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St Francisco Marto - O Milagre de Fatima do Sol

October 10th, 2017

St Francisco Marto - O Milagre de Fatima do Sol

St Francisco Marto: "O Milagre de Fatima do Sol"
"I have declared from the beginning the former things; they went forth from my mouth and I made them known; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass, says the Lord. Because I knew that you were obstinate, your neck was an iron sinew and your brow was brass. Therefore I have declared things to come to you from of old; before they came to pass I announced them to you, so that you could not say, my idol has done them, and my graven image have commanded them...they are called into being now by the prophetic word...” Isaiah 48:3-7
My cousin Kathi Hart-Cooper and I became close around the time of her first communion October 28 1955. My Mom bought me a statue of Our Blessed Mother to give her as a present, but it was really because Mom had given me (her maiden name) the middle name of Hart that bonded us and we both felt we were more than cousins; I felt I was part Hart. It turns out we would talk almost everyday on the phone from that day until we graduated from high school. These were the days of a hand held phone with the cord running under your room so that both parents knew you were on the phone. And both Kathi and my parents used to say things like "What on earth do you have to say! You just talked yesterday or an hour ago!” We had no idea that we were learning to speak about and process our feelings. I think it kept us both sane through the traumatic years of grade school and high school. In those years I was being bullied continually (up until junior year in high school with an oasis in seventh and eight grade because we moved to a new school). Kathi had and has such a terrific sense of humor she could always make me laugh! I turned quite naturally (for guidance and help) to the child Martyrs of the Roman persecutions and to children like Jacinta and Francisco Marto who were victims of great persecution after they began to see Our Lady of Fatima beginning May 13, 1917. Kathi named her first son Geoff and her second son Billy, after me. This created another bond and Billy asked me to be his Confirmation sponsor, and so I painted/wrote him an icon of St Francisco Marto.
You can google the story of Fatima or rent a movie to see and hear the whole set of miraculous events. Before October of 1917 Our Lady told the children that on October 13 there would be a sign that no one could doubt and that St Joseph would come and bring peace. This is the source of the colors and symbolism of the icon “St Joseph Shadow of the Father.” When Joseph did appear in the sky that day he and the child were both wearing red and I have the child holding a dove (Holy Spirit) of Peace.
Over 40,000 to 100,000 people came to Fatima that day to witness a sign or mock the children if nothing happened. Around noon time it was raining, a cold front filled with freezing rain had moved across the continents from Siberia (this is better explained in Chris Summa’s film "The Boy Who Found Gold”) and it was cold and muddy. The people were getting so angry that the children had to be guarded by the police. Suddenly Lucia (one of the three children) pointed to the sky...
"As if like a bolt from the blue, the clouds were wrenched apart, and the sun at its zenith appeared in all its splendor. It began to revolve vertiginously on its axis, like the most magnificent fire wheel that could be imagined, taking on all colors of the rainbow and sending forth multicolored flashes of light, producing the most astounding effect. This sublime and incomparable spectacle, which was repeated three distinct times, lasted about ten minutes. The immense multitude overcome by the evidence of such a tremendous prodigy, threw themselves on their knees.” Dr Manuel Formigao.
The sun suddenly came hurtling toward the people, and then just before it hit the earth, went back up into the sky. At that moment everyone thoroughly drenched by the rain, discovered instantly they were dry, and safe.
What was the sign of the falling sun about? Some have guessed a warning about a nuclear holocaust as experienced later in Hiroshima and Nagasaki...or one yet to come. Some have thought it was more like a falling meteorite, and some have no idea, but consider it serious enough to ponder with petitionary prayer.
"O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary, Queen of the Rosary of Fatima!
Grant that we may follow the example of Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta, and of all who devote themselves to proclaiming the Gospel.
Thus we will follow all paths and everywhere make our pilgrim way; we will tear down all walls and cross every frontier, as we go to every periphery, to make known God’s justice and peace. In the joy of the Gospel, we will be the church robed in white, the whiteness washed in the blood of the Lamb, blood that today too is shed in the wars tearing our world apart. And so we will be, like you, an image of a column of light that illumines the ways of the world, making God known to all, making known to all that God exists, that God dwells in the midst of his people, yesterday, today and for all eternity...”
From Pope Francis prayer at Fatima -
12 May 2017
Pope Francis canonized Jacinta and
Francisco the next day, May 13.
Fr Bill McNichols for October 13, 2017

