Wise and Holy Women of Lent: Art and Stories – Part 3

Wise and Holy Women of Lent: Art and Stories – Part 3


[Br. Michael O’Neill McGrath,
O.S.F.S.] I got another 1,000 years of Church history
to get through here. Since we’re in New
England, I just thought I’d start
this next segment off with one of your great writers
and poets, Henry David Thoreau, and I just love this notion,
“We need the tonic of wildness.” You know, and it’s
the same thing. I think that’s what
Mary Magdalene was after in that cave, you know,
just going into the wilds, into the desert, into the cave. Mary Oliver, your other
great poet from up here: “Tell me, what is it you
plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I taught a course at
the Grunewald Guild several years ago called
Illuminating the Word. And I team taught it, and
the woman I taught with started each class off with
either a Scripture passage or a poem. And we did a lectio
divina around it, everybody had to share their
favorite word or phrase. Then I took everybody
over to the studio, and they had to visualize
their favorite word or phrase. And this is mine
from a poem called Summer, in which she
talks about– there’s a grasshopper up top there. But right in the
line before this one, she has a grasshopper
in her hand, and she said, “Tell
me about grasshoppers, but not all grasshoppers,
this one that I’m looking at.” And it’s a prayer to God, you
know, all as all her poetry is, about being in nature
on Cape Cod where she lives, by either walking the
beach or the woods, and experiencing
the presence of God, and that’s what
leads us to prayer. And that’s nothing new,
is it, that sometimes we have new voices that lead us
to what we’ve known all along. We’ve just lost touch with it. And I was being
reminded by my new BFFs over here, from St.
Katharine Drexel Parish, that today is the
feast of St. Katharine Drexel. And I had her built in
earlier and then took her out in the interest of
time, but I thought if I want to get
out of here alive, I better put her back in. So of course, she
was a Philly girl, and I grew up not far from her
shrine, her motherhouse, which sadly is now closed, and
the sisters had to move on, and her tomb, her body
has been sent down to the cathedral
in downtown Philly. Same thing happened with St.
Marianne Cope in Syracuse. Her whole motherhouse is
chained up and padlocked, and you can’t get in it,
and they sent her body back to Hawaii. And the Shrine of the
North American Martyrs. It’s just, it’s a part
of the new age we’re in. I think people just
don’t have devotion to the idea of pilgrimage
to visit Saints anymore. And of course, I love it myself. So anyhow, Katharine
Drexel grew up a debutante in a very, very
wealthy family in Philadelphia. But she used her fortune
and her inheritance to start the Sisters of
the Blessed Sacrament to work with Native Americans
and African Americans. This is back at the turn
of the last century. And one of the sisters is here. That’s why I’m really careful
about what I’m saying. Make sure I’ve got
my facts right. [applause] But the night before
that motherhouse opened– what was it 1900
when the property opened? Or roughly. [participant] 1891. [br. mcgrath] 1891. Katharine was walking
around with a policeman. It was the night before
the official opening of it, and they found dynamite that the
KKK had planted, because they hated her, obviously,
for the work that she had
dedicated her life to. As a young woman of 18 or 19,
she took a train ride out West and saw a Navajo reservation
and the horrible, horrible conditions that Native
Americans were living in. And then she learned about the
horrible conditions of African Americans in the Deep South. And she, because
of her privilege, met Pope Leo XIII face to face. She had a private
audience with him when she did her European tour,
which all refined young women did in those days,
and she said, “You’ve got to do something
about, send missionaries, because the Blacks and
Indians need help.” And he said, “Why
don’t you do it?” So that’s how she came to found
the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. But this is one of her lines. This is based on a photograph
of her at the age of 18, and the painting
was commissioned by St. Juan Diego High School
in Salt Lake City, Utah. They have a library
there, all glass, overlooking the Rocky Mountains. It’s absolutely beautiful. And their library was dedicated
to St. Katharine Drexel, so they commissioned this
painting to hang there. I haven’t been there lately. I don’t know if she’s still
there or not, but anyhow, I based it on a photograph
of her at the age of 18, so that she looked close
in age to the students in this high school. And this is one of her
quotes: “Respect others in heart and mind. If there’s any prejudice in
the mind, we must uproot it or it will pull us down.” And here she is with a
Native American boy, Jesus. That’s Jesus, but holding the
monstrance close to her heart. That’s why they’re called
the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Around the border, it’s
cut out of this picture, but there’s motifs from many
different Native American tribes from around the United
States, just their patterns and whatnot. And you see the bottom right
one is a train heading West. And that’s a real feather in
the band of the Navajo boy there on the left. Well, as you know, we’re
back to Philly again. And before the pope
came, I went around town sketching him in all
our big tourist spots. And the biggest tourist spot is
the top step of the art museum, [laughter] you know,
that Rocky ran up. [laughter] Day or night, there
is always a bus load of people, either running up
the steps or posing next to the statue of
him down at the bottom. Many of you have been there. Sadly, I don’t think any of
them ever go in the museum, but at least they get that far. So anyhow, I have
the pope there, and he’s standing on what there
are bronze footprints where Rocky stood. And so, and there he is,
cheering on the crowds. And I actually put the quote,
I love the quote up top; it’s what he said to the
youth in the Philippines when he was there: “Have
the courage to be happy.” And in this day and age,
with all the troubles that youth face, teenagers,
young people, all the temptations, all the ways
that they are being encouraged by our culture and society
to go away from Jesus, he’s saying it takes
courage to be happy. You’re happy if you have
faith in the Risen Christ. You know that’s really
where you should be moving. And I thought, what a
