Wilfried Joye


Bernie Mullen

A Meditation on prayer

A Meditation on prayer

Wilfried Joye was born in Dadizele, Belgium in 1939. He was ordained a priest in 1964 in the order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He has been working as a missionary in Potchfestroom in South Africa since 1966. He has often been exhibited in S A and in Belgium and his paintings often portray rural life and the human situation. His works are vibrant and appealing and he uses the fish as his symbol in most of his worked. This is because the fish represents insight (it never closes its eyes) these remain open for the reception of life and truth. The mouth of the fish is always readily open and this symbolises capacity for the ‘food of life’ in its purity and fullness. The paintings of Joye are often religious and he presents to the world a journey of deep faith, the sacredness of life and the joy of hope. Fr Joye was a close friend of Fr Frans Claerhout and he often exhibited with him in South Africa and internationally.

Opening prayer-poem (Bernie Mullen)

I am burdened with images of self,
My heart-vision impinged, impaired.
I am burdened with open eyes,
Closed to faith, closed to the truth of Prayer:
My destined Being, my being’s intent:
True Love, true life
Ever lived in thee
In thee; the God of love
Who wants to free,
Watches without sign or word
Watches in my soul with me.
I am burdened with the clothes of hiding
In a spirit leaning long
Upon my winter tree.
I am dead to all but self,
Dead, but still in winter shod,
My winter God,
You wait with me.

I am liberated in your silence
In your tender, never tired of waiting,
In your sacred prayer and work in me.
In your constant Love,
In your Light exposed,
In your heart that beats
And brings with patience
My soul to freedom’s
Peace: I live with Joy.
I live in thee.
You are my Gracious God of grace;
Transforming prayer, in me…

Centring Music:
'Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring'
J. S. Bach: Sung by Kiri Te Kanawa
CD: Kiri Te Kanawa: Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral
Ave Maria Philips: 412629-2

Pause for reflection:

Scripture reading: Sirach: 50: 22-24

And now bless the God of all,
Who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters our growth from our mother’s womb,
And fashions us according to God’s will.
May God grant us joy of heart
And may peace abide among us;
May the Lord’s goodness towards us endure
As long as the heavens are above.

Pause for reflection:

What engages us at once in this beautiful portrait of a woman is the vast contrast between her right and left sides. It is almost as if she is two different people, or if not, two different aspect of her, all graphically exposed for our contemplation. If we look to the right we are confronted with several contrasts. Firstly, her tautly fixed strands of hair sticking out over her rigid and tense shoulder. We are not sure if her hair is glued to the deep, brown tree trunk shaped structure that she leans her darkened cheek upon. The bright orange stole or part of her dress that falls over her shoulder seems equally fixed and rigid, we cannot imagine it flowing in the wind or yielding to touch. It is simply ‘planked’ against her. It covers up her nurturing breast and speaks of some kind of preclusion from care.

Pause for reflection:


Jesu joy of our desiring
Holy wisdom, love most bright
Drawn by thee, our souls aspiring,
Soar to uncreated light….

Pause for reflection:

In moving away from her planked stole we try to find where the clear lines for her right arm are. Again we are confronted with vague paint smudges of browns, greens and blues between a more defined black line. Her arm is invaded by everything that is behind and to the side of her. Her limb seems withered and dysfunctional. We feel uncomfortable and yet have empathy for the woman’s situation. She draws us to her as though to present to us her plight.

In spite of the firm line that separates the rigid stole from the dark brown tree like structure that begins at top of the stole and then widens out its solidity to the edge of the frame, we feel compelled to follow its journey onwards and upwards to its conclusion. If we look carefully, we come to realise that the paint strokes on the stole and those on the tree-trunk structure lie in direct contrast. They clash in that they flow from top to bottom in the trunk and from the bottom to top in the stole. This causes a tension between the two. One feels that the woman is being invited to lean heavily on the tree and indeed her left cheek and the strands of hair seem to imply that this is what she is doing.

Pause for reflection:


Jesus joy of our desiring
Holy wisdom, love most bright,
Drawn by thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light….
Word of God our flesh that fashioned
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round thy throne.

Pause for reflection:

The eyes of this woman also seem to be uncoordinated, separated entities; her right fish shaped eye seems intently focused and pulled toward the tree as is her firmly pasted hair that we feel inhibits her vision. We are left with a sense of deep struggle and conflict; the one side of the woman in total contrast to the other. Perhaps Wilfried Joye is making a statement about real prayer: the in dwelling of God, of Love in us. If we are faithful in allowing God to act in us then our whole being is profoundly affected and we find ourselves pulled towards our most precious, self defensive strategies but at the same time pulled toward the tree of life that Jesus is for us. In our journey into God we pass through many disturbing phases which are to be confronted and in faith endured.

The nose, straight and rigid, we feel, provides a bridge between the left and right aspects of the painting. It allows us to move from our previous state of tension to the vastly different left side of the portrait. The woman’s rounded and lightened, almost luminous cheek speaks of a journey from struggle to contented relaxation. Her soft shoulder emphasises he surrender and peace, her stole falls softly and exposes her breast full with life’s first food and with the nipple ready for milk to flow. Her left arm is distinctly fish shaped to remind us of Joye’s trademark; receptiveness and purity. Finally the woman’s hair is brushed aside to free her vision. Her eye is focused outside and beyond herself and is in no way concerned with self. There are also no decorative and smudged intrusions that conceal the woman’s figure. She emanates wholeness and peace. We sense that her mouth is preparing for the freedom of deep joy; laughter.

Pause for reflection


Jesu joy of our desiring
Holy wisdom, love most bright,
Drawn by thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light….
Word of God our flesh that fashioned
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round thy throne.

Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings,
Where the flock, in thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.
Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure,
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead thine own
In the love of joys unknown…

Pause for reflection:

In contemplating this painting we are profoundly reminded of the fruits of faithful and regular prayer. Jesus takes us seriously if we invite him to do God’s work in us. Bit by bit, we will become transformed into our full potential, into God’s Truth for us. We will struggle with all that inhibits this, all the hides us from exposure to Love, all that impedes our journey into wholeness.

God will undress us, reform our attitudes and gracefully and tenderly love us into light. We will become one with God and experience the joy and wisdom intended for us.

Pause for reflection:

Closing music:

Laudate Dominum: Bach: Sung by: Kiri Te Kanawa with St Paul’s Cathedral Choir
CD: Kiri Te Kanawa: Ave Maria
Philips digital Classics No: DDD: 412 629-2

Copyright © 2009 Wilfried Joye. All Rights Reserved.

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