of St Francis.
The Friars would have to change the bandages that wrapped Francis' stigmata. Instead of disposing of them, they would drop them in buckets of water to feed the sick people and animals and all the "two legged and four legged" (as Native peoples say) creatures would get well.
My intention for this icon was/is that gazing on the Innocent One Wounded By and For Us, would bring about such love for him that we would begin to try and heal one another, not by hiding our wounds, but by using them to see and understand as many forms of human suffering that God wills to show us.
With love and continual gratitude to you dear Sister,
Fr Bill
27 April 2017

The Risen Christ Appears to His Mother

April 15th, 2017

The Risen Christ Appears to His Mother

The Risen Christ Appears to His Mother

We all see Jesus differently, and my image of Jesus was forever and dramatically changed at age 19 when Fr John J Walsh, SJ showed us in the Jesuit Novitiate in Florissant, Missouri, Piero Pasolini’s black and white film made in 1964 : The Gospel According to St Matthew. Before the film was released, the churches were poised and ready to condemn it, as Pasolini was well known to be a gay man with communist leanings. Yet when it finally came out, most churches realized no one had ever made such a stark and beautiful film about Christ and the Catholic Church gave it their annual film award. Like many masterpieces of the past, in art, music and film it’s difficult to re-create the impact this film had on everyone. Pasolini filmed it in the poor hill towns of Italy. It’s as far from a Hollywood Jesus or film about a Him, as you can possibly get. The soundtrack is likewise unique in its use of Bach, the African Mass, Missa Luba, and the Black American spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child.” I could write a very long time on the impact this one work of art still has on me. But it’s mainly Jesus, played by the only Spaniard in the film, Enrique Irazoqui, that changed me , turned me upside down, inside n’ out and made my love for Jesus burst into flame and grow immensely. Such is the power of the Holy Spirit working through an artist who is empty enough to be used by God.
I’ll just mention two of the film’s unforgettable scenes : one is the Child Jesus running on a beach-like landscape in Egypt, into the arms of the waiting Joseph while Mary looks on with deep love, at a distance. Another is Jesus kneeling in prayer with his head partially covered by a dark mantle, in which your own soul feels and copies His prayer just by watching. I can still see and feel these scenes in my heart and soul.
Although the Gospels are silent about this, St Teresa of Avila and St Ignatius Loyola (out of many, many of church mystics) could not but help imagine that the Risen Lord would appear first of all to His waiting Mother.
Many paintings show a triumphant, even muscular, Risen Lord. And icons generally show Him actively breaking down the gates of death or Hades, trampling the devil, and grabbing the wrists of Adam and Eve - then freeing all the Old Testament saints within.
At the heart of many of the recent Marian Apparitions is a prophecy that the church will undergo death and resurrection, (and then a New Pentecost) to be conformed to its Savior, the Lamb of God. During this Lent and Easter we cannot help but contemplate the staggering new pageant of innocent victims across the world, who in their deaths join the immense Retinue of the Lamb, portrayed in the Apocalypse (book of Revelation). For this reason, I chose to turn for inspiration concerning a Risen Jesus, to one of many of Rogier van der Weyden’s masterpieces, of a “still shaking, visibly vulnerable” Risen Christ appearing to his Mother.

A blessed Joyfilled Easter!
Fr Bill McNichols

Stations of the Cross

April 7th, 2017

Stations of the Cross

STATIONS OF THE CROSS
The Stations of the Cross of a Person With AIDS, written and illustrated by William Hart
McNichols. This piece was composed in 1989 when there was little in the way of treatment for those
with AIDS. Although treatment has become wonderfully more effective AIDS continues to be a life
threatening disease of even greater global consequence than it was when these prayers were written.