beautiful twist on there; never thought of happy
being courageous before. So a couple months
ago, back in the fall, a friend of mine from the West
Coast from the Grunewald Guild actually, Karen, came to Philly. And she had never been
to the art museum. So we went there
and spent a good two hours inside the museum. Then we were coming
out the front doors, and it’s so hard, of course,
to convey in a picture, but this was what
we encountered. And it was just breathtaking. It’s like everybody in
the big plaza there just stopped and looked. It was like a moment,
a flash of a moment, and what I think of as a “thin
place,” because of the lighting and the sky and everything. It was just beautiful weather. Everything was perfect. It was like God was
hovering right over the city and with the light,
you know, and it was just one of
those passing moments where you were
aware of the Cosmos and the Sacred Heart
in a whole new way. And literally, people were
just kind of, you know. And so Karen said,
“You think where you’re seeing this
differently because we just spent two hours
looking at beauty,” and I thought,
“Maybe, we were just trained to seek beauty in the
midst of all the troubles.” That was a Saturday afternoon. And there were two
wedding parties there with the brides
and bridesmaids taking their heels off at the
bottom and running up the steps and standing at
the top like Rocky. And I noticed that the groom and
groomsmen are all at the bottom taking the pictures. They weren’t the ones
running up the steps, and then they all would
have their wedding pictures. So it’s really become
a wonderful gathering place for the city now. But the reason I’m
showing it, of course, is that that moment,
that flash of awareness, just enough to
say, “All’s well.” And as scary as the world
is, this is here, too. Don’t get caught
up in the negative. And this is a more recent– [laughter] So this is the
center of town now, of course. I love this line
from Pope Francis: “Try to think, in this moment,
with the disappointments and defeats that each
one carries in the heart, that there is a God close to
us, who calls us by our name and says: Arise, stop
crying, because I have come to set you free.” So here we are back in the boat. And we’re going to
look at Mary Magdalene. And despite the conversation
I just had with someone at lunch, who’s a
Mary Magdalene scholar and doesn’t buy this whole
French version of it. But in any event,
this is a picture I did of Mary Magdalene
on my iPad several years ago just for my
morning meditations. But it ended up being a
little psychedelic, didn’t it? I thought this should be on
that hippie bus, [laughter] an old Volkswagen bus. But it’s Mary Magdalene,
“I have seen the Lord,” and just everything bursting
into life and light and color, just like Pope Francis
just said in that quote: “Don’t be afraid.” And so my calendar this
year, which I guess, I don’t even know
if they sent them, but you can get it online
if you’re interested. The theme is “Saints
and Critters.” And this for April, not only
because Easter is in there, but it’s the Feast of
Catherine of Siena, who had great devotion
to Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is the
Patron of the Dominicans, because of her
preaching ability. And they are, of course,
the Order of Preachers. So Aquinas said, “We should make
her the patron of the community since she was the
first preacher.” She’s called from the
early stages of the Church, the “Apostle to the Apostles.” Here’s Mary Magdalene. I went to India back in 1997,
to our seminary in Bangalore, for a month. Classmate of mine [inaudible]
was the novice director at the time, and he said,
“Would you come over and do an art and prayer
workshop for our novices?” And he said, “We’ll have
it at the end of the month. Don’t stay for
less than a month, because of the adjustments and
the time it takes to travel.” So it was a very special time. But on the way over, since
it was right after Easter that year, I chose
Mary Magdalene kind of as a traveling companion. And so this was on
the way over to India, and she’s sitting in front
of the tomb wrapped up in her own stuff. She doesn’t even realize it’s
empty or doesn’t know yet what’s going to be going on
inside that tomb, you know. Often, we would prefer to
hang on to our security, to stand in front of a tomb. We are afraid of
God’s surprises. This is Pope Francis:
“God always surprises us. God is like that. Let us not be closed
to the newness God wants to bring to us.” Of course, these paintings were
done 20 years before there was such a thing as Pope Francis. But this is at the
end of the tour. And look at the difference. And what this reflects
is the difference in me, from going over there
full of curiosity and what’s this going to be? And I had never been in a
non-Western culture before, so that took a
bit of adjustment. That’s a whole other
morning session. But by the end, I
didn’t want to leave. It was so awesome. And to see the connectedness
beneath our faiths and what I learned from our
Indian novices and Anthony de Mello and all these
great people, who show the connection,
and Thomas Merton, between our Western spirituality
and teachings and the Hindu and Buddhist and the
other part of the world, how beneath the
surface we are all one. We’re all created in the
image and likeness of God. I even drew St. Francis de Sales
dressed up in a guru’s outfit, just to show. They’d learn
things, and I’d say, “Oh Francis de Sales
said that,” you know it’s just common
sense spirituality. So here’s Mary Magdalene
at the tomb door, and in this painting, she is
holding a bouquet of flowers to bring to the tomb. And a friend of mine,
when I was painting, I lived in Washington,
and I remember one of the guys stopping
in the studio, and he said, “Tell me about this painting.” And I told him it
was Mary Magdalene, and she’s standing at
the on Easter morning, and he said, “Oh, and it’s like
we’re getting Jesus’s view. He’s looking up from
the tomb at her.” I thought, that’s neat. I said, “Yeah, you get it.” [laughter] This is how
I get all my ideas. And he said, “And
that bouquet,” he said, “it’s like
right in her womb. So this is really
about new life.” Of course. What am I, an idiot? I knew that. And he is a biologist,
a scientist, so I thought it’s so neat
how things come together. But anyhow, all
these flowers were symbolic to Mary Magdalene
in the Middle Ages. People always ask me how long
it takes to do a painting, and it’s not as
