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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

St Mary Magdalen - Contemplative of Contemplatives

July 21st, 2017

St Mary Magdalen - Contemplative of Contemplatives

St Mary Magdalen : Contemplative of Contemplatives
22 July 2017
"This is the kind of story," Dorothy wrote, "that infuriates those who term us superstitious."
Page 104
Dorothy Day : The World Will Be Saved By Beauty
By Kate Hennessy
Perhaps a better word or concept of/for piety, is the Hindu notion of Bahkti which is a Sanskrit word referring to a very warm, devotional and loving means of practicing or praying. It's difficult to describe it's so bodily too. I think especially of the 15th century Hindu poet Mirabai's ecstatic poems of devotion to the "Dark One," Krishna. Piety is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we ask for this gift. Piety sours into something awful when we impose our personal devotions on others. We've all experienced this self-righteous imposition, or we might have done it ourselves to others in a phase of zeal gone blind. Dorothy's daughter Tamar spoke of this painful (for and to others) period of Dorothy's extended conversion. The only check to this kind of soul-abuse is to be aware of our sinfulness (for me the best example is Pope Francis) which can humble you and, in a word or phrase I'd say - it's better to avoid "finger wagging piety" by way of inviting people to share what you love.
My first picture of St Mary Magdalen was the Crucifixion I drew at age 5. I also put her image in Beato Fra Angelico's icon and the first icon I created of her was called Apostle to the Apostles, her title in the Eastern Churches. Then recently I did a round third icon of the legend of Mary Magdalen preaching to Pontius Pilate after the Resurrection. Now I have a fourth icon commissioned of her also. When I was commissioned to do the second icon I remembered those beautiful Giotto paintings of her being lifted daily to heaven by the Angels. These images come from legends of her life I found in Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's Life of Christ and in a biography of Mary Magdalen by Edith Filliette who founded the Mary Magdalen Society in 1979 and died in 1988.
The legends tell of Mary living in a Cave in Sainte Baume, near Marseille and living literally on her very "much alive-memories" of being near Jesus while he was on earth. Testimonies from hardened skeptical witnesses tell of Anne Catherine Emmerich's twelve years of living on nothing but Holy Communion (the Eucharistic Host).They watched her 24/7 and some became close to her after watching, that they became convinced she was "the real thing".
I guess for me these stories are about a love of God so overwhelming that this love is only fed by God. Don't you have times you are so hungry for God and the solace of a spiritual life that you blame everyone and everything around you for not being enough? And then you turn to God in a prayer and slowly get reconciled to your life again? Reading about Dorothy I see her struggling to put together her personal piety and her mission to renew the church like St Francis. Like Mary Magdalen she was an apostle and a contemplative. I'm going to close with a prayer very dear to St Ignatius, who's feast is coming closer, and a prayer which verbalizes this kind of love : (PS for those who like music I think kd lang must've known this prayer when she wrote "Wash Me Clean" it has the same imploring yet uplifting quality ...)
The Anima Christi
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within thy wounds, hide me
Permit me not to be separated from thee
From the wicked foe, defend me
At the hour of my death, call me
And bid me to come to thee
That with thy saints I may praise thee
Forever and ever...
Amen

Fr Bill McNichols
22 July 2017
Dearest Lord,
Send your Holy Spirit to give us the apostolic gift of piety.
St Mary Magdalen and Servant of God Dorothy Day, please be the new patrons of all of us trying to put together so many contradictions in ourselves and especially at this moment in our troubled times. Watching you ,dear heavenly friends, we know this is possible.
Amen... for now

Our Lady of Mt Carmel -16 July 2017

July 14th, 2017

Our Lady of Mt Carmel -16 July 2017

Our Lady of Mt Carmel : 16 July 2017
"As soon as the reader has penetrated to the substance of this book, he will understand why it is dedicated to Our Lady of Mt Carmel. It is chiefly concerned with the doctrine of the Carmelite theologian, St John of the Cross. Then again under her title (among others ) of Our Lady of Mt Carmel the Blessed Virgin is venerated as patroness of contemplatives and, above all, those who try to share with others the fruits of their contemplation. The whole aim of the Order founded in her honor is to enable its members to reach the height of contemplation under her guidance and to bring others to the same end, aided by her intercession.
There is no member of the Church who does not owe something to Carmel. But there are few who owe more to the saints of Carmel and to its Queen than does the author. Above all, this book was written, so to speak, under her direction and tutelage."
From the introduction to:
The Ascent To Truth
Thomas Merton 1951

"This was the first time I had been struck by such a feeling of spirituality in anyone who professed Christianity."
The Dalai Lama

A blessed feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel to all those who love Our Mother and anyone "living in the what" John of the Cross calls the Dark Night... and anyone still seeking, trying to live within a life of prayer. So many of us feel this is a life-long journey. So let's never give up (!) because God blesses all our attempts to come closer to His infinite love.
Fr Bill McNichols

Looking For God Outside and Within - Self Portraits With Symbols 1977 and 2014

July 7th, 2017

Looking For God Outside and Within - Self Portraits With Symbols 1977 and 2014

Looking For God Outside and Within :Self Portraits With Symbols 1977 and 2014

In the time of selfies it's probably not necessary to explain why artists have long been commissioned to paint portraits or why they have looked into themselves to find something of the mystery of the meaning of their lives. There is a long tradition of painters placing themselves in their art, such as Beato Fra Angelico, Artemisia Gentileschi, El Greco, Michelangelo, or doing self portraits like Durer, Rembrandt, Mary Cassatt, Edvard Munch, Van Gogh and of course, Frida Kahlo and Joni Mitchell, are some of the most widely known.
I began my first Self Portrait With Symbols in 1977 strongly influenced by the Russian children's book artist Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942). I first discovered his illustrations while teaching high school art at Regis High School, and I fell in love with his drawings and paintings too. On the covers of many of his children's book he would surround the central image with little boxes of flowers, goblins or whatever enhanced the fairy tale.
This Russian tradition began with what is called "talking icons" where the Saint is surrounded by small images from his or her life. This is actually the beginning of children's books. I could go on and on about my favorite illustrators, but I guess the question is why do a self portrait as a cover for a children's story and where did it lead? At that time my dream was to be an illustrator and I really had no idea that two of my favorite artists El Greco and Ivan Bilibin had anything to do with Icons.
In his extraordinary autobiography, "Balancing Heaven and Earth" the great-souled Jungian master Robert Johnson has an honestly-lived theory that God calls some people to be "claimed by the inner life" and if you feel that call, you will be led by "slender threads" which are there for you just in time to lead you to the next part of your life. I did these two self portraits to look into my own beginning of a life as an artist who is also a priest, and then the latter part of trying to live into that continuing mystery. One of the things I have learned is you have to keep something, as Jesus seriously counseled, of the child within you or you cannot see or find the true kingdom of God. When I see my siblings surrounded by grandchildren, I can see God provides this naturally for them. Those without children must work a bit harder to stay young at heart and not become jaded, hard hearted. My prayer for this birthday is to paraphrase the very brief Psalm 131:
O Lord let me not get too stuck in fear or any feelings
inside that stop me from giving You back any gift
You gave to me-to give away.
Make me an "Archer of Love" to send these gifts into the
Church, the Bride and into all the waiting
Human Hearts.
Then let me rest like a little child in Your arms.
Let me continue to see the wonders of life
as a child and not fall into cynicism or despair.
Open my heart (again and again) to You and the
World of people made for Infinite
Love, which is only You.
Amen
Fr. Bill
10 July 2017

