Happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!
A few years ago, I came across an image that I fell in love with. It depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe, not as she usually is shown, but in profile in front of an open window. A starry night sky sparkles over a dark desert. Mary is kneeling, with roses at her feet, and she is obviously pregnant. A soft glow emanates from her stomach.
I’ve thought of this painting a lot recently, and decided that this was the year I needed to purchase a copy for my classroom prayer table before Advent. Through some deep internet searching, I finally found the one place you can purchase the painting: from the artist herself, in North Dakota.
This is Nellie Edward’s bio on her website paintedfaith.net. “Nellie started doing fine art in 2007 – acting on a sudden inspiration to create a ‘portrait’ of then “Blessed” Kateri Tekakwitha. To the artist’s surprise, this was quickly approved by the National Tekakwitha Conference and 5 years later, became the canonization issue cover of Columbia Magazine, as well as the cover of a biographical book. (OSV Publishing) In the middle of doing the portrait, Nellie received a call from a priest, inviting her to give a ProLife talk at an annual Indian Congress…Now she understood it had a ProLife mission. She is very thankful for the artwork, which has shown itself to be at least part of the answer to her prayer.”
Buying the painting was a challenge to my millennial instinct to do everything online. I had to call Nellie to place the order, and because everyone screens my New Jersey phone number, she had to call me back, which she did at 5:15 the next morning. What happened next was one of the coolest Holy Spirit moments of my year.
We talked about her art, and I told her how much this painting moved me and how I wanted to buy a print for my classroom. She asked where I taught and I told her the name of our school, Saint Joseph Marquette. For the blog followers who don’t know me in real life: I teach in a little city in an intensely rural farm area that I had never even heard of before AmeriCorps placed me here.
There was a strange pause on the other end of the line, then the astonishing reply, “I went to Saint Joseph’s years ago! That was my parish and school when I lived in Washington!” We talked for a while after that, but I just couldn’t get over it. The mysterious painter of a painting that had stayed in my mind for years is a part of the legacy of my school. This conversation came at a time when I have been questioning whether what I do as a religion teacher really matters in the long run faith-wise. I feel like God gave me a clear answer through this conversation and a few other experiences I’ve had in the last few weeks.
The frame for the print is arriving today, just in time to be the focal point of our prayer table. If you love this image as much as I do, you should check out Nellie’s work at paintedfaith.net.