Several articles from personal blogs have appeared online regarding Fr. Justin Belitz, O.F.M. These articles ultimately represent social media being used and abused as yet another demonstration of someone judging from the outside looking in, seeing only slivers, hearing only soundbytes, coming to blatantly erroneous conclusions, and portraying Fr. Belitz as a caricature. It is nothing less than crass stereotyping and echoes the words to the old song: “I don’t like what I don’t understand and it scares me half to death.”
I am an Indianapolis native and former member of Friar Justin’s Hermitage (Former only because I moved out of state). I met Fr. Justin through the late Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer, a Benedictine priest, who happened to be the former director of St. Meinrad’s. I met Fr. Hilary at an art gallery showing (the 431 galley) in the late 1980s. At that time, I was a self-proclaimed atheist.
Having grown up in an abusive, evangelical church setting, I had mantled a lot of anger. Hilary and I became good friends, having countless discussions on art history, film, philosophy, and music. He even counseled me through a divorce. Slowly and astutely, I became aware that there was indeed an artistic, intellectual side to the religious life; one that did not require me to dumb down.
* Our Lady was chosen for the 2014 cover of Aurora Literary Magazine.
“Annihilation” is a 2014, 40 x 48 oil on canvas. It stems from Sufi meditation. “Christ casting the money changers out of the temple” is that figure’s moth to the flame moment. It is the only time we see the gospel figure losing his temper and it is this act, which gets him killed and inevitably transforms him. It is lack of love that Christ is responding to. Rather than the traditional depicted action narrative, usually attached to the subject, “Annihilation” is filtered through Le Pointe Vierge; the innermost secret heart.
“Prelude To A Day Of Wonder” is a 2010, 36 x 48 oil on canvas. That it is a prelude is key. Pure, emotional reaching… upward. A day of wonder is a day of attainment.
“Annunciation” is a 2011, 3 ft x 5 ft oil on canvas, painted while I was in grad school seminary. It is the prologue to the Magnificat. The Marian figure is young, ethnic, sensually caught up in her mystical hour, manifested through the celestial visitor.
“Pieta” is one of numerous oil on canvases (3 ft x 5 ft) I have painted on the traditional subject. This interpretation is from 2011, and directly followed the above “Annunciation.” The same figure is aged approximately thirty years. Again, she is endowed in her Hour. Her Son, reduced to Corpus Christie, is being lifted to Her by John the beloved and Joseph of Arimathea.The author of the Beatitudes is clearly the son of the Magnificat’s author. In the gospel narrative, Christ cried out to His Father: “Why have you forsaken me?” Father turned His face from Son. Yet, Mother faced Her son directly. As painful as it was, She did not look away. She did not forsake Him and wears a shirt of arrows for Him. “Stations IV. Christ meets His Mother On The Way To The Cross” is a 2011 oil on canvas and on of six Station paintings. All are 5 ft x 5 ft. Again, I dispense of a narrative per se and channel the event through a purely emotional, almost musically mystical filter. This is a homage to the teachings of Fr. Justin Belitz. “Barenboim conducts the Bruckner 7th” is a 2014, 3 ft x 4 ft oil on canvas. It is a reinterpretation from a sketch I made during a Chicago concert of that symphony, conducted by Daniel Barenboim in the 1990s. The 7th is the most personally mystical of Bruckner’s symphonic output. Barenboim is a pronounced romanticist and a visceral Brucknerian, shaping the composer’s intimate sanctuary. “Pieta” is a 58 x 48 oil on canvas from 2014. Revisiting the subject, I concentrated on the relationship between the Madonna and Her slain Son in a celestial, communal setting.
“Yellow Resurrection” is a 30 x 48 oil on canvas from 2008 and an entirely different variation of previous Pieta-like themes. My BlueMahler character serves as a narrator, composing an exotic interpretation of the Easter theme. “Christ and the Woman at the Well” is a 2014, 3 ft x 4 ft oil on canvas. It is painted in monochromatic hues. No water well is depicted. I forgo a narrative in favor of an emotional interaction. Although Christ is recognized as prophet, He learns from her. She teaches him her humanity and it is a vulnerable sharing.