Sadhu Sundar Singh

May 26th, 2017

Sadhu Sundar Singh

Sadhu Sundar Singh
3 September 1889 - ? April 1929
I met the Sadhu through a book of his writings published in the wonderful series by Robert Ellsberg and Orbis Press the "Spiritual Masters". Then I read the beautiful biography by A.J.Appasamy which spoke of the miraculous meeting of the Sadhu with the tiger, and I couldn't wait to paint this scene from his life. This one event appeared to be symbolic of the life of a man, who ,like St Francis, seemed to bring Christianity back to life again. Today I have been viewing videos of the Sadhu, and wanted to share this image with you.
In April of 1929 he left for a missionary visit to Tibet where he had previously been welcomed and hated too, in fact he had been stoned, and once thrown into a well. This time he did not return. It is assumed he was martyred during that last visit . I believe when you read about this man, you will never forget him, his life has that luminous power of Christ which flows right into you.
Fr Bill McNichols
25 May 2017

Mother of Fairest Love for Mothers Day 2017

May 11th, 2017

Mother of Fairest Love for Mothers Day 2017

Mother of Fairest Love for Mother's Day 2017
In 1995 I had just finished the beautiful book by Carol Lee Flinders, "Enduring Grace : Portraits of Seven Women Mystics" and was inspired to work on Mechtild of Magdeburg. My Mom called concerned about a young couple she had met and wanted me to paint a very tender Mother of God for them. I had her pick her favorite icon out of a book of Russian Icons I showed her. She choose an exquisite version of the Kasperov Icon. The legend of this icon is that it was so ancient and had been naturally darkened by time, that the features were hardly recognizable. One night in February of 1840 the owner of the icon, Mrs Kasperova had been praying to Our Mother in great need and grief, when she noticed the features of the icon begin to emerge. And so she had the icon cleaned and renewed and this began a series of miraculous events through the intercession of the Mother of God.
Because Mom loved this icon I painted another one for the young couple she was interceding for, and secretly painted the Kasperov Icon for her, as a surprise, "For Marjory With Love." I then placed my Dad's name at the top left side and all my siblings names around the icon : Stephen, Robert, me, Mary and Marjory.
A blessed and happy Mother's Day to all Mothers!

Fr Bill McNichols
May 2017

Blessed Solanus Casey , OFM , Cap

May 4th, 2017

Blessed Solanus Casey , OFM , Cap

Blessed Solanus Casey, OFM, Cap
25 November 1870 - 31 July 1957
1982 was the eight hundredth anniversary of St Francis' birth, and so many tributes to Francis happened around that year, including the most incredible and beautiful double album (now on CD) by John Michael Talbot "Troubadour of the Great King." I think I wore out those records more than once. That year the whole world seemed Franciscan and I was invited to create a slide presentation on Francis' life by St Joseph's church in the West Village. Later I was asked to take that same presentation up to the Bronx to a Third Order group of Franciscans started by Fr Andre' Cirino, OFM, which I gradually could not help but join, in 1983. Andre' remains one of the great mentors of my life. It was through these Franciscans I first heard of Solanus. Later I visited his tomb in Detroit, to ask for help in working with the dying. It was in Detroit I found the only book available on Solanus at that time, now a classic, by James Patrick Derum, "The Porter of St Bonaventure's."
Now I believe there are many books, including two wonderful accounts I have read by Catherine Odell and Michael Crosby, OFM, Cap. It was Fr Crosby who commissioned this icon.
The icon shows Fr Solanus with a large soup pot getting ready to feed you , as he fed so many during his life, physically and spiritually. I placed the Blessed Mother in a mandala hovering near him because one of the set of books that nourished him most in his life, was the four volumes of the Mystical City of God , the life of the Mother of God by Venerable Maria of Agreda. I believe I read in the book by Derum, that Solanus read the entire set of books, four times through, on his knees.
During his life there were so many, many miracles, like Padre Pio, that you wonder why it has taken so long for him to be beatified? The letters near him refer to his miracles and gifts of healing... "Holy Solanus Thaumaturgus." He also had a sense of humor and often when people would come to him worrying, or trying to control everything and everyone, he'd say,
"Aren't we going to let God do Anything !!?? "
I think this is enough of an introduction to Fr Solanus. In him you will find a loving guide, friend, and someone who lived in God continually, who always preached one of the great themes of St Francis - Gratitude. Solanus often urged people, as they'd ask for something from Heaven, to have hope and to,
"Thank God ahead of time."

Fr Bill McNichols
4 May 2017

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!

Christ Emmanuel and Christ Emmanuel Lamb of God

December 30th, 2016

Christ Emmanuel and Christ Emmanuel Lamb of God

Christ Emmanuel and Christ Emmanuel Lamb of God
Today begin the O Antiphons found in the beautiful, haunting, Advent hymn:
"O Come O Come Emmanuel!"
There are two versions of this song, (I am most fond of) which are very different; one is truly stark and thus fitting for waiting in the Dark Night for the Light of the World, it is from Joan Baez 1966 Christmas album "Noel" arranged and conducted by Peter Shickele. The other by Robert Shaw Chorale and the Atlanta Symphony, I think originally recorded in the 1950's, starts off very soft, prayerful, quiet ...by the end the chorus is so full and literally begging, nearly shouting for Emmanuel to come, and us to loudly rejoice with the chorale.... It vibrates all through you, as it should. So many comments about this album say it is the best version of this hymn. When I began to paint (write) icons, my Dad used to kid me about the "homely, ugly babies "it took him awhile to warm up to the way icons present the infant and young Christ. The first one you see here was my fourth icon and I found this in a Russian Icon book my teacher, Brother Robert Lentz, OFM, gave me as a gift. I fell in love with the Buddha-like, large head of the Child which spoke to me of Holy Wisdom. And though I love this icon very much, no one has ever ordered a copy. The other icon you see here was to be a gift to my Dad , Stephen L.R. McNichols 1914-1997.
In November 1997 while Dad was in his last days I decided to copy Simon Ushakov's masterpiece of Christ Emmanuel, which because of his curly hair I titled Cordero de Dios or Lamb of God. Dad died on November 25 that year and did not get to see his icon, but I finished it, silently weeping on the Child, after his funeral . In his obituary, there are many things said about him as Governor of Colorado, which for me, do radically challenge me and all of us today, and also point to the ongoing creation of the true and only - Kingdom of God:
"He left his stamp on much of what is best about today's Colorado ... He had a lifelong commitment to the disadvantaged and distressed ... pushed much -needed new resources into the states institutions of higher education and reformed the shocking conditions that then prevailed in Colorado's mental institutions and prisons ... He combined his dedication to the underdog with the courage to stake his all on what he believed was right. Each of the other governors elected to succeed him has exceeded his longevity in office; none has exceeded his accomplishments."
From the Denver Post November 26, 1997
******
Here now are the O Antiphons listed for each day until Christmas Eve 🎄
Dec 17 : O Sapientia : O Wisdom
Dec 18: O Adonai : O Lord
Dec 19: O Radix Jesse : O Root of Jesse
Dec 20: O Clavis David : O Key of David
Dec 21: O Oriens : O Radiant Dawn or Morning Star
Dec 22: O Rex Gentium : O King (Desire) of All Nations
Dec 23: O Emmanuel : O God With Us
Please have a most blessed last week of Advent and into the Christmas Season
Fr Bill McNichols
Dec 17 (happy 80th birthday Pope Francis!) 2016