long as you think. I do it all the time. I know my way around
paint, or now, the iPad. It’s the research
and the thinking. That’s what takes much,
much longer, and then once I start painting, that’s nothing. But anyhow, so I did
a lot of research, and all these flowers, and
we won’t go into them here. But they were symbolic of Mary
Magdalene in the Middle Ages. But in the center, the white
flower is Jesus, fully bloomed and opened. But around it, is
a crown of thorns, hard to see in the
projection here, but that was inspired by
Francis de Sales, who said, “If you want
to enjoy the roses, you have to accept the
thorns that come with them.” Ain’t that life? “No free lunch” is
our way of saying it. So eight years ago, I was asked
to do some large paintings for Sisters of Mercy High
School, all girls high school, just outside Philadelphia. And they built a new
wing on their building, one of which one was a chapel. And so they wanted 14 Saints,
who exemplified the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. So this is the
Mary Magdalene one. But the unique twist was
Sister Gina, the principal at the time, set up
sawhorses in the hallway, and these were painted,
begun right in the hallway, so that the girls came
out and helped paint them, the students. And the art class,
every art class came out while I was
there and helped paint. And then I took them
back to Washington and did the facial features
and fine-tuned the details and cleaned up any
little messy stuff. The backgrounds were all
sponged on with gold paint that the girls did, and
it was a wonderful way to bring them into
the whole process. But they were learning so much
that their teacher decided to give them credit
for doing this, and the theology teacher,
senior theology teacher, had them write essays. And they sent them to
me after it was over. And then I remember
the one girl said, “You know, we study
Church history, and the Church has not
been very kind to women over the centuries.” She said, “But when I learned
about Teresa of Avila, doing these
paintings, I realized there are strong women
models for me out there.” And another girl
said, “I can’t wait til I have a daughter
of my own to, that I’m going to bring her
here to school and show, I painted Mary
Magdalene’s dress. You want to pass it on. And so it became a wonderful,
ongoing thing, rather than just me painting something
and shipping it off, and all of a sudden,
there they are. It became part of the
lifeblood of the place. Now don’t ask me to paint
with 15-year-old girls again. Inside, if you ever
come to Philly, inside the museum
is the painting. I remember from the time I
was a little kid, my dad used to bring me to the art museum. That’s one of the reasons
I love art so much. So to this day, when I need to
run away from home for a day, I just hop on the
train and go across, I’m five minutes
from downtown Philly, and go to the art museum. And that’s my place I go
into, a cathedral for me. Because not only
does that flood back the memories of going
there, loving it as a kid, but what it means
to me now also. But this painting was there,
and it’s Mary Magdalene preaching the Gospel. And I can distinctly
remember, my father, I said, “She’s a woman, how could
she preach the Gospel, give a sermon?” And I think that’s where I first
learned the story of France. This is Mary Magdalene in France
bringing the Gospel to Gaul. It’s hard to see, but instead
of a pulpit in church, it’s the branches of a
tree creating a pulpit. So it’s about preaching
the Word outside, and that Creation is our church,
and what a modern concept that is, too. So here’s Our Lady,
Queen of the Apostles. And I have four different color
apostles, two different angels. But Mary Magdalene
is rowing the boat, because she is the
Apostle to the Apostles. And as I said, she was
also in the old Church, called the “New Eve,” just
as Mary, the Mother of God. Mary Magdalene is
called the New Eve because she was in the
garden of the Resurrection, just as Eve was in the
garden of the Fall. That’s the correlation. And for that reason,
Mary Magdalene is the Patron
Saint of Gardeners. So from my children’s
book, Jesus A to Z, this is the letter
D, “Diverse disciples directed by a divine dove
to distant destinations.” I don’t want to get
political, but– If you can’t make out what the
Holy Spirit’s saying [“Come to me, all you who are weary–or
from Norway”], it’s or Sweden, Sweden is okay. I was dying to post this that
morning on my Facebook page, but I decided, as Mrs. Obama
said, “When they go low, we go high.” And I didn’t put this one in
and put a different picture in, which got by the way
220,000 hits, the one I did put, a Black Madonna with
the Hail Mary on it. Thomas Merton said, “The gate
of heaven is everywhere.” This is a tabernacle
that I saw last March, a year ago now, I guess. I went to Guatemala, with
Catholic Relief Services, on a sketching
tour for one week. And it was an eye-opening trip. I want to share some
of that with you. But this was a tabernacle
I saw in a chapel. And when I got home and
translated it to my iPad, I decided to take the
doors of the tabernacle and put the Cosmos
in there, because I think that’s what the trip
meant more than anything to me, is this global
reality of the world. And we’re all in there. That’s what the
tabernacle is, in addition to housing the Eucharist. It’s a beautiful symbol, but
Vatican II has broken us out of that, I hope. I spoke in November, two
times, the same talk twice, at the National Catholic Youth
Conference in Indianapolis, and I had told the kids,
I had 300 kids each time, and I told them, “I know many
of you are very into adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.” And I said, “That’s
a wonderful thing. I would never ever
discourage that, because you are going into your
creative, quiet, contemplative space. And we all need to
do that,” I said, “but it means nothing if
you’re not leaving that chapel and seeing the presence of
Christ, not just in that host, but in the Black kid or the
gay kid or the Mexican kid, whoever. That’s where you need to
see Christ even more.” It’s nice and safe when you’re
in that cozy little room, but that’s not enough. And that’s what this
picture is about. “The Gate of Heaven
is everywhere.” It’s Therese knocking,
“Are you in there today?” Yeah, of course, you are,
but you’re also out here. God’s everywhere. So I’m all about
Black Elk these days, you know the great Sioux
Indian, Ogallala Sioux. He wrote a biography, it
was written about him, called Black Elk Speaks