Dedication
These Stations are dedicated to three women
who walk courageously, faithfully, and lovingly,
beside those living and dying with AIDS...
Cissy Therese Grace
Louise Hay
Sister Patrice Murphy
Copyright © 1989 by William Hart McNichols
All Rights Reserved
Electronically Republished with the Permission of the Author


Foreword
Father McNichols has accompanied many an AIDS sufferer on the journey towards death. He has
participated as a friend in that journey and has been powerfully transformed by it.
In this short work he conveys to us, in the imagery and symbol of the stations of the Cross, the insight his
experiences have given him into the way persons with AIDS share in the sufferings of Christ. He enables his
readers to stand, as it were, at the foot of the bed just as the loyal disciples once stood at the foot of the cross
on Calvary.
I am happy to commend this work. May it be fruitful in stirring up understanding and compassion for those
affected by AIDS. May it spur us all to be with these suffering brothers and sisters as they journey toward
the Lord.
Raymond C Hunthausen
Archbishop of Seattle

Introduction
A few years ago I was asked to speak to a religious community of men about the work I had been doing with
people with AIDS.
We talked casually, back and forth, for a long time. Then one of the men decided to zero in. He asked me if I
ever saw Christ on the Cross in any of the people suffering. The question startled me because I had brought
with me a graphic depiction of an AIDS Crucifixion I had drawn during the previous Lent, and I had already
shown it to the group. Then the man began to get to his real question. What he wanted to know was how the
work had affected me personally. I answered quickly that I did not envision myself on the Cross because of
the ministry, but that I was more in the position of Mary or the beloved John standing near the one on the
Cross. He was not satisfied and persisted with, “But have you ever wondered what you are doing there? Why
has God brought you so close to the Cross?” I mumbled something coherent, as I remember now, but felt
more like a whole well of past sorrow was about to erupt. I saw vision after vision of people I had gotten to
know and lovespent so much time with. I saw again their suffering for innumerable reasons. I saw their
abandonment at times, and I left that evening with the question reverberating inside of me.
I, like many Christians of all persuasions, have been taught by the mystics and the saints that to know Jesus
one must ask to be near him in his suffering. When Julian of Norwich actually begged for this experience,
she was given a most extraordinary spiritual revelation from a vision of Christ Crucified which has fed
people for centuries. And of course there is Francis of Assisi who all but became Christ Crucified near the
end of his life when he was wounded with the stigmata.
Meditations on The Way of the Cross were originally made popular by the Franciscan mysticism which
spread like a brush fire after Francis’ death. I draw from this ancient prayer to try to uncover a part of the
spirituality of persons with AIDS. I seek to look deeper into what already can be seen, to answer why God
has called us to this profound gift of ministry to people with AIDS.
William Hart McNichols

Acknowledgements
The Stations of the Cross of a Person with AIDS is produced
with special thanks to:
Ms. Judy Vitzhum
Father Ward Oakshott
Father Thomas Allsopp
Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen

FIRST STATION
Jesus is condemned to death
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
The sky falls.
Robert goes to his doctor with some frightening symptoms. He has a persistent chest cough that will not go
away, and he has swollen glands all over his body. He has never taken the HIV antibody test to determine
whether he might be positive for the AIDS virus, but now, with all the rumors he has heard, and these
symptoms, he decides to have the test done.
In a few weeks the results are back, and his suspicions are confirmed; he has the virus inside of him. Robert
leaves the doctor’s office in a daze. He is in a kind of shock, and sees no one in the crowds of people on the
streets. By the time he finds his way to the subway, all the color has drained out of his face. His thoughts are
penetrating into the impossible; he is speechless.
Prayer
Jesus,
I am condemned to sickness.
I am condemned by my lack of love,
by my insatiable desires, by the
drugs I use to numb the emptiness and
pain, and I am condemned at times by
my own self-righteousness. Help me
Lord, to follow this way of the cross.
Amen.

SECOND STATION
Jesus is made to carry his cross
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
Robert’s mind races on. Things are not that bad, he cautions himself... didn’t he just hear somewhere that only
30 percent of the people who are HIV positive actually come down with full blown AIDS?
He will conquer this thing! He will get the best doctors and all the best help available. And there will be new
drugs! The scientists will come up with a cure soon... they have to. His attitude is the key. He must keep his
attitude positive. The subway door slides open and he leaps to his feet. His energy floods back and he is
almost running now, to his apartment. His color is flushed, and he feels a flicker of joy beginning to bum again
inside. He buys a. newspaper at the comer food market and decides, inside himself, that he can and will deal
with this alone.
Prayer
Jesus,
I see now
the actual shape and
weight of my cross. Lord,
send me your strength to
bear it.
Amen.

