“The corruptible body burdens the soul.” — Wisdom 9:15
Sept. 4, Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C. Readings:
1) Wisdom 9:13-18b
Psalm 90:3-6, 12-17
2) Philemon 9-10, 12-17
Gospel: Luke 14:25-33
By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service
In the Gospel today, Jesus reminds us that we can’t be his disciples, genuinely imparting his message and spirit, unless we are detached from our possessions.
OK, we think, we can eschew materialism and strive not to be influenced by the endemic consumerism of popular culture. We can share what we have with others. Yes, we can do that and so become effective disciples.
But what about the “possessions” that we think of as our daily bread: job, income, home — the things that provide our basic security? Becoming separated from those things can make it hard to listen and attend to God’s Spirit.
I saw it happen to a close friend of mine, a professional, when circumstances created a serious, unexpected reduction in his income. Approaching the end of his career, he saw his savings depleted and retirement plans dashed.
Suddenly, he felt that everything he’d worked for was lost, and he was overwhelmed by fears about his future. He could hardly think rationally.
Most of us have experienced a situation in which an unexpected crisis hits and lays us low.
Often it can be so defeating that we can’t feel God’s presence or hear the gentle guidance of Jesus within us.
Today’s reading from the Book of Wisdom describes the difficulty. “The corruptible body burdens the soul,” Wisdom says, explaining, “The earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.”
It’s not so much that we are materialistic but that our concerns about even basic material matters hinder us from looking into our souls for answers from God. Jesus wants us to let go of those matters that weigh down our ability to follow him.
My friend eventually let go of his fears, accepting the fact of financial insecurity, and trusted God to carry him forward.
Wisdom notes, “The deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.”
We hate uncertainty and insecurity. Think of the panic that ensues when one’s hard drive crashes “with all my stuff on it!”
Jesus calls us to carry our cross, not our stuff. He asks us to carry our uncertainty (Read More)
Should we resurrect the old Christian symbolism? Or are pelicans and peacocks just nonesense, like cabbages and kings.
Is there a danger that trying to reestablish traditional Christian symbols in art would sow confusion rather that clarity? Lots of talks and articles about traditional Christian art I see discuss the symbolism of the iconographic content; for example, the meaning of the acacia bush (the immortality of the soul) or the peacock (again, immortality). This is useful if we have a printed (or perhaps for a few of you an original) Old Master in church or a prayer corner as it will enhance our prayer life when contemplating the image. But is this something that we ought to be aiming to reinstate the same symbolism in what we produce today? Should we seek to educate artists to include this symbolic language in their art? If symbols are meant to communicate and clarify, they should be readily understood by those who see them. This might have been the case when they were introduced – very likely they reflected aspects of the culture at the time – and afterwards when the tradition was still living and so knowledge of this was handed on. But for most it isn’t true now. How many would recognize the characteristics of an acacia bush, never mind what it symbolizes? If you ask someone today who has not been educated in traditional Christian symbolism in art what the peacock means, my guess is that they are more likely to suggest pride, referring to the expression, ‘as proud as peacock’. So the use of the peacock would not clarify, in fact it would do worse than mystify, it might actually mislead. (The reason for the use of the peacock as a symbol of immortality, as I understand it, is the ancient belief that its flesh was incorruptible). So to reestablish this sign language would be a huge task. We would not only have to educate the artists, but also educate everyone for whom the art was intended to read the symbolism. If this is the case, why bother at all, it doesn’t seem to helping very much, and in the end it will always exclude those who are not part of the cognoscenti . This is exactly the opposite of what is desired: for the greater number, it would not draw them into contemplation of the Truth, but (Read More)
Some time ago I wrote a piece about the St Matthew of the Lindisfarne Gospels. Here. The image is painted by Br Eadrith and was done in the 8th century.
At the time I was unsure as to who the figure peeping from behind the curtain might be:
Now, a year later a reader, Rev Dan Bodine wrote to me saying:
The most obvious candidate in my view is St. Luke. The gospels of Matthew and Luke share much of the same material. The painting would therefore accuse Luke as listening in on the Divine Word as Matthew receives it. (Who wouldn’t)
So, mystery solved…unless anyone has any more suggestions…
“Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” — Sirach 3:18
Aug. 28, Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C. Readings:
1) Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Psalm 68:4-7, 10-11
2) Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a
Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14
By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service
The American storyteller Mark Twain is credited with the saying, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Essentially, Twain is insisting that “words matter.”
