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“The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.” — Habakkuk 2:3
Oct. 2, Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C. Readings:
1) Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
2) 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
Gospel: Luke 17:5-10
By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service
When Jesus walked the face of the earth, the science of psychology hadn’t yet been invented. Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis wouldn’t come along for another 1,800 years. But this week’s Gospel shows Jesus way out on the cutting edge of what the psychological world calls the power of positive thinking. The spiritual world calls it faith.
Jesus tells his followers they can accomplish unimaginable feats “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed.” He uses a bit of hyperbole — being able to uproot a large tree by a simple voice command — to explain that faith can strengthen us to overcome normal human limitations when we face challenges in life.
Today, psychologists continue to examine the effects of positive attitude. For instance, much has been written about improved responses to medical treatment credited to the positive mindset of patients. In one article, noted author and medical doctor Deepak Chopra suggested the “placebo effect” (improvement in patients given a placebo when they believed they received a prescription drug) showed that positive thinking could produce a positive physical response.
“Expectations are powerful,” he pointed out. “If you think you’ve been given a drug that will make you better, often that is enough to make you better.”
Although he concedes that medical research has found no proof that positive thinking can actually cure disease, Chopra emphasizes, “The real point isn’t to rescue a dying patient but to maintain wellness.”
That’s the real point for Jesus, as well.
Just as positive thinking is a source of strength for someone battling illness, faith gives us strength and hope in the “wellness” of God’s spirit with us when we struggle.
Even more thousands of years before psychology, the prophet Habakkuk told us to seek God’s positive promise when we are troubled: Write down the vision clearly, so you can read it, he said. “[It] will not disappoint … it will surely come.”
Whoever relies on God’s vision, he added, “because of his faith, shall live.”
Faith, in fact, employs positive thinking. However, (Read More)
By Julie Asher
All the films of the Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog” are set in contemporary Warsaw, Poland, a decade after the election of St. John Paul II as pope (he makes a cameo appearance in one installment via photographs), but still a communist-run nation as soulless apartment block after soulless apartment block fills the screen in each episode.
There are a handful of returning characters, mostly having to do with the post office and a university, but no character is a featured player in more than one installment. There is, though, a mute Greek chorus of sorts — Kieslowski himself? — who witnesses a pivotal moment in most, if not all (I hadn’t been looking for him early on) of the films. But with multiple pivotal moments in each episode, you can’t count on this fellow popping up each and every time.
Here is an overview of the plot of the “Dekalog” films, one for each of the Ten Commandments:
One: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall not have other gods beside me.” An agnostic (at best) university mathematics professor, so well off he has not one but two home computers — remember, this is 1988 — also has a bright and inquisitive son who is curious about God, aided and abetted by his Catholic aunt. The lad gets an early Christmas present of ice skates and he wants to try them out on the nearby pond. But, despite Dad’s computer calculations of ice thickness — plus a personal test — tragedy strikes, calling the meaning of virtually everything into question.
Two: “You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.” A woman whose husband is desperately ill in the hospital insists on a prognosis from his doctor. She’s carrying another man’s child, but will go through with the pregnancy only if her husband dies; otherwise, she will have an abortion. The woman makes the doctor swear to the veracity of his diagnosis once she revealed the truth of her situation.
Three: “Remember the Sabbath day — keep it holy.” A woman, upon seeing an old flame at midnight Mass, enlists his aid on an all-night wild goose chase to find the woman’s missing husband. All is not what it seems to be at first glance.
Four: “Honor your father and your (Read More)
It’s not often that something that made its debut on Polish television gets this kind of acclaim, but Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog”(“Decalogue” in English) merited precisely that acclaim — even now, 28 years after its debut.
Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski. (Photo/Krzysztof Miller, Agenja Gazeta)
Kieslowski was commissioned by Polish TV to make a series of hour-long dramas on each of the Ten Commandments. This being state television, there were no commercials or promotions for other programs to rob Kieslowski of precious minutes to tell his tales.
“Dekalog” was heralded as a sensation when viewers first caught sight of it. Eventually, it made its way to the United States. I recall going to a film festival in Washington in 1994 hoping to catch the first two installments. I was at the multiplex a good half-hour early to buy tickets, but it was already sold out. I had thought that if I’d missed the first two, then the remaining eight wouldn’t make much sense to me. So I let them all slip past. The following year, Kieslowski’s “Tricolor” trilogy, based on the French bleu-blanc-et-rouge flag, makes its way to the film-festival circuit. And I caught each of the three full-length films.
Fast-forward to 2016. I’m doing my typical pre-dawn walk up and down the main drag close to my neighborhood. In full view during my walk is the marquee of the Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland. For a week, I pass by the marquee while the words “Dekalog: One and Two” or “Dekalog: Three and Four” roll by. I don’t make the connection, because in 1994 the series was being touted in English: “Decalogue.”