back in the 1930s. He was a mystic and a convert. And this past November, at
the Bishops’ Conference, the bishops unanimously
agreed to start advancing his cause to canonization. And he will be known
as Nicholas Black Elk. Black Elk was his Sioux name. He was at Custer’s Last Stand,
and as a 15-year-old boy, he scalped the white soldier
at Custer’s Last Stand. And then later was at Wounded
Knee, when the whites massacred hundreds of men and women
and children, women trying to run out of the village with
their children in their arms, and the white soldiers were
just slaughtering them. It’s not all the little
John Wayne Western that is our reality. And he witnessed that as well. He married a Catholic woman
and became Catholic himself and worked with the
Jesuits in Red Cloud, an Indian Reservation
in South Dakota. He died in the 1950s. But he’s noted for,
he never abandoned Native American
spiritual practices. He just saw them in conjunction
with the Catholic practices that he learned to love. He didn’t have to
abandon anything, and that’s what we
see in the modern age, and what cosmic spirituality… It’s not forcing people to
drop one thing, that one’s better than another; it’s
seeing the connectedness of all. He wrote a book that links the
seven sacraments with the seven main principal teachings
of Lakota Sioux life and spirituality. So the story has it that
he was one day smoking his pipe, peace pipe. That was the chief ritual
in the Sioux culture. And this is when
he was an old man. And a Jesuit priest
came by to visit him, who was also an old
man, 80 years old. He had been a missionary in
the Dakotas for 50 years. And the old priest walked in and
saw Black Elk smoking his pipe and whipped it out of his hands
and threw it out the window. He said you’ve got
to abandon these ways and adopt Christian practices. So Black Elk stood
up and whipped– this is his granddaughter
sharing this story– whipped the office book
out of the priest’s hands and threw it out the window. And they both went out to
retrieve their articles, and as they were bent
over to pick them up, they caught each other’s eye
and started laughing and shook hands. And I just love that
beautiful story. The stuff we get, we make
God so small, don’t we? We have God all caught up in
all the stuff that we humans do. God doesn’t care
about any of it, except that we’re
honoring each other, walking with each other,
not all the nonsense that we affix to God. So here’s Black Elk:
“The heart is a sanctuary at the center of which is a
little space where the Great Spirit abides.” Now all Native Americans refer
to God as the Great Spirit, so it was an easy step to
thinking of the Holy Spirit. Listen to what he wrote
here: “The first piece, which is the most important,
is that which comes from the souls of
people when they realize their relationship, their
oneness with the universe, and all its powers. And when they realize that
at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and
that this center is really everywhere; it is
within each of us.” This sounds like Teilhard
de Chardin, doesn’t it, or any of the cosmologists
that we read today, Thomas Berry, Ilio
Delio, all of them. “Find new ways to
spread the Word of God to every corner of the world.” Pope Francis. So this is the new mission
style since Vatican II. Up until now,
missionaries meant, go over and convert everybody. Convert the world. Since Vatican II, that’s not
what missionaries do anymore. It’s not about conversion;
it’s about feeding, healing in hospitals, and
educating, no matter what their faith tradition is. We don’t do that because
they’re Catholic. We do it because we’re Catholic. There’s a whole different
way of looking at things. That’s why we run
Catholic schools. It’s not to make every
kid become Catholic. It’s to spread the
teachings of Christ. That’s what a lot of
people don’t like, but that’s what the pope
is talking about here. So on this trip, the
focus of our Guatemala trip with Catholic
Relief Services, it was youth to see what CRS
is doing with young people and in schools. And we visited this area,
the Quetzal of Quetzal, up in the mountains in
the middle of Guatemala, where a 30-year-old
civil war raged, in which tens and tens of
thousands of Mayan Indians were killed by the government. It was genocide. They were trying to wipe out
the entire native population. So Sisters of
Charity from New York went down there, in 1991,
to help people through PTSD, and rebuild again after
this horrible period. So that’s one of
the things we saw. And they started schools. Catholic Relief Services has,
I forget how many schools, but all the little
children were lined up to greet us, singing a
song, and some of them were dressed in native costume. And they had a prayer service
with an ancient Mayan mandala that they do on the ground
with the same colors, and guess what I
learned the Sioux do? That’s when I was at St. Joseph
Indian School in December. The Sioux Indians do it, too. So it’s all this
Native tradition, leading us to the land,
using nature itself. When Mayan farmers, before
they put a shovel in the dirt, they pray to Mother Earth, “I’m
sorry I’m about to hurt you,” and asked permission, her
permission as they plant. And just as closeness to
the earth and to Creation. I visited a third
grade classroom, and this woman, who happened to
be the principal of the school, was teaching a lesson. She said to the little
kids, “Third graders, did you ever hear of a
woman running a car mechanic shop before?” And they’re like, “No, no.” And they said,
“Well, that’s what we’re going to hear a story
about, a little boy whose mother wanted to open her own,
wanted to be an auto mechanic.” And it was just a way to
educate kids and break them out of their stereotypes
in that culture. It was just fun, because I
was sitting there sketching, and all the kids, of course,
were looking at that. I guess I disrupted
class a little bit. But down the hall
from that, the parents were cooking the
lunch for the kids. There’s 70% malnutrition
for the children of– And they’re so adorable. They’re running and skipping
and just like kids anywhere. And you just think,
you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. Yet, as children,
they didn’t show that. So CRS is training these
parents to cook the lunch meal, and for many of
these kids, that’s the only meal they get all day. But they’re learning about
nutrition and all that. So it’s a really
eye-opening trip, and I thought, even me