“Escape To A Mysterious Freedom” is one of several paintings inspired by my time in New Mexico. It is a 2007 oil on canvas and depicts a lone, female rider. It is a surreal variation of Gauguin’s Riders On The Beach. The woman is on a tension-filled promenade and the freedom which awaits her is an unknown one. I had read St. John of the Cross’ “Dark Night Of The Soul’ shortly before painting this and that certainly factored in.
“Prayer For A Perilous Descent” is a 45 x 60, 2007 oil on canvas and companion piece to the previous painting. A family is depicted: A mother and father, shielding their children, through a perilous descent while Holy Mother prays for their safety.
“Blue Fugue” is another 2007 companion to “Escape To A Mysterious Freedom” and is 3 ft x 4 ft. St. John Of the Cross and Gauguin inform the painting’s theme and milieu. A lone, male figure rides into a terrain of infinite shadows.
“Passion of Perpetua and Felicity” is a 30 x 40, 2008 oil on canvas, taken from a gnostic text of martyrdom. It is a literal, narrative interpretation, but one saturated with paradoxical emotions, including divine eroticism.
“Married In the Faucet” is a 3 ft x 4 ft 2007 canvas, named after a line from a poem by John M. Bennett (who acted in two of my films. He was Satan in “Jesus and her Gospel of Yes” and George H. Bush in “W.”) The BlueMahler character is depicted in an unconsummated marriage. “Finger Paint Viscosity” is a 3 ft x 4 ft, 2007 oil on canvas, named after Cheryl Townsend poem (Cheryl played Jesus in my “Jesus and her Gospel of Yes” film). BlueMahler conducts the non-narrative narrative (as he did in the film). Cheryl herself is depicted. Her form echoes the eroticism inherent in her words. There is an Alexander Scriabin-like insect quality to her sexed-up figure. * All paintings are for sale. For pricing, serious inquiries may contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Hay que caminar, soñando “is a 40 x 60, 2013 oil on canvas, named after a musical composition by Luigi Nono, translated (roughly) as “Wanderer, there is no destination, but you must travel the road.”
“Risonanze errant” (Resonances wandering) is a x 33 x 52, oil on canvas from 2013, named after a musical composition by Luigi Nono.
“Omaggio a Luigi Nono” is a 3 ft x 3 ft oil on canvas, and homage to Luigi Nono.
“Io, Frammento da Prometeo” is a 48 x 48, 2013 oil on canvas, named after a musical composition by Luigi Nono.
“Shifting Sanctuaries” is a 2009, 30 x 48 oil on canvas of the BlueMahler character.
“Fragments From a Crepuscular World” is a 30 x 48 oil on canvas from 2009.
“Self Portrait of the artist as a middle aged man” is a 3ft x 4 ft oil on canvas, from 2009.
“Without World” is a 4ft x 4 ft oil on canvas from 2009.
** A portion of all sales will go to the Franciscan Hermitage.
“Prayer for a perilous descent”“Escape to a mysterious freedom”“Blue Fugue”
“La lontananza nostalgica utopica future” (I & II)
“Modern Spirituality” I – III. (Mural for St. Vincent de Paul). First is painting of John XXIII walking through the world. The second is Fr. Justin Belitz & Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer. Third is Our Lady of the Woods.
“Christ casting the demons into the swine” “Christ cursing the fig tree”
“Scenes from Brother Cobweb” I-III (from the church I grew up in)
In The Mary Myth, Andrew Greely writes, ” The Marian symbol is surely one of the most powerful symbols in the Western Tradition. Virtually every major painter from the fifth to the sixteenth century painted at least one Madonna. The Marian paintings and poetry tell us far more about the power and meaning of the Madonna than theology books could possibly portray. Art is much better at conveying limit-experience than scholarly theology.” 
Last year, at the beginning of seminary, I began a series of works on canvas, entitled Stations to parallel my experience. The first three works were completed last year and this year I have painted the fourth through the sixth.
