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The Souls of the Just Are In the Hands of God

November 11th, 2021

The Souls of the Just Are In the Hands of God

The Souls of the Just Are In the Hands of God
“...Only me beside you. Still you’re not alone.
No one is alone, truly. No one is alone.
Sometimes people leave you
Halfway through the wood. Others may deceive you.
You decide what’s good. You decide alone, but
no one is alone... Someone is on your side.
Someone else is not. While you’re seeing your side,
maybe you forgot; they are not alone. No one is alone.
Hard to see the light now, just don’t let it go. Things will
come out right now. We can make it so.
Someone is on your side, no one is alone...”
From “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim 1986
“...And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning...”
Ezra Pound
It’s impossible to overestimate the daily effects of all the deaths and catastrophes we are living with at this moment now, and have been for years. Don’t run away from this... please, but contemplate what you believe is happening and why us ? Why now ? I always tell people at Mass, we were born to live now, this is not an accident. God knows we are capable of making some difference now. Think of the people born in the eras of the Medieval devastating plagues, or just recently, WW 1 or WW 11 ? They must have wondered why us ? Why now ? On November 2 we celebrate the feast of the Holy Souls and we are watching millions of souls rising into God every day. As if every day was 9/11. As the song says....... “over and over I keep going over the world we knew...”
I remember living in Manhattan during the beginning of the AIDS pandemic and I felt my vocation was to be a “midwife to the second birth.” At that time Stephen Sondheim came out with another one of his masterpieces- always centered on the cultural kairos times- and I was blessed to see the original broadway version of “Into the Woods,” in the late 1980’s, several times. I’d go to broadway shows as gifts from/with young men who were afflicted with AIDS and I saw many shows, but none affected me more than this show. The words, “...sometimes people leave you, halfway through the wood...” were too close for comfort, and would wound/afflict my heart so deeply. I never got used to these young men dying by the thousands but I accepted my vocation to accompany them right to the doorway. Often they would die before I could get back to the hospital, and when I went in to see them, and found they had gone, I’d go outside in a kind of instantaneously, violently forced trance. I would take to the streets and walk miles up and down Manhattan; to get my bearings. I was disoriented; vertiginous. It was as if some huge part of me left too, or wanted to, and I needed to be grounded. Walking was my way of pounding the earth as an assurance that I was still here . I identified with the image of the tarot card “le pendu” or “the hanged man” - halfway on earth and halfway in the realm beyond life. I have never gotten back to the way I was before that time; fully on earth. My heart collapse in 2012 exacerbated this precarious state and I have accepted it as a “supra-normal, ab-normal,” condition. I mean it’s how we all live right now; part here, part there. I imagine that anyone who had these daily experiences would feel exactly the same way. The young men who were dying would often tell me that their relatives or someone they loved who had passed, was visiting them and “coaching” them into the process of coming home, of letting go. Almost any hospice doctor or nurse will tell you exactly the same things.
I have always been attracted, since childhood, to the devotion around the Holy Souls and you can read about this in the lives of many of our saints like Catherine of Genoa, Anne Catherine Emmerich, Padre Pio, Adrienne von Speyr, or the Austrian mystic, Maria Simma. But you don’t have to go into these Catholic visionaries to understand that we ache to remember and communicate with those we have deeply loved. I have often read that the feeling on their part, is mutual . They are literally waiting to hear from us and are willing, longing, to help us out in any way they can, for our brief time on earth. For some people the accounts of these holy people visited by souls, are terribly frightening, and so, there is no need for that. The best thing you can possibly do is to have Masses offered for them and to pray for and with them yourselves.
Every year on November 2, I place a large scrapbook filled with pictures and names of people who have passed into God, beneath the Eucharist at Mass and pray for them. Because we ultimately live forever, this passing is part of our continuing lives. The wildly veeringly/creative psychologist, Carl Jung thought of death as a Wedding. Right before he died, he asked a friend to drive him around his native villages, and the car was joyfully halted by several Weddings. This delighted him.
“Hard to see the light now, just don’t let it go. Things will come out right now. We can make it so...”
I love the last Requiem Mass ever composed for the dead by Maurice Durufle’. All the ones after Durufle’ are concert pieces. It is so soft, gentle, and like a small boat floating peacefully down a stream. Not at all the grand and portentous electrifying Mozart or Verdi. Durufle’ is a premonition of Vatican II and it’s theology of death-into-life. Just listen; you’ll hear and see. White vestments instead of black. An emphasis on life everlasting. It’s just utterly beautiful, and comforting.
“May light eternal shine upon them O Lord, with your saints forever, for you are Merciful. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord. And may perpetual light shine upon them. With your saints forever, for you are Merciful. With your saints forever, for you are Merciful.”
Fr William Hart Dominic McNichols 💮 November 2021

Jesus- Listen and Pray

November 11th, 2021

Jesus- Listen and Pray

Jesus, Listen and Pray
This is a very small image, 5”x7” - the first one I had the energy to paint after open heart surgery, in 2012. I had seen a card with Jesus in the lotus position praying and I knew I needed to go into it more, by painting/living with Him.
“The Jesuit Bernard Lonergan was one of the first theologians to recognize that God’s revelation is embedded in the personal narrative. The concrete stories of women and men carry within them the traces of the divine. As we come to know flesh-and-blood people in all their mystery, and all their ordinariness, we come to know more of the Creator and Redeemer and Sustaining Spirit. So it is with Monika Hellwig...As the Carmelite poet Jessica Powers noted, to live in the Spirit of God is to be a listener. Monika listened deeply and well.”
Dolores Leckey from the book “Monika Hellwig: The People’s Theologian”
I have not read all of Monika’s work but what I have has moved me to listen and pray. She has the inspired Art of writing about deep theological issues that are understandable and it seems to me, in a “clean” way, of having no agenda. I think the best Christian apologists have this grace. They assume your natural intelligence and don’t have to coerce you because their clarity is both scholarly and lovingly invitational. They trust the Holy Spirit. In these days of hourly rancor, that often explodes into some form of violence, such a person as Monika was/is a minor miracle. I’m hoping I will get the chance to paint her image too.
I’ve met many people, throughout my life who start off a conversation by putting you on the defensive. I’ve always wondered what do they have to hide ? Because this tactic actually kills any chance for a conversation. I don’t really know, maybe that’s the whole point ? Conversation assumes a vulnerability on both sides, a true listening and responding with a word or two that shows you’ve heard, an immediate rebuttal (and most of us are guilty of this) is another conversation killer. Oddly enough, I once read a very interesting take on this many years ago in ,maybe (?) chapter 5, of “The Celestine Prophecy.” I think it was about the reason people take swipes, verbal snipers. It might have answered that question, but it didn’t provide any lasting comfort.
The Gospels have several stories of Jesus going off to be alone and pray. And I was so taken with the image of Piero Pasolini’s Jesus, (The Gospel According To St Matthew) Enrique Irazoqui, that he became a living image for me from age 19, onward...of Jesus in a prayer. To talk with God, one has to be completely vulnerable and honest...
“Today, perhaps your soul can sense Jesus saying, Be unafraid to know yourself. Be fearless in your inward search. God’s care for you never wavers. No threat can silence God’s whispered call to you. No shadowy valley you walk through can extinguish the light that leads you to salvation. Hypocrites cannot damn you because God has deemed you precious. You count. So take courage. Come clean. Tell God, who never changes, everything you know about yourself, and more will be revealed. You will be counted among my disciples, one of my beloved friends.”
Rachel Srubas writing about St Teresa of Avila
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 October 2021

The Bride - The Church

November 11th, 2021

The Bride - The Church

The Bride : The Church
“You are the ones who have stood by me faithfully in my trials...”. Luke 22: 28
Today happens to be the feast of Pope St John XXIII, this is also the feast of the
Maternity of the Mother of God. And, this is the day in 1962, Pope John chose to convene the Second Vatican Council, the first one in 92 years. I was aware and alive to the symbols of the Church, but was always drawn to the ship, or Barque of St Peter. Most people imagine the Church as Michelangelo’s St Peters Basilica in Rome, or the thousands of beautiful structures of every age around the world. But only later, did I truly encounter the Bride. She is a poignant symbol in the Hebrew Bible, with the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Ezekiel. And in the New Testament Matthew, Mark, John, 2 Corinthians, Revelation 19 and 21, but especially in the Letter to the Ephesians 5: 22-33. My dear friend and mentor Fr Daniel Berrigan, SJ named his first published book of essays, “The Bride : Essays in the Church,” Macmillan, 1959. In 1996 we would begin collaborating on a book about my icons published by Orbis Press, four years later in 2000, and I titled it “The Bride: Images of the Church.”
In 1992, I was two years into my Apprenticeship in Iconography when the child abuse scandal broke out in New Mexico. It was so overwhelmingly devastating for the victims, and destroyed any positive connection to the church, forever. And the priests, that were innocent of any abuse, all naturally went into an isolated state of shock and grief. I had to find an image of the Church that could never be abused or even touched, in any harmful way. I read the magnificent book, “The Splendor of the Church” (written lovingly while he himself was silenced by the church) by Cardinal Henri de Lubac, SJ. I began to see the Bride as the only possible image of the Church that I could feel and ponder safely inside me.
In 2008 I was given my first exhibit of solely original icons and images, at the Millicent Rogers Museum In Taos, I named, “Silence in the Storm.” For this exhibit I painted this image of the pregnant Bride, surrounded by a protecting radiance which shielded her from any and all evil. And this is my firm belief that nothing demonic can ever come near her essence. She is pregnant with always new members, new souls. She is led by the Holy Spirit and covered by the hand of the Father. She upholds a Medallion of the Holy Child, after the beautiful work for the Ospedale degli Innocenti, in Florence, by the Renaissance master, Andrea della Robbia.
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 11 October 2021

St Francis Wounded-Winter-Light

November 11th, 2021

St Francis Wounded-Winter-Light

St Francis Wounded-Winter-Light
“He was always occupied with Jesus: Jesus he bore in his heart, mouth, eyes,ears, and in his entire body: Jesus.”
Blessed Thomas of Celano
“Put yourself out Brother Francis,” I used to cry. “Put yourself out before you burn up the world !”
Nikos Katzanzakis
This was originally a pen and ink illustration I made after returning from Assisi, which I later made into an icon commissioned by St Francis College in Brooklyn.
Francis came very early into my life as my favorite saint. My parents had traveled to his US city, San Francisco, and returned with an 8” porcelain white statue of a beardless young Francis with arms outstretched and a bird on each arm. Later I saw a holy card type version of the Esteban Murillo painting of St Francis beneath the Cross in one of my 4 “Miniature Lives of the Saints “ by Fr Daniel Lord, SJ. There was also a beautiful statue of him near the Franciscan Church of St Elizabeth of Hungary (herself, co-patron, along with St Louis the IX, of the Third Order Franciscans ) in downtown Denver.
To make a long story shorter, I would end up meeting the Third Order Franciscans in the Bronx, New York and being admitted as a member in 1984. After joining, I went on a pilgrimage to Italy to the graves of my patrons, St Ignatius, Francis and (my Confirmation name) Dominic. While Ignatius was convalescing in Loyola at his brothers estate, he had wondered, “What if I should do what St Francis did ? What if I should act like St Dominic ?” It was in March 84 and Assisi was so cold I wore my clothes in bed. For some odd reason I had expected Assisi would be much much warmer. One day I looked out my window and thought, O my God, Francis is outside in the snow barely covered p, and he’s suddenly caught in rapturous love, by the intricate artistry of the Creator, in a falling snowflake. When I was leaving Assisi I wrote this poem of my experiences, to say goodbye...
Reflections from Assisi : “Ciao Francesco”
Ciao Francesco of Assisi
whose bloody footprints in winter
(like carnelians cast upon snow)
can still disrupt Assisi….
Ciao Francesco of the Porziuncola
that blessed door too narrow
for me to enter, but led by you
I ask three things…….
Ciao Francesco of San Damiano
who led me along the same
road of renunciation
(while the silver olive trees wept)
and showed me that we
leave all our fathers…
Ciao Francesco of the Carceri
whose food was to do the
will of God, and when I
saw this—too true—I ran
all the way down Mt. Subasio…
Ciao Francesco of the Chiesa Nuova
your lively friar-son showed me
the prison where your father
tried to keep you and then
sensing my sins he let down his cape for me to walk on
--this still hurts…
Ciao Francesco who fought the devils
and guarded my own room with
Leo’s cherished blessing—while the
shutters rattled from the nightmare
howls, and the dark dreams
threatened to turn me back……
Ciao Francesco of La Verna
(my dearest home)
you climbed those rocks
to bemoan your sins and
left that mountain so transfigured,
so holy, that in that place
I could scarcely breathe…
Ciao Francesco of the Basilica
your body is the Feast of Fools,
parades, endless masses, cameras, dances
songs, candles, and those weeping
because they have put you up so high,
we can’t even touch you
for healing anymore….
Ciao Francesco wounded-winter light
you are stricken with love
by God’s smallest creatures…
Ciao Francesco of the Via Crucis
winter in Assisi is more harsh, silent
and bitter than I ever imagined,
and as I complained and nagged you
for comfort, you walked with me,
(like Jesus at Emmaus wounds aglow)
and taught me the grace of
Compassion….
Ciao Francesco of Assisi,
guide books, tapestries, and paintings
say you are dead,
but you still lead
the angels in song
at the Bronx Little Portion.
“Ciao Chiara”
Ciao Chiara of San Damiano
you led me up stone stairs
to the upper room and unbolted
the door to ancient visions,
and showed me how love
and the Holy Eucharist
put invaders to flight….
Ciao Chiara, Lady Poverty,
you are on display as some venerable mummy;
Your skeleton still observing
Stark humility and holy poverty….
Ciao Chiara who cried the Passion
every day (hope against hope)
and who bathed our father’s
wounds and kissed them when
he went Home…
Ciao Chiara de Favarone
the Spirit hovers in the mist
outside your basilica and
sits like manna on the olive trees
and the Spirit and the Bride say:
“God is enough.”

St Faustina Kowalska - Apostle of the Divine Mercy

November 11th, 2021

St Faustina Kowalska - Apostle of the Divine Mercy

St Faustina Kowalska : Apostle of the Divine Mercy (25 August 1905- 5 October 1938)
“When you reflect upon what I tell you in the depths of your heart, you profit more than if you read many books. Oh, if souls would only listen to My voice when I am speaking in the depths of their hearts, they would reach the peak of holiness in a short time.”
(Jesus speaks in the Diary of St Faustina #584)
“Be at peace, My daughter. This work of mercy is Mine; there is nothing of you in it. It pleases Me that you are carrying out faithfully what I have commanded you to do, not adding or taking away a single word.” #1667
“Heart of My Heart, be filled with joy.” #1669
Faustina asked the Lord about the meaning of the rays on the painting or image of the Divine Mercy, Jesus told her in reply:
“The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender Mercy when my agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross... Oh, how much I am hurt by a soul’s distrust! Such a soul professes that I am Holy and Just, but does not believe that I am Mercy and does not trust in My goodness. Even the devils glorify My Justice but do not believe in My goodness. My Heart rejoices in this title of Mercy. Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy.” #299
According to the spirituality of St Ignatius one is advised not only to refrain from defending oneself when reproached, but to rejoice in the humiliation. As Jesus said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me...” Matthew 5:11
“You will encounter disapproval and persecution. They will look upon you as a hysteric and an eccentric, but the Lord will lavish His graces upon you. True works of God always meet with opposition and are marked by suffering. If God wants to accomplish something, sooner or later He will do so in spite of the difficulties. Your part, in the meantime, is to arm yourself with great patience.” #270
“My daughter, if you knew what great merit and reward is earned by one act of pure love for Me, you would die of joy. I am saying this that you may constantly unite yourself with Me through love, for this is the goal of the life of your soul. This act is an act of the will. Know that a pure soul is humble. When you lower and empty yourself before My majesty, I then pursue you with My graces and make use of My omnipotence to exalt you...Do not fear anything. I am with you. These matters are in My hands and I will bring them to fruition according to My mercy, for nothing can oppose My will... I am always in your heart; not only when you receive Me in Holy Communion, but always.” # 575
This year I had so many choices for the last days of September and the first few days of October. The 3 Archangels, St Therese of Lisieux, the Holy Protection of the Mother of God, the Guardian Angels, St Francis and Faustina. Because Pope Francis has written so much on the Mercy of God, (Apostolic Letter “Misericordia et Misera” 20 November 2016) and he, himself is being persecuted just like she was, I chose Faustina.
On October 5, 1938, Sister Faustina whispered to Sister Felicia, “The Lord will take me today.”
Fr William Hart McNichols 💮 28 September 2021 feast of “Good King Wenceslas 👑”

St Padre Pio- Mother Pelican

November 11th, 2021

St Padre Pio- Mother Pelican

St Padre Pio : Mother Pelican (25 May 1887-23 September 1968)
“I will ask the Lord to let me remain at the threshold of Paradise, and I will not enter until the last of my spiritual children has entered...Once I take a soul on, I also take their entire family as my spiritual children.”
St Pio of Pietrelcina
“O loving Pelican! O Jesus Lord! Unclean am I but cleanse me in your blood.”
St Thomas Aquinas
“Surely he has borne our infirmities, and carried our sorrows. And we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins. The chastisement of peace was upon him: and by his wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 53
“This wounding is for healing, now the hand raises only to cherish, to bless, to praise.”
Fr James Janda from the play “Julian of Norwich”
“The name Pietrelcina is of ancient, uncertain origin...One of the more colorful stories is that an old foundation stone (pietra) was found in the ancient castle of the town, and on it were carved a hen (pucina) and a brood of chicks, hence Pretapucina.”
From “The Holy Man on the Mountain” later changed to “Padre Pio and America” by Frank Rega
I have read so so many books on Padre Pio, and I never tire of reading about him, and am always lifted and filled with spiritual joy and hope, when I read anything about his life. When I was a little boy he was still alive, and I remember looking into a book at Daleidens Catholic Church Goods Store, in downtown Denver, with pictures of his wounds which actually frightened me, but I never forgot those pictures of him. The wounds, or stigmata, have been a theme in my life and art ever since childhood. Later I would be drawn to the healing power of the wounds and the healing that has come from my (our) wounds if you accept them and fend off the bitterness and tragedy of injustice and rejection. Much later in my thirties, when I became a Third Order Franciscan in the Bronx, New York, I read and was deeply instructed, and deeply moved by the story that during the last two years of his life (1224-1226) the flabbergasted and astonished friars who changed St Francis’ bloody bandages, would dip the blood-soaked cloths in buckets of water and feed the water to sick people and animals, and all were healed by this “Mother’s Blood,” ( when he died the Poor Clare’s cried out, “What will we do without our father, without our mother, Francis?!”) I don’t think, to my limited knowledge, that any male saint has been referred to as father and mother. But Our Lord Jesus has these most tender qualities, and in his final grieving, referred to himself as a Mother Hen. (Matthew 23:37)
Let me suggest just two wonderful books:
“The Holy Souls : Viva Padre Pio!” and
“Send Me Your Guardian Angel”
Both by Padre Alessio Parente, OFM, CAP.
Padre Pio received the visible wounds of Jesus on 20 September 1916. He bore these wounds for 50 years and when he died, they disappeared and his flesh became soft as a child. Truly, just about any of the many, many books on Padre Pio will feed you. And you can never stop learning from and leaning on him for vital strength and support. He’s one of those “911 Saints” like Therese of Lisieux , who respond immediately. Because of the story of St Francis and the healing water from his wounds, I decided to portray Padre Pio holding a medallion of the ancient, pure legend, of the Mother Pelican who, when her chicks were starving, would open her side and feed them her own blood. We are actually all nourished in the womb by our Mother’s blood. But I wondered would Padre Pio approve ? Then right after I finished the Icon (early 90’s) I saw a VHS cassette of his last Mass at San Giovanni Rotondo , 22 September 1968. As the Friars helped him down from the altar, he turned his back to be led away, and on the back of his chasuble (vestment) was embroidered an image of the Mother Pelican. I felt okay then.
A most blessed feast of Padre Pio ! and why not ask him to become one of his spiritual children, all you have to do is ask. “🎶 Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the doors shall be opened. Ask and it shall be given, and the love come a’ tricklin’ down!🎶” ( “Love Come A’tricklin’ Down”) recorded by the Womenfolk 1964)
Fr William Hart McNichols 💮 20 September 2021

St Hildegard of Bingen - Doctor of the Church 1098-1179

November 11th, 2021

St Hildegard of Bingen - Doctor of the Church 1098-1179

St Hildegard of Bingen : Doctor of the Church (1098-1179)
“Holy Spirit, you, quickening life, prime mover of the universe and root of all creation, cleanse your creation from impurity, heal the guilt and anoint the wounds. O radiant life, worthy of praise, awaken and reawaken the universe!”
St Hildegard
I have this little book of prayers of Hildegard with my teacher’s (Friar Robert Lentz, OFM) masterful icon on the cover, published by Franciscan Media, 1989.
They have been gathered by the former prioress for 23 years, of St Hildegard’s Abbey, in Rudesheim-Eibingen, Germany, Cecilia Bonn, OSB. I noticed that looking through them, I could have chosen just about any prayer and it would speak to us today. Such is the power of Hildegard’s connection to God. I could go into so many things about my relationship to her dating back to the first cassette of her songs I received as a gift in 1986. But let me send you to a few living experts and scholars, who will help you to find her on your own. My favorites:
“Voice of the Living Light : Hildegard of Bingen” edited by Barbara Newman, 1998
“Vision : The Life and Music of Hildegard von Bingen” 1995
By Barbara Newman and commentary on her visions by Fr Matthew Fox
“Vision : The Music of Hildegard von Bingen” CD, 1995
And once again ...
“Vision : From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen” Zeitgeist Films, 2009
Margarethe von Trotta’s beautiful film using Hildegard’s actual words for the bulk of the film and starring the unforgettable Barbara Sukowa.
I watched that film over 10 times mostly when I was recovering from my heart collapse in 2012. It became so familiar that I no longer had to look at the subtitles anymore. As I write this on the Thursday evening before Hildegard’s feast, the 17th of September, the next day, “demonstrations” are planned round the country in support of the people who stormed the United States Capitol and wounded over 100 Capitol police on January 6. I have heard the best recreation of that day, is a 40 minute film called “Inside the Capitol Riot : An Exclusive Video Investigation.” After my work in the AIDS Hospice in New York (83-90) I couldn’t watch any movies about AIDS. And I haven’t been able to watch the video investigation of the violent riot for the same reasons.
When I got this commission to paint/write Hildegard’s icon (around 2005?) I chose an image of her own painting, from her book, “Scivias,” called “The Zeal of God.” I’ll let Fr Fox, an Episcopal Priest, now tell you about the image, though I did not include the walls, just the fiery angelic head.
“...Where the two walls meet, there is a ‘zealous red head.’ Hildegard describes this head as having ‘a fiery color, shining red like a flame of fire. It had a terrifying face.’ It had three wings ‘of amazing breadth and length which were white as a shining cloud’ and these wings grew larger as they beat and beat. The head itself did not speak and did not move. Christ, however, spoke. ‘This head signifies the zeal of the Lord,’ Hildegard says. The Zeal of God is essentially justice-making; it comes about when we are aroused by injustice. ‘In mirror (that is speculative) knowledge and in human work there is a common boundary of injustice,’ Hildegard tells us. God cares so much for justice that in the past, under the Old Law of Abraham and Moses as well as in the present, under the New Law of Christ, the divine zeal always and continues to be for justice.” One of my favorite (almost impossibly rational at this time) speakers, Beau of the Fifth Column, always ends his videos with “Just a thought.”
“O Shepherd of souls,
O first Word, through which we were all created, may it truly please you, to free us of our misery and from our brokenness.”
Doctor St Hildegard
16 September 2021

Our Lady of Sorrows by Kathy Hendricks

November 11th, 2021

Our Lady of Sorrows  by Kathy Hendricks

Our Lady of Sorrows
by Kathy Hendricks
I saw them as I entered the supermarket parking lot. A family of four crouched in the shade of a small tree. Two young boys sat with their mother and waved at passing cars. The father held a sign asking for assistance. I parked the car and made a mental note to buy something for them to eat before heading back home. My good intentions slipped away, however, as I made my way up and down the aisles, searching for all of the items on my list. As I exited the store the sight of the family brought me up short. I unloaded my bags and pulled out the lunch meat and rolls I bought for lunch with a friend. After handing over my meager offerings, along with a few dollars, one of the boys looked up and smiled. “God bless you,” he said.
Of all the feasts to honor Mary, the one I love most is Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15). It recalls not only the sufferings she experienced in her life, but also the way she consoles others in the midst of theirs. Mary, a woman who praised God for the blessing bestowed upon her, was not defeated by the sorrow that pierced her heart. She gave herself over to God’s grace, allowing herself to be transformed in the process. Her pierced and wounded heart is a sign of blessing and hope. Thus we turn to her in our own need, asking for her prayers on our behalf.
Mary’s response to our cries of pain is not unlike the little boy in the parking lot. It is a reminder that God’s merciful blessing is given to all of us, particularly in times of our greatest need. It is also a call to open our hearts to others, to be people who know sorrow and allow it to make us more generous and caring. What we have to offer may seem a pittance given the vast sum of human misery across the globe. The life and witness of this humble woman, however, should remind us that no act of charity is insignificant and that each extension of kindness is one more ripple in the vast expanse of love that consoles us all.

The Servant of God Father Pedro Arrupe SJ

November 11th, 2021

The Servant of God Father Pedro Arrupe SJ

The Servant of God Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ
“There is only Christ : He is everything and He is in everything.”
Colossians 3:11
“Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes,
to discern and test the spirits that help me read the signs
of the times, to relish the things that are yours and to communicate
them to others. Give me the clarity of understanding that you gave
to Ignatius.”
Fr Pedro Arrupe, SJ
“My way of depicting Jesus is rooted in my being a Japanese novelist. I wrote this book for the benefit of Japanese readers who have no Christian tradition of their own and who know almost nothing about Jesus...The religious mentality of the Japanese is - responsive to one who ‘suffers with us’ and ‘who allows for our weaknesses,’ but their mentality has little tolerance for any kind of transcendent being who judges humans harshly, then punishes them. In brief, the Japanese tend to seek in their gods and buddhas a warm-hearted Mother rather than a stern father. With this fact always in mind I tried not so much to depict God in the father-image that tends to characterize Christianity, but rather to depict the kind-hearted maternal aspect of God revealed to us in the personality of Jesus.”
From “A Life of Jesus” - 1973 by Shusaku Endo
Last January I received an email from Mr Mark Mongelluzzo the Director of Development at Xavier High School in New York City. It was a request for an icon of Fr Pedro Arrupe, SJ, the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus (from 1965 to 1983) and the only Spanish Basque General since St Ignatius. The model Mark suggested that the school wanted, is the iconic photograph of Fr Arrupe kneeling in a Japanese prayer position. Fr Arrupe’s life is intimately tied to Japan from his arrival in 1938, then living and ministering to a 150 wounded in the horrific atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and becoming the Provincial of Japan in 1954. In 1965 he became Superior General and was much beloved. I think the main reason we all love that photo is it’s not only a picture of his prayer but also his deeply profound humility. It’s a picture that actually draws you into a prayer. And this is also the purpose of an icon. If you attempt to copy a photo exactly, you can only fail, but if you try to reinterpret it then, you might be able to bring something new to the understanding of this holy man.
At the age of 24, I was a young Jesuit Scholastic, teaching art and theology at Regis High School in Denver. I was in St Louis because Fr Arrupe was making one of his visits to the United States but I never expected to meet him personally . I stepped into an elevator in Jesuit Hall, on the campus of St Louis University, and right in front of me stood Fr Arrupe. I was so shocked, and undoubtedly it showed. I could hardly speak. He took my hand, squeezed it with a big smile, and said “It’s okay dear !” His gentleness and compassion, as well as the humorous twinkle in his eye... I can still feel today. What a great gift now, to be able to paint him and his gentle, strong, loving spirit. The moment I saw Mark’s email I knew I had to honor his love of Japan and try to bring the beautiful Japanese style into the icon, as well as the impression of Jesus that Shusaku Endo gives us in his “Life of Jesus.” There are three orbs in this icon; for the Blessed Trinity. First the halo designating his holiness, then the Moon which in Catholic symbolism is always Mary (the reflected light of her Son Jesus) and finally, the circular symbol on his heart, the Holy Name of Jesus. The Greek letters in the colored rectangular shapes, say “Holy (Pedro) Peter.”
While painting (writing) this icon I was thinking of all the students passing by this image and hoping they will stop just for a moment to connect with the incredible saintly man who once was asked by a journalist: “Who is Christ for you ?”
“For me,” said Fr Arrupe, “Jesus Christ is everything!”
May the Most Holy Trinity, through the intercession of The Servant of God Fr Pedro Arrupe, SJ, continue to bless you all !
Fr William Hart McNichols 💮 August 2021

St John the Forerunner

November 11th, 2021

St John the Forerunner

St John the Forerunner (the Baptist)
🎶 “Well, get up John go down to the Jordan / get up John prepare the way/ Man from Galilee is waiting / You must meet him there today/
Get up John go tell my people / This will be a holy day / Tell them of the Jew that’s waiting / That the Savior’s on his way/
John / You’ve been chosen / John / Go unafraid / John / I’ll go with you / John the Baptist / This is the day/ Well get up John go tell Jerusalem / Savior’s waiting on the shore / Baptize him in the river Jordan / I’ll send a Dove from Heaven’s door/
John / You’ve been chosen / John / Go unafraid / John / I’ll go with you / John the Baptist / This is the day/ Well get up John / Your work is finished / Daylight breaks the soldiers come / You will die for me tomorrow / Welcome home your race is run /John / You’ve been chosen / John / Go unafraid / John / I’ll go with you / John the Baptist / This is the day. “
By Bill Monroe 1953
(sung by Emmylou Harris’ live album “At the Ryman” 1992)
This icon was commissioned by Fr Svetozar Kraljevic at the time he was living in Medjugorie . On my first visit there (I was blessed by my late friend Mimi, to be taken there 4 times) one evening Fr Svet drove up to the house where we were staying . He said he wanted an icon of Our Lady of Medjugorie (Croatian, Medugorska Gospa or Queen of Peace, Kralijica Mira) I was hesitant because an icon is rather formal and having met a few of the visionary’s and listening to them describe Mary’s radiant youthful unearthly beauty, I was naturally intimidated. I told Fr Svet no one could create that kind of beauty- inside and out - that has been given to Mary. But he insisted saying that no one sees the apparitions of Mary except the few. He said they need an icon to gaze into, even though there are very “realistic” pictures and statues of Mary all over the area. So I went ahead and created two icons; the second was John the Baptist because the first apparition occurred on the feast of the Birth of John the Baptist, June 24 (1981); signaling that Mary is the Prophet preparing us for the return of Christ as King. Medjugorie has been under investigation since 1981, and yet since 1981 over 40 million people have made the pilgrimage to this tiny village in Bosnia, Herzegovina. Pope Francis is skeptical of the longevity of the apparitions (they are still going on today) but believes in the initial ones. He did say that there are millions of people who go there, convert and change their lives, “this is a spiritual and pastoral fact that cannot be denied.” So the official position of the church is not to approve or condemn the apparitions as being supernatural. I myself felt her presence there. I can only describe it as the feeling when somehow you know, when someone is looking at you, right near or behind you, and you turn around or toward them and see them. I felt that way. And when we’d leave for example, to go to Dubrovnik, her presence was gone. As soon as we’d return, I felt her again. I’m sure if you talk to anyone who has “been called” to make the pilgrimage, they will have many stories to tell you. When Mimi asked me to go with her and a friend I was very skeptical, but I cannot deny after my 4 visits, that the desire to come ever closer to God, and a perpetual desire for conversion; these continue to lovingly touch my life since my first visit.
The tradition of icons is that almost always the artist does not sign the work because it is believed the Holy Spirit is the author/painter. I have several books of Greek, Russian and Siberian icons. I saw this beautiful, powerful icon of St John the Forerunner in a Greek book, signed by the Greek master iconographer Michail Damaskenos 1530-1595. It is such an honor to attempt to copy any of the exquisite masterpieces of the past. You live with the presence of the iconographer and you learn so much by looking into their work, during the time it takes you to complete the copy. I have my favorites, of course St Andrei Rublev, Dionisius the Wise of the Novgorod school, Simon Ushakov the 17th century master who was so influenced by the west, that an archpriest Avvakum regarded his icons as “lascivious works of the devil.” Then there are the Greeks, Michail Damaskenos, Photios Kontoglu, and finally, my Russian American teacher, Friar Robert Lentz, OFM. At this “kairos time” in my life I find myself very drawn to Dionisius the Wise, and wish I could just spend the rest of my life copying his work ! He is so deceptively pure and simple.
John the Baptist has been painted, sculpted, portrayed in plays, films, and in the Bill Monroe song I began with. A couple of my favorite images of him are in the National Gallery in Washington DC by Andrea del Verrocchio and the Caravaggio in the Nelson Art Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri. John begins the summer with his birthday and ends summer with the feast of his death August 29. I love Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions of his life, and also the contemporary British historian and theologian, Joan E. Taylor’s book on John. Both women have fed me for years. Who can imagine Jesus’ fear and anguish when he heard of John’s murder ? “ Despite this exalted ministry, the Baptist’s work is one of humility. At the height of his apostolic activity, John does not seek to grow his own ministry apart from the Incarnate Word. He is content directing others to Christ. He aims to make Christ known as he himself fades into the background. Augustine praises John’s clarity in mission : ‘he identified himself, he pointed out the difference between Christ and himself, he humbled himself.’ In our Christian life, we need to imitate St John the Baptist. Whether it be on our lips or in our hearts, we echo the words of the Baptist: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’” (Jn. 3:30) written for “Faith and Culture: The Journal of the Augustine Institute” by Ben Akers. This is also, I believe, the perfect definition of iconography and the mission of iconographers.
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 end of August 2021

Mother of God Asking For Humility

November 11th, 2021

Mother of God Asking For Humility

Mother of God Asking For Humility (The Queenship of Mary)
“From the earliest ages of the Catholic Church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they place in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother’s solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.”
Pope Pius XII from the encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam (To the Queen of Heavens)
(On the Feast of the Maternity of the Mother of God, 11 October 1954)
“Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To thee do we cry poor banished children of Eve (and Adam): to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears . Turn then most gracious advocate thine eyes of mercy toward us. And after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Amen “
(Traditional prayer)
A most blessed and hopeful feast of the Coronation of the Mother of God !
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 August 2021

San Lorenzo del Fuego

November 11th, 2021

San Lorenzo del Fuego

San Lorenzo del Fuego : (Retablo of St Lawrence of the Fire
The philosophers and the orators have fallen into oblivion; the masses do not even know the names of the emperors and their generals; but everyone knows the names of the the martyrs, better than those of their most intimate friends.
“It is in these terms that Theodoret bishop of Cyrrhus sought to convey the extent of the triumph of Christianity: by the mid-fifth century, the cult of the saints had ringed the populations of the Mediterranean with the intimate invisible friends. ‘The Invisible Friend” - the “Intimate Friend” - these are terms on which Theodoret and his contemporaries dwelt lovingly in relation to the saints ... we shall touch upon the subtle transformation of immemorial beliefs that was involved when Mediterranean men and women, from the late fourth century onwards, turned with increasing explicitness for friendship, inspiration and protection in this life and beyond the grave, to invisible beings who were fellow humans they could invest with the precise and palpable features of beloved and powerful figures in their own society.”
From “The Cult of the Saints : It’s Rise and Function in Latin Christianity”
By Peter Brown
I think just of a few Christian and spiritual writers that for me combine “readability” with deep love, and affection for their subject and the kind of scholarship which sends you to an abundance of other sources, to learn more. Peter Brown, Valentin Tomberg, G.B. Caird, Monika Hellwig, Christopher Pramuk, Dorothee Soelle, James Martin, SJ, William Lynch, SJ, Melissa Raphael, Mirabai Starr, Kathy Hendricks, Noel Dermot O’Donoghue, Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, Iain Matthew (and also a follower of Eknath Easwaren,)Carol Lee Finders ...just a few. If a person can change the world then also a book can change your life.
Anything Peter Brown writes is that way for me. He’s transcendent, I believe, without knowing it. I think some of the great scholarly saints like Thomas Aquinas, or Edith Stein must have been the same way. It seems to me now that any “working-Christian” must often feel the heavy weight of being an Christian apologist to friends and even blood family, concerning beliefs. I believe too, that the desire to share your beliefs/loves comes naturally if you are given a “church-soul” as von Balthasar calls a person who loves the church so much that they speak of her, like people speak of the greatest loves in their lives.
This is how I encounter Peter Brown’s book on the very beginning of the deep love and veneration of the saints. It began with the early martyrs. Just imagine if you were living then, these would be people you either knew or had heard of living near by you; friends, family. They’d be Agnes, Pancratius, Lawrence, Tarcissius, Sebastian, Cecilia.
The legend of the most compassionate Lawrence the Deacon is filled with the “fuego” of the early church, and how they they regarded earthly rulers to be continually passing-fleeting; don’t ever give your soul to them. Yet people have done just that for centuries, and ended up being shadows of themselves and (to them) surprisingly and shockingly betrayed, when the present emperor, always has no clothes.
Lawrence shocked me, as a child, and the older I get the more shocking he becomes. He drags the Roman guards (police) when they demand that he take them to the place where the riches of the church are kept. He goes to a house of the homeless and proudly explains to the proud boys that these homeless, are the treasures of the Church. They are angry and humiliated and arrest Lawrence. He is later sentenced to die, not just for being a Christian but for being so disdaining, so naively cavalier about the reigning few, and his seriously not funny situation; the fact he’d soon be brutally tortured and murdered. But Lawrence wasn’t having any of the imaginary absolutes. Filled and afire with the Holy Spirit, he was reminding them and us, of part of the essence of the Gospel. After his arrest, he was sentenced to die laid upon a gridiron; and burned to death. And to add salt to the wound he managed to joke while being burnt on the gridiron,
“Turn me over, I think I’m done on this side.” If you ponder, really ponder this martyrdom story, concerning today, you’ll find a wealth of things to pray about. I know his legend has never revealed so much to me as it has this year.
St Lawrence is very present and wildly, impossibly relevant as a saint for us today.
I’ll continue to tell you why, but if you really pray about the contemporary graces of his legend it will open you to a possible spiritual reality of our times or any times on earth.
Here’s the story of the creation of this retablo:
“If you take care of the people, they will take care of you.” St Francis
This is a bit exaggerated in my case but in Taos, I loved the people so much and I felt they really loved me too. It was one of the best experience of community I’ve ever, or probably will ever, have. I have never lived in a Matriarchal Society so I had no idea of what that was like. If you think about the concept of a Matriarchal Society, you might begin to imagine what the life and death issues and values might be. There was a teenager in our community who took it upon himself to make sure I had a continual supply of wood for the winter. He was mature beyond his age and approached me with old fashioned reverence, but as an equal; a typically Northern New Mexican intuition about outsiders who for centuries, did not understand or perform a proskyinesis ((bowing low) to their ancient, God-given, wisdom. Lorenzo Herrera was taking a class in woodworking in school. He had made/carved a beautiful retablo board, and brought it to me to paint a retablo of his patron santo . At that time I was living in the guest Casita of a family situated near a well traveled road, and the kids I knew from church, used to honk when they’d drive by. Because I had so many commissions I was not getting to the retablo. I had these beautiful hand-made arched windows in my studio and Lorenzo would drive in and look in my studio window and there would be his retablo, waiting, on the floor up against a cabinet, undone. I finally began because of Lorenzo’s enthusiasm. Now you see the finished retablo, but I can’t say enough about that time (14 years) and how it continues to guide me. Someday I’ll try.
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 August 2021

Our Lady and the Holy Child Visit St Ignatius the Convalescent

November 11th, 2021

Our Lady and the Holy Child Visit St Ignatius the Convalescent
(Celebrating an Ignatian Year 2021-2022, the 500th Anniversary of the conversion of St Ignatius)
“These holy desires were confirmed in 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 likenesses that he had previously had painted in it. Thus, from that hour until August 1553, when this is being written, he never again had even the slightest complicity in matters of the flesh...”
From the Autobiography of St Ignatius
“While preparing the altar, after I had vested, and during Mass, I experienced great interior impulses and wept very copiously and intensely, sobbing violently.
Often I could not speak... During much of this time, before, during and after Mass, I felt and saw clearly that Our Lady was very propitious, pleading before the Father. Indeed during the prayers to the Father and the Son, and at His consecration, I could not but feel or see her, as though she were part or rather portal of the great grace that I could feel in my spirit . At the consecration she showed that her own flesh was in that of her Son...”
From “St Ignatius Spiritual Diary” - 15 February 1544
I remember in the Jesuit Novitiate in Florissant, Missouri, around October 1968, reading Ignatius Spiritual Diary for the first time, it’s only about 37 pages. The two things that stood out for me was his sobbing during Mass, and the most beautiful, enigmatic quote “...she showed that her own flesh was in that of her Son.”
During this year of the 500th anniversary of the conversion of Ignatius I can only repeat what so many famous, saints, artists, musicians, writers, and prophetic political or social leaders have all said and lived : that one person can truly change the world. I think I can say honestly that most all of my icons and images celebrate these people. My friend, theologian, author, musician, husband and father, Christopher Pramuk has written a meditation on Ignatius’ conversion, I’m going to let him speak now.
—————
“…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.”
When I picture Ignatius in May of 1521, recovering from a shattered leg in his family’s castle at Loyola, I cannot help but also see him less than a year later, in the village of Montserrat, trading his fine clothing for a beggar’s tunic, and laying down his sword at the shrine of the Black Madonna. The image of the courtly soldier and romantic “superman” who exchanged his dreams of glory for a beggar’s bowl and pilgrim’s staff is a remarkable thing to behold. Yet it was only a beginning, a first step toward “overcoming oneself” and “ordering one’s life,” as he would later frame the Spiritual Exercises. He was beginning to measure himself by a new norm, a new love, who is Jesus, now bending all his desire toward the service of God and others.
The months of torment and consolation in the cave at Manresa were still to come. The gathering of newfound “companions in the Lord” at the University of Paris was 7 or 8 years in the future. But the initial opening of the heart came on that recovery bed at Loyola. “My life is a mess. My body is broken. Everything that I thought would bring me happiness has left me empty and unfulfilled. Why am I here? For what purpose am I called to live?”
Such questions mark the beginning of the shift from an inflated image of himself as fully in the driver’s seat to a vision of God and God’s love at the center all things. Ignatius would journey to Montserrat no longer thinking of the magnificent exploits he would perform for the king and ladies at court. He was imagining all those things he might do for the love and glory of God.
How ought we to live, to spend our lives, our talents, our freedom? Whom are we called to serve? The vulnerability that Ignatius experienced at Loyola was both physical (depending daily on the care of his sister-in-law and women servants who nursed him back to health) and spiritual (imbibing books on the saints and the life of Christ). It marked a radical turning in Ignatius’s life, we might say, from career to vocation, which means, “to be called from beyond oneself.” Notice the Child Jesus in Fr. Bill’s illustration above, tugging at Ignatius’s sleeve, as if to say, “Come on! Get better, and get up! I have things for you to do!” Ignatius was never alone in his vulnerability and yearning. The care and tenderness of others helped him turn the page on his old way of life and begin to imagine something new.
It seems to me that the global pandemic has exposed our human fragility in a similar way. As perhaps never before, we are experiencing the birth pangs of our own “cannonball moment.” Will we deny our brokenness, our radical need for others, for God, and for the earth, and seek only to return as quickly as we can to “the way things were” before? Or will we discern in this moment of social and planetary crisis the call to imagine and create together a new normal, a radically transformed future? We are not alone, and there is much indeed for us to do.
“The fragility of each one of us,” says Pope Francis, “is a theological place of encounter with the Lord.” Having faith, says Francis, means placing our trust in a God who “can work even through our fears, our frailties, our weaknesses.” One can picture the Jesuit pope, as he says these words, picturing Ignatius examining his life anew on his bed at Loyola.
It turns out that God is not terribly interested in human beings who present themselves to the world as superhuman, invulnerable, above and beyond the care of others. Just as Jesus himself dethrones all such pretensions—gathering companions, seeking out the lost, passing through the total human condition, including suffering, humiliation and death—so does Ignatius abandon such pretensions in his own way when he puts aside his sword and kneels before the altar of Our Lady, all through the night, “with his pilgrim’s staff in his hand.”
What begins to emerge in the journey between Loyola and Montserrat is a spirituality that is countercultural, collaborative, and revolutionary in a nonviolent way. (See the incident on the road with “the Moor,” for example, which nearly incited the headstrong Ignatius to commit murder.) It is the kind of vulnerability, humility, capacity for discernment with others, and readiness to serve that can lead, as it has for many Jesuits, to martyrdom.
In this, our first chapter of the Ignatian Year, consider the possibility that healing, fellowship, and the joy of discovering vocation, may find us, too, on the road from Loyola to Montserrat.
Is there a moment or period in your life that marks a shift from a youthful or pragmatic preoccupation with career to a deepening discovery of vocation?
Has physical suffering, illness, or disability – whether your own or that of someone you love – ever become for you a doorway to reevaluation, transformation, or unexpected grace? Is there a person who especially helped you through that experience? Is there a time when you have been that person for another?
Much of the earliest part of Ignatius’s story focuses on his individual strivings to make a name for himself, prior to his intensive experiences of God in the natural world, in community, in spiritual conversation with others. Are there similar chapters or phases of spiritual discovery in your life, e.g., between the individual and the communal, the youthful and the older, the active and the contemplative?
—————
A Blessed feast of St Ignatius !
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 31 July 2021

