Lalani Ekanayaka is a Contemplative Sister with the Province of Sri Lanka. She has been missioned to the Province of Mid-North America with the Maria Droste Contemplative Community in St. Louis for three years. She will return to her Community in Sri Lanka on December 6, 2016. Earlier this year Sr. Lalani took a class from Sr. Glynis McManamon to learn how to paint icons. The following is a personal account of what it meant for Sr. Lalani to paint something sacred as an aid to devotion.
It has taken me a while to write about my experience of painting an icon, but now it gives me great joy to share my story. I took the class in February. Sr. Beth Garciano had invited me to attend the class with her and another Sister from my Community, RoseMary Hah. I was reluctant to accept the invitation because I didn’t think I would be able to paint an icon successfully. Sr. Beth asked me three times to participate. After her third insistence I prayed to God to discern his Will. After much prayer I gave my consent to participate, although I was filled with anxiety.
Sr. Glynis taught the class at the Shepherding Images Studio in Ferguson, Missouri. She led us step-by-step into the process of painting an icon. Our goal was to paint Saint Michael the Archangel. The whole time I worked on the icon I prayed to St. Michael, asking him to guide me to do my best to paint his image the way he wanted me to paint him.
I became lost at times as I moved along with the painting. Sr. Glynis was patient with me and kept encouraging me to continue.
As I struggled to paint the icon, I discovered that this struggle was similar to my struggles in daily life. In each circumstance, I desire to grow closer to God. I am learning to be more humble and to accept myself as I am. I want to trust in God to help me overcome my weaknesses and limitations.
I want to believe that He will also reveal my strengths and gifts. I learned that if I focus too much on my mistakes then I block my ability to see the light that God is sending to me through St. Michael.
I prayed for the people of Ferguson
While continuing with the class and painting, I prayed for the people of Ferguson. I asked that they may experience the gift of true peace, healing and reconciliation. I hope that Jesus the Good Shepherd will inspire some people to seek an experience in painting an icon and, through this gain greater healing.
After our first Mass in the Maria Droste Convent Chapel on June 14, 2016, Reverend Father Ron Chochol blessed our completed icons of St. Michael. When I looked at my icon, St. Michael seemed to say to me, “You are unique. You are a mystery.”
This experience with St. Michael has given me the courage to paint an icon of St. Mary Magdalen. I am looking forward to getting to know her as she reveals herself to me through the icon painting process.
NOTE: You can learn more about sacred icons at the New Liturgical Movement: Sacred Liturgy and Liturgical Arts website or from world renowned painter and carver of sacred icons Aidan Hart at http://aidanharticons.com.