By Gina Christian • Posted June 25, 2020 At https://catholicphilly.com/
As the nation continues to grapple with the issue of racism, an acclaimed liturgical artist and retreat leader is using his gifts to foster healing and justice.
Oblate Brother Mickey McGrath has created a series of images that take a faith-based look at the struggle for racial equality. From his studio in Camden, New Jersey, Brother McGrath has been posting his recent work on Facebook, often in the form of coloring pages that viewers can download and use as meditative art exercises.
One image in particular has received international attention: a striking portrait of Christ falling under the weight of the cross, above which the words “I can’t breathe” are painted in red.
The phrase was among the last uttered by George Floyd, who died May 25 after close to nine minutes in a Minneapolis police knee-to-neck restraint. Floyd’s killing has sparked global waves of protest, with calls for police reform and a renewed look at race relations.
Brother McGrath said the depiction was adapted from a set of Stations of the Cross he had completed two years ago in Kenya.
“I Can’t Breathe,” a painting by renowned liturgical artist and Oblate Brother Mickey McGrath, depicts the wounded Christ as a black man sharing the sufferings of George Floyd, who died May 25 under Minneapolis police restraint. (Copyrighted image courtesy of Brother Mickey McGrath, O.S.F.S.)
“If we could see Jesus as a black man falling under a cross, as a man who can’t breathe, maybe that will make people see him in others,” said Brother McGrath, a former professor at De Sales University.
African American spirituality has had a profound influence on his life and work, he said.
In 1993, while still teaching part time at De Sales, the Philadelphia native traveled back to the city’s Mayfair section to visit his dying father. At his parents’ house, Brother McGrath came across a magazine article on Sister Thea Bowman (1937-1990), a Catholic convert and Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration now on the path to sainthood.
“I later saw a video about her life, and it changed me forever,” said Brother McGrath. “She unleashed something in me, and my artistic style shifted to something different than anything I’d ever done. She has become my guiding force.”
Shortly after discovering Bowman’s life and work, Brother McGrath became a full-time artist and received his first commission, painting the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-56 at the request of the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis.
The work features a joyous embrace between Mary and Elizabeth, who appear as black and dressed in vivid African-style prints. The title, “Windsock Visitation,” recalls the sisters’ tradition of hanging windsocks outside of their house on days when they offer afterschool activities for neighborhood children.
Brother McGrath said that the women have become his “dearest friends,” and like him, they live amid an impoverished but richly diverse urban community, one in which he feels quite at home.
“My studio is my monk’s cell,” he said, adding that his work is not intended as a pious diversion.
“This is my way of trying to get people to see Christ in each other,” said Brother McGrath.
Referencing a coloring page he posted on Facebook for the feast of Corpus Christi, he said that “the idea is not just to go to adoration and come home and feel good about yourself.”
“I told my students that all the time,” said Brother McGrath. “If you go back to class and don’t see Christ in the black person … then you’ve missed the point.”
He added that the city of Camden itself has made progress in healing some of the tensions between residents, most of whom are of color, and law enforcement.
Once dubbed the nation’s most dangerous city, Camden disbanded and reconfigured its police department in 2012. Although substantial challenges remain, the municipality is now considered a model for others seeking to overcome violence and racial division. An anti-racism protest earlier this month saw Camden police joining demonstrators.
“It was a peaceful rally, full of trust in the police,” said Brother McGrath. “It ended on the steps of the police building, around the corner from where I live.”
In the coming months, Brother McGrath intends to publish a book of his images, which he often designs using an iPad. He maintains a full schedule, traveling extensively across the globe to lead retreats, workshops and art-themed tours.
He said his life’s motto is a quote from Dostoevsky, who wrote that “beauty will save the world,” an assertion endorsed by Servant of God Dorothy Day, and cited by St. John Paul II in his 1999 “Letter to Artists.”
Along with love, said Brother McGrath, “beauty is our deepest human inclination.”
Free Prayer Cards for All Health Care Workers and All First Responders and All the Sick and Everyone Concerned and Hoping and Praying. Let’s All Help Each Other! No Purchase Necessary. At www.trinitystores.com
FREE Prayer Cards for Health Care Workers and the Sick Let’s Help Each Other!
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Simply note in Comments section of your online Order Form, “Free Prayer Cards.” Thank You for your support. We will include 2 Free Prayer Cards with your order.
The 2 Free Prayer Cards are beautifully created new artworks by Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS to help us all cope with the COVID-19 virus and to help us pray for each other.
Mary, Health of the Sick
A recent quote from Pope Francis inspired this image,
Health of the Sick, an ancient title of Mary.
Mary, you always shine on our path
as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you,
Health of the Sick.
-Pope Francis’ Prayer to Mary during Coronavirus Pandemic
Our Lady of Refuge with Health Care Workers
A Madonna to honor our courageous health care workers.
Prayer for Health Care Workers
Lord Jesus, who healed the sick and gave them new life, be with doctors, nurses and all health care workers, as they act as agents of your healing touch. In desperate times, keep them strong yet loving. And when their work is done, be with them in their weariness and in their tears.
Our wish is to get these Free Prayer Cards out to and for all the amazing health care workers and all the rest of us who are sick or fearful and concerned during this Coronavirus Pandemic.
Please share our Free Prayer Cards offer with as many people as possible. We are all in this together. Let’s continue to reach out and help each other.
Brother Mickey’s Art Exhibit Opening at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in New York City.
Brother Mickey has been invited to exhibit his images at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, in New York in February. The Gallery will host a visual celebration of four saintly heroes from the margins who lead us in hope to a Church waiting to be born. Images include Thea Bowman, Dorothy Day, Augustine Tolton and Nicholas Black Elk.
I love many of our traditional prayers and beliefs about Mary but also love to see them cast in more contemporary light. And so, I like to imagine them in my own unique, personal way and style. The images in this collection of Prayer Starter cards spring from my desire to move forward in life, to take with me new symbols and personal interpretations of the maternal face of divine love.
On the reverse side of each card, you will find prayers and reflections.Select a card that speaks to your heart, place it on the easel, light a candle, pour a cup of tea, and sit silently, peacefully in Mary’s gentle presence. She will bring to you her Son and share with you His peace, mercy, and non-judgmental love.
Brother Mickey is adding a new weekend retreat for those who want to explore the combination of prayer and creativity for the rejuvenation of their spirit. These hands prayer experiences will include the making of mandalas, some simple expressive lettering, taking photos with your own cell phone camera for meditation, and some journaling.
I have loved Holy Cards ever since I was a kid in Catholic school, which gave me the idea for PRAYER STARTER cards: an assortment of 5 x 7” colorful cards with quotes from the four women Doctors of the Church: Sts. Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux. They each lived long ago in church history, but their sayings and teaching are as relevant as ever, perhaps even more in our own challenging times of unrest and much needed reform. As an added touch, we have included two contemporary saintly prophets, Dorothy Day and Sr. Thea Bowman.
Prayer Starters come with an easel on which you can rest the card which speaks to you the most. Hopefully, the quote will inspire your prayerful meditation and help to keep your heart centered on hope and inner peace. Keep the card out to recall the Holy Spirit’s presence for as long as you feel the need, or give them to friends who may need a gentle reminder that God is near.