For St Francis Day The Epiphany - Wisemen Bring Gifts to the Child

October 2nd, 2017

For St Francis Day  The Epiphany - Wisemen Bring Gifts to the Child

For St Francis Day: "The Epiphany: Wisemen Bring Gifts to the Child" 1984
"... and St Lawrence the Deacon, led his persecutors looking for the wealth and treasures of the church to a house filled with the poor of Rome. He opened the door and said 'Here are the treasures of the church.' " Legend of St Lawrence
When I was living in Manhattan in the 1980's I was invited to show a "Son et Lumiere "
(sound and light) show I'd been commissioned to do in 1981 by St Joseph's Church in the West Village of NYC. The commission was to honor the 800th birthday of St Francis. There was a small house called the "Little Portion" (English for Porziuncola) founded by Friar Andre' Cirino, OFM, where the Third Order Members of St Francis would have gatherings. They heard about the slide show and invited me to bring it up to the Bronx. After visiting a few times I asked if I could join too. The decision had to be made in Rome, and in 1984 I was accepted. I spent many happy days and nights at the Little Portion and that year did my first painting for the Church....aimed like an arrow to elicit compassion, about people with AIDS. It was called "The Epiphany:Wisemen Bring Gifts to the Child." The Franciscans of NYC made this painting into a holy card and sent it round the world. I did hear later that in his memoir about AIDS, "Borrowed Time" the brilliant writer Paul Monette (1945-1995) referred to this card saying that all the Catholic Church is doing is sending out a holy card, but there were Catholic women and men giving their lives at that time for people with AIDS. This story has yet to be told. When I became an iconographer I painted/wrote an icon specifically for people with HIV/AIDS entitled "Mother of God Light In All Darkness."
There were two saints, in this first painting, I chose as the Wisemen, Sts.Francis and Aloysius bringing the first two men I met through my Hospice work in 1983, to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Santo Nino on her lap. It took six months to complete and was done in watercolor and gouache. Mary and Child were seated on a rainbow and crescent moon from the Book of Revelation. Beneath them are the waters of death we speak about in the funeral prayers, "In Baptism, your child received the Light of Christ. Scatter the darkness now and lead him/her over the waters of death." I had always been haunted by that exquisite song, "Clara, Clara," from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess." It goes "Clara,Clara, don't you be downhearted! Clara, Clara, don't you be sad and lonesome! Jesus is walkin' on the waters, rise up and follow him home, O Lord, O my Jesus, rise up and follow him home, follow him home."So...to symbolize the footsteps of Jesus I have red vigil lite candles bobbing on the waters.
The symbols I chose for St Francis were wishbones falling from the Crown of Thorns, symbols of hope coming from the terrible sufferings. The symbols I chose for Aloysius, (often shown with a shaft of lilies,as with St Joseph a sign of his purity), were three lilies surrounded by fire to show most of us find this inner and outer virtue, through fire. This painting eventually led to my apprenticeship with the Russian American Master Iconographer, Friar Robert Lentz,OFM, because he saw it printed in a magazine and wrote me a rather funny letter, saying, "It looks like you're trying to do Icons you should come to New Mexico and study with me." The magazine never forwarded his letter but through the providential grace of God I eventually was led to ask for an apprenticeship, and then Robert told me about the letter. I think I explained this a little better in Christopher Summa's film "The Boy Who Found Gold."
Later I created a drawing to advertise a play at the Little Portion, called "The Flower in the Hand-The Story of St Francis and the Stigmata-A Love Story, A Love Song," by Roberta Nobleman. This was one of the most beautiful plays I have ever seen, based on the ancient Italian text "The Five Considerations on the Holy Stigmata." I finally made this hand into a painting you can view it under St Francis section on the website.
I never tire of telling people that when the Friars would wash the bandages covering St Francis' wounds, they would use the water mixed with his blood to heal sick animals and people. This is hope for us that our wounds can even now or eventually be used for the healing of others too. I believe most of our ancient and contemporary Prophets, who have been publicly mocked or martyred in various ways, prove that this is so...
"Dearest Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Poor and Oppressed
we watch full of reverence and joy as St Francis and St Aloysius bring the gifts of
these two people afflicted with AIDS to the Holy Child in your arms, who is so eager to receive them.
Teach us to find and embrace your Son Jesus in all peoples, but most especially those who are in greatest need and who suffer most.
Amen" (1984:NYC)
Fr Bill McNichols
October 2017

Holy Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ in Hiroshima with the Christ Child

September 25th, 2017

Holy Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ in Hiroshima with the Christ Child

Holy Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ in Hiroshima with the Christ Child
(For Arrupe College in Chicago)
"violets here and there
in the ruins
of my burnt house"
Shokyu-Ni
1713-1781