Sometimes examining the historical origins, or etymology, of a word can provide valuable insights into its meaning.
Take the word “humility,” for example. If you trace its history far enough, you can find that it is based on the Latin word “humus,” or “earth.” To be humble is literally to be “down to earth.”
Almost all of us can think of a person who, despite his celebrity or social stature, is admired because of his humility. To say of a famous personality, “She’s so down to earth!” is to pay her a compliment implying genuineness, approachability and unpretentiousness that are powerfully attractive to others.
Jesus chose to emphasize the importance of humility in today’s Gospel parable at the home of one of the leading Pharisees of the town — where, oddly enough, the dinner guests were jockeying for positions of honor at the table. He highlights the paradox that such seeking of favor and prestige inevitably leads to disgrace and embarrassment, while choosing to humble oneself carries the potential for exaltation. (Although the words both spring from the same Latin root, I think I would choose “humility” over “humiliation” any day!)
Jesus’ parable wasn’t only instructional — it was prescient. His own freely chosen death on the cross was the ultimate act of humility, leading not only to his own exaltation at the right hand of the Father, but to our own lifting up.
In great humility lies great power, for it dismantles the walls that keep our hearts closed to love. Humility changes moralizing to loving example and mere proselytizing to authentic evangelization.
Put another way, it’s what “folk evangelist” Johnny Cash advises in song:
“Come heed me, my brothers, come heed, one and all/ Don’t brag about standing or you’ll surely fall./ You’re (Read More)
The Method of the Methodists!
I was investigating the forms of breviary on the internet the other day (as one does!) and in a page about the history of the Anglican breviary, here.
Regular praying of the Divine Office was likewise central to John and Charles Wesley’s “method,” which included scriptural study, fasting, and regular reception of Holy Communion in addition to daily celebration of Morning and Evening Prayer. John Wesley’s Rule of Life is, in its essentials, thoroughly orthodox and Catholic. It has been said that if Wesley had only been born in 1803 rather than 1703, he would have been a follower of those great Oxford divines — John Henry Newman, Edward Bouverie Pusey, and Hurrell Froude — who by their preaching and Tracts turned the Church of England to its apostolic and sacramental roots.
Indeed, it was those 19th century “Tractarians” who kindled new interest in the pre-Reformation forms of celebrating the Holy Eucharist and daily prayer. In the mid and late nineteenth century, the Anglican Church in England and America witnessed nothing less than a Catholic Revival, including the rebirth of organized religious orders, renewed emphasis upon and appreciation for the Episcopate and Priesthood, the Sacraments, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the sacrificial nature of the Holy Communion, devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, and the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.
As someone who grew up going to Methodist church and whose great grandfather was a Methodist lay preacher, I found this staggering. I had heard about John Wesley’s ‘method’ that gave the name to the Methodists, but no one every talked about what it actually was.
Clearly as a Catholic I do not now believe that Methodists and high Anglicans actually had the Real Presence at the heart of their churches, but it does suggest, if the writer of the history referred to above is correct, that so much of the strength of these two church movements was down to a devotion to the Divine Office. It was said, for example, that it was the rise of the Methodists in England that stoppedsocial upheaval of the sort that lead to the French Revolution. The Anglican church was responsible, in my opinion for the gothic revival which shaped the culture of the 19th century in Britain and America so strongly (as I described in a recent article, here) (Read More)
Pope Francis a year ago declared that Catholics would join their Orthodox brothers and sisters and other Christians to formally mark Sept. 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
This year awareness of the day is gaining momentum as church groups and faith-based environment advocates have instituted a series of prayer services and programs for Catholics in particular to observe the day.
Nuns join climate justice activists at a plaza in Manila, Philippines, Nov. 29, a day ahead of the start of the U.N. climate change conference, known as the COP21 summit, in Paris. (CNS/Simone Orendain).
“Sept. 1 is huge because it is the first time in our Catholic liturgical calendar we have an official day for creation care,” said Tomas Insua, coordinator of the Global Catholic Climate Movement. “It’s a massive opportunity to start getting ‘Laudato Si” deeply imbedded in our Catholic mindset and the life of the Catholic family.”
The day opens what numerous Christian communities are calling the Season of Creation that runs through the feast of St. Francis of Assisi Oct. 4. Christians are invited to pray and care for God’s creation over the five-week period.
The Sept. 1 day of prayer originated when Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople instituted a similar day of prayer for the Orthodox Church in 1989. It has gradually expanded to include much of the Christian world.