in Camden, New Jersey, this was opening me up to
how self-centered we are here in the States and how that’s
not what the Church is supposed to be about. So Sister Ginny is her name,
when a New York charity started this place called the
Barbara Ford Peace Center, and it’s a beautiful complex. It’s a thing that, residence
where that she hopes to turn into a hotel, a cooking
facility where she’s training young people, aged 18 to 22– how to do work in the food
industry, how to cook, how to manage a restaurant– and where their training
is, her dream is to make it a restaurant, and make this
whole thing a conference center, that people would come,
and a very state-of-the-art conference room, you know. And so it was amazing to see all
this, and it’s all her doing. So they gave us a demonstration,
all these young people, of the food they created. And I sketched, and then they
run hairdressing and barber schools to give people a trade. The young woman
on the upper right there, I had lunch with
her, and she shared– we had translators
of course– but she shared that when she went
through the program, she lived, she would get up, leave her
house at 4:00 in the morning, walk one hour in the
dark to get to a bus, and ride a bus for
two hours to get to hairdressing class at
the Barbara Ford Peace Center, every day. And she said, “I turned around
and went home again at 8:00 and then get up at
4:00 in the morning to start all over again,”
and not a word of complaint. “It was nothing, but I
am so grateful to have this opportunity.” And she also made friends with
other kids from other villages that they never would have met. The lifelong friends,
you can tell they just love being with each other,
these teenagers, late teens, early 20s. And so I’m sharing
with Sister Ginny, there she is, I said, “I’m
so impressed in hearing these kids’ stories. It’s unbelievable.” And she said, “Yeah but we
have so much work to do.” She said, “We’ve
given them the trade.” She said, “Now, my
next thing is I’m writing grants to get money.” She said, “We need to
help them use the trade or it’s pointless, to
open their own shops, and work in Guatemala City in
the restaurants and whatnot.” I remember we were
walking along. I was a step behind her, because
she’s this ball of energy. I said, “Do you ever
get discouraged?” And she turned around, looked
at me, and went, “Discouraged? There’s no time for that.” She said, “When one
thing doesn’t work out, you find another plan.” And she just kept walking. And then she turned
around again and said, “I bet you’re going to
want to come back and do some art with my young people.” And I was like, “Yes, Sister.” And it hasn’t happened yet, but
I would love to go back there and do art. Sister Thea Bowman: “The
earth is our Mother. We come from her,
and we return to her. She’s our home. When we destroy her,
we destroy ourselves.” Pope Francis: “We
must be bold enough to discover new signs and
new symbols, new flesh to embody and communicate
the Word and different forms of beauty, which are valued
in various cultural settings.” That’s Our Lady Star of the Sea. “Be creative in order
to achieve peace.” So right now, at
our college where I used to teach to
DeSales University, they have a thing going
on, coining a word that Francis DeSales
coined back in the 1600s, called Unidiversity. He made it up himself
to say that we were united in our diversity. That’s the beauty of creation. We’re all different
from each other. But what makes us united is that
we’re all the children of God, and he wasn’t even
speaking, I mean, there probably weren’t any
black people in the French Alps. He was talking about any kind
of diversity that we have. Our college, our
community university is starting this campaign here. So I designed this for
the t-shirts and coffee mugs and whatnot, and it’s
DeSales University, so the DS fit in there kind of nicely. But Pope Francis
said a similar thing. “What we need is unity in
the richness of diversity.” So two years ago,
I was invited, I don’t know if you’re all
familiar with the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress,
the largest Catholic gathering in North America. Last year, there were
38,000 people there, here. But the day before it
starts is Youth Day, and there’s 13,000
teenagers descend on the Anaheim
Convention Center, all sponsored by the
Archdiocese of Los Angeles. And they have all kinds
of things going on for youth on that day. And two years ago, I
was invited to speak, to give two talks to the
kids, the same talk twice. They said, “It will be
about 200 kids each time.” And I said, “Yeah, that sounded
exciting, never done it.” As the time got
close, and I thought what the hell was I thinking? 200 teenagers. What am I going to do
with 200 teenagers? And so I did a
talk on diversity– I showed multicultural, diverse
images of Jesus and the Saints. And two friends went
with me to help. And they led them through
a guided meditation based on St. Teresa
of Avila’s prayer, “Christ has no hands but
yours, no eyes but yours,” that lovely prayer. But to have 200 kids put
their feet on the floor and close their eyes
and get into it. And then we give
out crayons, and I handed out five different
pictures, diverse images. And they colored
for half an hour, and you could have
heard a pin drop. So two years in a
row, I did that. And then that’s what I did
with the Indianapolis kids, the National Catholic Youth. Same experience, dead quiet. Kids are so desperate, as
adults are, just that they can’t name it as much, to have
those quiet, contemplative times. Now these kids chose
this as a workshop, so they wanted to be there. But they’re the
type of kid that I was when I was a
teenager, that it’s okay to be alone,
that it’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with it. Now we have them in therapy. But it’s really the mark of
a creative person, somebody who’s more contemplative. There’s nothing to
being an introvert. And so it was just
a great experience, and I remember the one boy
sitting in front of me– Well, I’ll show you the
five pictures first. Here’s the Native
American Jesus, a Holy Family that’s Asian,
a Middle Eastern Jesus, an African Mary and Child,
and a Latino Joseph, San Jose with Jesus. And the boy sitting
right in front of me was coloring St. Joseph’s
hair blue, and I said, “Oh, St. Joseph with blue hair.” And he thought I was
correcting him or something, and he said, “You said we
could do whatever we want.” And I said, “You can.” I said, “I’m thrilled. I never saw St.