Advent 2016

November 26th, 2016

Advent 2016

Our Lady of the New Advent : Gate of Heaven
Our Lady of the New Advent : the Burning Bush

It's often said that one person or event can change your life forever , but can one painting or artwork ...in this case an icon change you forever?
This one did. It was only my third icon and I was not yet comfortable with the entire "genre " or experience or vocation yet. I was in every way a beginner and to be asked to do this icon for the Archdiocese of Denver was a surprise filled with anxiety. But I had the best teacher "in the World" in my estimation, Robert Lentz, (now Brother Robert Lentz, OFM) the Russian American Master of Iconography.
When I finished the icon it was used almost immediately as the cover of a book
"Queen of Prophets : The Gospel Message of Medjugorje"
By Dudley Plunkett
Doubleday Press 1992
I had no idea then (1991) that I'd be taken to visit Medjugorje four times beginning in 1997. I had no idea a print of this icon would be taken to Rome by kids of the Archdiocese of Denver to convince Pope John Paul II to come to Denver for the occasion of World Youth Day 1993. I had no idea I would do a second icon of Our Lady of the New Advent: the Burning Bush for him, and that I'd end up giving it to him personally on 14 August 1993 in Denver...no idea I'd be blessed beyond words to be in the aura of a Saint.
All these miracles small and large came from this icon.
And in 1992 the icon was given a feastday December 16, the next day the 17th the ancient "O Antiphons" begin with "O Wisdom" and bear a different name for Christ each day until the 24th. You can hear the different titles in the song "O Come O Come Emmanuel " sung all through the Advent season. And this song often appears on Christmas CDs.
There is so much more to say about this icon but I'd like to say, that through this icon I also ended up visiting Our Lady of Akita in Japan. I was there in April 1999 when the terrible Columbine Murders struck the world with grief. It was then I saw why the Holy Child was holding the columbines in his hand. They were the children that had been killed. I had been instructed by the commissioner, Archbishop (now Cardinal) Stafford to put the Colorado state flower somewhere in the icon.
As Advent begins we are aware of the coming darkness, I mean that it actually is a darker time. I will never forget a thought I read at the time I was working on this icon, from the book "The Cult of the Black Virgin by Ean Begg." The author said that Black Madonnas are mysteriously popular, they draw you in, because the Black Madonna symbolizes not the darkness of despair but the darkness (or waiting) of pregnancy.
May this icon or any in the world you might choose to pray with, heal you, heal us, this Advent of 2016 when there is great fear of the darkness in our world. May she only shed her light as she presents to you, in a mandorla (almond shape a mandala is round) within her, the Light of the World. May the Archangel Gabriel's words to Mary at the Annunciation (Luke 1 : 30) be spoken within you as well:
(from the Amplified Edition of the Bible)
"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace free, spontaneous, absolute favor and loving- kindness) with God."

Fr Bill McNichols
Advent 2016

Jesuit Martyr Thomas Anchanikal

October 31st, 2016

Jesuit Martyr Thomas Anchanikal

This recent Jesuit Martyr Thomas Anchanikal was beheaded on October 25 1997 like two of the "Apostles to India" before him, St Thomas the Apostle and St John de Brito. I hope if you are moved to do so, you will look up his story on google. I painted him using the Indian symbol of a tiger killing an antelope to show his gentle yet strong martyr's love for his own people like Jesus. I also used the idea of him holding his severed head after icons of St John the Baptist. The icon is at Santa Clara University in California and I personally believe students are incredibly interested and inspired by true martyrs. The icon then is intentionally "calling" the students to ask questions and look into this Martyr who sought for justice especially for the poorest of the poor.
Fr Bill McNichols
25 October 2016

Nuestro Padre San Francisco de Asis

October 4th, 2016

Nuestro Padre San Francisco de Asis

Nuestro Padre San Francisco de Asis

Its no exaggeration to say that Francis was probably one of the few true fundamentalists that have ever lived. Once he was converted at age 25 he looked to the Gospels for every step of his way. If Jesus said Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me ... then Francis named his group the Frati Minori ...the Least Brothers.
Francis only lived to be 44 but two years before he died, he felt like a failure.
His least brothers had grown from 12 to over 3,000 and he could no longer guide or control them. So he had a dream that he was a black mother hen with pink feet surrounded by chicks that were running everywhere. He interpreted the dream to mean he must surrender his order to the Pope and go to Mt La Verna, north of Assisi, to bemoan his sins of failure. He left on August 15, the feast of the Assumption, to make what he called St Michaels Lent until the feast of the Archangel on September 29 th.
Francis had asked for two graces of Jesus to complete his following the Gospels.One, that he feel in his whole being the feelings and pain of Jesus as He died on Mt Calvary. Two, that he experience the love of Christ that could forgive even from the Cross. Somewhere around the 14th the feast of the Holy Cross and the 17th (the church used to have a feast of the Holy Stigmata on the 17th.) of September Francis saw something no one has ever seen before or since. Out of the sky came a figure of Christ Crucified bearing the six wings of a Seraph. It was the answer to his prayer for the two graces. He felt the pain of Christ and also the Seraphic love of Christ. Francis would live two more years until 3 October 1226, seared with the Stigmata. He was the first person ever to receive them. During those brief years he would continue to heal with his wounds. When the brothers would wash out the bandages, they would use the water to heal sick animals and people. This for me, is the most beautiful part of the story as we are all asked to continue to work with and heal with our wounds; they dont disappear.
After the Resurrection the Lord Himself shows His disciples His wounds. God could have easily removed them as He did the flagellation marks and all the horrific damage to Jesus body. In the great legend of St Martin of Tours (San Martin Caballero) Martin has an apparition of a figure who says he is Christ the King, but Martin knows better because the figure has no wounds. It angrily vanishes in a whiff of sulphur.
Ive lost count of how many times Ive drawn, painted or created icons of the love of Francis for and with, his Seraphic Lord Jesus. Its a meditation/contemplation I never tire of bringing to life; these wounds so ever present in all of us that Pope Francis has referred to the Church as a Field Hospital where we tend to one another as Church, as if on a field of continuing battles.
I hope this image brings you hours of meditation, seraphic joy and sends you back into the world to share in Jesus Healing Gifts.

Fr William Hart McNichols
A happy feast of St. Francis and happy name day to Pope Francis!
October 4, 2016

Mother of the Incarnate Word

September 8th, 2016

Mother of the Incarnate Word

Mother of the Incarnate Word

In 1996 I was asked to do five icons for the Jesuits at Boston College and it was in Boston I met Fr Jim Martin, SJ who was a theology student at the time. His community wanted an icon that would be a Contemplation on theology. We were at dinner somewhere in Cambridge when he asked me. Immediately what came to mind was the beautiful Kaluga Icon of the Mother of God. I had seen a black and white picture of the icon in the Orthodox biography of the life and mystical revelations of a Russian Eldress: Schemanun Macaria (+1993) called "Beloved Sufferer " by Gennady Durasov.
In the icon Mary was pictured about fourteen years old and absorbed in a book of holy scripture. I decided to have Mary pregnant too , in order to say that Christ is in the holy scriptures as the word, but also inside Mary as the word incarnate. This symbolizes the study of theology for me; that we read the word, and the word is also inside all of us too. I will end with a well known Orthodox prayer praising Mary as Mother of God:
"More honorable than the Cherubim, more glorious beyond
compare than the Seraphim.
No mind comprehends how to praise thee fittingly."
I offer this icon for your contemplation on the feast of the Birth of the Mother of God.