Meanwhile, the Washington-based Catholic Climate Covenant has developed its own program for the St. Francis feast day. The educational program is called “Dial Down the Heat: Cultivate the Common Good for our Common Home.” You can see a video about the program here.
Dan Misleh, Catholic Climate Covenant executive director, said it is designed to bring diverse people together to in a civil dialogue on climate change in a time of political polarization and to find common ground to protect Earth by thinking about ways to use less energy so “we put less CO2 into the atmosphere.”
“We need to be thinking about how do we create the space for people to have civil dialogue as opposed to people shouting at each other,” he told Catholic News Service.
A kit on the program is available from the Catholic Climate Covenant website.
Insua knows that much work remains to create awareness about the day “because the vast majority of Catholics still have no clue (Read More)
Thomas Marsh, the sculpture, was kind enough to get in touch with me after the post about his work to tell me a little more about the Rosary Walk referred to in yesterday’s post about his work. He even sent me some sketches he has produced in advance of creating it, along with a description of his intentions for the church, St Isadore the Farmer Catholic Church in Orange, Virginia.
I thought that it was worth a look to see how a sculptor describes his vision in advance, both in words and in preparitory sketches:
When completed, the Rosary Prayer Walk, with an over life-size statue of Mary and the Child Jesus at the high point of the walk, will span just over 75 feet. This sacred and beautiful space will beckon those who for the first time notice the statue as they drive by the front of St. Isidore on Highway 15. It will be a magnet for those who attend Mass at St. Isidore, and for those Catholics in the region who hear about this new sacred space. What will be this beckoning force, this magnetic attraction?
In his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI wrote of the “exitus-reditus” (movement outward and returning) character of worship. He likened this movement to man’s experience of God, of leaving and returning, and ultimately returning home to God forever. In this prayer walk, the Rosary is laid out before the prayerful person as an elliptical path, to descend down the gentle slope of the hill, and return upward, homeward. In the manner of Christ one climbs the slope of the hill, not only in sight of the Cross (held by the Child Jesus), but toward the sculpture of Mary, Queen of Heaven, and Christ, King of the Universe, a reminder of our heavenly home. As the high point and focal point of the design, the sculpture has a symbolic and representational power to draw us “…to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God…” (CCC 2502).
The Rosary has the potential to be experienced as movement in a large space. Usually the “small scale” practice of praying the Rosary, the traditional beads with the very physical sense of touch, offers an intimate quietness, a quiet closeness. Yet Christ often went to the mountain, to the “high place” to pray. There is an expansiveness of sight and breath, and a special depth (Read More)
“I come to gather nations of every language.” — Isaiah 66:18a
Aug. 21, Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle C. Readings:
1) Isaiah 66:18-21
2) Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Gospel: Luke 13:22-30
By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service
The final part of the Gospel for this week speaks of an event many of us are looking forward to with eagerness. Jesus says, “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Having lived a pretty privileged first-world life, I’m not looking to rise in the rankings in the kingdom of God. But it has also been my privilege to know many people — despised because of their poverty and their lack of education — who will.
My wife has the added privilege of working with the poor in the form of refugees and immigrants who have literally come from the east and the west, the north and the south: from Africa, Asia and from all of Latin America.
They come here with hope and a vision to achieve a new life free from fear and free to earn a living that will sustain them and their families.
Though not all are virtuous to a fault, most of them have grown up in families where they were nurtured and protected. However, some fight against deeply dysfunctional family dynamics that caused them to live on the streets in their home countries. But they do fight their circumstances, and my wife and her co-workers at her school assist them, offering them a hand up through education, kindness, empathy and simply the presence of a listening ear.
Many, though not all, are believers. Some follow the Hindu and Muslim faiths.
Many of them will someday be among those our Savior greets in eternity in the kingdom of God, where, having experienced life in this world among “the last,” they will everlastingly experience life in the kingdom among “the first” as they recline at the table with our Lord.
Who do you know whose lives in this world would put them in the category of “the last”? In what way are you looking (Read More)
Demonstrating how to balance the idealism and realism
After Carrie Gress’s interview with sculptor Thomas Marsh on the Pontifex University blog, here, which I referred to last week, I thought I would enlarge on my comments on Marsh’s sculpture. Marsh is one of the few artists I have seen who has a high level of skill and who seems to understand how to balance idealism and realism. This really should be something that every Christian artist should understand, but seem to nowadays. What is noticeable is that he varies the degree of idealization according to the subject of his scultpture. Here’s what I mean:
First is that I think the quality of his craftmanship comes through in his portraits, which in my opinion are stunning. The individual character of the person shines out of his work. Here are some examples.
