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Audacious Art

Illustrating a spiritual concept is a fascinating puzzle to me. The Spiritual Exercises, imaginative prayer, talking to Jesus as one friend talks to another… what does it look like? When I was working on the pictures for Audacious Ignatius, I thought a lot about how to make images that would convey the spirit and flavor of Ignatian spirituality, images that could unfold over time, offering meaning to children and adults. 

I was reminded of this the other day when I visited the chapel at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. It was when I taught at Cristo Rey that I first learned about St. Ignatius’s life, and there’s a picture of the Cristo Rey chapel in the book! 

The Chapel of the Sacred Heart at Cristo Rey: in Audacious Ignatius and in real life!

Cristo Rey’s Chapel of the Sacred Heart was renovated in 2010 with beautiful art that celebrates Cristo Rey’s Jesuit and Latino spirituality. One of my favorite parts is the retablo, the paintings around the altar. The paintings show four stories from the Gospels, and the artist, Roberto Valadez, painted Cristo Rey students into the scene of each story.

The retablo

I love this visual representation of contemplative prayer, and how tailored it is to high school students. 

It’s also a great illustration of the progression of the four weeks of the Spiritual Exercises.

  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son: representing God’s boundless love, and the first week of the Exercises.
  • The Nativity: representing our call to be disciples, and the second week of the Exercises.
  • The Passion: representing Christ’s suffering, and the third week of the Exercises. 
  • The Road to Emmaus: representing our walk with the risen Christ, and the fourth week of the Exercises.

I was reminded of the scene in Audacious Ignatius when Ignatius prays:

First, know well that I’m loved even though oh so flawed.

Next, spend time with the Lord and walk where he trod.

Offer all I possess, beg for my stony heart thawed, 

And act from a deep love, the Love that is God.

Ignatius prays about writing the Spiritual Exercises

As Ignatius prays, he imagines himself being baptized in the River Jordan, and walking with Jesus. I loved creating these images and how it allowed me to engage the concept slowly, savoring it and examining it in a new way. I love sharing these images with my kids knowing that their understanding of them will unfold over time.

If you ever have a chance to visit Cristo Rey and see the chapel, let me know what you think! It is a beautiful place to pray. 

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