OUR LADY OF NEW HELFTA
(Our Lady of Loving Compassion)
My gift of being a sacred painter has been one of the best ways for me to communicate with and glorify the Giver of all gifts. These "Singing with Colors" art pieces are themselves a means to an end; however, their true spirit, which is hidden to our naked eyes, is what makes them real and essential to our faith.
August 7, 2003"People say that whenever she is upset, mad, depressed or frustrated about something which she alone could not handle, she would lock herself in her room and create a masterpiece. Only God knows what it means for her to create a masterpiece!...
This time that masterpiece is the icon of O. L. of New Helfta. What an ambitious artist! She had this panel built three years ago. The carpentry itself is a masterpiece built by one of her two carpenters, Paul Conklin of York. It weighs 35 lbs. and is 25"x37" in dimensions. Gazing at the unfinished clay halo, she decided to give herself a penance for love knowing she has never done enough. It took almost 15 hours. The poor innocent fingers sure took a beating! Intensively she etched and carved the many motifs onto the halo of the Blessed Mother and of the baby Jesus.
"Nostra alma Mater misericordiae, literally, it means: Our mother of mercy who cherishes us. It includes the idea of practical love that nourishes. It is very good Latin, and alma is used in a well known hymn to Mary."These sweet and beautiful Latin words were eventually emerged on the halo of the Blessed Mother. Many thanks to Rev. Father for his translation! And again, realizing how awful her Latin is, she is quite embarrassed and disappointed. "But don't worry my soul. For a strong like you, sometimes the Lord allows so much humiliations and sadness for it to learn!"
O Blessed Mother of compassion who loves us! Please intercede for your artist and for all those who experience the low points in their spiritual journey. Amen.
March 15, 2004It has been awhile and here I am again continuing painting the icon. I should have finished it a long time ago, but I guess the Lord allows me to wait and lengthen my time painting this icon for a reason. It is difficult to paint when I am not inspired (at least that is one of my excuses! :-)
Many years ago I depicted an icon of O.L. of Vladimir for the Capuchin Hermitage in Virginia, the mirror image of this icon (it is well accepted and it pleases the brothers, and also those who encounters it). However, it is almost 3 times smaller. This time, as I added the layers of paints and saw how the images begin to come to life, it was very edifying. I don't know how it will come out compared to OL of Vladimir icon, but I just know that I will be inspired to have a finished icon that will please the Lord. I deliberately altered some details and colors so it will not be exactly the same as the O.L. of Vladimir icon. The Child Christ has a heavenly blue garment. So does Our Blessed Mother. I am praying for some different ideas and details for the background compare to other icons' of similar subject...
O Bl. Mother, please help pray for me. Thank you.
March 28, 2004I would like to use the background colors as of the Geneseo Crucifix and the Holy Trinity icons. Of course I don't want to break the Tradition so I asked for advice. I was told that base on what I intended to paint and what it stands for: heavenly setting as described in Revelation 12: 1-2, I am not breaking the Tradition but depicting the icon in a different style and approach.
After careful reflection and studying some sketches, I decided to keep it simple. I focused more on the heavenly sky in the background which symbolizes eternity (sunrise and sunset - the beginning and the end) in stead of having the stars and the crescent moon as described in the Revelation.
It took about two days to have the sky perfect the way it should be. Praise the Lord! I was happy with it.
March 30, 2004Often, I would paint everything else first before I paint the faces. This time, after the background was completed, I saw myself working on the facial features.
Everything came along gracefully but challengingly as I expected. However, with faith and trust in God's gift and guidance, I never really seemed to worry. A detail which I was conscious about is the nose of the Bl. Mother. Rev. Father criticized how sharply the noses of my other drawing and icon of the Bl. Mother are (he even gave me a few pictures of different noses for me to look at to make his point). So I made an effort to make sure I had it right and beautiful before he had an other chance to criticize it. I succeeded."The nose does NOT seem too sharp and pointed or pinched, as the novelists say. It looks fine...": He commented. I am glad! Being a psychiatrist, I guess he pays much attention about these details not only concerning the spiritual aspect of them but the physical one as well. He sure helps humble me. Swallowing my pride, I am grateful! :-) Often, almost everything that he points out to me, I pay more attention to them and work extra hard and spend more time to correct them if not trying to perfect them. Yes, they always look much better. I confess. I always feel that the dearly beloved Lord who knows my pride and my weaknesses, so often allows the spiritual father to help correct me rather than a stranger or a friend. We all know that when a criticism is given to us, it depends on who gives it, and how it is delivered in order for us to react positively to it without getting offensive!