Then, one morning, I look at the marquee. I see five pairs of “Dekalog” encompassing 10 numbers. I realize that “Dekalog” is “Decalogue.” I make immediate plans to get out of work early to take in — well, the last eight. A phone conference commitment followed by a lunch commitment will force me to miss the first two installments yet again. Drat. At least this time, our online world can give me several days’ advance notice of screenings at the Silver, and “Dekalog: One and Two” will indeed play once more at a date and time I can slip out of the office yet again.
This time, though, there is no packed house. I’d be surprised if the crowd, if you can call it that, reaches (Read More)
By Rhina Guidos
VIRGINIA CITY, Nev. (CNS) — You can still hear gunfights on the streets of this old mining town high up in the mountains of Northern Nevada. The main drag at 6,000 feet above sea level plays up the stereotype of an old Western town complete with a saloon next to the jail and the marshal’s office. Behind them, the steeple of St. Mary’s in the Mountains Catholic Church unintentionally peers above.
The parish was created in 1862, just three years after the discovery of a lode of silver ore, known as the Comstock Lode, was made public, bringing in prospectors seeking to make fortunes. But the Catholic Church had been attracted to the remote town before the discovery, as members were seeking to make a spiritual fortune out the boon of people flocking there.
St. Mary’s in the Mountains, say various signs posted around the Gothic church, once was known as the “Bonanza Church” because of the silver mines that surrounded it. The first Catholic church in the town was built in 1860 but burned down shortly after. The church that visitors see today was erected in 1868, was damaged by a fire, too, but was rebuilt in 1876. It is recognized as a national Catholic historic site.
Daughters of Charity, as well as Cistercian monks played part of the landscape of Catholics that once called the mining church home. But as the mining industry dwindled, so did the town and the church population. These days, St. Mary’s may see more visitors than parishioners, but the church and its museum in the basement of the church is one of the top attractions in the town.
Part of the museum reflects the church’s mining roots. A small cavernous room resembles a mine, where Catholic memorabilia — including the redwood saws used to cut square timbers that lined the mines of the Comstock, as well as the interior of the church — are on display. There’s also a sanctuary bell that arrived in Nevada with the first missionary nun from the order of Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters. There’s also a mural on the stucco walls featuring important church figures in Nevada’s Catholic history, including Raider, the official parish cat.
Though it’s clear that the town’s, as well as the local church’s, heyday has passed, St. Mary’s in the Mountains remains an active parish and one that keeps alive the spiritual history of a Catholic past (Read More)
By Chaz Muth
I’m about to take you on a retrospective journey of what it was like to be a member of the media a year ago while covering Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.
This entry will be complete with videos Catholic News Service produced chronicling the very popular pope’s trip to give you an idea of the impact he made on the people in his country along the way, beginning with this one as he took his first steps onto U.S. soil.
A year ago today I was in Philadelphia during the final days of the pope’s U.S. journey. I remember reflecting on the enormous number of details required to get us to this point in our coverage, from credentialing journalists, photographers and videographers for spots in the events of the pontiff’s grueling agenda in Washington, New York and Philadelphia, to figuring out how we were going to best tell this story to the millions of people following the trek.
My role was to coordinate CNS’s video coverage of the U.S. papal trip. My role, for the most part, kept me in the media centers of each city while our determined video journalists went out and found some spectacular visual stories to share with our audience.
Some of these videos told stories concerning the official events on the agenda, like the pope’s Sept. 23 visit to the White House,
while others captured how the pope’s presence impacted people on the street who braved massive crowds to catch a glimpse of the country’s celebrated guest of honor.
When the pope made his way to New York he was greeted by young musicians who understood the great honor bestowed on them
and his solemn prayer at ground zero, the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, made people from all backgrounds pause.
The pope melted the hearts of people around the world when he visited children at a Harlem school
and the people waiting to see the pope mobile drive through Central Park
couldn’t help expressing their enthusiasm.
One of our most viewed videos during the U.S. papal trip came while he was in Philadelphia visiting prison inmates.
Two of the most touching videos we produced during that trip also came during Pope Francis’s time in the city of brotherly love, one about an Oregon couple who made great sacrifices to bring their five children cross-country to see the Holy Father
and the other showcased the impact the pontiff’s presence at Independence Hall had (Read More)
“Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called.” — 1 Timothy 6:12
Sept. 25, Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C. Readings:
1) Amos 6:1a, 4-7
2) 1 Timothy 6:11-16
Gospel: Luke 16:19-31
By Deacon Mike Ellerbrock
Catholic News Service
I love it when youth say what’s on their mind.
