One of our diversions on our recent trip home from…

One of our diversions on our recent trip home from NJ was to stop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art , granted for a very brief visit for such a large museum. With a baby who is fine as long as you are moving, stopping to meditate on any one piece was not the order of the day, but nevertheless we did manage to take in a glimpse of the various galleries.

The museum was featuring the art of Barnett Newman. One of his seminal works is “The Stations of the Cross,” this interested me and I immediately went to see it. There is a sampling here for your pleasure or puzzlement. Essentially this series of paintings focuses on white painted canvas, or sometimes-unpainted canvas with a vertical black line. I am very familiar with the stations, having written a “Biblical Way of the Cross” with my wife Amy some years ago, and also having prayed them all of my life (excluding the first seven years). I could not make heads or tails of what Newman was going for, was the dark line representing the cross or some internal feeling? I have no idea.

I had hoped to provide other links to some of the pieces that I particularly enjoyed, but it seems that they have a very limited amount of their collection posted online.

From a talk that Archbishop Chaput gave last week …

From a talk that Archbishop Chaput gave last week near Chicago:

In their efforts to be more open to the world since the Second Vatican Council, Catholics may have “been too comfortable and accommodating,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver told a national meeting of the Institute on Religious Life.

“We’ve listened to the world too politely when it lies about abortion, or contraception, or divorce, or the death penalty, or our obligations to the poor, or the rights of undocumented workers, or the real meaning of pluralism, or our international responsibilities — and we haven’t shouted out the truth,”

I agree with everything that he says and could add a number of things that the bishops haven’t shouted out that are true. I think that all of the current revelations that are going on are the reason why. When Bishops know that they are hiding truth and lying publicly they are rather ineffective in communicating other truths convincingly. Archbishop Chaput continues:

Calling on Catholics to “stop thinking of the church as some kind of religious corporation, and start treating the church as our mother and teacher,” the archbishop said, “When we talk about the church as if she were just another impersonal bureaucracy, what we’re really doing is creating an excuse to ignore her when she teaches.”

This would be much easier if the institutional Church would stop hiding behind lawyers, and beauracracy. All of the great saints of the church have overcome this, why can’t our bishops?

Those who teach and preach in the name of the church “need to do it fully, zealously and with all the persuasive skill God gives us,” Archbishop Chaput said.

“All of us sooner or later get tempted to edit what the church teaches so we can please our audience,” he added. “But if we refuse to teach the things we disagree with, or we teach them with a ‘wink and a nod’ to let others know that we don’t really believe what the church says — that’s dishonest.”

Amen! Why do bishops disagree with what the church teaches? Or is he pointing the finger at you and I?

This in from the Catholic New Service: Pope Joh…

This in from the Catholic New Service:

Pope John Paul II will skip his customary vacation in the Italian mountains this summer because his traveling schedule is already full, Vatican sources said.

Normally the pope spends about 10 days in the northern Italian alps in mid-July. He used to spend much of his Italian vacation hiking, but in recent years he has taken drives instead.

This year, the pontiff, who turns 82 in May, plans to travel to Toronto for World Youth Day ceremonies, then to Guatemala and Mexico. The July 23-Aug. 1 trip is expected to begin with a rest and relaxation stop of three days at a yet-undisclosed location outside Toronto.

The pope also has been invited to his native Poland this summer, and Vatican sources said he was likely to travel there in mid-August. The trip probably would include a stop in the Tatra mountains, where the pope hiked as a young man.

The pope also plans to travel to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria in late May.

Several points to ponder:

1. How will he manage to do all of this?

2. Where will he rest in Canada? (I’ve also heard that he will visit New York and Ground Zero during this three day period, from my secret sources).

3. Why are they planning trips, when the Church is falling into ruin?

It is good to know, Cardinal Law is receiving coun…

It is good to know, Cardinal Law is receiving counsel from other “good” Catholics like Senator Ted Kennedy. From theBoston Herald:

“As to what I think about Cardinal Law’s tenure and service, this must be private between the Cardinal and me,” Kennedy said yesterday. “I can say that these alleged charges are certainly the deepest wounds against the church in my lifetime. They do not, however, deter my faith but they bring unspeakable sorrow to it.”

A Kennedy aide said the senator had spoken with Law “several times” in recent weeks.

The fact that they are even “friends” is disturbing to me.