The mark of a unique person is present, though slightly reduced, in this sculpture of a surfer, which is not intended to be a portrait, but an idealized personification of a surfer, and a tribute to surfing. Again, this is skillfully rendered.
Contrast this with the face of Our Lady shown below, in which the idealization is taken a step further:
Notice how the portrayal of individual character is least evident here. The face is idealized in a way that partially resembles, it seems to me, the idealized features of an ancient Greek Venus. Any portrayal of Our Lady must reveal her as a unique person, as a portrait does, of course. We discern the general through the particular. But at the same time, it must emphasize those qualities that are common to all of humanity, and present them in their best light, for these are the qualities that we can emulate in her. Those aspects that are unique to Mary cannot, by definition, be imitated. It is this emphasis of the general that leads the artist into a portrayal of an idealized form in sacred art. The exact nature of that idealization can vary – in the iconographic tradition it is different from classical naturalism. But it must be there.
The degree of idealization is slightly less in the surfer, because he is meant to portray not those aspects that are common to all people, but rather those aspects that are common to all surfers when they are presented in their best light.
Another wonderful example of sacred art by Marsh is (Read More)
Lay missionary Eloisa Greenwald volunteered at Shanti Dan, home for women and girls with disabilities. (CNS photo/courtesy Eloisa Greenwald)
By Anna Capizzi
What is it like to volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata?
Thousands travel to Kolkata, India, each year to give their time helping the order of sisters Blessed Teresa founded to “satiate the thirst of Jesus” by serving the poor in the slums of India.
Anyone can volunteer. And you don’t have to make prior arrangements — just find lodging in advance and apply for a tourist visa. The sisters hold orientations three times a week for new volunteers.
Volunteers come from all over and might not necessarily be Christian or even religious. Some are curious about Mother Teresa’s work and just “want to do some good,” said Joe Reciniello, who has served in Kolkata six times.
Upon arrival the “cacophony of noises, smells and sights” struck volunteer struck volunteer Renee Roden, who volunteered in 2013 for two months with University of Notre Dame’s International Summer Service Learning Program.
Missionary of Charity Sisters chat in alley near the motherhouse in Kolkata, India, before afternoon prayer. (CNS photo/courtesy Victoria Vissat)
Navigating through the chaotic, dusty streets thronged with people, “poverty hits you in the face, right along with discomfort,” said Eloisa Greenwald, a missionary with Catholic Christian Outreach, who volunteered for three weeks in 2015.
Volunteers find it difficult to see so many families and individuals sleeping along the road and “even more difficult to understand the greater complexities of poverty” and not become “desensitized,” said Jenna Ahn, who spent two summers volunteering.
But this is why volunteers come: to tend to the unwanted, the forgotten, those on the margins of society.
The day begins with Mass at 6 a.m., followed by a simple breakfast of chai tea, bread and a banana. The sisters sing a “thank you” song for departing volunteers and send everyone off with a prayer for the day’s work.
Volunteers pray before the tomb of Mother Teresa and ask for her intercession. (CNS photo/Victoria Vissat)
The volunteers split into groups and travel to the different homes the sisters have throughout the city. Each home has its own apostolate, a specific purpose.
At Shanti Dan, the home for women and girls with disabilities, Ahn spent mornings with the girls “singing, dancing, mediating, working on nonverbal modes of communication, learning colors and numbers, watering plants in the garden.”
“Over two years, the girls (Read More)
I have written in the past about the Institute of Catholic Culture instituteofcatholicculture.org/ and the great work it is doing. It is worth mentioning the ICC again, if only to bring to your attention once more the value of what they do and the success of their model of engagement, which I think could be used by other organizations. First, it connects with people at the local level and creates a community of faith and learning. Then it organizes talks and workshops for that community, which are also broadcast live over the internet, and recorded and uploaded onto their website. This makes available a large and ever-growing resource of material about all aspects of the Faith, for free.I described this in more detail here in a past blog post.
Since I wrote this first article, Deacon Sabatino, the Institute’s director has morphed, or perhaps I should say ‘transfigured’ into Fr Hezekias – Congratulations on your ordination Father! Also, as the new look website describes, the free material has been organized into a series of structured programs available for your self-education. When I was talking to Fr Hezekias about this, he told me that his materials are of such a high standard that they are used by the formation programs of several communities of cloistered religious!