St Edith Stein - Patroness of Europe

November 11th, 2021

St Edith Stein - Patroness of Europe

St Edith Stein : Patroness of Europe
“Let go of your plans. The first hour of your morning belongs to God.
Tackle the day’s work that He charges you with, and He will give you
the power to accomplish it.”
Edith Stein (St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)*12 October 1891 - 9 August 1942
The saints have always been a huge part of my life, since I was very young, maybe 5 years old, when someone gave me the 4 little books by Fr Daniel Lord, SJ, called “Little Lives of the Saints.” At age 19 I entered the Jesuit Novitiate In Florissant, Missouri, on September 1, 1968. It might have been the next morning , I went outside into the Jesuit Cemetery to find Fr Lord’s grave and I thanked him for my vocation. People often tell me I know a lot about the saints, but truthfully, I just know the major feast days and a few of the thousands of Irish, Russian and Greek saints, thanks to my 31 years as an iconographer. Someone like my friend, publisher of Orbis Books and author, Robert Ellsberg...he really knows the saints ! His brilliant books on the saints are informative and wonderful. You could spend that “first hour in the morning” reading one of his many books about the saint of the day. The saints come to you to give you something and the one that has the power to almost instantly calm me down, is Edith Stein, the martyr of Auschwitz. So I keep her picture on my “prayer wall” and look at her every day. Around this time every year, it becomes the season of Edith and Franz Jagerstatter (see the new exquisitely heartbreaking film by Terrence Malick, “A Hidden Life”) who died on the exact same day, 9 August, one year after Edith and Rosa.
I won’t be able to tell Edith’s story here, but you can easily look her up on the internet. I like everything about her, but especially the fact she had to fuse together so many contradictory parts of herself into one. She was a Jewish woman born on Yom Kippur, a temporary atheist, a philosopher, writer, feminist, Catholic convert and finally a Carmelite nun and martyr. She managed to keep all these parts in tension without dropping a single one ... except of course atheism. And I love her humor. One of the Carmelites who knew her well, said she’d be the first one to laugh out loud if you told her she was going to be a saint. She knew she had a destiny, a vocation, but only began to grasp what it was when Hitler came into power in Germany. As she and her sister Rosa, (not a convert but was staying at the Convent when the SS guards arrived to take them away) were put on the train to Auschwitz, Edith dropped a postcard out the train widow, which actually did get to the Carmelites, that simply said “Going east...” Others on the same train had no idea of where they were headed but Edith knew. Her “calming power” was never as powerful, I think, as that day of arrival at Auschwitz, 9 August 1942. A survivor tells the story of mothers rocking in the fetal position, incapacitated by sheer incomprehensible terror and shock; their children scattered all over and terrified too. Edith sought out the children and for the few hours they had left, combed their hair, held them and gently calmed them.
Another dear friend and also a brilliant theologian and author, Christopher Pramuk introduced me to the work of Melissa Raphael a professor of Jewish Theology at the University of Gloucestershire, UK who also teaches Jewish thought at Leo Baeck College in London. She has written a book which I’m reading now and I cannot begin to say enough about it : “The Female Face of God in Auschwitz.” The stories she tells about the extraordinary compassionate strength of many women and the way they supported one another are tragic, beautiful and unforgettable. It is a deeply reverent book, one that automatically brings you into prayerful meditation; as accounts of any martyrs do naturally. The description from Amazon books says, “The dominant theme of post-Holocaust Jewish Theology has been that of the temporary hiddenness of God, interpreted as either a divine mystery or, more commonly, as God’s deferral to human freedom. But traditional Judaic obligations of female presence, together with the traditional image of the Shekhinah as a figure of God’s ‘femaleness’ accompanying Israel into exile, (in the Hebrew Scriptures such as Exodus, Numbers, etc..) seem to contradict such theologies of absence. “The Female Face of God in Auschwitz,” the first full-length feminist theology of the Holocaust, argues that the patriarchal bias of post-Holocaust theology becomes fully apparent only when women’s experiences and priorities are brought into historical light. Building upon the published testimonies of four women imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau...it considers women’s distinct experiences of the holy in relation to God’s perceived presence and absence in the camps. God’s face, says Melissa Raphael, was not hidden in Auschwitz, but intimately revealed in the female face turned towards the other as a refractive image of God, especially in the moral protest made visible through material and spiritual care for the assaulted other.”
“O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage, and strength to serve You.
Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road
before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me, and I shall meet it with peace. Amen”
St Edith Stein
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 Mid-Summer 2021

Mother of Fairest Love

November 11th, 2021

Mother of Fairest Love

Mother of Fairest Love (Theotokos Kasperovskaya)
“I am the Mother of fairest love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue...”
Eccelesisaticus, 24 : 24-25
“They got a name for the winners in the world, I, I, want
a name when I lose ...”
“Deacon Blues” by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen
“Brothers and sisters : That I Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
Around 1995, my Mother, Marjory commissioned an icon from me for a young couple she had met and felt they needed heavenly support. I had a beautiful book of Russian icons and I had her pick her favorite one. She chose this icon called “the Kasperov Icon.” So, as a surprise I chose another icon (Mother of God Rejoicing: the Pelagontissa Icon) for the couple and painted/wrote this one for her. Instead of the highly ornamented border in the prototype (original) I placed the name of my Father ... Stephen, and me and my siblings; Stephen, Robert, William, Mary, Marjory around the Mother of God and Child.
I will turn 72 this Saturday, 10 July. It was a full moon the night I was born and so I’ve always loved the moon, and you will see her in many of my images and icons. I’ve been preparing for my birthday by joking that , “I’d like to be like Gandalf the Grey turning into Gandalf the White; not Saruman the White.” One of the many gifts Dad gave me was, that’s what he did. He made the choice to be a kind older man, not the cranky, mean n’ frightened one. Now that I’m older too, I see how much it is a choice and how difficult a practice, (as the Buddhists say) this is. I’m certainly not there yet, I’ve had a few melt-downs on the way .... but I’m choosing this way, day by day. It does take practice for me. Dad also taught me how to lose everything and continue on, gradually ... finally gracefully. I would not be able to know the kind of love portrayed in these tenderness icons without feeling that extremely powerful and delicate love of my Mom. From each of my siblings, I have watched them love their children and now grandchildren, with this exact kind of fierce, gentle, passionate and forgiving unconditional love.
The reading from 2 Corinthians was from last Sunday. It hit me with a difficult and hard kind of healing. The word of God is so alive, you can hear a passage for years and then one day, it comes right at you. As a priest we have the same choice when we age; to become kinder or live with bitterness and anger. I’ve seen both in my life as a Jesuit, and these past 19 years as a diocesan priest.
But I promise to keep trying. This is my birthday prayer this year. As my late friend Fr Jim Janda wrote at the very end of his one woman play “Julian” about Lady Julian of Norwich:
“Life is a precious thing to me
and a little thing:
my life is a little thing,
when it will end here
is God’s secret.
And the world
is a little thing,
like a hazelnut
in his - her hand -
but it is in his ever-keeping,
it is in his ever-loving,
it is in his ever-making,
how should anything be amiss ?
Yes, all shall be well,
and all will be well,
‘and thou shalt see thyself
that all manner of thing
shall be well.’
I pray God grant you
all your good wishes,
desires, and dreams -
it is all in the choosing,
it is all in the asking.”
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 July 2021

Holy Priest Anonymous One of Sachsenhausen

November 11th, 2021

Holy Priest Anonymous One of Sachsenhausen

Holy Priest Anonymous One of Sachsenhausen
“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;my eye is wasted with grief, my soul and body also.
Strong as I am, I stumble because of my inequality,and my bones waste away.
I am the scorn of my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors... I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have come to be like something lost.
Yes, I hear many whispering- terror on every side- as theyscheme together against me, to take my life...”
A rereading of part of Psalm 31
As June ends this year, Pride Month too, I am deeply aware of all those, like this Anonymous Priest ... who came before us. We all “stand on the shoulders of these giants.” They do not deserve to be “like something lost,” as the King David cries in Psalm 31, but to be remembered.
And now the story of this icon, from the book “The Men With The Pink Triangle,” by Heinz Heger. (I have to delete some words because of internet rules.)
“Toward the end of February, 1940, a priest arrived in our block, a man some 60 years of age, tall and with distinguished features. We after discovered that he came from Sudetenland, from an aristocratic German family. He found the torment of the arrival procedure trying, particularly the long wait naked and barefoot outside the block. When his tonsure was discovered after the shower, the SS corporal in charge took up a razor and said, ‘I’ll go to work on this one myself, and extend his tonsure a bit.’ And he shaved the priest’s head with the razor, taking little trouble to avoid cutting his scalp, quite the contrary.
The priest returned to the day-room of our block with his head cut open and blood streaming down. His face was ashen and his eyes stared uncomprehendingly into the distance. He sat down on a bench, folded his hands in his lap and said softly, more to himself than to anyone else: ‘And yet man is good, he is a creature of God!’ I was sitting beside him and said softly but firmly: ‘Not all men; there are also beasts in human form, whom the devil must have made.’
The priest paid no attention to my words, he just prayed silently, merely moving his lips. I was deeply moved, even though I was by then already numbed by the suffering I had seen and indeed experienced myself. But I had always had a great respect for priests, so that his silent prayer, this mute appeal to God, whom he had called upon for help and strength in his bodily pain and mental torment, went straight to my heart.
Our block Capo, however, a repulsive and brutal ‘green,’ must have reported the priest’s praying to the SS, for our block sergeant suddenly burst into the day-room accompanied by a second NCO, seizing the terrified priest from the bench and punching and insulting him. The priest bore the beating and abuse without complaint, and just stared at the two SS men with wide astonished eyes. This must simply have made them angrier, for they now took one of the benches and tied the priest to it. They started to beat him indiscriminately with their sticks, on his stomach and his sexual organs. They seemed to get more and more ecstatic, and gloated: ‘We’ll drive the praying out of you ! You bum -......!’ The priest collapsed into unconsciousness, was shaken awake and then fell unconscious again. Finally the two sadists ceased their blows and left the day-room, though not without scornfully calling back to the man they had destroyed: ‘Ok, you randy old rat-bag, you can piss with your ..... hole in the future.’ The priest just rattled and groaned. We released him and laid him on his bed. He tried to raise his hand in thanks, but he hadn’t the strength, and his voice gave out when he tried to say ‘thank you.’ He just lay without stirring, his eyes open, each movement contorting his face with pain.
I felt like I was witnessing the Crucifixion of Christ in modern guise. Instead of Roman soldiers, Hitler’s SS thugs, and a bench instead of a Cross. The torment of the Saviour, however, was scarcely greater than that inflicted on one of his representatives nineteen hundred years later here in Sachsenhausen.
The next morning, when we marched to the parade ground, we had almost to carry the priest, who seemed about to collapse again from the pain and weakness. When our block senior reported to the SS sergeant, the later came over to the priest and shouted ‘You filthy ...., you filthy swine, say what you are !’ The priest was supposed to repeat the insults, but no sound came from the lips of the broken man. The SS man angrily fell on him and was about to start beating him once again.
Suddenly the unimaginable happened, something that is still inexplicable to me and that I could only see as a miracle, the finger of God. From the overcast sky, a sudden ray of sunshine illuminated the priest’s face. Out of the thousands of assembled prisoners, only him, and at the very moment when he was going to be beaten again. There was a remarkable silence, and all present stared up fixedly at the sky, astonished by what had happened. The SS sergeant himself looked up at the clouds in wonder for a few seconds, then let his hand raised for beating, sink slowly to his side, and walked wordlessly away to take up his position at the end of his ranks.
The priest bowed his head and murmured with a dying voice: ‘Thank you Lord, I know that my time has come.’
He was still with us for the evening parade. But we no longer needed to carry him, we laid him down at the end of the line with the other dead of the day, so that our numbers should be complete for the roll-call, no matter living or dead.”
(By Heinz Heger)
“But I trust in you, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’
Rescue me from those who persecute me!
I will rejoice and be glad for your unfailing love, because you have cared for me in my distress and have not abandoned me but
have set me free.”
Psalm 31
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 June 2021

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

November 11th, 2021

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (The Virgin of the Passion - feast day 27 June)
“It is said that Our Lady of Perpetual Help never refuses a request, no matter how small or frivolous it may seem. Many who have felt unworthy to call on her report hearing a calm voice saying, ‘Why don’t you just ask ?’”
“In the immense cathedral which is the universe of God, each person, whether scholar or manual laborer, is called to act as the priest of his (her) whole life ... to take all that is human, and to turn it into an offering and a hymn of glory.”
“The icon is the last arrow of Human Eros shot at the heart of mystery.”
Paul Evdokimov (2 August 1901 -16 September 1970)
In the pre-Vatican II Catholic world in the United States, the only icon familiar to most of us was Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Statues (or versions of holy figures) the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, St Joseph with the Holy Child, or Joseph the Worker, and the particular patron saint of a church, standing behind glowing red or blue vigil light stands, were in every church. I loved statues and had a collection - beginning with a St Francis, my parents brought me from San Francisco. By the age of 13 I had a collection of about 80. And most people had lovely/lushly illustrated colored holy card art leafed between pages of their missals. These prayer books had the Latin on one side and the English translations on the other. But most of all I was entranced by the artistically beautiful black and white illustrations in the missal. They were drawn by master draughtsmen - usually from Europe but some from the US.
(This icon was commissioned by my dear friend, Nicola (Nicki) Maddox and will one day, be given to the Church of her choice.)
My parents were married on 27 June 1942, so Our Lady of Perpetual Help was always somewhere in the back of my mind. I promised her I’d write/paint her icon in 2005, and finally completed that promise on May 18. I began the drawing in early November 2020. Because the panel I used for the icon is 25” x 44” I realized I’d have to extend her gown (maphorion) to fit the length of the panel. It was then I remembered an extended drawing in black and white I’d seen in an old missal. So that became my model. The original icon is Greek and called The Virgin of the Passion. It shows Our Mother looking seriously (icons are usually solemn and that’s one reason some people prefer paintings or illustrated holy card art, I know I did until I seriously studied iconography ) and longingly into our eyes while holding her Child. He has just jumped into her arms so one sandal is dangling off his foot. The Archangels Michael and Gabriel are brining the instruments of the Passion for him to see...the lance, the sponge, the Cross, some versions included the Crown of Thorns. My teacher Friar Robert Lentz, OFM did an absolutely brilliant version of this icon placing Holy New Martyr St Oscar Romero in the place of the Mother of God and helicopters act as the instruments of the Passion, replacing the Archangels. Robert is so creatively inspired and often has a very unique way of finding a saint that no one had yet been asked to portray. This icon preceded St Oscar’s canonization. He has the ability of Daniel Berrigan, SJ to cause you to rethink a gospel parable or the iconography of a new saint. Daniel collaborated on a book with me called “The Bride: Images of the Church”, from 2000. I chose the title because one of Dan’s first books was “The Bride: Essays in the Church” from 1959.
During the writing of this icon I ordered a book on Our Lady of Perpetual Help, called “The Story of An Icon” by Fr Fabriciano Ferraro, C.S.s.R. I was amazed at how many versions were created of this icon. My preference is the icon in the church of St Alphonsus in Rome, “... The results of the carbon 14 dating analysis put the wood of the icon between the 14th and 15th centuries (1325 -1480). On the other hand the artistic analysis tended to put the icon into the 18th Century because of the Cretan-Venetian influences that are evident in it...This has given rise to the suggestion that when the original colours began to fade and the wood to warp, it was decided to copy the precious original on to the back of the same wood.”
Fr Ferrero
If you would like further reading/meditation on this icon I’d suggest this book.
I love the dark blue of the maphorion of the Mother of God, with flashing gold lines (assist) and the teal blue/green of the Child’s chiton (a garment that looks like a long shirt). Because of the complexity of this icon, and no doubt my age (!) I worked many months to complete it. I asked my friend in Taos, the Master Woodworker, Roberto Lavadie to create a frame with roses all round it. Usually, as with the icon “The Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church” we keep the natural color of the wood. When I brought the icon to Taos, Roberto, his wife Carol and son Jose’ and I were having coffee together and suddenly I imagined the frame to be painted deep red. I think it turned out very beautiful. You can see both the framed and unframed pictures on my website.
The Redemptorists have always brought this particular Marian devotion into the world, and that of St Gerard Majella as well. My favorite writer on icons, Paul Evdokimov, once called icons “glass torches” in his book “The Art of the Icon : A Theology of Beauty.” I read this book in 1990 just as I was beginning my iconographic apprenticeship here in Albuquerque. This idea of a glass torch I intuitively understood, and that has been my dream, my hope. If only one out of the 320 images and icon turns out to be a glass torch for the Church; this is enough for me.
Once again to quote Our Lady of Perpetual Help, “Why don’t you just ask ?”
Abundant blessings

St Anthony Heals the Sick

November 11th, 2021

St Anthony Heals the Sick

St Anthony Heals the Sick (feast day 13 June)
“Dear Anthony, you have always helped those who invoked you. I fervently pray for a sick person so dear to me. I beg you to obtain for him/her the gift of healing, or at least to ease his/her pain and find inside him/her the strength to offer those tribulations to the Lord in union with the Passion of Jesus Christ. You, who in your earthly life were a friend of the suffering and supported them with your deep charity and your gift of miracles, be close to us through your protection, console our hearts and turn our physical and mental suffering into a source of merit for the eternal life.
Amen”
Prayer from the Basilica of St Anthony in Padua, Italy
Here’s another prayer.....
“never known to fail, provided that the request is for one’s spiritual benefit or for those whom we are praying for. It is important to remember that God always answers our prayers. His response may not be what we expected or wanted, but he always grants us exactly what we need.
O Holy St Anthony gentlest of Saints, your love of God and charity for his creatures, made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Encouraged by this thought, I implore you to obtain for me (request).
O gentle and loving St Anthony, whose heart was ever full of human sympathy, whisper my petition into the ears of the sweet Infant Jesus, who loved to be folded in your arms. The gratitude of my heart will ever be yours.
Amen”
This icon was commissioned by St Anthony’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado. I also painted/wrote another icon of Anthony holding the Infant Jesus, or actually, Jesus is clinging tightly to him. Another story for another time. But now I think we are in a specific time/need for Anthony the Healer.
In my twenties I was blessed to visit his tomb in Padua, (Anthony was actually from Lisbon, Portugal but is always known as Anthony of Padua). I’ve never seen anything like the people walking by the wall where he is buried and touching it with their hands. It moved me so much. I’m certain that people who visit St Padre Pio or Our Lady of Lourdes have the same experience. I also felt that way visiting the tomb of St Aloysius in the church of Sant Ignazio in Rome ... and yet I was alone. I wrote down names of people who were sick with HIV/AIDS on little pieces of paper and stuck them into the bricks near St Aluigi Gonzaga. He is known in Italian as Luigi, but his own signature, we still have, is Aluigi.
Anthony was my Mom’s favorite saint and happens to be the most popular of all the millions of saints. He’s known for finding things that are lost. Mom always told us “He doesn’t exactly find it for you; he tells you where to look.” Last year in the middle of the pandemic, before the election, I lost my wallet and I felt him tell me to give up, it was gone. I forgive him because the address on my driver’s license was in Arroyo Seco, up North, 17 miles from Taos, and if I hadn’t gotten a new one I couldn’t have voted down here in Albuquerque.
I know that we all have several people that need healing. This year St Anthony follows the feast days of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I promise to ask God during Mass tomorrow to answer all your prayers even if I have never met you ... God knows what you need.
A blessed feast of Anthony ‼️
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 June 2021

Pentecost Sunday and Mary Mother of the Church - Come Holy Spirit

November 11th, 2021

Pentecost Sunday and Mary Mother of the Church - Come Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday and Mary Mother of the Church : Come Holy Spirit
“In Roman Catholic Mariology, Mother of the Church (Latin: Mater Ecclesiae) is a title officially given to Mary by Pope Paul VI. The title was first used in the 4th century by St Ambrose of Milan, as rediscovered by Hugo Rahner, SJ. (author of the book Our Lady and the Church) It was also used by Pope Benedict XIV in 1748 and then by Pope Leo XIII in 1885. Pope St John Paul II placed it in the Catechism of the Catholic Church ... in 2018, Pope Francis decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church be inserted into the Roman Calendar on the Monday after Pentecost (also known as Whit Monday) and to be celebrated every year.”
Wikipedia
“One interesting bit of church architecture is known as the ‘Holy Ghost Hole.’ It consists of a large opening purposely left in the ceiling. This was most commonly done in Medieval churches throughout Europe, but has been repeated in other places throughout the world. The tradition was meant to remind the faithful of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and to be a visible reminder that the Holy Spirit continues to descend upon Christian Disciples. The spiritual symbolism was further reinforced on Pentecost day, when someone would climb up onto the roof and send down various symbols of the Holy Spirit. Fr Francis Weiser explains in his book ‘Holyday Book’ that live doves or pigeons would sometimes be used, as well as burning pieces of straw...”
Philip Kosloski
Eight years ago I was assigned by Archbishop Michael Sheehan to help out at St Joseph on the Rio Grande Church. And nearly every time I’ve celebrated Mass there, while I’m sitting in the celebrant’s chair I look up into the large hole in the beautifully crafted wooden ceiling. And though I did not know about the ancient tradition of the Holy Ghost Hole until today, it is exactly what I’ve been praying for all during these past years. Pope Francis has spoken beautifully about the Church as Mother in his homily for Monday’s feast, and I know he would like to see more women and lay men involved in the decisions and hierarchy of the Church. This is one of those issues where the need is so great, and many people are angry that it’s still taking so long. I personally believe Francis is doing everything he can to make this a reality. But I am fully aware that’s my personal belief in Pope Francis . I think it comes from growing up with my Dad who was Governor of Colorado, and watching him try to make advances for so many people and being continually opposed. Yet in his obituary the Denver Post ended this way: “He combined his dedication to the underdog with his courage to stake his all on what he believed was right. Each of the other governors elected to succeed him exceeded his longevity in office; none has exceeded his accomplishments.” Right before he died in 1997 he wrote me a very personal and beautiful letter. In it he spoke about my need to listen for and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It was most unusual for Dad to write this way so it has stayed with me all these years as a kind of prophetic word. In this icon Mary is solemn with an ever so gentle upturning of her mouth, as if she is awaiting the arrival of the Spirit, as she did in the first Pentecost. As Mother of the Church she knows our problems and what is needed most of all right now to keep us all following the Gospels. She knows the Holy Spirit never goes backwards but always creating anew. Her throne is not made of gold, but Hildegardian greens and warm colors. The Flame of the Spirit hovers above her. Doctor St Hildegard of Bingen saw the Holy Spirit as the “greening agent” of the Most Holy Trinity, and she put these inspirational visions into some of her 77 songs as well. In this era of urgent need to protect Mother Earth, as St Francis of Assisi called her, I have great hopes that young people will be given some “miraculous inspirations/interventions” from the Holy Spirit and help to save our world.
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the
fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 Pentecost 2021

La Sagrada Familia -The Holy Family

November 11th, 2021

La Sagrada Familia -The Holy Family

La Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family)
“The spiritual life is a long strange business and you’ve got to be quiet and docile enough to go on learning.” Iris Murdoch
The month of May is always associated with the Mother of God. In 1870 Pope Pius IX declared St Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church and in 1955 Pope Pius XII established the Feast of St Joseph the Worker on May 1 as a counter-celebration to the communists’ May Day. Which means Mary’s husband ushers in her month. And since I recently showed the image I painted of St Joseph the Worker, here on Facebook, I decided to show the first icon I painted of Joseph and The Holy Family, in 1991, which is a companion to The Risen Christ, both icons reside at Risen Christ Church in Denver, Colorado. During this year dedicated to Joseph, I continue to learn from him what I call “Joseph’s way” which is a radical trust in God, made so clear and simple in the beautiful Don Dolindo Novena I’ve spoken of so often. But I have to keep at it because I have a tendency to fall back into worry more often than not ! In the mystical Life of St Joseph by Maria Cecilia Baij , OSB, she tells us that during his life, God allowed Joseph to be continually afflicted by worries concerning the care of his wife and child, but also he knew what an extraordinary privilege he was given, to see and care for them every day. Recently our administrative assistant at St Joseph on the Rio Grande Church, Mrs Dawn Wenzl surprised me with a gift of an icon she wrote/painted of St Joseph with the Holy Child . It is very tender and touching. I felt like Joseph was reminding me that he is with me and continuing to guide me in his year. This also reaffirmed for me the power of icons to bring the presence of a heavenly being into your house and life. Images, paintings and icons have been my work for the past 30 years and I always remember what a gift it is to share them with others. I think of a Dominican motto, “Contemplata aliis tradere” - to share what you have contemplated.
Here is a lovely prayer I found in a book of prayers for Fathers :
“Lord Jesus, through the life You chose to lead on earth You showed forth the resplendent value of human work - though often done in toil, all Your work was a prayer, a sacrifice pleasing to God. Grant me too, my Savior, the grace to realize the magnificent potential of work to transform me, making me more patient, diligent, generous and fruitful. And most especially, my Lord, bestow on me the grace to bring to the work of each moment an air of peacefulness and prayerfulness. Through the intercession of St Joseph, patron of workers, I ask all this through Your holy name. Amen”
A most happy feast of St Joseph‼️
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 May 2021

Litany to The Divine Mercy

April 29th, 2021

Litany to The Divine Mercy

Litany to The Divine Mercy
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Divine Mercy, greatest attribute of God, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, unfathomable love of the Sanctifier, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, incomprehensible mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, expression of the greatest might of God, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in creation of heavenly spirits, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in calling us forth from nothingness to existence, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, encompassing the whole universe, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, endowing us with immortal life, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, shielding us from deserved punishment, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, lifting us from the misery of sin, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, justifying us through the Person of the Incarnate Word, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, which flowed out from the wounds of Christ, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, gushing forth from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, giving us the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of Mercy, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in revealing the mysteries of God, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the founding of the Holy Church, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in instituting the Holy Sacraments, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, first of all in the sacraments of Baptism and Penance, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of Holy Orders, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in calling us to the holy faith, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the conversion of sinners, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in sanctifying the just, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in perfecting of the pious, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, fount of help for the sick and the suffering, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, sweet relief for anguished hearts, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, only hope of despairing souls, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, accompanying us in every moment of our life, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, anticipating our needs with graces, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, repose of the dying, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, heavenly delight of the saved, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, respite and relief of the souls in Purgatory, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, crown of All Saints, we trust in You.
Divine Mercy, inexhaustible source of miracles, we trust in You.
Lamb of God, who revealed the greatest mercy in redeeming the world by dying on the cross, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who mercifully offers Yourself for our sake in every holy Mass, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away our sins with inexhaustible compassion, have mercy on us.
V: The Mercy of God is above all His works.
R: Hence, we will praise The Divine Mercy forever and ever.
Let us pray:
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, King of mercy, who with You and the Holy Spirit shows us mercy now and forever. Amen.

The Risen Christ

April 29th, 2021

The Risen Christ

The Risen Christ
During the dark winter nights I decided to listen to a long (over 20 hours) Audible book on the music and life of J S Bach; “Bach : Music in the Castle of Heaven” by John Eliot Gardiner. It opened my ears to The St John Passion, and the incredible emotional pull and power of the first word, over and over again...Lord. I was familiar with the magnificent St Matthew Passion as well as many other of Bach’s masterpieces, and Gardiner is such a great writer and natural, born teacher, who clearly loves and understands Bach. He also taught me a lot about the Lutheran Church during Bach’s time. And of course, his personal life...tragedies, triumphs and joys. I really loved this book and I think you will too.
Recently I got a request to use the Triptych of the Passion from Pastor David Hansen of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, for the Easter Vigil. I noticed the opening prayer was very beautiful.
“Sisters and brothers in Christ, on this most holy night when our Savior Jesus Christ passed from death to life, we gather with the church throughout the world in vigil and prayer. This is the Passover of Jesus Christ. Through light and the word, through water and oil, bread and wine, we proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection, share Christ’s triumph over sin and death, and await Christ’s coming again in glory.
Eternal God, in Jesus Christ you have given the light of life to all the world. Bless this new fire at the banquet of eternal light; through the Sun of righteousness, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the ending. To Christ belongs all time and all ages; to Christ belong glory and dominion now and forever.
The light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.
Amen”
A Blessed Easter Season and may it bring you a deeper assurance of the continual loving call for intimacy with the Risen Lord !
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 Easter 2021

The Passion Triptych- Our Lady of Sorrows-Jesus Christ Extreme Humility-St John the Apostle

April 29th, 2021

The Passion Triptych- Our Lady of Sorrows-Jesus Christ Extreme Humility-St John the Apostle

The Passion Triptych (Our Lady of Sorrows, Jesus Christ Extreme Humility, St John the Apostle)
“The Lord not only takes leave of the things of this world; he begins to see them disappear one by one. His body, his whole humanity become distant to him in a completely new way...He has to part from his disciples, and he recognizes how imperfect he leaves them behind... He has to part from his mission. The mission was to bring the world back to the Father...Humanely seen, not even a fragment of the total has been achieved...Everything that unites him with the Father and the Spirit is clouded over already by the shadow of the darkness of the Cross. Everywhere he hears the sound ‘too late.’ It is rolling toward him, is approaching...Taking leave of human bonds. Of his Mother, of the Beloved Disciple, of all these touching people who were attached to him and believed in him, for whom he worked miracles, whom he loved with full human affection. The more he gave them, the more he loved them. He loved them with a childlike heart....
Taking leave of prayer. The uninterrupted communion with the Father begins to break off. Everything recedes now into the land of estrangement...All his life long the Son lived on earth in twosomeness and threesomeness with the Father and the Spirit, but now he falls into the lonesomeness of being merely human, that very loneliness from which he wanted to redeem his fellowmen. His desire was to draw all men (people) into this prayer to preserve them from being forsaken. They were to be with the Father in the Spirit. But this is now taken away from the Son...All this is waiting outside the door, and the door will open. There are many doors, but whichever he chooses, it leads to the Passion.”
From “The Passion From Within” by Adrienne von Speyr
There are so many women and men theologians, and we all have our favorites.
I’m not reading Adrienne this year because I’m trying to stick with my favorite books on St Joseph:
“The Shadow of the Father” (also published as “Discovering St Joseph”) by Fr Andre Doze and
“The Life of St Joseph” by Sister Maria Baij, OSB
But during this season of the Passion I always return to the beautiful writing and brilliant insights of Adrienne. And I turn to the two Passions (John and Matthew) composed by J.S.Bach. Adrienne said something in one of her books which was so poignant, heartbreaking...that I never forgot it and use it in homilies all the time. But I couldn’t find the quote so I’ll have to tell it to you as I remember it. (So I’m obviously paraphrasing!) She said (hold onto your seats) that in Heaven, before the third person of the Blessed Trinity was sent to earth to take a body, “he” was so excited and anxiously awaiting the daily opportunity to tell humans about ,and literally show them the love of the Father. But once he got here, he was shocked at how far we are from God. And how little we wanted to know about God, as is evidenced in the Gospels. He is outright blocked, viewed with insidious jealousy, ridiculed, argued with continually and even called a demon. Any of us who want to bring the love of the Father know this anguished frustration. Part of it is we are broken vessels and easy to write off as so. But the other parts are that people can lack any semblance of humility and refuse to budge from their positions be they the right or left wings of the Church; if you are rigid or absolutist, there’s just no opening. I’m so fond of quoting G.B. Caird in his commentary on Luke, where he says something like “The only requirement for entrance into the kingdom is an emptiness only God can fill.”
I often joke that I was a lot smarter when I was young. Youth can be arrogant with the little knowledge they gain. But I’ve come to appreciate this time of my age where I find myself turning to God with so many unanswered questions and more than willing to wait. I think of St Francis at sunset on 3 October 1226, as he lay dying on the ground, naked, he covered his wound in his side and told those with him, “I have done what was mine to do. May God teach you what you are to do.” All this coming week we watch this innocent man we all love so deeply, go towards his Passion. This past year so many have lived through their own passions physically and spiritually. I know that this week will be like no other because of the many circumstances of this past year. And I am convinced that Graces will flow in some surprising and unexpected ways, because the outpouring of love of the Father never ceases.
Dear Jesus,
Watching you again move toward Calvary and in most ways I feel terribly helpless in the face of the enormous pain and suffering of these days in our world. I can stand beneath the Cross, but I can’t take away the pain or get you or us... down off the Cross. But... I can stand and I won’t leave. And that, as a young man dying of AIDS once told me, is enough and truly comforting. I know there are new graces of life and hope you want to give us this year, just as you did in Advent and the Christmas season. Keep me open to receiving them, and may you continue to teach me what I am to do for you, my dear Lord.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 28 March 2021

Retablo de San Jose Obrero

April 29th, 2021

Retablo de San Jose Obrero

Retablo de San Jose’ Obrero
“Go to Joseph...” (Genesis 41:55)
This beautiful phrase (loved by one of St Joseph’s greatest promoters, the healer and miracle worker of Montreal, St Andre’ Bessette) from the book of Genesis refers to Joseph, whose father Jacob had given Joseph a lovely coat... “Now Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors.” (Genesis 37:3) Incidentally, in the genealogy of Jesus, “the second Joseph’s” father was also named Jacob... “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.” (Matthew 1:16) I love the way there are no accidents with God, even the names of the fathers of the two Josephs who were chosen to nourish Israel both physically and spiritually.
This particular image of St Joseph was a gift to our pastor Msgr Lambert Luna, from the parish of St Joseph on the Rio Grande, for his 40th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood. Joseph has two major feastdays one traditionally commemorates his death, March 19th, the other is May 1, St Joseph the Worker and patron of the Universal Church. When Pope Francis designated this year as the year of Joseph (from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021) I’m certain he was aware that Joseph is also the patron of a “peaceful, happy death.”
This is because he was attended by his wife Mary, Mother of God, and Jesus Christ. With the thousands of deaths this past year, we are all feeling the losses and are calling on St Joseph to attend to the dying.
This most ancient Novena (9 days) prayer to St Joseph has never been known to fail and tradition claims it dates back to the year 50...
Novena To St Joseph
O St Joseph....
Amen
A blessed feast of St Joseph to you all ‼️
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 19 March 2021
NOVENA TO ST. JOSEPH
O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.
O Saint Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly powerful life , I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.
O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Amen

Holy Living Martyr Dianna Ortiz

April 29th, 2021

Holy Living Martyr Dianna Ortiz

Holy Living Martyr Dianna Ortíz
“Close your physical eye, so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye. Then bring what you saw in the dark into the light, so that it may have an effect on others, shining inwards from outside.”
From the incredible deeply spiritual German Artist, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)
When Robert Ellsberg, editor of Orbis Press, published the book “The Blindfold’s Eyes : My Journey From Torture to Truth” by Dianna and Patricia Davis, in 2004, he sent me a copy, I was living in Taos at that time. I sat up reading for hours. I was going to read the whole thing in one sitting. I had the profound impression I was reading the life of a Martyr who had lived to tell her story. I was so deeply affected by the book that while I was reading that night, my friend and author of a book on my icons and images, (“Image to Insight” published by University of New Mexico Press, 2018) John Dadosky called me, and from everything I was experiencing, including sheer grief, terror, horror, as well as Dianna’s radiant holiness, counseled me to finish the book later. I have never read anything like it before or since. I so wish I could have met Dianna, but never did. There have been numerous articles on her life in many newspapers and online, so you can find so much information now. I can think of so many things she can be called upon to intercede for us now. But especially those who suffer daily from PTSD and they desperately need a patron. I don’t think there’s anything she will not understand if you pray to her. Also there are those who feel like they can never be forgiven and who stay outside the Church because of something inside torturing them. Dianna is here for those people too. I’m not quite sure if this is an icon or an image (like Elijah McClain, Matthew Shephard or Rachel Carson) but I’ll let God decide that. I wanted to portray the blood, (red background) the passion she endured (purple Lenten colors) and the turquoise always associated with New Mexico because she grew up here. I also wanted to portray her Radiant Light which grows brighter each day since her passing into God on this past February 19th. One of the articles I read by the priest who anointed her, said the presence of God was palpable in her room as she was dying. I have felt very close to her since her death and pray to her everyday.
(The prayer I chose is an adaptation of the prayer for the feast of St Sebastian from the old Sacramentary. Sebastian lived through the first attempt to kill him by shooting him with arrows. St Irene found him and nursed him back to life. He then confronted Emperor Diocletian, who thought he was dead, and was finally beheaded, 20 January 288.)
“Dear Lord,
Fill us with that spirit of courage which gave Holy Living Martyr Dianna strength to offer her life in faithful witness. Help us to learn from her to cherish Your law and to obey You rather than men or women. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.
Amen”
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 March 2021

Cross of New Life-The Flowering Cross

April 29th, 2021

Cross of New Life-The Flowering Cross

“Cross of New Life:The Flowering Cross” ☦️ (13’6” x 7’9”)
The largest icon of my career is now completed and prepared for its new home. It has been my honor to write the “Cross of New Life: The Flowering Cross”

The ancient Catholic Church has given us the tradition of flowering and jeweled crosses, which are on display in mosaics (specifically in Ravenna, Italy) and paintings throughout the world. This particular Cross is modeled on one by Giotto di Bondone (1226-1337) ... and my additions based on years of looking into painted crosses.
The popular Old English Christmas Carol, inspired the colors of the icon. “The Holly and the Ivy” which dates back before Henry VIII, tells of the lovely green holly producing red berries…
“The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good…”
There are several versions of this Carol, it has become significant for me not only at Christmas time as we wrap the world in red and green, but also watching closely in springtime as trees produce red buds right from the “wounds” in the bark, which become flowers, fruit, or green leaves .
So the Flowering Cross is also, of course, always a sign of the Resurrection to come.
Our Lady of Sorrows, dressed in red, watches over her Son in the round panel at the top. On either side of his body are purple-passion-like panels, 12” x 44”, each bearing 30 bright magenta Japanese stencil flowers which seem to lay nicely next to Jesus’ body, where Giotto uses a very beautiful complex design in his side panels. The cross expertly cut by master woodworker Roberto Lavadie. Our Lady of Sorrows, and the side panels were done in the autumn-winter months 2019. Finally I began the Corpus in January, 2020 and finished April 20, 2020. Marcia Vargas did the gold leafing on the edges of the entire Cross and then Roberto put all the parts together.
This “Cross of New Life: The Flowering Cross” is offered for sale. Price available upon request. Please contact Debra de la Torre at [email protected]
(Professional photograph of the Cross and a photo simulation of the Cross in a church are shown below.)
Only blessings,
Fr William Hart McNichols

The Chair of St Peter

April 29th, 2021

The Chair of St Peter

The Chair of St Peter
“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and walked wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and your arms, and someone else will dress you, and carry you where you do not wish to go.” John 21:18
“Today’s feast, attested as early as the mid-fourth century may have its roots as a Christian substitute for the pagan commemoration of dead relatives and friends celebrated in Rome between 13-22 February. At this commemoration, a chair (cathedra) was left empty for particular deceased persons. Since the actual date of Peter’s death was unknown, it came to be commemorated on 22 February, eventually celebrating his taking pastoral responsibility of the Church of Rome.” From the Ordo, The General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
When I was commissioned to paint/write an icon of The Chair of St Peter I could only contemplate the chair that any Pope would eventually hold, which is the Cross. The legend around the death of St Peter tells us he did not feel worthy to be crucified upright as his Lord Jesus and asked to be crucified upside down. No matter how good or how holy, or how diligently each Pope has ministered to us, they always face incessant criticism and spiritual or actual crucifixion. I have witnessed this in my own brief lifetime from Pope Pius XII to our present day with Pope Francis. This is a very special feastday to honor and pray especially for our blessed Pope Francis.
“...feed the flock of God which is among you, taking care of it, not by constraint, but willingly, according to God, not for filthy lucre’s sake, but voluntarily: neither as lording it over the clergy, but being made a pattern of the flock from the heart. And when the prince of pastors shall appear, you shall receive a never fading crown of glory.” First Letter of St Peter 5:2-4.
“Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.”
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 February 2021

The Revelations of Julian of Norwich

April 29th, 2021

The Revelations of Julian of Norwich

The Revelations of Julian of Norwich
“Pray, even if you feel nothing, see nothing. For when you are dry, empty, sick or weak, at such a time is your prayer most pleasing to God, even though you may find little joy in it. This is true of all believing prayer.”
Lady Julian of Norwich
In 1974 I moved from Boston, where I’d been attending Boston University for art classes and Boston College for philosophy classes, to my hometown of Denver to begin the Art Department at Regis High School. I was 25 and not that much older than my students, and yet, I tried as best as I could to bring something to them. One elder teacher gave me wise advice : “They may not remember a thing you said, but they will remember that you loved them.” And I did - hoping they remember that now. A few Jesuits did not want to live in the large high school so a house was rented and five of us moved in. The house was very close - walking distance- to the school, and it was on Julian street...so it became Julian House. That same year one of my loving mentors Fr John Walsh sent me a British hard back copy of a book on Julian of Norwich, telling me in his note inside the book, “Dear Billy, you will love Julian. She is the most positive and joyful mystic of all, love, Fr Walsh.” Later I sent that book to another mentor and friend Fr James Janda. He was a magnificently gifted poet and had been very impressed by seeing Julie Harris in a one woman play about Emily Dickinson called, “The Belle of Amherst.” So he spent years researching Julian’s life, finding out she was a contemporary of Chaucer and the first known woman to write in Middle English and that she had survived 3 outbreaks of the Black Plague in England. He decided to write a one woman play about her and I was blessed to do the illustrations. The play “Julian” was published by Seabury Press in 1984. Just this past December my dear friend Mirabai Starr and my new friend Fr Matthew Fox did a series of inspiring talks and classes for Shift Network on Lady Julian. I joined them to discuss her on a “first bonus session” and that’s how I finally met Fr Matt. I believe the first available contemporary English translation was printed by Paulist Press in 1977. Mirabai has a beautiful translation “The Showings of Julian of Norwich,” 2013, Hampton Roads Press.
And Matthew just published “Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic and Beyond,” i Universe Press, 2020. I myself had illustrated the play I mentioned showing Julian as a middle aged woman, but I always wanted to show her as the young, bedridden woman just 30 years old. I finally got a commission to paint/write her icon. Since I make my living on this work - I go from commission to commission and can rarely take off to paint someone just because I love them... but I do sometimes anyway ! At 30 Julian had what we now call a NDE - near death experience. It lasted 3 days and when she emerged she began to write her short versions of the Revelations given to her by the Crucified Jesus. Later in her life as an Anchoress (female hermit) she expanded her work into a much longer version. Since that first edition of 1977 there are now numerous translations and luckily, many many books on Lady Julian.
Both TS Eliot and Thomas Merton were astonished by her theological depth and also her “seemingly effortless” ability to convey complex dogmatic - tightrope walks - to the ordinary reader as well as the theologian. She has been a part of my life since I was 25 and I have returned to her often. I could write pages on just how many ways she has influenced my paintings and images before I began my iconographic apprenticeship. But she seems especially available to us now as we live in our own “Anchorholds” during the continuing pandemic; none of us know when it will lift for good. If you want to know her yourself I’d suggest Mirabai’s translation which I mentioned above. I’ll end now with Julian’s final words in the play:
Life
is a precious thing
to me
and a little thing:
my life is a little thing,
when it will end here
is God’s secret.
And the world
is a little thing,
like a hazelnut
in his-her hand -
but it is in his ever-keeping,
it is in his ever-loving,
it is in his ever-making,
how should anything be amiss?
Yes, all shall be well,
and all will be well,
“and thou shalt see thyself
that all manner of thing
shall be well.”
Kind friends,
I pray God grant you
all your good wishes,
desires, and dreams -
it is all in the choosing,
it is all in the asking.
From the play “Julian” by
Fr J. Janda (1936-2010)
Dear Lady Julian
Please help us now to live through these days when we’re not used to this endless seclusion. It makes us often frightened, irritable, tight, inflexible and then ... we become distant from ourselves and God. You chose relative solitude to listen for the voice of God.
And our patron this year, St Joseph, was given a hidden, secluded life to protect Mother and Child; and he was also schooled during his life to listen for the voice of God. Help us, calm us, teach us to wait and trust that God longs to love us evermore deeply and longs to speak with us in our hearts and souls, until our time on earth is completed and we are within God forever.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 February 2021

Mother of Sacred Activism

January 22nd, 2021

Mother of Sacred Activism

Mother of Sacred Activism (with Eichenberg’s Christ of the Breadline)
“My book called ‘A Life of Jesus’ may cause surprise for American readers when they discover an interpretation of Jesus somewhat at odds with the image they now possess. Jesus as I depict him is a person who lived for love and still more love; and yet was put to death, for he chose to live without violent resistance. My way of depicting Jesus is rooted in my being a Japanese novelist. I wrote this book for the benefit of Japanese readers who have no Christian tradition of their own and who know almost nothing about Jesus... The religious mentality of the Japanese is - just as it was when people accepted Buddhism - responsive to one who ‘suffers with us’ and who ‘allows for our weakness,’ but their mentality has little tolerance for any kind of transcendent being who judges humans harshly, then punishes them. In brief, the Japanese tend to seek in their gods and buddhas a warm-hearted mother rather than a stern father. With this fact always in mind I tried not so much to depict God in the father-image that tends to characterize Christianity, but rather to depict the kind-hearted maternal aspect of God revealed to us in the personality of Jesus.”
From “A Life of Jesus” by Shusaku Endo 1973
A few years ago the great British author of many books on universal mysticism, Andrew Harvey, decided to found an Institute of Sacred Activism, and he asked me to create an icon of a Black Madonna. When I’m not copying an existing icon, such as Our Lady of Yaroslavl, Vladimir or Mother of God Similar to Fire, I must imagine how to portray Our Mother. I saw this as a kind of Pentecost icon with Fritz Eichenberg’s powerful drawing he did for Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker, “Christ of the Breadline.” This image of Christ follows Shusako Endo’s Jesus who, as he said, “suffers with us.” The Black Madonna is surrounded by the blue flames of the Holy Spirit, and she brings the Church into a new era as we, today, begin a long and beautiful healing process. I wanted to show this icon for Dr Martin Luther King Day because he epitomizes the very concept of Sacred Activism. In fact he is the very definition of those words.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others ?’
...Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that . Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that...The time is always right to do what is right...Every man lives in two realms: the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live... We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 January 2021

