Icons: Windows into God

Icons: Windows into God

Photo of Thai stamps showing image of Guan Yin

Photo: Mary van Balen

In Icons: Windows into God, the lead article in the October 2017 issue of Celebration published by the National Catholic Reporter, I expand the definition of “icon” to include objects, physical representations, or metaphors that have become windows drawing us into communion with the Holy Mystery. From impressionistic masterpieces in the Musée d’Orsay, to the Asian bodhisattva Guan Yin, to the constellations, the world full of images that enrich and enlarge our experience of God who is beyond all images.

The medieval theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart said that no one could ever have found God. No, The Divine gave the Godself  away.

There is no place or time where God is not. Holy Mystery does not hide. But to see, we must pay attention—and look  through all the “windows” we can.

Click the link below to read the article:

Icons: Windows into God Finding glimpses of God in unexpected places

Mother Katharine Drexel for Encyclopedia

Mother Katharine Drexel for Encyclopedia

Mary was asked to write the history of Mother Katharine Drexel for the Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy. Below is her contribution to the book.


An heiress who gave her life and fortune to found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, an order dedicated to serving Native Americans and African Americans, Katharine Drexel was driven by her love of God, the Eucharist, and the poor to establish schools and chapels across the United States, from reservations in the West to ghettos in New York City to backwater towns of Louisiana.

Katharine was born on November 26, 1858, the second daughter of wealthy Philadelphia banker, Francis A. Drexel, and Hannah Langstroth, who died five weeks after giving birth. In 1860 Katharine’s father married Emma Bouvier, who became the mother of his third daughter. Both Francis and Emma were devout Catholics, and one cannot overestimate the influence family had upon the Drexel girls. They lived in a home filled with love and formed by faith. In her later years, when asked about family prayer in her childhood, Katharine said, “Prayer was like breathing.”

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