Thursday, July 26, 2012


Soul of  Mary
While I have been doing my work on saints and images, I have been drawn to the work of a well-known Santero in New Mexico, named Arturo-Francisco Olivas, SFO. Last November I came across a site that said he was retiring from his teaching due to a brain tumor. I immediately put him on my prayer list. Then during Lent of this year I found a site that was linked to Caring Bridge (to keep friends of terminally ill people informed). It was being kept up by his long time friend, Christopher Gibson.  I was so moved that I wrote a short note saying we were praying for Arturo. Even though the site stated that due to the volume of mail received, Arturo was not able to answer, I received an immediate reply from Arturo himself thanking us for the prayers. This arrived on Good Friday, after a very difficult Lent for us, due to illnesses, losses, etc. His selfless reply put my groanings into perspective.

As this coming weekend is the Traditional Spanish Market in Santa Fe where Arturo will be selling about 40 of his retablos, I would like to do this blog about him and his art. He is one of more than 350 Hispanic artists showing traditional artwork at the juried market.

St. Agatha

Diagnosed last year with lung cancer that spread to his brain and spine, Arturo decided to retire from over 30 years of teaching to devote his energy to his art. His doctors gave him 8 to12 months to live, but those with much faith know that sometimes the Lord has other ideas. "My doctor tells me my cancer is incurable and as long as my chemo keeps the cancer at bay my goal is to extend my life and to make me as comfortable as possible. My faith tells me anything is possible".

St. Joseph

After radiation treatment, Arturo is now on a daily chemo pill which has not only shrunk the tumors but the cancer has not spread. Though the treatment leaves him debilitated and often sick, it does not seem to have slowed him down from his art, love of gardening, and small trips he takes around his beloved New Mexico.

Like myself Arturo was raised in Southern California and also like me had a father who loved to sketch (and he also loves Mexican food).
St. Pascal (patron of cooks)

Arturo-Francisco was admitted to the Third Order of St. Francis in September of 2007. As a Franciscan brother he combines his vocation to teach and to paint the santos with his call to follow in the foot steps of St. Francis in imitating Christ Jesus.

St. Francis of Assisi
Arturo himself wrote just this week: as a secular Franciscan it means to be an extension of Christ in the world, principally by using my God-given gifts and abilities in the midst of society and not behind the walls of a friary or convent. And so I teach, I garden and I paint retablos.

But my Franciscan vocation must be lived most directly in the relationship I have with God and with the relationships I have with people: family, friends, my Franciscan community, colleagues and associates, benefactors, my neighbors, strangers and enemies. I am meditating on this reality in a very particular way because yesterday my Franciscan community elected me as their Servant-Minister (in former times the position would have been something akin to a "Superior").

The election was a surprise, totally unexpected considering my name had been proposed in the weeks leading to yesterday's election and then withdrawn due to concerns about my health. My selection was particularly meaningful because it comes as a response to my prayer for guidance in what to do now that I am retired, what do I do now to serve. And considering yesterday was Good Shepherd Sunday (the gospel) I am reminded of the privilege and responsibilities of  being a "good shepherd" to and with my community.

The Most Holy Trinity

So, as in the past I ask for your continued prayers especially for guidance in my new position. As minister, my term lasts 3  years. I jokingly turned to a colleague when my election was announced and asked, does this mean I have at least 3 more years to live? Only God knows, of course. This new position is an opportunity for grace, for myself and for others. I pray I won't miss the opportunity!

Soon Arturo will celebrate his 54 birthday and his one year
 anniversary of  "new life" with cancer.  We pray that he lives
for many years as he continues to share his God-given gifts with all.

Our Lady of the Rosary

 Those we ask to intercede for Arturo-Francisco:

St. Catherine of  Siena

St. Therese of Lisieux

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Infant of Prague

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Last Thursday we had a thunder/lightening storm of a magnitude no one can remember, here or anywhere else: three solid hours of pounding, never moving from over our heads. Many later reported they thought the end was at hand!  Many were left without power, including our guests. Mother Mary Grace heard what sounded like a huge explosion in the woods.

The next day, about 18 hours after the stormed abated, we received a call from one of our volunteer fireman. He said that they were in the woods putting out a brush fire and had it in control. A tree has exploded from a lightening strike.

Photo of  lightening strike over monastery property taken at Friday Harbor by Jeff  Daviscourt

A neighbor, some distance away, smelled smoke and called the fire department but no one could find the source of the fire. They then called our local island airlines to see if a plane would be taking off soon. Fortunately, one was and the fire was spotted and quickly extinguished.

We all said a thank you to the Angels we knew were watching over us, as well as alert friends.

A few days later, Mother Prioress hiked into the woods to see the fire site, returning with the smallest piece of the tree she could find. It is amazing to see. Not only was the bark taken but  about 3 inches of the tree, as if it had been sliced lengthwise by some artist. At present we have it in chapel as a reminder of the forces of Mother Nature and our Angels who protect us!