Joseph with blue hair. I think it’s cool.” And he said, “Can I
show you something?” And I said, “Sure.” And he took out
his phone, and he said “My parents
are from Bolivia,” and he said, “They took
me there last summer.” And on his phone he had all
these pictures of Madonna and Child, either
paintings or statues that he saw in all the
churches and cathedrals he visited with his parents. And I thought, what
other 16-year-old kid would have that, an outlet
for that kind of thing? And then my friends Teresa,
Mary are walking around, and one of the boys
looked up at Teresa, and said, “I never saw Jesus
that looked like me before.” And I thought this is wonderful. Here I was dreading
being with 200 teenagers. This is awesome work. And last year,
every group of kids had an adult with
them of course, but several of the adults
came up after and they said, “This is perfect
timing for these kids, because they’re all
terrified they’re going to come home
from school and find that their parents
have been taken away, because that’s happening.” And this was a year ago. It was already
happening, that parents were being deported while
their kids were at school. And there they were living
in absolute fear of that. So coloring for half an
hour was a pretty nice way to spend time taking
mind off their worries. So there they were. And that’s my favorite. Dorothy Day said,
“If we could only learn that the only
important thing is to love and that we will be judged
on love, to keep on loving, and showing that love and
expressing that love over and over, whether we feel
it or not, 70 times 7, not to do anything
but love love love.” Pope Francis: “How
wonderful it would be while we discover
far away planets to rediscover the needs of
the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.” Now you may recall back
almost a year ago this time, six new planets were
discovered in the farthest away galaxy that we know of. Do you remember that? It was on the news. But it was on the news. I forget what
dastardly thing was happening in Washington that was
dominating the news that night. And almost before the news
was over, they said, “Oh, by the way, there
are six new planets.” And I thought, I wish you’d
started the news show off with that bit, because I’d have
a lot more hope in my heart now. But anyhow, about a
month after that they had the international TED
conference, you know TED talks, out in Vancouver. And so at one point, they
said, “Our next speaker is from Rome,” and all of a
sudden Pope Francis appeared. He had taped a TED conference. He Skyped it in, I think,
actually, and for 18 minutes he gave a talk. And this was one of
the lines, and he was referring to the discovery
of these new planets, which he’s thrilled about. But he said, “Let’s not forget
the people closer to home. These are the ones we
have to worry about, too.” Thomas Merton said,
“No despair of ours can alter the reality
of things or stain the joy of the cosmic dance,
which is always there. Indeed, we are in
the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us,
for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.” So this is Sacred Heart
Church right across the street where my studio is. And Father Doyle has been
the pastor for 43 years. He’s 83 years old now. He’s from Ireland originally. He has changed the face
of Camden in his devotion to social justice and the poor. He was a very close
friend to Daniel Berrigan and was arrested during the
Vietnam War for burning draft cards, all that. So he’s always been out there. And what he noticed
though, about 20 years ago, was that on the week
of the winter solstice, the sun comes right down the
main aisle of Sacred Heart Church and
illuminates the altar. So it looks like it’s
glowing with light. This is at the exact same time
that in Newgrange, Ireland, it’s doing the same thing. If you’re familiar
with Newgrange, it’s the number one tourist
attraction in all of Ireland, and it’s an ancient
pre-Christian druid burial mound. It’s huge. But on this summer
solstice, there’s a little hole over
the front entrance, and the sun goes right
through that hole and illuminates the center
of the burial mound. And there’s all these
Celtic spiral carvings on the walls in
there and everything. And this is 2,000
years before Christ. So they knew what
they were doing. And then Father Doyle
noticed this here. So it’s a way to bring
past, present, and future, lead us into the cosmos. And it’s just this awesome week. He calls it Newgrange
Week, and we have Mass right in the front door. No matter how cold it is,
those front doors are open, and there we sit and have Mass. He sets up a little table for
the altar and opens the door. So Camden is coming in, and
all that light’s going out, and it’s ancient and new
and cosmic and local. And it’s just a beautiful,
spiritual event. “The Creator is
the ultimate source of everything, the loving and
self-communicating foundation of all that exists.” This is from “Laudato Si’.” And this is a picture I did last
summer at the Grunewald Guild when I took Carla’s mandala
class, when I was allowed back in. Then we had the
very first night, she said, “Go into
the woods and find a symbol for your brokenness
and one for your joy.” And then she led us
through something. I did a separate
mandala from this, but I was done before
everybody else. So with my extra supplies
and all, I created this. And I showed it to
my dear friend Karen, who’s a devout Lutheran,
and she looked at it, and she said, “That’s
a monstrance.” I said, “You just
gave me the title.” I wasn’t even thinking of it as
a monstrance, and there it is. It’s my brokenness is that
crutch-like stick, tree, driftwood that I
found in the forest, and a daisy of course, that
could be a star, or the sun or any of those things. It’s cosmic. So that’s the title of
it, The Cosmic Monstrance. And I did this one that
in that class as well. “The Son, his reflection through
whom all things were created, united himself to
