Day of Reflection features artist

By Maureen Smith
MADISON/TUPELO – Artist Brother Mickey McGrath, OFSF, will lead “Cloud of Witnesses,” a Lenten day of reflection in both Madison and Tupelo the weekend of April 5-6. He is an artist, writer and speaker. In addition to 11 books he has also published work in St. Anthony Mess

Brother Mickey McGrath, OFSF

Brother Mickey McGrath, OFSF

enger, USA Today, and America Magazine and has designed materials for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“I will be sharing my paintings of saints and holy people and talking about their stories and how they have touched my life,” said Brother McGrath of the program. He will focus on American saints and holy people, including one of his greatest inspirations, Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, who came from the Diocese of Jackson.
Brother McGrath came to know Sister Bowman and his current vocation in the midst of crisis. He was visiting his dying father at home when he came across Sister Bowman’s last interview in U.S. Catholic. “I thought it was so beautiful, so parallel to what I was going through,” he said. “I loved how she had learned to see her cancer and her illness as a gift. Through it she found new ways to be compassionate and to just be present,” he added.

About a year later he saw a video detailing the nun’s life from her upbringing in rural Mississippi to her conversion and vocation to religious life. Her story, “completely turned things upside down for me,” he said. By then, Brother McGrath’s father had died. He had asked his community to allow him to stop teaching art, which he had been doing for more than a decade, while he was searching for what might be next. “Over the next two weeks nine paintings emerged that were different than anything I had ever done before. I tell people it’s the little black nun inside of me,” he explained.
Brother McGrath pursued art fulltime and began producing books, one on Pope John XXIII, another on Sister Bowman, one on Mary and more about other holy people. He began speaking about art and leading workshops.

Jeanne Howard, the diocesan director of Faith Formation, met Brother McGrath at the Hoffinger Conference in New Orleans where she was tasked with introducing him. Howard noticed one of his paintings of Sister Bowman and the two began to chat about her. She decided he would be a good fit to present in the Diocese of Jackson.
“I wanted to find something in line with the theme of Catechetical Sunday, ‘Open the Door to Faith,’” she said. “We are all called to recognize the call of all people to holiness through Baptism so Brother McGrath will use his images of saints and holy people from the Americas, who were ordinary people like us, who did extraordinary, holy things,” she said.
Brother McGrath said he likes to speak about the saints to inspire people. “We are taught to imitate the saints, I don’t think it’s always about that. It’s about being our true selves. The patron of our order is St. Francis de Sales and he says ‘be who you are and be that perfectly well,’” he said.

He also hopes to expose people to new and different ways to pray. “I will use art as a tool to meditate with inner peace. Touching our creative spirit always calms us down,” he explained. The program will also include a short, non-threatening drawing exercise. He believes art can be transformative. “There’s always beauty and beauty saves us.”

Cloud of Witnesses will start at  Madison St. Anthony School Saturday, April 5, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. This workshop includes a box lunch and costs $25 for individuals or $20 each for groups of three or more who register together. Join Brother McGrath Sunday, April 6,  at St. James Parish in Tupelo, from 1 – 5 p.m. This workshop costs $20 for individuals or $15 per person in groups of three or larger. All those attending the Tupelo workshop are asked to bring a snack to share. Registration is required. Call Fabvienen Taylor to register, 601-960-8470.