Some of Patrick Fletcher’s earliest memories are of scouring his family’s home for blank pieces of paper to use for his drawings and sketches.
At 34 years old, Fletcher — now known as Father Peregrine, a Norbertine based at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado Canyon — is a recognized multimedia artist who produces religious art displayed throughout the abbey.
Most recently, Fr. Peregrine worked for months to produce a detailed icon of St. Norbert for the Norbertine Fathers’ 900th anniversary jubilee in May 2021. The icon, created from a combination of acrylics, oils and colored pencils, remains displayed prominently in the sanctuary.
“I remember as a kid stealing blank pieces of paper from my parents’ copy machine and sketching everything,” he recalls of his childhood. “First I drew the cartoon characters I saw on Saturday morning shows. Later, I created my own comic books and characters. I just loved to draw and create stories.”
Fr. Peregrine also spent money he earned from mowing lawns on how-to drawing books.
Now serving the Norbertine community as assistant novice master, he often works in the abbey’s art studio with other confreres, as the religious community members are called.
“When I first came to the abbey, I was so inspired by a number of seminarians who met once a week to paint together,” he said. “They really encouraged me to join them and I’m so glad I did. I learned a lot; we taught each other and shared the lessons we learned.”
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, as one of five children, Fr. Peregrine credits his accountant father and homemaker mother with encouraging their kids’ creativity.
FR. FLETCHER’S ICON OF ST. NORBERT, FOUNDER OF THE NORBERTINE ORDER. PHOTO COURTESY OF FR. PEREGRINE FLETCHER
AN INSPIRED LIFE
These days, Fr. Peregrine combines his religious calling with the growing demand for his artistic talents. In his opinion, the two combine well to form a fulfilling, inspired life.
“There is something both natural and supernatural about art,” he observed. “There’s a natural desire to create and craft things. On a supernatural level, it’s a blessing to do it in service to the Lord, the saints, His Holy Mother, making the artistic process filled with meaning.”
Creating icons, he added, requires an immersion unique in the art world.
“The whole process is a prayer. Your soul is united to God and the image you are depicting, whether it’s Mary, a saint, or an angel. The whole process is, in a way, something very beautiful, supernatural, and divine.”
“I love any art that is true, honest, and beautiful,” he added. “But icons fulfill a uniquely prayerful purpose. In making an icon, the artist prays, fasts, and involves the entire self. For me, all that is a very compelling reason to create them.”
His work with seminarians is demanding, but Fr. Peregrine manages to find pockets of time to work on various art projects. Most of the art he and his confreres create hangs in the monastery.
“This building is so huge that we can ornament all our walls with homemade art.”
Fr. Peregrine’s most recently completed project is an illustrated book on St. Philomena, which will be published next spring by TAN Books. But perhaps his best-known work is the icon of St. Norbert, which required him to think, pray and request the saint’s guidance.
“I wanted to depict him but also include a narrative that told his life story,” he explained. “An icon is not a frozen picture, but something the viewer interacts with, an image in which they can see God’s hand at work.”
For six or seven months, the icon demanded a great deal of decision-making; it proved impossible, for instance, for him to use egg tempera, his favorite medium, because of time constraints.
“I asked God to guide me even in the simpler and more practical decisions, such as the best medium, size, and preparation process,” he noted.
He is working on an icon of a little- known medieval Norbertie sister, St. Gertrude, the daughter of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. His hope is to continue depicting Norbertine saints; to date he has completed five such icons.
FR. FLETCHER’S PASSION FOR ART BEGAN WHEN HE WAS A CHILD.
THE NORBERTINE COMMUNITY
Fr. Peregrine came to St. Michael’s nine years ago in a roundabout fashion, spending more than six years as a diocesan seminarian in Missouri before choosing to join the Norbertine community.
“God was calling me from a very early age,” he said. “Yet my spiritual director is the one who encouraged me to consider religious life. I hadn’t sensed my own worthiness for that, but I came to discover many things that led me here.”
Introduced to the abbey through several retreats, he loved the way the confreres live and pray together, leading penitential lives. Even though St. Michael’s is very far from my home, it immediately felt like home.
“The simpleness of our way of life was why God was calling me.”