For example, you might want to look up the content of my last talk given there, at the beginning of the summer, in which I give an introduction to the transcendentals – objective beauty, truth, goodness, unity…and two lesser know transcendentals referred to by St Thomas, res and aliquid. (The thing and the other thing, by which he is saying, as I understand it, that all created things are made to be in relation to something else). Go the website, here, to the Library, and then on the right hand side you will see ‘Talk Lists’ and ‘By Speaker’. If you go to that list you will see my name and the talk title ‘Lift Up Your Eyes – Understanding the Transcendentals’.
I have been invited to give another talk about prayer entitled Living Christ: Reclaiming the Church in Our Home and Life. It will be on Sunday, September 11th, at the St Ambrose Church Hall, located at 3901 Woodburn Road, in Annandale, Virginia. It will be held in the evening from 6:30 to 8:45.
In this talk, I will speak about the principles (Read More)
“There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished.” — Luke 12:50
August 14, Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C. Readings:
1) Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Psalm 40:2-4, 18
2) Hebrews 12:1-4
Gospel: Luke 12:49-53
By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service
I live at the edge of Appalachia, where I’m awed every day by the beauty of the mountains. But despite a sense of serenity, I know the scene before me is not at peace.
The paradox of the Appalachian region is well-known: Its natural beauty and rich culture belie a continuing struggle with environmental exploitation and poverty.
An inspiring, ongoing story I covered as a reporter for my diocesan newspaper was the work of the church advocating for justice in Appalachia. Over recent decades, much of that mission has been carried out at the grass roots by the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, an active group of religious and laypeople living and laboring with the people, lifting a prophetic voice against such degradation as mountaintop removal, industrial pollution and myriad social problems that come with endemic poverty.
The Holy Spirit is at work among God’s faithful people there, characteristically stirring up conflict. Characteristically?
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus asks, “Do you think I have come to establish peace on earth?”
On the contrary, he states, he intends to set the earth on fire, bringing division and, yes, that can mean conflict even among our brothers and sisters in Christ.
A stark example is the struggle for justice in Appalachia, alive with Christ’s Spirit as the members of the church grapple with their differences of opinion on environmental issues.
Members of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia last year applauded Pope Francis’ encyclical on the global threat of climate change. The pope’s words appeared to speak directly to conditions in Appalachia as he described the critical depletion of the earth’s natural resources and its particular impact on the poor.
But the response of some local dioceses differed from the committee’s. They disagreed on the environmental and economic impact some of the document’s proposals would have on the region as well as on how to address the problems it raised. Nevertheless, the committee encouraged all the bishops of Appalachia to engage the church in the concerns and (Read More)
Here is an article by my friend, Keri, who is an icon painter and teacher. I am delighted that she will be teaching courses at Pontifex.University in the coming months. Keri writes:
In the wake of common desire for a new epiphany of beauty and a renewed cultural dialogue between artists, the faithful and the Church, can we as Western Catholics embrace anew the original language of our faith gifted by Christ’s incarnation through the icon?
I’m encouraged by the steps that David Clayton has made towards providing a platform to discover these answers in a balanced and clear way from the whole of our Western tradition, and I’m encouraged by the ever-broadening audience of Catholics willing to explore and reclaim the icon as a sacramental tool of prayer to aid us on our spiritual journey. Icons bear the ability to hold a special place in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church — a timeless contemplative beauty that endures as a spiritual compass gently reminding and pointing us home.
“He is the image [Greek: ikon] of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” – Col 1:15
I just finished hosting a 10-day iconography workshop in Vermont (OQ Farm: A Creative Sanctuary) for students to study with two preeminent European iconographers of our day, Anton and Ekaterina Daineko (www.ikona-skiniya.com) of Belarus. It was a blessing to be part of an international gathering of Christian artists, both Orthodox and Catholic, and to hear stories of our collective creative calling, affirming the icon as a unique means to initiate people into the eternal and divine realities of our common faith. These past few days were not only an encouragement to the students who came, but a critical witness to the greater evolution of artistic progress in the underserved arena of iconography in the U.S.