Jesus - Listen and Pray

January 22nd, 2021

Jesus - Listen and Pray

Jesus : Listen and Pray
“Keep watch with prayer, so that you may not be put to the test: the spirit is ready but the flesh is feeble.”
Matthew 26:41 (Basic English Bible)
“He remained for some months in this state of tribulation, and bore it all with great courage, and with the firm hope that God would eventually console him in this grievous trial ... Though God permitted the devil to torment Joseph at this stage with various temptations, especially with that of mistrust, the Saint, nevertheless, remained steadfast, and always relied more upon God’s goodness. After he bore this desolation with patience and resignation and courageously resisted all the attacks and temptations of the evil one, the more did it please God to relieve him and reward him for his faithfulness.
As he was praying one night in his distress, Joseph perceived the Divine Voice itself, telling him of His love for him, and asserting that He had never forsaken him, but had always been at his side, assisting him by means of His grace. The voice was permeated with a remarkable sweetness, and in the fullness of his consolation Joseph gave way to tears. His mind was very much enlightened during this manifestation, and he gave praise and thanksgiving to God for consoling him in such a sublime manner, and for restoring him to his original state of peace.”
Maria Cecilia Baij, OSB (1743-1766)
The Life of St Joseph, page 38
After my heart collapse on 27 April 2012, I had open heart surgery on the feast of St Norbert, June 6. As a 19 year old Novice, I requested to see a therapist at St Louis U and it turned out he was a Behaviorist following the controversial work of BF Skinner. He asked me if I wanted to try shock therapy (now called “conversion therapy”) to change my sexuality. I thought to myself if God wanted to change me I could submit to Him and in 1968, this was my limited wisdom, and therapy was completely new to me. Luckily, the doctor placed the electrodes on my ankles, not my head. During one of many sessions, I received over 70 shocks, 110 volts. To make a long story short it didn’t work. An older kind Jesuit Father and mentor told me to stop; that God had made me this way, and I’d learn later, that he was trying to say, I’d have to wait to see all the gifts that would come from just being myself; accepting who God made me to be. The doctor told me I had the strongest resistance to pain he’d ever seen. I think that’s enough about that for now...
I remember telling the brilliant heart Doctor that morning in June 2012, that I had a very strong resistance to pain and I’d be okay. He gave me a look I’ll never forget, as if to say, you have no idea what you’re saying. He was right. But a week later I was back in my studio in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico (17 miles north of Taos) and some weeks after, in July I was longing to paint Jesus. I did this small 5”x7” image, based on a beautiful illustration I’d seen on a greeting card, I added three stars for the Trinity. It was such a joyful experience to be back to painting. I knew I had to keep it simple and I knew the scripture (watch and pray) was connected to the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, so I changed the title to Listen and Pray because, once again, I was longing to hear from God - “Why did I come back ? What hadn’t I finished ?” What kept coming to me was that I hadn’t gotten the images and icons into the world yet, they were still sitting on a website, most, unseen. I kept asking, listening, and it was always the same answer. So (thankfully) my sister Marjory McNichols Wilson, a professional artist, took two months and put all 300+ on Fine Art America. I’ve taken some “close” criticism, that I’m pushing myself, but the message I heard was that the images and icons do not belong to me. God gave them to me to give to whoever needs them, or whoever wants to receive them.
Then many things came my way without me doing a thing. My friend Christopher Summa wanted to make a film about the icons and images, and my friend John Dadosky wanted to write a book for UNM Press, Kathy Hendricks my childhood friend and I collaborated on a book called “Heavenly Friends.” All this happened and many more gifts have come my way ... right now my friend Christopher Pramuk and I are working on a book about the drawings and images, with a few icons too. All of this is about now...I mean this time in life. Inside the continuing pandemic of Covid and inside the continuing pandemic of an attempted insurrection, by sadly misled and some vulnerable people, and when I watched them, I thought I “know” some of these people, they’re not really monsters. I also saw some fatally proud people who’d rather see bloody mayhem than admit they made a wrong choice; following a cult of lies. I actually painted an icon of Jesus around this theme called “Jesus Christ Holy Forgiveness.” It’s so simple to say you’re sorry and have made a mistake, but I know some people are incapable of that simplicity. And while I was living in Manhattan, a wise Franciscan told me in Confession, that you must forgive everyone but if someone is continually abusive, you don’t have to let them back into your life. In fact if you do, you are contributing to their sin, against you. Almost all accounts of Near Death Experiences contain a story of a “life review” of every single moment of your life, including every far reaching good effect of your actions and every far reaching effect of your negative actions. They say, in these accounts, Jesus is with you and yet, you judge yourself . I’ve always loved the quote from Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see, in the world ...” but I like all of us, I am capable of self-deception . During this time I’ve been going through this life review, on purpose, to try and look at both. The point is not to wallow in your past faults or sins, but to see them honestly as well as your gifts and ability to love; and keep trying to love. Now at 71, I clearly see we are here for such a brief time. I see this year of St Joseph as a healing balm. The “hidden years” or hidden life of Jesus, is part of the good we are being given now. I am so grateful to Pope Francis that to honor and invoke St Joseph, he didn’t make it just a week or month but a year. I’d like to close with another poem from the Hospice years...
Of the Tao/ Of Jesus
Of the Tao
it is always said:
“Those who speak
do not know;
those who know
do not speak.”
One marvels at
the cleanliness of
this crisp seed,
this secret chamber
of transformation.
One feels a reverence
for the mystery and
anxiety over the
discipline of initiation.
Of Jesus
there is no end
to the speaking.
His name is cast about
today as currency ...
Indeed for some evangelists
He is only profit.
But for children
of the kingdom
there are no words
to describe
being near Him.
He is comfort
He is safety
He is solitude
He is communion.
There are no words
to describe
being near Him.
His discipline is light -
followed from crib to cross.
This intimacy with God
awakens transfiguration.
(1986)
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 January 2021

San Jose Sombra del Padre

January 22nd, 2021

San Jose Sombra del Padre

San Jose’ Sombra del Padre (A blessed New Year of St Joseph !)
“If earthly princes consider it a matter of so much importance to select carefully a tutor fit for their children, think you that the Eternal God would not, in his almighty power and wisdom, choose from out of his creation the most perfect man living (St Joseph) to be the guardian of his divine and most glorious Son, the Prince of heaven and earth?”
... And more “Joseph-like” wisdom from the deeply holy Bishop of Geneva, (21 August 1567- 28 December 1622), who was given an abundance of Holy Wisdom during his life, by the Holy Spirit, extremely relevant for us now ...
“Never be in a hurry; do everything in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset...Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength... Have patience with all things, but, first of all with yourself...Do not wish to be anything but who you are, and try to be that perfectly.”
St Francis de Sales ⚜️ (Bishop of Geneva feastday 24 January)
Looking for words about St Joseph, I came across these quotes from the brilliant Francis de Sales. This icon (with the Spanish title for St Joseph Shadow of the Father) was one of 4 icons commissioned by the late Fr Paul Locatelli, SJ, for the University of Santa Clara. Paul had a great devotion to St Joseph rooted in his Italian heritage, and I’m sure he’s with him now; both interceding for us during this very difficult time. But along with all the many heartbreaks and challenges, we have also been given by Pope Francis, a year of St Joseph as our teacher, guide, protector, patron of a happy death(s) and as St Teresa of Avila called him - the great teacher of contemplative prayer. The symbolism within this icon is that God the Father (dressed in salmon and green) is holding a cloak of night to protect Joseph (green garment) and the Holy Child, who is wearing a salmon color to indicate that he is God, Incarnate. I often place the Moon in an icon, which is a symbol in Catholicism of Our Mother Mary; being the reflected light of her Son. The Child sleeps safely, calmly, in his father’s arms, assured of his powerful love. I think I’m saying at this time, through this icon, that your soul is now in Joseph’s Year, like the Child, echoing Psalm 131 but instead of a child safely in his mother’s arms, as in the Psalm, this time its the father, Joseph. Back in time, during the AIDS pandemic I was continually blessed with prayer/poems that helped me understand and cope with all the tragic young deaths. I was 33-40 during those years. I’d like to share one of these poems that express the hidden life of the Holy Family in Nazareth as a school. It’s called ...
“The Pearl Sutra”
When I think of
the Child at home,
my heart and soul
wax eloquent.
And so the words
“hidden life”
represent not just
a portion or phase
of the Savior’s work,
but call up in me
a command
to be taken
as urgently
as the public life
which follows.
This call to
School in Nazareth
is such mitigating balm
to cover vengeful
vainglory,
to shatter those
delusions
all in the Way of the Tao
or Therese’s “little way”
or Francis’s street theater.
But most of all
it is the teaching of
the Child ...
the way of
the little kingdom
spoken of as the
pearl
still being born
in the shell.
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 1985 ... and more about Joseph all of this year 💮
“Our Lord would have us understand that as He was subject to St Joseph on earth - so now in Heaven Our Lord grants all his petitions.”
St Teresa of Avila

Down In Yon Forest

January 22nd, 2021

Down In Yon Forest

“Down In Yon Forest” (Repos de Jesus) Illustration, 1987
When Joan Baez put out her Christmas album “Noel”
in 1966, I heard the song “Down In Yon Forest.” There is
also a most solemn version of the song on Bruce Cockburn’s album,
“Christmas” released in 1993. But “Noel” had a hauntingly lovely
refrain “...and I love my Lord Jesus above anything.” This line runs
through the song creating a beautiful, prayerful mantra.
When I moved to Brooklyn in 1980 to attend Pratt Institute for Art,
I saw this joyful Infant Crib in the Metropolitan Museum
of Art in Manhattan. I used to visit it all the time and I knew
A Most Holy, Hopeful and Blessed Christmas
I had the perfect image for a Christmas card I illustrated and printed in 1987. The Little Bed of the Infant Jesus, entitled “Repos de Jesus”
is from Brabant, in the South of the Netherlands. It was carved and painted, so obviously out of love, in the 15th century around
the same time they think the song was first written.
.
Fr William Hart McNichols
Down In Yon Forest
Down in yon forest there stands a hall
The bells of paradise I hear them ring,
It’s covered all over with purple and pall,
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything.
In that hall there stands a bed
The bells of paradise I hear them ring,
It’s covered all over with scarlet so red,
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything
At the bedside there lies a stone
The bells of paradise I hear them ring,
Which sweet Virgin Mary knelt upon,
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything.
At the bed’s foot there grows a thorn
The bells of paradise I hear them ring,
Which ever blows blossom since He was born,
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything.
Over the bed the moon shines bright
The bells of paradise I hear them ring,
Denoting Our Saviour was born this night,
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything.
Traditional English carol c. 1500

Our Lady of the New Advent - The Burning Bush

January 22nd, 2021

Our Lady of the New Advent - The Burning Bush

Our Lady of the New Advent : The Burning Bush
“I beg you, dear children,
beginning today,
start to love,
with a burning love,
the love with which I love you.”
Message of Medjugorje, May 29, 1986
“O resplendent Virgin, here on the miraculous mountain
cleft everywhere by dazzling wonders,
and which all the faithful climb;
behold them with your merciful eye of love...”
“On this mountain, the Lord of
hosts will prepare a
banquet of rich food. On this
mountain the
mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
He will destroy death forever.
The Lord will wipe away tears
from every cheek, He will take away
His people’s shame everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so ...”
Isaiah 25:6-8
“Now Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, the priest of Midian,
and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb,
the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of
fire from within a Bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight - why the bush does not burn up.’”
Exodus 3:1-4
Some of the most beautiful icons of the Mother of God entitled “The Burning Bush” are referring to this miraculous apparition in Exodus. Mary is literally filled with God and does not burn up. I think this is also a unique way to look at one of my favorite icons called, “Mother of God Similar to Fire.” I was extraordinarily blessed by Archbishop (now Cardinal) Stafford to create two icons of Our Lady of the New Advent; the first for the Archdiocese of Denver, and the second one you’re seeing now, for St John Paul II, which I was asked to give him at World Youth Day, 14 August 1993. The first is in Denver and this one is part of the Vatican Museum. The day I gave it to St John Paul, eventually began changes and understandings that are still, after all these years, unfolding for me. But the most precious honor bestowed on these icons is that Archbishop Stafford asked St John Paul for a Feastday of Our Lady of the New Advent and was given the day before the ancient “O Antiphons” begin, 16 December. Thanks to Pope Francis, creating a year of Joseph, I feel like we’ve got St Joseph as a guide, every day now. And I fully expect personal as well as world changes because of this consecrated year. I invite you to let St Joseph be your companion too. I can’t tell you exactly how to do this, except to simply say yes and ask him. St Teresa of Avila in a chapter on St Joseph in her autobiography will fill you in on all that Joseph will bring you . Just ask. This probably would never have happened without Pope Francis love of Joseph. He has made famous and available, at Church Goods Stores everywhere, a statue of the Sleeping Joseph (or you can order this statue online). He says before he goes to sleep, he puts all the pains and troubles of our pilgrim church under the statue, and lets Joseph take over. You can do this too, with any of your worries and troubles. Pope Francis’ Birthday happens to be 17 December which is also the feastdays of St Lazarus of Bethany and Holy New Martyr Nestor Savchuk. I have also been blessed to paint/write icons of both of these saints.
St John Paul II called the last years of the twentieth century, the New Advent, and he prayed the coming of the third millennium of Christianity would bring a New Evangelization, a new springtime of faith. After meeting him in 1993, I felt like my work should strive to be part of the New Evangelization, whether it be images or icons. As St Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel always, and sometimes use words.”
Happy Feastday of Our Lady of the New Advent and abundant blessings (and surprises, even in the midst of painful times) of this year of St Joseph !
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 16 December 2020

St Joseph Shadow of the Father

January 22nd, 2021

St Joseph Shadow of the Father

St Joseph Shadow of the Father
“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven...”
Matthew 18:18
“With the Apostolic Letter ‘Patris corde’ (With a Father’s Heart), Pope Francis recalls the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father has proclaimed a ‘Year of St Joseph’ from today, 8 December 2020, to 8 December 2021.”
Vatican News
“When we are introduced to the mystery of Joseph we also quickly understand a point. We realize that Mary has a most important role to play in the discovery of Joseph. She sets Jesus himself directly on the new road when she tells him: ‘Your father and I have been searching for you.’ (Luke 2:48). Indeed, one must make a journey in the very footsteps of Jesus: the effect of these words is that Jesus accepts to make a disconcerting descent. This descent strikes me very much personally and I would like others to share the remarkable impression it makes on me. I am deeply convinced that Mary is saying to each one of us these few words we have often read or heard without attention: ‘Your father and I have been searching for you ...’ What do they mean? Jesus himself does not appear to have accepted them straightaway! As a result of these words, his whole person will, as it were, keel over, from a high point of splendor to an apparently lowly, pitiable one where his Father is waiting for him, where his Father wants him to be for so many years. If Mary is speaking to me also in those same terms, as I cannot help but believe, what does she wish to tell me ?
What must I do?”
From the book “St Joseph Shadow of the Father “ by Fr Andre’ Doze 1992.
I could quote just about any page from Fr Doze’s book and you’d be led into a prayer. I haven’t read it since I painted/wrote, this icon in 1992. So today I went back to it and was bowled over again, by its depth and availability. I wish I could send one to everyone who is reading this, but it’s hard to get now. Maybe used copies are available, or hopefully the publishers will give it to us again in honor of this consecrated year.
Sometimes there are announcements that hit you hard immediately, but they are more often frightening like the first mention of GRID (AIDS) in the New York Times, in July of 1981; or the first mention of Covid 19, and the tragic catastrophe of 9/11. We feel something similar instantaneously. When I heard that starting today, this year will be dedicated to Joseph I was hit hard in a very hopeful and exhilarating way. I felt the same thing when St John Paul II wrote his Apostolic Letter, “Tertio Millennio Adveniente” 10 November 1994. He dedicated the last three years of the 20th century to the Holy Trinity; 97 to Jesus, 98 to the Holy Spirit and 99 to the Father. The year 2000 would be a Eucharistic Year to start the coming millennium.
Recently, I was told by my cousin Kathi that I might like the Netflix film “Messiah” which was supposed to be a series but was cut to only 10 episodes. If she hadn’t told me I’d have never seen it. Although Piero Pasolini’s Jesus, Enrique Irazoqui, will always be my favorite Jesus on film, the portrayal of Jesus returning today by Medhi Dehbi illuminated the Gospels for me more than any film about Jesus. If your not familiar with the Gospels you can miss just about everything. But if you are, it’s a brilliant, subtle retelling that had me watching 7 episodes one night and 3 the next. Although there may be troubling parts of the script for some, I found even the troubling parts set me wondering; what is faith ? I bring this up because it’s about the Divine coming literally to earth again and what happens ? What or who changes ? What is rejected ? What lasts forever...? What will then, happen when a year is dedicated to St Joseph ? What difference does it make ? All these questions are explored too, in the Messiah. Especially, again, what is faith ? And how does it affect people who have watched for centuries the horrors brought on by christians? Rabbi Heschel’s daughter Susannah Heschel, has written a tragically brilliant book about these effects, “The Aryan Jesus : Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany.” There are always individuals who keep faith, are trusting in what they experienced, and then manage to awaken others from the nightmare of isolation. It’s similar in a way to now, with all the deaths throughout the world from Covid 19 people while dying, barely able to speak, can say how can I be dying from a hoax? To return to this icon, people often ask why Joseph and the Child are dressed in red and why the dove on the Child’s hand ? Is this a symbol of the earthly Trinity ? The answer is at that time, I was reading about the 13th of October Apparition at Fatima in 1917. I learned that before that day, Our Lady of Fatima had promised Joseph would come and bring peace. He did come and he and the Child were wearing red. Joseph always brings a sense of inner peace, even though, or because, his own life was a daily walk in faith. Pope Francis has summoned Joseph again for a year long stay with us. What will he bring this time, along with Mother and Child ? Adrienne von Speyr’s portrait of Joseph in her “Book of All Saints,” taught me something invaluable about Joseph’s prayer, that we can adapt to our own prayer. For Joseph, just to watch Mary and the Child was prayer. To watch her bathe, feed or simply hold Him. I then wrote this prayer for the icon:
St Joseph
In the night
you teach a
hidden way of
retreat in silence,
in obedience
to your dreams.
But by day,
you lead us
in a prayer,
which is simply
to watch
Mother with
Child
Amen
8 December 2020 💮 the Year with St Joseph

Hagia Sophia Crowning the Youthful Christ

January 22nd, 2021

Hagia Sophia Crowning the Youthful Christ

Hagia Sophia Crowning the Youthful Christ
“Wisdom will honor you if you embrace Her. She will place on your head a fair garland; She will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
Proverbs 4:8-9
“When I was still a youth, before I went traveling, in my prayers I asked outright for Wisdom. Outside the sanctuary I would pray for Her, and to the last I shall continue to seek Her...by bowing my ear a little, I have received Her, and have found much instruction. Thanks to her I have advanced; glory be to Him who has given me Wisdom...Come close to me, take your place in my school. Why complain about lacking these things when your souls are so thirsty for them?
...My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal. Be sincere of heart, be steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes. Cling to Him and do not leave Him, so that you may be honored at the end of your days... Look at the generations of old and see: who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame? Or who ever called on Him, was forsaken? Or who ever called on Him and was ignored? For the Lord is compassionate and merciful, He forgives sins and saves in the time of distress...”
Ecclesiasticus (from chapters 51 and 2)
It is the Eve of the Second Advent, 2020. I say Second Advent because we’ve been in this Advent since the Ascension of Christ. Before his birth was the First Advent. I’m going to concentrate on icons of (Sophianic) Wisdom during these (always too short for me !) 4 weeks leading up to the Birth of Jesus. I’ve already introduced one, “The Advent of Hagia Sophia.” Because of our more trained-logical nature and schooling in the West, we are not comfortable with concepts like Holy Sophia or Holy Shekhinah (see Rabbi Leah’s beautiful introduction “On the Wings of Shekhinah, 2008). We want exact definitions that we can understand. Yet this also evades us when we try to understand the Holy Spirit or the Holy Trinity. So it’s frustrating for us to be told, you just have to wait patiently, while contemplating these mysteries and allow God to reveal something to you. And just know, it’s been the same journey for me since I first encountered Sophia in 1990 when I began my iconographic apprenticeship. Why Sophia for this year which has been so awfully distressful with so many violent divisions, sicknesses, deaths and for so many, extreme loneliness?
I hope these images I’m going to offer you may begin to answer that question.
Now I’m going to let my dear friend and author, Christopher Pramuk introduce you to this icon for the first week of Advent, 2020.
One day in early 1959, Thomas Merton was visiting with his friends, the Viennese-born artist and printmaker Victor Hammer and his wife Carolyn, at their home in Lexington, Kentucky. As the three sat together at lunch, Merton noticed a triptych that Victor had painted, its central panel depicting the boy Christ being crowned by a dark-haired woman. As the artist would later recall, Merton, while looking at the image, “asked quite abruptly, ‘And who is the woman behind Christ?’” Victor replied, “I do not know yet.” Without further question, “Merton gave his own answer. ‘She is Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom, who crowns Christ.’ And this she was—and is.” Some days later Victor wrote to Merton, asking him to expand on his response. Merton obliges in a letter of May 14, 1959:
The first thing to be said, of course, is that Hagia Sophia is God Himself. God is not only a Father but a Mother. He is both at the same time. . . . To ignore this distinction is to lose touch with the fullness of God. This is a very ancient intuition of reality which goes back to the oldest Oriental thought. . . . For the “masculine-feminine” relationship is basic in all reality—simply because all reality mirrors the reality of God.
As the letter continues, Merton’s thoughts seem to spill onto the page as if by stream of consciousness. His friend’s inquiry seems to have unlocked a kind of floodgate in him.
Hagia Sophia, Merton explains, is “the dark, nameless Ousia [Being]” of God, not one of the Three Divine Persons, but each “at the same time, are Sophia and manifest her.” She is “the Tao, the nameless pivot of all being and nature. . . , that which is the smallest and poorest and most humble in all.” She is “the ‘feminine child’ playing before God the Creator in His universe, ‘playing before Him at all times, playing in the world’ (Proverbs 8.” Above all, Sophia is the Love and Mercy of God coming to birth in us. “In the sense that God is Love, is Mercy, is Humility, is Hiddenness,” writes Merton, “He shows Himself to us within ourselves as our own poverty . . . and if we receive the humility of God into our hearts, we become able to . . . love this very poverty, which is Himself and His Sophia.” And then Merton speaks more directly to Victor, who had shared details with him about the genesis of the painting. “The story you tell of its growth is very interesting and revealing and I am sure Hagia Sophia herself was guiding you in the process, for it is she who guides all true artists, and without her they are nothing.”
As he concludes the letter, Merton seems to realize that their conversation has given birth to something significant. He asks his friend, who had printed a number of first editions of Merton’s poetry on his hand press, “Maybe we could make a little broadsheet on Sophia, with the material begun here???” This is precisely what would happen. In January 1962, the prose poem Hagia Sophia came to print in a stunning limited edition on Victor Hammer’s press, with the artist’s icon illustrating the text. The poem would finally become the centerpiece of the collection Emblems of a Season of Fury, published in the same year.
Why place “Hagia Sophia,” an enigmatic poem evoking the feminine divine, at the very center of a collection that includes devastating poems on racism (“And the Children of Birmingham”), genocide (“Chant to Be Used in Processions around a Site with Furnaces”), and political oppression (“A Picture of Lee Ying”)? Why is faith in Sophia, as Merton suggests, “the great stabilizer for peace” in an era of unspeakable suffering and violence, not least violence against the earth? In a word: why Sophia? And I think the answer has to do with hope, that is to say, faith’s affirmation of divine and human possibilities even, if not especially, in those places and moments that seem by all rational accounts God-forsaken, devoid of hope, void of life, of goodness, of humanity. She is the Child who is prisoner in all the people, and who says nothing. . . She smiles, for though they have bound her, she cannot be a prisoner.
The constellation of influences and events over the course of many years by which the poem Hagia Sophia would gestate and finally come to birth in Merton can teach us something beautiful, it seems to me, about how God works in each of us: by invitation and by stealth, if you will, never by coercion, drawing us with mercy and patience toward the way of peace, truth, and nonviolence. Indeed, given Merton’s artistic sensibilities, it is not surprising that a significant “flash point” or pivotal realization of Sophia into his consciousness would come as he gazed on a work of sacred art. “It is she who guides all true artists,” as Merton tells his friend, “and without her they are nothing.” But with her, as Merton implies, the artist comes alive in each of us.
“There lives the dearest freshness deep down things,” writes the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. In other words, grace builds on nature. Human beings—through “God’s Art and Incarnation” coming to birth in each of us—must learn to labor with God in and through “found materials,” in the ordinary and utterly unique stuff of our own lives. Not least, we are called to work in creative harmony with the beautiful, suffering Earth and all of her creatures. Like Merton, we must learn to read the signs of the times with penetration.
And with Her, learning to hear and trust in Her voice, we can begin again to respond to the crises of our times with receptivity and creativity, generosity and hope.
Deep is the ocean, boundless sweetness, kindness, humility, silence of wisdom that is not abstract, disconnected, fleshless. Awakening us gently when we have exhausted ourselves to night and to sleep. O Dawn of Wisdom!
~ journal, July 2, 1960
Faith in Sophia, natura naturans, the great stabilizer today—for peace.
The basic hope that people have that man will somehow not be completely destroyed is hope in natura naturans.
—The dark face, the “night face” of Sophia—pain, trouble, pestilence.
~ journal entry, January 1961
His rebellion is the rebellion of life against inertia, of mercy and love against tyranny, of humanity against cruelty and arbitrary violence. And he calls upon the feminine, the wordless, the timelessly moving elements to witness his sufferings. Earth hears him.
~ “Prometheus: A Meditation,” 1960

La Gloriosa Venida de Cristo Rey

January 22nd, 2021

La Gloriosa Venida de Cristo Rey

La Gloriosa Venida de Cristo Rey (The Glorious Coming of Christ the King)
“For as lightning flashes and lights go up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His day.”
Luke 17:24
“...Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to our leaders. But my kingdom is not of this world.’ “
John 18:36
All through my life as an iconographer, I have wanted to portray the second coming or return, of Christ the King. Through the vision and insight of the late Fr Paul Locatelli, SJ the former president of the University of Santa Clara de Asis, and the Jesuit community at the University, I was given the blessed opportunity. That’s why I set this scene, this return, in Santa Clara, California.
St. John Paul II’s inspiration to call the time of his papacy “the New Advent,” appeared at the very beginning of his first encyclical, “Redemptor Hominis,” In 1979. Two years before in 1977, the prophetic theologian William Stringfellow had published two articles (still available) of great power, wisdom, and Biblical insight about how Christians are to live in the Second Advent of the Lord. Stringfellow wrote, concerning the two Advents, “The manger scene itself is a political portrait of the whole of creation restored in the dominion of Jesus Christ in which every creature, every tongue and tribe, every rule and authority, every nation and principality is reconciled in a homage to the Word of God incarnate.” From “A Keeper of the Word : Selected Writings of William Stringfellow “ edited by Bill Wylie Kellerman, see also “William Stringfellow: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters) Orbis Press.
Apparitions of the Mother of God in Fatima, Amsterdam, Akita, Japan, Bosnia, Medjugorje, Rwanda, Africa all point to a prayer for peace and for a longing (equal to the first Advent) for the Returning Christ the King. Probably the most dramatic, loving and radiant of these revelations in our own time have been to St Faustina Kowalska asking for a deep trust and devotion to His Divine Mercy. Jesus calls all of us to stay awake with our lamps lit awaiting Him, Our Lord and Bridegroom. In the sacrament of Baptism we are all anointed as kings and queens of a kingdom that, as we say in the Nicene Creed, will never end. This is not just a kind endearing fairy tale fantasy but literally the truth.
“High above, he set his tabernacle for the sun, who comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber.” Psalm 19
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse ! He who sat on it is called Faithful and True...He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name He is called is The Word of God...on His robe and on His thigh He has a name inscribed, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” Revelation 19: 11, 13,16
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
Advent begins in just one week, November 29 !
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 22 November 2020
“Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!”
Revelation 22:20

St Elizabeth of Hungary

January 22nd, 2021

St Elizabeth of Hungary

St Elizabeth of Hungary 💮 (7 July 1207 - 17 November 1231)
“We must give God what we have, gladly and with joy.” St Elizabeth
“What is sanctity but the mystery of beauty?” Nesta de Robeck (1886-1983)
“She was known
for
mismanagement
and
giving away
food and clothes
to the poor
who
bloomed as
extravagantly
as
meadow flowers
both of which
sustained
her but Louis
needed roses
red
and white
to
confirm whom
his
wife found
Christ
suffering
and reigning
and
hiding in all”
By Fr Jim Janda (30 March 1936 - 7 August 2010)
I think it was a year or so before she died that Elizabeth found a boy suffering with scurvy and she nursed him back to health. That boy is shown with her in this illustration I did for my dear friend, Fr Jim Janda and his delicately inviting and loving poem.
I have been a great fan of Nesta de Robeck’s lives of Franciscan saints, (Francis, Clare and Elizabeth) and her book on the The Christmas Crib - which tells the true story of how the crib came into being. St Francis did not invent the crib, but “downsized” it. I know there are lots of books on these 3 saints but Nesta’s biographies are so appealing to me, especially her 1953 book of St Elizabeth, “Saint Elizabeth of Hungary: A Story of Twenty-four Years.” Here is a description of Elizabeth’s brief life by another great writer on saints, Robert Ellsberg from his wonderful book “Blessed Among Us : Day by Day With Saintly Witnesses.”
“St Elizabeth, the daughter of Hungarian royalty, was betrothed as a child of four to Ludwig, the nine year old prince of Thuringia in southern Germany. Despite this arrangement, the two children established a close friendship that eventually blossomed into a loving marriage. Elizabeth bore three children. But Ludwig’s family disapproved of her piety (she had become a Franciscan tertiary) and especially her ‘excessive’ charity toward the poor and sick. Ignoring their wishes she opened the royal granaries during a time of famine. This won her the people’s devotion, though such generosity made her an object of scorn among the elite members of the court.
In 1227 Ludwig embarked on a Crusade and died on his journey. In a paroxysm of grief, Elizabeth cried, ‘The world is dead to me, and all that was joyous in the world.’ Without her husband’s protection, she was forced to leave the palace on a winter night, carrying nothing but her newborn child. She accepted shelter in a pig shed.
Eventually to avoid scandal, she was provided with a simple cottage, where she supported herself by spinning and fishing. Otherwise, she visited the sick in their homes or in the hospices she had endowed. Over time, her reputation for holiness spread, and she earned the grudging respect of those who had persecuted her. She died on November 17, 1231, at the age of twenty-four. She was canonized less than four years later.”
Very few married couples are both canonized, and Blessed Louis, or Ludwig is commemorated on 11 September. There are many tales and miracles around the story of Elizabeth. One legend I always like to remember is that Francis was still alive when Elizabeth became a Third Order Franciscan. She asked some traveling Franciscan Friars to bring her something from Francis. He sent his shawl which she wrapped round her while she prayed, and claimed that God always answered her wrapped in Francis’ garment. We have a wonderful group of women at our church of St Joseph on the Rio Grande, who knit shawls for anyone who is sick. So, because of Elizabeth’s story I asked them for a green one, so when I pray I still use it. I should also tell you there is a beautiful oratorio by Franz Liszt called The Legend of St Elizabeth, here’s a review:
“Mahler admired this piece very much, but it has not received anything like the attention it deserves. This is,in fact, it’s only recording, and thank heaven, it’s such a fine one. St Elizabeth of Hungary, is one of the patron saints of the poor and downtrodden. A woman of uncompromising goodness and strength, she suffers a series of misfortunes (she loses her husband in a war, gets thrown out of her home by her mother-in-law, has her children taken away) but retains her faith until her death in utter poverty. Liszt had a strong social conscience, he cared about the poor, and he lavished an enormous amount of care on this moving tribute to their divine protector. It may be something of a curiosity, but it’s a worthy one.”
David Hurwitz
Dearest St Elizabeth,
You suffered so much deeply personal loss and abuse during your brief life.
And yet, you could find the holy motivation and strength to care for the sick; like the little boy you sheltered and healed with your attending love.
Be with us now as we are suffering with this pandemic.
Help us do whatever we can to heal one another.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 for the “new/changed feast” of St Elizabeth, 19 November

The Advent of Hagia Sophia

January 22nd, 2021

The Advent of Hagia Sophia

The Advent of Hagia Sophia
“Into this happy night
In secret, seen of none,
Nor saw I aught,
Without other light or guide,
Save that which in my heart did burn..”
San Juan de la Cruz (John of the Cross)
“She it was I loved and have searched for from my youth;
I resolved to have her as my bride,
I fell in love with her beauty.
Her closeness to God lends lustre to her noble birth,
since the Lord of All has loved her.
Yes she is an initiate in the mysteries of God’s knowledge,
making choice of the works He is to do.
If in this life wealth be a desirable possession,
what is more wealthy than Wisdom whose work is everywhere ?
...I am your servant, child of your serving maid,
a feeble man with little time to live...
Despatch Her from the holy heavens, send
Her forth from your throne of glory to help me
and toil with me and teach me what is
pleasing to you, since
She knows and understands everything.
She will guide me prudently in my undertakings
and protect me by Her glory.
That all I do will be acceptable...
As for your intention, who could have learned it, had you
not granted Wisdom and sent your
Holy Spirit from above ? Thus have the paths of those
on earth been straitened and people have been taught
what pleases you, and saved,
by Wisdom.”
From The Book of Wisdom, chapters 8,9 (Jerusalem Bible)
“I recommend to you the virtues of courage, which defends science
in a world marked by doubt, alienated from truth, and in need of meaning;
and humility, through which we recognize the finiteness of reason before
Truth which transcends it. These are the virtues of Albert the great.”
St John Paul II
“One of the myriad natural subjects to interest St Albert was that of individual differences. What makes each one of us unique?”
From St Albert the Great by Kevin Vost
The feast of St Albert the Great, a Doctor of the Church, November 15, marks 40 days until Christmas. We always get 40 days of Lent before Easter, but it seems never enough time to really prepare spiritually for Jesus’ birth. So for years, I have begun this preparation on St Albert’s day. Because he was a scientist, dedicated to Biblical Wisdom, he is a very important intercessor this year, when the world has been asked by the scientific community to listen and follow their advice about protection against Covid 19.
“St Albert from his heavenly eminence, can appreciate exactly the task of scientific research. He did a great deal of it himself, not only in one subject, but in the whole field of science, which today is divided into so many specialties. St Albert’s specialty was no less than ‘everything created.’ He wrote on botany, mineralogy, astronomy, physics, chemistry, anthropology, cosmography, and other subjects. No single science escaped his attention... On December 16, 1941, Pope Pius XII designated St Albert the Great as patron of all who engage in scientific studies. As such, he is the special Saint for researchers, technologists, and all who engage professionally in any of the sciences, as well as those who study science.”
From “The 35 Doctors of the Church” by Christopher Rengers, OFM, Cap.
To quote Mr Vost again on St Albert, “What makes each of us unique ?”
One of the things is our relationship with God. Because each of us is unique, God treats us in an absolutely unique way. And God comes to each of us in such a loving and beautifully touching way, as well. How will you spiritually prepare for Advent and Christmas this year ? There are nearly infinite ways and you get to imagine and find your own unique way. Maybe read the above mentioned book on St Albert the Great ? Or pray a Rosary every day, in the car for all the Holy Souls passing into God stricken by this pandemic. Or maybe pray in your own way, especially for all the doctors, nurses, and those on the frontlines who are beyond exhausted as we face a massive surge of infections. Or find ways to physically help some one who is carrying a heavy burden.
I have heard so many people say that during this time of quarantine they have become aware of past cruelties they have endured or caused. We can write them down and go to Confession, ( I have always loved Confession, but I know it’s not that way for everyone...find an understanding Confessor if possible ) or find another way to stop carrying these heavy burdens in this time when we are overwhelmed by so much already. As Our Lord said “Come to me, all you who are weary and overburdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
The Holy Spirit who never goes backwards, and is capable of inspiring infinite possibilities will, I promise you, guide you in your imaginative, creative or simple choice of how to live this Advent of 2020. Every year calls for a new way to return God’s love. I remember so fondly, the organization founded during the AIDS pandemic in New York City, who delivered food to those who could not get out, they are still at work and call themselves: “God’s Love - We Deliver !”
Finally a quote from our New Advent Heavenly Friend and Pope Pius XII :
“You should make your heart like your neighbor’s heart, so that when he is happy you are happy, and you grieve with him when he is grieving.”
St Albert the Great
“May St Albert, who in his own very difficult times proved by his wonderful work that science and faith can flourish harmoniously in people, through his powerful intercession with God, arouse the hearts and minds of those who devote themselves to the sciences, to a peaceful and orderly use of the natural forces, the laws of which, divinely established, they investigate and seek after.”
Pope Pius XII
Dearest Friend St Albert,
how much we love you and seek after your holy wisdom and infinite curiosity about our blessed world, St Francis called, Mother Earth. Help us lay down our heavy burdens so that we can live through our own “very difficult time” of this pandemic. And, dear friend, also continue to inspire us with new hope, new joy and most of all, new love for God and one another.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 November 2020

The Proskynesis of St Stanislaus Kostka

January 22nd, 2021

The Proskynesis of St Stanislaus Kostka

The Proskynesis of St Stanislaus Kostka (1550 - 1568)
“I find heaven in the midst of saucepans and brooms.” St Stanislaus Kostka
“Born to the Polish nobility, the son of a senator. Attended the Viennese Jesuit College from age 14 with his brother Paul, who badly mistreated him. While staying at the home of a Lutheran, he became gravely ill but was not allowed to call for a Priest. He prayed to his personal patron, St Barbara, who appeared to him in a vision with two angels, and administered Communion. He was then cured from his disease by Our Lady holding the Holy Child who placed Him in Stanislaus’ arms to hold. Our Lady then told him to become a Jesuit, though it was against his family’s wishes. He attended the Jesuit College in Rome and was a friend of St Peter Canisius. Stanislaus became a Jesuit Novice in October 1567, and student of St Francis Borgia...between 3 and 4am of August 15, 1568, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother, he died in Rome.”
(Profile from Catholic Saints and a few additions from me ...)
This is one of my very favorite icons. I was 40 years old when I began my iconographic apprenticeship. It was painted/written, during the loving and intense period of great fervor which lasted (nonstop) for over 10 years; a time when I was painting night and day. The word “proskynesis” means bending low in adoration. Since St Stanislaus was so young when he died, I wanted to show him as not too much larger than the Holy Child. I was commissioned to paint/write several Jesuit saints for the New York Novitiate which was in Syracuse at that time.
I was to do the three famous young boy saints, Stanislaus, Aloysius and John Berchmans, I never did get to do John, which I regret because I often visited the chapel of his apparition at Grand Coteau, Louisiana (where I made Jesuit Tertianship). It was in 1866 St John Berchmans healed a young novice, on her deathbed, named Mary Wilson. I was allowed to add two more of my favorite Jesuits; the Martyr Rutilio Grande and the Worker Priest Egide van Broeckhoven, both are on my website.
My earliest memory of Stanislaus was from my childhood. My Aunt Mamie O’Haire had a very large framed sepia print of a painting of St Barbara and two attending Angels bringing the Eucharist to St Stanislaus. This is one of the miracles of his brief life. Then as a Jesuit Novice at age 19 (one year older than Stanislaus, who died at 18) I was given the honor of preaching a panegyric (a homily or speech in praise of someone) on his feast. This was a tradition of every Novitiate, long ago, that one Novice would be asked on November 13 to honor St Stanislaus . I remember I was shy about public speaking, frightened and did a terrible, awkward job. One of the elderly Fathers sitting in the back of our incredibly beautiful Novitiate Chapel, (filled with Jesuit saints, in Florissant, Missouri) sat upright straining to even hear me, summoned me to him, after my failed attempt, and gave me kind but firm criticism. It would take me at least 5 years after being ordained a priest, to finally find my own preaching voice. I kept trying to copy or mimic the great Jesuit preachers in our community, especially Fr John J. Walsh, SJ. He was so extraordinary, that we all thought we had to be like him.
During the Hospice years, (80-90) I was very blessed, for just one year, to live in one of the most magical and beautiful estates I have ever seen, in the entire world. Not because of any great opulence, but because of the incredibly imaginative indoor/outdoor carvings,and fairy tale bas reliefs, as well as a small exquisitely gorgeous chapel to St Nicholas and St Genevieve. The whole experience was like living inside a children’s book, or an abbey or an art museum. It was St Ignatius retreat house, in Manhasset, Long Island, New York (now sadly torn down) which was given to the Jesuits by Nicholas and Genevieve Brady. The Brady’s named the estate “Inisfada” - the Gaelic word for Long Island. I could write an entire blog on that very “alive” mansion or estate with its lovely grounds. It was also in the midst of my Illustration career, and the Jesuit Rector of the Community invited me to create the house Christmas card. Because I’ve always been intrigued by the male saints who are portrayed holding the Infant or Child Jesus, I decided to draw the Jesuit saints known for a devotion to the Child. I did three :
Stanislaus Kostka, Bernardino Realino, and Robert Southwell. I think the male saints like Joseph, Anthony of Padua and Cajetan who hold the Child, signal, perhaps unconsciously, a special tenderness and trust inside of us. St Stanislaus was a special favorite of St John Paul II and the Medical Doctor and brilliant Mystic, Adrienne von Speyr. He is patron of novices, seminarians, people with broken bones, aspirants to the Oblates of St Joseph, the last Sacraments and, of course, Poland.
“Lord our God, you looked upon St Stanislaus Kostka with love as he consecrated his youth to you with such generosity of heart. Renew us in spirit so that we may be eager and joyful as we walk the way of your commandments. Help us to fill our days with good works and so redeem the shortness of this life. 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”
From the wonderful book “Jesuit Saints and Martyrs” by Joseph Tylenda, SJ
13 November 2020 💮 Fr Bill McNichols

The Souls of the Just Are In The Hands of God

January 22nd, 2021

The Souls of the Just Are In The Hands of God

“The Souls of the Just Are In The Hands of God”
“The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed they be punished, yet is their Hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them and as sacrificial offerings, he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge Nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their King forever. Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his Holy Ones, and his care is with his elect.”
Wisdom 3:1-9
As I write, on this snowy night in late October, I looked into google, concerning Covid 19...
“Authorities in 215 countries and territories have reported about 42.5 million Covid 19 cases and and 1.1 million deaths since China reported its first cases to the World Health Organization in December.”
This image was commissioned for All Souls Church in Denver, Colorado when a dear friend of our family, Fr Robert Fisher, was pastor. All Souls Day or The Day of the Dead, is November 2, following All Saints Day, November 1, and of course the night before, October 31, is called All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween. It has always been believed by cultures round the world, that this time of year, the Souls come closest to the earth. In my experience this coming close starts around October 15 and lasts about a month until November 15...which happens to be 40 days until Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent this year, is on the anniversary of the Servant of God Dorothy Day’s passing into God, November 29th. Because of Covid 19, never before in my lifetime have so many souls around the world have continually “passed into the Light of His presence.” These constant deaths have caused us all to reflect on our brief time on earth. The ancient Buddhist teachings encourage people to keep their certain death always before them. As Christian Catholics we have many paintings (El Greco especially) showing saints like Francis, Mary Magdalen or Jerome, contemplating a skull. We keep photos of those we have loved and lost, in a way, this is contemplating our own certain departure and a hope that we will be with them forever. For many people this continues to be a lonely and horrific time, that seems unending. It’s very difficult at times, to reassure ourselves that our death is just the beginning of Eternal Life. St Paul then reminds us that this is not wrong or unusual, but a part of being human...”For now (in this time of imperfection) we see through a glass darkly (a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma) but then (when the time of perfection comes we will see reality) face to face. Now I know in part (just in fragments) but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known by God.” 1 Corinthians 13:12, (from the Amplified Bible).
For me, the most comforting part of that passage from Paul, is that I’ve (you’ve) always been known by God, even before I (we) knew God. I began to draw and paint images relating to that longing for God as a little kid. Now they’ve graduated into icons, and paintings perhaps more polished, but I look upon all my work as a child as just as telling as my adult work. For it’s not just polished technique that speaks to the heart, but the heart-longing-prayer that goes into the drawing, painting or icon.
And now for all the Holy Souls, we sing and pray...
“May Light Eternal” 🎶🎶🎶
“May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord,
with your saints forever, for you are merciful.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and
let perpetual light shine upon them,
with your saints forever,
for you are merciful,
with your saints forever,
for you are merciful.”
From the “Funeral Folk Mass”
By Rev. Ian Douglas Mitchell, 1967
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 October 2020

St Martin de Porres

January 22nd, 2021

St Martin de Porres

St Martin de Porres : Patron of All Those Seeking Racial Harmony, Mixed Race People, Public Health Workers, and more, Barbers and Innkeepers (9 December 1579-3 November 1639)
“Truly, truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.” St. John 14:12
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Lennon and McCartney
“Martin de Porres Velázquez, O.P., was a Peruvian lay brother of the Dominican Order who was beatified in 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI and canonized by St John XXIII In 1962. He is the patron saint of mixed-race people, barbers, innkeepers, public health workers, and all those seeking racial harmony.”
Wikipedia
There are no accidents with God. Also, at the same time, He can and will, bring good even out of terrible evil. Imagine my surprise and incredible joy, when I realized Election Day this year, is on the feastday of St Martin de Porres. This icon came out of an unusual request; that I paint St Martin on the door of a medicine cabinet. The commissioner shipped the small door to me up in Taos and I began to read the beautiful 1963 biography of Martin, by Giuliana Cavallini, which in Italian had been called, “I Fioretti del Beato Martino” (The Little Flowers of Blessed Martin).
The author tells us she “...added to the original Preface only the hope that these Fioretti, crossing the frontiers of the land where they blossomed, may carry to the vast world the sweet odor of sanctity of Martin de Porres and inspire in souls a love for the beauty of a holy life. May they contribute in their own small way to the revitalization of the Mystical Body of Christ which Pope John XXIII earnestly desired as a result of the Ecumenical Council, as he stated in his solemn address at the canonization of Martin de Porres...These Fioretti are neither a chronological nor a critical story of the life of Martin de Porres. They are episodes taken from the testimony given during the process of his beatification. The persons who gave the testimony had known Martín during his lifetime and they were asked to state under oath what they knew about him. It is certain, therefore, that these witnesses faithfully presented the facts as they knew them. The events were too extraordinary to be forgotten, especially since so little time had elapsed since they happened...
It was about nine o’clock at night, November 3, 1639, when, without a tremor, without a sound, Martin’s soul left the body which had been such a docile and heroic instrument of virtue, and entered the kingdom of eternal happiness.”
Giuliana Cavallini
Martin lived in the city of Lima at the same time as two other Dominican saints, St John Macias, and St Rose of Lima. Among many other incredible miraculous things continually happening around Rose, was that her garden of roses bloomed year round. St Martin had the same blessing with his lemon tree, and so I have him holding a lemon sprig. He’s just about to give it to you; a simple sign of his extravagantly giving nature. As with the miracle working saints, (and many, many saints worked no miracles while they were alive) the tragedies of our expulsion from the Garden of Eden, seemed to be lifted as they made that Garden of Paradise bloom again and again- not against nature but with our original nature. Now, those who know me well, might be expecting me to quote one of my favorite composers and musicians, Joni Mitchell chanting in her dirge called “Woodstock,” that “...we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” It’s been fascinating to read that although Joni is extremely allergic to any organized religion, she has had from the beginning of her composing career, been drawn back and back to the story and effects of the expulsion from the garden in the Judeo-Christian Biblical account in the Book of Genesis. So much so, that she caused me to think deeper about this tragedy ( as well as our “new Joan of Arc” - Greta Thunberg ) and how can I (we) help ?
All these racial, environmental, divisive divisive divisive problems we are now living with - some that began centuries ago, some awfully recent, are pleading with us to listen to the disguised Divine Gardener Mary Magdalen encountered on that first Easter morning. Scripture begins with us in the Garden, goes through Enclosed Garden images in the Song of Songs,etc., and ends in the Apocalypse or Revelation with us back in the beautiful transformed/transfigured Garden.
“Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the Tree of Life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for
the healing of nations.
There shall be no more, anything, accursed, but the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be written on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign
forever and ever...
The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let them who hear say, ‘Come.’ And let they who are thirsty come, let they who desire, take the water of life.......without price.”
Revelation 22: 1-3, 17
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 October 2020

