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Paint and Pray

Fourteen-year-old Annie Ploof of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Swanton likes to paint, and she likes to play softball.
So with the beginning of the school softball season, she finds she does not have time to paint. “I feel like I should not be loud and concentrate” when painting, she said. “It’s like when you’re praying. You just kind of relax. That’s how painting makes me feel.”
So the April 22 “Paint and Pray” event at All Saints Parish in Richford was picture perfect for her.
Thirteen people gathered in the parish hall to paint a picture of Jesus’ empty tomb after the resurrection, and as they did so they had the opportunity to meditate on what Easter means to them.
“You just kind of imagine” what happened on His resurrection day “as you [paint] the cross and the sun and think about the morning that He rose, and it all ties together,” commented participant Kellie Flanders of All Saints Parish. “It’s very peaceful. It makes you think, ‘He is now risen.’”
Her husband, David, sat next to her, painting his version of the empty tomb and three crosses in the sunrise. “It’s a good Easter activity, very relaxing,” he said. “You’ve got to focus.”
Patrick Murphy, a retired art teacher at Richford High School, lead the painting part of the program, showing how to pencil in the initial outline for the painting then walking around offering suggestions and encouragement to the participants.
Some of his art comments seemed easily applicable to the prayer aspect left to individual personal communication with God. “It’s very forgiving,” he said of the acrylic paint, a comment that could be applied to Jesus, whose mercy and forgiveness were celebrated that weekend on Divine Mercy Sunday.
Kelly Lagasse, director of religious education at All Saints, said it was ironic that the Paint and Pray event took place on Divine Mercy Sunday weekend, noting that Jesus asked St. Faustina Kowalska to have a picture painted of His Divine Mercy.
The message of The Divine Mercy is simple: God loves even the greatest sinners. God wants people to recognize that God's mercy is greater than their sins so that they will call upon God with trust, receive God's mercy and let it flow through them to others. Thus all will come to share God's joy.
The Divine Mercy is based on the writings of St. Faustina, an uneducated Polish nun who, in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of about 600 pages recording the revelations she received about God's mercy.
A picture of her revelations – Jesus with red and white streams of blood and water streaming from Him—was set up near the painters’ easels with candles in front of it and red and white curtains behind. Prayer cards were set on a table for participants to take home along with an explanation of the devotion.
“This is an individual encounter with Jesus through painting,” Lagasse said. “As you’re painting, you encounter Jesus through your painting.”
As Annie looked at her unfinished painting, she reflected, “It’s not perfect. We don’t have to be perfect. Jesus loves us anyway.”
The event was a fundraiser for the youth ministry program in the parish. 
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