A New Ignatian Spiritual Director & Henri Matisse


Yesterday I went to the Henri Matisse exhibition at the Tate Modern ~ beforehand I had my second meeting with my new Ignatian Spiritual Director ~ we extended it to a double session.  The first meeting 2 weeks earlier was for me like a breath of fresh air.  It’s always difficult going right back to ‘the beginning’ and relaying ones journey – especially one such as mine.  What appears to be such an impossible mountain to re-climb along side somebody else, is like collating (in reverse and in the wrong timing) a collage of ones life – a découpage of un-layering – layer upon welded layer.  Glued stuck and varnished over for good – else not so good measure.

The skills of my new Spiritual Director during this listening ministry were at once hidden and evident.  It was fascinating to be both the directee and an observer of the art of Spiritual Accompaniment being ministered with both professional and vocational insight, and with deepest integrity – without pre-conceived conditioning, agenda, bias or mindset. At Last.   This SD brought an extra dynamic that I havent before now encountered in such a ministry, intersecting and interjecting at what were considered poignant points (oblivious to me) where at places I was encouraged to sink into the apparent surface ~ where right there like a head archeologist my SD patiently guided me to brush away at the dusty clay, to eventually expose the bones buried and yet somehow preserved below.   For me revealing these bones was also to reveal and roll the stone away from the tomb ~ the tomb which is protecting and encasing the physical marrow which is the preserve of my d.n.a ~ my d.n.a which is the unique Golden combination ~ the blueprint ~ that bore my soul into being.   The soul ~ the harbour anchor, the umbilical cord, the vital artery ~ that unites me in life to my body and my spirit ~ Born of Love.

Ironic that today I should return home to find that below Williams and Griffin (the local department store which is being partly rebuilt) in the High Street of the ancient oldest recorded town in England ~ previously unearthed treasure was discovered.  The excavation work which had to be carried out before the rebuild could commence, has revealed the finest ever collection of Roman jewels ever discovered in Britain.  It is a find of international importance.  The Roman treasure was buried in the floor of a house which was subsequently burnt to the ground during the Boudiccan Revolt in AD61.  After almost 2 thousands years it is apparently still possible for precious things to be recovered  preserved  ~ even below decades, centuries and milleniums of time passed. Just like the d.n.a of creatures frozen in time in the beautiful opaque mists of the Amber sap from trees.

Later in the day at the Tate Modern, Henri Matisse’s creation of a Garden of Eden like picture (a giant wall, filled with cut-outs) which Matisse had created when he was too frail to leave his home, and which was a way of bringing the outdoors inside ~ was re-hung upon the gallery wall.  Matisse says of his work The Parakeet And The Mermaid ~

‘By entering into the object, one comes into ones own.  I had to make this budgerigar with the coloured paper ~ well ~ I have become a budgie, and in the work I have found myself.    The chinese sage said  “by entering in the object one comes into ones own” ~ in the work he found himself.  One must grow with the tree ~ I know nothing truer.  You cannot imagine how much the sensation of flight helped me adjust my hand when it was guiding the path my scissors took.  It is a sort of linear graphic equivalent of the sensation of flight.  My pleasure in cutting things out, grows ever greater ~ why didn’t I think of it earlier’

I think that maybe by entering in the object if one comes into ones own, one must eventually come into I Am.  I already am ‘I Am’ – for A M are my initials :O)  ~ so maybe it is that by entering so very deeply into the object of ones own, one eventually comes into I Am and then deeper still into God, even though we are not – and He is.


When Picasso and his lover visited Matisse in his studio, Picasso’s lover recalled ~

we were spellbound in a state of suspended breathing’

Upon leaving my Spiritual Director one always feels conscious of being viewed as ever so slightly mad, when one is unexpectedly prompted to recall share and explore certain everyday lifetime experiences, and especially those  of a spiritual nature, in a more detailed way.   An accumulation of the higher perceptions, awarenesses, and re-tellings of the little miracles, awakenings, and insights which we have lived, seen, and believed, might all to readily be considered quirks of the personality, character traits, or fanciful imaginings by others.  I have met with a ‘I am glad that’s the way you saw it’  reaction – face to face before now.   However my SD didn’t appear to react in this way at all.

