St. Teresa of Avila, an expert on prayer, knew the power of a picture. Looking at an image of the wounded Christ changed her life. She taught that visuals can “awaken love.” Using the photo at the top of this blog, here’s an example of how prayer can flow from a picture. Some background: The shot was taken in Tiberius. I got up at 5:30 am to capture the sunrise and waited until a bird alit on a tree branch, but this herald of the dawn is barely discernible.

1. Prepare to pray: Quiet down. Ask the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you, to help you.

2. Gaze at the picture, put yourself into the scene, and let thoughts surface. Any of the following reflections can lead to thoughts about something personal, a past experience or a situation in your life.

• The Sea of Galilee…Jesus walked on its waters…helped the apostles catch loads of fish from it. . . quieted its storms with a word. . . took pleasure in its beauty

• The sun . . . essential for life. . . gives light and warmth. . . rises each day . . . dispels darkness . . . Jesus is our sun

• Stream of light across the water. . . the sun’s rays reach out to me. . . I am touched by Christ and enabled to share his life with others.

• The bird . . .life  . . . God cares for it . . . it has its back to the sun, like people who ignore the Son

• The dead sticks standing . . . once they were green and lush. . . they still serve by adding interest to the photo

• The hills . . . part of the beauty of the country. . . Jesus went off to the hills to pray alone

3. Speak to God depending on how your heart responds to the thoughts the picture evokes. Listen to him.

We just celebrated the funeral Mass of one of our Sisters. Mary Lou Sleevi’s picture of the Good Shepherd graced her program cover, and the homilest led us through a reflection linking elements in this picture to Sister’s life. As a teenager, I was especially moved by Salvador Dali’s painting  “Christ of St. John of the Cross,” a unique version of the crucifixion.

What artwork or image touches your heart and is a potential prayer-starter for yourself or others?


  1. Melannie Svoboda, SND on March 28, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I loved your idea and your example, Kathleen. When I make my annual retreat, I always take several books of paintings, photography, and other works of art along with me. Some of my most fruitful meditations have centered on a single painting or photograph–whether famous or obscure, religious or “secular.” Since I work with words so much during the year, I enjoy moving beyond them with the visual arts. I also use music for meditation in much the same way–classical, religious, songs from musicals, country, jazz, blue grass, rock, etc.

    • Kathleen Glavich, SND on March 28, 2012 at 9:53 am

      Great ideas for a retreat, Melannie. In addition, I like to bring my camera on retreat and take my own photos. Our Chardon property is filled with photo opportunities: the blue heron, the brook, maybe a rainbow––all things that lift our minds and hearts to God.

  2. Deborah Carlin on April 2, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Thank you so much Kathleen. I will share this with our teachers here at GACS. Students respond so well to this kind of prayer.

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