THIRD STATION
Jesus falls the first time
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
Robert walks into his apartment alone. At one time he lived there with another young man around his same
age, named Mark. Mark left two years ago for Europe, and now Robert is alone. He opens the newspaper.
There is a brief article on AIDS at the bottom of the third page. It states bluntly that medical professionals
used to think that only 30 to 40 percent of those infected by the AIDS virus ever come down with the actual
disease. Then they began to say 50 percent. Now they fear it is higher... much higher. Robert thinks his heart
will stop. Fear begins once more to seep into his whole being. He feels cold and dark. For awhile he cannot
move. He cannot call his family. Though they live not far away, they do not really know him. He cannot go
to church; he knows they have negative feelings toward Persons with AIDS. And he absolutely cannot tell
anyone at work; it could mean the loss of his job. He is afraid to tell his friends; there would be too much
unwanted attention, and he couldn’t bear being smothered right now. He must come to grips with this alone.
The icy fear covers him again, and he thinks he may vomit. He lies down on the floor to try to relax. His
heart is pounding so loud he thinks he can hear it. Robert calls in sick the next day, and in fact stays home
from work the next three days and drinks himself into a stupor.
Prayer
Jesus,
I am falling, falling, falling.
Help me now in this up-hill climb.
Send me living angels to help me
find my way and lift this cross.
Amen.

FOURTH STATION
Jesus meets his mother
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
Robert remains isolated for three days. Finally, his mother gets through, calling from the family home. She
is frantic. Robert has not been answering his phone in the apartment. He has not been at work. No one has
heard from him. Is he all right? Is something wrong? Robert mutters something, but it is too hard to speak.
He’s beginning to choke up at the sound of his mother’s voice and he feels like a lonely little child again. She
begs him to come home - just for supper. He reluctantly agrees to a weekend night.
Saturday comes, and in the late afternoon Robert is on the subway- again in an enclosed world. He sees the
people now but they seem so distant and unreal. They are the nonchalant, they are the carefree... the living.
They cannot know what he feels... what he carries. He feels poisoned, unclean, leprous, untouchable. His
eyes burn from trying to hold back the rage and the tears.
Robert winces as his parents embrace him. The evening seems endless, until at last he decides he must say
something. He slowly unravels the story of his visits to the doctor. The fact that he has the HIV virus means
he could develop AIDS-related infections. His parents gape in disbelief. They pour out their doubt. He must
be wrong. He must get another doctor; the city doctors are too busy; they’re unreliable; they have him mixed
up with someone else. How could he have gotten it anyway? Is he taking drugs? The other alternative is
impossible. Religions are clear about “those people” - and no one in their family could be one of “them”...
could he?
Robert manages to calm them down. He doesn’t want to try to explain too much at once. He’s tired and just
wants to leave, but he thinks his heart will break as his mother dissolves into tears and hugs him good-bye.
Prayer
Mary,
my mother, our mother, your son
is still walking, staggering,
exhausted and bleeding. Meet him
with your love along the way.
Amen.

FIFTH STATION
Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
Another nearly sleepless night, until around 4 a.m. Robert falls asleep and into a dream. In the dream he sees a
little Boy standing near a large barren cross planted in a pool of water encircled by green stones which seem to
have lights inside them. The Boy motions to Robert to come and help him transplant the cross. As Robert draws
near and tries to lift the cross, it turns to solid metal. It is unbearably heavy, and too cold and sharp-edged to
touch. Robert looks dismayed and searchingly at the little Boy. The Boy takes Robert’s left hand and places it at
the center of the cross, and places his own little palm onto the side of Robert’s face. Robert feels weak and
warm. He closes his eyes and feels that he is falling through the sky, but without fear. When he opens his eyes
again the Boy is gone and the cross is small and weightless and filled with light, and Robert is holding it in his
hands.
He comes out of the dream startled, looking for the light, and for the world of the dream. Suddenly he
realizes he has overslept! He dresses fast, but there is a strange peace, a lingering of the feeling of the
dream. He is rushing, but cannot seem to make himself worry. At this thought he laughs out loud.
Outside he grabs a coffee and the newspaper and descends into the subway. Before his stop he reads a
section on health and a feature article on GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), which has been established to
help persons with AIDS, ARC and the “worried well.” Robert calls the number listed, secretly from work,
and asks to speak to a counselor. A man named Diego answers, and offers to see Robert that day after work.
Diego is a radiantly confident man. He seems indomitable, and yet his warmth opens up something in
Robert. They sit down, and Diego lets Robert speak. Somehow, just being able to tell the story to someone
who can receive it is a great relief, and Robert feels light and hopeful. He leaves with a wealth of
information. He has the names of doctors, nutritionists, social workers, a list of support groups for men and
women, and healers of all denominations. He is given the names of books on holistic health, creative
visualization, and the name of a woman who writes books and makes tapes especially for people with
AIDS. Robert hugs Diego good-bye. He finds himself crying quietly as he leaves with a new sense of joy.
Prayer
Jesus,
Thank you for the men who help me
to bear my cross. Thank you for those
with the courage to step out of the
crowd.
Amen.