"a sparrows' nest
perhaps
inside the A-bomb dome"
Kinichi Sawaki
1919-2001

Dear Fr. Katsouros,
Here are some notes, not really a complete statement yet...a Beginning of my own understanding of what I was given to paint...but with the latest news these days I'm sure this is not all there is to say about nuclear weapons or war. We stand right now in a most dangerous place, again. In fact I may use this as a blog because we are still in the midst of an unresolved crisis.
I wanted to image Fr Arrupe in prayer in Japan but not the Iconic photograph that you always see and is as impossible to recreate in a better way-as is Our Lady of Guadalupe or the Shroud of Turin.
It is not well known that Fr Arrupe survived Hiroshima and the utter devastation. The swirling sun is a visual reference to the bomb and the prophetic miracle of the sun at Fatima on October 13, 1917. We don't know what that spinning sun meant...was it a meteorite, atom bomb, or some other danger of falling fire?
How do you depict that scene of Hiroshima or Nagasaki in a way that is redemptive and not just horrifying?
I found many photographs of the aftermath and one had a, Shinto Gate still standing.
This Torii Shinto Gate symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. This still standing gate is (to me) a miraculous sign that the sacred, of that ancient culture, had not been completely destroyed. There was also a head of a statue of Mary and a Church which was not completely destroyed, if I remember correctly Hiroshima and Nagasaki had the two greatest populations of Christians. But I wanted the visual emphasis on all the Japanese . So I also placed a Japanese looking ( (although he could be seen as "every child") Christ Child near to Fr Arrupe. He is wearing a traditional garb as I found in a picture I'll send you , with an Origami-like dove of the Holy Spirit on his chest... or coming from his heart . The colors most often used for Jesus are blue (divinity) over red (humanity) - here the red has faded into a salmon color and the blue is still vibrant . The Child is looking first at the horrendous scene around him on the ground....devastation everywhere. But beneath his feet, because he is "the resurrection and the life" small flowers or violets begin to sprout.
The letters above the Child are Japanese for "Jesus Christ" and the letters near Fr Arrupe are "Holy Priest Pedro." These were obtained from a friend who knows a Jesuit priest at Sophia University in Tokyo.
I feel this is all I can say now, when I began this icon the nuclear threat was not present and hopefully we will reflect on what has been and listen to the words of the Lost Child from the Gospel of Luke about "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's House?" (Luke 2:49) And maybe we will see the whole Earth as His House we are not permitted to destroy? For further contemplation you might look into Thomas Merton's poem "Original Child Bomb" , the name the Japanese gave to the bomb, which expresses a horrific new child and religion. The poem is written in a chilling bureaucratic style to awaken us from The Nightmare of God ( Daniel Berrigan's title for his commentary on The Book of Revelation) completely antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus. As I write this we still have time and Holy Hope...
Blessings with love and prayers to you and all faculty and students at Arrupe College,
Fr Bill
September 2017

Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge, OFM

September 10th, 2017

Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge, OFM

Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge, OFM
11 May 1933 - 11 September 2001
" A passion-bearer is one who faces his death in a Christ-like manner. Unlike martyrs, passion bearers are not explicitly killed for their Orthodox faith, though they hold to that faith with piety and true love of God."
orthodoxwiki.org
I met Mychal in the late 1980's when he showed up at our monthly Mass for People with AIDS at Our Lady of Guadalupe church on 14st. This was a church where both Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton would go to pray with the Mother of the Americas.
Sometimes after the Mass a group of men and women would go to a diner to get some dinner and Mychal would join us. I remember him as one of those people who had the gift of crossing every boundary Church or politics could imagine, and meet people as they were. I often compare him to Martin Sheen the actor and activist who is the same kind of person. He was very lovable, warm and had a real depth of faith attested to by his spiritual director Fr John McNeill. Mychal also carried an observable aura of sorrow around him, which really made him approachable to those who were feeling abandoned and lonely. I think personally, it's the same kind of gravity mixed with joy you see in many public "saints" like Pope Francis or Fr Jim Martin .I did not get a chance to spend much time with him because we were both so busy, something I now regret. What time we did spend is etched in my memory and soul forever. If you want to go deeper into Mychal's life so much is available on the internet.
This icon was commissioned by one of Mychal's closest friends , Brendan Fay. Brendan also co-produced the film on Mychal, "The Saint of 9/11" directed by Glen Holsten and narrated by Sir Ian McKellen.
The imagery of this icon comes basically from two sources:
First, the icon of The Protecting Veil of the Mother of God. Mary is depicted in these icons holding her own veil, which a few women mystics (i.e. Maria Valtorta) see as the veil she used to cover the nakedness of Christ after he was stripped right before he was nailed to the Cross. The tradition of the veil in these icons, is that Mary holds it over a church which is about to be attacked. Mychal, as the first labeled victim of the terrorism of that horrific day, holds the protecting veil to gather the thousands of souls coming to Heaven.
Second the inclusion of the lamenting figure of St Francis. I will never forget the drawing of St Francis weeping over his city San Francisco and the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk in 1978. It shows the power of art and sums up what many words cannot say. Mychal was a son of Francis and his holy father is nearby to gather the souls with him.
In these days of daily violence, verbal and physical, of ferocious hurricanes, fires, and frightening instability , we turn to the saint of 9/11 for holy protection. I'd like to offer you now his beautiful prayer:
"Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say, and
Keep me out of your way."
Fr Mychal Judge, OFM

