Friday, June 30, 2017

Mary, Mother of Mercy, Pray for Them!

Ravensburger Schultzmantel Madonna
I'm beginning my fourth and final week teaching in the studio (and on retreat) while taking annual leave from my regular job at the Diocese of Juneau.  It is always a welcome opportunity to quiet down, reflect and pray.   I've been particularly praying for  refugees,(who are fleeing either political or sectarian violence and war) and migrants, who are trying to escape poverty, drought, crop failure and famine.

Its hard for me to understand the difference.  On one side of my family, my Alsatian ancestors were refugees, forced out of Alsace after the German defeat of France in 1870.   My Irish immigrant economic migrants, trying to survive the very real threat of starvation during the Great Hunger and hoping for a better life.  Both families made the perilous journey by sea to America and found asylum  (if not, in the case of the Irish, welcome) in the New World.

This past week, more than 20,000 migrants from Africa and Asia were rescued attempting to cross from North Africa to Europe without authorization (legal immigration is closed.  They are desperate and vulnerable and the traffickers who prey on them are unscrupulous and greedy, packing them by the thousands in unseaworthy ships and  rubber rafts.  Over 5,000 drowned in 2016 and 1,985 to date in 2017 when their boats were swamped or capsized.

It is a humanitarian and human tragedy that will only get worse, in a world in which 65.3 million people are refugees.

As I've noted in earlier posts, I pray better with a pencil or a brush in my hand, and as I was praying for those desperate people in peril in the Mediterranean and those rescuing them, the image of Mary the Mother of Mercy came into my mind.  Made popular by the mendicant orders such as the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the Mother of Mercy is depicted extending her cloak over those seeking her protection and prayers.  There are many, many variations.  The Ravensburger Schultzmantel Madonna is a well-known example.
And thus, this initial drawing for an icon of Mary, Mother of Mercy, Mother of Refugees and Migrants.  

Mary, Mother of Mercy, extend your protective mantle over refugees and migrants everywhere, especially those in peril on the sea!

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Month Away on Retreat (Without Leaving the City Limits)

I'm taking annual leave for four weeks to work in the studio with a student, Julie Perigo, who has come to Juneau for an intensive tutorial on icon painting.  We've already completed almost a week together and she has begun work on the Holy Face ('The Icon of Christ-Made-Without-Hands)

This icon is best starting point to introduce the theology of the icon and the spirituality of the iconographer and a good place to begin painting as well, as the composition is very simple.

She is also getting hands-on experience (no pun intended) in the craft work of making wooden icon panels and preparing the levkas (the gesso ground for the board) as well as water gilding and egg tempera painting.

I'm grateful to have the leave time to devote to working with her and being in the studio.  It is as much a spiritual retreat as work time, as I tend to pray best with a brush (or a piece of sandpaper) in my hand.