SIXTH STATION
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
Robert rushes out to find the books. He can’t believe there are so many books on healing and health! Why
didn’t he know all this before? He finds the tape that he was told about, produced by a woman named Louise
Hay, and a book by another woman on creative visualization. When he gets home, Diego calls. Knowing
Robert is Catholic, he has made contact with a Sister Patrice, who works in the Supportive Care Program of
a Catholic hospital. He asks if Robert would like a volunteer from the program, someone to talk with. Robert
hesitates. What kind of volunteer... what will they do to him? Diego assures him of his trust in Sister Patrice.
He gives Robert the number of a woman named Cissy and leaves it up to him to call. Robert calls. She
seems nice on the phone. They set up a time to meet in a week.
That night, and for the rest of the week, Robert listens to the tape. As he listens, he begins to feel he has
never heard so much love and compassion from one person. The tape speaks of love, of God, of forgiveness
of self and others, and healing... healing... healing. She helps him think deeply about the negativity in his
life, the prejudice he has experienced... the tremendous anger and holding of frustration as a result. His spirit
is quiet as he listens. There are also moments of great humor, poignant sorrow, and even times he finds he
cannot connect with her message at all. But over all he is grateful. He falls asleep thanking God for Louise
Hay and her words of healing love.
At the end of the week Cissy comes. She listens, and they talk for hours. She is small and simple. She is a
recovering alcoholic who has struggled herself, and knows the cross and suffering intimately. Her mere
presence pours out love to Robert, and he feels, somehow, the presence of God. She asks hesitantly if she
might pray with him. He agrees instantly and relaxes back in a big armchair. Cissy holds his hand, and
places her other hand on his head. She crosses his palms and forehead with simple blessed oil, and prays
spontaneously for his healing of body, spirit, and emotions. Robert falls into a deep sleep and doesn’t hear
her leave. He dreams that a woman has just washed his face, and instead of the dirt and the shame he feels
on the outside, on the towel is a picture of his inside... and it looks very much like Christ.
Prayer
Jesus,
Thank you for the women who
show me your face. Thank you
for all those women who gave us
birth, who taught us, disciplined us,
loved us-- washed us inside and out...
Send them your comfort.
Amen.

SEVENTH STATION
Jesus falls the second time
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
Listening to the Louise Hay tape, Robert begins to see what it must be like to have some respect for himself.
Growing inside are the beginnings of self love, and a sense of the spiritual he has always heard about, but
never dreamed was available to him. He also meets with a support group once a week, and by listening and
speaking, he feels a sense of community for the first time. Here is a place he can speak the truth without fear.
The thought crosses his mind that this is what it must be like for some Christians who speak about
community. Cissy comes regularly to visit, prays with him, brings him spiritual books, gifts, and a beautiful
turquoise blanket to wrap around himself when he prays. The blanket vaguely calls up an image of the
Blessed Mother he has seen as a child, and he feels a kind of presence of Mother Mary surrounding him when
he prays. He thinks now that he has not felt so much love since Mark left for Europe.
Without warning, there are new symptoms-diarrhea and continual night sweats. Three or four times a night he
must get out of bed and change all the sheets and his night clothes. Everything is soaked all the way through.
He is badly shaken now by fear, and sits up one night trying to face the fact that the HIV infection is leading
to serious, maybe life-threatening illness. Then one evening, going up the stairs to his apartment, Robert is
gripped - jolted by a pain in his chest. He can hardly make it into his apartment. He is gasping for breath as he
calls Diego, who immediately calls an ambulance.
Prayer
Jesus,
I am face down again. I fear
the agony ahead - death terrifies me.
I am now the laughing-stock of everyone...
People run from me. Hurry to help me
Lord, hurry.
Amen.