Fr Bill McNichols
10 September 2017

The Bride - The Church

September 4th, 2017

The Bride - The Church

The Bride : The Church
"This mystery is very great, but I speak concerning the relationship of Christ and the Church." Ephesians 5:32
This is a very brief description of a complex yet mystical image St Paul calls a great mystery, but I trust you can begin a meditation with what I try to say .As we draw near to the birth of Our Blessed Mother, September 8, I think of the Bride.
This is another image I had wanted to paint for so long but never had the time. It was during the crisis of abuses in the Church that I turned to Cardinal Henri de Lubac's unique and magnificent book called "The Splendor of the Church" written in a form of exile, when he had been silenced. There is no trace of bitterness or victimization in his book, only a scholarly, lovely book about the Bride. It's (Her) beauty is incomparable and if you get a chance to meditate with the book you won't be disappointed.
For many years Church theologians argued about Revelation 12 and the Woman Clothed With The Sun; was this Mary giving birth or was it the Church giving birth? They ultimately decided it was a vision of both.
Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar says that some people are born with a "Church soul." By that he means that they (though imperfect and sinners like everybody else in the church) carry the church with them and worry or continue to love and agonize about Her like some parents do over their children. We have a growing list of 35 Doctors of the Church who are men and women with church souls, as well as a catalog of saints, prophets and holy women and men too numerous to mention.
What is your image of the church? From our two thousand year history we have a few I can mention beginning with the Savior and His apostles and disciples. Then the Woman in Revelation 12. The people in small or large homes gathered around the Eucharist in St Paul's letters, the church of the catacombs, the Ship or Barque of St Peter, the basilicas, Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, the Vatican itself, tiny churches and capillas ... Vatican II renewed and refreshed the striking image of the people of God. We all have so many images of church.
This image is of a radiant Bride who is perpetually young and pregnant. She walks barefoot through two thousand years of history amidst great dangers from within the church and without. But She cannot be touched or hurt. She is clothed with the sun or in this image, a luminous radiance that protects Her. She will keep walking carrying (Andrea della Robbia's medallion of) the Holy Child, the hand of the Father above Her, and the Holy Spirit guiding Her forward; for the Spirit always moves forward with infinite creativity and new life.
I remember reading in Letter XVII of "Meditations On The Tarot: A Journey Into Christian Hermeticism" (by Anonymous 1985, Element Press) that the devil is only capable of repetition, evil ad nauseum, over and over and over. God alone is capable of miracles, of bringing life out of death and it's many grotesque faces we call the culture of death. God alone can put flesh on the dead dry bones in the vision of Ezekiel. The Spirit hovered over the void in Genesis and the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. We say in preface number 6 at Mass that we live and move and have our being in God - as if we're fish in the giant ocean of God - even if we are unaware or too preoccupied to notice we live in Him.
I think our image of the church is as important as our image of God, in that we live as the church we image. I hope for some people this image will be helpful and hopeful.
Happy Birthday Blessed Mother!
You who are an image of the church
Help us to love Her and bring the Gospel of your Son Jesus
Into our waiting world now and until we are forever
Home in the Most Holy Trinity and
Home with you
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
Labor Day September 2017
http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/…/the-bride-the-chu…