Our Lady of Silence

January 22nd, 2021

Our Lady of Silence

Our Lady of Silence
“When I awake, I am still with thee...” Psalm 139:18
“O God, you are my Lord, my father and mother, Lord of the mountains and valleys.”
Prayer of the Kekchi Indian
“Faith itself is the soul’s true country, and prayer is it’s native language...Suffering often makes people turn to God, or at least wonder about His presence or absence, and a cry amid suffering is among the commonest kinds of prayers. Love, too, in all it’s guises and categories, makes us aware of the inevitability of connection with another and others; this human experience cannot be separated from a sense of the divine...If the silence and hiddenness of God are signs of His presences and the key to understanding the deepest meaning of our lives, then we may listen for God, hear Him in His silence, and find Him as the ultimate real Reality precisely in that silence and hiddenness. In other words, communication with God may not only be possible but also necessary; indeed, it may be actual long before we realize it is as so. Hence the book you are now holding - an inquiry into the meaning, nature, history, quality, types and effects of prayer in human experience.”
From the book “In Silence: Why We Pray.”
By Donald Spoto 2004
O there are so many many many books on Prayer, and Donald Spoto’s is one of my favorites. I’ve read it several times and bought many copies of the paperback to give away. In this book are numerous prayers from every time and region of the world. I am particularly fond of an ancient Zoroastrian prayer of the 6th century BCE . (Zoroaster named God Ahura Mazda...)
“With outstretched arms, open mind and my whole heart, I greet you , Ahura Mazda, in spirit. Turn your countenance toward me, dear Lord, and make my face happy and radiant. My heart yearns for you with a yearning that is never stilled. You are my most precious possession. My joy is in you, my refuge is in you. Let me live before you and with you and in your sight, I humbly pray...Everything that my eyes rest upon reveals your glory...Help me to cultivate the habit of prayer, to know your will, and to conform my impulses to its demands...I will pray to you in silence, for you hear my prayers even in my thought.”
I have longed for God as long as I can remember being conscious. My first experience of God was at age 2 or 3. I keep longing for God especially in this time of quarantine. Throughout my life I have felt his presence and even a couple of truly rare times, heard his voice within me. And there were days, years, without that feeling or comfort. Times I felt my soul and body starving for his love. Yet, I never blamed God. I really felt I had reached a point where my god was too small, ( like the glorious Broadway show, “ Your Arms Are Too Short To Box With God.”) and that I needed to know that God is infinitely beyond he or she, and infinitely beyond my tiny mind’s experience of a part of God. So I have let go and wait. This letting go and waiting has been my life, so far, with God and prayer.
Almost always, when I hear confessions, I ask the person “Who do you pray to?” They will say, always, God the Father, or always Jesus, or ... usually, the Blessed Mother, Mary, and sometimes, not often, I will hear I pray to the Holy Spirit. I believe when we find our own unique way of praying, we fly. For some it’s always with scripture. For others it’s brought on by loving another person, holding a newborn, music, paintings, icons, statues, lives of the saints,the rosary, nature...in the car... in a hospital or on the street, standing helpless beneath the cross of someone’s suffering. One of my most beautiful prayer experiences came in the depths of the New York subway standing beneath the falling light that came from above through the grills. Also seeing the moon enormous and shocking me awake one night outside my Manhattan apartment window. I don’t know why the moon is so so huge and comes down to make these visits in New York City. I’m sure there is an explanation. But it does !
I remember as a child caught into a prayer when I first saw The Seven Falls in the Colorado Springs area. In fact, writing these reflections on an icon, painting or image, is a prayer for me. I will also never forget our Novice Master, Fr O’Flaherty, SJ, telling us he had decided to teach his Mother how to pray and contemplate with scripture ... only to find, (which truly humbled him) that she had been contemplating in the deepest way saying her rosary for years.
Pope Francis has a great devotion to an icon of Our Lady of Silence, and I decided, when I saw the prototype or original, (in this time of natural hermitage-living for all of us) to do my own version to awake, reawaken... once again, that longing for God. Here is a prayer in the pamphlet about Our Lady of Silence: The Devotion of Pope Francis by Fr Emiliano Antenucci.
“O Mary, Our Lady of Silence,
you who were the womb of the eternal Word,
Help your children hear the word of love that flows like
living water from your breast. Give us the gift of an open ear,
open to him who through the touch of his love
transforms our life and history into a work of art,
illuminated and colourful.
O Mary, Our Lady who listens, help us to see the paths of life
and the designs of our Heavenly Father who loves us in a
unique, eternal and unrepeatable way,
O Mary, help us to live as God desires, so that we may live
in eternal joy together with the angels and saints.
Amen.”
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 October 2020

Seraphic Father Francis

January 22nd, 2021

Seraphic Father Francis

Seraphic Father Francis (1182- 1226)
“...he was always occupied with Jesus;
Jesus he bore in his heart, Jesus in his mouth,
Jesus in his eyes, Jesus in his ears, and in
his entire body; Jesus.”
1 Celano 115
I like to say that as far as the Gospels go, St Francis is the only true fundamentalist that has ever lived. After his conversion at age 25, he attempted to copy Jesus in the most deeply loving and radical ways. This lasted up until the evening of his death; sunset 3 October 1226. It is also why he was given the titles the Alter Christus (Another Christ), the Mirror of Christ, and Seraphic Father Francis.
My love of St Francis goes back as far as I can remember. At a very young age my parents traveled to San Francisco and brought me back a white porcelain statue of a beardless Francis his arms extended and covered with birds. Unconsciously I was taught that a man who could attract birds to rest on his arms had so much love that the little creatures, normally afraid of humans, felt no such fear with Francis. So similar to the very few male saints holding the Christ Child, (Joseph, Anthony, Cajetan, Stanislaus, Bernardino Realino ...) show the tenderness of a loving father. I think that’s part of the reason Anthony is the world’s favorite saint. You look at him and believe he is so approachable cradling the Child in his arms, that he will naturally intercede for you.
Two years before he died, 15 August 1224, Francis climbed the mesa of Mt La Verna, 90 miles north of Assisi, to bemoan his failures. He had prayed for 2 final graces. That he might know and feel the pain of the Crucified Lord, and that he might understand the love it took for Jesus to forgive all those who had rejected him and cried out for his Crucifixion. Then around the time of the feast of the Holy Cross, Francis received an apparition that no other human being had seen before or since. It was a Seraph who was also the Crucified Christ.
This was the beautiful and somewhat terrifying vision and answer to his prayers. From the Crucified Christ he received the five wounds and from the Seraph, (the highest form of Angelic love) he understood the love Jesus had to forgive as he was dying a horrible and painful death. The account in The Five Considerations on the Stigmata (considered one of the most beautiful pieces ever written in all of Italian literature) says the from the Cross Jesus smiled at Francis and gazed at him with a most loving gaze. Very early in my iconographic apprenticeship, I was commissioned to paint/write an icon of Francis. So I was eager to join Francis’s two graces in one image. This icon is my attempt . In a world tearing us apart with increasing, even daily, ever new divisions, I am offering this icon for contemplation. No one wants to live in hate and anger, and yet that’s what we are urged to do. We are getting exhausted, triggered by the least little thing and then striking out at those we love. Tonight I was watching an interview on tv with a man who spoke of his recently separated/divided family as everyone, being increasingly, overwhelmingly sad.
To find some hope for the soul and lasting love, I revisited (on Audible) a book I’d read at 20 years old; Viktor Frankl’s classic about his survival in the German concentration camp of Auschwitz, “Man’s Search For Meaning.” In a chilling sentence in the book he says “the best of us did not survive.” And yet I think of him as one of the best human beings I have ever let in, or read about. But I know exactly what he means from - the ruthlessness and frigid callousness I see every day. He never spiritualizes in a glib way, the immense suffering he lived through. He takes you into the depth of the horrors he lived through and how he came out still human. How do we stay human and compassionate in this world ? The Cross, the Gospels, the Wounds, Francis of Assisi, have always invited us to another way. And it’s no accident that living in this time, God has given us Pope Francis.
And finally I will invite you to listen to a true masterpiece of music released in 1981 which I think, personally, “channels” the life of Francis, “Troubadour of the Great King.” It was a double record in 1981, with the London Symphony, released for the anniversary of the birth of Francis 800 years ago, and now available as a cd by John Michael Talbot. During this “season of St Francis” I can’t think of anything more deeply spiritual, joyful, painfully poignant or life giving than this truly inspired music.
“Most High and Glorious God
Bring light to the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith, certain hope and
Perfect charity.
Lord give me insight and wisdom
So I might always discern your
Holy and true will.”
Amen
St Francis from the cd Troubadour of the Great King
Fr William Hart McNichols for the Season of St Francis 💮 2020

St Padre Pio - Mother Pelican

January 22nd, 2021

St Padre Pio - Mother Pelican

St Padre Pio : Mother Pelican (25 May 1887 - 23 September 1968)
“O Loving Pelican ! O Jesus Lord ! Unclean am I but cleanse me in Your Blood !”
St Thomas Aquinas
“I will ask the Lord to let me remain at the threshold of Paradise, and I will not enter until the last of my spiritual children has entered...Once I take a soul on, I also take on his entire family as my spiritual children.”
Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
“When your children want explanations about Padre Pio, just tell them that he loves Jesus so much, and Jesus loves him so much, that they have become very much alike. Jesus has given Padre Pio his wounds, so that they can both suffer together to make us all be good. When God sees that Padre Pio is suffering so much, He gives him everything he asks for - he makes people get well and makes bad people become good.”
Holy Mary Pyle (1888 -1968)
“The name Pietrelcina is of ancient, uncertain origin...One of the more colorful stories is that an old foundation stone (pietra) was found in the ancient castle district of the town, and on it were carved a hen (pucina) and a brood of chicks, hence Pretapucina.” From the book The Holy Man on the Mountain (now republished as Padre Pio and America) by Frank Rega.
I see Padre Pio feeding us for 50 years with his very life blood, the way our mothers all did, when we were in the womb. He died while we Jesuit novices were in the midst of our first (Venerable Fr Arrupe gave our novice Master permission for us to do this retreat again in the second year) 30 day retreat in September 1968. In this icon I have him holding a painted disc of the ancient medieval legend, that if her chicks were in danger of starving, the Mother Pelican would pierce open her own side and feed them her blood. This feminine image of Jesus was very popular in art, especially Beato Fra Angelico placed her at the top of some of his Crucifixion paintings. In old churches, she is near the altar or on tabernacle doors. I once said Mass at I think, St Peter’s Church in Brooklyn, and pretty much gasped when I walked into the sanctuary and saw almost the whole floor covered with a beautiful mosaic of the Mother Pelican. When St Francis died at dusk 3 October 1226, St Care and her Poor Clare’s moaned and grieved aloud, “What will we do without our Father ? What will we do without our Mother ?” As I set out to paint (write) this icon, I wondered secretly, if Padre Pio would mind my titling him with that motherly name. A video was taken of Padre Pio’s final celebration of the Eucharist on 22 September 1968. He was very feeble during and after the Mass, and had to be helped, even to walk. As he turned around to attempt to genuflect or bow, I saw the Mother Pelican embroidered on the back of his (vestment) chasuble.
Dear Lord our God,
You renewed the marks of the sufferings of your Son in the body of Our Holy Father Pio, in order to inflame our hearts with the fire of your love. Teach us always to glory in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Henceforth let no one trouble me:
for I bear in my body the marks of Jesus.”
St Paul’s letter to the Galatians 6:17
Fr William Hart McNichols 💮 beginning of Autumn 2020

Environmental Prophet Rachel Carson- after the artist Hiroshige

January 22nd, 2021

Environmental Prophet Rachel Carson- after the artist Hiroshige

Environmental Prophet Rachel Carson (after the artist Hiroshige)
27 May 1907 - 14 April 1964
“Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species - man- acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world. “
Rachel Carson
In the pre-Vatican II liturgical calendar of my childhood September 17 was the feast of the Wounds (Stigmata) of St Francis. Now it is the feast of the great Jesuit theologian St Robert Bellarmine. But since her death at 81 years, 17 September 1179, in Bingen, Germany , St Hildegard of Bingen has been celebrated and honored.
Pope Benedict officially canonized her 10 May 2012, and elevated her to becoming a Doctor of the Church on 7 October 2012. This unbelievably multi-talented woman was also deeply concerned about the environment. And she spoke prophetically, that if we continue to try and destroy Mother Earth, as St Francis called our world about 50 years later, God would allow nature to turn on us. So, for the feast of St Hildegard, artist, author of 9 books, 77 songs that we know of, the first opera, theologian, medical doctor and healer, Sybil (Prophet) of the Rhine... and so much more, I’m showing an image of her “spiritual descendant,”
Rachel Carson. This American marine biologist, scientist, writer and ecologist, singlehandedly changed our perception of the world. “She published her landmark environmental science book, “Silent Spring” on 27 September 1962, which helped start the process of re-awakening environmental consciousness in the modern west.” From “Rachel Carson: The Mother of the Western Environmental Movement” Changemakers by Kyle Pearce, 19 September 2019.
It’s difficult to think of a better advocate for immediate concern over climate change, especially in this hour of many people still rigidly, in denial. I often think of the 2014 film “Noah” starring Russell Crowe, and the Biblical story in the Book of Genesis about people who refuse to listen to the prophets God sent to them and continues to send to us. It is in the nature of being called by God to speak, that also the prophet-speaker, is ignored, mocked or put to death. Rachel Carson had plenty of that happen to her, and finally, she died of the cancer she was warning us about. About 5 years ago a present day Prophet Elizabeth McAlister put in her request for an image of Rachel Carson, here Liz, this is for you... with great love and admiration.
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 September 2020
“All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters harming no one...
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction...
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.”
Taken from A Prayer for Our Earth by Pope Francis

Our Lady of Sorrows and The Triumph of the Cross

January 22nd, 2021

Our Lady of Sorrows and The Triumph of the Cross

Our Lady of Sorrows and The Triumph of the Cross
- by Nicola Maddox
My only child, my son, Todd, died in a one-car accident on August 27th of that year. He was almost 19 years old and was heading off to begin college. On the morning of September 14th, just 18 days later, I was still reeling from knowing I would never again hold him, hear him, see him, feel him, enjoy his sense of humor, or talk with him. The only place I found any peace was at church, in the presence of Jesus, our Lord, and especially when I could receive Him in the Eucharist at Mass and take some comfort in Him. He was with me, physically inside of me, holding me up through this unimaginable pain and undeniable truth. Every day I sought out that experience at Mass. It is what fed me and sustained me for those days and then daily for the next 3 years. The Eucharist – Jesus - was my lifeline.
That particular morning, I awakened and realized I didn’t have a car so I couldn’t go to Mass. The day before it had broken down, and I had to take it in for service. It wasn’t supposed to be ready for a couple of days. My immediate thought was that I would miss Mass. Then I realized I could walk to church. Walk in Houston in late summer? Was I crazy? People rarely walked anywhere in Houston with its unforgiving heat and humidity. But I knew there was a church only about a mile and a half from my home. I could definitely walk there and back. So, I checked out the Mass times and planned my adventure.
I arrived about 10 minutes before Mass started and put myself in God’s hands. Since it was a weekday, we were in a small chapel and it wasn’t very crowded. This is not a church I went to often, but the location was perfect on that day – and God knew exactly what he was doing orchestrating my car troubles. He had a plan just for me. It was the feast of the Triumph of the Cross and the priest gave a homily that was written just for me. He didn’t know it, and neither did I, but God did. This is the gist of what he said:
“Today’s feast is not just about the Triumph of the Cross, but it is tied directly to tomorrow’s feast which is Our Lady of Sorrows. The two go together – always. One doesn’t happen without the other. Of all the people in the entire universe who had the right to be angry at God, Mary had that right. She had done everything God had ever asked of her – absolutely everything. She surrendered her life, her will and her very existence to Him. She had never done anything wrong, and now He was asking her again to stand at the foot of the cross and watch her beloved Son be crucified after being tortured and unjustly sentenced to death. Our Blessed Mother had every right to shake her fist at the sky and yell at God the Father for asking even more of her and of their Son. This was not fair – again. Of all people, she had the right to scream her frustration, hurt and anger at the God of the Universe. But she did not. Again, she just repeated her Magnificat – ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me as You will. I will love our Son forever and nothing will take me from His side, no matter how painful, no matter how wrong. I am in this for the long haul.’
The Triumph of the Cross was first that Jesus surrendered to the will of the Father and died so we could have eternal life, but secondly that His Mother, Mary, did the same. Then it becomes about each and every one of us who join in Jesus’ Triumph when we, too, choose to accept and Triumph in our own crosses, our own sorrows. Our Lady of Sorrows had so very many deep wounds, deeper than most of us can ever feel or imagine. Yet, she knew that her surrender was also her own Triumph of the Cross, it was her way of sharing in the pain and anguish of her Son, as only a parent could.”
Obviously, I cried through the entire sermon and was glad I hadn’t forgotten my small packet of Kleenex. I knew being in that place at exactly that time was ordained by God. It was God’s way of gifting me with a deeper understanding and peace as I became more and more able to accept His will for my son and for me. I could not understand it, but I could trust in Him and add my surrender to that of Jesus and of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, my personal role model from that day forward. She has shown me the way, with the grace of God and the beauty of the Eucharist. If Mary didn’t shake her fist at God in anger, neither would I.
I am grateful to that priest, to Mary and to her Son, to the Father and to the Holy Spirit for showing me the way – and to my own son, my Todd, from whom I have learned so much, even after his death.

She Who Hears the Cries of the World - Birthday of Mary the Mother of God

January 22nd, 2021

She Who Hears the Cries of the World - Birthday of Mary the Mother of God

She Who Hears the Cries of the World : Birthday of Mary the Mother of God
“During the Edo period in Japan, when Christianity was banned and punishable by death, some underground Christian groups venerated Jesus and Mary by disguising them as statues of Kannon holding a child; such statues are known as Maria Kannon.
Mary had a cross hidden in an inconspicuous location.”
Wikipedia: Guanyin, Guan Yin, Kuan Yin
If you are looking for a magnificent set of novels, you won’t ever want to end.... similar in some ways to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but with many more heroic women, then you will love the series of “The Tales of the Otori” by Lian Hearne, the first novel is “Across the Nightingale Floor.” This is where you meet the underground Christians, called “the hidden” and see what their persecuted lives were like, in every part of society, amidst such unforgettable compelling story telling by Lian.
Just before the immense tragedy of the total destruction of the World Trade Centers in New York City, September 11, 2001, I was immersed in these “Tales of the Otori” and the significance of the Chinese goddess of infinite compassion, Kuan Yin. I was feeling very restless, uneasy, sensing something awful was coming and simultaneously telling myself I was crazy or my intuition was misleading me. So I decided to use these uncomfortable feelings to create two icons of Mary with the names I was so attracted to, given to the Kuan Yin; “She Who Hears the Cries of the World” and “She Who Carries Me”. I had leaned from many books that this is how the “hidden” in Japan had survived.
When tragedy hit us all that awful morning , I knew that for all of us the world would never be the same. I gave the two icons to my dear friends in Taos, Mari Tara an incredible counselor who could listen to people better than anyone I have known in all my life. Mari died June 21, on St Aloysius feastday last year. And the other icon to my friend Roberto Lavadie, with whom I have collaborated on 5 Crosses ...now in Loyola Marymount in LA, Aurora, Colorado, Taos, a private collector, and finally one which may soon find a home. On this traditional day of the birth of the Blessed Mother, September 8, I offer to you one of these icons we all need and want to see; “She Who Hears the Cries of the World.” Her head is tilted in a listening position and one hand is raised to “catch or receive” the cries of our world, now. She is wearing the healing color of green, most unusual for an icon of the Mother of God, and yet we are in unusual and on every front, frightful Times. Did the Mother of God ever feel the fear and unending stalking of evil that many of us feel today ? Absolutely. At the Presentation of her child in the Temple, she is warned by Holy Prophet Simeon that she herself would live with a sword through her heart. A terrible prophetic pronouncement we painfully honor on the coming feast of September 15, Our Lady of Sorrows. But this is not why I’m bringing you to this icon now. It’s because of the hopeful appellation of She-does hear, the cries of our world. How do we know she hears ? What evidence says that God listens to our Mother who brings our cries to, as Jesus said, our Heavenly Father ? I can only speak for myself and hope you see these signs too. Caregivers, doctors, nurses, store workers, loyal friends, relatives, grace-touched strangers who out of nowhere make your day by some simple act of generosity or kindness. I can personally attest to these “chance” meetings on numerous occasions which truly did change my day. I believe we were born to live in this time for a reason. The same way as Lady Julian of Norwich survived 3 outbreaks of the Plague and wrote of a vision which gives us comfort centuries later. Or St Oscar Romero who was born to share in the brutal, inhuman suffering of his people in El Salvador, and then continues to transfigure this evil by becoming their saint and intercessor. Some of our present suffering, due to the grace of living through the AIDS pandemic, I clearly see... and some of our suffering I won’t see or know until I go “Home”, for Good. “For every season under Heaven,” there are hundreds of unacknowledged saints traveling beside us, quietly sent to touch us by God. Think or pray on your own on her feastday. What has the birth of Mary meant to your life ? Or what will it come to mean if you contemplate her presence in the Gospels ? Or what if you look into the written meditations by by hundreds of our men and women artists, musicians, saints and mystics ? What inspired or who inspired such humble aching love ?
“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you...”
Luke 1:35
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us through wordless groans...”
Romans 8:26
Happy Birthday Blessed Mother ! May the Spirit teach us how to love you and all your children, our brothers and sisters.
Amen

Princess Diana- The Queen of Hearts

January 22nd, 2021

Princess Diana- The Queen of Hearts

Princess Diana : The Queen of Hearts
31 August 1997. I was living in Albuquerque for that summer to finish a triptych on Jesuit Martyrs for Boston College because I really needed my teacher’s help. I had just completed the massive work and I was going back to Boston in a few days, when a friend called that night of August and said “Billy, quick, turn on the news Princess Diana has been in a car accident.” I was like most people interested in Diana and fond of her for visiting people with AIDS and single handedly changing the world’s attitude towards the disease. I did not think of her as a saint, but as an extremely important woman who had brought the royalty out of the palace and into the streets. As I watched the events for the next few days - nonstop - I found myself painting her image in much the same way I have read that people are gripped by a phenomenon called “automatic writing.” I know that sounds extreme but that’s about the only way I can describe what happened to me. I did not think, should I do this...or even with the little time I had left in Albuquerque, do I even have time to do this? I sat down to paint and it was done in about two days as I remember, and also done (as I was soon to learn) very very naively. I never intended to paint her as an icon but as a woman “moving toward iconic likeness.” Since I was used to painting in an icon style of course it came out that way, was that unconscious? Did I really think deep down her life merited being “pointed to” as exemplary? It was a picture of us all, in a way, paralyzed by our insecurities, faults, ecstatic moments, attempts to live in love, and yet it was a picture of a woman who was given an impossibly complicated public life that she could easily have squandered. A woman who modeled what royalty can be and do. A woman who was trying to break out of the gilded cage to find a personal love to support her. She chose, knowingly at great risk to her life, to take her fame into the care and concern for the sick, the homeless, victims of land mines, people with AIDS, and an endless list of others, and reach down, physically get down, for example, to meet children, eye to eye. No other image I have painted has been so criticized. I will not bother with telling you what has been said and written about this image, but I’m sure you can imagine. The thing is I was so absolutely unaware of that negative possibility when I was painting her. I poured in all the love I had, as I do with all the icons and images I paint. And because I think it came out so well I trust that- more than anything. If an image or something I paint comes out “alive” to me I am not swayed by even the harshest of criticism. And if I don’t like what I’ve done then it’s impossible to convince me otherwise.
Given this 20th Anniversary of her death I don’t think I have to tell you anything about her. More news than ever has been coming out about her life and legacy. Her sons are a living example of her inherent warmth and her concerns put into action. Did she change the world? In my estimation, yes she did. Am I aware of her struggles and the fierce criticism that still stalks her? Yes. Does it change my opinion of her extraordinary life? No. Do I wish we had someone of her selfless compassion in public life? Every single day. Am I glad I did this image now twenty years later ? Yes, and what I’d say to the critics now is, what are you doing that even comes close to what she did for people? As Daniel Berrigan used to say “I like my critics up close. I like to see what they are doing with their lives.” With her bouts of extreme depression it makes her ability to literally push herself out of the palace and into a hospital all the more heroic. I guess that’s the heroism I saw daily with so so many mothers in Ranchos de Taos when I lived there.
I was told by someone that Diana “ran into the St Therese story of her shower of roses” while visiting a Catholic Church and found her idea of help from heaven truly delightful. But I don’t know if that’s true. Her quotes though sound like she must have heard of Therese.
This is a very simple image, with Diana looking into you and raising a hand to help you as if to say :
“Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life. A kind of destiny. Whoever is in distress can call on me. I will come running wherever they are.”
Princess Diana
Fr Bill McNichols
August 2017

Santa Rosa of Lima - Patroness of the Americas

January 22nd, 2021

Santa Rosa of Lima - Patroness of the Americas

Santa Rosa of Lima, Patroness of the Americas
Rosa of Lima (1586–1617) is often called the patroness of America because she was the first saint to be canonized in the Americas (1671). Her feast day is August 23. Rose is a beloved saint among Spanish- speaking people, especially in New Mexico. The city of Santa Rosa is located a couple hours drive east of Albuquerque .
As a young woman, upon discovering the life of Catherine of Siena (1347–1380), Rose sought to emulate her. As a result, she became a lay Dominican. She was known for her rigorous practices of asceticism and penance, much to the dismay of her family and loved ones. Even today the reality of her religious practices make people uncomfortable. Such concern prompted the famous theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar to ask the mystic Adrienne Von Speyr about her practices. Drawing on the authority of her mystical experience, Von Speyr informed him that Rosa’s practices were fine because her intentions were out of love for God.
We must keep a couple of things in mind with respect to her austere practices. First, Rosa would use her penances for the sake of others who were suffering. Those people that Rosa would intercede for— the ones she would literally suffer for— would often be healed. In this way she was similar to a bodhisattva or shamanic healer. Second, there is a sense in which great saints are often extreme in some aspects of their lives. This does not necessarily mean that others should literally emulate the kinds of practices they carry out. Shortly after the death of St. Francis, for example, the pope forbade the Franciscans to subscribe to the saint’s rigorous interpretation and practice of poverty.
Bill had conceived this image of Santa Rosa for several years before actually completing it. A labor of love, when he finally completed the piece he was not sure what to do with it. Tragically, the events of Sandy Hook Elementary School and the brutal murder of the twenty children and six teachers and staff in Newtown, Connecticut, occurred on December 14, 2012. This would provide an opportunity. On this point, I would like to share a personal anecdote. Shortly after the murders in Newtown, I had a dream that there was a statue of St. Rosa in my living room. The front of the statue was covered with green vomit, as if St. Rosa had puked on the front of her habit. I interpreted this as a visceral response to the ugly violence that had occurred in Newtown. I relayed this dream to Bill because of his devotion to St. Rosa and because I knew he was deeply upset by the murders as well. Unbeknown to Bill or myself at the time, the Catholic parish in Newtown was named St. Rose Parish. Upon learning this fact, Bill immediately sent the icon of St. Rosa to the parish in Connecticut in the hopes that it might assist as a healing image for the members of the community.
In the image St. Rosa stands on the earth in her Dominican habit with her feet on the northern part of the Americas, though she is the patroness of both continents. Given that this icon was completed prior to the events in Newtown, it is perhaps prophetic that her left foot is close to that region of New England. The rose stems and petals of her intercession fall gently upon the planet. The light of the moon, an image of the Mother of God, is near. The soft hue of rose permeates the picture, providing a healing and contrasting image to the red blood of violence.
Why is she situated in the cosmos? Perhaps this offers a more expansive view, lifting the people up and giving a larger view of life. Is there life on other planets? If so, do those beings face the brutality of violence, or are they perhaps living in harmony? When we are in grief and pain it is always helpful try to take on a larger view. In his anguish of losing everything Job complained to God, and God responded by asking if he was there when the stars were made (Job 39:3). In the wake of the murders in Newtown we are faced with deeply disturbing realities. Often such anguishing questions, like Job’s anguish, remain unanswered. The intercession of Rosa of Lima and the image she provides offer the hope of healing and transformation for our world.
John Dadosky
Image to Insight

Santa Rosa of Lima - Patroness of the Americas

January 22nd, 2021

Santa Rosa of Lima - Patroness of the Americas

Santa Rosa of Lima, Patroness of the Americas
Rosa of Lima (1586–1617) is often called the patroness of America because she was the first saint to be canonized in the Americas (1671). Her feast day is August 23. Rose is a beloved saint among Spanish- speaking people, especially in New Mexico. The city of Santa Rosa is located a couple hours drive east of Albuquerque .
As a young woman, upon discovering the life of Catherine of Siena (1347–1380), Rose sought to emulate her. As a result, she became a lay Dominican. She was known for her rigorous practices of asceticism and penance, much to the dismay of her family and loved ones. Even today the reality of her religious practices make people uncomfortable. Such concern prompted the famous theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar to ask the mystic Adrienne Von Speyr about her practices. Drawing on the authority of her mystical experience, Von Speyr informed him that Rosa’s practices were fine because her intentions were out of love for God.
We must keep a couple of things in mind with respect to her austere practices. First, Rosa would use her penances for the sake of others who were suffering. Those people that Rosa would intercede for— the ones she would literally suffer for— would often be healed. In this way she was similar to a bodhisattva or shamanic healer. Second, there is a sense in which great saints are often extreme in some aspects of their lives. This does not necessarily mean that others should literally emulate the kinds of practices they carry out. Shortly after the death of St. Francis, for example, the pope forbade the Franciscans to subscribe to the saint’s rigorous interpretation and practice of poverty.
Bill had conceived this image of Santa Rosa for several years before actually completing it. A labor of love, when he finally completed the piece he was not sure what to do with it. Tragically, the events of Sandy Hook Elementary School and the brutal murder of the twenty children and six teachers and staff in Newtown, Connecticut, occurred on December 14, 2012. This would provide an opportunity. On this point, I would like to share a personal anecdote. Shortly after the murders in Newtown, I had a dream that there was a statue of St. Rosa in my living room. The front of the statue was covered with green vomit, as if St. Rosa had puked on the front of her habit. I interpreted this as a visceral response to the ugly violence that had occurred in Newtown. I relayed this dream to Bill because of his devotion to St. Rosa and because I knew he was deeply upset by the murders as well. Unbeknown to Bill or myself at the time, the Catholic parish in Newtown was named St. Rose Parish. Upon learning this fact, Bill immediately sent the icon of St. Rosa to the parish in Connecticut in the hopes that it might assist as a healing image for the members of the community.
In the image St. Rosa stands on the earth in her Dominican habit with her feet on the northern part of the Americas, though she is the patroness of both continents. Given that this icon was completed prior to the events in Newtown, it is perhaps prophetic that her left foot is close to that region of New England. The rose stems and petals of her intercession fall gently upon the planet. The light of the moon, an image of the Mother of God, is near. The soft hue of rose permeates the picture, providing a healing and contrasting image to the red blood of violence.
Why is she situated in the cosmos? Perhaps this offers a more expansive view, lifting the people up and giving a larger view of life. Is there life on other planets? If so, do those beings face the brutality of violence, or are they perhaps living in harmony? When we are in grief and pain it is always helpful try to take on a larger view. In his anguish of losing everything Job complained to God, and God responded by asking if he was there when the stars were made (Job 39:3). In the wake of the murders in Newtown we are faced with deeply disturbing realities. Often such anguishing questions, like Job’s anguish, remain unanswered. The intercession of Rosa of Lima and the image she provides offer the hope of healing and transformation for our world.
John Dadosky
Image to Insight

Happy Anniversary of your entrance into Heaven - Nicholas Black Elk

January 22nd, 2021

Happy Anniversary of your entrance into Heaven - Nicholas Black Elk

Happy Anniversary of your entrance into Heaven - Nicholas Black Elk + 19 August 1950 🌿🌿🌿
There is only Christ : He is everything and He is in everything.” Colossians 3 : 11
In commemoration of my 40th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ , 25 May 1979, I am offering a prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk. I believe that Nicholas Black Elk and St Hildegard of Bingen are The Two Visionaries who offer in their lives and writings a most blessed theology of continued care for God’s Creation, and Our Mother Earth. Separated by over 800 years, each was given visions which are essential and crucial for all of us today.
Fr William Hart McNichols 25 May 2019
Prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk
by Mitakuye Oyasin
“ Grandfather! Great Spirit!
Behold us, who stand
before you, singing our
song of thanksgiving, for
your servant, Nicholas Black Elk.
Faithfully he walked the
Sacred Red Road
and generously witnessed the
Good News of Our Lord,
Jesus Christ among
Native people.
Grandfather, we humbly ask
you to hear the prayers
we plead through his intercession.
We ask Holy Mother Church
to recognize his sanctity, by
acknowledging his presence
among the company of the
saints and as one to
imitate in his zeal for the
Gospel.
Open our hearts to also
recognize the Risen Christ
in other cultures and people’s,
to the glory and honor of
God the Father.
Amen”

The Dormition of the Mother of God

January 22nd, 2021

The Dormition of the Mother of God

The Dormition of the Mother of God
“She is a breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; hence nothing impure can find a way into her. She is a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of his goodness... She is indeed more splendid than the sun, she outshines all the constellations; compared with light, she takes first place, for light must yield to night, but over Wisdom evil can never triumph.”
Wisdom 7: 25-26, 29-30 (Jerusalem Bible)
Today is August 14, and I am remembering, contemplating, meeting St John Paul II, on this day in 1993, World Youth Day in Denver. Some people you can touch into, or step into their spiritual light and it changes you forever.
True holiness has that power of re-creation. Many times we are unaware of these people in everyday life, but sometimes their deep suffering illuminates their holiness. Today we are all aware of the true holiness of every caregiver and all those on the frontlines of this most recent pandemic.
When I met John Paul carrying the icon of Mary I was commissioned to do for him, (Our Lady of the New Advent: the Burning Bush) I felt completely known and loved by him, almost instantly. I honestly don’t know how that happens, because I felt very dim inside his light, and still do. In every picture taken that afternoon, he has his hand on my shoulder or he is touching my hand. In some ways I compare it to an apparition which does forever change you. I heard friends and relatives say, that even in that giant arena, they could see the mutual love from a distance. So, today, 27 years later, I still feel bathed in that love. Mary, the Blessed Mother, “surrounds” John Paul and I had a religious Sister, who died not long after, tell me that Mary arranged our meeting for reasons I would not understand until much later.
In virtually every single icon of the Mother of God, even those of her alone, you sense her son’s presence. She cradles him or pleads, appears,prays, cries,grieves and shines with his presence. To look at her is to see her love for him. The essence of the icon of the Dormition for me, is the love of the Son for his Mother. This is also an icon of the joyful promise of Christian death. Here Christ’s love gives life to the body of the one who loved him so well as Mother and true disciple. Here he becomes mother as he carefully cradles her infant-like soul and carries her home. The change of the feast of the Coronation of the Mother of God, from May 31 to August 22, is liturgically more meaningful. It now comes just a week after the Assumption/Dormition. I tried to express in the poem below, just what Mary’s Queenship means according to the Gospels.
In this version of the Dormition, John the elderly Beloved Disciple, weeps and hovers over the body of the Mother given to him with the Lord’s halting, broken words from the Cross. He does not yet see Christ in the radiant mandorla of light. The Archangel Gabriel bows low in loving recognition, once again, of the one who became Mother of the Incarnate Word and Mother of all Christ’s offspring; whom, the Book of Revelation says, will be pursued by the devil (Revelation 12:17) until Christ returns as Christ the King. And then we will (hopefully) all reign with him for eternity.
This icon was commissioned in the early 90’s by the Jesuit Magazine, America. I wrote this prayer/ poem at the same time.
She sleeps who
knew no rest here.
Promised early on
a knife in her soul...
watching relatives, neighbors,
multitudes, dividing,deciding and
finally calling for the blood of the
Word clothed in her own flesh.
Stabat Mater Dolorosa,
all through the grisly passion
a helpless harmony,
tears that would not stop,
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
in the kingdom of reversals.
And we her children
are assured such an ending,
after dust, we too shall be
carried Home in the mandorla
of the Rising Son.
Fr Bill McNichols ⚜️14 August 2020

St Clares Apparition of the Holy Child

January 22nd, 2021

St Clares Apparition of the Holy Child

St Clare’s Apparition of the Holy Child ( “Chiara Offreduccio” - 16 July 1194 - 11 August 1253)
“Then the dying saint communed with her own soul, saying softly:
‘Go forth in peace, go forth without fear to Him who created you and has sanctified you and protected you and has always loved you and cared for you.’ Then speaking with her Lord, she said: ‘Blessed be you, O Lord, you have created me and have redeemed me with Your Precious Blood, to give me eternal life in your presence.’
The sister who was nearest to her, said weeping: ‘What are you saying, my Mother? To whom are you speaking?’ She answered: ‘I am talking to my own soul.’”
“The Life of St Clare of Assisi” by the Servant of God Tommaso da Celano (1185-1260)
“Learning to pray in a Franciscan way required of her a great renunciation: it cost her a lot to distance herself from her drive to activity and success in action and to become a contemplative. Work for it’s own sake was much more demanded of her than of Francis, because she had to renounce what was the primary feature of her character: her reasonableness, which she possessed and rightly possessed, and the facility for helping and serving. It is more difficult to renounce something that is good and beneficial than something problematic...However, she allows herself to be fashioned into what God wants to make of her.”
“Book of All Saints” by Adrienne von Speyr
“Humility is the guardian and the ornament of all virtues...”
Second Life of St Francis by Tommaso da Celano, #140
St Clare was given 3 apparitions of the Christ Child. She prayed the Office of the Passion of Jesus every day. I wondered then, why it was not the adult Christ but the Child who came to her?
I decided to explore this question as I painted (wrote) my first of three, icons of her.
My life in Brooklyn and Manhattan, from 1980-1990 brought me so many incredible graces and was filled with people I loved deeply and, some are still alive. One of those is Fr Andre’ Cirino, OFM who taught me more by word and by deed than I can ever adequately express and ultimately accepted me into the Third Order of St Francis on 3 October 1984, up in the Bronx house of the Third Order, the Little Portion, (Porziuncola meaning in Italian, “small portion of land”) the place in Assisi where the Franciscan movement began. During my Hospice years in Manhattan, I also discovered the most beautiful book of an ancient Chinese text of mystical union, entitled, “The Secret of the Golden Flower.” In the Convento of San Damiano, the place where Clare and her sisters lived, there is always a rose on the table where Clare was seated during her life. The one time I visited Assisi and San Damiano, in March 1984, the rose was yellow. I later wrote this poem:
The Secret of the Golden Flower
Chiara
a play of light
golden as the
rising sun
over Assisi,
played out
over fifty years
of agonizing sickness
after sickness
and vicious onslaughts
of the evil one.
She taught her
dearly loved sisters,
in O, a thousand ways,
the adoration and praises
of the Most High,
the passionate cultivation
of the Enclosed Garden...
Jesus,
and a swift attention
to the tremulous stirring
of the Spirit’s wings.
Once while listening
to a sermon of
Brother Philip,
she was seen
clear and bright
as day,
holding the Holy Child
enfolded in the
Secret of the Golden Flower.
Fr William Hart McNichols, SFO
10 August 2020 Eve of the feast of St Clare
PS) I have two, of many, wonderful grandnieces; one named Claire and another grandniece Ginger who is now attending the University of Santa Clara. This feastday reflection is for them, with love.