EIGHTH STATION
The women of Jerusalem weep over Jesus
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
Robert is rushed to a hospital. Hour after hour he writhes in pain in a corner of the emergency room. After
what seems an eternity, he is taken to a room. A day later he is given the diagnosis of PCP, pneumocystis
carinii pneumonia. He knows this means that he now has AIDS. His mind goes blank - partly in horror, partly
in relief. He is given much medication for the pneumonia, to clear the infection in his lungs, and he is given
something to help him sleep. He overhears that if the infection becomes worse and the struggle to breathe
becomes critical, he will have to go on a respirator. He falls asleep, but this time there are no dreams - only
darkness.
The medication seems to work, but the days of pain and fear drag on. Robert begs, in prayer, for some sign of
God’s love.
One afternoon a man stands in the doorway wearing plastic gloves, a hospital gown and mask. He tells Robert
he is a minister, and gives his name.
His voice is so muffled by the mask that Robert cannot understand him, so he asks him to please speak up.
The man declares that Robert is a homosexual, and that the Bible condemns such people. He quotes passages
about dogs, perverts, and sodomites. He promises Robert will not enter the Kingdom of God. He demands that
Robert repent, yet he will not come past the doorway. Robert declines the offer, and the man storms out.
Robert hears him shouting down the hall about lust and fornication. For the next four days, the man returns
and continues the assault, hurling passages on sexuality and condemnation. At the end, he calls out in a loud
voice about demonic possession, waving his arms toward Robert’s bed. Robert feels he has fallen into a
nightmare which might possibly be worse than all the physical pain he has already endured. He forbids the
man to come again, and regains some sense of peace.
When he is strong enough, he is moved to the downtown hospital. Soon there is a knock on his door. A woman
steps inside and announces herself as Sister Patrice of the Supportive Care (hospice) Program. She speaks of a
care that is physical, spiritual, emotional and financial. She is so warm and loving, Robert thinks this must be
the angel he prayed for. She talks about the love of God, and he can’t quite contain it all, but she touches his
hand upon leaving and he knows.
Prayer
Jesus,
I see all those weeping around me--
They wish to help me, but also
to keep me here. Yet, it seems you have called
me Home. Help us all to see we belong
only to you, and to be unafraid when
the time comes for each one to return
to you. Amen.

NINTH STATION
Jesus falls the third time
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
A shower of love... the hospice group seems to heal all that went before of the nightmare brush with the man
at the other hospital. The nurses are incredible; not only are they caring in a professional sense, but they also
befriend Robert. He develops a friendship with a young nurse named Daisy, of the night staff. She pushes
him to keep eating, she watches his moods and urges life when he loses hope. Sister Patrice is there often,
and makes her staff of nurses and social workers and volunteers available. He asks her one day if there is a
priest he could talk with. She laughs heartily and says “yes!” That afternoon Father Daniel comes by. He is a
poet, writer and a man who has poured out his life in the cause of world peace. He is somewhere in his
sixties, Robert guesses. Robert thinks he has never seen such wisdom and lines of suffering in one face
before. They talk for some time. Robert pours out his life - the troubles, confusion... the blessings of family
and friends. At the end of the story, he confesses and asks forgiveness for those who have hurt him and those
he has hurt.
Father Daniel gives him absolution and the sacrament of the sick. That night a eucharistic minister brings
him communion.
The next day he is filled again with hope. The doctor notices Robert’s uplifted spirits and cannot help but feel
it himself. He does a routine examination and suddenly stops. The look on his face falls, and his mouth
closes. He notices a small purple spot on the back of Robert’s leg and one on the side of his right arm.
Prayer
Jesus,
I cannot move. The sickness, the fear,
have paralyzed me. Hope is now but a
memory... “By day I cry out and at night
I clamor in your presence.” Amen.