Earlier, while talking to my friend, Terry on the phone, I was told a story that when the Blessed Mother was questioned why she is so beautiful, she answered that because she loves much. What a insightful and wonderful response! I took it personally and tried to meditate on it. "But my Blessed Mother! How can I depict love?" With faith, I trusted in Providence and prayed to be inspired so that somehow that beauty which reflects how she loves will reveal in her image so that every soul who encounters this icon will perceive that humble, but true, noble and transcendent love. A special grace then was given to me whether I wanted to accept it or not. After several days of experiencing a certain deep anguish and sadness of the soul which perhaps mainly was triggered by a loved one's trial and suffering, I was in despair. The experience took me to the hidden recesses of the heart where the "Lover of my soul" is always there waiting... During this tribulation of the soul, I recognized many graces which sure managed to help guiding my spirit and hands to complete the faces of the baby Jesus and of the Blessed Mother.
"O Blessed Mother! Why are you so sad? It looks like you are near to crying! I am sorry I did not mean or plan to depict you that way. As the delicate brush strokes piled on top of one another, I was busy praying and commending myself to the mercy of God. Perhaps your sadness reflects my own disposition? But then each one of your banished children of Eve is suffering. So how can you, our "Alma Mater Misericordiae" (Mother of Loving Compassion) be happy?"
April 4, 2004Today I thought I finished with the painting process, but it was not the case! Since I have planned to have it blessed on Easter Sunday, April 11, 2004, I wanted to have at least a week for the paints to penetrate into the gesso layers. They should dry thoroughly before I could add a thin layer of glare to protect the painting surface. After that, I will be ready to apply the gold leaf and gold-paint.
However, from the cyberspace, a couple more criticisms flew in:"... somehow the forms of his body seems lumpy!..." and "I notice the hands of Mary and of the child seem to me to need a little more detailed lines to give a finished look. Now they seem a bit to be rather lacking in character, too non-descript. This is a small point but I think could use some attention." Humbly, the next three days during the Holy Week, I spent several hours working on the baby Jesus' garment, his feet and hands in addition to the Blessed Mother's.
The weather was not that great during those few days and the days prior to that. It was somewhat a kind of natural-given penance for me. I am grateful for that. At least, that was what I could do for my efforts in doing penance as told by the Church so often fail. My poor eyes got so tired and were sure overworked trying to reach out for some natural light. It sure had a special meaning during the Holy Week which led to Easter Vigils where the Light of Christ brought us new life in him by the Father's great love and mercy for his Creation.
While working on the hands and feet of the Lord, I reflected on the tenderly innocent hands and feet, which were formed by God's unconditional and transcendent love for the human race. He deigned to become a human for our sake. Unfortunately, those every same hands and feet would then be tied, hurt, bruised, wounded, and pierced as cruelly as was his body.
How about our Blessed Mother's tender loving and gentle embrace her beloved son? Those gracious and tender hands which held and protected her ever-so-dear and precious baby, would then be covered with redemptive blood as she kissed the wounds of his ransom flesh for the salvation of sinners. She lived through the fulfillment of Prophet Simeon's prophecy - a sword pierced her heart! One also could meditate and see those same hands probably tried to grasp and held on to the earth as to cry out and seek God's only consolation and strength as she faithfully and willingly accepted Providence in supporting her son's mission on earth as Mel Gibson succesfully depicted in his The Passion of the Christ.
O dearest Mother of our Savior,
Please have mercy on us; Please pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.