St Ignatius At Prayer In Rome

August 11th, 2020

St Ignatius At Prayer In Rome

St Ignatius At Prayer In Rome (illustration from 1991)
“I will ask for what I want: here I ask for interior knowledge of the Lord ... Take,
Lord receive all my liberty, my memory, my intellect, and all my will - all that I have and possess. You gave it all to me; to you Lord I give it all back. All is yours, dispose of it entirely according to your will. Give me the grace to love you, for that is enough for me.”
St Ignatius Loyola - from his
Spiritual Exercises: Contemplation for attaining love
“...finding
God
in agony
first but then
in
stars by night
and
later at day
in
a blade of grass
an orange leaf
he began his
mornings with
‘What shall we
do
for God today ?’
letting the Spirit
blow
through his soul
as
wind through
a
field of poppies...”
Fr James Janda
In the year 1991, the Society of Jesus and the world celebrated the 600th anniversary of the birth in 1491 of the Basque saint, Inigo de Loyola. Archbishop (now Cardinal) Stafford of the Archdiocese of Denver, wanted to make a holy card to give to all the people of the Archdiocese. He had seen this drawing I did of Ignatius praying in Rome and asked me if he could use it. During my first two years as a Jesuit, 1968-70, I heard the often repeated Jesuit “in joke” about an older Jesuit on his death bed struggling mightily with anxiety and terror. A fellow Jesuit nearby, attending the dying man, assured him that God was all forgiving and he had nothing to fear. Then the old man says, “It’s not God I’m afraid of, it’s St Ignatius !” That joke hit me hard in my heart, and oddly, very personally, as if my own father was being terribly misunderstood . I swore then, as a 20 year old boy, that I would try to do everything possible to show the many sides of Ignatius. Throughout the years I began to draw him in my career as an illustrator, and then as an iconographer. Tonight on the eve of his feast, I stepped outside and looked into the beautiful glowing moon and felt his love and spoke my love back to him. I have felt like he’s my “second Dad” since I began to know him more intimately in 1968. So many Jesuits during the 35 years I was an official member, taught me about him through their writings, retreats and most of all their genuine guidance and faithful love. And they still do. One thing I’ve learned from Ignatius’ daily Examen, or examination of conscience, is that you can always, always, begin again. The great mystic Adrienne von Speyr said of her heavenly mentor, “No one points to God with such shrewd intelligence, as St Ignatius.” I am constantly amazed and thankful that he is still with me. He continually challenges me to “find God in all things and people.” My favorite writings are his Spiritual Diaries. There, his love for God flows out along with his inability to stop the tears of love he felt, most of all before, during and after celebrating the Holy Eucharist.
Holy Father Ignatius,
Please keep leading me to that knowledge of God
that animated every moment of your life.
Teach me daily, to say with you,
“What shall we do for God today ?”
Then let me use every gift from God to
answer that question.
Help us all to navigate these awfully
anxious, seemingly endless times of this present pandemic.
Dear Holy Father Ignatius,
I love you.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols

Elijah McClain

August 11th, 2020

Elijah McClain

Elijah McClain ? 25 February 1996 - 30 August 2019
"But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest. For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years ... There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living with sinners he was taken up lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul...Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness. Yet the people saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God's grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones."
~ Wisdom 4
I recently painted this image of the very gifted, talented and beautiful soul, Elijah McClain. I used his photograph but added light around his head and golden colored shirt to echo scripture's prophetic words about the chosen ones of God. The red buttons signify his terrible death - red being the color of the Martyrs. I asked my dear friend and theologian, Christopher Pramuk, author of many truly unique and brilliant books, including Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton, Hope Sings So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line, and The Artist Alive: Explorations in Music, Art and Theology, to write a reflection on Elijah McClain.
~ William Hart (Fr. Bill) McNichols
If a sacrament can be described as something that attaches itself to one's heart, and in doing so, becomes an instrument of communion and grace, then Fr. Bill's new painting of Elijah McClain has become for me a most powerful sacrament.
At first, I resisted, I didn't want it to be so. Like grace itself, attachments of the heart can be both beautiful and dangerous. They demand vulnerability, commitment, risk. When Fr. Bill shared Elijah's image with me, I didn't want to let it in. I didn't want to allow him, those penetrating eyes, to gaze into my eyes, afraid of what he might uncover there. I resisted because Elijah's story, and Fr. Bill's image, struck too close to my father's tender heart.
My wife Lauri and I have two children from Haiti, adopted in 2010, just after the earthquake. Sophia, 17, is now on the verge of young adulthood; Henry, though just 11, could pass as 17, when seen from a distance. While Sophia is small in stature, Henry, with his broad face, huge hands, and legs twice as thick as mine, is a gentle giant. Except when he isn't.
Henry suffers from crippling mental illness, rooted in trauma and neglect during his first year of life. One afternoon a few years ago, I was called urgently to come to his school. For the third time in as many weeks, Henry had gotten upset and had bolted out the building's front door before staff could restrain him. I arrived to find my son sitting in a vacant lot near the school, surrounded by five police cars, lights flashing.
Flight - or what the therapists call "elopement" - is Henry's first and last means of escape when big feelings overwhelm him. Lauri and I know that flight for Henry is self-protection, literal survival. Our neighbors, strangers at the grocery, police officers, don't know this. To the police, flight is often, and sometimes fatally, mistaken as fight, defiance, disrespect. Especially when the prey, now backed into a corner, is a young black man.
When I first saw Fr. Bill's painting, the heartrending outlines of Elijah McClain's story were familiar to me, as they have become intimately familiar to so many here in Colorado, and now, around the world. He was 23, a massage therapist much loved by his clients, killed by an encounter with police that involved a carotid choke hold and a disabling dose of ketamine that left him in a coma for six days.
"It doesn't make sense," said one of his clients, calling the police response "brutal." "He was the sweetest, purest person I have ever met. He was definitely a light in a whole lot of darkness." Pictures of Elijah playing the violin to the animals in a local shelter during his lunch break have circulated all over the internet.
When police officers bore down on Elijah - he was wearing a face mask and waving his arms around, probably singing, his friends say, as he walked home from a convenience store - the young man repeatedly begged the officers to forgive him.
"I can't breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That's my house. I was just going home. I'm an introvert. I'm just different. That's all. I'm so sorry. I have no gun. I don't do that stuff. I don't do any fighting. Why are you attacking me?" He also told the officers, "You are all phenomenal. You are beautiful. And I love you."
"He had a child-like spirit," another long-time client says. "Elijah McClain was not conditioned to the norms of America...He lived in his own little world. He was never into, like, fitting in. He just was who he was."
Years ago, I was reading an article by the eminent Black Catholic theologian M. Shawn Copeland, when I came to a line that stopped me cold. In a deeply racist US society, people of color, she wrote, are "overdetermined in the flesh." I did not, perhaps could not, understand such a statement until I became the father of two black children. Whether I am with them at the mall, walking through our neighborhood, or behind the wheel of a car, I am chronically aware that the warm glow of white privilege that now surrounds and protects my kids will not be there forever. I cannot look at a photograph of Sandra Bland without also seeing my daughter Sophia, herself full of fierce, feminine strength, lying face-down in the grass with a police officer's knee on her neck.
Elijah McClain, thanks be to God, "was not conditioned to the norms of America." Neither was Sandra Bland. In Fr. Bill's painting, the glimmer in Elijah's eyes returns my gaze with love. The hints of blue in Elijah's face remind me that we never walk alone in the valley of the shadow of death. Like a mother's cloak, the Spirit of the Living God gently surrounds each of us, and flashes like the sun from within. She is the divine Child who plays "hide and seek" within all the people, daring us not to conform to the dictates of a rapacious and violent society. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, She says, "I love you," and "I'm just different," and "Why are you attacking me?" in the face of the world's power.
"Elijah McClain, pray for us. Pray for our children, especially all young men and women of color. Give strength to every anxious parent's heart. Help us reclaim the light of God within, which endures even in the face of physical death. Teach us to remember and cherish the animals, as you did with your gift of music. Dear Elijah, may you dwell now in deep peace, and feel the infinitely accepting love that we so often fail to give."
And Fr. Bill, thank you for once again enkindling the flame of faith, hope, and love in a sea of gathering darkness. Your art, your attunement to the divine mystery written in human flesh, is a tremendous gift to the world.
July 25, 2020
Christopher Pramuk

Holy Quaker Martyr Mary Dyer

August 11th, 2020

Holy Quaker Martyr Mary Dyer

Holy Quaker Martyr Mary Dyer
Mary Dyer (ca. 1611–1660) was a Puritan
convert to Quakerism who became one of
the four people known as the Quaker martyrs of
Boston. She was publically executed by the Puritans
in Boston on June 1, 1660.
A major theological strand of Puritanism in
the Boston colony had reduced Christian religious
beliefs to moralism, and the fruits were
often a rigid judgmentalism. Violators could be
singled out and ostracized by the community.
Mary, along with her mentor, Anne Hutchinson,
had resisted this strand of Puritanism, favoring an
alternative to strict Puritan theology that emphasized
more of God’s grace and mercy. Mary’s
support for Hutchinson, when the latter was
exiled from the Boston colony, singled her out for
persecution as well. During this theological controversy
in the community, Mary also had a still
birth of a deformed baby, and she had it buried
in secret. This fact eventually came to light, and
the circumstances were used to discredit her in
order to discourage the followers of Hutchinson.
Later, Hutchinson had a miscarriage as well and
was subjected to the same scrutiny. The distorted
theologies prompted their adversaries to construe
these events as God’s punishment upon the two.
Eventually Mary and her family would convert to
Quakerism and relocate to Rhode Island. It was
her return trips to her former home at the Boston
colony that got her into trouble. The Puritans
were threatened by the growing Quaker religion.
The story of these women corroborates the theory
of scapegoating put forth by René Girard, who
argues that these women are singled out because
they threaten the established order, demonized for
their miscarriages, and blamed for bringing chaos
into the community. It also highlights the feminist
critiques of patriarchy, which emphasize how
women have been cast into rigid roles and punished
when they venture outside of them. Patriarchy
includes a preoccupation with women’s bodies.
New England had a significant influence on Bill
in his earlier years of priestly formation and ministry.
Bill copied an illustration as a model for this
icon. He wanted to bring attention to the effect of
New England Puritanism, especially as depicted
in Nathanial Hawthorne’s classic American novel
The Scarlet Letter. The red cross Mary Dyer holds
near her chest in the image recalls Hawthorne’s
image of the scarlet letter A. The light descending
from the cloud refers to the inner light, which is
a central and distinctive aspect of Quaker spirituality—
God’s light dwells within. This means
that everyone is equal, and so the Quaker idea of
church is very simple in its structure. There are no
leaders, and the official name they give themselves
is the Society of Friends.
There is a certain double meaning in the phrase
used by one of Dyer’s accusers when he described
her execution. He stated, “She did hang like a
flag for others to take example by.”However,
her example, rather than acting as a deterrent,
promoted the cause that eventually moved the
Puritan community beyond its persecution of
the Quakers. Her witness was one of genuine
imitation of Christ. Mary Dyer represents someone
who challenges deviated transcendence and
distorted religious practices, especially those who
co-opt genuine religious values and distort them
into vehicles of violence. She represents integrity,
peace, and the compassion of the Gospel; someone who is faithful to her inner light within.
From Book by John D. Dadosky
Image to Insight: The Art of William Hart McNichols

Second Self-Portrait With Symbols 2014

August 11th, 2020

Second Self-Portrait With Symbols 2014

Second Self-Portrait With Symbols 2014
“I’m gonna exchange my things for precious wings and fly, over the valley of the kings and queens where the sleeping
cities lie. One bright night I’m gonna fly right out my window.
Gonna fly so high in the night sky, that the people below won’t see me go by...”
“A Famous Myth” by Harry Nilsson 1969
Some songs are so hypnotic that they call to you even when you don’t know exactly what they mean. They express a deep longing or wish that’s unconscious. This might be called the language of Art . To express what cannot be said literally, through enigmatic songs, poetry, images, icons, drawings and paintings...giving form to inner visions. I would imagine music is comforting round the world right now as we all attempt to walk through this dangerous landscape, stalked by an invisible insidious vapor. We mask up outside, our sense of hope that climbing this way, into Noah’s Ark, we have at least taken the warning seriously. And we collectively grieve for those who mock and ignore the warning. My 71st birthday is coming on Friday, July 10th. I remember when I lived in Taos, reading an autobiography by Jane Fonda where she says age 1-30 is act 1. Age 30-60, is act 2, and age 60 to death is act 3. Mary Oliver’s most famous poetic quote comes to mind, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life ?” Or another quote from Georgia O’Keefe, which is really comforting, because her legendary image, persona, is that of an extremely stoic artist; “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” And then you have St Paul forever steeped in his vision of the Risen Lord, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus .” Philippians 4:6-7. To supplement St Paul, I have been dependent upon the Don Dolindo Novena for at least three years now; it’s bound to sink in if I keep at it.
I laugh when I remember that for my Confirmation name I wanted at age 10, to take the name of an older teenage Martyr of the early Church, the 14 year old St Pancratius. Sister thought that was too eccentric and told me to take either Anthony or Dominic. So I took Dominic not knowing then, that along with Veritas, (Truth) the other Dominican motto is “Contemplata aliis tradere” - to share what you have contemplated. This sums up my life and artistic attempts at images and icons. This second self portrait is surrounded by some of the help I found from the age of 27 ( my first self-portrait with symbols) until I decided I needed to do a second one after my heart collapse April 27, 2012. The images in boxes, inspired by one of my favorite children’s book illustrators, the Russian Ivan Bilibin, honor some of this encouragement and help I was given or found. The first, is symbolic of myself and enduring friends, the Kintsugi cracked bowl, with the cracks filled with gold.
As Ernest Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” The second box symbolizes a life of being inspired and blessed by music, in this symbol its a green flame which is in particular the music of St Hildegard of Bingen. The third is from the mystical life of St Joseph given by Our Lord in 1736 to the Italian Benedictine Mystic, Sister Maria Cecilia Baij. She was told at the birth of St Joseph three stars appeared above his house symbolizing that the Earthly Trinity had now begun. The next box is just an arrow flying into the Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous spiritual book on prayer that deeply affected me, in the “first act” at age 21. Then there’s the radiant broken heart, showing the collapse in 2012, and subsequent mending through the Love I was given. Below the heart is my “second Dad” or Holy Father Ignatius Loyola, who truly gave me another birth and life that continues on through “act three.” Dear Holy Father Ignatius who invites all of us to “find God in all things.” Below Ignatius is the image of the Tarot card “Le Pendu” or man hanging upside down. This explanation of my life I found in the extraordinary masterpiece “Meditations on the Tarot : A Journey into Christian Hermeticism” by Anonymous published in English in 1986. Below the hanging man, who is suspended between heaven and earth, is the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, for obvious reasons. Next is the largest image (besides the self portrait) of, in my opinion, the most beautiful church in the world! San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos. I was invited in 1999 by my dear friend Fr Tim Martinez, to paint a large image of St Francis receiving the stigmata, inside, above the main doorway. I ended up staying for 14 years. The raised stigmatized-wounded hand of Jesus symbolizes the 7 years I worked as a Chaplain in the AIDS pandemic in Manhattan and surrounding areas. Above that living wounded hand is Our Lady of the New Advent, which really began my vocation as an iconographer during “act two” from 1990 into “act three.” The Archer is above Our Lady, shooting his arrow into the Cloud, and a symbol for me of a vocation too. I’ll close with a poem I wrote around my birthday in 1993, one month before meeting St John Paul II in Denver at World Youth Day.
Epithalamium
O I am an Archer.
This is the vocation that
I can stand under, that
holds onto me too.
I have run along with hunted
Jonah, year after year,
following him safely into the
Heart of the Sea Creature,
his vast water tomb where
I can rest, long enough to
find a way to serve You,
My Lord.
Now here I am in the Zone at last.
I aim these images and the few words
I have left, into the
Heart of the Church : the Bride.
So this is chapter 8 of my Song of Songs,
my Epithalamium.
One more arrow to let fly.
It says with pure speed
and perfect precision:
“Love is stronger than death, and
many waters cannot quench this
Burning Love.”
Fr William Hart Dominic McNichols
July 1993

Trees for Rivera Funeral Home in Taos, New Mexico

August 11th, 2020

Trees for Rivera Funeral Home in Taos, New Mexico

Trees for Rivera Funeral Home in Taos, New Mexico
In 2014 I was asked by my dear friend 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, mourning, grieving, during a service for their deceased loved ones. Now in this particular summer, where souls all over the world are leaving our earthly home, it seems urgent to show this triptych once more for your contemplation. I think all this grief and experience of tragic deaths, began for me in 1983 when I began to work as a Chaplain in the AIDS Pandemic. To date, over 32 million people have died from the AIDS pandemic. Michael O’Loughlin has made a 6 part series on podcast, for America Magazine, about the Catholic response during the 1980’s. The narrative was/is that there was very little help. Michael corrected that narrative through his interviews last winter, right before covid 19 ravaged the world. He recently won an award from the LGBTQ community for his incredible work. I believe he was guided by the Holy Spirit, who offered a kind of premonition, and comfort, in the stories of those still living who lost so many people, and the frontline caregivers of that time.
In 2014, I thought of 3 images of Trees (in art called a triptych) that would convey different seasons, and also the never ending life of the soul.
1) Trees of Winter Life
These trees portray 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. In the symbolism of the ancient Catholic Church, Mary is always the Moon; as the reflected light of her Son...sun. I often add a Moon to my images and icons to bring Our Mother’s presence into the picture.
2)Tree of Life
A single pine tree grows out of a sepia-green color.
As it rises, it gains full green and life; St Hildegard of Bingen calls all green life Viriditas. The tree is surrounded by a Sun, (Son) 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 Lady Julian of Norwich, in her “Showings (Revelations) of Divine Love,” 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 eternal 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, in 2014, as I was painting this final tree for the triptych, “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. Each and every dot in this heavenly tree painting is a Soul rising ... into the Light of God’s presence. During my years as a hospice chaplain, I found the transcendent, heavenly inspired music of Gabriel Faure’ and Maurice Durufle’s Requiems particularly comforting to my body and soul. Maybe these two exquisite musicians will touch you now as well.
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.”
Amen
Fr William Hart McNichols
Summer of 2020
Tree Triptych for Rivera Funeral Home 220 by William Hart McNichols

Jerusalem Icon of the Mother of God

August 11th, 2020

Jerusalem Icon of the Mother of God

Jerusalem Icon of the Mother of God
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her children beneath her wings, and you were not willing.”
Luke 13:34
This passage is especially poignant for me as Jesus speaks, not as a spurned general or ruler, but as a Mother, to this incredibly powerful, and magnificent city.
There are several images of God as Mother in Scripture. Also notably in the “Showings of Lady Julian of Norwich.” For me, the power of Art has always been at times, almost overwhelming. So I began as a child to draw and color the ancient images, symbols, such as the Spirit dove and tongues of Fire, the Lamb, the Star of David, the different symbols of the Sacraments, I saw in the windows and statues in my hometown of Denver. They were of Jesus and Mary , as well as saints of the Church who all had their own symbols. I learned them all just by looking. I slowly became aware one of my vocations was to give them back, through art, so they wouldn’t get lost because they are so powerful and draw you into a prayer. There are two images of Jesus as Mother which in my “illustration life,” before I became an iconographer, I really loved to illustrate. One is the mosaic of Jesus as the Mother Hen, surrounded by her chicks, which is in the Dominus Flevit Church, and the other is the ancient legend of Jesus Mother Pelican, which I’ve used at least three times in Icons. The first in Padre Pio, then Francisco Xavier, and finally (after Beato Fra Angelico) at the top of The Holy Cross of the New Advent .
Through the kindness of Mr Rob Lively, I was able to go on one of my dear friend Fr Jim Martin, SJ’s pilgrimages to the Holy Land. I left Alburquerque on Ash Wednesday, February 26, and returned on St Aloysius’s birthday, March 9.
As one of 100 pilgrims, there is so much to say. Each one of us found different places to be alive with inspiration. I’d like to write about each one but this piece is about an icon we saw everywhere in Jerusalem . As we walked through the city streets, there were vendors selling all kinds of things, and in almost every store was a poster, plaque, refrigerator magnet, or actual reproduction of Our Lady of Jerusalem. There are actually two different icons of Her and the Holy Child. I chose the one we saw most often, and was commissioned by Doctor Michael Lucey and his wife, Doctor Patricia Lucey while we were on the pilgrimage. The actual prototype (original) is covered with a silver colored metal riza (Russian for robe) or an oklad (Russian for covering).
When a riza is on an icon, it’s covering everything except the faces and hands. It’s meant to protect the painting from the smoke of the hanging oil lamps, lampadas , or candles which are often seen all around very revered icons. How was I going to turn metal into paint ? I chose to use a gray-blue for the under painting rather than simply gray. I loved the tenderness and love in Mary’s face and the bright light of the Holy Child holding, as Christ the little king, the orb of the world. This icon I painted (wrote) almost right after I got home. I actually had to finish a 7ft Corpus of Jesus for a 13ft Cross, I’ve named “The Cross of 2020” before I could begin Our Lady of Jerusalem. I hope the pilgrims see this as my gift to each one. And it was a natural way to pray through this time of illness, bravery, quarantine .... and awful awareness of racism, I call again, the Cross of 2020.
My use of Blessed Mother comes from my Mom who always called Mary by this name only...
Dear Blessed Mother Our Lady of Jerusalem,
You the joy of Israel,
You the glory of Jerusalem,
You, the great honor of your people,
You are Seeker After the Lost,
You are Mother of God Similar to Fire,
You are Mother of God Quick to Hear,
You are Our Lady of Perpetual Help...Mystical Rose, Enclosed Garden...
You are the Lady of Kazan, Vladimir, Guadalupe, Montserrat, Lourdes, Mt Carmel, Fatima, Knock, Palestine, Akita, Kibeho In Rwanda, Medjugorje, and a thousand other places.
You come as the people need to see you, in every race, in every country.
However we see you, it is you , Mary the Mother of God we love and trust.
O most compassionate Blessed Mother,
Continue to bring us closer to your Son Jesus, Holy Wisdom.
Intercede for us, especially now, and at the hour of our death.
Amen
Fr William Hart McNichols * June 2020

St Anthony Heals the Sick

August 11th, 2020

St Anthony Heals the Sick

St Anthony Heals the Sick (1195-1231)
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father...” John 14:12
“He prays with a lot of love, and he takes other people into his prayer with him. He expects a fruit from his prayer that he can bring back to the people. He does not want to hold onto a single thing for himself. All the words that he brings to people, all his sermons, consolations, and encouragements, he draws from his prayer. He allows himself to be led completely by his prayer, allows everything to ripen in it that he has to carry out apostolically. His love for God is childlike, simple, without reservation; he does not want to hide anything, and whenever he realizes that he did not correspond in a certain point or did not hand everything over to the very end, then he is incredibly ardent in presenting everything to God and apologizing to God for having hesitated for so long and asking God to make him so that God can use him to bring to completion everything he has at his disposal...If he does something that does not absolutely please God, then he feels it immediately. He lives in perfect harmony with God.”
Book of All Saints by Adrienne von Speyr
This icon was a commission from St Anthony’s Hospital in Denver. I felt so blessed and honored to do something for a hospital,because I had worked as a hospice chaplain for those 7 years in Manhattan during the beginning of the world wide AIDS pandemic. I saw firsthand what nurses and doctors do, and it was during that time I began to read books by doctors, telling intimate stories about their work, including some disastrous mistakes, which they are never allowed to make. Can you imagine a vocation where you must achieve perfection day in day out ? It’s impossible. These books helped me so much to see my own vocation, and mothers and fathers too. The last one I read was up in Taos, about a Navajo woman surgeon who wrote a book called, “The Scalpel and the Silver Bear.” She was following in the footsteps of the first Native American doctor, Susan La Fleshe, (see the book) “A Warrior of the People” by Joe Starita. Right now is a time when everyone, world wide is seeing and honoring all professional medical workers and anyone on the front lines, including grocery store workers and Fed X drivers, on and on, we suddenly see what they risk. So as well as being a time of quarantine, it’s also a time of great, great, mystery and possibility. “It’s definitely more than a virus’: Author Arundhati Roy reads from ‘The Pandemic is a Portal’ in a short you tube video. At this distance from my Hospice years, I see how it completely changed me and the way I see the world. It would take a book to adequately examine the emotional scars it left on me, but also, the incredible privilege to be allowed into so many people’s lives. The beautiful, blessed vocation of being a “midwife to/for the second birth.”That enormous loving intimacy I experienced in my thirties, is why I chose Adrienne to speak about St Anthony. When I’m dry and can’t feel love inside me, or when we all feel the fear of the present pandemic, conflict of centuries of racism and wrenching divisions, all without any compassionate or even human leadership at the top, then, I, we, have to go into a prayer to have the small pilot light of love, left inside, become a flame of love again. I remember reading in 1982 the same practice in a life of Dorothy Day, by William Miller. Every morning she would go into a room to pray, and come out lit up like a 150 watt light. By bedtime she was down to about 25 watts... and so it goes for most of us. We find our love in God and then give it away.
Dear “San Antonio” the world’s favorite saint !
Teach us your childlike love of God, and willingness to give people everything we find in prayer, just like you dear Anthony; “not keeping a single thing for himself.” You’ve always been the saint we ask to find lost things. Help us find the love we’ve lost for one another, or never had. Don’t let the present divisions, lies, and hate enter our hearts. And when they do get in, let the Holy Spirit burn them away in prayer, so that we can move back again, into the circle of the Most Holy Trinity’s Love.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols * June 2020

Gerard Manley Hopkins Amidst the Fire-folk

August 11th, 2020

Gerard Manley Hopkins Amidst the Fire-folk

“Gerard Manley Hopkins Amidst the Fire-folk” (28 July 1844 - 8 June 1889)
“Look at the stars ! look, look up at the skies !
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air !”
GM Hopkins from his poem “The Starlight Night.”
This is my second icon of this extraordinary man. The first one shows him amidst the industrial revolution with an apparition of a Kingfisher bird coming to enlighten him, as if its a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
There are a few teachers who open worlds to you, pull things out of you that you almost didn’t know you had, and change your life forever. They widen your world, immensely, rather than constrict or make your world smaller, frightening, or xenophobic. Some of the greatest saints are this way too. My freshman year at St John Francis Regis High School in North Denver, I had a teacher like that, his name was Ron Miller. He was a Jesuit scholastic at that time, in 1963-64, who later left, and had very loving, significant relationships. He also was deeply involved with Jewish-Christian dialogue, so so many other things, and he was always a brilliant teacher, in school and out of school. His love of people and life was happily, fortunately contagious. He taught us 14 year olds to love and understand both poetry of all different kinds and Shakespeare’s play, “Twelfth Night.” Quite an accomplishment for very young minds ! Ron loved Hopkins and we were taught to memorize Hopkins’ poem “Pied Beauty.” I heard that he died a few years ago.
Hopkins has been called the “father of modern poetry” and countless poets claim his lasting influence on them, including the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. Cardinal von Balthasar wrote a magnificent essay on him in his book “Lay Styles” where he states that Hopkins truly lamented the industrial revolution’s scars on nature and Hopkins grieved the loss of “the wild.” There is no poet like him and once you encounter his genius (although in his lifetime he only had one poem published) you never forget his poems or prose which contain some journal and notebook entries and selected letters. Like all of our great artists, he connects you quite naturally, and in his case, with a unique musicality, to the Transcendent.
Hopkins died at the Jesuit residence in Dublin, his room overlooking St Stephen’s Green, on June 8, 1889. He was 44. I painted a kind of ode to his eccentric genius, in the large image with icons, called “Viriditas: Finding God in All Things.” Apparently a Jesuit brother once found him standing in the rain looking down at the beauty of the rain soaked pebbles and rocks, and thought he was very odd. But he truly could find God in all things. I added the glistening stones to the Viriditas Image just for him.
He speaks of our fragile mortality in such a knowing, haunting way in one of his brilliant poems:
“....Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.
Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend.
There, eyes them, heart wants, care haunts, foot follows kind,
Their ransom, their rescue, first, fast, last friend.”
Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ
from the poem “The Lantern Out of Doors.”
Fr Bill McNichols June 2020

Dr Martin Luther King - unfinished drawing 1983

August 11th, 2020

Dr Martin Luther King - unfinished drawing 1983

Dr Martin Luther King : unfinished drawing 1983
“Drum Major Instinct"
Event
February 4, 1968
On 4 February 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., preached “The Drum Major Instinct” from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Ironically, two months before his assassination on 4 April 1968, he told his congregation what he would like said at his funeral: “I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody” (King, “The Drum Major,” 185). Excerpts were played at King’s nationally televised funeral service, held at Ebenezer on 9 April 1968.
King’s sermon was an adaptation of the 1952 homily “Drum-Major Instincts” by J. Wallace Hamilton, a well-known, liberal, white Methodist preacher. Both men tell the biblical story of James and John, who ask Jesus for the most prominent seats in heaven. At the core of their desire was a “drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade” (King, “The Drum Major,” 170–171). King warns his congregation that this desire for importance can lead to “snobbish exclusivism” and “tragic race prejudice”: “Do you know that a lot of the race problem grows out of the drum major instinct? A need that some people have to feel superior … and to feel that their white skin ordained them to be first” (King, “The Drum Major,” 176; 178). Conversely, King preached that when Jesus responded to the request by James and John, he did not rebuke them for their ambition, but taught that greatness comes from humble servitude. As King put it, Jesus “reordered priorities,” and told his disciples to “Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love” (King, “The Drum Major,” 181; 182).
King used Jesus’ own life as an example of how the priority of love could provide greatness. In his biographical sketch of Jesus, King preached that Jesus owned nothing, and when public opinion turned against him he was called a “rabblerouser” and a “troublemaker” for “[practicing] civil disobedience” (King, “The Drum Major,” 183). King notes that, although by worldly standards Jesus was a failure, no one else has “affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life” (King, “The Drum Major,” 184).
King concluded the February 1968 sermon by imagining his own funeral. Urging the congregation not to dwell on his life’s achievements, including his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, King asked to be remembered as one who “tried to give his life serving others” (King, “The Drum Major,” 185). He implored his congregation to remember his attempts to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort prisoners. “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice,” King intoned. “Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter” (King, “The Drum Major,” 185–186).
Footnotes
Branch, At Canaan’s Edge, 2006.
Hamilton, “Drum-Major Instincts,” in Ride the Wild Horses!, 1952.
King, “The Drum Major Instinct,” Sermon Delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, in A Knock at Midnight, ed. Carson and Holloran, 1998.

The Holy Feast of Pentecost - Kathi In A Prayer

August 11th, 2020

The Holy Feast of Pentecost - Kathi In A Prayer

The Holy Feast of Pentecost : Kathi In A Prayer
“In my most childlike hour, my heart has not deceived me. I will not break faith with my childlike heart.”
James Finley
Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know you always hear me...”
John 11:41,42
“The acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the main aim of man (people) upon this earth, for it is through this ascetic struggle of ‘pulling down’ the Holy Spirit into a repentant, humble heart that man (people) gains justification before the face of God.”
Abbot Herman, editor of :
The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia
By I.M. Kontzevitch 1952
When I first began my iconographer’s apprenticeship in September 1990, I was also aware I was, by a deep sense of responsibility and respect, called to learn as much as I could about Orthodox Spirituality and Theology. I began by reading Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar’s essay on Vladimir Soloviev, in his book “Lay Styles” and then many books on Russian saints, and spiritual writers. I did not do much reading in Greek Orthodox Theology, because my teacher, was the Russian American Master Iconographer, Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. Much later I was introduced to (now my dear friend) Christopher Pramuk’s masterpiece, including a very beautiful introduction into Russian Spirituality; his book, “Sophia : The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton.” The first quote is by James Finley who is also like Chris Pramuk, (in fact it seems like all my friends named Chris sense a calling from God) a very holy man, spiritual writer, but also, a former novice of Thomas Merton. If you want to read just one thing of Russian Spirituality, I would suggest the story of St Seraphim of Sarov’s meeting with N.A. Motovilov in a winter snow laden forest, where St Seraphim is illuminated, almost like Jesus in the Transfiguration, and thus shows Motovilov what “being inhabited” by the Holy Spirit can do to a person. There are many icons of this luminous transcendent meeting. As we approach the Season of Pentecost I wanted to talk about just a couple of things the Holy Spirit will do for you. One) the Holy Spirit calls you into prayer, or conversation with God. Two) the Holy Spirit can make you weep, (this is just a part of the ancient sequence, or exquisite poem, used on Pentecost Sunday).
“Cleanse our souls from sinful stain, Lave our dryness with Your rain, Heal our wounds and mend our way.
Bend the stubborn heart and will, Melt the frozen, warm the chill, Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful who in You, Trust with childlike piety, Deign Your sevenfold gift to send...”
I painted this image of my dear cousin Kathi as a “spiritual portrait” of her being called into a prayer by the Holy Spirit. I have written about my cousin already, in a blog about St Francisco Marto of Fatima. By suffice it to say now, that because my Mother, Marjory Hart gave me her maiden name as my middle name I became a close friend with Kathi Hart, my cousin around age nine, and much to our parents dismay, we talked on the phone at least once a day, sometimes more, until we were 18. I had no idea that actually, we were learning to process our feelings about just about everything, during those wonderful talks. And it saved my life, in a real way, during a difficult childhood because I was a frightened, bewildered gay boy. One of Kathi’s greatest gift was always making me laugh,
“Lave my dryness...melt the frozen, warm the chill.” I can now see the Holy Spirit which “visits” many of my icons, as the One who suddenly causes you to cry or weep with the palpable sense of the presence of God inside you.
I know now, everyone can experience this sensation, and as another quote says above, “The acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the main aim of (all of us) on this earth...”
I am not going to pretend and tell you that I have reached this level of acquisition, even as I approach age 71, but I can promise you my friends, that I will never give up trying. And that trying brings me new hope and joy for the moments when I am in a prayer, every day. But especially now, when we have been called by quarantine into “the upper room” to wait for the Coming of the Spirit .
“Come Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the Fire of Your Love. Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”
For the Season of Pentecost 2020
Fr William Hart McNichols

St. Padre Pio - Mother Pelican

August 11th, 2020

St. Padre Pio - Mother Pelican

St. Padre Pio : Mother Pelican (25 May 1887-23 September 1968)
“ O Loving Pelican! O Jesus Lord! Unclean am I but cleanse me in Your Blood!”
St. Thomas Aquinas
So many medieval and early Renaissance artists such as Beato Fra Angelico, painted the symbol of Christ as Mother Pelican nested above Crosses or on tabernacle doors. I once saw a giant floor mosaic in a Brooklyn church ( I think it was St Peter’s Church ?) of Her on the sanctuary floor which really moved me. There exists an early legend that if the Mother Pelican had no food for her chicks she would tear open her own side to feed them. This naturally became a symbol of Christ, and for me, a symbol of all the holy women and men who were given the stigmata; they became Christ figures. These saints healed, performed miracles from God, and spiritually fed us with their blood or wounds ... and continue to do so from Heaven. So I decided to put the painted disc of the Mother Pelican in Padre Pio’s hand, and I wondered if he would approve ? Just before I finished the icon I watched a video cassette (early 90’s!) of his last Mass on 22 September 1968. At the end of the Mass he was so weak that he had to have assistance in walking. And, as he turned to leave, I saw the Mother Pelican on the back of his chasuble.
St. John Paul II once made a visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia, Italy, and Padre Pio prophesied that one day he would be Pope. He was canonized by Pope John Paul on 16 June 2002. I have read so many books about him, and there are luckily so many to read, and my favorite is by C. Bernard Ruffin, a Lutheran Pastor, who died just last May 4th in Virginia. It’s called “Padre Pio : The True Story,” 1991, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Company, they now publish a revised, expanded 3rd addition. When you read almost anything about Padre Pio, you cannot feel any distance from him. It’s as though he comes to you immediately. I continue to beg him for help with the most extreme sufferings of friends and anyone who asks me for prayers. His presence in your home is often accompanied by a strong aroma of flowers and other pleasing scents. If you need him, all you have to do, is ask him to be one of his spiritual children, and he never refuses anyone. Now for a couple of his quotes:
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear our prayers... I will ask the Lord to to let me remain at the threshold of Paradise, and I will not enter until the last of my spiritual children has entered...once I take a soul on, I also take on his (her) entire family as my spiritual children.”
St Padre Pio
For 25 May 2020 ... the 41st Anniversary of my ordination in 1979 at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Denver, Colorado.
Dearest friend and father, Padre Pio, who bore the wounds of Jesus Christ for 50 years. Pray, for us, dear Padre, especially now in this time of the world wide pandemic !
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols

Holy Martyr St Dymphna of Ireland

August 11th, 2020

Holy Martyr St Dymphna of Ireland

Holy Martyr St Dymphna of Ireland, for her feast day May 15
Written by my friend, Kathy Hendricks, a mother, grandmother, and author of several books on catechesis, spirituality, and family including "Heavenly Friends – An Introduction to the Beauty of Icons". http://www.twentythirdpublications.com/hefrneintobe.html
Saint Dymphna
When my mother first showed me her medal of Saint Dymphna and told me about this patron of mental illness, I had no idea what a consolation it was to her. Decades later, as a general understanding and recognition of the vast complexity of mental illness have taken place, I’ve come to a better appreciation of why this was so. Although my mother never mentioned the specific causes of two of her sisters’ mental torments – one who committed suicide and another who became submerged in alcohol addiction – I have a better understanding of the devastating impact of clinical depression.
Dymphna’s story is not an easy one to hear. The daughter of a pagan king and Christian mother, she secretly became a Christian at young age. Her mother’s death threw her father into a state of severe grief. After searching in vain for a woman to replace his wife in beauty and temperament, he set his sights on marrying his daughter in whom he saw the resemblance he so missed in his dead wife. In order to escape such a horrifying prospect, fifteen-year-old Dymphna fled her native Ireland with her trusted confessor, a priest named Gerebran. They made their way to Belgium where Dymphna, as part of her passionate love for and commitment to her faith, built a hospital to serve the sick and the poor. Her father soon tracked her down and ordered the murder of Gerebran. After failing to convince Dymphna to return to Ireland and become his wife, he flew into a rage and beheaded her with a stroke of his sword. After he left, the residents collected the remains of both Dymphna and Gerebran and buried them in a nearby cave. The gravesite, upon which a church was eventually built, became a place of healing for those suffering from nervous, mental, and spiritual afflictions. While she herself did not suffer from a form of mental illness, her father certainly did. The experience of attempted incest and brutal murder by her father caused Dymphna to be named the patron of those suffering from mental illness. One might say she is also patron of those affected by those with mental illness.
As the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to play out across the world, the United Nations is predicting a global mental health crisis due to “isolation, fear, uncertainty, and economic turmoil.” This is being felt among health care providers and other essential workers as they cope with stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and grief. The rising number of deaths as well as the resultant aftereffects of the virus are taking a toll on those who have fallen ill as well as those caring for them. Domestic violence is on the rise as well as substance abuse. It’s a grim picture.
My mother mostly shielded us from the anguish she no doubt felt as she watched her sisters suffering from depression and the self-destructive behavior that altered both of their lives. I can imagine, however, that she often turned to Saint Dymphna for prayers on their behalf. Mental illness has many forms and takes its tolls in varying degrees on those tormented by depression, obsessions, and deep-seated grief. It also affects their loved ones who stand helpless in the face of such suffering. One can only imagine the anguish Dymphna felt as she watched her father deteriorate into a state of unhinged obsession and violence. It is an extreme example of mental illness, to be sure, but one that points to the consolation found by turning in prayer to one who suffered at the hand of her own father. As we all weather this current storm, perhaps we can be a source of strength and support for those in need of mental and spiritual healing as well as those who care for and about them.
Prayer for Those Suffering Mental Illness
Loving God,
You alone know the depth of suffering among those with mental or spiritual illness.
Bring them comfort, consolation, and peace as they struggle with inner demons that torment the mind and heart.
Be with those who care for them. Give them strength, courage, and hope, especially when they feel most helpless and forlorn.
May the prayers of Saint Dymphna on behalf of all who suffer bring forth a compassionate and intensified response to the problem of mental illness in our world.
With all faith in your merciful grace, we pray.
Amen.

Mother of Holy Hope

August 11th, 2020

Mother of Holy Hope

Mother of Holy Hope :
“Be thou then, O thou dear Mother, my atmosphere...”
“...A mother came to mould
Those limbs like ours which are
What must be our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man’s mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere...”
Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ (28 July 1844 - 8 June 1889) from his poem
“The Blessed Virgin compared to the air we breathe”
And once again...!
“There was a child named Bernadette
I heard the story long ago
She saw the Queen of Heaven once
And kept the vision in her soul
No one believed what she had seen
No one believed what she heard
But there were sorrows to be healed
And mercy, mercy in this world...”
Leonard Cohen
(21 September 1934 - 7 November 2016)
“Be that as it may, meetings with the Blessed Virgin are so numerous and so well-attested that one must certainly at least admit their objective reality. I say at least, because this does not satisfy the demands of my conscience. In fact, I would not be entirely honest or frank with you, dear Unknown Friend, if I were not to say what is an absolutely sure result (in the inner forum of my consciousness) of more than forty years of endeavour and experience. It is the following:
One meets the Blessed Virgin when one attains a certain intensity of spiritual aspiration, when this aspiration is authentic and pure...just as the experience of having a mother belongs naturally to human family life on earth. It is therefore as natural for the spiritual domain as the fact of having a mother is natural in the domain of one’s terrestrial family. The difference is that on earth one can certainly be motherless, whilst in the realm of the spiritual this can never happen. Therefore, the thesis that I am advancing with one hundred percent conviction is that every Christian Hermeticist who truly seeks authentic spiritual reality will sooner or later meet the Blessed Virgin.”
from the book “Meditations On The Tarot : A Journey into Christian Hermeticism” by Anonymous (translated from the French Edition by Robert Powell 1985)
I have yet to write about this book which was truly a life-changing school for me personally, (sometime I might try) at the same time, unlike the Holy Scriptures, it is not for everyone, and not necessary to read. It’s just one of the almost infinite variety of spiritual schools the Catholic Church offers to people. The late Cistercian, Fr Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O said this,
“It is without doubt the most extraordinary work I have ever read. It has tremendous spiritual depth and insight.”
With that said, Mary seems most often, to pick the most uncomplicated and truly innocent souls to come to. But I have to say, also, at times in our history, some formidably intellectual souls too. In other words, just about everyone !
I read somewhere, maybe it was St Louis de Montfort, that true devotion to Mary began with Jesus. My relationship with Mary began just by watching my Mom set up a May altar with a statue of Mary. Mom did not preach about Mary or try to convince us about this love; just watching the two Mothers together was enough to convince me. You all know the accusations about Catholics worshipping saints etc. I don’t think you can convince or force anyone to see or love Mary, so I don’t try. I just share or offer my love through these words, quotes, and my illustrations and icons. It’s really very simple to me. God is our Father, Jesus is our brother and Saviour, the Holy Spirit is infinitely creative and whispers to you “the secrets of the kingdom, among other things too many to list here, Mary is the Mother of God and our mother, the saints are our sisters and brothers. The beautiful poetic titles given to Mary in the ancient Litany of Loreto are like the titles of Mary in Icons; rich reminders of her many aspects. Let me finish by giving you another favorite quote about Our Mother in her aspect as “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” (feastday 27 June)
“...Mary has such faith in his ultimate belief and faith in his ultimate redemption that she can calmly hold and reassure her son. If God himself can go to Mary for refuge, then anyone should be able to approach her. Her ultimate belief and faith extends to every one of us, no matter how harshly we may judge ourselves. Our Lady of Perpetual help is said to never refuse a request for help, great or trivial. Despite their reticence to invoke her aid, many have reported hearing Mary’s calm voice saying,
‘Why don’t you just ask ?’ “
A most blessed and happy Mother’s Day to all our Mothers - living or those who have passed into God.
May 2020 * Fr Bill McNichols
Mother of Holy Hope 263 by William Hart McNichols

Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations

August 11th, 2020

Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations

Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations
“...Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra
Matre Terra, laquale ne sustenta et gouerna,
et produce diuersi fructi con coloriti
flori et herba.
Laudato si mi Signore, per quelli ke perdonano
per lo Tuo Amore
et sostengono infirmitate et tribulatione...”
(“ Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister
Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us
and who produces varied fruits
with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, through those
who give pardon for Your Love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation...”)
Canticle of the Sun by St Francis of Assisi
The Canticle of the Sun is first mentioned by Thomas of Celano in the first biography of Francis, written in 1228 just two years after his death. (This is personally my favorite biography of Francis !)
St Francis is thought to have composed most of this timeless song, written in an Umbrian dialect of Italian, in late 1224, near San Damiano. This was after receiving the 5 Wounds of Jesus Crucified (the Stigmata), around the feast of the Holy Cross on Mt La Verna , September 14, 1224. And while he was recovering in a small branch-like covering built by St Clare and the Poor Ladies of her convent, he dictated his final poem, song.
“Though physically blind, he was able to see more clearly than ever with the inner eye of his mind. With unparalleled clarity he perceived the basic unity of all creation and his own place as a Friar in the midst of God’s creatures. His unqualified love of all creatures, great and small, had grown into unity in his own heart. He was so open to reality that it found a place to be at home everywhere anywhere. He was a centre of communion with all creatures.”
From the British Friar, Fr Eric Doyle, OFM (1938-1984)
“ Pope Francis is calling on Catholics to participate in ‘Laudato si Week’ in May 2020 to encourage care for our common home.”
“I renew my urgent call to respond to the ecological crisis. The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor cannot wait anywhere...the urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together, for we know that things can change.”
Reported by Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency
It seems odd but I feel as we get sicker and home bound, nature is getting better, and since we’re not attacking or fracking Mother Earth (I hope and pray) as much as usual, during just one month, she seems to be truly alive and joyful.
This icon was written/painted in Manhattan in 1997. I was going to paint the background deep midnight blue with stars, but one day while I was just beginning the icon, I stepped outside the former Jesuit Community upper west side apartments, on 98th and Broadway at sunset, and between the streets I could see the sun setting over the Hudson River. All the colors were magnificent and I knew I had to try and capture them. Our Mother is cradling our Mother Earth, as St Francis called her, and in a flash, in my imagination I saw 12 flames of the Holy Spirit circle the holy globe. I knew that the message I was given to portray was hope .
Mary stands on a red hot globe, some have seen as the core of the earth which turns rocks into diamonds ! I know I painted it, but am still not sure what the hot red globe is ? Having worked and lived through the AIDS pandemic in the 1980’s I witnessed hundreds of deaths, among the thousands, and yet I believe it ultimately made the lgbtq community stronger, wiser, more compassionate.
In May we wait for God’s Spirit to once again green Mother Earth, inside out.
And we beg Our Mother Mary’s intercession, in her month of May, to help the scientists and doctors to find a way to end this present pandemic.
“ Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary
That never, was it known, that
Anyone who fled to thy protection was left
Unaided. Inspired by this confidence,
I fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins,
My Mother;
To thee do I come, before thee I stand,
Sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
Despise not my petitions but in
Thy clemency
Hear and answer me !
Amen”
“The Memorare” thought to have been composed by St Bernard of Clairvaux
Fr Bill McNichols 2020

Holy Theologian Adamantius Origen

August 11th, 2020

Holy Theologian Adamantius Origen

Holy Theologian Adamantius Origen: Spirit And Fire (185-254)
“Jeremiah, while the people are captive in Babylon, makes his lamentations over the city, the country, and the people because of what happened. He makes these laments in individual stanzas beginning with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet...if we see the soul - which is contemplative by nature, able to survey and attend to things that exist...altogether subject to hostile powers, we shall somehow understand both the captivity and the one taking captive. But taking refuge in Christ, who proclaimed, according to the prophet Isaiah, ‘release to the captives’ (see Lk. 4:18; Isa. 61:1), we shall be liberated from captivity...for Jesus came to ‘lead those in bondage out of their bonds and those sitting in darkness from the house of custody.’ “
Origen’s “Commentary on Lamentations”
When Origen was 16 years old his father, St Leonides, (feastday 22 April) was martyred. His mother hid his clothes so that the young boy could not run out and follow his father. This murder left an indelible mark, wound, impression on Origen’s soul. Ever after he would seek ways to give his life in the most extreme and radical ways. He endured theological and physical persecution, torture and finally died at the age of 70 having been broken by his imprisonments and torture. It is only in the recent past, that he has been “rehabilitated’ and given a place of honor as a Holy Theologian and Faithful Son of the very early Church, by Cardinals Danielou, de Lubac, and von Balthasar. I became fascinated with Origen as a young seminarian, hearing extreme and shocking stories about him. Who was this man really ? It so happened that my great teacher and friend, Fr Robert Daly, SJ had translated von Balthasar’s book from the German, called “Origen : Spirit and Fire.” Which I will quote from below. This icon, I felt compelled to write/paint, is of the incredible scholar, teacher, and theologian, shown in Alexandria, holding a chalice with the martyred Christ pouring his blood into the cup; Origen’s cup too. Origen also holds a scroll of Holy Scripture which he loved, contemplated and taught. The flame or fire of the Holy Spirit hovers over his mind.
“ It is all but impossible to overestimate Origen and his importance for the history of Christian thought. To rank him beside Augustine and Thomas simply accords him his rightful place in this history. Anyone who has given long hours to studying the Fathers will have had the same experience as a mountain climber:the slow, steady, receding of the seemingly still-threatening peaks all around him, until, beyond them, the hitherto-hidden dominant central massif rises majestically before him. None of the great Fathers, from the Cappadocians to Augustine, and on up to Dionysius, Maximos, Scotus Eriugena and Eckhart, could escape an almost magical fascination of the ‘man of steel ‘, as they called him. Some were completely swept away. Jerome, when commenting on Scripture, continues to copy straight from Origen’s pages, even after outwardly breaking in anger the chains and fiercely denying the bond that linked him to the master. Basil and Gregory of Nazianzen, in their enthusiastic admiration, make a collection of the most fascinating passages from the inexhaustible works of the one to whom they continually returned when their day to day struggles allowed them a moment of peace. Gregory of Nyssa was even more thoroughly captivated. The Cappadocians transmit him practically intact to Ambrose, who also knew and copied him firsthand. Infact, many of the breviary readings of Ambrose (as well as of Jerome and Bede) are practically word for word Origen. Thus, flowing simultaneously from several directions, the heritage of Origen, already becomes the common possession of the Church, poured over Augustine and through him into the Middle Ages. But in the East he is subject of wave upon wave of enthusiasm...For there is no thinker in the Church who is so invisibly all-present as Origen.”
By Hans Urs von Balthasar, 1938, “Origen: Spirit and Fire.”
Continued Prayers and Blessings of this painful, yet luminous Easter season !
Fr Bill McNichols April 2020

Jesus Christ Divine Mercy And His Apostle St Faustina Kowalska

April 21st, 2020

Jesus Christ Divine Mercy And His Apostle St Faustina Kowalska

Jesus Christ Divine Mercy And His Apostle St Faustina Kowalska
“...so many hearts I find, broke like yours and mine
torn by what we’ve done and can’t undo ...
but there were sorrows to be healed and mercy, mercy in this world...”
Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)
from his “Song of Bernadette”
“My Jesus, grant that I may have love, compassion and mercy for every soul without exception. O my Jesus, each of your saints reflects one of your virtues; I desire to reflect your compassionate heart, full of mercy; I want to glorify it. Let your mercy, O Jesus, be impressed upon my heart and soul like a seal, and this will be my badge in this and the future life. Glorifying your mercy is the exclusive task of my soul.” (Diary 1242)
“Jesus, make my heart like unto yours, or rather transform it into your own heart that I may sense the needs of other hearts, especially those who are sad and suffering. May the rays of mercy rest in my heart.” (Diary 514)
In many ways, Faustina’s personality reminds me of Bernadette. Both so humble and open to transmit, without any embellishment, the vision and message they were given. I’d like to end with a quote from one of my favorite scripture scholars. I carried, and read on the subway in Manhattan in 1981, then copied down so many passages from his commentary on Revelation and the Gospel of Luke. This is my favorite quote:
“The only requirement for entrance into the kingdom of God is an emptiness only God can fill.”
From his commentary on the Gospel of Luke by GB Caird (1917-1984)
A most blessed and needed Divine Mercy Sunday !
Fr Bill McNichols 19 April 2020
St Faustina Kowalska Apostle Of Divine Mercy 094 by William Hart McNichols