Anton Daineko demonstrates the beauty of line drawing to students at a recent master iconography workshop at OQ Farm: A Creative Sanctuary in Vermont
When we equip artists (and indeed laypeople as well) into the practice of skillfully and beautifully crafting an icon, we bring the icon into the forefront of the daily Catholic and Christian sacramental life. Since the icon is one of the earliest and most powerful forms of sharing our faith (when the Church was yet one body, East and West), this is something we ought not to lose in our contemporary (Read More)
I recently visited the OQ Farm near Woodstock in rural Vermont. It is a retreat center which is connected to The Sword and Spoon Foundation, an ecumenical group interested in promoting a Christian culture of faith and beauty. The occasion was a gathering of Christian artists, musicians, and filmmakers, who gave talks about their work and shared ideas about the transformation of the culture.
I was curious to see this place that is quietly become a hub for artistic renewal. If you look at the program of events over the summer, for example, there are two workshops by internationally known Russian iconographers, Anton and Ekaterina Daineko, who are coming from Russia to teach here. Also, the highly respected Catholic playwright and screenplay writer Buzz McClaughlin is offering a a workshop on story development. I first met Buzz about 10 years ago, and read his book on the structure of story narrative; I have kept in touch with him ever since, because his ideas regarding engagement with the culture, in the context of film, are in harmony with my own. The organizer of these events for the OQ Farm is Keri Wiederspahn, who is herself an accomplished icon painter and teacher in the Russian tradition.
One evening while I was at this event, as the sun was going down, I took a walk around the property and a particular detail caught my eye, a red English telephone box sitting between the farmhouse and the barn. This was a nice coincidence, since the K2 telephone box was described in a book I had just read, Roger Scruton’s excellent How to Be A Conservative (a review of which will appear on this blog shortly).
I asked about this and was told that it had been at the farm for some years, placed there by previous owners, but the current management had decided to keep it.
Why would someone have gone to the trouble of importing a heavy chunk of painted steel at a cost of what must have run to thousands of dollars in the first place?
I suggest that the story of the K2 telephone box can explain why, in many ways a humble piece of street furniture could become an icon of what we are seeking in cultural renewal, and how, unlikely as it may seem, the liturgy is connected to this.
This begins with the Victorian Neo-Gothic movement in (Read More)
Sister of Life during opening processional. (Photo by Carol Zimmermann)
The liturgy — and celebration afterward — for the six women who professed final vows as Sisters of Life Aug. 6 truly lived up to the order’s name.
The nearly three-hour-liturgy in a tightly-packed Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford, Connecticut, was filled with friends, relatives, sisters from other religious orders, people who have volunteered with the sisters and many women who have been helped by them with their babies or young children in tow.
“You have been called to special heroic work in a world that has lost its soul,” Auxiliary Bishop John J. O’Hara of New York told the sisters in his homily, adding that in their pro-life ministry they would bring life where there is death, joy where there is sorrow and love where there is hate.
That love, joy and life was on full display Aug. 6. It was clear these women loved God, the work they felt called to and each other. After the six women professed vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and to protect and enhance the sanctity of human life, they were hugged by each member of their order. Then after Mass, the hugging (and picture taking) continued from those who came from near and far to witness this occasion.
The liturgy included special recognition of the parents of these new sisters who joined their daughters in the offertory procession. It also paid tribute to the order’s founder, the late Cardinal John J. O’Connor of New York. His chalice was used in the Mass and his sister was in the congregation.
The order’s superior general, Mother Agnes Donovan, spoke at the end of the of liturgy and specifically thanked everyone who had played a role in making the day special. She also thanked the six new sisters for their “faithfulness to grace.”
Sister Francesca, left, one of the first members of the Missionaries of Charity, poses with her niece, Sister Grace Dominic, a new Sister of Life. (Photo by Carol Zimmermann)
“Your bless us with your lives,” she added.
She then invited the entire congregation to join them for a celebration at their nearby retreat center where they fed, visited and took more pictures with hundreds of guests.
The ongoing celebration under white tents on the grounds of the Villa Maria Guadalupe Retreat Center seemed a fitting way to close the day.
As (Read More)
“They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar.” — Hebrews 11:13
August 7, Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C. Readings:
1) Wisdom 18:6-9
Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-22
2) Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 or Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-12
Gospel: Luke 12:32-48 or Luke 12:35-40
By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service
I make very few promises in my life. I do my best to never say the word “promise” unless I know I can deliver on it.
However, when I was a youth minister, there was one promise I would routinely make. I would start off every new confirmation class saying, “Confirmation is a time to seriously consider your relationship with the Lord.”
