The Communion of Saints Who Watch Over Me As I Write

Today’s post is just for fun!

This morning on Facebook my cousin Danny, up in Manhattan, made a comment about the beautiful icon of the Holy Cross, written by iconographer Fr John Walsted of Staten Island. I decided it would be fun to show Danny that I have a replica of that icon right above my computer. So I took the picture, and then realized, “Well, he might want to know about some of my other icons” and that led to “maybe some other folks would be interested” and this blog post is the end result.

So here is a key to the picture, with a description of each item below, and the name of the iconographer when known. I started in the very center and then moved clockwise, because I wanted to make sure the smaller icons got smaller numbers!

  1. St. Athanasius, small icon which I inherited from a friend.
  2. St. Benedict, purchased at the Abbey Store of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.
  3. “God is Love” Celtic Cross, lovingly created by my wife Fran.
  4. St. Teresa of Ávila, small icon purchased from a catalog.
  5. My life promises as a Lay Cistercian. Signed by myself, Fran (my witness), Fr. Anthony Delisi OCSO (our community’s monastic advisor) and Fr. Francis Michael Stiteler OCSO (abbot of the monastery at the time). This is one of three copies; the other two are archived at the monastery.
  6. The Dalai Lama holding a Brigid’s Cross, given to him by schoolchildren in Kildare, Ireland. Photograph by journalist Cathal MacNaughton and licensed for private use by Reuters.
  7. Rublev’s Trinity print.
  8. Jesus in a lotus position, given to me by a friend many years ago. Iconographer unknown.
  9. Holy Cross Icon at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY, by iconographer Fr. John Walsted. Replica purchased at the Holy Cross Gift Shop.
  10. Julian of Norwich holding a hazelnut; icon by Robert Lentz.
  11. Salve Regina Window of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. Window by Fr. Methodius Telnack, OCSO; icon by Richard E. Gegenworth.
  12. Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist; iconographer unknown.
  13. Transfiguration, iconographer unknown. I especially love this image.
  14. Holy Angel of Blessed Silence, by Romanian iconographer Angela Ludosanu.
  15. Julian of Norwich’s “All Shall Be Well” quotation; calligraphy by Michael Noyes.
  16. St. Teresa of Ávila playing the tambourine (!), icon by Robert Lentz.

None of these are original icons; I am blessed to be in the possession of only one hand-written icon, by Ukrainian iconographer Victoria Luka Brennan; it doesn’t hang above my desk but here’s a picture of it.

So why am I devoting a blog post to icons? On one level, it’s just a joy to share something that is meaningful to me to you, dear readers. But on a deeper level, I hope you can take a moment and reflect with me on the spiritual meaning of icons.

Icons are more than just art. Even inexpensive icon reproductions, like these above my desk, have a meaningful spiritual purpose. Icons have been called “windows into heaven” but perhaps it’s just as meaningful to see icons as reminders that Christ, Mary, the angels and saints are all gazing through their windows to behold us. Contemplation, after all, is a two way street.

Is it narcissistic for me to think that St. Benedict, St. Teresa of Ávila, Julian of Norwich, the Holy Angel of Blessed Silence, and others might be watching over little old me? Perhaps. But I think we need to remember that the relationship between time and eternity is not something the human mind can comprehend. The communion of saints dwell in divine light, and beyond the claws of time. They can watch over me because they watch over us all.

When I write, it is important to me to remember that great saints like Teresa and Benedict and Julian are my inspiration — and while I can never presume that my writing will ever achieve their greatness, I hope that I can write in a way that at least honors and celebrates their memory, and perhaps  might even introduce some people of our generation to their timeless wisdom. With this in mind, I pray for their intercession when I write, and I do so  hope that they might watch over me, and bless my work.

So there you go — thanks for letting me invite you in for a glimpse into my workspace. Please pray for me as I write — I pray for you, my readers, every day.

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Carl McColman
Soul Friend and Storyteller. Lay Cistercian, Catechist, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, Teacher, Retreat Leader.