Holy Theologian Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar

April 21st, 2020

Holy Theologian Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar

Holy Theologian Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905 - 1988)
“Even if a unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is.” (And)
“Wastefulness is the original Christian attitude... The entire Passion occurs under the sign of this complete self-wasting of God’s love for the world.” von Balthasar
Literally right before he died von Balthasar was summoned to Rome by St John Paul II, to receive the Cardinals cap. He had refused it twice, joking but also seriously saying to John Paul that he didn’t need a red hat. He had already written about, and told John Paul, that he felt Cardinals were not necessary. John Paul’s answer was to summon him to Rome and receive this honor; von B ( I use this abbreviation affectionately) died just before he was supposed to fly to Rome. He was loved and respected by John Paul and at von B’s urgings, he apologized to the world about 100 terrible things the church has done over the centuries. von B told him, (and it was later formally requested by Cardinal Ratzinger) the church cannot go into the 21st century without this lengthy apology. His final apology was to women. And even though things are not moving fast enough for many people, if you had told me in grade school, in the pre-Vatican II Church, that one day we’d have women lector’s, communion ministers, altar girls, and maybe one day deacons again, I would not have believed you. One of my theologian friends once told me if we could combine von B with Gustavo Gutierrez, Dorothee Solle and Elizabeth Johnson, Thomas Merton, Ilia Delio, Elizabeth Fiorenza, J. Baptist Metz, or the Berrigan brothers, we would have a “near perfect” theology. Other names of prominent women and men could be added of course; living and dead. I think also of my theologian friends John Dadosky, James Martin, SJ, Megan McKenna, James Alison and Christopher Pramuk, and of course Dr St Hildegard . What I’m trying to say is better said by St John Cardinal Newman in a quote that my teacher, Franciscan Brother Robert Lentz placed in the hand of his Icon of St John Cardinal Newman: “The voice of the whole Church will in time make itself heard.” We were introduced to von B by our Novice Master, Fr Vince O’Flaherty, SJ In 1968. He instructed us to read the book “Prayer.” Since that time I personally, have been fed by his writings and during my Hospice years in New York and then in my iconographer’s apprenticeship, I read all 7 volumes of his “Glory of the Lord” series. It was in New York that my deceased friend Eddie Oakes, (Fr Edward Oakes, SJ) who wrote the brilliant book on von B, “Pattern of Redemption ” introduced me to Adrienne von Speyr. Balthasar states that she was so influential in his theology that the two of them must be taught and read together. He speaks about their mission together in his book “Our Task.” I have written about her, and shown the icon I wrote of her, in one of my Facebook blogs. I am introducing you to von B now because I’d like to write about my icon of Holy Theologian Adamantius Origen in a blog around the feast of his father, (April 22) Holy Martyr St Leonides of Alexandria. And I must use von B’s dramatic and scholarly rehabilitation of Origen, to write about him.
During this time of the pandemic, we are all quarantined and I’m trying to see it (as I tried during the many years of the AIDS pandemic) as a possible contemplative opportunity to go deeper into God and point ( as always with images and icons) to the guides who also had to endure many different kinds of suffering and still held onto the Hope that is in God’s eternal love for us.
The first volume of the 7 in “The Glory of the Lord” series is about beauty, and it’s called “Seeing the Form.” Here is a part of the opening of the book.
“The word with which we embark on in this first volume of a series of theological studies is a word with which the philosophical person does not begin, but rather concludes. It is a word that has never possessed a permanent place or an authentic voice in the concert of the exact sciences,and, when it is chosen as a subject for discussion, appears to betray in him who chooses it an idle amateur among such very busy experts. It is, finally, a word untimely in three different senses, and bearing it as one’s treasure will not win one anyone’s favours; one rather risks finding oneself outside everyone’s camp...
Beauty is the word that shall be our first... We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past whether he admits it or not - can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.”
To me just thinking that this was first published in English in 1982, before there was much talk about the possible devastation of the earth, I think in this area alone, of global warming and infection in every way ... was/is prophetic. And like all prophets contains a warning and a hope.
A blessed Easter season, stay safe during this painful ,crucial, and yet Holy Kairos Time.
Fr Bill McNichols April 2020

The Risen Christ

April 21st, 2020

The Risen Christ

The Risen Christ
“The valley is dark...
you walk through the shadows
uncertain and surely hurting ...
and though you trust the light
towards which you wend your way
sometimes it feels all that you wanted
has been taken away...
You will walk
You will walk
You will walk in good company.
I love the best in you
you love the best in me
though it’s not always easy
lovely, lonely.
We will walk
We will walk
We will walk in good company,
The shepherd upright and flowing,
You see.”
“The Valley” by Jane Siberry sung by kd lang on “Hymns of the 49th Parallel”
“This is the Risen Lord, standing as Lord for all time, in all places. He stands bearing the wounds of his passion and death, his devotion and obedience and love. And he stands greeting us with open arms amid the blue mandala of eternity. This is the One that the just man Job cried out to in belief: ‘For I know that my Redeemer lives and that he, at the last, will take his stand on earth.’(Job 19:25)... This is the cornerstone and heart of our religion and faith...St Antony of Egypt tried to say it this way: ‘By the word of His power He gathered us out of all lands, from one end of the earth to the other end of the world, and made resurrection of our minds, and remission of our sins, and taught us that we are members one of another.’ This mystery of the Word rising in our hearts will one day raise our bodies to glory. We stand, we kneel, we sit at the table of the Risen Lord, and our minds are opened to the Scriptures and our heats are stirred to fire and hope again, always. Amen “
From “Christ All Merciful: Icons by William Hart McNichols” by Megan McKenna
Orbis Press 2002
“...God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more; mourning, and crying and pain will be no more...See I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:3-5)
Fr Bill McNichols - Easter 2020
💢Holy Week Meditation💢
“We will not find Christ in our Churches this year because He is out in the streets.
Christ rushes to our side with the first responders.
He is with the medical workers risking their own lives to save others.
He shares the fear and loneliness of the hospital patients fighting for their lives.
He feels the hunger and anxiety of the poor.
He is in all those who leave their families at risk in order to protect our fellow citizens and loved ones.
He is with the pastors who pray humbly with their flocks via social media.
He labors with the truck drivers bringing food to our tables and the pharmacists and shop keepers providing for our needs.
He trembles with those who have seen more suffering than they can bear and mourns with those who lost dear loved ones.”
Archbishop Castillo
Lima, Peru

Holy Week and Our Lady of Magadan

April 21st, 2020

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 this icon and the prayers it hopefully inspires to a world of all God’s children afflicted and suffering from the covid 19 virus.
Fr Bill McNichols
Holy Week 2020

Hagia Hesychia - Jesus Christ Redeemer Holy Silence

April 6th, 2020

Hagia Hesychia - Jesus Christ Redeemer Holy Silence

Hagia Hesychia : Jesus Christ Redeemer Holy Silence (Holy Wisdom)
“And when I breathed, my breath was like lightening...I cured with the power that came through me...” Nicholas Black Elk (1 December 1863 - 19 August 1950)
A Mass was celebrated by Bishop Robert Guss of Rapid City, South Dakota on 21 October 2017 to formally open the cause for Canonization of the Holy Medicine Man (Wicasa Wakan) Nicholas Black Elk. Around the age of 60, in the 1930’s, Black Elk finally told his formative vision (Hanbelachia) and life story to
John C. Neihardt and it gradually became a world wide bestseller called “Black Elk Speaks.” This incredibly beautiful book is sheer poetry and can be read or listened to on Audible books. I read it after making a life-changing retreat at Holy Rosary Mission, South Dakota in 1971. And while I was recovering from my heart collapse in April-May of 2012 I listened to it on Audible. I was semi-delirious from an induced coma, with nine drugs still swimming inside me. I was in that coma from April 27 until I was “miraculously” awakened on May 11. I too was in need of a “Hanbelachia” (vision quest) and Black Elk’s words washed over me in the most holy and profoundly,deeply comforting way.
“This famous book, however, leaves out the vast majority of how Nicholas Black Elk, (baptized on December 6, St Nicholas Feast) embraced the Catholic faith in 1904, recounted his life to Neihardt in the 1930’s . Black Elk became an energetic Catholic Catechist, retaining Lakota practices that harmonized with his Catholic Faith ... Jesuit Father Michael Steltenkamp, author of “Nicholas Black Elk: Medicine Man,Missionary and Mystic” And “Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala, interviewed numerous Jesuit contemporaries of Nicholas Black Elk, gaining a vastly more complete portrait of Black Elk’s path of holiness...
‘ Whatever vision he had as a youth, it was so influenced over the years by his life as a Catechist, that the vision and his Catholic life became one life-inspiration,’ Father Steltenkamp said...Black Elk predicted that God would give them a sign at his death. They testified that on the nights between his death and funeral, the sky seemed as bright as day, filled with spectacular displays of falling lights - like a water fountain with lights splashing ...even contemporary journals across North America noted the event, calling it a very unusual aurora borealis...”
From the National Catholic Register by Peter Jesserer Smith October 2017
One of the most beautiful declarations of Vatican Council II, is that the Holy Spirit is in, and speaks through all people’s. Personally I have to say that in my reading of Native American Wisdom, I think they got everything right, including almost all tribes (pre-Freudian) designation of gay people as Two Spirit Ones.
Recently my brilliant artist sister Marjory McNichols Wilson sent me this recent message from a visionary Hopi woman named White Eagle she shared on 16 March 2020. I chose this icon of a Holy Wisdom (Sophia) figure called Holy Silence to illustrate this blog, and I also painted an image of Black Elk you can look into on my website, which I have already written about. So now, here is the holy wisdom of White Eagle.
Message from White Eagle, Hopi indigenous on 03/16/2020:
VISION QUEST 🔥👁️
“This moment humanity is going through can now be seen as a portal and as a hole.
The decision to fall into the hole or go through the portal is up to you.
If you repent of the problem and consume the news 24 hours a day, with little energy, nervous all the time, with pessimism, you will fall into the hole. But if you take this opportunity to look at yourself, rethink life and death, take care of yourself and others, you will cross the portal.
Take care of your homes, take care of your body. Connect with your spiritual House.
When you are taking care of yourselves, you are taking care of everything else. Do not lose the spiritual dimension of this crisis, have the eagle aspect, that from above, and see the whole; see more broadly.
There is a social demand in this crisis, but there is also a spiritual demand. The two go hand in hand. Without the social dimension, we fall into fanaticism. But without the spiritual dimension, we fall into pessimism and lack of meaning.
You were prepared to go through this crisis. Take your toolbox and use all the tools available to you.
Learn about resistance of the indigenous and African peoples: we have always been and continue to be exterminated. But we still haven't stopped singing, dancing, lighting a fire and having fun. Don't feel guilty about being happy during this difficult time.
You do not help at all being sad and without energy. You help if good things emanate from the Universe now. It is through joy that one resists. Also, when the storm passes, each of you will be very important in the reconstruction of this new world.
You need to be well and strong. And, for that, there is no other way than to maintain a beautiful, happy and bright vibration. This has nothing to do with alienation.
This is a resistance strategy. In shamanism, there is a rite of passage called the quest for vision. You spend a few days alone in the forest, without water, without food, without protection. When you cross this portal, you get a new vision of the world, because you have faced your fears, your difficulties ...
This is what is asked of you:
Allo yourself to take advantage of this time to perform your vision seeking rituals. What world do you want to build for you? For now, this is what you can do: serenity in the storm. Calm down, pray every day. Establish a routine to meet the sacred every day.
Good things emanate; what you emanate now is the most important thing. And sing, dance, resist through art, joy, faith and love.
Resist - Be reborn”

Go to Joseph what he says to you do

April 6th, 2020

Go to Joseph  what he says to you  do

“Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.”
Genesis 41:55
"....it was permitted by God that Joseph have this anxious feeling constantly present within his heart. Joseph accepted it with resignation and never appeared outwardly to be restless or disturbed. "
Page 202
The Life of St Joseph
by Maria Baij, OSB
1743-1766
“I only beg, for the love of God, that anyone who does not believe me will put what I say to the test, and he will see by experience what great advantages come from his commending himself to this glorious patriarch and having devotion to him. Those who practice prayer should have a special affection for him always. I do not know how anyone can think of the Queen of Angels, during the time that she suffered so much with the Child Jesus, without giving thanks to Saint Joseph for the way he helped them. If anyone cannot find a master to teach him how to pray, let him take this glorious saint as his master and he will not go astray.”
Autobiography of St Teresa of Avila, chapter 6
I asked my dear childhood friend Kathy Hendricks, the popular speaker, retreat leader and author of many truly inspiring books, including our book together,
“Heavenly Friends: An Introduction to the Beauty of Icons” http://www.twentythirdpublications.com/hefrneintobe.html to write a prayer to St Joseph for his feastday (traditionally honoring the day he died with Mary and Jesus by his side) March 19th. Here is her beautiful prayer:
Prayer to St. Joseph during Times of Fear and Anxiety
Dearest Saint Joseph,
You protected Mary and Jesus when violence overtook
the land.
Pray for all of those most at risk during this pandemic –
the elderly, those with underlying health issues,
the poor, the homeless, and those with no one to care for or about them.
May your example of courage and strength inspire us
to be more cognizant of the common good
and generous in our outreach to others.
You attended to the needs of your family
and remained steadfast in your faith.
Pray for all of those who are responding so generously
in providing for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs
of the local, national, and international community.
May your model of fidelity fill us with the desire
to spread kindness,
consideration,
hope,
and compassion
during this challenging time.
We ask your intercession
so that we might draw together as a human family,
ever aware of and grateful for
the unending love and mercy of God.
Amen.

Beato Fra Angelico

February 28th, 2020

Beato Fra Angelico

Beato Fra Angelico (1400-1455) - Patron of Artists - feastday 18 February
“Freely you were given, freely give.” St Matthew 10:8
“On June 23, 1983, Pope St. John Paul II granted official cultus to Fra Angelico, who is now Blessed with an office, a Mass and obligatory memory as Patron of Artists. Fra Angelico, baptized Guido di Pietro, was born around 1400 in Vicchio, a Tuscan town near Florence. At the age of twenty, he entered the Dominican Order at the Priory of San Domenico in Fiesole . He took the religious name of John whence the appellation Fra Giovanni de Fiesole. He died in Rome on February 18, 1455, and is buried in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where his tomb remains an object of veneration...was this remarkable priest a painter of the Middle Ages or the Renaissance? The answer varies with the preconceptions of the critics, many of whom consider him a painter of transition.”
John Rubba, OP, “Fra Angelico”
“Fra Angelico’s life, by evidence, ran its course without a question, without a doubt, in uninterrupted service to God in the exercise of a God-given talent...Fra Angelico managed, as if without trying, to simplify the sometimes rather fussy pageantry of late-medieval painting without thinning it -he weeded it and gave it room to grow-and to unite heavenly sweetness with earthly truth as if any question as to their identity were ridiculous...Because of his gentleness, Fra Angelico is often underestimated as an artist even by his admirers, who tend to settle for his sweetness without recognizing his strength...Fra Angelico reconciled revolution and tradition by reconciling Massaccio’s realism-the projection of figures in light and space on a monumental scale-with the essentially miniature technique of the late-medievalists such as his probable teacher, Lorenzo Monaco.”
John Canaday, “The Lives of the Painters”
The Dominican motto, along with “Veritas,” is “Contemplata aliis tradrere,” (which is to share what you have seen or contemplated), reaches its zenith in Beato Angelico. Our great contemporary Swiss medical doctor and mystic, Adrienne von Speyr (20 September 1902-17 September 1967) sees Fra Angelico, while she is in an ecstatic state under obedience to her spiritual director, Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was also her companion in a Mission, in fact he once said, you cannot separate my theology from hers. She said of Fra Angelico, “I see him (Adrienne smiles). He loves the Way that leads to God and is held in a continual contemplation of this Way. And if he paints, then he paints this Way. The saints he paints, the angels he presents, are all for him the expression of this Way. And in everything he experiences - even theological, philosophical, even if it is something extreme that remains incomprehensible to him -he can only concur if it can be brought into harmony with this Way. As soon as he comes to the Way, everything is clear to him, and he would be very capable of drawing very subtle distinctions. It is as if God had designated him to represent this Way to Him. So everything is also related that is given to him in contemplation, everything that he experiences in prayer and in daily life, everything is referred to this Way leading to God. It is the Way of being like a child, of childlikeness, of the childhood of God. It is the Way of holiness, the Way of renunciation in love of neighbor, which is so far developed that always the Lord and His holiness are seen in the neighbor. Art is given to him. He has not exactly chosen it. It is so much his talent and corresponds to him so much that it chose him more than he chose it. But for him it is one with religion, with love for God...he is one of his smiling saints.”
Adrienne von Speyr, “The Book of All Saints”
A blessed feast of Beato Fra Angelico to everyone especially - all who devote their lives to the vocation and work of Art. And a special thank you to my artist sister, Marjory McNichols Wilson who posts these blogs and helps me in every way!
Fr Bill McNichols - February 2020

The Kenosis of St Bernadette of Lourdes

February 28th, 2020

The Kenosis of St Bernadette of Lourdes

The Kenosis (self-emptying) of St Bernadette of Lourdes
“Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
Barry Lopez from his fable “Crow and Weasel”
“Wastefulness is the original Christian attitude...The entire Passion occurs under the sign of this complete self-wasting of God’s love for the world.”
From “Light of the Word” by Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar
“The Virgin used me as a broom to remove dust. When the work is done, the broom is put behind the door again. “
St Bernadette
“At my third request she (the Blessed Mother) put on a serious air and appeared to humiliate herself. She joined her hands, raising them above her breast. She looked towards heaven, then she slowly separated her hands, leaned towards me and said with a trembling voice: ‘I am the Immaculate Conception.’ “
From “Bernadette: The Only Witness” by Fr John Lynch, SM
“There was a child named Bernadette
I heard the story long ago
She saw the Queen of Heaven once
And kept the vision in her soul
No one believed what she had seen
No one believed what she heard
But there were sorrows to be healed
And mercy, mercy in this world...
We’ve been around, we fall, we fly
We mostly fall, we mostly run
And every now and then we try
To mend the damage that we’ve done
Tonight, tonight I just can’t rest
I’ve got this joy here inside my breast
To think that I did not forget
That child, that song of Bernadette...”
A truly inspiring, lovely song by the great Leonard Cohen (recorded beautifully by Jennifer Warnes in 1986)
In 1943 Jennifer Jones won the Oscar for her luminous portrayal of St Bernadette, in the film “The Song of Bernadette,” based on the 1941 novel of the same name by Franz Werfel. If you watch the incredible transformation on Jennifer Jones’ face when she first sees Our Lady of Lourdes, you see why she won. Her face goes from a shock-like fear, to disbelief or clearly bewildered...then into wonder and finally, total love. Her radiant face reflects the Woman she sees. It helps us all feel how we might feel if we were privileged to see the Mother of God. This icon was commissioned by the church of the Shrine of St Bernadette, here in Albuquerque in the early 1990’s. They asked for Bernadette to be in her religious habit of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers; the order she joined in 1866. I placed a candelabra behind her with 11 candles to signify the first time she saw Mary, February 11th, 1858. She is holding a bowl of water to signify the healing waters of Lourdes. When she was diagnosed with tuberculosis she refused the offer to be taken back from Nevers to Lourdes because she knew the healing waters were not for her. She is shown pouring them out of a bowl, symbolically emptying her life. She died on April 16, 1879 at the age of thirty five. St. John Paul II designated 11 February as World Day of the Sick in May of 1992. He wrote “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding us to see in our sick brothers and sisters the face of Christ...” I’ll end with a most hopeful quote from St Bernadette: “If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again. We can always start all over again. Enjoy God’s amazing opportunities bestowed on us. Have faith in Him always.”
Fr Bill McNichols 💟 February 2020

The Silence of St Thomas Aquinas

February 28th, 2020

The Silence of St Thomas Aquinas

The Silence of St Thomas Aquinas (feast day January 28)
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”
St Thomas Aquinas
My Father, Stephen McNichols, was born on the old feast of St Thomas Aquinas, March 7, and so from my earliest childhood, I felt a connection between this saint and my Dad. He used to tell me stories about a dinner Thomas was invited to with St Louis IX and St Bonaventure. At dinner Thomas was so caught up with solving a problem, that suddenly, when he found the answer he burst out loud with it and everyone was embarrassed for him. But Good King St Louis had a scribe rush over to where Thomas was seated to be sure his thought was taken down in writing. There is another great story that in Thomas’ youth his classmates called him the dumb ox, because his silence was thought to be stupidity.
His holy teacher, the Dominican and scientist, St Albert the Great, (feastday November 15) told the students that one day they would hear a great roar from this dumb ox. As we all know, the world continues to learn from the genius of St Thomas, but who was quite controversial in his own lifetime. It was near the end of his life, on the feast of St Nicholas, December 6, while saying Mass that he had an experience of God so profound, that he gave up writing and said “All that I have written is straw...” (in comparison to his mystical vision or experience). And so Thomas “went into silence.” Another thing I hope we’ve all experienced is a teacher who can change your life. A woman or man who “sees you” and can bring out your God-given gifts. Just recently, a couple of you tubes popped up on my phone. It was two short videos of The Book of Revelation by two young men who call themselves “The Bible Project.” Because they were short I thought, I’ll give them a try and was amazed at the brilliance, masterful teaching, delightful graphics, and the depth they manage to achieve in just a few minutes. Since then I’ve listened to and watched Isaiah, Haggai, Habakkuk, Esther, Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs (the Protestant Bible only contains 3 of the Wisdom Books) .... Matthew, Psalms, Mark and many more, like the ones on just a Hebrew word, or concept, such as “holiness.” I can’t say enough about these wonderful teachers who open books of the Bible for you and then you can meditate on them with reverence “in a prayer.”
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,” “Mother of God Your Lap Has Become the Holy Table,” or “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 “The 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 Aquinas!
Fr Bill McNichols 2020

St Agnes of Rome

February 28th, 2020

St Agnes of Rome

St Agnes of Rome
(b 291-martyred January 21, 304 AD)
“The end is not an event but a person.” GB Caird
When I was around age 5 I received a set of 4 small books called “Little Lives of the Saints” by Fr Daniel Lord, SJ. One of the first things I did when I entered theJesuit Novitiate in Florissant, Missouri on September 1st 1968, was to find Fr Lord’s grave and pray over it, thanking him for leading me to the saints. There is another indelible book, a novel, by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, called “Fabiola” originally published in 1854. It reimagined the lives of the early young martyrs including Agnes, Emerentiana , Sebastian, Tarcisius, and Pancratius.
When you’re 7 or 8, a twelve or thirteen year old is a teenager, when you’re that young they seem very mature and impressive! Now when I think of them they seem very young and vulnerable. Just days ago, a thirteen year old girl was kidnapped in Springfield, Massachusetts and luckily a couple paid attention to the amber alert and followed the car, going a hundred miles an hour, all the while calling the police.
Thank God, because of that couple she was released unharmed after 6 hours.
We hear of these stories way too often. Sadly, tragically, rarely do they have a happy ending. The child martyrs like Agnes and Pancratius inspired me during a rough childhood of bullying. I can’t imagine what it must be like now for kids who are bullied through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, cell phones etc. I wonder if I’d have made it. So, in my childhood, I identified with the early martyrs and they were like my “imaginary friends” (see also the scholarly, very readable and brilliant book “The Cult of the Saints” by Peter Brown) who kept me alive and hoping. They taught me naturally, to pray by learning to talk with Jesus and His Mother, and our brothers and sisters, the saints. In this icon a young Agnes (whose name comes from the Latin, Agnus, which means lamb) is standing on a shining mandala. Inside is the martyred Lamb of God, standing on the Book of the Apocalypse (Revelation) with its seven seals, and the Lamb carries a green Cross of Victory. I love to speak in homilies, especially at funerals, comparing the vision of a powerful, frightening God in Isaiah 6, with the final scriptural vision of God in Revelation which is a Lamb. GB Caird taught me so much about the Lamb in his genius commentary “The Revelation of St John the (theologian) Divine” which I read with so much joy and interest when I was in my thirties as an art student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Today you hear of a possible Apocalypse all the time. I would suggest Caird’s book, but also Craig Koester’s book “Revelation and the End of All Things.” But if you want, you can look at two brilliant very short videos on you tube by two young masterful teachers, who make short videos on every book of the Bible. They call themselves “the Bible Project.” I can’t say enough good about them. Agnes is patron of young girls, and there are so many centuries of beautiful paintings, statues or sculptures of her. She remains much beloved, through almost every century of Christianity; a sign of the Lamb of the Apocalypse, who conquers not by physical power but with the miraculous power of the Cross and this way of Love.
A blessed St Agnes Day !
Fr Bill McNichols - January 21, 2020

Dedication of the year 2020 to the Most Holy Trinity

February 28th, 2020

Dedication of the year 2020 to the Most Holy Trinity

Dedication of the year 2020 to the Most Holy Trinity
“The arms of God be around my shoulders,
the touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
the sign of Christ’s Cross upon my forehead,
the sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
the fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,
the vision of Heaven’s company on my lips,
the work of God’s church in my hands,
the service of God and the neighbor in my feet,
a home for God in my heart,
and to God, the Father of all, my entire being,
Amen
Ancient Celtic Prayer
The Apparition of the Most Holy Trinity in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico
“There exists a legend here in the village as to why the parish is named La Santisima Trinidad. The original settlement was not in the area of the current plaza. It was much higher up, toward the foot of the mountain called El Salto de las Aguas, where the five waterfalls stream down from the mountain.
Two families from Abiquiu were the original settlers in this part of the Taos Valley, which was dangerous because of the tribes who attacked the Taos Indian Pueblo and Spanish settlements. The families lived in a large fortified complex at the foot of El Salto. The remains of three torreones can still be seen. The parents would leave the fortified compound during the day to clear the lower fields for cultivation with firm parental instruction to their children to stay within the safety of the walled hacienda and not go wandering off. The children, being children, left the protection of their home and wandered down the Rio Lucero (Arroyo Seco Creek) where one day they encountered two strange men. Surprised to see men who appeared to be Spanish settlers, the children asked where the men lived, for they thought they were the only Spanish settlers in this part of the valley. The men responded that they lived further on down the river. When the children asked if the men got frightened, living so exposed in the open of the lower valley, they responded that they were not frightened. And besides, the men said, a white dove lived in the tall trees near them and made loud cooing noises whenever anyone approached, thereby serving as a warning of approaching danger.
Departing, the children returned home and told their parents of their encounter with the two neighbors. The parents, knowing they were the only Spanish settlers in this part of the valley, decided to investigate for themselves. The two families walked downriver. Soon, the children spotted the white dove in a treetop. They immediately recognized the bird the two men had told them about. As the bird flew from tree to tree the two families followed it. At last the bird landed in an open area on a large rock and then flew off. The people noticed the rock was somehow different-luminescent. They turned the rock over and discovered an ancient bulto, or wood carving , of La Santisima Trinidad. When the children spotted the bulto they immediately cried out, ‘Those are the two men we saw!’ The families recognized that it was the actual Trinity, God the Father, Son and Spirit(the dove ) who had appeared to the children. The current church is built over the site of the rock. The Arroyo Seco Plaza was built around the church, and the ancient bulto is enshrined in a side altar.”
This legend is narrated by Fr Vincent Paul Chavez former pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish.
I am personally dedicating this year of 2020 to the Holy Trinity in hopes of a recreation and renewal of our endangered planet, also praying for all peoples who are looking for a safe home, and all of us that we can learn to listen, have patience and begin again each day to love one another.
A Blessed New Year !
Fr Bill McNichols

The Incarnation - illustration from 1997

December 23rd, 2019

The Incarnation - illustration from 1997

The Incarnation : illustration from 1997
“There it was - the true Light coming into the world, the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light that illumines every person...” The Gospel of St. John 1:9 (from the Amplified Bible)
I can’t remember now if it was a poem or an article I was asked by America Magazine to illustrate in November 1997. But I do remember that my Father, Stephen McNichols (7 March 1914 - 25 November 1997) was slowly fading into the Light, inside a hospital in Denver at that time. I had flown in from NYC the 24th and was sitting by his bedside, talking with him about everything, while doing this illustration because I had a deadline. He was very peaceful and it did not seem to me at all, that he would die in the early hours of the 25th. So Dad will always be connected to this illustration of The Incarnation. In it I imagined the hand of God the Father lighting a candle of The Light of the World and the Child being the Light coming down from Heaven inside the flame. Sometimes you do things in a way that people call “being in the zone” or almost completely directed by the unconscious imagination. But I like to believe the Holy Spirit who sees all things, including the exact situation you are in at that moment, guides your heart and hand to produce an image that mysteriously ministers to you, and also goes out into the world as something that is a contemplation for others to feel inside their souls too. For me this has become an image of the beginning of a life that would dramatically change all history, all of creation, and point to the night of the end of life on earth, and into the life of Eternity. This is how it is with all of us. We have this brief life here but we will live forever. I have felt both my Father and Mother’s hands still lighting my life, with the beautiful examples of their lives, and their steadfast love. But most of all, I think we all remember our parents,siblings, friends, large or small extended families, with great love, and if need be, the lovely generosity of forgiveness during this Holy Season of Advent and Christmas.
Fr Bill McNichols:the fourth week of Advent 2019

The Feminine Name of God - Shekhinah

December 23rd, 2019

The Feminine Name of God - Shekhinah

The Feminine Name of God : Shekhinah
“....here is the deepest secret nobody knows...and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)”
e e cummings 1952
“We may well prefer the dark secret of our own existence to the whole range of this purely economic glory of God, i.e. to the unknown quantity, the inscrutable being who is concealed by it. But in the end it would be deadly for faith if God were not the God of Glory...In His manifestations God presents Himself as one who dwells, one who descends, one who comes and goes and finally, as a fellow-traveler...YHWH descends in the form of fire...the pillar of cloud...at the consecration of the tabernacle, the glory descends definitively to abide (shakan, whence shekina) within the camp (Exodus 33,35,40).”
from “The Glory of the Lord: Volume 6” by
Holy Theologian Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
Here we go. This blog may seem like a list of a whole lot of books, but I don’t know how to introduce you to Shekhinah in any other way, except to invite you on a prayerful, loving pilgrimage. Also, there is another clearly written explanation of this Hebrew calligraphy by Professor John Dadosky, in the book, “Image to Insight.”
In the early 90’s while I was just beginning my six year apprenticeship of iconography with the Russian American Master Iconographer, Friar Robert Lentz, OFM, I slowly read through all the volumes of “The Glory of the Lord.” I had been introduced to von Balthasar at age 19 by our Novice Master, Fr Vincent O’Flaherty, who had us read the book “Prayer” by the great theologian, and later reintroduced to him, and the mystic Adrienne von Speyr, by my deceased friend, Fr Eddie Oakes, who happened to be writing his truly amazing and holy book on von Balthasar, in the late 80’s, called “Pattern of Redemption” while I was living with him at the 98th Street Jesuit Community in New York City.
But it was later, in Albuquerque , in Volume 6 that I first came across the word, shekina. This led to a journey I’m still on, or a ‘condition’ of sitting inside this mystery, and feeling, or sensing something almost indescribable. Then, when I met Rabbi Leah Novick, after reading her scholarly, beautiful book, “On the Wings of Shekhinah : Rediscovering Judaism’s Divine Feminine” I think I gradually gained more and more understanding. But like the feminine concept of Hagia Sophia or Holy Wisdom, throughout the five Wisdom Books In Scripture (see Kathleen O’Connor’s book, “The Wisdom Literature” and the brilliant “Sophia : the Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton” by Christopher Pramuk) I understood there are somethings that simply cannot be apprehended by the mind, but must be sought in the heart of loving prayer, and often ask, like Icons, for a kind of distance or respectful patience, and as with the Most Blessed Trinity, always remain a holy mystery. As much as I try to describe this pilgrimage to seek and find Shekhinah, it’s like trying to see or explain the Holy Spirit. Yet, I do feel the presence of Shekhinah descend in a palpable way, in late November and during Advent, and reach “Her zenith” on Christmas Eve. As Marcellus says in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” that “Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes, wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated, this bird of dawning singeth all night long; and then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad, the nights are so wholesome,then no planets strike, no fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, so hallow’d and so gracious is the time.” I think we used to refer to this sensation as the “Christmas Spirit,” but as I got a better sense of Shekhinah I believe it is this mystery of the Feminine presence of God. I also believe you can feel this presence too if you become aware of the existence of this beautiful mystery, of one more way, as von Balthasar says, of the manifestations of God, “who descends definitively to abide,” as God with us.
“O Come, O Come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer, our spirits by Thine Advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadow put to flight. Rejoice, Rejoice! O Israel, to thee shall come Emmanuel.”
Fr Bill McNichols for the first week of Advent 2019

La Gloriosa Venida de Cristo Rey- The Glorious Coming of Christ the King

December 23rd, 2019

La Gloriosa Venida de Cristo Rey- The Glorious Coming of Christ the King

La Gloriosa Venida de Cristo Rey (The Glorious Coming of Christ the King)
“For as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to another, so will the Son of Man be in His day.” Luke 17:24
St John Paul II’s inspiration to call the “kairos time” of his papacy “the New Advent”, appeared at the beginning of his first encyclical “Redemptor Hominis,” 2 March 1979. Two years earlier, in 1977 Holy Theologian William Stringfellow had written two articles of great power, wisdom, and Biblical insight about how we are to live as Christians in this time of the Second Advent of the Lord. Apparitions of the Mother of God since the time of the ones given to St Catherine Laboure’ of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, in Paris 1830, all seem to be calling to us with basically the same heavenly care and message. These include (in our time) Fatima, Portugal, Amsterdam, Holland, Akita, Japan, Medjugorje, Bosnia, and Kibeho, Rwanda; begging for peace among all people, and they all seem to point to the Second Coming of Christ the King. Probably the most dramatic, loving and radiant of these come from Poland, also in our time, to St Faustina Kowalska. The Lord Himself came to Faustina asking for deep trust and devotion to His Divine Mercy; which He said is as “uncountable” as the grains of sand on the beaches near the oceans.
Jesus calls us to be awake with our lights ( the love inside) lit, awaiting Him, who is Our Lord and Bridegroom. All through this time I had wanted to portray the return of Christ the King, and the Jesuits of Santa Clara University gave me this opportunity in 2004. November 24, 2019 is the last Sunday of the Church’s Liturgical Year, and the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. If you feel an emptiness or deep deep longing in your heart, during Advent especially, it is probably this ancient prayer of begging for the coming of the Messiah that many holy women and men, like St Simeon and St Anna felt, in the first Advent, portrayed in chapter 2:25-36, in St.Luke’s Gospel.
“Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20
“Jesus, make my heart like unto Yours, or rather transform it into Your own heart that I may sense the needs of other hearts, especially those who are sad and suffering. May the Rays of Divine Mercy rest in my heart.”
From the Diary of St Faustina Kowalska
Fr Bill McNichols November 2019

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich 1774-1824

December 23rd, 2019

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich 1774-1824

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich 1774-1824
“... Ismeria remained barren for some eighteen years. When she again became pregnant by God’s blessing, I saw that Ismeria was given a revelation at night. She saw an angel beside her bed writing a letter on the wall. It seems to me that it was again that letter M. Ismeria told her husband of it; he also had seen it in his sleep, but now, while awake, they both saw the sign on the wall. After three months Ismeria gave birth to St Anne, who came into the world with that sign on her body.
In her fifth year Anna was, like Our Lady, taken to the school of the Temple, where she remained twelve years. She was brought home again in her seventeenth year...”
Page 18
The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary by
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich
“Anne Catherine Emmerich was told by Our Lord that her gift of seeing the past, present, and future in mystic vision was greater than that possessed by anyone else in history. Born at Flamschen, Westphalia, Germany, on September 8, 1774, she became a nun of the Augustinian Order at Dulmen... From 1802 until her death, she bore the wounds of the Crown of Thorns, and from 1812, the full stigmata of Our Lord, including a cross over her heart and the wound from the lance... Clemens Brentano, a poet, a man of extensive learning and experience, and the literary darling of Europe at that time, went to see Anne Catherine Emmerich on a challenge and never left; rather he returned to the faith and spent the rest of his life transcribing her revelations and preparing them for publication...”
From The Life and Revelations of
Anne Catherine Emmerich
By Carl Schmoger, CSSR
We were always told, actually warned, in school and the seminary, about private revelations. Warned that some “spiritually immature” people would place them above the 4 Gospels and Scripture in general. But also told that we could read them as you would any spiritual writing, life of a saint, theological work, or novel of the Life of Christ etc... as long as you knew these were not the same as Scripture. Some very holy people like the “father of modern poetry,” Gerard Manley Hopkins, have found the revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich to be a most rewarding source for prayer. As we get closer to Advent I offer this icon of a holy woman to you; an image of her being instructed by the Holy Child Jesus, symbolic of the narratives she was given about the first Advent and the Infancy of “... this child destined for the fall and rising of many...” Luke 2:34. Blessed Anne died at age 49 on 9 February 1824 in Dulmen, Germany.
She was beatified 3 October 2004
by St John Paul II
Dear Blessed Anne
Help us to see into the life of Our Savior
not so much with the gifts you were given, but
with the devotion and love for His Life; a gift available to us all. Then help us take this Light, this beautiful Infant, into a world that daily, expresses its sorrow, tragedies, fear, depression and darkness.
We were all born purposely at this time, for this time, to be Lights. So dear friend, intercede for us to have the zeal and courage to bring all our gifts into the world, especially during this coming season of Advent 2019.
Fr Bill McNichols
18 November, feast of Philippine Duchesne

Holy Bishop St Martin of Tours

December 23rd, 2019

Holy Bishop St Martin of Tours

Holy Bishop St Martin of Tours
“We must obey God, rather than men.” Acts of the Apostles 5:29
“Martin (d.397 CE), named for the Roman god of war, grew up strong and handsome, earning himself a position in the elite Praetorian Guard. But at age 20, he carved up his uniform in order to clothe a freezing beggar. That night, he had a vision of Christ, who proclaimed before the heavenly host; ‘Here is Martin, not even baptized, who has clothed me.’ The very next day, Martin was baptized into the newly legalized Christian religion. He persevered in his reluctant service until it came into conflict with his faith. At the Battle of Worms in 356, he found himself on the eve of war. As Caesar Julian came down the line, he thought of Jesus’ disarming of Peter in Gethsemane. As the most powerful man in the known world stood before him, Martin declared loudly; ‘ I have served as your soldier long enough, let me now serve God; I am a soldier of Christ, it is not lawful for me to fight.’ Christian’s do not pray for victory, but for hostilities to cease. Martin did so behind bars,as a prisoner of conscience, after Caesar jailed him for refusing to fight. However, the enemy negotiated for peace and Martin was discharged from the military; the first soldier saint to escape martyrdom...”
Written by the veteran Logan Mehl-Laituri
“...he brings all his concerns before God with the awareness that God will hear them. And God constantly hears him...He cannot turn down a single request of his. His prayer is good and full of love, and he does not have to lead himself into prayer or be led; his entire life is a prayer...Even his work for the Church is a labor of love, of love for God and for his neighbor. He occasionally suffers because of the Church...And he always imagines that the Lord suffers much more...(And what is his death like?) I see anxieties regarding death. And afterward, in the midst of dying, perfect surrender...”
Adrienne von Speyr page 226
The Book of All Saints
Every year I have a desire to begin Advent earlier, and I usually pick St Albert’s day which is 40 days to Christmas, November 15. But I always feel Martin sounds the joyful bell on his feast; that Christ is coming to be born inside us again and again. I have a special love for St Martin, which goes back to childhood seeing paintings of him clothing the beggar, and now buying the candles of him at the grocery store where he is called “San Martin Caballero.”
I bought some today to give as gifts. Each saint has a gift for you if you simply look into their lives. Many even teach us with their faults as well as their virtues.
Dear St Martin,
Teach us, like our friend, St Philippine Duchesne, to live in a prayer. So that our requests out of love for anyone we pray for, like St Martin, will be heard by You, dear Lord. That our simple love for You can ease the terrible suffering we see every day around us. And also, please, dear Lord, prepare an empty place within us, as St Therese of Lisieux once said, a manger, in our souls where the Infant King can be born-again.
Fr Bill McNichols
11 November 2019

Qua-kah-ka-num-ad- Woman Who Prays Always -St Rose Philippine Duchesne

December 23rd, 2019

Qua-kah-ka-num-ad- Woman Who Prays Always -St Rose Philippine Duchesne

“Qua-kah-ka-num-ad”:Woman Who Prays Always
St Rose Philippine Duchesne : 29 August 1769 + 18 November 1852
I don’t remember where I found the book “The Way of a Pilgrim.” Most probably in the once tiny, magical bookstore, The Tattered Cover, when it was housed in an almost fairytale-like house in Denver. I was just 24 and teaching high school art and theology at Regis high School. At that small bookstore I also found books on some of the greatest illustrators, like Edmund Dulac, Jesse Wilcox Smith, Arthur Rackham, and a Russian illustrator who would affect my two self-portraits, the masterful genius, Ivan Bilibin. Later, I would learn that Bilibin’s style of putting beautiful objects in little boxes around an illustration was taken directly from “talking icons” - that is icons with a saint in the center surrounded by little pictures of his or her life. This was actually the beginning of children’s books.
At that time in my life I dreamed of one day becoming an illustrator, and I too, like the young man in “The Way of a Pilgrim” was aching for a contemplative life that did not exclude loving others (or isolation), and enabled other artistic gifts of God to flourish (1 Corinthians 13). “The Way of a Pilgrim,” is described in one of its many editions as “This enduring work of Russian Spirituality first published in 1884, has charmed countless people with its tale of a nineteenth century peasant’s quest for the secret of prayer. Readers follow this anonymous Pilgrim as he treks across the Steppes of Russia in search of the answer to one compelling question. How does one pray constantly?” On the 18th of November we celebrate a woman who found a way.
Many years ago I was in St Louis for a meeting and I was invited by my now deceased classmate, Brother Tom Naughton, SJ to celebrate Mass for his community that evening, it was November 18. Because we were out all day I got to the community house right before Mass and went into the sacristy to become vested for Mass and to look at the Ordo of Prayer and Celebration of the Eucharist, sure there was not a major feastday. I was shocked that here was a woman who was a saint and the only one who’d ever lived in the area. I was humiliated that I knew nothing about her, though I had heard her name often from older Missouri Province Jesuits. This is what I found in the Ordo, literally minutes before I was to celebrate Mass:
“18 November, Rose Philippine Duchesne, + 1852 at age 83 at St Charles, Missouri; from Grenoble, France; founded the first American house of the religious of the Sacred Heart; opened the first American free school west of the Mississippi; known for her courage and desire to serve native Americans, especially the Potawatomi who called her Qua-kah-ka-num-ad, the ‘woman who prays always.’”
It was this designation that became a lifetime quest or deep desire, for me at that moment. The story goes that some Native Potawatomi men saw Philippine kneeling in prayer so they put an oak leaf on the back of her dress, and came back hours later, and it was still, unmoved on the back of her (habit) dress. The next day I asked Tom to drive us to her shrine so I could ask of her, to intercede for me, that one day, I would be granted her gift of praying always. For me I cannot think of any better gift, and I’m still praying for that gift to Philippine. To be in a prayer always, means for me,to live in love of God. To be in conversation with God, as much as possible and I have met many people who feel a longing or call to this way of living. They are all different, some married, some single... the call from God doesn’t seem to discriminate in any way. November has always been my favorite month, because I love the bone dry muted colors of all of nature, and right near the middle of this beautiful month of thanksgiving, we have this incredible woman to celebrate. A blessed coming November!
“And I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places,that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, Who calls you by your name.” Isaiah 45:3
Fr William Hart McNichols

Our Lady of the Rosary - 7 October 2019

December 23rd, 2019

Our Lady of the Rosary - 7 October 2019

Our Lady of the Rosary : 7 October 2019
I remember very clearly a story our novice master told us seminarians in 1968, about his Mother and the Rosary. He admitted to us that he was critical of his Mother because she only used the Rosary for prayer. He wanted to teach her meditation with the scriptures and she politely submitted to her son just to make him happy. It was not going well, she missed her former way of praying and when he saw how deep into meditation, the Rosary took her, he was awed and also ashamed that he never really listened to her or watched her pray. There are so many, almost infinite ways to pray, especially for Catholics. Some pray only with the scriptures, some play their own music, or listen to others music or audio books in the car. Some make use of artistic contemplative creations like icons, paintings or statues. Also some find that nature brings them immediately into God’s presence, I remember my students in Denver telling me that, and I remember my students in Boston telling me they prayed on the subway with a book, or just noticing the suffering of others. Many read spiritual books like the life of a saint, and once again, there are an endless variety of saints to choose from. And...some pray with the Rosary. My kindergarten teacher, a Precious Blood Sister from Dayton, Ohio, taught us the Rosary in its most simple form. Then my Mother helped me learn what Sister had taught us, so I too, naturally associate the Rosary with Mom. I try to begin my prayer every day with the Rosary, then move into some scripture. Lately, I’ve been reading Isaiah using a great book to supplement my reading called “The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Christianity” by John Sawyer. Before that I was deeply immersed in the Book of Job, for obvious reasons in our challenging times. I found a heartbreaking comparison with Psalm 139, where the psalmist finds God everywhere, with chapter 23 in Job, where he cannot find God anywhere. Job’s cruel yet theologically sophisticated “friends” taunt him with their dead speeches, and inability to actually minister to his or anyone’s suffering. I think we have all found people like this when we reach out while suffering. I love Job’s humble statement of faith to his wife, “Shall we accept only the good things from the hand of God and never anything bad ? So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.” (Job 2:10) But the two sides to anyone’s spiritual life are going to be going back and forth with darkness, nothingness, times of desolation and also times of illumination and feeling engulfed in God’s love. I think it was St. John of the Cross who said a good spiritual director is one in a thousand , then it was St Francis de Sales, who later added, no, one in ten thousand. These exaggerations make a sad point; that it’s rare to find someone to accompany you through darkness without blaming you, like the “friends” of Job, for it. It’s during all times, light or dark that I find the Rosary a most beautiful, and comforting way to pray. I pray at night to go to sleep, I pray often, while sleeping, and I wake up with the Rosary. In my humble opinion and experience, I simply offer it to you, whatever you may be going through. A most blessed feast of Our Lady of the Rosary!
Fr Bill McNichols
7 October 2019

