Brother Mickey and the Saints
November 1 is the feast of All Saints. This feast focuses on those saints not formally canonized by the Church. (Writer Kathy Coffey calls them “God’s Glorious Nobodies.”) The feast also underscores one of the greatest treasures we have for our spiritual life: the array of holy people who have gone before us in the faith—canonized or not. The question I pose today is: How well do you know the canonized Saints?
Do you know, for example, which saint is the patron saint of fishermen (and fisherwomen)? If you said St. Peter, you’re right. But who is the patron saint of airline pilots? Believe it or not, it is St. Therese of Lisieux (often called “the Little Flower.”) How could this young cloistered nun, who never left her convent and never flew in an airplane, be the patron saint of airline pilots? Because, as Pope Pius XII said, “She traveled the world in her heart.”
Someone who has done much to make the saints come alive for us is Brother Mickey O’Neill McGrath, an oblate of St. Francis de Sales currently living in Camden, New Jersey. Brother Mickey is a prolific artist and popular speaker and retreat director. If you visit his website (bromickeymcgrath.com) you will see pictures of his many books, posters, calendars, holy cards, and postcards. His artwork is vibrant, strong, and often whimsical. And he has published a fascinating three volume series on the saints called Patrons and Protectors.
Each volume contains full page (10″ x 10″) illustrations of 28 different saints. Some are well-known (like Saints Ann, Luke, and Francis of Assisi) while others are more obscure (like Saints Apollonia, Fiacre, Pelagia). His illustrations depict each saint engaged in the occupation for which they are patrons or protectors. So St. Therese of Lisieux is sitting in the cockpit of an airplane while St. Pelagia (patron of actors) is performing on a stage. Opposite each illustration is a brief commentary about the saint followed by a reflection written by someone who is engaged in that particular profession.
Let’s look at two of the saints. First, St. Joseph, patron of carpenters. Joseph is pictured in his modern woodworking shop. He is putting the final touches on the cradle which he has to finish by December 25. That date is circled on the calendar on the wall behind him. Brother Mickey puts the Holy Spirit (symbolized by a white dove) somewhere in each painting. In this one, the dove is testing out the cradle! Brother Mickey also has some creative halos for his saints. Joseph’s halo, for example, is the blade from a circular saw that’s hanging up in his shop.
The carpenter’s reflection includes these beautiful words: “Being able to use my eyes, heart and hands to build things that will be used for generations to come gives me great satisfaction. To create an everyday object and give it beauty, warmth and soul—this is the woodworker’s job.”
Another Saint that Brother Mickey introduces us to is St. Apollonia, patron of dentists. She lived in
Alexandria, Egypt in the third century and served the church as a deaconess. She was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Phillip. Part of the torture she endured was having her teeth knocked out. In Brother Mickey’s drawing St. Appollonia wears pink and turquoise, colors associated with peace and healing. The Holy Spirit almost looks like her little dental assistant! The saint’s halo is the light many dentists use when working on a patient’s teeth.
A pediatric dentist writes the reflection on her profession. She says: “I feel honored every day that families trust me with their greatest treasure: their children. Saint Appollonia risked her life to comfort suffering imprisoned Christians. Although I certainly do not risk my life taking care of my patients, I try to dedicate myself to alleviate suffering and provide comfort.”
In the introduction to volume 2 of Patrons and Protectors, Fr. James Martin, SJ, reminds us that, through our everyday work, we are all called to be co-creators with God in building the Kingdom of God. Brother Mickey’s beautiful illustrations and commentaries present us with some of those fascinating individuals who have gone before us and show us the way. The books challenge us to see the work we do with fresh eyes. It also reminds us that “the Holy Spirit is hovering or nesting” in all our workplaces!
One simple definition of sanctity is this: following Jesus in our time and place with our limitations and our gifts. With that in mind, I chose the song “The Summons” for today. In the words of this song may you hear Jesus calling you to follow him more deeply wherever you are and in whatever work you are engaged.
Are you familiar with the saints? If so, do any of them inspire you personally? Who and why?
If you’ve read any of Brother Mickey’s books or you’ve seen any of his artwork, what do you think of his art?
If you have attended any of Brother Mickey’s talks, retreats, or workshops what was that experience like for you?
Do any of the words of the song touch your heart today?
Great reflection Sr. Melannie!
