This past week, six of us had the great privilege of writing an icon of St. Michael, under the tutelage of Mrs. Roseanne Rouff, with talks on the theology of icons by Sr. Donald. Our friend Betsy Hughes catered the noon meal each day, thus freeing Sr. Sheila and Sr. Myriam to participate in the retreat.
Before her retirement, Roseanne worked for 34 years as a special education teacher. Her expertise in this area was evident in the care with which she prepared the materials for each participant, the clarity of her instructions, her infinite patience and her supportive attitude. Of the six participants, four of us had never written an icon before. Any initial tension around our “performance” soon gave way to the realization that the point was not to create a great work of art, or even to finish on time, but rather to center down, enter into the process and connect with the Archangel Michael.
In addition to sharing illuminating theological insights, Sr. Donald talked to us about the sacred geometry in the icons of the Transfiguration and the Holy Trinity, as well as the significance of the various colors. She also prepared a folder for each participant with meditations and articles for further reflection and color reproductions of a wide variety of icons. To nourish our prayer, she led us in a meditation that she often uses when giving retreats on the Trinity icon.
At the end, we all expressed the hope that Roseanne would agree to lead us in a second class. Roseanne felt strongly, and we concurred, that the three days had been too short. Even though the point was prayer, rather than having a beautiful finished picture to take home, we’d all felt a certain pressure to finish. If we do this again, possibly next October, we’ll schedule four full days, instead of three.