this earth when he was formed in the womb of Mary.” “The Spirit, the
infinite bond of love, is intimately present at the
very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing
new pathways.” So this is the view
out my bedroom window in Camden, which I painted
many times in many ways, and this is called
Camden Wildlife. And then this past
year, I did this one. “God is length, width,
height, and depth.” St. Bernard of
Clairvaux said that, and that’s the view
looking the other way out my window, that Chinese
restaurant down there and an old church. But this is called Cosmic
Camden, and that same cosmos that’s over us up
here in New England, and it’s right there
over Camden, too. And it’s the whole universe. So here’s the
Cosmic Sacred Heart. “And it is you I now realize
that my fellow humans, even those who do not
believe, sense and seek throughout the magic
immensities of the cosmos,” Teilhard de Chardin. “Someday after mastering the
winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we will harness
for God the energies of love, and then for the
second time, humankind will have discovered fire.” And the end of “Laudato
Si'” says “In union with all creatures, we journey through
this land, seeking God. Let us sing as we go.” Amen. That’s all I have to say. [applause] We have time. Should we just go right ahead? Okay. I have to ask my babysitter. [laughter] But we
have time for Q&A if anybody has any
questions or concerns. Yes. We have a microphone
coming your way. [participant] I noticed that
there is a religious woman advertising in the
National Catholic Reporter to try to get
Teilhard de Chardin declared a Doctor of the Church. [br. mcgrath] Ilio
Delio, I think. [participant] Is
it being taken up? Do you know? Have you heard? [br. mcgrath] No. Next. No, I just read
that recently, too, because there’s nothing to
say a Doctor the Church has to be canonized saint, so I
think it would be interesting. What I love about that,
I’m just finishing a book, reading a book called
Silence Speaks, and it’s looking
at five people who were silenced by the
Church, who are now like, and Merton was one who was
silenced, and Teilhard. John Courtney
Murray, Yves Congar. Who’s the fifth one? But John Courtney
Murray, he was silenced because he wasn’t allowed
to publish or speak, because he was a big promoter
of ecumenism in the thirties and forties before anybody
was ready to hear that. And then he was a big
voice at Vatican II. They called him
in as a consultant to talk about ecumenism. That’s nutsy Church, you know. When I was a
novice, I remember– No, it was after that. It was in the
eighties, but they were picking on Anthony de Mello,
the Indian Jesuit who I loved, but he was kind of, wasn’t
officially silenced, but it was very clear. You were not to read his books. He was called into Cardinal
Ratzinger at the time. So what did that make
somebody like me, I went out and bought
every Anthony de Mello book I could find
because I thought, they don’t want me to know
something; I wonder what it is. And it’s always so complicated. The average person doesn’t– But again, it’s about fear,
the fear of change and the new. And when you’re trapped in
fear, you can’t move forward. That’s it. So now, all these people
are, all these ones that were silenced,
Hildegard of Bingen was excommunicated
before her death, and she wasn’t even
a Saint officially, because she was reinstated
shortly before she died. But people thought
of her as a Saint they called her Saint
Hildegard, but she was never officially canonized. Lo and behold, seven
years ago Pope Benedict decides to make her a
Doctor of the Church. And they were like, she
was never canonized. So he had what’s called an
equivalent canonization, which basically means, I’m the
pope I can canonize anybody I want, and I don’t need all
the miracles and all that. So that’s how he
canonized John XXIII. So I don’t know if that answers
your question, but I hope, that would be wonderful if
Teilhard becomes a Doctor. [participant] Did you
choose the city of Camden or did Camden choose you? [br. mcgrath] Well, that’s
a very good question. And it’s both. What happened was our
community, the Oblates, was asked to become the
rectors of the cathedral, which is unusual, but Bishop
Galante, our bishop at the time couldn’t find the guys who
would want to live in Camden, plus I had to be
Spanish speakers. That was part of the job. So two friends of mine
took over that job, and I would go there
for Sunday Mass. I was living in
Philly at the time. And they were always
saying, “You’ve got to move in with us,” like
you know, growing up in Philly, Camden was the place
you lock your doors and drive as fast as you can. But meanwhile, Father Doyle
approached me, and gave me a little tour of the things
he’s doing down at Sacred Heart. And he said, “If you ever think
of moving your studio here, he said I will provide
you with the space.” Seeing this tour– and he showed
me an old corner bar they had turned into a
theater, live theater, the South Camden Theater
Company that he formed– I thought this is not your
run-of-the-mill parish. A Black Madonna statue
and a Black Sacred Heart that he
commissioned, and all this. And he said, “Why I would
want you here,” he said, “it’s about beauty.” He said,. “Beauty brings hope
to the challenge spots of our world like
this,” and he said, There will be no expectations
of you for the parish.” He said, “I can just
see you in your studio and all that beauty filtering
out through the neighborhood.” I was working on my Dorothy
Day book at the time. And I said, “Well, you
sound like Dorothy Day. That was her life motto:
‘Beauty will save the world’.” And he said, “She was a good
lady, very understated.” And so I said yes on the spot. So I wasn’t looking, but
I was open to receiving. I’ll put it that way. So there’s a little
bit of both going on. But I believe where
you’re planted, you’re going to be happy. If you ever told me I’d be
as happy as I am in Camden, I would have thought you
