Saturday, March 24, 2018

Blessed Oscar Romero, Pray for Us!

Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom in 1980 of Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who gave his life as as a defender and advocate of the poor of El Salvador, whose oppression and suffering cried out to heaven itself.

On his feast day, I find myself reflecting on these words that he preached:

"For the Church the many abuses of human life, liberty and dignity are a heartfelt suffering.  The Church, entrusted with the earth's glory, believes that each person is the Creator's image and that everyone who tramples it offends God.  As the holy defender of God's rights and of God's images, the Church must cry out.  It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as the Cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers.

The suffer as God's images.  There is no dichotomy between  humans and God's image.  Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being, abuses God's image, and the Church takes as its own that Cross, that martyrdom."

Blessed Oscar Romero, Pray for Us!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Seven Years of Civil War in Syria

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of the beginning of the catastrophic civil war in Syria.  It began with the Assad regime violently repressing demonstrations calling for the resignation of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad and a democratic government, which quickly escalated into a brutal civil war.  First, between Syrian factions and then became a proxy war between neighboring countries that either backed the government or the various rebel factions.

The big losers have been the people of Syria, whose homes and towns and cities have been destroyed, who've been imprisoned and "disappeared" by the thousands and who have been forced to flee the relentless violence in their millions, seeking refuge either within the country, in neighboring countries or in Europe. 

As ourHoly Father has asked us to do, let us continue to pray for peace and an end to the violence in this unfortunate country.

Prayer for Peace in Syria

God of Compassion, 
hear the cries of the people of Syria. 
Bring healing to those suffering from the violence.
Bring comfort to those mourning the dead.
Strengthen Syria's neighbors in their care and welcome for refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms.
And protect those committed to peace.

God of Hope,
inspire leader to chose peace over violence
and to seek reconciliation with enemies.
Inspire the Church around the world
with compassion for the people of Syria.
And give us hope for a future of peace
built on justice for all.

We ask this through Jesus Christ,
Prince of Peace and Light of the World.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Pure Gift, Pure Grace

Ivory Billed Woodpeckers by James Audubon

While in Sitka this past weekend my friend Fr. Andy, the Catholic pastor there mentioned that he thought bird watching was a particularly good pastime for priests and deacons.  Some of his reasons were obvious, others less so. 

  • Bird watching gets you out of the house and outdoors, walking around.  
  • Its an education in paying close attention.  
  • It involves silently looking and listening.  
  • Its a contemplative, even prayerful activity.  
  • Watching birds involves actual and not virtual reality. 
  • And its got just enough competition built into to keep most guys interested (eg. the sacred "life list".)

I'm just a civilian when it comes to birdwatching (although I'm thinking that after our conversation it may be time to get my binoculars and start watching).  I wonder too if watching birds might be a kind of pedagogy in the transcendence and mystical presence of God. 

Transcendent, because like God, wild birds are entirely other - they exist in an reality that may intersect with ours, but which we are unable to participate in except by analogy or imitation.

Mystical, because like God, these creatures are beings entirely outside of our control.   Birds appear and disappear as they please.  They can't be summoned up at will or controlled by us.  Rather, their presence is pure gift, pure grace.   

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

All Holy Women: Pray for Us!

Back in 1985 when I had the opportunity to study icon painting with Dmitri Shkolnik at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, I was delighted to discover that the main monastery church was covered in beautiful frescoes.  After a few days there, I noticed a pattern, which was that one entire side of the nave was covered from floor to ceiling with women saints (the other side was made up of icons of men saints) and that they somehow met in the middle of the ceiling (also frescoed!). 

So on this International Women's Day, icons of a few of the countless holy women (including a few by my hand) whose example of fidelity, courage and love inspire me to a deeper conversion to Christ and who sustain all of us by their merits and their prayers. 

All holy women: pray for us!

St. Lucy of Syracuse, Virgin and Martyr

St, Agatha of Catania, Virgin and Martyr

St. Cecilia of Rome, Virgin and Martyr

St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, North African Martyrs

St. Mary of Egypt, Penitent

St. Olympias the Deaconess

St. Martha and St. Mary (and their brother Lazarus)

St. Olga of Alaska

"Windows Into Heaven"

Its been a little over a month since the solo exhibit of my work as an iconographer opened at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau.  For the past year or so I've been preoccupied with the (seemingly) endless details of putting together a retrospective exhibit of the work I've done as an iconographer over the past thirty-eight years. (Hence the neglect of this blog!)

It turned out not to be straightforward at all, especially for someone with so little experience with actually exhibiting my art work in a gallery, much less the state museum!  It all came right in the end, thanks to the generosity of the churches and individuals that lent the museum work of mine that they own.  Thank you!

Fortunately, two of the museum curators, Jackie Manning and Aaron Elmore, kindly guided me through the process and provided their invaluable (and much needed expertise!) in every aspect of mounting the exhibit.  I'm grateful as well to Bob Banghart, the retired director of the state museum drew on his long experience as a curator to help me solve what appeared at the time to be several intractable problems.

Below is the link to a virtual tour of the exhibit.  It is a slideshow that begins with my artist's statement and slides in order of the all of the pieces displayed in the exhibit.  Each slide has a photograph of the artwork with the exhibit label next to it.

You may have experienced opening the video yesterday and today.  However, the problem has been fixed and its now opening without any problems.  Thank you to everyone who contacted me to let me know about this!