Unless this Spiritual Director lets go of me too (like the others) maybe because they were out of their depth, or maybe because Spiritual Direction was not their absolute forte, or maybe because of their prejudices and their inability to be True, then I think this unfolding journey (of which just now I am at the foot the mountain) for the next year could be a very interesting one.

Feeling ever so slightly exposed and nude in this new relationship, and whether by my female Mary blue, or by my Joy and her bedfellow blue ~  Matisse’s Blue Nudes (which he did in his latter years and which were originally exhibited along side artists less than 1/2 his age) subsequently held me in suspended wonder too.   One critic vocalised in sublime accuracy the effects that this art work evokes (and I think it is true of other art forms too, that intimately and personally penetrate and expose us to ourselves, and maybe even to others)

‘One can breathe in front of your colourful construction and believe that all is not yet lost ~ but what a joke for the young exhibitors’


After having written the paragraph that ‘It’s always difficult going right back to ‘the beginning’ and relaying ones journey – especially one such as mine. What appears to be such an impossible mountain to re-climb along side somebody else, is like collating (in reverse and in the wrong timing) a collage of ones life – a découpage of un-layering – layer upon welded layer. Glued stuck and varnished over for good – else not so good measure.’ Matisse’s words make some sense of what secular or prejudiced others might consider a wasted exercise.

‘For the artists creation begins with vision – everything we see in our daily life is more or less distorted by our quiet habits. This is perhaps more evident in an age like ours where cinema posters and magazines present us everyday with a flood of images, which are to the eye what prejudices are to the mind. The effort needed to see without distortion demands a kind of courage, and this courage is essential to the artist who has to look at everything as though he were seeing it for the first time. To take an example I think that nothing is more difficult for a true painter than to paint a rose, since before he can do so, he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.

Great Love is needed to inspire and sustain this continual striving towards truth – But isn’t Love at the Origin of all creation.’

Somewhere amongst the days of losses and gains – amongst the melting pot stew of life – amongst the spiritual and secular – amongst the gift of todays Spiritual Direction and Matisse Exhibits – amongst todays whether I am truly Catholic, Non-Catholic or before Catholic contentions ~  everything appeared to be married at a point.  And that point drew me in precisely at the pinnacle project that Matisse states was ‘the result of all my active life’.  Having passed through the stages of the exhibition where Matisse having lived for a while in a darkened room, where in physical and emotional exhaustion and poorliness he is quoted as saying ~

I am out of action, because of having more or less non stop flirted for too long with these enchanted colours.’  

He then goes on to surpass the darkness.

In 1947 a Dominican nun named Sr Jacques Marie who had nursed Matisse through his illness 4 years earlier, approached him to ask for advise on a stained glass window.   ‘the result of all my active life’  unfolded when Matisse went on to design the entire decorative scheme of the Vence chapel which he designed and had built in thanksgiving, having first recreated a kind of makeshift chapel in his studio and later his bedroom in order to immerse himself completely in the project. He even designed the chasuble robes still worn by the priests to this day ~ and the window which projected his cut-out designs transformed into glass, projecting their colours onto the white ceramic panels. ~ with the Stations of the Cross, Christ and the Virgin, and St Dominic on the opposite walls. A chapel said to be bathed in absolute light.



There was so very much more to this brilliant exhibition ~ and there is so much more to be said about this life-long insomniac whose designs blessed so many ~ A man who in the end despite great physical disability seemingly conquered the unconquerable ~ But the last words go to the nurses at the clinic who were surely inspired when they nick-named Henri Matisse

‘the man who rose from the dead’.

Matisse was a man who vibrantly stripped everything back to simplicity ~  and his extraordinarily simple use of shape and colour clothe his work in such a childlike quality, giving it (and us in reflection) an innocence and purity.  It is truly a wonder to behold.

Matthew 18:2-5

‘He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’

Thank God ~ for the gifts of yesterday ~ today ~ and forever.


About mags

Beloved apostle of His Soul x
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