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A Healing Art View Comments
By Sue Stanton

BLESSED JOHN PAUL II, a poet, actor, and playwright, had a great appreciation for human artistry. In his 1999 Letter to Artists, he wrote: “The more conscious they are of their ‘gift,’ [artists] are led all the more to see themselves and the whole of creation with eyes able to contemplate and give thanks, and to raise to God a hymn of praise. This is the only way for them to come to a full understanding of themselves, their vocation, and their mission” (#1).

For Catholic visual artist and Franciscan associate Jo Myers-Walker, the late pope’s explanation of the difficult life of an artist has helped her understand the sorrows and joys of the only way of life she has ever known.

“When I was in the fifth grade,” Jo says, “my mother let me paint my bedroom, but little did we know that such a thing, fairly boring for most young girls, would forever change my life.” Paint opened for her the door to a world most of us only dream of, a life grounded in pursuing visual art.

“I began by painting trees that went around the room on two of the walls. I put flowers and vines along the floorboards. I felt I needed to have beauty around me. My parents realized right away that there was something inside me that needed to be expressed. I guess that was when I began to think of myself as an artist.”

Many years later, art and Franciscan spirituality are central for Jo. “For me, painting those walls was the beginning of finding beauty and a sense of peace,” Jo explains from her studio in Gilbert, Iowa, a town with fewer than 2,000 residents.

Using a great variety of media, she conducts classes there. From watercolor painting to woodworking, from “slumping” (molding plastic or clay) to bookmaking, from creating delicious meals to painting with food—yes, with food—Jo’s creative passions ignited as soon as she picked up that paintbrush many years ago.

“I loved to climb trees,” Jo remembers, “and I climbed them to get above the chaos. Because I needed to reflect, I could look at the world closely from up there. Artists are observers. They see the detail in everything. You can’t help it.”


A world traveler, Sue Stanton worked for 30 years as an RN, including 10 years in the mental health field. She and her husband have two children. Besides her freelance writing, she has authored six faith-based books for children and adults.

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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

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