8 September 2016
Fr Bill McNichols

St John the Forerunner. Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist 29 August

August 29th, 2016

St John the Forerunner. Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist 29 August

St John the Forerunner :
Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist 29 August
So many powerful, spiritual and artistic images of John the Baptist swirl around me today on the feast of his martyrdom. John's two feasts begin and end the season of summer. I think of all the Gospel accounts of the Evangelists, and Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's beautiful visions of John woven within her Life of Christ, scripture scholar Joan Taylor's excellent and instructive book "The Immerser : John the Baptist Within Second Temple Judaism", Michael Damaskino's gaunt and majestic 16th century Greek icon which is the prototype for this icon, Andrea del Verrocchio's very, very tender and youthful John in his 15th century bust in the Washington DC National Gallery, Pasolini and Zefferelli's John in film, Ken Russell's radiantly pure John in "Salome" surrounded by the utter decadence of Herod's court, Emmy Lou Harris' literally moving, inspired version of Bill Monroe's song "Get Up John", and the still haunting, tragic pictures of the recent death of Catholic journalist James Foley.
On The feast of the birth of John, June 24 1981, it is believed that the Mother of God began appearing in the once tiny village of Medjugorje, in Bosnia. This is not yet approved by the church officially because the apparitions are still happening and is still quite controversial. On June 26 two days later, Mary appeared weeping and begging for prayers, asking to be called the Queen of Peace. It was ten years to the day when the wars in Bosnia would begin. You rarely hear from the pilgrims who come back from Medjugorje that Mostar is only 17 miles away. Mostar was hit harder than Sarajevo during the war, much of the city was destroyed. There were so many deaths that open parks had to be converted to cemeteries.
This icon is part of a diptych which was commissioned by Fr Svetozar , one of the Friars who lived at that time, in Medjugorje, the other panel is Our Lady of Medjugorje : the Burning Bush. By appearing on John 's feast Mary is saying she is the prophet of the Second Advent or the New Advent as St John Paul II proclaimed these times to be, in his first encyclical Redemptor Hominis. Why Medjugorje? One explanation is that the Croatian people , as well as the Friars, have always remained faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and have resisted amidst martyrdom and persecution for centuries, becoming secularized. And they obviously (if you have experienced them) hold onto something of the Baptist's immersion ...when the young (at the time) visionaries asked the Mother of God " who is the holiest person in the village " she pointed to a Muslim woman and told them all religions are from God and you are not a Christian if you do not respect other true religions. Of course this does not mean cults.
John the Baptist was willing to baptize anyone with a humble interior disposition. But you had to come to him already humbled, ready to change, aware that you were a sinner, empty and hungering for God; not self-righteous as if you deserved Baptism.
"As we have seen, in Isaiah 1:12-15, God is described as saying that Temple worship is futile as are sacrifices, prayers, and festivals. For God, is not pleased with his people because their 'hands are full of blood.' In Matthew 3:11 John states 'I immerse you in water for repentance.' If one wanted to distinguish John's immersion from any other type of immersion, one would need to link it with the reason it was necessary : repentance ...repentance was for, or going towards, inward cleansing ...the process cannot go back to front. John's immersion was not primary or initiatory, as though one were accounted righteous afterwards. This notion was precisely what he rejected outright ...John immersed after righteousness had been attained."
Joan Taylor
Let's end then, with the famous words of St Augustine about the Immerser :
"Now there are many things that can be said of John the Baptist, but let me sum it up in a nutshell,
He must increase,
I must decrease."

Fr Bill McNichols
29 August 2016

St Louis IX and his son Philip III

August 29th, 2016

St Louis IX and his son Philip III

St Louis IX and his son Philip III
Patron of France and Bridegrooms
It's easy to look at the Medieval world and criticize it, and it's saints, from our "much wiser and less violent " world, which we all realize is not true. From any point of view, however, Louis had his blind prejudices; his engagement with the anti-semitism of the Disputation of Paris, and his active support of the Crusades, which it seems only one Saint at that time was against, and that's the supernaturally inspired, Hildegard of Bingen. St Hildegard also had a "theology of ecology:Viriditas " we see now is 800 years ahead of her time. And we are still engaged in coming up with truly Christian answers, and active responses, to the same problems of the inter-religious nature which St Louis faced. In fact these are the most urgent and pressing problems, along with the very survival of our earth, of today's leaders.
St. Louis was born of a Spanish mother and French father in 1214 and became King after his father died when he was just 12 years old. He was happily married to Margaret of Provence and together they had 11 children. His biography by one of his closest companions, Sir John de Joinville, is still available and I'm fairly certain if you read it, you will find his greatness, compassion, holiness and strikingly contemporary sense of humor, outweigh his blind spots. Can any of us claim to be above and beyond our own prejudices, be they religious or political? We all share that "disease" due to what St Paul calls the "fleshy" part of us meaning that stubborn blindness.
This icon was commissioned by St Louis Church in Littleton, Colorado, and I used the portrait by El Greco as my model. His son and successor, Philip, holds the testimony written to him by his father on how to be a good King, which I read at Mass from The Divine Office every August 25th. I dedicated the icon to my father, Stephen L.R. McNichols a man I know loved and ruled with Justice, and cared for the less fortunate as foremost in his mind, heart and governance.
Fr Bill McNichols
25 August 2016

The Dormition of the Mother of God

August 15th, 2016

The Dormition of the Mother of God

The Dormition of the Mother of God

She sleeps who
knew no rest here.
Promised early on
a knife in her soul
watching relatives, friends,
multitudes, dividing, deciding,
and finally calling for the blood
of the Word clothed in
her very own flesh .
Stabat Mater Dolorosa,
all through the grisly passion
a helpless harmony...
the tears that would not stop,
the convulsive grief,
then all life leaving
from her eyes,
from His wounds.
Now He returns to take
her soul and body.
She of the abused and powerless,
she of the stifled and wordless,
she of the empty and outcast.
She is crowned forever
Queen of all Heaven and Earth
in the kingdom of reversals.
And we, her waiting children
are assured such an ending,
after dust, we too shall be
carried Home
in the mandorla
of the Rising Son.

In virtually every icon of the Mother of God she pleads, prays, grieves and shines with the presence of her Son. To look at her is to see her love for Him. The essence of the Dormition for me, is His love for her. This is also an icon of the joyful promise of a Christian's death. Here Christ's love gives life to the body of the one who loved Him unconditionally as Mother and true Disciple. Here He becomes mother as He carefully cradles her soul and takes her Home.
John, the Beloved Disciple, weeps and hovers over the body of the Mother given to him with Jesus' halting, broken words from the Cross. The candle moves with the presence of the Lord. John does not yet see Him in the radiant mandorla of light.
Archangel Gabriel bows low in loving recognition once again, of the one who became Mother of the Word Incarnate and Mother of all her offspring until the end of time and into eternity.
Thus icon was commissioned by the Jesuit magazine, America.