I would go on to explain that if they came every week, listened to the teachings, participated in the group discussions and were at the very least open to growing in faith, I could promise that they would leave at the end of the year changed people. I was never wrong.
This was an easy promise to make, mainly because I was not the one keeping the promise. I know that all God needs to transform a person is a heart that is open. So my job was to create an atmosphere that would help these young people open their hearts to the possibility that an unseen God loves them enough to die for them. Once the heart was open, the promise would begin to bloom.
God is a promise-keeper, even when we cannot see to completion the promise kept. This week’s reading from Hebrews tells the story of Abraham and Sarah, and the promise that God made to them that they would be the parents of a nation as numerous as the stars in the sky. But they died with a modest family, nothing close to the size of a village, let alone a nation.
Hebrews says, “They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar.” I really like that verse because it speaks of hope and the power of faith. Earlier in the same reading we hear that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”
Life may not always turn out the way we plan, and we cannot (Read More)
Here is another piece by philosopher and member of the faculty of Pontifex University, Dr Carrie Gress. This first appeared on the university blog, blog.pontifex.university. Carrie’s personal website is carriegress.com.
She is interviewing the sculptor Thomas Marsh who lives in Virginia. I think that the quality of his work speaks for itself. One comment I would make is that he percieves the difference between sacred art and portraiture, judging from the face of Our Lady which is shown in the photographs presented here. In sacred art the object is to portray the general characteristics of the saint’s humanity. This is done through the particular, so we must see a unique person, but those unique characteristics are not emphasized as much as in portraiture – where the whole point is to emphasize what makes the subject different from everyone else. The result is a more idealized image, and this is what we see in the facial feature of Our Lady, which seem to draw on the Greek ideal for inspiration.
For sculptor and painter Thomas Marsh sacred art doesn’t need to fall into the trap of religious kitsch or modernist fads. From Santa Cruz to Washington, D.C., Marsh’s work can be seen in churches, monasteries, monuments and memorials.
Trained in the realist school of painting and sculpture, Marsh works to capture something unique about the human spirit that conjures up something deeper in the soul than novelty or saccharine sentimentality. Through his work of both the sacred and secular, Marsh is trying to capture a type of contemplation akin to prayer.
I spoke with Marsh about his realist training and its evangelizing potential.
Gress: You are a sculptor, specializing in sacred art. What led you to this vocation?
Marsh: My love of sculpting the figure goes back to childhood, at about age 8, when I borrowed some plastilina clay from my sister who was a college art student at the time. I made a number of character studies simply because it was fascinating.
I didn’t consciously focus on being a sculptor as my vocation until I was 18 and had just enrolled as an architecture student at Iowa State University. I took as many art classes as ISU had to offer taken mostly through the Architecture Department which, fortunately, had not abandoned classical principles of training in realism in their drawing classes.
I then transferred to a small, private, heavily endowed art school in Milwaukee, (Read More)
By Dennis Sadowski
KRAKOW, Poland — To reach young people, Father Michel Remery believes you’ve got to go to where they are.
Today that means using social media.
Father Remery, a priest of the Diocese of Rotterdam, Netherlands, and vice secretary-general of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, has developed Tweeting With God. It started with a book and has evolved to include social media.
The Tweeting With God project — online at www.tweetingwithgod.com, @TweetingwGOD on Twitter and an app (search using TwGOD) — offers insight into the Catholic faith in brief messages with links to more details. It was developed in response to the questions young people have about the Catholic Church and its teachings.
“If you have these questions, it’s something you feel yourself. It’s an expression of your search for God,” Father Remery said.
But Tweeting With God is not just for the young; anyone might find useful the dozens of topics: the Bible, the church today, personal prayer, forms of prayer, liturgy, sacraments, the Eucharist, vocations and sexuality, to name some.
The project evolved when Father Remery ministered to young people in parishes in Rotterdam. The more questions that were raised, Father Emery realized that there was a need for basic information about Catholic teaching.
Durch Father Michael Remery gestures during a July 29 interview at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
The material is designed to be used in small settings in parishes. Discussions always begin with prayer to lay a strong foundation with God, Father Remery said.
“(Our faith) needs to be carried with our own bond with Jesus and then we can carry it on to others and carry it on with words people can understand,” he said.
Adapting church teaching to social media is a natural development, the Dutch priest reasoned.
“We need to go where people are. That our task as the church. We have always done that. We went to the market square to preach. Now we have the online platforms as well as the offline platforms,” he said.