For instance, they’ll ask, “What’s so special about poor people?” or, “If there is fire in hell, do you burn up and disappear?”
Likewise, adults often express confusion about Catholic social teaching’s “preferential option for the poor.” They ask whether the church is saying that God loves the poor more than fortunate people and, if not, then what’s the point?
The church has profound answers to these great questions that are addressed in this week’s Scriptures.
Picture life in the garden before Adam and Eve brought sin into the world: There was no poverty, no alienation and no competition among the species. Everyone lived in harmony; no one was without.
But sin corrupted life in Eden with consequences to this day. Division and conflict arose over the distribution of resources.
However, the Second Vatican Council, St. John Paul II and Pope Francis have taught that God provided the earth’s resources for all, so all property (private and public) has a “social mortgage” obligating its use to serve the common good.
Thus, poverty is the principal manifestation of sin. Whenever and wherever we see poverty, we see the effects of sin.
God loves everyone equally. What he despises is poverty.
The Gospel shows starving Lazarus painfully begging for crumbs from the rich man’s sumptuous table without receiving a scrap.
When they both died, Lazarus was carried to heaven by angels while the rich man in purple garments fell into the netherworld. Tormented in flames, the rich man looks up and now begs for a cool drop of water from Lazarus’ fingertip.
However, the chasm between them is so wide that no one can cross it. This isn’t a physical description of hell such as Dante’s burning inferno.
St. John Paul II said that we should not think of hell as a place, but as separation from God — an immense chasm of lost love whereby one truly knows, sees and feels the pain of having chosen to reject one’s Creator, Lord and Redeemer. To be on (Read More)
“The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” — Luke 16:10
Sept. 18, Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C. Readings:
1) Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113:1-2, 4-8
2) 1 Timothy 2:1-8
Gospel: Luke 16:1-13
By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service
In this presidential election year, much is made of political candidates and their levels of experience, their platforms and their ability to communicate with their constituents. But nothing seems to raise as much debate as a candidate’s trustworthiness — or the lack of it. In fact, millions of dollars are spent on campaign advertising for the purpose of exposing dishonesty in one’s opponent.
Why is this? I suspect that a candidate’s many favorable qualities are often secondary to the public’s perception of the candidate’s honesty. Whether it’s engaging in deceitful business practices, cheating on one’s taxes or fabricating information, even little falsehoods can add up to an unsavory reputation and seriously damage a contender’s chances of getting elected.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ parable of the dishonest steward illustrates the significance of little things as an indicator of trustworthiness in larger matters.
Given the propensity of human beings — especially those in leadership — to bend the truth to suit their purposes, it’s no wonder that the Letter to Timothy emphasizes the necessity of prayer for “kings and for all in authority,” knowing that the common good of all people depends upon their integrity.
The prophet Amos warns those who ‘trample upon the needy” and persist in dishonest dealings with the poor in order to advance themselves: The Lord has a long memory and does not abide injustice. Rather, God’s brand of justice “raises up the lowly from the dust” in order to “seat them with princes.”
In this season of accusatory campaign ads and reciprocal mudslinging, it behooves Christians, as “children of light,” to discern carefully and to exercise their right to vote with prudence and responsibility. But today’s readings also challenge us to look at our own attitudes about wealth and our behavior toward the poor.
You or I might not be running for office — but the common good of our fellow human beings depends on our integrity, wise stewardship and fervent prayers for those who are elected to serve.
In what areas of (Read More)
Some of you will have read in the past of my account of the guidance I was given to discern my personal vocation and how this enabled me to change direction in life completely and become and artist. You can read about it here.
This is a program of prayer, spiritual exercises and concrete action. Now we are offering this in a series of weekly workshops that take place at 7pm at St Jerome Catholic Church, El Cerrito, CA (near Berkeley, CA). We start this coming Wednesday, September 21st and they are free. We are in the back room of the church hall. The entrance in the back. The workshops are called The Vision For You. We have an even Facebook page here.
I gave a talk at the Insitute of Catholic Culture this past week in which I described the effect that this process of discernement, which I did nearly 30 years ago now, had on my life.
The link to the talk on the ICC website is here
“I was mercifully treated.” — 1 Timothy 1:16
Sept. 11, Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C. Readings:
1) Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
2) 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel: Luke 15:1-32 or Luke 15:1-10
By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service
One of the greatest fears of my childhood was of getting caught doing something bad and having to face my dad. It’s not that he was extra mean or abusive, it’s just that I did not want to disappoint him, and this caused a knee-jerk reaction of fear whenever such situations would arise.
Probably the worst and stupidest thing I remember doing happened when I was a senior in high school hanging out with friends. We were roller-skating in the street and then decided to go to another friend’s house. I’d borrowed my dad’s car that night and jumped in and started driving with my skates still on.