The Name of God Adam Kadmon- Rosh Hashanah 2019

December 23rd, 2019

The Name of God Adam Kadmon- Rosh Hashanah 2019

The Name of God Adam Kadmon : Rosh Hashanah 2019
(There is a beautiful explanation of this holy fiery calligraphy of the Name of God, in John Dadosky’s book “Image to Insight : The Art of William Hart McNichols” from UNM Press 2018 available from Amazon)
“God will take us back in love
God will cover up our iniquities
You (God) will hurl all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.”
Micah 7:19
Around this time of year there are so many saints, Sts Therese ,Jerome, Francis, the three Archangels, the Guardian Angels... but I chose to focus on Rosh Hashanah. Since I first learned about this feast in New York in 1980, I have felt the High Holy Days (including Yom Kippur) are very shimmering and anointed days; just an aside, St Edith Stein was born on Yom Kippur, October 12, 1891. This year Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset September 29, and Yom Kippur begins at sunset October 8. I love the idea of beginning a new year in Autumn, and also the added notion that we look back on the year 2019 and become honestly aware of our failings (very similar to the idea of the St Ignatius’ daily Examen) and “ throw into the depths of the sea” all our faults and sins. As Holy Prophet Micah prophesied “God will take us back in love and cover all our iniquities.” I have asked my sister Marjory McNichols Wilson ( oh, and please look at her gorgeous paintings on her website !) to post this, as she always does, and a link to the meaning of Rosh Hashanah.
A blessed and holy new year “ in God in whom we live and move and have our very being !” (From Sunday preface number 6)
Fr Bill McNichols
Rosh Hashanah 2019

The Birthday of Mary Mother of God

December 23rd, 2019

The Birthday of Mary Mother of God

The Birthday of Mary Mother of God
(The Hortus Conclusus : The Enclosed Garden)
“She is a garden enclosed, my sister, my promised bride, a garden enclosed, a sealed fountain...Fountain of the garden, well of living water, streams flowing down from Lebanon!
Beloved: awake, north wind, come, wind of the south! Breathe over my garden, to spread its sweet smell around. Let my love come into his garden,let him taste it’s most exquisite fruits.
Lover: I come into my garden, my sister my promised Bride...
Beloved: I sleep, but my heart is awake...”
Song of Songs taken from chapters 4 and 5
“O lovely sprout full of greening power
from the stem of Jesse,
what a great event is this:
As the eagle lifts its eyes
to the sun,
so the divine glance
fell on the most beautiful of women
When the Father from heaven,
O Virgin,
looked into your purity
and his Word became
flesh in you.
Your virginal heart was enlightened
in mystical ways by God’s mystery
and wondrous bloomed from you,
O Virgin, a bright flower.
Praise be to God the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit!
St Hildegard of Bingen Doctor of the Bride : The Church
“Behold the Father is his daughter’s son;
The bird that built the nest is
hatched therein.
Might feeble is and force
doth faintly creep...”
Holy Martyr St Robert Southwell
Happy Birthday dear Mary Mother of God and our Mother !
Fr Bill McNichols 8 September 2019

Feast of the Queenship of Mary Mother of God

December 23rd, 2019

Feast of the Queenship of Mary Mother of God

Feast of the Queenship of Mary Mother of God
“I choose the little ones and the weak...” these are words spoken to Estelle Faguette, during the apparitions of Pellevoisin, in November 1876 by the Mother of God.
For me they echo her Son, in the Gospel of St Luke, and the whole living concept and reality of the kingdom of God. The kingdom is mentioned 4 times in Matthew, 14 times in Mark, 32 times in Luke and 2 times in John . During my early 30’s I was very interested in the depth and meaning of the kingdom. What is the kingdom to Jesus and who is allowed in to be a part of it ? GB Caird said words in his book on Luke I will never forget... the only requirement for admission into the kingdom is an emptiness only God can fill.
When I was an art student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1980-83, I found the most beautiful and scholarly commentary on Luke by the late, GB Caird. I would read it on the subway, not knowing that this commentary, as well as Caird’s commentary on Revelation, would form my spiritual life then and all through the 80’s when I began my ministry of working, and to use Pope Francis’ beautiful words, “accompanying people” with HIV-AIDS. There are some books, like The Revelations of Julian of Norwich, and Caird’s book on Luke that are so beautifully written, and so hope-filled that I find myself returning to them over and over.
“The reign or kingdom of God still has for Luke a future aspect for which men must continue to pray. But the fact that matters, the fact that constitutes the good news of the gospel, is that the kingdom has already arrived...Indeed, his entire Gospel is a commentary on this theme. All his tenderness of heart and mastery of description are called into play as he presents to us a cavalcade of witnesses who can testify to the presence of the kingdom because they have discovered in Jesus the friend and champion of the sick, the poor, the penitent, the outcast, of women, Samaritans, and Gentiles.”
St Luke by G.B. Caird
“The rescue of the outcast” pages 36,37
O Mary, Queen of the kingdom of God and Queen of the Universe,
Teach us the way through the “narrow gate” mentioned by St Luke in his story of your Son. A way of love, and finally forgiveness, of ourselves and others as we live this brief life longing to be with you and your Son forever in the kingdom of God. And which because of your Son, we feel, we know, has already begun and broken through all this present darkness, especially today, on your feast.
“Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life our sweetness, and our hope...despise not our petitions, but in thy clemency, hear and answer us.”
Amen
22 August 2019
Fr Bill McNichols
Amen

The Dormition of the Mother of God

December 23rd, 2019

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
Home.
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 the
Beatitude reversals.
And we her waiting children
are assured such an ending.
After dust, we too shall be
carried Home
In the radiant mandorla
of the rising Son.
Fr Bill McNichols 1994
(For August 15 2019)

Ave Maris Stella Hail Star Of The Sea

August 9th, 2019

Ave Maris Stella Hail Star Of The Sea

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

St Ignatius Amidst Alaska

August 9th, 2019

St Ignatius Amidst Alaska

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

St John the Theologian

August 9th, 2019

St John the Theologian

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

Robert A Johnson in the Golden World

August 9th, 2019

Robert A Johnson in the Golden World

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

San Jose En El Rio Grande

August 9th, 2019

San Jose En El Rio Grande

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

Prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk

August 9th, 2019

Prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk

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

San Isidro Feast day is May 15

June 4th, 2019

San Isidro Feast day is May 15

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

St Joseph the Worker

May 3rd, 2019

St Joseph the Worker

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

Saint Gemma Galgani

May 3rd, 2019

Saint Gemma Galgani

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

Notre Dame

May 3rd, 2019

Notre Dame

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

Passion Triptych

April 3rd, 2019

Passion Triptych

Something to think and pray about-From the Irish Jesuit website, Sacred Space
The Stations of the Cross is ultimately a journey of self-emptying. As we walk with Jesus toward Calvary, we see that he keeps leaving more and more of his old life behind. He lost most of his friends, his popularity, his clothes, his dignity, and his life. Yet all of this allowed Jesus, supported by beams of wood, to rely solely on God the Father.
Is this how Jesus wanted things to end? We can say that, because he was God, this is absolutely the way he wanted it. But if we’re being honest, then the best we can say is that we just don’t know. We have to remember that, at the start of the Stations, Jesus acts a lot like you and me. He prays to God to spare him from being put to the test. He doesn’t want to suffer. But he knows that his life is not about him. “Yet not my will,” Jesus says, “but your will, Father.”
We, too, leave things behind as we make our way along the path we’re given in this life. It’s been said that there will be a time when the world stops giving us things and starts taking them away. We know that as we get older we may leave behind loved ones, old friends, homes, jobs, our health, our hair, our enthusiasm, and our memories. Yet as in Jesus’ life, all these losses bring us closer not to self-reliance, as Henry David Thoreau might have it, but to God-reliance. The deeper awareness that comes from meditating on the Stations sets us free from having the world just the way we want it. Our expectations, or rather our attachments to our expectations, become barriers to joy.

—Excerpted from Station to Station

San Jose Sombra Del Padre

April 3rd, 2019

San Jose Sombra Del Padre

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interest and desires.
Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.
Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him close in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me. Amen.

Blessed William Hart 1558

April 3rd, 2019

Blessed William Hart 1558

Blessed William Hart 1558
15 March 1583
Diocesean Priest And Martyr
(On Asking Our Dear Brother In Heaven For A Commitment Not To Give Up And To Continue To Try And Live In God/Love)
“Everybody looks so ill at ease, so distrustful, so displeased, running down the table I see a borderline...”
Joni Mitchell, from the song, “Borderline” 1994
“As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God ?”
Psalm 42
“The joy of this life is nothing; the joy of the afterlife is everlasting.”
Blessed William Hart
William Hart was born in Wells, Somerset, he studied at Oxford, and there became a convert to Catholicism. He then studied for the priesthood at Douai, Reims, and Rome. After receiving Ordination in March 1581, he went back to England and ministered to Catholics in hiding, such as the family of St Margaret Clitherow, also to Catholic prisoners in York Prison. He was betrayed to English authorities by an apostate on Christmas Day, in 1582, at St Margaret’s estate. He was hanged, drawn and quartered, at York on March 15, 1583 and beatified by Pope Leo XIII In December 1886.
Taken from :
The Lives of the English Martyrs , volume 2, by Dom Bede Camm, OSB,
London, 1905.
(There are more “wonders” you can read about William on the Internet.)
I was supposed to be named William Henry after my grandfather, Billy and Uncle Bill.
My Mother Marjory Hart McNichols told me the story, that after I was born her Mother ,Mimi Hart (who died in 1950, a year after I was born)called Mom and asked her to name me William Hart instead. That name has affected me positively all my life in such wonderful and mysterious ways. In fact, it led to my deeply loving, supportive and lasting friendship with my cousin Kathi Hart. We used to write each other letters and on the envelope we’d put, “from a Hart-to a-Hart.” We also talked on the phone almost everyday from age 9 until 17. I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through grade school or high school without her tremendous God-given gift of humor making me laugh, (even at myself - up to this very day) and unconditional love.
I learned much later , that a hart was an old English term for a deer. And so the thirsting deer became a symbol of my soul, and our souls, longing continually for the touch of God. St.John of the Cross was also fond of the symbol of the thirsting deer. My friend Christopher Summa made a film about my icons in 2015-16 called “The Boy Who Found Gold” (based partly on the great Jungian writer, Robert A. Johnson’s ideas in his book “Inner Gold”) and Chris uses the symbol of the deer to tell his story of my soul’s “journey in art so far” - but I know that all our stories are very similar, in that we are all in love with the God, know it or not, who gives us life everyday. We can feel this presence inside of us and with age ...... this longing grows stronger and stronger.
I have always been attracted to the English Martyrs and one night, up in my house covered deep in snow, in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico in 2011, after I’d been given my first iPad by my friend Maya Sharp, I stumbled across the name of Blessed William Hart. I did drawings for his icon then, but could only get the chance to paint him after I moved to Albuquerque in 2013.
Dear Blessed William,
Give us some of your strength and faithfulness in following your vocation, as it was given to you; in the way you understood it and lived it with such youthful Wisdom.
Dear heavenly friend, help us wade through what we see as sometimes impossibly divisive and angry times. You know what it felt like to be on one side of a division so vitriolic and hateful, that it led to murders of Protestants and Catholics - all in the name of God.
Bring us out of this dangerous blindness by your loving heart. We don’t seek perfection, we can start anew each day - if that’s what it takes. But we do need the courage to find your way to keep an open and loving life inside of God in whom we live and move and have our very being. Maybe it’s a way in which we look at this life and all the turmoil, as fleeting and temporary, (“Dust in the Wind ...” as the song goes...) and yet we know how we try to continue to love each other lasts forever.
Amen, and “thank God (and you)ahead of time” as Blessed Solanus Casey used to say!
Fr Bill McNichols
March 2019

El Buen Pastor - Taos, New Mexico - The Good Shepherd

April 3rd, 2019

El Buen Pastor - Taos, New Mexico - The Good Shepherd


El Buen Pastor (Taos, New Mexico * The Good Shepherd)
...and some thoughts for the beginning of Lent .
The word Lent comes from the old English, “lencten,” which means”spring,”
*
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,
you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you...”
John 15
*
“...here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the
bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which
grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars
apart
I carry your heart(I carry it in my heart) “
e.e. cummings 1952
*
“I am the good shepherd ... then Jesus said to them again, truly, truly, I say unto to you, I am the door of the sheep...”
John 10
*
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock : if you hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you with me. “
Revelation 3
*
“...finding
God
in agony
first but then
In
stars by night.
he (St Ignatius) began his mornings with
‘What shall we do for God today ?’
Letting the Spirit
blow
through his soul
as
wind through a field of poppies...”
From the poem Inigo de Loyola in the poetry book
“In Embrace”
by Fr Jim Janda + 1936 - 2010
*
I simply suggest we can begin this year’s Lenten Season in the same way, as Jim Janda rememberers St Ignatius, with ...
What shall we do for God today?
Fr Bill McNichols
Ash Wednesday 2019

Holy Hermitess Maria of Olonets

April 3rd, 2019

Holy Hermitess Maria of Olonets

Holy Hermitess Maria of Olonets + 9 February 1860
(Dedicated to all the brave firefighters who risk their lives daily for us)
Both Maria of Olonets (+1860) and Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (+1824) died on February 9 and they share this feastday. It was difficult to pick one to show you now, because these women are especially powerful for us today. In some ways their lives , when you read them, are like the experience St Ignatius the Convalescent had reading the lives of the saints. At first they are bitter, but after reflection and prayer, they give you both life and strength. Catherine, who was bedridden, was given the Life of Christ (published today in 4 volumes) through visions as well as deeply moving information about many of the saints.
Writing these icons was a wonderful experience for me and one day I’ll write to you about Anne Catherine.
I chose Maria because three of her tiny hermitages were set afire or destroyed by fellow Christians . I thought of all the people who recently lost relatives and homes in the fires in California and elsewhere. Also the many winter fires caused by explosions from hurricanes and damaging heavy snows. I wanted to offer them a companion in their suffering, someone who truly understands horrendous loss and personal violation.
Here is a prayer I found online for the incredibly brave firefighters:
“Great God in Heaven, You alone know what today holds and I know that firefighters have a special calling to go into places that are often full of danger and there is always the
possibility for the unknown. Please help us all watch out for the safety of others in the performance of their duties in fighting fires and that I keep an eye out for others who may be placed in areas of danger. This calling God is from You and You alone and so help me to fulfill my duty and to do so in a way that brings honor and glory to You and Your Great Name and in the strong name of Jesus Christ I pray.
Amen”
Fr Bill McNichols February 2019

For the Feast of the Epiphany Christ Emmanuel-Cordero de Dios

April 3rd, 2019

For the Feast of the Epiphany  Christ Emmanuel-Cordero de Dios

For the Feast of the Epiphany
Christ Emmanuel : Cordero de Dios
(After the Russian Master, Simon Fyodororvich Ushakov : 1626-1686)
“And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God...”
Mark 4:11
Transformation
I’ve taken long walks
craving one thing only:
lightening,
transformation,
you.
Adam Zagajewski
“O my love for the first time in my life, my eyes are open.
O my love for the first time in my life, my eyes can see...”
John Lennon
“The image of the master: one glimpse and we are in love “
Zen Poet Ikkyu 1394-1481
“God does not know how to be absent. That is to say, it would go against God’s nature to come and go. But we can be ignorant of this intimate presence and build a life-style that maintains this ignorance. St Augustine provides a hint as to why we experience as absent what is actually intimately present. As we have often heard this monk-bishop put it, ‘You are closer to me than I am to myself. ‘ God is too close to us for our eyes to notice. The problem is not that God is absent but that God is so intimately present...”
Martin Laird, OSA from the book
An Ocean of Light
“In you we live and move and have our being.
Everyday we experience the effects of your love...”
Sunday Preface #6

For the Feast of the Epiphany Christ Emmanuel-Cordero de Dios

April 3rd, 2019

For the Feast of the Epiphany  Christ Emmanuel-Cordero de Dios

For the Feast of the Epiphany
Christ Emmanuel : Cordero de Dios
(After the Russian Master, Simon Fyodororvich Ushakov : 1626-1686)
“And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God...”
Mark 4:11
Transformation
I’ve taken long walks
craving one thing only:
lightening,
transformation,
you.
Adam Zagajewski
“O my love for the first time in my life, my eyes are open.
O my love for the first time in my life, my eyes can see...”
John Lennon
“The image of the master: one glimpse and we are in love “
Zen Poet Ikkyu 1394-1481
“God does not know how to be absent. That is to say, it would go against God’s nature to come and go. But we can be ignorant of this intimate presence and build a life-style that maintains this ignorance. St Augustine provides a hint as to why we experience as absent what is actually intimately present. As we have often heard this monk-bishop put it, ‘You are closer to me than I am to myself. ‘ God is too close to us for our eyes to notice. The problem is not that God is absent but that God is so intimately present...”
Martin Laird, OSA from the book
An Ocean of Light
“In you we live and move and have our being.
Everyday we experience the effects of your love...”
Sunday Preface #6

The Holy Family

April 3rd, 2019

The Holy Family

The Holy Family
from "Image to Insight" book
by John D. Dadosky
This icon was commissioned by the Holy
Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation
(Washington, D.C.) for the hospital by the
same name in Bethlehem, Israel, funded by the
Knights of Malta. As of this writing, their website
purports to have delivered sixty thousand
Muslim, Jewish, and Christian babies since 1990.
The hospital does not refuse patients and particularly
serves the Palestinian refugee community.
Patients pay only what they can afford. Located
near the place where Christians believe that Jesus
was born, the hospital embodies a sign of hope,
commemorating not only hope for new life in the
birth of a child but for the peace that is the fruit
of Christ’s reign—a peace for all peoples, especially
between the three religions that share the
same sacred geography.
Much of the inspiration concerning this icon
surrounds the figure of St. Joseph. Leading up
to its creation, Bill had been reading the eighteenth-
century mystic Maria Baij’s Life of St.
Joseph as well as a spiritual reflection titled Joseph:
The Shadow of the Father by the former chaplain of
Lourdes, Fr. Andrew Doze.
Private revelations in the Church do not have
an official status; any authority they have is mystical
and personal rather than doctrinal. However,
in Baij’s account, Bill found a welcome humanization
of Joseph, a saint we know relatively little
about. Her mystical account of his life makes it
easy to identify with him, as when she states, “It
was permitted by God that Joseph have this anxious
feeling constantly present within his heart.
Joseph accepted it with resignation and never
appeared outwardly to be restless or disturbed.”1
This passage reflects St. Joseph’s sense of responsibility
and his human insecurities at the responsibilities
that he was given.
Bill became further enthralled with the spirituality
of St. Joseph when he read the spiritual
theology Joseph: Shadow of the Father. Therein
Doze describes his unique vocation as follows:
Joseph disappears at the same time as Mary
and Jesus or, rather, Jesus and Mary disappear
thanks to him. He keeps in the background
and conceals at the same time. He is hidden
and he hides. His name is the present participle
of the Hebrew verb meaning “to increase”
and “to cut off.” Jesus will “increase” in
Joseph’s safe keeping, he will increase astonishingly
. . . meaning “to increase,” “to cause
to grow.” But truly, what first strikes us about
Joseph is a certain way of “cutting back,” of
taking away. He takes away the Incarnation
from our view. Bossuet expressed this magnificently:
“The apostles are lights to show Jesus
Christ to the world; Joseph is a veil to cover
him and, behind this veil, are hidden Mary’s
virginity and the greatness of the Saviour of
souls.”
To hide, to cover, to take away, by removing
this child entrusted to him by the Father
from a hostile or immature world; that is the
first strong impression the gospel makes on us
when we are searching for Joseph there.
Image to Insight book available at Tattered Cover in Denver and Amazon online.

Christmas card illustration 1987

April 3rd, 2019

Christmas card illustration 1987

Down in Yon Forrest ( An ancient Carol as sung by Joan Baez)
Christmas card illustration 1987
Down in yon forest there's stands a hall
The bells of paradise I heard them ring
It's covered all over with purple and pall
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything
In that hall there stands a bed
The bells of paradise I heard them ring
It's covered all over with scarlet so red
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything
At the bed side there lies a stone
The bells of paradise I heard them ring
The sweet virgin Mary knelt upon
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything
Under that bed there runs a flood
The bells of paradise I heard them ring
The one half runs water
An other runs blood
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything
At the bed's foot there grows a thorn
The bells of paradise I heard them ring
Whichever blows blossoms since He was born
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything
Over that bed the moon shines bright
The bells of paradise I heard them ring
Denoting our Saviour was born this night
And I love my Lord Jesus above anything

Our Lady of the New Advent, Gate of Heaven

April 3rd, 2019

Our Lady of the New Advent, Gate of Heaven

Our Lady of the New Advent, Gate of Heaven
from "Image to Insight book" by John D. Dadosky
In the winter of 1991, Bill’s work on an icon
titled Christ Emmanuel was interrupted by his
first and perhaps most important commission
by Cardinal Stafford of Denver. Stafford wanted
to honor the theme of John Paul II’s papacy of
the New Advent, which the pope pronounced in
his first encyclical Redemptoris Hominis (1979) in
advance of the new millennium. The pontiff concludes
the encyclical with the following words:
Only prayer can prevent all these great succeeding
tasks and difficulties from becoming
a source of crisis and make them instead the
occasion and, as it were, the foundation for
ever more mature achievements on the People
of God’s march towards the Promised Land
in this stage of history approaching the end of
the second millennium. Accordingly, as I end
this meditation with a warm and humble call
to prayer, I wish the Church to devote herself
to this prayer, together with Mary the Mother
of Jesus, as the Apostles and disciples of the
Lord did in the Upper Room in Jerusalem
after his Ascension. Above all, I implore Mary,
the heavenly Mother of the Church, to be so good
as to devote herself to this prayer of humanity’s
new Advent, together with us who make up the
Church, that is to say the Mystical Body of her
Only Son. [Emphasis added.]
Bill presented three images of Our Lady of
the Sign to Stafford to consider as copies for
the Lady of the New Advent. Stafford chose the
nineteenth-century icon of Our Lady of the Sign
to be the model. Bill chose the face of Virgin
Orans, based on a thirteenth-century icon, Virgin
Blachermittissa, currently in the Tretyakov gallery
in Moscow. He placed the boy Jesus in the oval
mandorla. Jesus holds the Colorado state flower,
the columbine. Behind the two figures are the
Rocky Mountains. The dark hair and skin on the
Jesus figure provides a more inculturated image,
reflective of many residents and immigrants in
the western United States.
The theology of the New Advent is encapsulated
in the following prayer, which makes up an
additional verse for the advent hymn “I Wonder
as I Wander”:
When the Angel appeared to the Virgin in
wait,
Her “Yes” was the opening of Heaven’s gate.
Blessed among women her child would save,
The children of Adam from sin and the grave.3
In the nineteenth-century icon, from which
this icon takes some of its inspiration, Mary’s
cuffs are gold. These reflect the liturgical vestments
of the Orthodox church when celebrating
the Eucharist. The color of her robe is purple,
which is the ecclesiastical color for the season of
Advent.
This image is part of an exhibit in Denver at The McNichols Civic Center Building through Jan 6
to buy catalog from exhibit go to:
http://www.lulu.com/…/light…/paperback/product-23861739.html
to purchase Image to Insight book got to:
https://www.amazon.com/Image-Insight-William-H…/…/0826359132

Holy World Evangelist Thomas Merton

April 3rd, 2019

Holy World Evangelist Thomas Merton

Holy World Evangelist Thomas Merton
by John D. Dadosky
Thomas Merton (1915–1968) was perhaps
one of the most charismatic and complex
personalities in American Catholicism during
the past century. Since his unexpected death in
1968, his influence has grown increasingly among
Christians and members of other religions.
Recently the one hundredth anniversary of his
birth was celebrated.
Throughout his life, Merton was starved for
the feminine. His mother died when he was
young, and there were few women directly in his
life, especially after he entered the monastery at
age twenty-seven. Five years before he met the
nurse with whom he would have an illicit affair, a
prose poem titled “Hagia Sophia” all but prophesizes
their relationship.
Reflecting on this icon the theologian Christopher
Pramuk states,
It seems to me that Bill’s icon beautifully
reflects Merton’s witness as a marginal person,
standing at the margins, standing on his own
feet. Yet Merton’s gaze, perfectly at home outside
his hermitage, is not that of a rugged loner,
indifferent to his visitor. His gaze welcomes and
invites me in. It is She, Sophia, who welcomes
and invites me in: the divine Wisdom-child, the
Holy Spirit of Life, in flame dancing playfully
over Merton’s head. She and Merton are one,
and we are three, encircling in time and space
like Rublev’s Trinity. I am at peace.3
My oldest sister, Anne Cahill, is a big fan of
Merton and has always felt a special connection
with him. It is a kinship we share, and so I was
delighted when she commissioned this icon
of Merton from Bill. The icon depicts Merton
standing outside of his hermitage in Gethsemane,
Kentucky. He was a pioneer in many ways but
especially in that he was the first one to convince
the Trappist monks in the United States to allow
hermits. The image was inspired by a photograph.
He wears a hat with a coat over his Trappist’s
habit that depicts how he brought his own
uniqueness and creativity to his vocation. The
flame suggests that he was led by the Holy Spirit
and that we have something to learn from his life,
writings, and example.
There is a tendency of scholars and religious
leaders in the West to become preoccupied with
Merton’s personal “failings” as a monk. However,
it is interesting to contrast this with the attitudes
of the Eastern monks, who often intuitively
sensed the depth of his spiritual insight. One of
those monks of great stature and repute, upon
meeting Merton for the first time, referred to him
as a “naturally risen Buddha.

Mother Of God Light In All Darkness

April 3rd, 2019

Mother Of God Light In All Darkness

World AIDS Day 2018
https://www.cdc.gov/features/worldaidsday/
“Mother of God
Light in All Darkness,
shelter Him our flame of hope
with your tender hands.
And in our times of
dread and nightmares,
let Him be our dream of comfort.
And in our times of
physical pain and suffering,
let Him be our healer.
And in our times of separation
from God and one another,
let Him be our communion.
Amen”
Mother Of God Light In All Darkness
In September 1983, I was asked to be the celebrant for the first Mass for people with HIV-AIDS in New York City. Thus, began a ministry at St. Vincent’s Hospice in Manhattan that would last for seven years. I had painted a large image concerning the suffering of people with HIV-AIDS in 1984, called “The Epiphany: Wisemen Bring Gifts To The Child.” As soon as I began working on icons I was commissioned to do this icon and I wrote the accompanying prayer, which has been used by many people, no matter what it is they are suffering from; they feel held by Mother and Child.
– Fr. Bill McNichols

Hebrew Name Of Yahweh-adam Kadmon

April 3rd, 2019

Hebrew Name Of Yahweh-adam Kadmon

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted: he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18
We grieve and mourn with all our Jewish sisters and brothers in Pittsburgh and throughout the world, in these days of the most recent murders and ongoing tragedy. As we approach November 2, the day of the Holy Souls , we beg them from their place near God, to intercede for us and give us the Wisdom to end the increasing daily violence due to the blindness of prejudice and bigotry.
The Name of God, Yahweh
“I am that I am”
“The special Name of God that was given to Moses, in vertical arrangement, as the likeness of Adam Kadmon, the primordial (human) man... This figure of the Kavod or Divine Glory... composed of fire is spoken of in Ezekiel as the appearance of a man... the Divine Name as Adam Kadmon.”
– From the book Kabbalah by Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi
Whenever I do a power point presentation I always begin with this powerful image for us to contemplate. For me, it is the burning presence of God inside us all.
– Fr. Bill McNichols

The Passion of Matthew Shepard. June 14, 2016

April 3rd, 2019

The Passion of Matthew Shepard. June 14, 2016

Today October 12th is the 20th Anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard. His ashes will be interred in the National Episcopal Cathedral in Washington DC.
The Passion of Matthew Shepard
The entrapment and murder of the 24-year-old gay man, Matthew Shepard, in Laramie, Wyoming on October 7, 1998 truly shocked the world. The Resurrection part of this boy’s brutal beating and crucifixion on a deer fence, is that it brought about a conversation in the minds and hearts of many people who were unaware of the violence and prejudice that most LGBTQ people live with as a part of daily life. October 7 is a feast of Our Blessed Mother. In Catholic symbolism Mary is the Moon, the reflected light of the Son. I placed Mary in the sky when I heard that Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard, hoped he did not die alone. This image is dedicated to the memory of the thousands of LGBTQ youth who commit suicide each year and to the countless others who are injured or murdered. Maryknoll Magazine commissioned this image as part of a Lenten issue on contemporary passions of people all over the world.
– Fr. Bill McNichols

St Francis Flowering Wound

April 3rd, 2019

St Francis Flowering Wound

St Francis Flowering Wound
“I’ll hold out my hand and
my heart will be in it ...”
(From the song “For All We Know”
By J. Coots and Sam M. Lewis 1934)
On August 15, 1224, Francis of Assisi traveled some 90 miles north of Assisi to bemoan his sins, and how much he felt his mission with his young order, the Friars Minor... had dramatically failed. The poor man who would not accept any lavish gifts had accepted a mountain, Mt. La Verna, from Count Orlando Chiusi della Verna. So he and Friar Leo slowly made their way up the great mesa, and he instructed Friar Leo to keep watch, as Francis wanted complete privacy to be with his Most High Lord. Somewhere in the middle of September, (the feast of the Stigmata used to be celebrated on September 17, the same day as St Hildegard’s day) St Francis received a vision no one has ever seen before or since. He had asked two graces of Jesus, so he could experience everything possible of what it meant to follow Jesus...literally. (0ften when I introduce the depth of St Francis’ life, I’ll say he was the only true fundamentalist Christian that ever lived) the two final graces he asked for were :
To know and experience the pain of Jesus Crucified and
To know the love of Jesus , and how He could forgive from the horrifying pain of the Cross ?
The answer to his two petitions was the appearance of the Crucified and Seraphic Christ, who left Francis with the five wounds. And so now Francis felt the pain of the Crucifixion and the seraphic love that was “forgiveness incarnate.”
I refer you all to “The Five Considerations On The Stigmata,” said to be one of the most beautiful writings in all of Italian literature. It is available on the internet. I know when you read it you’ll see why it has kept this reputation for centuries. The image I’m presenting for Francis’ feast was originally a drawing for a flyer advertising a play about the Stigmata around 1984. This play was put together by Roberta Nobleman and I can still see a woman named Dolly, who played the Seraphic Christ, as she gently flew across the stage towards Francis with loving intention in her eyes.
The image is simply Francis’ hand with the wound flowering. The flower signifies how Francis’ blood healed
many sick animals and people during the last two years of his life; he died at sunset on October 3, 1226. Wounds can make us either bitter or compassionate. It takes a long time to grow from bitter to compassionate , but we have so many living examples of women and men who have managed this task. We all have people we admire who have shared with us their lives of continual growth. I wonder, especially today in these tragically divided times if I, if you, if all of us can begin to learn to use our wounds to heal one another?
“Dear Lord Our God,
You renewed the marks of the suffering of your Son in the body of our holy Father Francis in order to inflame our hearts with the fire of your love. Teach us always to glory in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen “
Sunset: October 3, 2018
Fr Bill McNichols

St. Michael of the Apocalypse

April 3rd, 2019

St. Michael of the Apocalypse

St. Michael of the Apocalypse
For the Feast of the Archangels 29 September
***On 20 September the 100th Anniversary of the Stigmata of St. Padre Pio 1918-2018
“St Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness
and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
By the power of God,
Thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
Who prowl about the world seeking the ruin
of souls.
Amen
After seeing a terrifying vision Pope Leo XXIII wrote this prayer we used to say at the end of every Mass. You can invoke St Michael every day with this powerful prayer.
St John Bosco also had a vision that in the End Times there would be two things left for the survival of Christians; the Eucharist and the Rosary. St Francis would prepare for his favorite saint’s feastday for 40 days, calling it St Michael’s Lent, from August 15-September 29. It was in the middle of that “Lent” in 1224, on Mt La Verna, that he received a vision of the Seraphic Christ and was the first human being to be wounded with the Stigmata. Since that time St Padre Pio received the Wounds on September 20, 1918. It has been mostly women, in the history of Christianity, who have been given the Wounds and have become “another Christ.”
One of the most beautiful pieces of writing ever written in Italian literature is the anonymous work concerning St Francis:
“The Five Considerations On The Stigmata.”
This is a rendition of a Russian icon of St Michael, afire in red and riding his red horse announcing the end of the world, with a cloud for his stirrup. Now begins the final thrusting into hell of Satan with the iron rod (mentioned in Revelation 2:27) of the Cross. He blows his trumpet, and swings his censor full of incense. He holds the Gospel book and a rainbow arches above, going from hand-to-the-hand holding the Holy Gospel.
The Chris Emmanuel sits before an Altar of Preparation,(preparation for what is to come...)with the Gospel book and a Cross. As in the Apocalypse (Revelation) on the right side, the Moon turns blood red.
When I first saw this icon I was dazzled by the masterful beauty of the original, the movement and fierce confidence of the Heavenly Prince, the absolutely gorgeous colors and....... the long awaited message or teaching of the icon, of God’s promise of the defeat of Satan and the arrival of the Kingdom of God.
I can suggest 5 books if you are looking for commentaries on the Book of Revelation, (my personal favorite first...)
*The Revelation of St John the Divine (meaning Theologian)
By G.B. Caird
*The Nightmare of God
By Daniel Berrigan, SJ
* Beside the Sea of Glass
By Daniel Berrigan, SJ
* Revelation: 22 Studies For Individuals And Groups
By N.T. Wright
* Surprised By Scripture
By N.T. Wright
This icon was commissioned by the Church of St Michael in Socorro, New Mexico.
September 2018

The Bride - The Church

September 9th, 2018

The Bride - The Church

“The Bride : The Church”
At the heart of most of the recent Marian apparitions is the prophecy that the Church will undergo death and resurrection to be conformed to the Lamb of God. This past August a staggering new pageant of victims of violent abuse came forward as the Retinue of the Lamb. New Mexico had gone through this same horror in the early 1990’s, before most every other diocese. During that time I had to find an image of the Church that has always existed and will always exist . I turned to Cardinal Henri de Lubac, SJ’s written masterpiece “The Splendor of the Church” ( which he wrote while being silenced by the Church) in which he identifies the image of the Bride as eternal, coming originally from the Letter to the Ephesians by St Paul, as well as the Hebrew Bible’s beautiful marriage symbolism with God.
In my image of the Bride are representations of the Trinity. The Bride is always young moving toward Jesus Christ, her Groom, through two thousand years of the existence of the Church. She is pregnant with the ever-new members of the Church to be born until the return of Christ the King. On all sides she is threatened by violence from within the Church and without. But, the protective Radiance of the Trinity surrounds her, and she cannot be touched or harmed. This is the only image of the Church ( as well as the millions of loving Christians that still love her in their frailty too ) that gives me comfort in our very vulnerable and fragile world. I hope you will find some loving icons of guides in this exhibit , none who are perfect, but still (while they were on this earth) moving forward towards the Groom, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fr Bill McNichols
For the Exhibit in Denver 20 September 2018 “Light In All Darkness”

St Tarcisius of Rome

September 9th, 2018

St Tarcisius of Rome

St Tarcisius of Rome

The Invisible Companion
(Patron of Children who are bullied)
“The philosophers and the orators have fallen into oblivion; the masses do not even know the names of the emperors and their generals; but everyone knows the names of the martyrs, better than those of their most intimate friends.”
It is in these terms that Theodoret bishop of Cyrrhus sought to convey the extent of the triumph of Christianity: by the mid-fifth century, the cult of the saints had ringed the populations of the Mediterranean with intimate invisible friends. ‘The invisible friend’ - the ‘intimate friend’ - these are terms on which Theodoret and his contemporaries dwelt lovingly in relation to the saints. What we shall follow in this chapter is the manner in which new invisible companions came to crowd in around the men and women of late antiquity and the early middle ages. In so doing, we shall touch upon the subtle transformation of immemorial beliefs that was involved when Mediterranean men and women, from the late fourth century onwards, turned with increasing explicitness for friendship, inspiration and protection in this life and beyond the grave, to invisible beings who were fellow humans and whom they could invest with precise and palpable features of beloved and powerful figures in their own society.
From The Cult of the Saints : It’s Rise and Function in Latin Christianity
By Peter Brown
The legend of St Tarcisius of Rome is one of the most memorable of the early child martyrs and we would probably know him a lot better if his feast did not fall on the Assumption of the Mother of God, August 15th. Tarcisius was a young boy thought to be anywhere from the age of 10-14 years old, who lived in the third century during the persecutions of Emperor Valerian. Because the early Christians were forced to hide in the Roman catacombs, and have their services beneath the ground, someone, usually a Deacon would be required to take the Eucharist from Mass and carry it to the Christians in prison. One day, for whatever reason, a Deacon was unavailable and so little Tarcisius was asked to carry the Eucharist to the prisoners. While he was on his way a group of Roman boys grew curious about what the child was carrying. They stopped him and demanded to see what he held so close to himself. Tarcisius refused to let the bullies touch the Eucharist and they began to beat him until he fell face down, protecting the Eucharist, and was ultimately beaten to death. A Roman soldier is said to have stopped the boys, who ran off and then he carried Tarcisius away, the child still holding tight to his Lord. For this reason he is a patron of altar servers and children who today, more than ever, experience bullying.
There is a novel called “Fabiola : The Church of the Catacombs” written by Cardinal Wiseman in 1854, which makes use of actual young martyrs as characters, like Sts. Agnes, Emmerentiana, Sebastian and Pancratius. This novel greatly influenced my childhood, and introduced me to these young people who were so extraordinarily courageous. The model for this icon is Calvin Rupoli, my greatnephew who is now 11 years old.
We all have and hold Christ inside our hearts and souls . St Tarcisius help us to hold Him close during these dark times and let His light shine out with great brilliance and courage from us all.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
15 August 2018

St Vasily the Holy Fool of Moscow

August 10th, 2018

St Vasily the Holy Fool of Moscow

St Vasily the Holy Fool of Moscow
“If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool.”
1 Corinthians 3:18

St Vasily, the Russian Orthodox saint, is also known as ‘yurodivy’ or holy fool for Christ.
He was born of serfs in a village near Moscow in December 1468. Legends say he was born on the portico of the local church. As a young apprentice shoemaker, he became incensed at the Russian government’s carelessness and disregard, especially towards the poor and sick. He was known for mocking the Tsar, then Ivan the Terrible to provoke change and ran naked through Moscow’s snow filled streets, weighed down with chains.
The Tsar and high-ranking government officials tried to cajole Vasily with gifts, to silence him,but he gave everything away to those in need. He was clairvoyant and often warned people of their future tragedies, to beg them to become humble before God. Upon his death, August 2 1557, the humiliated Ivan the Terrible served as his pall bearer and then commissioned the magnificent church of St Vasily (St Basil) in Red Square, the Church that you see almost every night on the news, with the glorious multi-colored domes of the Holy Spirit’s tongues of flame, that we call “onion domes.”
I suppose that the closest thing we have to Holy Fools in the western church would be St Francis of Assisi and especially his most memorable foolish Friars, Brother Juniper and Brother John the Simple, or St Benedict Joseph Labre.
Troparion for the feast of St Vasily the Holy Fool of Moscow:
“Your life, O Basil (Vasily) was true and your chastity undefiled/ In fasting, vigilance and exposure to heat and frost/You subdued your flesh for the sake of Christ/ Therefore your countenance shone with the brilliance of the sun./Today the faithful glorify your Holy falling-asleep./ Implore Christ to deliver us from all bondage, dissension and war./ And to grant mercy to our souls.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
August 2018

Our Lady of Mt Carmel

August 10th, 2018

Our Lady of Mt Carmel

A blessed feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel to all the Carmelites including the Third Order Carmelites. This order according to an ancient tradition was inspired by Holy Prophet Elijah, and has for centuries, given us such great saints as Simon Stock,Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Edith Stein, Titus Brandsma, to name just a few...
Our Lady of Mt Carmel pray for us!

Holy New Martyr Tsarevich Alexei

August 10th, 2018

Holy New Martyr Tsarevich Alexei

“Many historians have suggested that Stalin was responsible for a death total of around 20 million, citing much higher victim totals from executions, Gulag camps, deportations and other causes. Simon Sebastian Montefiore suggested that Stalin was ultimately responsible for the deaths of between 20 and 25 million people ...
The dangers to journalists in Russia have been well known since the early 1990s but concern at the number of unsolved killings soared after Anna Politkovskaya’s murder in Moscow on 7 October 2006. While international monitors spoke of several dozen deaths, some sources within Russia talked of over two hundred fatalities...(and you can actually read this long list of names) The evidence has been examined and documented in two reports, published in Russian and English, by international organizations...The Remembrance Day Of Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty is observed on 15 December every year.”
(From the Wikipedia article on the list of journalists killed in Russia and deaths under Josef Stalin)
During my first year as an apprentice to the Russian American Master iconographer, Friar Robert Lentz, I was approached by a friend who suffered from haemophilia, to paint for him a patron he designated as, Alexei Romanov. I had been introduced to Russia in a way, by my Father who as governor had traveled to Russia in 1959 and met, and sparred with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. He brought home stories of Soviet Russia I will never forget. In November 1981, the Romanov Family was canonized as the first martyrs of the Revolution, along the servants who died with them and 860 other martyrs, as confessors and passion bearers of the faith. If you watch the 1971 film “Nicholas and Alexandria” and follow it with the 1965 classic “Dr Zhivago,” you get a cinematic history of Russia, before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution. I myself traveled to Magadan, Far East Russia in 1995. I was commissioned by Archbishop Hurley of Anchorage to paint an icon honoring the thousands of deaths in the death camp in Magadan, which was finally closed by Kruschev in 1955. This visit so haunting, beautiful and frightening has never left me. To prepare to do the icon of Our Lady of Magadan I read a most unique and unforgettable book by Nathaniel Davis, called “A Long Walk To Church.” It is a history of the Russian Orthodox Church during the most desperate and fearful times. Google Books has this to say, “Making use of the formerly secret archives of the Soviet government, and first-hand personal experiences, Nathaniel Davis describes how the Russian Orthodox Church hung on the brink of institutional extinction twice in the past sixty-five years. In 1939, only a few score widely scattered priests were still functioning openly...”
I think to see and feel the soul of Russia, I would suggest watching Andrei Tarkovsky’s masterpiece, “Andrei Rublev” who is the patron of iconographers and whose feast In Russia is celebrated tomorrow, July 4th. The original film was so threatening to the soviets that it was cut dramatically, so that it didn’t make much sense, but was still considered a great film. The new restored version is 206 minutes, and you cannot help but see how Tarkovsky was trying to wake up the soul of Russia. It is a long,black and white, (lots of snow) contemplative view of medieval life in Russia for the first 200 minutes ! Then the last few minutes it bursts into color as Tarkovsky’s camera slowly, lovingly pores over Rublev’s Trinity and other icons.
A blessed 4th of July and feast of St Andrei Rublev!
Fr Bill McNichols
3 July 2018

Retablo de San Jose Obrero- Retablo of St Joseph the Worker

June 28th, 2018

Retablo de San Jose Obrero- Retablo of St Joseph the Worker

Retablo de San Jose’ Obrero:
(Retablo of St Joseph the Worker)
This portrayal of St Joseph and the Child Jesus has a fairly long history. In October 1986 we had the first healing Mass for people with HIV-AIDS at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on 14th street in Manhattan. The Masses were held every month until I left New York for Jesuit Tertianship in 1989. I think it was March of 1987 that the Mass fell on the traditional feastday of St Joseph’s death, March 19th. I used to draw illustrations for the Masses, or for greeting cards, or to illustrate my poetry book. This drawing of St Joseph dates back to that special Mass. Now, here is the part you have to keep secret until June 22...at least from our Pastor at St Joseph on the Rio Grande in Albuquerque. The parish commissioned a surprise icon from me to give to Monsignor Lambert Joseph Luna in honor of his 40th Anniversary of Ordination to the priesthood on June 24; which we will celebrate Friday June 22. I chose to do a retablo instead. Retablos are the traditional religious art form of New Mexico. Female painters are called Santeras and male painters are Santeros. This art is hundreds of years old, and these beautiful and holy retablos grace all the older churches in New Mexico, as well as the newer churches since this art is still very much alive. My friend Roberto Lavadie carved the frame. I painted the drawing I mentioned above from 1987, and added the Child’s cradle, some boards, and an aqua blue table with a royal blue border to bring Mary’s presence into the image. Finally let me quote one of the oldest known prayers to St. Joseph for you and all Fathers:
O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all the spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.
O St Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.
Amen
With much love and gratitude to all our Fathers.
Happy Father’s Day !
Fr Bill McNichols - June 2018

St Joan of Arc and St Michael the Archangel

May 30th, 2018

St Joan of Arc and St Michael the Archangel

St Joan of Arc and St Michael the Archangel
“Life isn’t about finding yourself.
Life is about creating yourself.”
George Bernard Shaw
St Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on the morning of May 30 1431. She was nineteen years old. In Mary Gordon’s book on Joan she keeps referring to her as a teenager and continually makes you aware of how incredible her accomplishments were, for a girl or boy of that age. Mark Twain claims next to Jesus Christ, Joan is the most extraordinary person who ever lived. People have been mystified and have fallen in love with Joan for centuries. At this moment Bernard Shaw’s play St Joan is enjoying a very successful revival on Broadway with Candola Rashad playing Joan. As a child I saw Jean Seaburg on tv in the role, and when I lived in New York I saw Lyn Redgrave. Most recently the Parkland School survivor, Emma Gonzalez’ strong, beautiful and vulnerable face has been compared (in a New Yorker article) to Maria Falconetti who played Joan in Carl Dryer’s 1928 silent film classic, “The Passion of Joan of Arc.” This unforgettable film experience is still available on dvd in the Criterion Collection of great films. When I first saw the film as a theology student in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I remember hearing that Maria Falconetti dove so far into her portrayal of Joan that she never came back. When you see the film that’s very painfully obvious. When I was 11 years old I received a 18 inch plaster statue of Joan that I used to look at with wonder; she was a teenager which to an 11 year old seemed very mature and her facial expression was sure and strong. All through my life Joan has reappeared and it would take me forever to recount all the incidences but I’d like to name just a few. In 1971 I was a philosophy student in St. Louis about to move to Boston, where I simultaneously attended Boston University for art and Boston College for philosophy when I heard on a record, Judy Collins live concert in Central Park. The opening song was Leonard Cohen’s song “Joan of Arc.” Collins version from that concert is still my favorite. It was so hypnotic and haunting that it “set me onto a finding Joan adventure” which has never really ended. When I began painting icons I was commissioned in 1993, to paint Joan and St Michael, for St Michael’s Church in Bedford, Massachusetts. This is the icon you see now. Another dramatic encounter with Joan was reading Adrienne von Speyr’s intimate portrait of Joan in her “Book Of All Saints.” If I could, I’d quote the entire piece, it is so revealing, and like so much of Adrienne’s writings, brings you into a prayer and dialogue with Joan. Finally when I had my heart collapse on April 27, 2012, I came out of the induced coma on May 11th. I was still fairly delirious from the nine drugs in me but I remember when I found out it was May, instead of thinking naturally, it was the month of the Blessed Mother, I thought of Joan. My sister Mary was reading to me from the newly published book “The Maid and the Queen” by Nancy Goldstone. Then, when I could read myself I re-read “The Trial Of Rehabilitation” published by Ignatius Press. The trial has many of Joan’s childhood friends, who at that time were in their 40’s , reminiscing about the strong-willed, holy girl they knew.
This year, it’s impossible for me to think of Joan without begging her to guide and lead into the future, the students like the Parkland Survivors, who are, I believe, are acting with inspired Wisdom. We adults seem to have become too numb and too hopeless to do anything but talk or preach “an eye for an eye...” But these young children with their valiant attempts to awaken us all to the violence and senseless shootings (which now have been occurring nearly once a week) continue to create Holy Hope.
I began with a witty quote from Bernard Shaw about creating yourself, which has some valuable truth in it.
What I really believe, is that if we are humble enough to be pliable in God’s hands, letting God continually mold and create us, each one of us becomes the absolutely unique beings we were always meant from eternity to be.
St Joan lead us and our youth, into God, who alone can give us life now and everlasting life to come!
Fr Bill McNichols
30 May 2018

http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/st-joan-of-arc-with-st-michael-the-archangel-042-william-hart-mcnichols.html

The Blessed Virgin Mary- Mother of the Church

May 18th, 2018

The Blessed Virgin Mary- Mother of the Church

“The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church”
(The new feastday proclaimed by Pope Francis, forever to follow Pentecost Sunday... Starting this year, the feast will be 21 May 2018)

When I heard of Pope Francis creating a new Marian feast, I had already been commissioned by Fr Phil Lloyd of St Theresa’s Church (thus the roses that Master woodworker Roberto Lavadie lovingly “set into” the frame) in Houston, Texas. Fr Phil invited me to create a Marian icon, as well as other icons for the church. I was ecstatic that I would have an opportunity to visualize this new icon and hopefully give life to it through the intercession of the Holy Spirit and Our Blessed Mother. I found an old black and white drawing done in 1909, in an old missal; and this became the starting point for my inspiration. I could write an entire blog about how those incredibly beautiful and intricate black and white Catholic Missal drawings, with a veritable encyclopedia of mystical symbols, influenced my entire childhood. And these illustrations have stayed with me into adulthood, as Ever-Bountiful fountains of living waters. In creating this feast Pope Francis wants the Church to reach for a “Marian character,” or to become increasingly Mother-like. What does this mean for us? Let’s look at a couple of theologians who I think begin to articulate the on-going mystery of this new feast. They may seem a bit dense or abstract but they are filled with real life inspiration and instruction, I hope and believe.
“The world is now in the time of choice...The choice facing us has become clearer-to say yes or no to the Risen Christ. In this phase of salvation history, Mary is transferred for the remaining earth-time to what the imagery of the Book of Revelation calls ‘wilderness’ or ‘desert.’ The ‘desert is the place of impoverishment and distress on the one hand, but also a place of rejuvenation, of concentrated attention to God. In the desert Mary remains what she was and will be for all eternity: the mother. This mother gives Christ to the Church and the world ‘not just at one single moment in history but at every moment of the history of the Church and the world.’ In doing this, Mary makes her own the prayer and activity of the Church. This gives confidence in the face of trials. No matter what difficulties come (nowhere can one evade the ‘rage of the dragon against the woman’ and his war ‘with the rest of her offspring,’ the Christians), this woman is nourished through world-time with manna from on high, which keeps her alive and makes her fruitful: the victory of Christ will be hers... At this point we need to recall von Balthasar’s own admonition not to reduce consideration of Mary’s role to devotional piety. She has a social-ecclesial personality. Accordingly, while from the world’s point of view the Woman remains u-topian and without ‘form,’ something of her invisible form is discernible in her genuine children. In them the invisible realities become visible.
Mary continues, as it were, where people become ‘mothers’ of Christ.”
From “The Marian Profile In The Ecclesiology of Hans Urs von Balthasar”
By Father Brendan Leahy
“It is the one who gives the Bride away, the Holy Spirit, who directs this movement of heaven and earth in love, perfecting thus the relationship that was entered into in Christ with the Bride Sion-Mary-Ecclesia. Christians live at the epicenter of this event, which wishes to become reality in them too, and for them, through the gift they make of their own life to love. Their existence is to be an ever-creative translation in the Holy Spirit, an ever-new future of God.”
Explorations III: Creator Spirit
Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar (12 August 1905-26 June 1988)

Fr Bill McNichols
Pentecost 2018

St Martha of Bethany

April 20th, 2018

St Martha of Bethany

St Martha of Bethany
This icon was written for Steve Katsouros, SJ, Dean and Executive Director. Arrupe College, Loyola University Chicago. I asked him to write something after receiving the icon, here it is.