Princess Diana - The Queen of Hearts

August 24th, 2017

Princess Diana - The Queen of Hearts

Princess Diana : The Queen of Hearts
31 August 1997. I was living in Albuquerque for that summer to finish a triptych on Jesuit Martyrs for Boston College because I really needed my teacher’s help. I had just completed the massive work and I was going back to Boston in a few days, when a friend called that night of August and said “Billy, quick, turn on the news Princess Diana has been in a car accident.” I was like most people interested in Diana and fond of her for visiting people with AIDS and single handedly changing the world’s attitude towards the disease. I did not think of her as a saint, but as an extremely important woman who had brought the royalty out of the palace and into the streets. As I watched the events for the next few days - nonstop - I found myself painting her image in much the same way I have read that people are gripped by a phenomenon called “automatic writing.” I know that sounds extreme but that’s about the only way I can describe what happened to me. I did not think, should I do this...or even with the little time I had left in Albuquerque, do I even have time to do this? I sat down to paint and it was done in about two days as I remember, and also done (as I was soon to learn) very very naively. I never intended to paint her as an icon but as a woman “moving toward iconic likeness.” Since I was used to painting in an icon style of course it came out that way, was that unconscious? Did I really think deep down her life merited being “pointed to” as exemplary? It was a picture of us all, in a way, paralyzed by our insecurities, faults, ecstatic moments, attempts to live in love, and yet it was a picture of a woman who was given an impossibly complicated public life that she could easily have squandered. A woman who modeled what royalty can be and do. A woman who was trying to break out of the gilded cage to find a personal love to support her. She chose, knowingly at great risk to her life, to take her fame into the care and concern for the sick, the homeless, victims of land mines, people with AIDS, and an endless list of others, and reach down, physically get down, for example, to meet children, eye to eye. No other image I have painted has been so criticized. I will not bother with telling you what has been said and written about this image, but I’m sure you can imagine. The thing is I was so absolutely unaware of that negative possibility when I was painting her. I poured in all the love I had, as I do with all the icons and images I paint. And because I think it came out so well I trust that- more than anything. If an image or something I paint comes out “alive” to me I am not swayed by even the harshest of criticism. And if I don’t like what I’ve done then it’s impossible to convince me otherwise.
Given this 20th Anniversary of her death I don’t think I have to tell you anything about her. More news than ever has been coming out about her life and legacy. Her sons are a living example of her inherent warmth and her concerns put into action. Did she change the world? In my estimation, yes she did. Am I aware of her struggles and the fierce criticism that still stalks her? Yes. Does it change my opinion of her extraordinary life? No. Do I wish we had someone of her selfless compassion in public life? Every single day. Am I glad I did this image now twenty years later ? Yes, and what I’d say to the critics now is, what are you doing that even comes close to what she did for people? As Daniel Berrigan used to say “I like my critics up close. I like to see what they are doing with their lives.” With her bouts of extreme depression it makes her ability to literally push herself out of the palace and into a hospital all the more heroic. I guess that’s the heroism I saw daily with so so many mothers in Ranchos de Taos when I lived there.
I was told by someone that Diana “ran into the St Therese story of her shower of roses” while visiting a Catholic Church and found her idea of help from heaven truly delightful. But I don’t know if that’s true. Her quotes though sound like she must have heard of Therese.
This is a very simple image, with Diana looking into you and raising a hand to help you as if to say :
“Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life. A kind of destiny. Whoever is in distress can call on me. I will come running wherever they are.”
Princess Diana

Fr Bill McNichols
August 2017

Escaping the Dark Night - August 1578 - San Juan de la Cruz

August 22nd, 2017

Escaping the Dark Night - August 1578 - San Juan de la Cruz

Escaping the Dark Night, August 1578: San Juan de la Cruz

"Before, I knew you only by hearsay
but now, having seen you with my own eyes,
I retract what I have said,
and repent in dust and ashes."
Job 42:5,6

"Where did you hide,
My love, leaving me thus to moan?
Like the stag, you fled,
Leaving in me this wound;
I ran calling loud, but you were gone."
San Juan de la Cruz
Spiritual Canticle

"I, I who have nothing
I, I who am no one
Adore you, and want you so.
I'm just a no one, with nothing to give you but
Oh I love you."
Carlo Donido
Giulio Rapetti

"Oh, there are strange rivers, rivers that we cannot see
And there are strange rivers who know our destiny
And there are strange rivers who run your love to me."
John Stewart

"The summer had inhaled and held its breath too long
The winter looked the same, as if it never had gone
And through an open window where no curtain hung
I saw you
I saw you
Comin' back to me."
Marty Balin

"John of the Cross speaks to people who feel unable to change. We may have sensed in our lives a call to freedom,
to wholeness, to more than what we are now.
John felt this as a call to reach out for God..."
The Impact of God : Soundings From St John of the Cross
by Iain Matthew, OCD