As we continue to reflect and contemplate on the mystery of the Heavenly Father's love,
of the Savior's sacrifice, and of how you have suffered as you grieved and witnessed the most cruel and cold-blooded tortures done to your son, our Savior,
please help intercede and pray that we will always respond generously to God's grace so that we have the desire to do good, to forgive, to seek peace and last but not least, TO LOVE in order to prove worthy of the precious Body and Blood of the Savior which ransomed for us all, sinners. Amen.
April 8, 2004Holy Thursday
Today, I lowered the icon, laid it flat, face up and began to apply the gold leaf to the frame. This took me back to my memory of painting the Abbey Crucifix. My cell is not very equipped for painting such big, heavy and sometimes, odd shaped icons and paintings. Therefore, most of the time, I improvise and do my best to make it work despite the fact that I often experience some discomfort. The penance is worth doing! I am grateful to be able to offer it up for those in need as they would do for others like myself
So to get ready for painting the Crucifix, I lowered it down flat and positioned it near one of my windows and for many weeks I was on my knees painting from the starting to the completion of it. The main reason was because the natural light could not reach the wall where the Crucifix could be hang upright, and it is very important and necessary to paint with natural light. At that time, I hardly complained. My soul was filled with joy as it was about to be wedded to the Bridegroom of the Holy Church. Yes, Rev. Father John Eudes first approached me about it on Thanksgiving Day of 1997. After a couple months, I came up with the drawing which he accepted. It was done on March 21, 1998. Now come to think about it, the Lord has always been with me and blessed my unworthy hands. I did not know anything about the faith then, and neither did I pray and fast the way "real" icon painters do. Rather, I was flying high in spirit as I was getting so ready to become a Catholic that Easter on April 11, 1998.
I worked many hours that Thursday morning and just got a half of the frame done. I was so determined to finish it, but I had to go to the Last Supper mass...
April 9, 2004Good Friday
Thank you Lord for dying for our sins!
April 10, 2004Today I finished glazing the icon and tried to perfect whatever and wherever areas I could find on the icon. I then applied the gold leaf for the haloes and other areas such as the decorative patterns on the Bl. Mother's garments and too of the Christ Jesus'. It was quite rewarding because the gold leaf really helped make a difference in the finished icon, especially on the engraved haloes. I can't described it justly so you just have to wait and see it in person when the icon is on tour (Marian Icon on Tour)
April 11, 2004HAPPY EASTER!
For the first time I was so ready to carry the icon to be blessed with a care-free and trusting attitude having no plan and no worry what so ever for the future of the icon.
I arrived 30 minutes prior to Easter Sunday mass at the Genesee Abbey. Br. Louis, the porter greeted us with a happy and bright Easter morning smile. He knew we were coming and helped carry the icon to the back room where it would be blessed. Thank you Br. Louis who too has a genuine and great devotion to the BL. Mother. He helped me arrange a place for it. I let him take a peek at it without uncovering the plastic wrap. He did not mind. I am sure nothing could hide the Blessed Mother's beauty! Anyhow, I would like to keep it that way until the actual blessing. As I prayed in waiting, came Rev. Father with joyous and merry Easter Greetings. He did too remember to wish me "happy birthday". Six years ago on that day, I fully entered the Catholic Church. With the Holy water I brought (it was brought from the Jordan River by Ms. Margie Radell and was used for my baptism) and the water from Lourdes, Rev. Father blessed the icon. He used a prayer for blessing a Marian icon where I said the responses as indicated in the prayer....
Thank you Lord for your bountiful beauty, goodness and else. May you reveal and teach all of us the perfect way you want with the given gifts we have received. Amen.
August 12, 2004
O my dearest Lady,
Blessed Mother of Loving Compassion,
Loving Mother of all nations, races and of the Savior Jesus Christ. Though your special bond with the Beloved Son, you knew all along what the Lord as in mind and knew the path he has for us. With the prayer, support and help of my spiritual father, as I am trying to interpret and carry out the many visions I have been shown concerning The Marian Icon on Tour and the promoting of The Marian Children, I seek your intercessions and guidance so that together with all my brothers and sisters in Creation, I may receive the grace to be and to do all what most please and glorify the Trinitarian God who so desires to unite us to that most sacred, divine and transcendent love. Amen.