The effort is supported by a team of young people around the world who field questions and post material online.
Elina Severijnen, 24, who is studying development and humanitarian relief and currently working in Singapore, is a member of the team. She said she has seen young people in particular drawn to the Catholic faith because they better understand the church and its teachings.
“If you cannot go anywhere (Read More)
Young people in Aleppo, Syria, gathered at Santa Matilde church for a parallel World Youth Day celebration. (CNS photo/courtesy Krakow 2016 International Media Team)
As World Youth Day pilgrims gathered for a July 30 prayer vigil with Pope Francis in Poland, about 1,200 young people came together in Aleppo, Syria, to celebrate their own version of the international event.
The July 29-30 gathering in Aleppo was organized with the approval of local bishops. More than 30 associations, church groups and schools were involved.
“Doing something like this is not easy in times of war. We had a lot of difficulties but try to overcome them,” said a Salesian priest who was one of the organizers of the Aleppo gathering. He made the comments in a statement released by World Youth Day organizers in Krakow.
The Aleppo event had as its theme “Move the Heart,” accompanied by the Gospel phrase “Blessed are the merciful, for they will have mercy.”
Confessions were part of the parallel World Youth Day celebration in Aleppo. (CNS photo/courtesy Krakow 2016 International Media Team)
It took place in the Salesians’ Santa Matilde church. Like the Krakow World Youth Day, it included catechetical sessions on the face of mercy and the dynamics of mercy; the opening of a Door of Mercy just for the event with the presence and blessing of Bishop Georges Abou Khazen of Aleppo; eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of reconciliation; prayer for peace in Syria and in the world; and a celebration and sharing of experiences.
The young people in Aleppo addressed greetings to Pope Francis and posted video and other images of their gathering online.
In Krakow, the plight of the Syrian people was never far from the World Youth Day pilgrims. At the Field of Mercy, they heard testimony from 26-year-old Rand Mittri of Aleppo, who shared the pain and sorrow that comes from seeing her city “destroyed, ruined and broken.”
The situation in Syria also was recalled during the Way of the Cross July 29 at World Youth Day in Blonia Park in Krakow.
The first station — Jesus sentenced to death — related to sheltering the homeless and refugees who share in that same suffering through humanity’s indifference. A couple who fled Syria was among those who helped carry the cross.
Pope Francis, who had watched from the stage, began his address by welcoming the Syrian refugees “with fraternal affection and friendship.”
“By embracing the wood of the cross, Jesus (Read More)
By Cindy Wooden
A #YoungCaritas group selfie with Cardinal Tagle in Krakow. (Photo: Caritas Poland)
KRAKOW, Poland — Michelle Hough, communications officer for Caritas Internationalis, shared her interview with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of the international Caritas network.
Q: The pope gave you a big hug when he saw you on the stage after he arrived at WYD. What’s the pope like as a hugger?
(Laughing) He’s a gentle hugger. The hug is a hug of a father, but also of a friend. When he hugged me on the stage during the opening ceremony he said, “Here he is!” – a hug of recognition – and then he said, “Ma questo ragazzo, you should be there (in the audience) with the young people and not here with the cardinals.”
Philippine Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila claps while speaking to World Youth Day pilgrims July 27 at St. Joseph Church in Krakow, Poland. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Q: When you were introduced to Pope John Paul by Cardinal Ratzinger, referring to your youthful looks the future pope said, “Don’t worry, he’s made his first Communion.” How come you still look like a youth?
I think I don’t take myself seriously, I take the Savior seriously. There is such a great love in the one who died for us that just the thought of that should make us so joyful, energetic and hopeful.
Q: You sang the song “Where is love?” from the musical “Oliver!” following Caritas’s youth gathering the other day, do you know any other show tunes?
I grew up surrounded by music and every occasion reminds me of a song like when I saw #YoungCaritas the other day. I had no plans on referring to that song but when I saw all the young people it came back to me, “Where is love?”
When I was talking about opening ourselves to mercy to a crowd earlier this week and I thought about pride and how we sometimes say emphatically “I can do it my way,” Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” came to mind. It’s not Jesus’ way, I’ll do it MY way. The people in the crowd of my generation knew the lyrics and were dictating them to me…. These songs, the lyrics are good and they allow us to write our own words to continue the song and the melody.
Q: Have you cried yet at World Youth Day?
Yes – in every catechesis! (laughs). I don’t know, it’s not (Read More)