I found this truly wonderful, healing book in a Jesuit House in Dublin. I could tell - practically across the room -by the painted face on the spine of the book, it was either St Bruno or St John of the Cross. In 1998 there were not many books on either man. I then asked the Jesuits there; could I have it ? They said yes . This was late December 1997 and my Father had recently died on November 25, 1997. The book was so healing I just bought a notebook and began to copy it word for word, (and later gave the notebook to my niece Marjy). Now I can't remember if I copied the whole book or just a few chapters, but I've never tried to copy a whole book since that December. I think when you're grieving it helps to do something "mechanical "which doesn't take much thought. Finding words by Iain Matthew, around my grief helped so much, because I could not express what I was feeling- even to myself. This book is still one of the best I know on St John, and I tell everybody about it. Not too long after, in 1999 I met Mirabai Starr who had beautifully translated St John's
"The Dark Night of the Soul" while she was struggling and in the depths of grief , with her daughter Jenny's premature death.
I remember two things vividly from Iain Matthew's book:
That John and his brother Francisco used to love to lay out in the fields at night and look into the stars of the "dark night." Centuries before Dionysius the Areopagite had written mystically about the "dazzling darkness" but John was too young then to know of his work. He and Francisco saw this without prompting.
The other incident that has never left me, is when John escaped from his tiny, latrine, prison cell, in August 1578 (he was imprisoned December 1577) and was very very fragile and emaciated. He made his way to a Carmelite convent and when they saw him, they were so overjoyed the nuns wanted to sing him a happy Te Deum Hymn. John was shaken badly and held onto something like a banister, and motioned to the sisters with one hand - No, no, no. He was not yet ready to rejoice.
St John of the Cross is the poetic giant (at only about 4' 11" tall) who writes achingly and most expressively about our deep life-long longing for God; this is truly an understatement.
Some references for things I have found helpful:
• The icon of Juan de la Cruz by my teacher Friar Robert Lentz, OFM
•"Search For Nothing" by Richard Hardy
a magnificent sung version of the poem The Dark Night, "One Dark Night" by John Michael Talbot and his version of "O Living Flame of Love."
• Mirabai's translations of both John and Teresa of Avila
• St John of the Cross by Antonio de Nicolas
• anything by the Carmelites, Iain Matthew or Noel Dermot O'Donoghue
This monochromatic image of a gaunt and sickly John in prison was a meditation for me - that we do eventually, come out of our dark nights, but no one can tell you when. Grief has its own time and even the One experiencing the emptiness etc, does not know the time of its fulfillment.
I'm going to quote Iain Matthew on St John and Our Mother because it's so relevant for now:
"When John speaks of the Mother of Jesus, it is in this connection. She moved freely, refusing to let herself be paralyzed by past or future. In her mountain climb, she renounced the need for preplanned handholds, opting instead to surrender to the guidance, the hand of Another. Her hope set her free to be possessed fully in each moment by the Holy Spirit.
As with faith, so with hope, John can emphasize a letting-go, in this case of past and future, only because he is convinced that God is hovering, pressing, to come in and fill the gap. And he will fill it:
'Where God is concerned, hope attains as much as it hopes for.' "
Page 107

Dear St John of the Cross
You found God in the most painful situations in your life
by waiting-in-hope-in-the-darkness.
Help us Teach us Show us, your way of trust and
enduring love.
Amen

Fr Bill McNichols
August 2017

Holy New Martyr Blessed Franz Jaggerstatter

August 8th, 2017

Holy New Martyr Blessed Franz Jaggerstatter

Holy New Martyr Blessed Franz Jaggerstatter
"Through His bitter suffering and death, Christ freed us only from eternal death, not from temporal suffering and moral death. But Christ, too, demands a public confession of faith, just as the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler does from his followers....I am convinced that it is still best that I speak the truth, even if it costs me my life....I cannot and may not take an oath in favor of a government that is fighting an unjust war....I thank you dear Jesus, too, that I am privileged to suffer and even die for Him...The heart of Jesus, the heart of Mary, and my own heart are one, united for time and eternity. Mary with Child so dear, give us all your blessings."

From a letter Franz wrote from prison to his wife and children.
This young Austrian prophet, husband, father, and member of the Third Order of St Francis refused to be inducted into Hitler's Army and was beheaded on August 9, 1943. St Edith Stein died at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.
Franz was beatified and declared a martyr on October 26, 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI. His daughters and wife, Franceska , attended his beatification.