The point of entryism is the primordial Sophia. The apophatic Stations rejects the crude violence inherent in subscription to the tyranny of the hyper- realism often associated with the passion narrative. From Genesis, Sophia’s stream of hallowed pathos manifests in the intricate Magnificat; the second testament’s renowned fiat of relentless communication. The illiterate adolescent Miriam issues her sublime revolt, exalting the destitute, fragmenting the elite. From the womb of her proclamation, the obscure is cultivated. Miriam issues forth the faint beacon; Christus. In the pondering of Miriam’s heart the character of Christus is wistfully seeded. Miriam and Christus, unified in erect clarity, are Sophia’s intimate motif. The translucent passion of Christus, endured through the Mother of sorrows, reaps an unequivocal music.
Historical-critical analysis, while having its place, is not a concern in these works. Rather, the meditative Stations reflects John Henry Newman’s “Fact of the Imagination.” Stations, lamenting the bankruptcy of theological idiosyncrasy, is the expression of an illegible signpost. These works, admittedly, subscribe to a type of Zen Catholicism, although there is also resistance in labeling it such, just as an idiosyncratic theology resists attachment to a dogmatic school. In this, the works are post-modern in both theological and artistic expression. For me, the age of theological and artistic schools has passed and is rendered impotent. Subscribing to a particular movement, within the arts or within theology, is as linear, is as institutional as stifling attachment towards a blueprint for doctrinal, patriarchal religion. Sacramental pathos sows freedom in the secular crisis of symbols. Symbolic idea is equated with the incarnation. The artistic theology in these works seeks to simultaneously beautify and inspire discomfort. By jettisoning traditional imagery, the risk of subscribing to a perceived totalitarian atheism runs high. However, the discarding of solidified imagery and adhering instead to the internal, emotionally organic content inherent in the Stations, breaths an ecumenical expression. Catholicism (iconography), Zen Buddhism (indefinable), Judaism (Genesis heritage), and Protestantism (subduing of concrete imagery) are influentially present within. Prominent in the creative process is Jorunn Okland’s observation that “Symbolic Continuity is fundamental to our culture.” For that reason, both The Annunciation and Pieta serve as “bookends” to the unfolding, journeyed Stations.
In The Annunciation I painted Mary as a fleshy, ethnic, girlish, peasant youth. In contrast to her fleshiness, is the diaphanous, ethereal milieu in which she is encompassed. This milieu is conveyed with monochromatic, Prussian blues, Pthalo blues, Viridian Hues and Dioxadine Purple. Flowers adorn her, weaving in and out of the fabric of her dress. Behind her is the questioning angel. Fiercely independent, Mary is on the verge of her Yes, her “Let it be done”, without consulting her family or her betrothed.
The Pieta is thirty years later in the narrative. Often, the Madonna is painted, at that scene, still young, still unblemished by age. I chose, again, to depict her ethnicity, combined with age. She looks very different here, weathered. She is on the verge of collapse, but, she surrenders herself, her naiveté, to her dead son’s ambitions. Her silence protects her fragile dignity. John the apostle, and Joseph of Arimathea lift the Corpus Christi to Her; the lowly, the woman of whom it was derogatively asked, “Isn’t this the son of Mary?” She, alone, is caught up in a state of contemplation. Rather than the traditional depiction of the Mother physically embracing the son, this Pieta depicts the two worshipers of Christ in the immensely struggled act of lifting the dead son up to the Mother. John and Joseph are worshipers of the Son and so the Son is elevated. However, the Mother is elevated even higher because She has no worshipers. Unlike Her Son, She is completely human and through her full humanity She is thusly edified for us. A cadmium red rose adorns the lower left corner, symbolic of the rosary. An emotional storm of Dioxadine purple flows through the scene.
The language of the icon is an ambiguous presence in Stations. The emotional symbology from “Mary’s Stations of the Cross” was latently in thinking, colors, brush work and organic form from those two “bookends. The works have an intentional Debussian feel, no doubt enhanced by the fact that I listened to much of Debussy’s later music, along with the music of the Second Viennese School, Morton Feldman and Luigi Nono, during the painting process.
Andrew Greeley writes, “She guides us to see ultimate reality not only as creating, organizing, directing, planning, bringing to completion but also tenderly caring, seductively attracting, passionately inspiring and gently healing.” 
Greeley sees, in this devotion, an imaginative attitude that is not confined to the limits of dogma or that faction of “creepy” Mariology. “Mary has been a prisoner to creeps far too often.” he writes. Greeley relates an amusing, supposedly true story in which Heidegger was “caught” genuflecting at a festival of Our Lady. Heidegger was incredulously asked if he wasn’t an atheist, to which the philosopher replied, “a rationalist like you wouldn’t understand.”
