Thursday, December 13, 2012

Interview with a Half-Blind Artist

   I’ve been wanting to feature an amazing woman for a long time now.  Her name is Maria Delaney-Pennefather, the artist of both my book covers.  She picked the titles, too.  Artists, in general, impress me because with a few brushstrokes they can paint what it takes me an entire novel to say.  But Maria, in particular, amazes me because of her obvious talent is a gift of God. And if you read her story, you’ll also see her life itself is a gift from God.

1.  Why do you refer to yourself as a half-blind artist?
     Approximately 5 years ago, my left eye contracted an incurable disease, wet macular degeneration and then six months later my right eye followed suit.  This requires monthly injections that will not heal the disease but slow down the degeneration process. 

     As a convert to Catholicism, I love the theory of reparation and truly believe that when God allows sufferings in our lives, we can repair with Jesus and place these situations in His wounds for someone or something else.  In this way it gives a greater meaning to our suffering that we can share with our Lord.

2. What other types of artwork do you do and how were you inspired to paint them?

     In 1989 I started to paint using a watercolor medium at a home of an artist.  She had several inspiring artists and we all worked and shared ideas.  In the beginning I enjoyed architectural paintings, sea scapes, gardens, etc.   Quite to my surprise several of my very first attempts to do a series of lighthouses were sold.   Painting was a way to relax and enjoy because I was very busy with my private practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist.    My favorite paintings are the ones inspired by the Holy Spirit which will be discussed later.
copyrighted image
      After the sudden death of my husband, the paints were put away for eight years.  Five years later I remarried a wonderful man and we bought a motorhome and travelled across the USA.  In our travels, first my left eye then my right eye fell victim to the ravages of wet macular degeneration.

     We were very involved in the various religious programs at church and while in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Spirit presented words and pictures to me.  Something beyond my self inspired me to pick up my watercolor paints and paint.  It was as though something within me moved the brushes and a host of cascaded from my brush.

     Slowly my eyes deteriorated so much that painting with the watercolor became extremely difficult.  However the Holy Spirit prevailed and I responded by trying to learn how to paint on the computer.  Although  it  is easier in one way but difficult to learn. I am still learning how to accomplish it.

     Presently, between offering my therapeutic skills to help in the parish and further deterioration of my sight inspiration fountain has dried up. 

3.  How did you come up with the Title and paintings for “Sand and Water” and “Fireflies Dance”?                                        

     When the author sent each book to me to read, I uttered a prayer to the Holy Spirit as I began to explore the contents.  As I read each book a particular scene flashed into my mind creating a picture and a title.

4. Can you describe your journey into the Catholic faith?        
     This journey could become Anabelle’s next novel.  I was not born into a Catholic family and my parentage was questionable. I never knew my biological father.  Here was God’s first miracle - my mother chose to give me life.  Throughout my childhood there was a strong sense of God’s presence and even though family life was quite difficult and chaotic, I knew I was totally loved by my Heavenly Father. 

     We were not Catholics. The closest I had ever been to a catholic was  my mother’s old Irish aunt who would give us holy cards when we visited.  I was petrified of her and thought she was a witch when she would whisper something on long string of beads.  After the visit, the cards she gave me were promptly lost or thrown away.

     Because my journey is so beautifully complex,  I am going to share my initial introduction to the Catholic Church.

     At 13 years old,  I belong to the girl scouts and had a Catholic friend who lived a mile away.  My Presbyterian church was midway and the meetings were held there.  As young girls do, we would take turns to walk to each other’s home and then go back to the church for the girl scout meetings.  One day it was my turn to go to her home.  When I arrived she asked if I wanted to make a visit. 

     “A visit, to where?”  I asked.

     Looking across the street to a small missionary Catholic Church she nodded “to church.” 

     “You visit churches?” I thought. I never knew anyone who visited churches and my curiosity was aroused so said “Yes, I would.” 

     Then she promptly covered her head  with her girl scout tam and then proceeded to pull off the largest maple leaf from a nearby tree and put it on my head saying, “You cannot go into church without your head covered.” 

     Now at thirteen, this was very embarrassing - wearing a maple leaf on my head.  However my insatiable curiosity took over and with a red face I entered the catholic church for the first time in my life. 

     In the entrance was a very large .statue of the Pieta.  When I saw Mary holding Jesus in her arms, my heart was saddened.  Then we entered the church itself.  I almost laughed from nervousness when she quickly bobbed up and down.  This was something new.  Kneeling there was new also because my church did not have kneelers. 

     We finally settled down and my eyes scanned the absolutely beautiful stain glass windows and the stations of the cross.    As I sat there mesmorized by the stillness and beauty my eyes settled upon the altar most especially the curtain on tabernacle.  By this time I could hardly breath and it almost felt as though something or someone was tugging at my heart.

     Finally I had the courage to ask my friend what was behind the curtain.  She explained it was where they kept the Eucharist. 

     “What is Eucharist?” I asked.

     She explained it was the body and blood a of Christ. 

     Now this was too much to understand and my response was “that’s impossible, he died many many years ago.”  

      She smiled sweetly and continued with her prayers.

     Again I felt the tugging at my heart and asked how to you get to eat this Eucharist.

     “When you come to Mass.” 

     “And when is Mass?”

     “Every morning at 6 o”clock and on Sundays at 8.”

     “Can anyone come to mass?”

     “Yes, but you cannot receive the body of Christ.”

     A week later I arose very early in the morning and ran down to the church, entered, settled in the pew and just watched the mass.  It was in Latin and I did not understand anything.  When the people went up to kneel at the altar rail, I watched them receive this Eucharist.  After that I went to Mass several times to watch.  I wanted that piece of bread, that Eucharist very much.

     A second miracle happened.  Towards the latter part of summer, much to my utter amazement, my mother asked if I would like to become a Catholic.  Yes, Oh yes I would, and then proceeded to tell her where I was going every morning.  So I began having catechism lessons with Sr. Maria Loretta.

     Finally,  Sr. Maria Loretta  said I was ready to receive Holy Communion.  So one early Saturday October morning, I got up and put on a beautiful blue dress, a hand me down from my cousin and walked to St. Vincent de Paul Church in Germantown.  Sr. met me at the door and put the most beautiful veil I ever saw on my head and together we went in to Mass.  My heart could not stop beating and I thought for sure everyone could hear it.  It was divine!

     After Mass, Sr. invited me to the convent to have breakfast with the Sisters.  She could have taken me to the moon because I was still awed by receiving our most precious Lord.

Didn’t I tell you she was amazing?


8 kids and a business said...


The Reginator said...

A very beautiful conversion story.
I'm so glad someone at 'Catholic Answers' shared it.
Dominus tecum!