were crazy eight years ago, nine years ago. But if you’re doing what God put
you on Earth to do, what else matters? You get past caring what
other people think about you. That’s the biggest hurdle
for so many people. Thea Bowman always
said that, about what she meant when she said,
“you remember who you are and whose you are, and stop
giving so much over to what other people think about you,”
that if you’re doing what, you’re using the gifts God
gave you, then what’s it care, and what do I care what
you think you know? That sounds arrogant,
but it’s not. If you don’t like me, I’m
working hard at making it. And guess what, I probably
don’t like you either. I will love and respect
you because I’m Christian, but I don’t have to like you. There’s all of that. And don’t give me your
political opinions on Facebook. I don’t care. And that happened, after the
hurricane in Puerto Rico. Our parish in Camden is
mostly Puerto Rican people, and I posted a painting
I did for our Cathedral of Our Lady of Providencia,
the Puerto Rican Madonna. And I said, “Let us pray
to Our Lady for help.” I said, “Many of
our parishioners haven’t heard from
their families. They don’t know what’s
going on down there, so there’s a lot of anxiety.” And somebody wrote
in, “Oh fake news, I’m tired of all this
fake news going around.” And you don’t
engage these people. There’s no reason going there. But I just thought
afterwards, she’s just mad because Our Lady of
Providencia wasn’t just going to throw paper towels
at these people. Next. Any other? [participant] I had a
question about your artistry. [br. mcgrath] What’s that? [participant] Back here,
about your artistry. [br. mcgrath]
Oddistry, like I’m odd? [participant] Art. That’s my Boston accent. [br. mcgrath] Oh, that’s right. You’re from Boston. [participant] Your artistry. What mediums do you use? I’ve noticed you
have a few things. I wasn’t sure if
you use acrylics. I noticed like maybe
some watercolors, and do you do your
own calligraphy? [br. mcgrath] Yes. This particular one, I went
to New Mexico years ago, and when I’m on
my trips, I always sketch in black
and white, and then when I get home add the paint,
so it’s acrylic paint on there, and everything you saw, that was
painting on canvas is acrylic. But lately, most of what you
saw today was on my iPad. [participant] Which
program do you use? [br. mcgrath] Sketchbook
Pro is my favorite. [participant] And is most of
your artwork currently done on Sketchbook Pro, or do you
still work with your acrylics? [br. mcgrath] Probably
more on Sketchbook Pro now, because I travel so much. Three of the things you saw,
three of the Thea Bowman quotes I did on the
plane here the other day were after landing. That’s why I love it. It’s like a studio in the air. I can go into my
little zone there, and then I just hit
the button and send it to wherever it needs to go. But to me, it’s
just another medium. It’s not a favorite medium. It’s just a convenient medium. And it doesn’t go
quicker than, often I’ll be in the middle of a project. Some of these take months, and
so many layers and all that. And I often think
if I had real paint, I would have been done ages ago. So it’s not a time thing. It’s just a convenience thing,
I guess more than anything. [participant] Thank you. [participant] I have a
question about your colors. Do you create them, make them? They’re just so beautiful. [br. mcgrath] Make them and they
grind up pigment and all that? [laughter] [participant] I don’t know. They’re just beautiful. [br. mcgrath] No. [participant] Oh. [br. mcgrath] I go to the art
store and buy a tube of paint, a color I like. I mean, that’s all. I don’t mean to sound snarky. But it is, I think
what you’re get– I am a color. I lived with that priest
once who said to me, back when I was teaching, “You’re
not afraid of color, are you?” He was talking about a sweater
I was wearing at the time, not my paintings. But my paintings
do reflect that. People always ask,
“Have you been to the Central
America or Guatemala,” because of the colors. Color is to art
what emotions are and line and structure, the
left brain, the geometry of it. So, everybody is going to
have their different emphasis, so mine’s always been color. Oh you have it. [participant] Hi. Could you speak a little
more about that trip where you went to see the
Black Madonna of Montserrat? Is it a trip that you do? [br. mcgrath] Yeah, every
September I lead trips. I won’t do that particular
one again, I guess. I try to make them
different each year. Last year we went to Ireland. That’s a good lead-in. I almost feel like I paid
you for this advertisement. This September we’re
going to Annecy, France, the home of Francis de Sales. It’s in the French Alps,
one of the prettiest places you ever want to see
in your life, near Geneva; people probably fly into
Geneva, Switzerland. It’s right over. He was the bishop of Geneva. But it was the
Calvinist stronghold, and Catholics were forbidden
from even walking the streets of Geneva in his day. So you used to have
to wear disguises to visit the hidden
Catholics that were there. But in any event, so
we’re going there, and it used to be called
the Venice of the Alps, because there’s little
canals running through, and we’re going to visit a,
walk through a glacier tunnel, an ice cave, and Mont
Blanc is right there, the highest peak in Europe. But then after four days
there, we’re going to Paris and look at Notre Dame Cathedral
and all the architecture, because my tours, we call them
“Art of the Spirit Tours.” They’re art and faith. So I start each morning
with a 45-minute talk, like we just did today. I have a little slide projector,
and I start each morning off with the talk
related to whatever we’re going to see that day. And then we have fun. Yes, and I think it’s– Yeah, it’s September 24th,
I believe is the first date, and it’s going to be
10 days or eight days. [participant] Thank
you very much. [br. mcgrath] Thank you for– Thank you. [applause]

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