I was first introduced to collage at a women’s spiritual retreat held at the Jesuit Retreat Center in 2018. I don’t recall the exact date, but the experience is etched in my memory. The retreat directors had us sit at a few tables with stacks of magazines in front of us, scissors and glue sticks within reach. Soothing music played in the background so we could contemplate what we were doing and invite God into it. We were told to cut out images from the magazines and paste them onto the paper we were given.
“This is so silly!“ was my first thought, being the left-brain oriented person that I am. There I was, a well-educated woman in my fifties, being asked to revert to grade school. I was always a good student at heart so I decided to make the best of the situation and began.
I was drawn to a magazine that had an entire section on Africa. It called to me because I had been in a relationship with a man from Africa. We had broken up a year and a half earlier. I was moved to tears as I realized that I was not yet over him even though I thought I was. My collage turned out to be more about patience, finding my focus and responding to God‘s call. Interestingly, a month following the women’s retreat, this man came back into my life and it was not by my initiation.
Since that retreat in 2018, making collages has become one of my go-to spiritual practices. I find that it is similar to writing poetry when I can’t find the words to express exactly what is going on inside me. A collage is another way for me to get closer to articulating what is demanding to be said. Like metaphor and simile in a poem, the images, colors, juxtapositions make the inexplicable explicable. Assorted snippets from old magazines are given new life as they are selected and arranged on a page. In the end the collage documents a particular moment in time and the feelings contained within it.
I don’t create the pictures. I choose them, or better yet they choose me, as I study them page after page, pausing to see if an image stirs my soul or calls out to me. I’m an assembler of these representations of life deciding what goes where and why.
They are eager, just as I am, to speak and find their voice to say something too profound for words. Sometimes it’s a shout. Other times, it’s an echo or a whisper that has to be leaned into to be heard.
I call this art form a spiritual practice because I never know where it will lead me. I must trust in the Creator God. If I go for more than a month without making a collage, I feel as if something inside me simmers just waiting to boil over. I do not plan what pictures to look for in a magazine. I simply pick up one or two periodicals and see what’s inside, what moves me. I’m always amazed when a theme surfaces. It is always just what I need at that moment. What joy!
I encourage you to pick up a pair of scissors, an old magazine and a glue stick. Let God guide you. Better yet, attend a retreat at the Jesuit Retreat Center and keep an open mind (and heart). God always provides for the journey and in the most unexpected ways.
Lydia A. Marrufo