About our friend Martha:

The multi-faceted Martha of Bethany speaks to me in several ways. She is first the exemplar of hospitality, as evidenced by the home she shares with her siblings as a center for conversation and fellowship with Jesus and I am certain others. When her brother dies, she is able to express her anger at Jesus for not being there when she needed him; that said, she also clearly loves Jesus. Martha is like us—complex, capable of holding opposing emotions. She is the best of us, however, because her love is what grounds her—not her anger or resentment. During her exchange with Jesus after the death of Lazarus, when Jesus asks her if she believes in him, she explains that she has “come to believe” that he is God’s son. I find this very consoling. Martha knew Jesus, and yet, her faith in him was not achieved in an instant, with a thunderclap or a burning bush or a eureka. Rather, she came to believe in him—it was gradual, a process, a journey, a series of interactions, conversations, common experiences, meals, during which she came to believe in him. I am reminded that my faith journey is just that, a journey, requiring attention to Jesus, the guest, the companion, the conversationalist, the teacher, the friend.

Back to Martha the hostess. As someone who experiences pressure for taking on too many projects, I can relate to Martha’s frustration in her sister—Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, Martha, fretting about the timing of the dinner or the cleanup afterwards. Jesus’s line about Mary choosing the better portion can be irksome. Like Martha, I came to appreciate Jesus’s response to Martha’s frustration gradually. In my case, our students at Arrupe College served as clarifiers here, as agents of insight, as they often do. My colleagues and I at Arrupe could easily default into Martha’s activity—doing for our students. Jesus reminds us that such a stance is not enough. Rather, it’s about Mary’s approach—being with, rather than doing for. Pope Francis has elevated the word “accompaniment” to deepen our understanding of ministry. We are invited to be with, rather than do for—in my case, I’ve been called at Arrupe to be with our students during their first post-secondary educational experience, rather than doing for—if I simply did for, I’d miss their gifts, just as Martha misses Jesus’s gifts by giving her attention to completing the task at hand.

Despite Martha’s misstep here, I am confident that she experienced the gift of hosting Jesus—part of her gradual “coming to believe” process, part of her being a complex woman who is capable of holding contrasting emotions simultaneously.

Consequently, Martha of Bethany has the capacity to be Martha of 2018–like Thomas the twin, Martha mirrors how we might miss out on what’s really important, how our faith lives are journeys, how at times those faith lives include wrestling a variety of emotions at once. Martha remains anchored in love—and so must we as we come to believe in Jesus during our journeys of missing him and feeling conflicted about him.

Fr. Steve Katsouros, SJ

Nuestro Salvador de las Sandias

April 16th, 2018

Nuestro Salvador de las Sandias

Nuestro Salvador de las Sandias
This icon was inspired in part by the beautiful snow scapes in Akira Kurosawa’s 1990 film Dreams. The icon depicts the resurrected Christ
emerging from the winter. Christ holds a cottonwood branch, one of the first buds to emerge during spring in the Albuquerque region. He wears the color of red for humanity with gold assists, signifying his divinity. The Sandia mountains are purple, characteristic of the hue they acquire in wintertime when they are covered with snow. The moon, which for Bill almost always symbolizes Mary, is present during the day as she waits for her son to rise. Christ appears ethnically similar to many of the people native to the region.
This is Bill’s favorite image of Christ: powerful, strong, and loving. It contains a message of hope. Christ emerges out of the tomb, as this icon was written virtually on the eve of when the sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church broke out in Albuquerque in the early 1990s. Unbeknown to the artist at the time, the icon acquired an ecclesial significance and inspired prayer for the people of Albuquerque and the Church that they be healed from the ramifications of the crisis.
BY John D. Dadosky, S.T.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Theology and Philosophy
Regis College/University of Toronto
From “Image to Insight” Book Available on Amazon

St Ignatius and the Passion of the World in the 21st Century

March 27th, 2018

St Ignatius and the Passion of the World in the 21st Century

St Ignatius and the Passion of the World in the 21st Century (2002)
St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) was perhaps one of the most influential saints in the history of Christianity. He founded the Society of Jesus (or Jesuits) and they alone have influenced and shaped civilization in their commitment to education among other postulates.
In many ways Ignatius pre-dated modern psychology with his development of the Spiritual Exercises. The latter is a retreat that is divided into four segments or ‘weeks’. Each week is designed to help the retreatant to discern major decisions in his or her life. Particularly in the third week one contemplates the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion and crucifixion. Through constant periods of prayer and visual meditation one enters into a powerful personal communion with Jesus crucified. This is not a morbid reflection but the pivotal moment and existential contemplation on the transformation of evil into good.
In this image of Ignatius, Bill emphasizes the contemporary relevance of Ignatian spirituality. Ignatius, garbed in the habit of his time, offers an image of the contemporary world to the crucified Christ. The world is in turmoil and reflects the possibility of global annihilation reflective of our age. Blood from the wounds drips down on the world echoing Christ’s response as he gazes on it with compassion. There is hope that the blood of the crucified will be able to transform the world in all its violence.
BY John D. Dadosky, S.T.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Theology and Philosophy
Regis College/University of Toronto
From "Image to Insight" Book Available on Amazon

A Meditation On Jesus -1969- By Daniel Berrigan SJ

March 8th, 2018

A Meditation On Jesus -1969- By Daniel Berrigan SJ

A Meditation On Jesus (1969)
By Daniel Berrigan, SJ
9 May 1921 - 30 April 2016

1. The gospel of Jesus is spoken in a world
intoxicated with death
mesmerized by death
convinced of the necessary rule of death
technologizing death
acceding to the omnipresence of death

2. And Jesus says No
to this omnivorous power.
So his word makes the slight
all but imperceptible difference
(which is finally the only difference).
A good man, himself powerless,
stands at the side of powerless men
and says to death No
for them for himself.

3. Can any of you
place before you a single child, smiling
squirming in your arms; and say
The death of this child is a fact of modern war; I accede
to that death. I regret it of course
but what can one do? We have to destroy
in order to save; villages, women, children,
The system traps us all...

4. The system; horrible word! Can the system
trap the conscience of a free man?
Traps are for animals; freedom is for men.
I cannot speak for you
but I will not wait upon Caesar
to instruct me in God's word.
I am a man. I can read:
If a man will save his life, let him lose it.
I say to you love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you.
Whatever you do to the least of these
my brothers, you do to me.
Blessed are you who suffer persecution
for justice's sake.

5. Jesus had nothing to say to "systems",
except to deny their power over him.
He said in effect, violence stops here (pointing to his body)
He said in effect, it is better to die for others
than to live (live?) in a trap.

6. Be concrete, be immediate!
Imagine the world!
If you embrace a child, can you consent
to the death of a child? each human face
leads you (follow!) to every human face.

7. I can only tell you what I believe.
I believe I cannot be saved by foreign policies.
I cannot be saved by sexual revolutions.
I cannot be saved by the gross national product.
I cannot be save by nuclear deterrents.
I cannot be saved by aldermen, priests, artists,
plumbers, city planners, social engineers,
nor by the Vatican,
nor by the World Buddhist Association
nor by Hitler nor by Joan of Arc
nor by angels and archangels,
nor by powers and dominations

8. I can be saved only by Jesus Christ.

9. Take this book with you, please
into the midst of children old men and women
the poor, the defeated, the innocent.
Carry it about with you, let it speak
wherever men struggle, suffer, abandon hope,
Let the book happen to you.
It has no other reason for being,
A man
very like yourself
first spoke the words of these pages,
"a man acquainted with grief,
like us in everything, save sin alone."
He is as near to you/ as your next drawn breath.

10. I do not know
where my life leads.
Do you know where your life leads?
The next note is not struck.
The hands (foul, cleansed) hover
over the instrument.
My friends ask me: After jail, what?
You too (my friends) start awake at midnight,
question the silent lover beside,
the dream-wrapped child;
where? what next?

11. Lover, child, in the immense dignity of birth or death refuse an answer.
There is no answer.
The genius of the gospel is in the name of man
to refuse an answer.
We had best go forward/ as those in love go
Exulting in the breadth of the swath love opens
the sound of a scythe at harvest
the soundlessness of children sleeping a universe
of unanswerable grandeur!

12. If we have awakened to the world
it is probable that our salvation is near.
If we abide in love
we shall be greatly loved.

13. I believe that twelve just men, believing
against all evidence,
may stir the soil or sea
with toilers' hands, bring up intact
something flowerlike, something —

Jesus,
that direct and life-giving man
waits on you.
The world waits on you.
The two statements
are quite simply verified.
Close then open your eyes.

El Lucero Radiante del Alba -Jesus Christ Radiant Light of the Dawn- Teenage Christ

February 19th, 2018

El Lucero Radiante del Alba -Jesus Christ Radiant Light of the Dawn- Teenage Christ

El Lucero Radiante del Alba (Jesus Christ Radiant Light of the Dawn) : Teenage Christ.
This icon was originally painted (written) for an exhibit in Taos, New Mexico called “Sobre Muerte” (About Death) for the annual honoring of the Day of the Dead, November 2, traditionally called All Souls’ Day. I have written about this image often and John Dadosky has written about it, beautifully, in the newly released book from University of New Mexico Press, “Image to Insight.” It was after the Colorado Columbine High School murders that I wanted to paint Jesus as a contemporary teenager, fatally wounded, amidst a cemetery, yet very much Resurrected.
When I was a college student I went to Boston College for philosophy (a Jesuit requirement) and Boston University for Art. I’ve always been enthralled with the everlasting-Puritan influences on the United States. I read into Nathaniel Hawthorne to see what happened to us. It’s all there. I had an incredibly insightful,intelligent teacher for a course in education (before I became a teacher) she told us “You will never understand the United States unless you read “The Scarlet Letter” by Hawthorne. This has never left me. As a young student I would wander in the old graveyards of Boston and Salem and continually see these winged skulls on the tombstones. They spoke of the finality of death but the wings spoke of life after death. My dear friend, Master woodworker, Roberto Lavadie carved the frame for this Young Christ. Just today I read that the teenagers in Florida who survived the latest onslaught of terrifying murders are going to have a march in Washington DC to ask us to protect them, on March 24. Whatever political position you hold, they tell us they are the victims of our moral somnambulant/numbness. I offer this icon of Jesus as the awakening of the children who have seen the Skull-With-Wings , way way way too often.
This is a part of a litany I wrote for this icon...
Jesus Christ
Lamb of God,
Lamp of the Heavenly City.
Jesus Christ
Shepherd of the despised
and rejected,
Lamb led to slaughter.
Jesus Christ
Word of God, Eyes of Fire,
Prophet in exile,
Garment of Blood.
Jesus Christ
Eternal Bridegroom,
Faithful and True.
Jesus Christ
Morning and Evening Star,
Firstborn of the Dead,
Alpha and Omega,
Beginning and the End...
Dear Lord Jesus, we beg you ,please continue to inspire our youth to wake us up with their anguished prophetic cries.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
Second week of Lent 2018
(You can read more about this icon in Professor John Dadosky’s new book.)

Holy New Martyr Nestor Savchuk 1960 - 1993

December 30th, 2017

Holy New Martyr Nestor Savchuk 1960 - 1993

Holy New Martyr Nestor Savchuk 1960 - 1993
Nestor Savchuk was born in the province of Crimea, southern Russia, as Nikolai Savchuk, in 1960. As a youth he excelled in boxing, wrestling, martial arts, and painting. In his twenties he began to work as an apprentice painting religious murals in Odessa. There, the older artists told him the stories of the Russian saints. Inspired by the saints with a love for God, Nestor set out for the 13th century monastery of Pochaev to become a monk. This love grew naturally and expressed itself through his devotion and prayer with the holy icons, which one day would become the source of his martyrdom. After his ordination his spiritual father advised him to go to an isolated village in the Ukraine, by the name of Zharky. There he found a church dedicated to the Nativity of the Mother of God, which had many ancient icons and from that church he felt a deep mystical feeling and an invitation. There he also found many blocks and difficulties. The church caught fire once and also became the target of an icon stealing ring connected to the Russian mafia. He was warned by the mafia that if he continued to keep the icons from them, he would be killed. Nestor would stay up all night guarding the church. He was then touched with a desire to ask for the grace of martyrdom. He began to pray for long hours. A friend warned him of this prayer and told him he ought to be asking for a long life of suffering for God instead. Nestor replied, “Yes, I understand that, but maybe if I will pray for martyrdom, perhaps I will be able to pray it out.” Late in the dark morning of December 31, 1993, the friend was awakened by a dream of St John the Baptist who told him to, “ Go immediately to Father Nestor.” But he did not go until that morning where he found Nestor murdered, outside his rectory in Zharky.
Adapted from a brief biography in the book “Youth of the Apocalypse” by Monks John Marier and Andrew Wermuth
I was blessed to be asked by the late Archbishop Hurley of Anchorage, Alaska to paint an icon of Our Lady of Magadan, (a former concentration camp from 1938-1955) which is in the Far East of Russia, four hours flight from Anchorage. When I visited there in October 1995, I went to the Lavra (monastery) of St Sergius of Radonezh. The monks there asked me to paint Our Lady of Pochaev for them. I asked if they knew of Nestor and his martyrdom. They said, “No, there are so many new martyrs in Russia.” I was stunned into silence by their answer. Months later I received a picture of Archbishop Hurley giving Our Lady of Pochaev to the monks and one was bending down to kiss the icon. That’s a picture I treasure and a great honor from the Russian Orthodox Church. We are all aware of the great suffering today in Russia and their need to continue to worship God freely. Our Lady of Fatima asked the three children she appeared to in Portugal, in 1917, to pray for the conversion of Russia. This was just months before the bloody Bolshevik Revolution, which Russia recently celebrated in November 2017. St Padre Pio prophesied, “Yes, Russia will be converted as the Blessed Virgin said She would. However, Russia will teach the United States a lesson in conversion.”
In this year of 2018, O Mother of God, Immaculate Heart of Fatima, Magadan, Pochaev, Mother of All Nations, and Holy New Martyr Nestor, help us all move quickly toward the conversion you both desire for us and the entire World.
Amen
Fr Bill McNichols
30 December 2017

The Nursing Icon of the Mother of God

December 24th, 2017

The Nursing Icon of the Mother of God

The Nursing Icon of the Mother of God (Feastday, along with St Stephen , December 26)
After my Mother died in August 2006, as Advent approached I was still in grief inside and couldn’t feel the usual intensity of the beautiful four weeks before Christmas. I never realized how much (for me) the Mother is Christmas, in that she teaches the whole story to her children and creates the atmosphere inside the house that really begins your understanding of the entire season. This includes the Nativity set (which also contained figures from her childhood) the tree, the lights, the decorations, the candles, the Advent wreath, food, music, and magical presence around the house. So that Advent of 2006 I painted the Nursing Icon as a living memory of Mom. There are hundreds of great Christmas poems, here are a few lines from my favorite one, by St Robert, who had a truly childlike innocence and yet always manages to dazzle you with his theological insights into very deep Christian mysteries.
“Behold the Father is His daughter’s son,
The bird that built the nest is hatc’d therein,
...Might feeble is and force doth faintly creep,
...Up heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace!
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs,
This life, this light, this world, this joy repairs...”
St Robert Southwell, SJ
English Martyr
1561-1595
A most beautiful, Spiritfilled, and joyful Christmas!
Fr Bill McNichols
24 December 2017

St Peter Canisius - Doctor of the Church 1521-1597

December 21st, 2017

St Peter Canisius - Doctor of the Church 1521-1597

St Peter Canisius : Doctor of the Church 1521-1597
My friend Fr Paul Begheyn, SJ commissioned this icon for the Dutch Province of the Jesuits in 1996. The first image I had for the icon was Peter wading through a thick,foggy, ominous, Grimm’s German fairy tale-dark-forest, holding a lantern, as in the painting of Christ knocking at the (your) door, (The Light of the World) by William Holman Hunt. This was my image of the dangerous journey Peter Canisius had to manage during the Reformation. God, through the Church, has always produced men and women with what the late Cardinal von Balthasar has called “church souls.” These souls have been given a gift of a profoundly inspired knowledge of what is necessary and what is superfluous. They are not tied to their own times, but seem to have an ancient love for the church, going back centuries before them. Some are very prickly and irascible, ready to fight, and quite up to the task. But I am attracted to the ones who have a supernatural gift of being compassionate in the midst of incredible tempers flying at them while they serenely preach the truth. I think of these Master Apologists as almost “inhumanly human” and yet very much human at their core. Living in this, our time, of great anger and divisions about religion and politics, it’s not hard to imagine these furious battles of opinion, but to imagine the serene preaching and converse of St Dominic, St Catherine of Siena, Blessed Cardinal Newman, or the late Daniel Berrigan, SJ, is obviously miraculous. St Peter Canisius had this gift. There are many more in our history but those saints and prophets, always come to mind first for me. Peter could stand before his enemies and bear the flying rage coming toward him, then simply speak back to them with the truth. He was well aware of the need for a Reformation but saw it coming in a less violent/schismatic way. Today, I think Fr Jim Martin, SJ also has this Apologist’s gift and I admire him so much, with the Internet age, he gets twice, ten times, a hundred times, actually, the irrational, scurrilous rage thrown at him but he manages to remain inside his Lord Jesus who is our way, our truth and our life.
A key to St Peter’s spiritual depth is his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was a gradual transformation within him, or mystical exchange of hearts, that created the heart and soul of Peter. On the day of his final vows Our Lord allowed him to see his Sacred Heart. This of course changed the way he saw and spoke to everyone. He could say no, and create what we call boundaries, or teach someone the depths he had received with an incredible care for them, because his own heart had been transformed. Peter said, “Again, it is a mistaken policy to behave in a contentious fashion and to start disputes about matters of belief with argumentative people who are disposed by their very natures to wrangling. Indeed, the fact of their being so constituted is a reason the more why such people should be attracted and won to the simplicity of the faith as much by example as by argument.” So in this icon I finally decided to show him with Holy Wisdom gently whispering on his shoulder into his “inner ear”. She alone could teach him the countenance and the extremely practical, daily ways of Wisdom. Normally only St John the Evangelist is shown with Holy Wisdom (Sophia) but at the time I painted (wrote) this icon, I saw an icon with St Gregory the Great being similarly instructed by Sophia, so knew I had to portray St Peter with her too. He is prayerfully contemplating the book on his lap, the Prologue to St John’s Gospel, about the Light coming into the darkness and the darkness unable to receive or allow the Light in. If you’re looking for an example of getting through these times, I cannot think of anyone better than St Peter Canisius whom we celebrate, not accidentally, on the Solstice...Light returning.
“Let my eyes take their sleep, but may my heart always keep watch for you. May your right hand bless your servants who love you. May I be united with the praise that flies from you, Lord Jesus, to all your saints; united with gratitude drawn from your heart good Jesus, that causes your saints to thank you; united with your passion, good Jesus, by which you took away our guilt; united with divine longing that you had on earth for our salvation; united with every prayer that welled up from your divine heart, good Jesus, and flowed into the hearts of your saints. Amen”
St Peter Canisius

Fr Bill McNichols
21 December 2017

Our Lady of the New Advent The Gate of Heaven

December 14th, 2017

Our Lady of the New Advent  The Gate of Heaven

Our Lady of the New Advent : The Gate of Heaven
The commissioning of this icon of the Archdiocese of Denver by Cardinal Stafford in 1991, was, unbeknownst to me at the time, an Annunciation of not only the New Advent , but an entirely new life for me as well.
The Sisters of St Walburga’s Benedictine Abbey, in Virginia Dale, Colorado wrote one of the most beautiful, evocative and prophetic prayers I have ever read - to Our Lady of the New Advent in 1992, which you can read below. Her feastday is December 16th.
“ In 1 Corinthians 15 : 24-25 St Paul depicts the enemies of Christ as battling against Christ, reigning on high. In reality, however, these enemies are only able to persecute the members of Christ’s body still on earth. They battle against the Head, but can only inflict harm on the Body. A clear case is Acts 9: 4 f, where the risen Jesus states that Saul is persecuting him, whereas Saul was bent on the murder of the disciples of the Lord (v 1)
‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
And he said, who are you Lord?
And he said , I am Jesus ,whom you are persecuting...’
Saul persecuted Jesus in person when he persecutes the members of Jesus...
Does the same hold for Mary? Is there a similar (though not identical) unity between Mary and the Church as between Christ and his members? In speaking of Mary, the sacred writer would also have the church in mind. And, in parallel to the above passage concerning Christ, the battle of Satan would rage ( in Revelation 12) against the person of Mary, although in actuality affecting the Church on earth.”
The Woman Clothed With The Sun by Bernard Le Frois,SVD

Prayer To Our Lady of the New Advent ***
O Lady and Mother
of the One who was and is and is to come,
Dawn of the New Jerusalem,
we earnestly beseech you,
bring us by your intercession
so to live in love
that the Church, The Body of Christ ,
may stand in this world’s dark
as a fiery icon of the New Jerusalem.
We ask you to obtain for us this mercy
through Jesus Christ, your Son and Lord,
who lives and reigns
with the Father in the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen
(Composed by the Sisters of St Walburga Abbey)
Fr Bill McNichols
December 2017

St Andrew the First Called

November 29th, 2017

St Andrew the First Called

St Andrew the First Called
(for St. Andrew Christmas Novena - starts on 30 November)
“Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
In which the Son of God was born of the
Most pure Virgin Mary,
At midnight, in Bethlehem,
In the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee
O my God, to hear my prayer, and
grant my desires, through the merits of
Our Lord Jesus Christ and of His
Blessed Mother . Amen”
This Novena is said to be at least 100 years old, and you feel it, the way it’s is written.
The mention of the piercing cold at midnight, really brings the “real” Christmas to you.
When I was a theology student in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1976-79) we had to take on some kind of outside apostolate or learning experience that would somehow, prepare us for the priesthood. I chose to work on a suicide hotline and walk in service called “The Samaritans” originally founded in London by an Episcopal priest. He was apparently a great counselor and people sat in his office waiting to talk with him. One day someone came in and said, “Its okay Father, I don’t need to talk, the lady sitting next to me in your office really helped me.” After that, he decided to train people to listen and speak with one another, that was the beginning of The Samaritans. In the training we were told that you cannot proselytize, you have to find something inside yourself that can reach the one on the other end. We could not use our last name, but if a person wanted to talk with you on your shift, they could ask for Bill 249 (my number). The great thing for me was listening to the other volunteers and the way they helped people, some were incredibly funny, some deeply serious - in other words, it’s the “real You” that heals. The worst nights of the year were all around the holidays. Everyone thinks that people are all having a “Currier and Ives” or a “Norman Rockwell Christmas,” and they alone, are in darkness and depression. One Christmas Eve I did an overnight and the phones rang non-stop from dark until the first glimpse of light on Christmas Day. But listen to the prayer, “...at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.” The prayer is to be said 15 times a day which you can break up by saying it 5 times in the morning, 5 times around noon, and 5 times at night.
Recently I read that Pope Francis asked priests to respect people’s devotions, and not get too intellectual or snobbish about simple longing- prayers from the heart.
This icon was a present to my great author-friend, Andrew Krivak from his wife Amelia.
I was really aware while painting (writing) the icon that it’s the Child Jesus (in icons called Christ Emmanuel) who is present above St Andrew, who was one of the first called by Jesus in the Gospel narrative...something to think about or contemplate in this Advent Season.
Abundant Blessings...........and I know the Child will call (is calling) you too!
“Unpleasant though it may be, the sense of personal sin is precisely that which keeps our sin from getting out of hand. It is quite painful at times, but it is a very great blessing because it is our one and only effective safeguard against our own proclivity for evil.
St Therese of Lisieux put it so nicely in her gentle way:
“If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.”
From “People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil” 1983,
by M.Scott Peck, MD (1936-2005)
Fr Bill McNichols
Advent 2017

Holy Poet-Martyr St Robert Southwell and The Burning Babe

November 28th, 2017

Holy Poet-Martyr St Robert Southwell and The Burning Babe

Holy Poet-Martyr St Robert Southwell and The Burning Babe
In an essay on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, Roland Barthes, the brilliant writer of linguistics, comments that this small book which was long supposed to be of little literary value, is actually one which creates a whole new language. In its painstaking attention to sensory and contemplative detail, it is a school for writers and image makers. Many schools of prayer would warn the students about visions and the use of images. Luther and the Reformation cried out, “The ear, the ear alone is the Christian organ.” The Flemish and Spanish mystics would further caution against the praying imagination, pointing to the cloud of unknowing, the dazzling darkness, the void en route to God. Barthes claims that “...to these mistrustings of the image Ignatius responded with a radical imperialism of the image: product of the guided imagination, the image is the abiding material of the Exercises...It can be said that Ignatius takes as much trouble filling the spirit with images as the mystics (Christian and Buddhist) do in emptying them out ...” Enter, St Robert Southwell (1561-1595) poet, martyr, genius image-maker and gifted “graduate of the school of Ignatian Exercises.” He delights in turning a phrase to make us see a new side of the mystery he is contemplating; taking us by the hand into a scene to share in his amazement. For example, he takes a kind of Ignatian “aerial view” from the cosmos, over the Nativity of the Lord calling us to: “Behold, the Father is his daughter’s son. The bird that built the nest is hatched therein...Might feeble is, and Force doth faintly creep.” In a brief poem to the Child Jesus called “A Childe My Choyse” are found these beautiful, unforgettable lines: “First friend He was, best friend He is, all times will try Him true.” Robert’s 19th century spiritual descendant, Gerard Manley Hopkins (the father of modern poetry) would later contemplate these lines and almost echo them in his poem “The Lantern Out of Doors” speaking also of the Savior as “...first, fast, last friend.” There is no one like St Robert. His poetry evolved from a somewhat stiff neo-classical style to a vivid,playful devotional praise of God. There is so much adoration in Robert. He loves and adores the Holy Family , the Child Jesus, the saints he sees closest to Jesus in the Gospels ,like Sts Peter and Mary Magdalen. Robert’s most famous poem, “The Burning Babe”actually anticipates the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by almost a hundred years. He has been termed a minor poet of the Elizabethan Renaissance, but I think this has more to do with his pure and devotional subject matter than with his gifts as a poet. The English poet and dramatist, Ben Jonson said he would have given anything to have written “The Burning Babe,” and there is scholarly talk of Robert Southwell’s influence on the art of William Shakespeare. Robert was betrayed by a family friend , Anne Bellamy, and captured in June of 1592 by the sadistic monster, Richard Topcliffe who led him, bound in chains, to his residence next to the Gatehouse prison at Westminster , where he had his private torture chamber. On February 21 , 1595 Robert was taken to Tyburn to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The crowd was hushed and reverent as he prayed three times including a prayer for England and Queen Elizabeth. He begged Our Lady and all the saints and angels to intercede for him, ending with Jesus last words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The cart that he was standing on slowly pulled away and left Robert hanging. Ordinarily prisoners were taken down while still alive and then dismembered. As the hangman moved to take him down the crowd growled, “He prayed for the Queen!” Then, mercifully the hangman pulled his legs breaking his neck. The long years of horrific suffering came to an end. Afterwards his heart was said to have leaped from his body at the touch of the knife.
His head was cut off and placed on a spike on London Bridge; his body cut into four parts and exhibited around the city as a warning. It is said that two collections of Roberts devotional poems fell into the hands of Elizabeth after his death; upon encountering his beautiful soul in the poems, she deeply regretted his murder. Tragically, three hundred Protestants were also murdered under Elizabeth’s sister, Queen Mary. St Robert Southwell, along with Edmund Campion, Margaret Clitherow and forty other English and Welsh martyrs, out of three hundred Catholics, were canonized by Pope Paul IV in 1970. Their feast is December 1st.
Fr Bill McNichols
27 November 2017
In his 2014 Christmas CD “If On A Winter’s Night” - the British singer-songwriter Sting put St Robert Southwell’s poem “The Burning Babe” to music.

Christ the King The Bridegroom

November 21st, 2017

Christ the King  The Bridegroom

Christ the King : The Bridegroom
(O Nymphios - in Greek)
“The Lord comes out before the people, attired in the signs of his nonfulfilled kingship. In this nonfulfillment of his rule, his entire mission is contained. For if it had been fulfilled on earth, it would have been limited in space and time and thus would not be his mission...in all areas, he only made starts, only sowed beginnings...on some hearts, he engraved the sign of the Divine Always-More, the sign of what is unfulfillable in this world. To be a Christian means this: to close nothing off as completed, but to open oneself up into the always-more of the Son’s love for the Father...As the nonfulfilled and thus, for the world, the contemptible-he is displayed to all. In himself, he wants never to be fulfilled, but only to live in the ever-greater fullness of the Father. And thus he is presented to the world.”
Adrienne von Speyr
Commentary on the Gospel of St John, volume 4.
“Christ the Bridegroom is the central figure in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13); Christ is the divine Bridegroom of the Church as described in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 54, as well as the primary image of Bridegroom Matins. The title is suggestive of his divine presence and watchfulness, ‘Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night...’ “
Orthodoxwiki.org
As a child our familiy’s first parish home was Christ the King, and later, St John the Evangelist (now renamed Good Shepherd) and Mother of God Church-all three in Denver, Colorado. The theology of the Sisters of the Precious Blood who taught at Christ the King is very evident to me when I look back at one of my first drawings of the Crucifixion, “colored and drawn” at age 5. You can see it if you go to the “drawings, illustrations ,images” gallery on the website. Although the Crucified King is right there in that early drawing, I have to say my understanding of Him has grown over the years through the writings of William Stringfellow, Jim Douglass, Dan and Phil Berrigan, Dorothy Day, Pope Benedict and Adrienne von Speyr... to name just a few...as well as a host of scripture scholars. Listen to this: “...God did not intend Israel to have a kingdom. The kingdom was a result of Israel’s rebellion against God...The law was to be Israel’s king, and through the law, God himself...God yielded to Israel’s obstinacy and so devised a new kind of kingship for them. The King is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself...The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.” Pope Benedict XVI . The story the Pope refers to can be read in the Book of Samuel (1 Samuel 8:5-22). This is one of the most chilling passages in all of scripture, and lays bare our lust for nationalism and war. The people demand from the prophet a human king. Samuel is disgusted with their request and warns them, “...If you have a king he’ll make an army and take your sons. He will enslave your daughters, maidservants and manservants. He will take your property, your vineyards, your livestock.”...nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel...”we will have a king over us; that we may be like all the nations.” And the Lord said, “they have not rejected you Samuel, but they have rejected me that I should not reign over them.” When a child (or adult) is Baptized the deacon or priest says I Baptize you as a priest, prophet and king (or queen). This is not just a quaint or complimentary designation, but the absolute truth. We are destined to be Kings and Queens in the only kingdom that will last forever, as we say in the Nicene Creed on Sunday’s , “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”
Here is a beautiful Orthodox exaposteilarion hymn from Holy Tuesday:
“I see Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, but have no wedding garment that I may enter. O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul, and save me.”
Our desire to be with God even though we often feel unworthy, reminds me of the death of St Thomas More in the play/film “A Man For All Seasons” by Robert Bolt. More tells the executioner to do his duty because he will send More to God. Then Archbishop Cranmer says how can you be so sure? More replies because, “ He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to him.”
Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday in the church year, this year, November 26. On the following Sunday, December 3 ,Advent begins...O Come, O Come Emmanuel...and Christ the King, the true Desire of All Nations.
Fr Bill McNichols
November 2017
For the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

The Non-Violent Cross and The Holy Cross of Talpa

November 8th, 2017

The Non-Violent Cross and The Holy Cross of Talpa

The Non-Violent Cross: and The Holy Cross of Talpa
I was twenty years old and a Jesuit Novice when I read the theological masterpiece by Jim Douglass, “The Non-Violent Cross”, at a very humble place called” Charboniere Villa” (an old, warm, charming and slightly broken down house with bunk beds) which was the Jesuit Novices’ villa. We went there for two weeks in the summer and most weekends during the year while we were imbibing St Ignatius’ Spirituality at St Stanislaus Seminary, formerly in Florissant, Missouri. This was for me during the years, 1968-1970.
I remember sitting on an old wooden chair reading by the window, on a very hot and humid summer day. As I read Jim’s understanding of the changes in Christianity, after Constantine (in the year 312) saw the vision in the sky of the Cross, and the now legendary words around the Cross, (in Greek but translated into Latin) “In hoc signo vinces-In this sign thou shalt conquer!” I could barely go on, I was stunned and fixed to my chair. This book was something completely new to me but also something I had intuitively known in my soul and body since early childhood. Jim basically says (and please read his book for yourselves ) that the Sign was the non-violent Cross. The very meaning of the Cross is non-violence...no retaliation, no vengeance, on and on...flowing from the Beatitudes of Jesus given in his Sermon on the Mount, in what the scripture scholar G.B. Caird, in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke, calls Jesus “inaugural speech.” And in this book “Holy Theologian” Jim Douglass reminds us of the true meaning of the Sign, and warns us, that we’ve taken down the Cross in the sky and turned it into a sword ever since that vision given to Constantine.
Last night the young artist and filmmaker, Christopher Summa (“The Boy Who Found Gold”) emailed me an article printed from the Chicago Tribune “Why church shootings don’t intimidate the church”by Russel Moore. It overwhelmed me in the same spiritually enlightening way as my first encounter with Jim’s Douglass’ book. Mr Moore seems to me, to be saying that Christianity is Only enlivened by the Cross, and that the pompous triumphal christianity, we want because it is safe, yet numbing, leads to our personal and collective soul death. As St John says in the Apocalypse, “See, the Lion of Judah has conquered...then I saw a Lamb...” (Revelation 5:5,6)
“...For John looks for the Lion from the tribe of Judah and sees a Lamb.” (Page 74, G.B. Caird “The Revelation of St John.”)
The Cross I chose to illustrate this blog was commissioned by the deceased, and much beloved artist (d+2013) and my friend from Talpa (a small village within Taos) Charlie Strong. His widow Lyn B. Strong has been trying to find a church or “perfect home” for the 6ft Cross ever since the death of Charlie. It was made at his instruction with a small painting of Charlie and Lyn’s adobe home in Taos, modeled after the Ranchos de Taos Church,in the right panel near the body of Jesus. I decided to set the scene of the Cross in the Talpa night, using the Catholic symbolism of Mary as the Moon, the reflected light of the Sun...her son. I was very influenced by the gorgeous night paintings of Frederic Remington (1861-1909) and of course, the Italian master and teacher of Giotto, Cimabue (1240-1302).
This work, entitled “The Holy Cross of Talpa” was first shown in my exhibit at the Millicent Rogers Museum, “Silence in the Storm” in September 2008. It was a very difficult time for me personally so, in my mind the Cross shows and bears that difficulty in its essence. Because of that serious “discomfort,” I chose to place a small mandorla (almond shaped or egg shaped-form) with the hint of the Russian-Protecting-Icon, “She Who Reigns” hovering above Charlie and Lyn’s home in the night sky. This icon is said to have appeared right before the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia telling the people that Jesus and the Mother of God were/are the true and only rulers of the Russian people. As we near the feast of Christ the King of the Universe, it’s a reminder for our entire world. I don’t pretend to have an answer for the daily shootings and murders we are living in now. But I do know people have lived through plagues, pandemics, natural disasters, mass murders and wars since the first murder in Scripture of Abel by his brother Cain. I always remember and have quoted this before in other writings, that Holy Prophet Daniel Berrigan would often say, “The first murder in the Bible was of a brother by a brother and it’s been that way ever since.” When Mr Russell wrote in his article about the true nature, meaning and comfort of Christianity returning or staying with the Cross, I felt awakened again out of numbness and helplessness. This is a great mystery and can only be found through meditating or contemplating the Cross of Jesus and it’s meaning for us today, right now as we wait for Thanksgiving, Christ the King, and moving gradually as “the Shekhinah “ (or as some people experience it-the spirit of Advent“) descends gently, palpably to earth for the brief four weeks of the Holy Season of Advent; into the Christmas Season.

Let me sum all this up with a quote from St Louis de Montfort (1673-1716)the founder of the women’s religious order the Daughters of Wisdom :
“Wisdom is the Cross, the Cross is wisdom.”

Fr Bill McNichols
November 2017

The Holy Souls - The Souls of The Just Are In the Hands of God -Wisdom 3

October 20th, 2017

The Holy Souls - The Souls of The Just Are In the Hands of God  -Wisdom 3

The Holy Souls : “The Souls of The Just Are In the Hands of God” -Wisdom 3
On April 27 2012 I was walking in the mountains with my friend and great Artist, Warren Kelly and his daughter Kaylie. I was gradually getting breathless, as if my life was a light dimmer - getting dimmer by the second- and mentioned that to Warren. He said “I hope it’s your breath and not your ticker.” At that point I knew it was my heart or ticker. I sat down and within a half hour I think, I was being flown to the Durango, Hospital in Colorado. They put me under and I was then flown to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque. My Doctor, the incredible Doctor Carl Lagerstrom, said when I arrived, on a one to ten scale my heart was a one. I woke up two weeks later partially hallucinating because I’d had nine drugs put in me, but my sister Mary remembers I told her my hero-doctor St Hildegard had been in the room. I don’t remember this, but after that time, well into recovery , I believed she brought me back to life. Since early childhood I’ve been aware of the Holy Souls or the Souls in Purgatory. In grade school we were told that on All Soul’s Day, November 2nd, we could save a soul by saying a set of prayers and going in and out of the church-for each set. I remember not wanting to go home because I thought I could help another soul. I’d love to write in great depth about the change in attitude toward death after Vatican II, but can only say a little...the vestments (for a funeral) went, literally, from black to white. The last church Requiem written for a Funeral Mass was Maurice Durufle’s Requiem (completed in 1948). The music is so tranquil, soft and beautiful it sounds like the soul is floating down a stream, lit like a candle inside a tiny boat . Compare it to Mozart or Verdi, and you’ll see what I mean. There have been requiems written since Durufle but not to be sung at a funeral mass, they are concert pieces. This awareness of the Souls at this time of the year is in many many cultures, for example the ancient Celtic Sawan or Samhain. I personally experience, this “season of the souls” lasts about a month, from October 15-November 15. It’s a time to “embrace” those who have gone be before us and pray for them. The Mexican culture’s Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead) celebrations are entering into more American cities each year. After Raymond Moody’s book “Life After Life” came out in 1975, attitudes toward death began to change rapidly. I am very fond of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s “On Life After Death” and Kenneth Ring’s “Lessons From the Light.” Now there are lots of books on this subject. And so , what is Purgatory? Is it in some ways similar to the Tibetan Toll Houses? Not being a Buddhist I can’t say for sure. But I put myself on a journey to find out what different cultures believed about life after death when I was a Hospice chaplain in NYC in the 80’s. Now I can say that because of many saints and church mystics I believe we ourselves choose Purgatory. The Austrian mystic Maria Simma (1915-2004 - the Church has not officially approved of her revelations yet, so it may not be for you) and St Padre Pio have a lot to say on this, and the Official Catechism of the Catholic Church, is a very good start. But a quick explanation is that when we die there is so much we regret. Mostly withholding love and our human penchant for cruelty, vengeance and the belief we are right...at all costs. We all share in these sins against the unconditional love of God for us. We can also say an absolute no to God and choose Hell, and yet both Origen Adamantius (“rehabilitated” by von B) and Cardinal von Balthasar believed in an empty Hell at the end of time . So imagine the Light of God is so overwhelmingly filled with love that we can only take a little at a time. We feel we are not yet purified enough and we choose to be at a “safe” distance from this Light while still feeling it’s pulling us toward it. Meanwhile we wish we could go back to earth and clean up all the damage we’ve done, but it’s too late. So there is agony in knowing what we did and we can’t pray for or forgive ourselves. Those who have lived with us, and are still on earth, can pray for us and in Purgatory, apparently we feel these prayers like the most soothing balm. Then when the souls go into heaven completely, they never forget the help we gave them. This is why we say Mass for them, and pray the Rosary or any prayers that honestly do touch the Holy Souls. I am well aware this is way too brief but I know you can go on your own journey to look into our Catholic beliefs about Purgatory. I’ll close with an experience of St Gertrude the Great from Susan Tassone’s book “Day By Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.”
“One day St Gertrude was praying for the Holy Souls when Jesus admonished her for not praying with confident assurance, the faith and realized hope, that God hears and answers our prayers. He assured her: ‘It would not be past my justice to release those suffering souls for whom you are praying, immediately, if you pray with confidence for this petition.” Page 281
This image from the Book of Wisdom, chapter 3, was commissioned by my friend Fr Robert Fisher for All Souls Church in Denver, Colorado.
Fr Bill McNichols
“We’ve been around, we fall, we fly
We mostly fall, we mostly run
And every now and then we try
To mend the damage that we’ve done
Tonight, tonight I just can’t rest
I’ve got this joy here inside my breast
To think that I did not forget that child
That Song of Bernadette...”
Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

St Francisco Marto - O Milagre de Fatima do Sol

October 10th, 2017

St Francisco Marto - O Milagre de Fatima do Sol

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

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

October 2nd, 2017

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

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

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

September 25th, 2017

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

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

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

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

Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge, OFM

September 10th, 2017

Holy Passion Bearer Mychal Judge, OFM

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

Fr Bill McNichols
10 September 2017

The Bride - The Church

September 4th, 2017

The Bride - The Church

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

Princess Diana - The Queen of Hearts

August 24th, 2017

Princess Diana - The Queen of Hearts

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

Fr Bill McNichols
August 2017

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

August 22nd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr Bill McNichols
August 2017

Holy New Martyr Blessed Franz Jaggerstatter

August 8th, 2017

Holy New Martyr Blessed Franz Jaggerstatter

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

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

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

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

I Come With Three Wounds - Llego ' Con Tres Heridas

August 1st, 2017

I Come With Three Wounds  -  Llego

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

The Shrine of St Anne

July 26th, 2017

The Shrine of St Anne

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

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