Monday, April 14, 2008


I painted this as an ex-voto in memory of the man who had been my novice master in the monastery. He died several years ago now. My inspiration was a funerary fresco from ancient Pompeii - hence the shrouded mourner in the lower corner. The winged man is the Roman God Dionysus. The torch represents the false light of the world. The empty cowl illustrates his abandoned vocation, and the naked man is the dead monk.
I later destroyed the canvas after the monastery denied the circumstances of the monk's death.


  1. why don't you arrange to go to cleveland the end of july to see the vatican exhibit along with certain other personages [last weekend in july] - hang out with good people including fr v in cleveland and fr s in cincinnati
    then when it comes to the twin-cities, you can say "Oh, I've seen that already."

  2. Georgette12:45 AM

    This is so lovely, and so sad, Ter. The weeping mourner (Mary?) and the empty staff (for an abandoned vocation?) are so very poignant.

  3. You destroyed a picture like this? ( Several choice expletives deleted. ) It's wonderful work!

  4. Thanks all. Jeffrey, at least I didn't cut off my ear.

  5. I hope you don't get angry with me dude, but something's kinda pushing me to say this - perhaps I'm looking a little too much and too hard and in the process seeing nothing at all - but I'm worried this still hurts when it doesn't need to....what really may seem as a slight to you and others by a select few may really be the Holy Spirit calling you to love and attempt to understand the weakness in others ?

    Dude I don't mean to get too personal but please be careful you're not being briefly tainted with a very dangerous contaminant in many religious institutions - and one which we all succumbed to at one time or another - some so frequently that we grew very aware of its characteristics - some not so often that when it reared its head their innocence and basic good-natured naiivete gave them little protection against it - I mean inadvertently turning people into cardboard cut-outs based on a few events/exigences and judging accordingly....your truth may be one where you witnessed injustice and insensitivity and denial - it's quite possible there's a deeper truth of which you are unaware ?

    Abandoned vocation ? throwing everything away and dicing with depravity and succumbing to it ? maybe but maybe not ?
    Who knows what the Lord is about ? ...and who knows what may be asked of us ? Things that may seem to go against His way but through which we follow His will. Sure in our eyes it may not seem tenable or credible - but it may be that God was about His business ?
    That which may seem to have wrought shame , hostility and even ostracisation may have ultimately brought a soul closer to God ? we simply do not know....

    By His/our very wounds shall he heal us.
    How else can evil exist save for the greater good ?
    Crosses come in all manner of forms , especially the ones of which only God is aware and we are oblivious to....
    It's a very good painting but I'd venture to ask was it really Truth-ful - and I'm not suggesting you're lying - I'm saying who among us knows the real story of anyone's life ? Who knows the whole Truth ? Maybe you'll have the opportunity to resurrect the painting and position it in its rightful place in the book of life where it really is an aspect of the whole truth?
    Perhaps amidst all the apparent 'sinfulness' or 'falling away' there is a reason and purpose and destiny which can lead to sanctity - some who at present only crouch need to fall in order to be able to stand erect - sometimes the most obvious of sinners can be saved from the fires of hell because their blatant sins led to humility and repentance rather than spiritual pride and presumption ?
    We do not know.
    The ostensible folly , external sins/weaknesses/foibles of others can distort our perceptions of the true person within - there are many people I've encountered whom I presumed to be thoughtless, insensitive bastards and been proved so wrong on many occasions - and regrettably the reverse has been the case too.

    Remember Eustace and Aslan ?
    "A star is a ball of burning gas"
    "No: That is not what a star is - that is merely what it is made of."

    As for those who lied about the manner of death ? maybe the motives were mixed [and perhaps more benign than cowardly,self-protective or mendacious - people sometimes surprise us with their intentions - even when they screw up and offend and inadvertently demean they may never have intended to do such - and remember a lot of people can use coldness or outward flippant dismissive faux-insincerity to hide personal angst and pain. More of us are scared than we can possibly imagine.

    Remember 1 Cor 13 - love is ready to excuse - I think it's a question of always being willing to see or think the best about others - irrespective of how incredulously outraged we may be at their actions. Still waters run deep : I once knew two people who on the surface seemed the bitterest of enemies antagonistic to everything the other stood for - yet they were mentally and emotionally still lovers and in private could share the universe with each other - people unaware of this looking in would have seen a completely distorted vision of what was occurring.

    I have wasted a lot of my life being angry at injustices which were never any such thing; and being unforgiving when there was really nothing to forgive except my pig-headed blindness to reality.
    There just seemed a slight hint of bitterness in your posting - I would hate it to be eating away at you fruitlessly when hopefully you'll be spending the rest of eternity with all involved and laughing and loving each and every one of them round the heavenly banquet.

    Of course I can be utterly wrong and been terribly offensive and thoughtless by saying this ; but I'd hate you to waste any time - even if it was the odd few minutes of angry recollection once in a blue moon - in any way remotely like the way I've wasted years bearing grudges and bitterness.

    Love you too much not to say be careful - not as a judge - but as someone who's been down that path too many times and warning you off from it....
    Sure you have every right to tell me to mind my own business and piss off and don't comment on things I obviously have no idea about and I am way off the mark in any understanding of the situation.
    If I am I most sincerely sorry and just ignore my inane ramblings - but please understand this was for the best of intentions.

  6. Terry, I love it! Is there a chance of getting a reproduction?

  7. Paul you are so insightful and spiritual - thanks very much - I'll read again your toughts...

    I think I really did get over this a long time ago - but maybe not.

  8. Anonymous7:21 PM

    Interesting painting.....and very interesting comments.

    I thought of a well-known artist-monk (same order, different abbey), who after twenty years left the house in pursuit of something else. Unfortunately, he contracted a disease and perished. I always think of a painting of his that I had seen thirty years ago. I thought it was his best. It was something like a rendition of the 'ladder of perfection', with monks ascending the ladder, and some falling off, to perish in the abyss.

    No one can question the state of his soul. We trust in God's mercy. And we are grateful for the years spent in faithful monastic observance.

    -- Michael

  9. Terry:
    Very nice work! You are a true artist. Some of my early art work, I also destroyed--when looking at the art--I felt it revealed way too much about what was going on in my insides--like a glaring picture of me naked. Not liking the feelings of vulnerablility--I felt people could see directly into my soul--so I destroyed my work. Oh, well.


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