A few weeks before Christmas, I was overwhelmed by the functional ministry of our church. This led me to work extra hours, sleep poorly, and be a little grumpy.
I cried out to God, Help me. Immediately I recalled an image of the holy family by artist Janet McKenzie. I went into my office and found her book Holiness & the Feminine Spirit, which I bought years ago at a clergy retreat led by Janet in the Diocese of Massachusetts. Her paintings are spellbinding to me. I wrote to her and received permission to photocopy this image from the book, a canvas titled The Holy Family.
Take a moment to absorb the image. Really look at it. What do you notice? Some people will be struck by the faces of the family. In an accompanying reflection, Wendy Beckett writes: “The people in McKenzie’s The Holy Family are not Palestinian. She shows us a group of poor people who have the unmistakable features of African or perhaps the Mexican or Peruvian.”
Look at the image again, and you will see Joseph’s “sturdy shoulders, his lack of interest in anything but the mother and child.” See how tenderly his strong hands touch Mary’s veil. Notice the warmth of the family and the colors—the halos are not gold, but purple. Notice the child Jesus, innocent and curious, snuggly and warm, untroubled by threats. Too often throughout the world, fathers are overanxious or absent, mothers are exhausted or overwhelmed, and children scream or struggle to suckle, to cling to life. What else do you see?
Now, notice their eyes. Joseph’s and Mary’s eyes are closed as if they are listening to “Silent Night” sung a cappella by candlelight. A peaceful calm breathes upon you. And then you see Jesus’s eyes, looking right at you—into your heart and soul—all-knowing, all-loving, calling you into a deeper relationship with him, in service to others.
Janet McKenzie gives us the image (next page) of the “ideal” family, a holy family—what the body of Christ can be when we submit to God’s radical love for all people. God willing, the year 2020 at St. Bart’s will be extraordinary. In our pursuit of the spread of the Good News, we will take time to pause and commemorate seven Stations of Transformation. Your parish leaders will share the vision for 2020 at our 60th-anniversary annual meeting, with voices that honor each upcoming Station of Transformation. This will be a year when we at St. Bart’s celebrate the family of God, which we have come to know through each other and those we serve each and every day.
Stations of Transformation (60th Anniversary Year at St. Bart’s)
- Celebration of the 53 years of the thrift shop (closing February 29, 2020)
- Consecration of the chapel, with its new stained glass, with Bishop Susan (February 29, 2020)
- 20th anniversary of the preschool (April 20, 2020)
- Honoring and worshiping again in our original sanctuary (old parish hall) for the season of Eastertide
- 60th-anniversary celebration (St. Bart’s Day, August 23, 2020)
Photo shown with permission: Epiphany copyright 2003 Janet McKenzie, www.janetmckenzie.com
Collection of Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, IL
In memory of Barbara Marian, Harvard, IL