I have a large picture of “The Windsock Visitation,” a copy of the one painted by Brother Michael O’Neill McGrath. From the instant I saw the painting, it spoke to me of the deep soul-to-soul friendship between Elizabeth and Mary. The energy of the Holy Spirit surrounds the cousins, uniting them in joyous ecstasy. Their delight emerged not so much from the family reunion, but from souls magnifying the Lord who had done great things in them. Holy be His name!
It was only recently when I discovered the book This Little Light: Lessons in Living from Sister Thea Bowman written and illustrated by Brother Michael O’Neill McGrath that I learned how the painting came to be. Brother Mickey (as he is called) visited the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary, who traded their “cozy comforts of the academies” to live among the poor. A windsock was hung outside the monastery on days children could come for after-school care and playtime. A German Renaissance picture of the Visitation hung in the monastery clashing with modern times and the neighborhood. Brother Mickey was commissioned to paint an “Afro-centric rendition of this timeless mystery.” On the day of the unveiling the children were told the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. They heard that everyone needs an Elizabeth, someone to tell them that “it’s gonna be all right, stop being afraid, God is here, so just keep on stepping.” That’s the message behind Sister Thea Bowman’s life and the insightful homespun paintings. May you discover the book, and I pray that you have an Elizabeth soul friend, too.