"Born under that murky, ambiguous sign: not a double cross, so to speak, but a bent cross, disabled,tampered with, horribly altered, crooked, nightmarish. Dare we admit it: this is the Cross which (despite all frantic denials) we too are born under? Or the one we create for ourselves? I would not venture that Franz saw this from the first (who does?)-only that he saw it eventually. That cross hideously altered in form: a cross that favors deception, war making, unaccountability. He saw. And he told what he saw. And then he died in witness to what he saw....His world was no vacuum; more like a tornado . The chariot of Nazi Germany rolled on like a wheel of fire, the wheels ground to bits whoever, by mischance or heroic purpose, put themselves in the way. Franz put himself in the way...Indeed, Austria is under the gun (and loves it, as the wild welcome given Hitler and the plebiscite showed !). But for Franz the world is going to very hell. In a tank. In a (newly created) bomber. In a blitzkrieg. In a racing train, as he saw in a dream...This is appalling, unbearable. Christians are climbing aboard. Priests and bishops. And then the faithful...That train, streaming toward him in the darkness: All aboard for hell ! What to do ? The burden of asking one's soul, again and again, and with little help from others - what to do ?
...He was condemned to die; and then to stay dead. Or so they thought , those who thought for, or opined for, church and state...To speak of today: it is no longer Hitler's death train we ride, the train of the living dead. Or is it ? It is. The same train. Only if possible (it is possible), the train is longer, faster, more commodious...As for Franz, he will not go away. He will not go away from the church that sent him on his way alone. His way, which should have been the way of the church. So he lingers, half unwelcome. Like a speechless mouth, like a mysterious cry, hovering on the air, seeking a hearing.
Listen: 'Love your enemies, do good to those who maltreat you. Walk another mile. Refuse the easy ride, damnation as destination. Is this to be accounted the resurrection of Franz - that the gospel should at last gain a hearing ?"
From "The Bride: Images of the Church"
by Daniel Berrigan, SJ
Orbis Books 2000

"Lord,
Fill us with that spirit of courage
which gave your Martyr Blessed Franz
strength to offer his life in faithful witness.
Help us to learn from him to cherish your law
and to obey you rather than men.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever."
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols + August 2017

I Come With Three Wounds - Llego ' Con Tres Heridas

August 1st, 2017

I Come With Three Wounds  -  Llego

"...I wish to thank you for your kind letter and the copy you enclosed of your painting of the Deposition. Your reproduction is most impressive and the theme - amor, muerte, vida -is inspiring. I would be quite anxious to see the original painting, for, as I suspect, it must be truly awe inspiring. I was humbled by the fact that you chose my picture as a model for the Jesuit laboring under the burden of Christ. I pray that the Spirit will enlighten and strengthen me to shoulder or 'take on' Christ more completely.
I am pleased with the work you and your fellow artists are doing. In many ways you have re-opened a door to inspired creativity that releases the human spirit from materialistic bondage as it searches for its Creator; thereby you have performed a noble service in your dedication to the following of your chosen apostolate..."
Fr Pedro Arrupe, SJ
Personal correspondence from
December 17, 1975
"I Come With Three Wounds : Llego ' Con Tres Heridas"
(Finding God In All Things)
Often I reference music . It's been a huge part of my life and I think most everyone 's life . My Mom had 78's going continually on the phonograph, she loved Nat King Cole, Perry Como,and Mario Lanza, Rosemary Clooney ... I can still hear her singing "Young At Heart" with Sinatra, this was before we had the 33 and 45 records. My brother Steve had a swing band orchestra , and a Jazz combo, with my other brother Bob on trumpet. They would practice in our basement and I'd sit on the stairs and hear those beautiful melodies of the "crooner era" as well as the genius work of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. I'd go into my brothers' rooms and take their records which included everything from Johnny Mathis, to Camelot , to Elvis etc....and then in 1960 suddenly it seemed, out of nowhere came Joan Baez. To my ears it sounded as if a lonely prophet had made a record for all the suffering souls in our land and world, singing with a strong,fierce, incredibly powerful, plaintive voice - with one guitar and a kind of majestic, noble and ethereal beauty. It's difficult to imagine her solitary impact or her deep effect on an 11 year old boy. Of course there were other folk singers before her , but she was the first one I heard. Joan Baez is still a noble and respected prophet to me. Gradually Beatniks turned into Hippies and the Beatles brought a world change, so much so, that me, a 16 or 17 year old boy in Denver was riding around in the car listening to the sitar and becoming aware of completely different and exotic sounds as well as (through osmosis) other world religions.
In 1974 while I was teaching Art at Regis High in Denver Joan Baez put out her first full Spanish Album "Gracias a la Vida." Ultimately, this would lead me to a deep love and reverence for the Hispanic cultures and specifically to live in New Mexico.
One song on that album was Llego' Con Tres Heridas : I Come With Three Wounds; one of love, one of death, one of life , a poem by Miguel Hernandez who died in Spain in the civil war. During a lonely dark spiritual time I decided to paint an oil painting about what it was like in the world ( Good Friday, Holy Saturday...)when Jesus was dead, because I couldn't feel him. St Therese was once seen (unbeknownst to her) knocking on the tabernacle door saying "Jesu! Are you there !?"
At that time Fr Pedro Arrupe was General of the Jesuits (I was so blessed to meet him "accidentally" in an elevator in St Louis) and I chose his likeness for the man taking down Christ (in art this is called a "Deposition")from the Cross. The sun is eclipsed overhead just as the Gospels describe. The man is struggling to hold him and lets out a cry of grief. I painted him in stripes because in Isaiah the prophet says "...by his stripes (flagellation marks) we are healed," Isaiah 53:5. I sent a copy of the painting to Fr Arrupe and he responded with one of the most humble and beautiful letters I have ever received. The letter is framed and is still next to the painting in the Regis Jesuit Community Chapel. Not only because Fr Arrupe was Basque as was St Ignatius, but we all (well not all, some did not like him) felt he was "kinda" St Ignatius "reincarnated." He fit the description that St Philip Neri, and centuries later Adrienne von Speyr gave of Ignatius. Both saw him as sun-like, emanating light and the love of God . Adrienne said nobody points to God with such shrewd intelligence as Ignatius. Fr Arrupe was exactly that way in his radiance and you felt (as you also did with St John Paul II) that you actually stepped into his sphere of sanctity. There are those people who do not hold back their love, because their love has become transformed into a direct way for God to reach you.
One time I was giving a power point show on my early art and the later images and icons, and I spoke about this 1975 painting. I said I was in a very dark time and didn't feel Jesus was alive for me. A woman raised her hand and said "But look. He's kissing the man on the head!" Even though I was the painter I never realized that until she showed me. That was a powerful lesson for me, that people when they spend the time contemplating a picture or icon, can teach you so much about your own work.
Fr Bill McNichols
31 July 2017
Feast of Holy Father St Ignatius Loyola

