|© Sergio Sericolo|
An except from my speech from Monday evening follows:
"St. Kateri Tekakwitha was a new subject for me. I primarily paint landscapes. As I read about her, her personality was quickly apparent. Despite her small stature and poor health, she was not a weak person. The Jesuits at Kahnewake saw a need to moderate her zeal. She made her own plans for a convent and made her own profession of faith and vow of chastity. She possessed a confidence that is natural to those know who they are. Psychologists call it self-actualization. I would call it fullness, or integrity. To be whole.
I’ve been thinking about what that means. I’d like to share something that I’ve read recently and that I’m still trying to get my mind around. It repeated many times, in many different ways in the writings of Richard Rohr, of whom I am a big fan. He’s a Franciscan, as are quite a few at Siena College where I serve on the faculty. He has a lot to say on the subject of saints and our relationship to them. I’d like to paraphrase from his writings.
St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, urges his readers to “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” Saints, like Paul and Kateri Tekakwhitha, are not saints and worthy of imitation because they are bigger, or stronger, or more productive. They are saints because they are who God made them to be. It’s not something extra that makes them holy. They ARE.
That is a challenge and a comfort. A challenge because we are so easily blinded and distracted from the truth, but a comfort because God has already accomplished it. God has already made us to be who we are, we just have to live it. This is something I’ve reflected on as I’ve been painting. In light of that, who was she, and who is she? It is the possibility of capturing this sort of ephemerality in paint that has compelled the work of painters through the ages. That’s why this project has been so much fun, and so challenging.
It has been written by her biographers that, to those who knew her, St. Kateri made tangible the grace and beauty of God. She was who God made her to be. Completely and wholly. What does that look like? This painting is my answer to the question."