Fr William Hart McNichols
August 15 2016

Our Lady and the Holy Child Jesus Visit St Ignatius the Convalescent in Loyola

July 28th, 2016

Our Lady and the Holy Child Jesus Visit St Ignatius the Convalescent in Loyola

Our Lady and the Holy Child Jesus Visit St Ignatius the Convalescent in Loyola

"...But in that house none of those books which he normally read could be found, and so they gave him a life of Christ and a book of the lives of the saints in Spanish ... Still, Our Lord was helping him, causing other thoughts, which were born of the things he was reading, to follow these. For, while reading the lives of Our Lord and the saints, he would stop to think, reasoning with himself : 'How would it be, if I did this which St Francis did, and this which St Dominic did?' ...And here the desire to imitate the saints were occurring to him, not considering the details beyond promising himself, with the grace of God, to' do it as they had done it'... These desires were confirmed for him by a visitation as follows : being awake one night, he saw clearly a likeness of Our Lady with the Holy Child Jesus, at the sight of which, for an appreciable time, he received a very extraordinary consolation. He was left so sickened at his whole past life, especially at matters of the flesh, that it seemed to him that there had been removed from his soul all the likeness that he had previously painted in it."

From the Autobiography of St Ignatius Loyola

**************
Before I began a life as an apprentice Iconographer, I was a student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. My goal at that time in the 1980's, was to be an illustrator of children's books. I think I illustrated over twenty, including some too, for adults.
One is still available from Paulist Press called The Hurt by Teddi Doleski. These books were so joyful to do and I asked the late Fr Jim Janda to write a trilogy on the Holy Child as a way of teaching children about the kingdom of God. These were The Legend of St Christopher, The Legend of the Holy Child of Atocha and (the legend of the Infant of Prague, titled) Appointments With the Little King. Many more books followed before I sensed that I was being called to paint other images and also enter the world of painting icons, technically called "writing" icons because the Iconographer is doing a work of sacred theology. I offer this drawing made during my life as an illustrator, and the beautiful story of the holy visit, for this year's feast of St Ignatius, 31 July.

Fr Bill McNichols
July 2016
Books Available at:
https://openlibrary.org/authors/OL393234A/J._Janda
https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=william+hart+mcnichols

St Andrei Rublev, Patron of Iconographers

July 4th, 2016

St Andrei Rublev, Patron of Iconographers

St Andrei Rublev : 1370-1430
Patron of Iconographers : feast day 4 July
Any list of the top 10 or 15 movies ever made will contain Andrei Tarkovsky's masterpiece Andrei Rublev also known as The Passion of Andrei Rublev.
" ... In Tarkovsky's own turbulent time, the film lit all manners of controversy. It's Christian spiritualism offended the Soviet authorities ...and it's challenging form led to various cuts. After opening in Moscow in 1966, it was suppressed until the 1969 Cannes Film Festival and it didn't reach Britain until 1973 ....
When in the final minutes, the film pulls off its most famous flourish : the ( black and white ) screen bursts into colour and we're finally ready to see Rublev's paintings in extreme close-up-coming at the end of his epic journey, they can reduce a viewer to tears ...We're reminded of what beauty is. It's as close to transcendence as cinema gets."
Steve Rose
The Guardian 2010
"Andrei Rublev is described by the chroniclers as a man of great humility, 'full of joy and brightness.' His art was the same; limpid and deep, supremely luminous, invested with the privilege of a perpetual childhood. "
Kostas Papaioannou
This icon depicts the medieval Iconographer, canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1988. Here the blessed Monk holds the face of Christ from his magnificent icon (the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah) of The Most Blessed Trinity.
Though it has been copied innumerable times, no one has ever been able to render the grace and loving quality, as each angelic figure defers to one another creating an endless circle of divine love. It has been a source of wonder and awe for centuries for people who contemplate this timeless icon of the holy Spirit inspired St Andrei Rublev.
Fr Bill McNichols
July 2016

The Passion of Matthew Shepard. June 14, 2016

June 30th, 2016

The Passion of Matthew Shepard. June 14, 2016

I assisted at a funeral today and this first reading spoke to me of the great tragedy and grief we all feel about the murders of innocent people in Orlando.
A reading from the Book of Lamentations 3:17-26
My soul is deprived of peace,
I have forgotton what happiness is;
I tell myself my future is lost,
all that I hoped for from the Lord.
The thought of homeless poverty
is wormwood and gall;
Remembering it over and over
leaves my soul downcast within me.
But I will call this to mind,
as my reason to have hope:
The favors of the Lord are not exhausted,
his mercies are not spent;
They are renewed each morning,
so great is his faithfulness.
My portion is the Lord, says my soul;
therefore will I hope in him.
Good is the Lord to one who waits for him,
to the soul that seeks him;
It is good to hope in silence
(and in loving community)
for the saving help of the Lord.
The Passion of Matthew Shepard is an image I created for the contemplation and conversion of hatred and homophobia as a part of a Lenten issue on contemporary passions in Maryknoll Magazine.
Fr. Bill McNichols
June 2016

The Bride Images of the Church. June 12, 2016

June 30th, 2016

The Bride Images of the Church.   June 12, 2016

The Bride : Images of the Church
By Daniel Berrigan, SJ
Orbis Press, 2000
I have been unusually blessed to have prophetic, poetic as well as very talented writers look into the icons which have been "given to me." This includes Megan McKenna, Fr. John Dear and Mirabai Starr, all published through the kindness, insight and generosity of my friend Robert Ellsberg Editor of Orbis Press.
The first book was written by the late Daniel Berrigan, SJ and I chose the title to echo his very first book called "The Bride : Essays in the Church" published in 1959.
I had been introduced to Daniel Berrigan's writings in the Novitiate at age 19 and he became a mentor to me long before I actually met him in 1983. If you google the articles that have been written about Dan since his death on April 30, you will see how many thousands of people he mentored through his heroic peace work and activism, his hospice work at St Rose and St Vincent's in NYC and his searing, dazzling and absolutely unique writing of brilliant poetry and over 50 books on Scripture.
I was missioned by the Society of Jesus to begin an apprenticeship as an iconographer in 1990 and every icon and image (almost 300 now) have been for the Society and the Church. Dan commissioned 3 icons of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, William Stringfellow and Holy Prophet Benjamin Salmon. After his brother Philip died in December 2002 I came home from his funeral in Baltimore and began work on his icon too. Now I am working on one of Dan and it's impossible to put into words the feelings and prayers I am having working on someone I knew so intimately. It's a blessing I knew someday would be asked of me, yet to actually sit with him, talk with him, continue to love him, is a mixture of grief and elation; a joy, an honor I pray, will come through to you when the icon is finished. One of my cherished memories is accompanying Dan to an upstate New York retreat center where a group of Vietnam Veterans had asked him to give them a retreat, they had felt he was the best priest to understand their suffering. A man who had shown the true meaning of compassion - "to suffer with."
Rest in Peace, in the Light of His Presence - dear friend, mentor to multitudes of people of all faiths, artistic genius guided by the Spirit, and Holy Prophet Daniel Berrigan, SJ. Watch over us dear Dan, and give us the courage to keep seeking for and listening to God's will and to be faithful to our vocations.
June 2016
Fr Bill McNichols