TENTH STATION
Jesus is stripped of his garments
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
The doctor explains that Robert has a form of cancer, KS, Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Throughout the next few weeks
there are other complications. He is given drugs which do not agree with him, and one which causes terrible
hallucinations. The room seems to spin round about and he sees specters and ghastly images darting in and out
of the room. He screams aloud, but no one is able to calm him, no one is able to convince him that there’s
nothing there.
Months later as the KS progresses, Robert begins chemotherapy. He becomes nauseous at times, and loses his
hair. He can hardly eat and has to be fed intravenously. The staff becomes more attentive. His friends are there
too. Flowers fill the room. But there is no comfort. He tries to pray but cannot find the peace and the hope
anymore. He feels stripped of everything.
Prayer
Jesus,
The stripping has begun... my body,
my pride, my family, my friends,
this earth, these skies, the trees,
the seasons and holidays -I will
never see any of this again.
Amen.

ELEVENTH STATION
Jesus is nailed to the cross
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
One day Robert wakes to find a blank spot in one eye. He panics and calls for the doctor. More blood is taken,
examination after examination ensues, and he is diagnosed further with CMV, cytomegalovirus. The
chemotherapy is working on the lesions on the exterior of his body, but the doctor has discovered there are
lesions now internally, and Robert knows inside himself that he is dying.
A week later he calls for Father Daniel again and asks him to help him plan his funeral. He wants that reading he
once heard about the boy who died and was healed by the elderly prophet who reclined atop the boy and
breathed divine life back into him. And he asks to have the beatitudes for the Gospel reading. He and Father
Daniel read together...
Blessed are the poor in spirit...
Blessed are the sorrowful...
Blessed are the gentle...
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for holiness...
Blessed are the merciful...
Blessed are the pure in heart...
Blessed are the peacemakers...
Blessed are they who are persecuted for justice...
And Blessed are you when they revile you, and speak every evil against you, lying because of me...
Prayer
Jesus,
The ring of the hammer is terrifying,
my head and heart are pounding--
I see nothing but red. All my bones
are numbered, and for my possessions
they have cast lots. Amen.

TWELFTH STATION
Jesus is raised upon the cross and dies
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have redeemed the world.
One month later Robert undergoes another severe attack of pneumonia. This time he must be put on a
respirator. For three days he struggles to breathe, and finally he is given a paralyzing drug to help him stop
fighting the machine. He can hear everything and everyone around him, but he cannot move. Nurses and
friends mop the sweat off his body and forehead. His mouth is cracked and bleeding. On the seventh day he
dies. But something strange happens. Two people, a man and a woman, appear at the foot of the bed. The
woman disconnects all the tubes and apparatus binding him and the man lifts him from the bed and carries him
out the door of the room, through a dark passage and into a glowing white light. The light gradually turns a
radiant gold. Robert realizes he is no longer in his body, and that he is approaching the throne of God and a
multitude of spiritual beings. God speaks to the man who carried Robert and asks him to lay “the child” down
at His feet. God summons the heavenly beings to rise and extend their hands over Robert and to send their
healing love to him. Then God asks the man to place Robert in the arms of Mary. She is wrapped in the
familiar turquoise blanket and holds him most tenderly. She passes him gently to the Archangel Michael,
Michael hands him to the Archangel Gabriel, Gabriel gives him to the Archangel Raphael, Raphael gives him
to Aloysius Gonzaga, Aloysius gives him to the little Therese, Therese gives him to Catherine of Siena,
Catherine gives him to Francis of Assisi. Robert cannot “see” all these spirits distinctly; he rather feels who
they are, and marvels at how each one had been a guide at one time or other, when he was on earth. Then
something happens with Francis. Robert feels he is grieved and frowning. Robert asks him what is the matter,
and Francis laments that there is someone Robert has yet to forgive. “Who?” Robert begs. And Francis says,
“Yourself.”
God calls the carrier who brought Robert and has been silent at the throne, to again lift Robert into his arms.
“He has been healed,” God says, “Take him back.” The man hesitates and then says to God, “But there are
many more.” “Then bring them, too,” God answers.
Prayer
God my Father,
Where are you now?
You who formed me, you who
promised me the kingdom?
I see nothing now but a
dark wall rising to the stars.
“Eli, Eli, Eli lama sabacthani!” Amen.