The Shrine of St Anne

July 26th, 2017

The Shrine of St Anne

The Shrine of St Anne
This was a commission for the Church in Arvada, Colorado with the name The Shrine of St Anne. They were having their 75th Anniversary and I opened my book of Greek Icons and found this lovely depiction of Grandmother Anne holding her daughter Mary, holding the Christ Child. To me it looked so childlike and yet Anne looked so elegant too. The only change I made was to have Anne pointing to the Child...as adult images of Mary shown deferring to Jesus with such profound humility. So it seemed a wonderful way of showing through this icon that St Anne is herself, the shrine. At that time I was reading Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's life of Christ where she begins with lives and tribulations of many of Jesus' ancestors. For some people these private revelations are no more than novels because they are not in the Bible. But for me they are very much worth contemplating because they are fleshed out so intimately that the soul is nourished by reading them. In our tradition over the centuries many holy women have been given these revelations like St Bridget of Sweden, Anne Catherine Emmerich, Maria Cecilia Baij, Maria of Agreda, Maria Valtorta, and Adrienne von Speyr to name a few. Each one brings you something, and I think of them as "homilies" born of great devotion and prayer. As long as you know they are not the Hebrew Bible or the Gospels there is no harm in praying with them. For instance, Bridget talks of seeing the Holy Family gathered at their humble table with not enough to eat. Maria Baij tells of three stars appearing above the house of St Joseph, the night he was born to foretell that the "earthly three or trinity" was just beginning. Maria Valtorta sees St Joseph give the Child Jesus his first carpentry lesson. Anne Catherine watches the Passion of Christ which was so awfully powerful, that when the great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins heard it read by a Jesuit when the community was at table, he broke down sobbing. So one great inspiration feeds another. The legend of St Anne and St Joachim and the birth of Mary has never been painted so beautifully as by Giotto di Bondone in the Enrico Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy (dedicated 25 March 1305). I love the image of the Archangel Gabriel flying through St Anne's window, and St Joachim asleep being visited by the Archangel too. Then the couple joyfully meeting and kissing under the Golden Gate.
Here is a shortened version of a litany to St Anne (who is often lovingly invoked in French Canada to find a spouse)
Good St Anne, Mother of Mary, and Spouse of St Joachim,
Pray for us
Steadfast St Anne, Miracle of Patience,
Pray for us
Holy St Anne, Ark of the Covenant and
Root of Jesse
Pray for us
Gracious St Anne, Dawn of Hope and
Consolation of the Afflicted
Pray for us
Glorious St Anne, Rose of Nazareth and
Grandmother of the Messiah
Pray for us
Fr Bill McNichols
26 July 2017

 

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