Mother of God Similar To Fire. May 25.2016

June 30th, 2016

Mother of God Similar To Fire. May 25.2016

In May this year, Pentecost and also the traditional month of Mary:
Mother of God Similar To Fire
Published by Orbis Press
In 1990 I bought my first book on icons published by Rizzoli, New York. It is called simply "Russian Icons" by Father Vladimir Ivanov and within that book I found so many beautiful icons I would later try to copy. Such as the title of the book, the enigmatic "Mother of God Similar To Fire", which originally came out in hardback in 2010 and is now in paperback. It is often the title of the icon as well as the beauty which leads me to copy it so that people from the West can experience some of the Russian Orthodox mystical spiritual genius. My friend and brilliant writer Mirabai Starr wrote 51 unique prayer/poems for each icon and image. It is a book so many people have told me they look through all year, whether it is May, Advent, or Lent and find something new each time, and comfort in times of struggle or grief.
The icon shown is called "Mother of God Your Lap Has Become the Holy Table" and is a 19th century Russian Icon which seemed to be perfect to copy in 1999 for the coming of the Eucharistic Year of 2000 which was given to the world by St John Paul II. In this icon I love the evocation of the Tabernacle as Mary's womb. On the feasts of Mary we often get readings at Mass from the Hebrew Bible of the carrying of the sacred Ark of the Covenant where the presence of God dwells. Mary becomes the literal fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant as she carried the Infant Jesus in her body.
Fr Bill McNichols
25 May 2016
My 37th Anniversary of Ordination 1979

Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the Earth. May 15, 2016

June 30th, 2016

Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the Earth. May 15, 2016

Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the Earth.
Inspire us to care for her as well as each other.
Inflame us with the courageous love of Holy Father
Pope Francis to include all people in the voice and
ministry of our Mother Church.
St John XXIII and St John Paul II prayed for a New
Pentecost which has truly, already begun; help us to
receive you Holy Spirit who bring these abundant graces.
Give us wisdom and guidance in our daily lives and lead
us always, through the Gospels into the heart and mind
of Jesus the Lord.
Amen

Trees for Rivera Funeral Home in Taos, New Mexico

April 19th, 2016

Trees for Rivera Funeral Home in Taos, New Mexico

I was asked by Tim Rivera to do something for the room in the Rivera Funeral Home, in Taos New Mexico, which might bring Hope and Comfort to families of all Faiths, as they sit in the main room during a service for their deceased loved ones.
I thought of 3 images of Trees that would convey different seasons, and also the life of the soul.
1 ) Trees of Winter Life
These trees symbolize what seems to be simply cold death, to us who see them.
And yet trees underneath the most bitter and cold snow are not really dead.
A candle burns beneath them symbolizing that they are destined to come back to life. The body dies but the soul is eternal, and the Full Moon is our night light.
2 )Tree of Life
A single pine tree grows out of a sepia-green color.
As it rises, it gains full green and life. The tree is surrounded by a Sun nurturing the climbing growth.
The Rose tops the tree as it's Crown. The Fiery Rose is a famous symbol in T.S Eliot's mystical masterpiece of poetry, The Four Quartets. In the last poem after quoting Julian of Norwich, he ends with:
"When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one."
3 ) Tree of Souls
At Mass we say to God concerning the dead, who have now transformed into souls,
"Welcome them into the light of your face."
How to picture souls rising into a Light which speaks of hope and a beautiful Star guiding them home?
Listening to a book on CDs The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, I heard a longing for an After Life in the two teenagers who are the center of the novel.
In my imagination I saw this Tree.

Fr William Hart McNichols
Summer 2014

My 911 Saint - Therese of Lisieux

April 9th, 2016

My 911 Saint - Therese of Lisieux

As we enter Springtime,
I'd like to bring you to Therese.
Although we love all the saints for different reasons, when in great difficulty I always call on her as my 911 Saint . No one else answers so quickly. No one else makes you feel like she knows you and your problems so completely, as if she were your best friend, as Therese.
Several years ago I was living in Arroyo Secco, Northern New Mexico and it was a very harsh winter. Before a Mass on Sunday evening I was praying to her and as I entered the church of the Most Holy Trinity, the music director gave me a book she found that day at an out door sale, it was Kathryn Harrison's Penguin Biography of Therese. It's the most unusual book on Therese , and the one I think she wanted me to read . I've read it several times , I'm reading it right now. What makes it unusual is that Kathryn does her best to try to make Therese real and free from hagiographical touch ups. So that she has been criticized for not understanding the spirituality of the Saint. For me it was just what I needed, in that, it brought me closer to Therese than ever before, and I had first read about her as a child in the Vision Book Series called St Therese and the Roses by Helen Walker Homan. My icon is based on her two names as a Carmelite:
Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.
Let me end with the most beautiful poem on St Therese by my deceased friend and mentor Fr Jim Janda:

Therese de l'Enfant Jesus

Clip the bird's
wing
the desire to
fly
remains like
seeking
the Christ when
the
only meaning is
memory-of a
promise
made while
holding
an opening rose
white
as the wafer
received
believing senses
are
deceived

and that coughing
blood
means only that
the
soul will be
separated
from the body
and the only
position
possible is of
childhood
looking up

by Fr James Janda +

Fr Bill McNichols
April 2016

The Risen Lord Appears To His Mother Mary

March 27th, 2016

The Risen Lord Appears To His Mother Mary

The Risen Lord Appears To His Mother Mary

I think my favorite painting of the Resurrection is the dazzling multicolored rising Lord by Matthias Grunewald where the shroud is lit with color and a large glowing rainbow aureole surrounds Christ. And you often see the stately, serene and victorious Risen Christ in Piero della Francesco's famous painting too. But I chose to copy and simplify the right panel of Rogier van der Weyden's Risen Lord from the Miraflores Triptych because the Lord in this beautiful work seems so tender and still "kind of shaking" as he appears to his mother. Both Teresa of Avila and Ignatius Loyola took for granted that Jesus must have come first to his mother, before anyone else.
At different times in your life, you look into a painting or an icon and it seems exactly right, to speak directly to you as a prayer. I also have a copy of Mark Rothko's "alive" painting called "Saffron:1957" which is a masterpiece evoking pure Resurrection to me.
I hope this icon after van der Weyden will bring you the quiet, momentous moment when Mary first sees her risen son, filled with the movement of sorrow-into- joy she must have felt. A blessed Easter season to you All!

Fr Bill McNichols
Easter Sunday 2016

Holy Week and Our Lady of Magadan

March 23rd, 2016

Holy Week and Our Lady of Magadan

Holy Week and Our Lady of Magadan
I believe it was during this same time, Holy Week in 1994 that I completed this commission for (now deceased) Archbishop Hurley of Anchorage, Alaska to give to the Orthodox Bishop of Magadan, Far East, Russia. Magadan is so distant it's not called Siberia , but Far East it's actually "above" Japan and only 4 hours flight from Anchorage, in the Bay of the Sea of Ohotsk.
Archbishop Hurley wanted to open a Catholic parish in Magadan and he longed to give a gift of an appropriate icon.
Magadan was a concentration camp of the former Soviet Union from 1938 under Stalin until it closed in 1955 under Krushchev. No one knows how many thousands of people died in the prison camps and are buried there. I traveled there in October 1995, and could write many pages on my short but indelible visit; most of all I remember the incredible generosity of the Pastor Fr Michael Shields and the Russian people. And I also visited the Lavra (monastery) of St Sergius of Radonezh, where the Orthodox monks commissioned another icon, Our Lady of Pochaev, which is now in their monastery church. An honor I will never forget.
When designing the icon for Magadan, with its tragic history, I could only imagine a Pieta. I added the pastel or Easter colors to give a sense of what the grieving Mother would soon experience through her Risen Son.
I dedicate the icon and the prayers it hopefully inspires, this year, to the grieving people in Brussels, Belgium and to anyone suffering from a recent loss.
Fr Bill McNichols
Holy Week 2016