THIRTEENTH STATION
Jesus is taken down from the cross
and placed in the arms of his mother
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
Robert is back in the intensive care unit. He is still attached to the respirator. He panics. He is healed, but no
one knows! Why don’t they see? Why don’t they unhook him? The next day the doctor notices an incredible
improvement in his breathing; such a marked change that Robert is taken off the respirator. Robert believes
he has been completely physically cured. Three days later he is sitting up in a chair in a regular hospital
room. The staff is awed. Robert tells a friend the story of his having died and come back. Breathlessly he
gasps out the entire story of God and the heavenly kingdom of spiritual beings. He is terribly excited and
promises to write the whole story down for everyone who is suffering. He is joyful and peaceful and is
making plans to go back to work, and to work in a healing capacity. One month later, Robert has another
attack of pneumonia, and calmly refuses to go on the respirator... that night he dies in his mother’s arms.
Prayer
God our Mother,
My mother was bleeding and in agony
when I came into the world. May she
hold me now, as 1 pass into the womb of
the dark tunnel - to pass into the
Light of your presence.
Amen.

FOURTEENTH STATION
Jesus is laid in the sepulcher
V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy cross,
you have
redeemed the world.
There are true stories of families, friends and lovers carrying the bodies of their loved ones in the trunks of
their cars in plastic garbage bags, trying to find a funeral home to take the dead. It will probably be a while
before the full truth of these stories becomes public. Imagine the grief and frustration of not being able to bury
someone you love. Most relatives and friends of people who have died of AIDS cannot even, or dare not even,
speak of the circumstances surrounding the sickness and death. These people grieve in solitude and are often
plagued by a sense of fear and shame. The isolation of their suffering is also part of the disease.
But there are funeral homes which have been gracious and comforting. One in particular that has taken people
who have died of AIDS - even from the beginning is Reddens Funeral on West 14th Street in Manhattan... they
are the Josephs of Arimathea in our Way of the Cross.
Robert is taken to Reddens, and from there, to the Capuchin church of St. John the Baptist for the funeral. As
Father Daniel is away, another friend of Robert’s celebrates the mass and gives the eulogy. He is a Capuchin
friar, Father Sigmund, and he speaks with great respect for Robert and his life. Robert had made many visits to
this church during the time of his spiritual reawakening, and found much comfort from the friar. Father
Sigmund speaks of the profound effect Robert has had on his own life. He speaks of Robert’s youth and of his
extraordinary hospital experience of the unconditional love of God. Robert’s friends and family weep with a
sense of deep loss, and yet feel a sense of wonder at all that has happened. The mass ends with the singing of
“May the Angels Take You into Paradise.” The priest and family and friends process out with the casket
covered in white, and the choir sings the final hymn, Bach’s devotional classic...
“Jesu, Joy of Our Desiring.”
Prayer
Jesus,
There is a curious lifting of my
spirit. l see now all my family
and friends mourning over my body,
yet I am not there. l am flying --
no, travelling -- through some darkness,
yet there is no fear along the way.
Amen.

FIFTEENTH STATION
Jesus rises from the dead
V. Exult all creation around God’s throne!
Rejoice O earth in shining splendor, radiant
is the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered death! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes forever!
R. Jesus Christ is risen!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Robert is one of thousands of men, women, and children who have died of AIDS in the United States and
Europe. In Africa, where there is a twenty-five year history of AIDS, whole villages have been decimated.
Millions will die ...millions.
Robert’s is but one story. There are similar stories, and there are stories which are very different in the
specifics and details. But they all share the suffering from the disease and the suffering from their own
cultures and religions. Yet there are many signs of hope. Christ promised his disciples we would meet him
in the simple, the poor and the outcast. The miracle of healing for those called to this work, is that they
actually meet Christ and are converted themselves to a greater love and life in solidarity with the blessed
poor.
When Francis of Assisi was twenty five, and on his passionate journey towards light and conversion, he
was inspired one day to leap off his horse and to embrace and kiss a leper passing by on the road. Francis
was desperate for conversion and was coaxed by the Spirit into touching the leper, who healed Francis in
was desperate for conversion and was coaxed by the Spirit into touching the leper, who healed Francis in
return.
And so let us end with words of hope - words of promise for all who are searching for the royal house of
the Son of David, for all those hungering for God, for conversion, for new life... for vocation:
“Fear not little flock;
for it has pleased your Father
to give you
the kingdom.”
Prayer
My Lord and my God,
Words cannot express what
awaits us. l have seen my life
in succession, in a vast array
of images. St. John of the Cross’
prophecy is true:
“In the evening of life
you will be judged
by love.”
Amen.

