W is for Wernersville, PA and the Jesuit Center. When I was introduced to the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises at the University of Scranton, little did I know that Stratoz be the one most touched by them. My spiritual director, when I told her I was moving to Lansdale, had said “Wernersville. That is where you need to go.” I did, and was entranced by the art that is an integral part of the Jesuit Center, especially the mosaics by Hildreth Meiere in the chapel.
Stratoz was intrigued by the Jesuit Center’s silent retreats, and although he hadn’t done the Spiritual Exercises in Scranton, he went on a silent retreat and was refreshed, and has kept going over the years. He has designed much artwork there.
He is well acquainted with the trees.
I discovered that my studio is my place of reflection, so I haven’t been to Wernersville in awhile, but I see the effect it has on Stratoz, and I remember how Hildreth Meiere’s mosaic sparked my love of mosaic, and it is close to my heart.
These include a sense of collaboration with God’s action in the world, spiritual discernment in decision making, generosity of response to God’s invitation, fraternity and companionship in service, and a disposition to find God in all things. Spiritual integration is a prominent theme of the Exercises: integration of contemplation and action, prayer and service, and emotions and reason.
Once a year, Stratoz goes on a silent spiritual retreat at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville, and he took this photo of beautiful orange stitchery, and this slip of paper proclaiming,
It is God’s will!
What a surprising admonition! I have heard “God’s will” invoked as involving sacrifice, or doing something painful, or suffering, and that version of God’s will can be corrosive to the heart, especially if enjoying this moment, this world, this existence, seems wrong. Some of my readers may recognize this in their own lives: a tendency to dismiss what we enjoy as irrelevant, unimportant, as if we don’t matter. Or if you are like me, to read this as “Enjoy dammit, or you are failing at joy.”
I am beginning to learn that enjoyment is a gift, and it is acceptable to accept it, and that being open to joy in my life has increased my desire to share that joy with others. I love being in my art studio, making mosaics, and love sending my work out into the world, to people who find delight in what I make. One Saturday, at the Lansdale Farmers Market, a woman came into the booth, and stopped to look at my mandalas. Lori Dudley is a massage therapist, and she saw the story of a massage within my Red Tail Rainbow Mandala, how someone comes in at the red tip, tense in their muscles, and slowly, as the massage unfolds, they spiral into the relaxation and peace of the blue greens. I loved that story, that vision of my mosaic, and her enjoyment of the Red Tail Rainbow was enjoyment spiraling ever wider.
Stratoz returned from an 8 day silent retreat at the Wernersville Jesuit Spiritual Center and I was very happy to see him! Wernersville has a special place in my heart, as it was there, at a retreat on spirituality and collage, that I first saw a mosaic “in person” and a spectacular one made with Italian gold smalti, and designed by Hildreth Meiere.
Meiere(1890-1961) was an art deco muralist and mosaicist, and had many commissions for public art, and in 1956 was the first woman to win the Fine Arts Medal from the American Institute of Architects.
Through my Nutmeg Designs etsy shop, a relative of HM contacted me, because I mentioned she was a favorite. It was a thrill when he bought one of my mosaic picture frames for a vintage photo of Hildreth Meiere.
The frame was one of the first projects I did with gold smalti, in this case red gold in the center and the corners. Orsoni Smalti Factory has discontinued the red smalti in the U.S. which set me pining, because it is such an intense glowing red.
Stratoz always comes back refreshed from his retreats. I won’t be signing up for a silent retreat anytime soon, but I would go back to Wernersville to sit in the chapel and soak in the mosaics.