Mary, Mother of Mercy - Dedicated to Pope Francis in this Year of Mercy

March 11th, 2016

Mary, Mother of Mercy - Dedicated to Pope Francis in this Year of Mercy

Mary, Mother of Mercy
(Dedicated to Pope Francis in this Year of Mercy)

"...Send your Spirit and consecrate
everyone of us with its
anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy
may be a year of grace
from the Lord, and your
Church, with renewed enthusiasm,
may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to the captives and the
oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.
We ask this through the intercession of
Mary, Mother of Mercy,
you who live and reign with the
Father and the Holy Spirit
forever and ever.
Amen "
Pope Francis

After hearing the truly good news that Pope Francis had planned to consecrate us all in a Year of Mercy, I immediately went looking for a prototype of an icon I could give to people wanting to pray with an icon of Mary and the Child. While looking at many "tenderness icons" I found instead, the Terebinskaya Icon, which is probably one of the happiest icons I have ever seen. This icon caused me to reexamine the whole concept of the joyful effects of Mercy. It would evoke the blessings on the merciful from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount ....how happy, how blessed are the merciful!
Our Mother is praying in the ancient "orans" position with hands outstretched and raised while looking tenderly, with so much love at her Child. The Child seems to literally dance upon the world, as Holy Wisdom in Proverbs 8:30, 31.
As the Messiah he is always bringing, and playfully showering his abundant gifts upon our world.
I used the same green atmosphere around the world as in the Viriditas Icon commissioned by Loyola Chicago last year , to show that , not only is mercy alive, but it continues to actually transform our natural world. For us who at times can be severely limited in our ability to know how to forgive and be merciful, this Child can open and easily create infinite possibilities in our everyday lives - still unknown to us, for the miracles of mercy to happen.

Fr Bill McNichols
March 2016

Variation On Our Lady of Sorrows

February 17th, 2016

Variation On Our Lady of Sorrows

Variation On Our Lady of Sorrows
"For I know that my redeemer lives ..."
Job 19:25

As a part of the Passion Triptych I had painted (written) an icon of Our Lady of Sorrows that shows the Blessed Mother lifting up one empty hand, the very hand that once held the Christ Child. We see this mother almost every night on tv news, bereft and grieving over the loss of some child or children in one or another recent accident, incident of violence or natural disaster. Then there are flowers brought by people to the scene of death or to the family.
In this image I wanted to symbolically represent both the mother and the flowers.
We usually associate white lilies with Easter. Yet during Lent we are not yet witnessing the Resurrection yet . And so the red lilies speak of the Passion; of the three days before Easter and the passion of terrible grief and loss. God can and will turn our grief into joy, someday - even during our life on earth. And we wait, sometimes for years, in the most stark faith and dark night for Him to return.
Having worked in a hospice for so many years I learned, slowly, reverently, that grief has its own time. You cannot set a time for anyone's grief to end. The Book of Job cautions us about being glib or judgmental with easy answers because we cannot bear to be with someone too long in their grief. Gustavo Gutierrez' book on Job has the most comforting "answer" to Job's grief, that in the end It is simply God's presence, appearance to Job that heals his grief; not an explanation.
And so this symbolic picture of Mary inside the Passion of her Son is a reminder that hers and our grief will one day change with the apparition of the Risen Lord, however and in what way, He chooses to come to us.


Fr Bill McNichols
February 2016

Passion Triptych http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/passion-triptych-william-hart-mcnichols.html

For Lent 2016- Jesus Christ Morning Star - Jesucristo El Lucero Radiante del Alba

February 17th, 2016

For Lent 2016- Jesus Christ Morning Star - Jesucristo El Lucero Radiante del Alba

For Lent 2016: Jesus Christ Morning Star
(Jesucristo El Lucero Radiante del Alba)

Following the murders in 1999 of the teenagers at Columbine High School in Colorado , I began to imagine creating an Icon of Jesus as a teenager. It seems that the world children have inherited is increasingly impossible for them to bear. With the recent massive number of deaths, in so many ways, we all feel the stalking presence of evil.

In 2001 Olga Torres-Reid invited me to create an altar for the Day of the Dead, in an exhibit, held in Taos, New Mexico entitled "Sobre Muerte" which placed me directly at the center of this tension. Death itself is not evil. St Francis of Assisi spoke to death as our friend, Sister Death. However the deliberate murder of innocent people is evil. How to respond to this conflict? Bringing the teenage Christ into the worl , gave me an opportunity to respond through art.

The frame was carved for this exhibit by my friend, the master woodworker and Santero, Roberto Lavadie. I had seen the haunting image of the skull with wings during my years of study in Boston, on the old New England gravestones. What does it mean for a skull to have wings?

I painted the frame black and white and brought a Taos teenager, as Christ, into the ominous landscape and sky, as the color , the light , and the life in the midst of death. Before I finished this work, the horrendous disaster of September 11 shook the world and so I painted the wounds onto the hands of Christ. Jesucristo El Lucero Radiante del Alba comes from the last chapter of the Apocalypse (Revelation), chapter 22 verse 16:

"I am the Light of the Dawn or the Bright Morning Star."

Though surrounded by darkness, death has no dominion over the youthful Lord of Life.

Fr Bill McNichols
Lent of 2016

Heart Speaks to Heart

February 17th, 2016

Heart Speaks to Heart

Michele L. Catanese has a Master’s degree in Christian Spirituality as well as certification as a Spiritual Director and Retreat Director from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. She was a Religious of the Cenacle for 7 years during which time she began training as a Spiritual director. In addition to Creighton University, she did her theological studies at St. Vincent’s Seminary in Latrobe, PA, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA, and Boston College in Boston, MA. She taught Theology, primarily Scripture and Christian Spirituality, at the high school level for 22 years and she offered faith formation, spiritual consultation, and educational formation for faculty. Michele has also taught adult education courses on Scripture, Prayer, and Christian Spirituality. She has given various seminars, days of prayer, and retreats in a number of cities and she has practiced spiritual direction since 1986.

http://www.catanesesd.com/micheles-blog/let-love-decide-everything

The Silence of St Thomas Aquinas - Feast Day January 28

January 26th, 2016

The Silence of St Thomas Aquinas - Feast Day January 28

The Silence of St Thomas Aquinas ( feast day January 28 )
In my six year apprenticeship with master Iconographer, Friar Robert Lentz, OFM, I began to experience the importance of the silent mystery in so many enigmatic icons, such as Mother of God Similar to Fire and Jesus Christ Redeemer Holy Silence. I think in the West we are uncomfortable with mystery and silence. We want an immediate explanation of what we are looking at in a work of art, but that kind of impatience will only frustrate the viewer of icons.
This icon of Thomas Aquinas deferring to an apparition of Holy Wisdom, is the result of reading two books on the Angelic Doctor:
Aquinas Search For Wisdom by Vernon Bourke and Silence of St Thomas by Josef Pieper.
(we ) "...man, in his philosophical inquiry, is faced again and again with the experience that reality is unfathomable and Being is mystery - an experience, it is true, which urges him not so much to communicate as to silence. But it would not be the silence of resignation, and still less the silence of despair. It would be the silence of reverence."
J. Pieper
Happy Feast Day Angelic Doctor St Thomas!