We have a sign on our car that St. Joseph, not your regular Joe. The saints inspire me to keep on going. Our pastor often will tell us about the flaws a saint may have had to make them more human.
Just beautiful…..thank you!
My favorite Saints are St Francis of Assisi (my patron saint) and St Joseph (my grandfather’s name – he worked with his hands too, as a tool & die maker). But I’m glad we have a holiday to remember all the “Little saints” who have touched our lives and inspire us.
My favorite saints are St Theresa of Avila, St. Mary Magdalen and Saint Pope John XXIII. I admire strong women in the Church and the pope who opened the window with Vatican II. And I also like the “nobodies”. It brings hope to the rest of us.
I love Brother Mickey’s art. He had some great ones of Pope Francis. I would love to attend one of his workshops.
Thank you for these wonderful Monday moments!
I love Brother Mickey’s art. Thank you Melannie for such a beautiful reflection.
I have from my childhood been devoted to St. Anthony he has never failed me from the prayer my mom taught me. Anthony Anthony hop around something’s lost and can’t be found. I owned this prayer nobody else did but mom and me. As I grew older I was surprised to find out that other versions were said by other people. Boy was my bubble burst. But alas I can fondly remember my mom teaching me this and I can preserve this memory close to my heat than you mom got this treasure RIP mom. My 2nd would be St. Francis the patron of our fraternity. I am proud to be a Francican. He is for peace helping the poor and animals.
Thank you mom for giving me this treasure. That’s what it was supposed to say. In my comment above.
I spent a week with Bro. Mickey this summer on a river cruise in Germany. What fun he was and so very approachable. He takes such joy in life and loves sharing his talents with all. The experience was all gift!
My favorite Saint is Margaret of Clitherow. She is the Patron of Business Women. I have a postcard portraying her in my office and the artwork was done by Michael O’Neill McGrath. As a matter of fact, I got this postcard from you Melannie at one of your seminars. I cherish it.
Wonderful as usual! thanks, Melannie. Are you familiar with the “Brother Leo” cartoon also called “Francis” put out by the NCR? Today’ is about
the “issue” of making Junipero Serra a saint. It always gives a positive
slant on our beloved Pope through the eyes of his “valet” Bro Leo–a small
Hope you send this to Br. Mickey!
Thanks for once again opening new ways to think about a reality…saints
Thanks again, Sister Melanie, for a song and reflection that touched me.
I believe the Summons was a song at mass our last time celebrating with my daughter before she left to do mission work.
The very first saint I ever knew about was St. Therese Lisieux, because that was the name of my grade school, and in first grade I remember I had a child’s version of her life story from our library.
An older priest at our parish calls everyone “Saint” because he says we’re all called to it, and all working on it! 🙂
Have a great week.
Dear Sister Melannie,
Thank you for your inspirations. I have always been drawn to the lives of the saints, maybe sparked in the first grade by our parish priest who pointed out my name, Joanne Marie, was a nod to Joachim, Ann, and Mary. I felt very special in class that day!
Through my life, different saints have been influential guides and friends, like St. John the Evangelist, St. Therese Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Jude to name a few. But the guide who has taught me the most is St. Faustina.
Thank you for this opportunity to acknowledge their intercessory help. I would be remiss not to mention my “grandma litany” of eleven holy women who continue to guide our family from heaven above.
God bless you. Joanne
I appreciate your unique meditations. The St. Joseph picture is really beautiful, I love the saw-blade halo. My husband and all our sons are remodelers and builders so I love different pictures of St. Joseph. I’m so happy he’s been added to the list of saints mentioned during Mass. Thank you for your sharing with us. Kathleen
I forgot to mention how much I love that song. We sing it regularly at our liturgies. It is so inspirational.
My favorite saints are St. Pio (Padre Pio) and St. Anthony of Padua…..
With special devotion to the Sacret Heart of Jesus!!
Whenever I have heard this hymn the refrain “and never be the same” tugs at me, reminding me that my life and that of the recipient of my love will never be the same. This can be taken in many ways, but basically the change will involve a greater capacity to give generously and receive graciously.
I love this : “One simple definition of sanctity is this: following Jesus in our time and place with our limitations and our gifts.” I have often felt a pull to a different time and place, so this is a comfort to me. The most inspiring part of this definition is the acknowledgment of limitations. I struggle with trying to be perfect. But, being a saint is not about being perfect, is it…? Perhaps it is about relying on God’s grace and power and never giving up.