By Susan Bailey | Catholic Free Press Correspondent
Kathy Jordan claimed this verse from Jeremiah 29 as her own: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” It proved to be a bulwark during a particularly dark time of her life back in 2013. While passing through this difficult personal trial, she also had to contend with chronic, incurable autoimmune illnesses which left her disabled. At first she felt her prayers went unanswered, until God presented a different way.
In her book, “DeColores God,” Ms. Jordan writes, “I called upon Him, I sought Him out, and I found Him in ways I have never known Him … the Lord unleashed in me a flurry of inspiration.”
That “flurry” was an awakening of artistic impulses. Ms. Jordan had studied art in college but ended up becoming a hairdresser, running a successful salon for 25 years. Painting lay dormant within her as she ran her business and raised her son. Suddenly in 2013 in the midst of her trial, her art resurfaced, proving to be a source of healing and consolation.
“I sat down to paint and pray and immerse myself in the Spirit of God and completely got lost in it and everything else disappeared,” she said. “And I found that over time that began to heal things and I started to feel so much better. I ended up painting 40 paintings in four months to get through this experience I was having.”
The outpouring of grace did not end there. She returned to a familiar place of pilgrimage.
“I went to Medjugorje and thought I would start writing meditations on each painting and put it into a book,” she said. “I’ve been many times; this was my 12th trip. I ended up in front of the Blessed Sacrament almost every day. In six days I wrote 44 poems.”
She compiled her paintings and poems into her self-published book, “DeColores God” (meaning the many colors of God). Her work in youth ministry over the years had connected her with students from Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School; they helped her assemble, design and publish the book.
While selling the book through art shows in parishes and the Worcester Men’s Conference, Ms. Jordan sensed a nudge into a new direction.
“It was suggested to me by a dear friend that I should do paint classes at parishes. My first reaction was that I do sacred art and not the kind of art often associated with the ‘paint with a twist’ classes which offer a party style atmosphere with wine thrown in. I said I would give it a shot at my parish of St Bernard’s in Fitchburg if my pastor wanted it. He got very excited about it and offered to help me with some of the supplies and so I set a date.”
When it came time to purchase the supplies, Ms. Jordan was pleasantly surprised. “Low and behold it was just before Black Friday and so Michael’s was having a ‘before Black Friday’ Black Friday event and everything was 70% off so I said, ‘I guess you want me to do this, Lord.’”
Her first “Paint and Pray” class was a great success.
“Twenty-three people signed up at St. Bernard’s for the event,” said Ms. Jordan. “Everyone loved it – we prayed, we listened to spiritual music, I walked around and helped people to do different paint techniques and explained to them that their painting will look nothing like mine, that mine was just the guideline, and that we were going to let the Holy Spirit guide our hands. And no matter what it looks like, we’re here to give glory to God through all the color that we’re putting on this canvas. And so they really enjoyed that, they found it peaceful and quiet; it wasn’t a party atmosphere but it was a very spiritual experience.”
Since the first of the year Ms. Jordan has visited several parishes to offer classes. One such class was held on Feb. 26 at St. John the Baptist Parish in East Brookfield, where Jean Joel was a participant.
“The class was a lot of fun and truly inspiring. I’ve known Kathy for over 20 years and when she told me she was going to teach this class, relying on the Holy Spirit through prayer to guide me to paint, I knew I had to give it a try. I am not artistic in any way so I was really surprised at the result. I realized that I needed to do this more in all aspects of my life. I have always tried to ‘let go and let God’ and this was a visual confirmation of that practice. I can’t wait to try painting again and I highly recommend this class to everyone.”
The associate pastor, Father Donald C. Ouellette, also took part. “I was a bit reluctant, but surprised to find that it was a positive experience,” said Father Ouellette whose last encounter with painting was in high school. “The combination of prayer, inspirational music, the gathering of peers, and the support offered by Kathy were terrific. We all created a different interpretation of the subject that we were painting: Christ’s cross at Calvary with a scenic background of the earth and sky. For me, there were real moments of prayer and a sense that God’s Spirit was truly present during the process. My final work may not be ready for Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, but the entire event made for a fine integration of art, prayer, and, ultimately, praise to God for the work offered that day.”
Like Ms. Joel, many participants have expressed an interest in repeating the experience. “Both classes went so well everyone wants to do it again. So I had to create another piece for the second class that I showed them and they cannot wait to do it,” said Ms. Jordan. Appropriately enough, this second painting depicts the Holy Spirit in flight as a dove.
Psalm 104:30 states, “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.” By cooperating with that Spirit, Kathy Jordan has experienced renewal in her life and now can share that Spirit with others through the simple tools of brush and paint.
“I have just begun this ministry and we will see where God takes it,” she said. “God is leading me and I’m following him and just wanting to share my talent and my gifts with people who are willing to take a step forward in faith and learn how to paint with the Holy Spirit. When you invite the Holy Spirit into the work, it gives glory to God.”
– You can find out more about Kathy Jordan’s work and her book, “Decolores God” at www.abbastudioofsacredart.com