A Marian spirituality surfaced amazingly fast in early Christendom. “The early Christians were far more casual about the similarities between Mary and the pagan goddesses.” However, Greely believes he, like the early Christian, is far more interested in the differences between Mary and those pagan deities, rather than the similarities.
Leonardo Boff is considerably more weary in regards to using mythological Marian terminology and he focuses primarily on finding valid edification through historicity. In The Maternal Face of God Boff writes, “There is a danger of reducing Mariology to modifications of archaic mythologies. Historically, God did not choose a princess. God was not taken by the beauty of Athena, but the plain visage of a destitute woman. The Holy Spirit chose a fragile woman of poverty to be the living temple of God. Mary did not give birth in a royal palace, but was surrounded by beasts. The Mariology of exaltation must know what it is exalting: concrete, humble realities. It must extract the divine transparency that hides in the lowly, it must uncover the depth that is concealed in the humble. God the eternal mother is totally historicized in Mary ” 
The tragically short-lived John Paul I wrote, “God is Father, but above that, God is mother.” Greely concurs with an explanation of his view for the symbol, ” I am not discussing Mary as a person, but I am discussing God who is revealed to us through Mary.”
Boff sums up the hidden historicity of Mary, “The historical figure of Mary is very much hidden, much like a hidden pearl in an out-of-the-way place.” But, this does allow much in the way for an imaginative projection of our personalized imagery into creative expression, which is why, for myself, the Marian image is the boundlessly expansive conduit for an idiosyncratic theology of artistry.
Fr. Justin Belitz O.F.M.. The above are images from his retreat at the Infant Jesus Parish in Morley Western Australia, April 2010. In March, 2011 Fr. Justin returned to the parish for a follow up retreat.
Fr. Justin’s retreat centers around the teaching of his latest book, Success:Full Relating. This is Fr. Justin’s third book in the success series. It is a guide to successful life goals and relationships. Success:Full Relating is also the most theological of his books, outlining the matriarchal/creation model of spirituality and the patriarchal/ fall/redemption model. Fr. Justin’s approach is lucid, optimistic, and inspiring.
Fr. Justin will be celebrating his 50th jubilee as a Franciscan priest this summer. He promotes interfaith expression, practical theology and renewal in the model of Augustine of the Retractions, John XXIII, The Little Flower, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fr. Justin is a licensed teacher of the Silva Method but here he gives us the Justin Method. Justin’s method incorporates Franciscan spirituality, the Silva Method and a lifetime of experience into a celebration of life, love, art, and spirit.
From 1999 to 2000, I painted a mural, in oils, for St. Vincent De Paul client food choice pantry in Indianapolis, having been commissioned by Carolyn Reifel, who was the director of that facility. It took nearly a year. The mural was a donation btw, and we followed that with an art auction. Numerous local and national artists donated their work(s) to the auction in an effort to raise funds for the pantry. The mural spanned several walls, on dry wall. I began the mural with images of two priests who were and are still considerable influences in my life; Fr. Justin Belitz O.F.M and Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer O.S.B.
Fr. Hilary, who had introduced me to Fr. Justin, passed away a mere two weeks after completion of the mural in 2000. I was blessed by his being able to see the completed mural before he passed this temporary coil.
The above are some images and a Nuvo article I came across. One note about the article: It seems to indicate that the auction was not well attended. While we did not have the turn out we had hoped for, over the course of the evening it was indeed fairly well attended and we raised enough money to feed one hundred families for a year.
Tapping back into my thinking from twelve years ago, I entitled the mural “Modern Spirituality” from the mindset of a post Vatican II Catholicism and an ecumenical, inter-faith spirit.
Fr. Justin Belitz and Fr. Hilary Ottensemeyer are representative of that post Vatican II Spirituality. Their images graced several walls of the mural, as did images of Mother Teresa, Pope John XXIII, Our Lady, Gauatama Buddha, and scenes from a charismatic, protestant church service.
Now, twelve years later, I am attaining my Masters of Theological Studies at Christian Theological Seminary.