As you might expect, there was an accident. Thankfully, it was just a fender bender. It could have been a lot worse, but knowing that the next day I’d have to tell my dad what I had done caused me a terrible, sleepless night full of fear and trembling.
After I showed my dad his dented bumper I was expecting to never leave my room unless I was doing all my siblings’ chores forever! But instead of getting the worst punishment of my life, I got something wholly unexpected: mercy.
Sure my dad gave me a talking to about how our lives are defined by our choices and this was not a good choice on my part. He asked me to think about the kind of person I was going to be, and that was it!
This story came to mind as I reviewed this week’s readings. Each passage tells of God’s mercy, whether it is God relenting on his plan to smite the Israelites, St. Paul reminding us that Jesus came into the world to bring God’s mercy or, most expressive of all, the loving father full of mercy and forgiveness welcoming the prodigal son home.
Benny Hester has a song about the prodigal son with a line that perfectly illustrates God and his mercy: “The only time I ever saw (God) run was when he ran to me, took me (Read More)
Pontifex University opens inaugural enrollment for its affordable and innovative Masters of Sacred Arts degree.
I am delighted to announce a new program for all who wish to contribute to the new epiphany of beauty!
Pontifex University offers a unique approach to higher Catholic education by forming students in the way of beauty so they might renew traditional Catholic culture. Expert faculty including highly respected Catholic artists teach courses online. Regional workshops are planned around the US, Italy and Holy Land, which include special access to the Vatican museum and the restoration workshops as well as an optional graduation Mass in the Vatican.
The Masters of Sacred Arts (MSA) degree is a groundbreaking combination of theory and practice. In addition to the study of theology, philosophy, architecture, film, music and art, students have mentored hands on studio work in drawing, iconography, painting and sculpture. This two-year program is perfect for artists, architects, priests, seminarians, religious, educators, laity, patrons of the arts and anyone looking to create beauty as a sign of hope in today’s world.
Pontifex programs are established on the premise that in all genuine Catholic education, the ultimate Educator is God Himself. As Pius XI stated, the aim of a Christian education is ‘to form the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illumined by the supernatural light.’ The goal of Pontifex is to guide students along the path, the Way of Beauty, which leads to the supernatural transformation in Christ, so equipping one to serve Him.
The launching of the MSA program at Pontifex is the culmination of 20 years’ of my own research which began when as a recent convert, I decided to become an artist and couldn’t find anywhere to give me the training I wanted. I had to work it all out for myself. The result of this research became the subject of a book, the Way of Beauty published in 2015 by Angelico Press. I am thrilled now to see this being offered to the next generation which, who knows, might contain a latter-day Van Eyck or Velzaquez!’
The MSA offers the same formation that enabled the great Catholic artists of the past to create works of radiant beauty that are at once noble, elevating and accessible to the many, drawing all to God. Pontifex prepares students to pass the test laid down (Read More)
There’s a whole universe to discover if you just look up: planets, nebulae, star clusters, rare naked-eye comets, even the moon and the sun.
Since I was a kid, I’ve explored the sky as much as I could. With my modest six-inch reflector telescope I undertook hours of personal observation as a teenager. I grabbed all sorts of astronomy books from library shelves and eagerly awaited each month’s copy of popular astronomy magazines.
Father William Stolzman of St. Paul, Minn., examines a meteorite with a magnet during the Vatican Observatory Foundation’s Faith and Astronomy Workshop in January. (CNS/Dennis Sadowski)
So in January, when I had the chance to attend the Vatican Observatory Foundation‘s third annual Faith and Astronomy Workshop in Tucson, Arizona, I jumped at the opportunity to meld my astronomical interests with my profession.
For four days I joined about 20 priests and educators exploring the heavens and listening as they discussed their understanding of the universe and the beauty and mysteries of God’s creation.
Evening — and for some of us, early morning — observing sessions revealed deep sky objects we had never seen before. We followed, naked-eye, Comet Catalina for several mornings as it made its way northward in the sky from our observing site in North America on its return trip to the Oort Cloud in the icy region of the solar system.
Now Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, and his staff are inviting priests and parish educators to apply to attend the next workshop, set for Jan. 16-20 at the Redemptorist Renewal Center on the edge of the Arizona desert.
There will be ample opportunity for night sky observing — weather permitting, of course, which in January in Tucson shouldn’t be a problem. Brother Consolmagno is scheduling talks by astronomers, planning lab sessions, organizing field trips to astronomical sites and building in lots of time for prayer, reflection and conversation.
The cost is $750 and includes four nights at the center, all meals and workshop expenses. Participants will receive books to use back home and ideas and memories from which to build an astronomy outreach effort for parishioners and students.
The deadline for applications is Sept. 30.
Filed under: (Read More)
“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)