Yesterday was the feast day for Saint Catherine of Siena and an icon created by Robert Lenz was posted to accompany a tweet about Catherine, who lived in the 14th century. She received a call while in her twenties to challenge the status quo of the church, writing the pope and and monarchs. She also felt a divine call to heal in the broader world.
The artist of this icon --essentially a painting for religious contemptation -- is Franciscan friar Robert Lentz (born 1946), Lenz gives a contemporary feel to to historical religious figures and also for incorporating current social themes and figures into his icon work.
I'm so intrigued by Lenz's icons, many of which feature women. For several years I had his image of medieval mystic Julian of Norwich (above) on the cover of my day book. Lenz zooms in on the hazelnut which Julian speaks of in her Revelations of Divine Love.
“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God. In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.”I have a mounted copy of Lenz's icon of Kateri Tekakwitha (below) a Canadian saint who was originally honoured for her willingness to convert to Christianity, her virginity, and her self-flagellation. Hmm. More recently she has been reclaimed for her love for the Earth and as a female counterpart to St. Francis, who is patron saint of the environment. This works for me, and I love that Lenz shows Kateri amidst the birches with the turtle as representative of the planet -- Turtle Island.
Many thanks to Lenz for upholding independent, creative, faithful women. He's in his 70s now, but I hope he has plenty of images to share with us yet.