St Catherine of Siena- Guardian of the Papacy

January 7th, 2016

St Catherine of Siena- Guardian of the Papacy

St Catherine of Siena: Guardian of the Papacy
(1347-1380)
For the people of the Church of the Risen Savior, Albuquerque, New Mexico
(From their Pastor Fr Timothy Martinez)

One of my favorite biographies of Catherine is by her spiritual guide, the Dominican friar, Blessed Raymond of Capua, still available today. But if you are looking for a glimpse of Catherine in a brief (25 page ) essay, there is nothing better than Carol Lee Flinders portrait in her beautiful book, "Enduring Grace: Living Portraits of Seven Women Mystics."
During the papacies of Popes St John Paul II and Benedict XVI, I found and held onto, a picture of a mosaic of Catherine holding the papal tiara worn by Popes of the past, actually up until St John XXIII who wore it right after his election (I think Blessed Paul VI did too). Catherine has always been connected intimately with the Church and specifically with the Pope. So I began to think of the tiara as a kind of earthly crown, in people's eyes, but the actual tiara worn by any pope, bishop, pastor, male or female superior of a religious order, or any great leader, is the Crown of Thorns.
I see this clearly with all the popes of my life beginning with Pius XII, and especially now with Pope Francis I. In this year of Mercy, I imagine Catherine asking us to have a special kind of Mercy, for the Pope himself. She asks in this icon that we continually pray for him and if you can, love him too; I personally do, with enormous thanksgiving.

Fr Bill McNichols
January 2016

St Jude Patron of the Impossible- Feast Day October 28

November 3rd, 2015

St Jude Patron of the Impossible- Feast Day October 28

St Jude Patron of the Impossible
Feast Day October 28

I can remember living in NYC in the 80's and continually seeing on the back page of local alternative newspapers the words "Thank you St Jude for ..." A multitude of things. There was never a mention of any other Saint and the requests and testimonies of answered prayers always moved my heart into a prayer.
The popular iconography, or colors and symbolism of St Jude are now set; whether it be statues, candles, holy cards or novenas. He looks similar to Jesus, he wears green, he holds a club or staff of his martyrdom, he also holds a medallion or cloth of the Holy Face of Jesus, and there is a flame of the Holy Spirit over his head.
You can google the ancient story of the miracle performed by St. Jude with the Holy Face and King Abgar of Edessa; a beautiful narrative of Jude's first mission after Jesus' death and Resurrection.
But how did he get to be patron of the impossible?
I found a "clue" in Adrienne von Speyr's wonderful Book of All Saints where in her portrait of Jude she calls him "a beast of burden" that during his life he already carried lots of people's troubles and burdens to God. And then she says a most beautiful thing about our Saint Jude:
"He prays well and a lot, especially petitionary prayer. And if someone makes a mistake, then he is the one who prays most for him and petitions in his name for forgiveness... He is a beast of burden, who loads burdens on himself and carries them to God ... He is also the one who understands others, a person to whom they are able to go. He is like a confessor for all of them."
Page 279, Book of All Saints

Most of Fr. Bill's icons are done as commissions, but this original icon of St. Jude was done as a special prayer for cancer patients. It is available for sale, if you are interested please contact us.

3 card choices for Christmas

November 3rd, 2015

3 card choices for Christmas

3 card choices for Christmas

1) Our Lady of Maryknoll
In light of Pope Francis recent beautiful Encyclical, "Laudato Si" about our care and concern for "our common home", I chose this icon of the Holy Child lovingly holding our world, for this Christmas.
http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/products/our-lady-of-maryknoll-100th-anniversary-icon-223-william-hart-mcnichols-greeting-card.html

2) Hagia Hesychia : Jesus Christ Redeemer Holy Silence
This is my version of an enigmatic, beautiful 19th century Angelic icon who represents the young Jesus, and a call, especially in Advent, into a contemplative place within us.
http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/products/hagia-hesychia-jesus-christ-redeemer-holy-silence-086-william-hart-mcnichols-greeting-card.html

3) The Holy Family of Bethlehem
Less than two miles from the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem is the Holy Family Hospital . What a privilege to create this icon for this extraordinary maternity hospital that serves women and men of all faiths.
http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/products/the-holy-family-for-the-holy-family-hospital-of-bethlehem-272-william-hart-mcnichols-greeting-card.html

St Teresa of Avila - Doctor of the Church

October 8th, 2015

St Teresa of Avila - Doctor of the Church

St Teresa of Avila:Doctor of the Church
(she is shown with the hands of Christ)
This year is the 500th Anniversary of Teresa's birth in 1515

"One day while I was in prayer, the Lord decided to show me just his hands.
I could never describe such beauty! The vision shocked me. I am always frightened when God gives me a new supernatural favor. A few days after this, he showed me his divine face, and I was completely absorbed.
Since the Lord would ultimately grant me the favor of seeing him whole, I wondered why he chose to reveal himself little by little. Later I understood that his Majesty was giving me exactly as much as my delicate nature could handle ...
Why, may you ask, does it require such strength to see some hands and a face? Glorified bodies are so exquisite that a mere glimpse of such supernatural beauty leaves a soul dazzled and confused. At first, this vision stirred intense fear in me. But the agitation soon melted into a sense of calm certainty and peace."
Taken from
Teresa of Avila : The Book of My Life
Translated by Mirabai Starr
New Seeds Books
Used with permission

Viriditas - Finding God In All Things

September 2nd, 2015

Viriditas - Finding God In All Things

Viriditas : Finding God In All Things
An image with Icons too, created for Loyola Chicago University
5ft x 10ft
When Fr Mark Bosco, SJ commissioned me to paint his dream of these saints holding up the World, my question to myself was
How do they hold up the World?
The answer you see right here, is a kind of Map which might tell you where to go, but you have to actually make the journey. The Map is a prayer, and the journey, I pray will give you continual insights which will lead to action, so that with the holy three of Ignatius, Hildegard, Francis and the Holy Child Jesus, you might learn something about how the Holy Spirit continues to Green the World.
The Saints are grounded in the Blood of Christ which feeds the World as our Mothers own blood feeds us in the womb.
If you look at nature closely in the early spring, all green things begin with red (wounds) buds, shoots, and branches. Then they flower into green and abundant colors of infinite life. The leaves, vibrant rocks and stones are living examples of how nature praises the Creator. Earths atmosphere, usually a thin line of blue is, in this version green , with the life of the Holy Spirit . Twelve tongues of the Spirits flames hover round the World as in a New Pentecost which St John the XXIII and St John Paul II prophesied for the 21st Century.
The Holy Spirit is seen just at that moment when God speaks the Word from Genesis : Let there be Light and life as we know it began to swirl from the void.
The gorgeous frame by Master woodworker Roberto Lavadie of Taos, chants the Holy Holy Holy...as with Hildegards inspired chants, she claims to have heard immersed in God, the Living Light; Heaven and Earth are full of Gods glory. Christ the Deer, or hart, is at the bottom standing in precious water which nourishes all life.
There is so much more to say, but I think thats enough to begin to lead you into a contemplation of Viriditas: Finding God In All Things.

Fr William Hart McNichols
August 2015

Father Bills Blog

July 28th, 2014

Father Bills Blog

Fr. Bill McNichols, Iconographer and priest, writes about his art, his contemplative process and his subjects. He also invites guest bloggers such as Fr. Jim Martin, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage and Rosemary Maguire Thompson of P. Francis Murphy Initiative for Justice and Peace. Topics include Icons, Saints and their Feast Days and general artistic and religious observances.