Our new Patron of Victims of Slave Trafficking- For the feast of St Patrick of Ireland

March 27th, 2017

Our new Patron of Victims of Slave Trafficking- For the feast of St Patrick of Ireland

Our new Patron of Victims of Slave Trafficking
For the feast of St Patrick of Ireland

" Unfortunately, the great Christian mystics have been generally presented as models of perfection or monuments of orthodoxy - sometimes, too, as inhumanly joyless and ascetical . Yet they were, above all else, men and women of feeling, always vulnerable, at times perhaps even insecure and uncertain of the way ahead. For all that, they shine with a special divine likeness and a special human radiance ...
This little book is at once a study of a fifth -century text and a portrait of the writer of this text, who names himself as Patricius, the son of one Calpornius, a Christian Deacon ( whose father was a Priest ) and a Roman decurio or alderman ...
The "Confession" is a letter in defense of his life-work, and it was preceded by a shorter letter written to the followers of a local British leader named Coroticus, who had taken prisoner many of Patrick's converts and proposed to sell them into slavery, as Patrick himself had been kidnapped and sold as a boy of sixteen ...
There are two sources of light in the world of Patrick... Holy Scripture and his own dreams.
Here I want to look at the dreams.
The "Confession is a short document ...yet it contains seven distinct dream narratives ... They are various and striking, and so vividly told that they, more than the recital of events , give liveliness and freshness to the narrative. "

Aristocracy of Soul : Patrick of Ireland
By Noel Dermot O' Donoghue 1987

"Here comes (Joseph) this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits ; then we shall say that a wild beast devoured him, and we shall see what becomes of his dreams."
Genesis 37: 19

Oh I wish I had an icon of St Patrick to show you but I've never had a commission to paint him ; almost twice I had one, but the people never actually decided. So I'm showing you two things ; my favorite book on St Patrick and an icon I painted (wrote) for my dear Irish Priest friend Fr Patrick 0' Brien. It is Our Lady of the Sign.
What is the "sign" ?
It comes from this passage in Isaiah 7: 10 - 15
"Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz,' Ask a sign from the Lord your God : let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. ' But Ahaz said, ' I will not put the Lord to the test. ' And He said, ' Hear then O House of David ! Is it too little for you to weary men , that you weary God also ? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold a young maiden shall conceive and bear a son , and you shall call his name Emmanuel ... ' "
Some "Irish food " for thought on this feast :

1) Emmanuel the Sign , is God with us ... now. No matter how terrorized we are by the signs of today's or tomorrow 's news - be it ferocious weather or political mayhem, or personal depression and darkness, Emmanuel is with us.
2) Dreams are sometimes very important . Joseph of the "Many Colored Garment " tells us this with his life , in the book of Genesis. So does the life of the husband of the Blessed Mother, St Joseph ...
And St Patrick as well, and his seven dreams, but also, his experience as a young boy being kidnapped, St Bakhita too survived this terror; both became Christ figures of Forgiveness. (remember too Joseph forgiving his brothers in Egypt)
3) There are 20 million people enslaved today and human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar a year industry.

St Patrick intercede for us to live (as you did) in God's dream for us , and please, we beg you, ask Our Lord and Our Lady of The Sign, to free all those men
, women, and children enslaved (in any way) this very month and day of your feast.

17 March 2017
Fr Bill McNichols

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. Dont worry about my safety. The safety of the people is whats 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 Johns 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!

 

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