Today, both readings taken from the Church’s Litur…

Today, both readings taken from the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours for today’s Office of Readings have selections that deal with clothing. First from the Book of Revelation:

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ’The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “’I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead. Awake, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent. If you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments. I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

There are two aspects about this reading that I find striking; the first is that “you have the name of being alive, and you are dead“, and the second, “Yet you still have a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments.”

What bothers me about the present crisis is something that I have already been through myself, a revelation of what the church is like from the inside. It has taken me years to recover from this and I fear that when others encounter the elements of the structures of the church that are corrupt they too will suffer a crisis of faith. So this reading seems very relevant to the present crisis. Here we find Our Lord addressing the Church and telling this particular church that they are a “fraud”. They have the name of being alive (sharing in his resurrection) but they are dead, i.e. they do not act as though they believe in the resurrection for their actions bespeak more of an Epicurean philosophy of “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

There have always been elements within the church that are dead. Some of them have died the slow death by being caught up in their position of authority (forgetting that it is from the Lord), others caught up in the adulation of the moment and wishing to remain there forget that the Lord’s Palm Sunday is only a stop on the journey to Calvary. Whatever the reasons, it is a fact that good people can lose sight of God and it is also a fact that bad people have often found refuge in the Church and benefited from the good will of believers. It is not for us to figure out who is the wheat or tares, which are the sheep and which the goats.

Our faith is what really matters. Are we alive? Priests and bishops are not god. St. Thomas long ago argued that their moral life did not affect the power of God to work in spite of them. Even when we suffer at the hands of those who have evil intents, if we are alive in Christ we not fear that they have the power to destroy us. Remember Joseph’s brothers who sold him into slavery…in the end Joseph was where God wanted him to be and the good work that he accomplished in Egypt was done in spite of the evil intent of his brothers.

The second part of the passage deals with garments. Since the second Vatican Council much has been made about the garments that priest and religious wear or choose not to wear. What interests here is how those garments are a sign that a person is in the Lord, and when bad things are done by those who wear the garments it is the name of the Lord that suffers. It is for this reason that those who find themselves incapable of speaking or living the truth that those garments proclaim should leave their ministry. They should exchange their soiled garments for penitential robes and retire to monasteries where they can pray for their own salvation that they may yet conquer, leaving the work of shepherding the flock to those who have “not soiled” their garments.

The second reading from the office today is from St. Cyprian to the people of Thibaris:

The blessed Apostle teaches us how to arm and prepare ourselves: “Put round you the belt of truth; put on the breastplate of righteousness; for shoes wear zeal for the Gospel of peace; take up the shield of faith to extinguish all the burning arrows of the evil one; take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.”

Let us take this armour and defend ourselves with these spiritual defences from heaven, so that when the evil day comes we may be able to resist the threats of the devil, and fight back against him.

Let us put on the breastplate of righteousness so that our breasts may be protected and kept safe from the arrows of the enemy. Let our feet be shod in the teaching of the Gospel, and armored so that when we begin to trample on the serpent and crush it, it will not be able to bite us or trip us up.

Let us with fortitude bear the shield of faith to protect us by extinguishing all the burning arrows that the enemy may launch against us.

Let us wear on our head the helmet of the spirit, to defend our ears against the proclamations of death, to defend our eyes against the sight of accursed idols, to defend our foreheads so that God’s sign may be kept intact, and to defend our mouths so that our tongues may proclaim victoriously the name of Christ their Lord.

And let us arm our right hand with the sword of the spirit so that it may courageously refuse the daily sacrifices, and, remembering the Eucharist, let the hand that took hold of the body of the Lord embrace the Lord himself, and so gain from the Lord the future prize of a heavenly crown.

Dear brethren, have all this firmly fixed in your hearts. If the day of persecution finds us thinking on these things and meditating upon them, the soldier of Christ, trained by Christ’s commands and instructions, will not tremble at the thought of battle, but will be ready to receive the crown of victory.

This second reading deals with how we should be clothed, with an armor of Faith. We should pray like we are alive be willing to stand for the truth. This is not a time to attack the messengers of truth like our faith depends upon it. It is not a time to remain silent if we have something to speak.

There are those who have called this a time of “purification” and so it is. Cyprian’s letter to the Thibaritans was an encouragement to them to meet the “persecution” by giving witness (martyrdom). Those who have tales to tell should now telling them so that the purification of the church might be complete.

There are those whose garments are clean, and there are those who have the armor of their faith in tact. Hopefully they will emerge from the ruins left behind when this crisis is over and take their place as leaders of the Church. We can look forward to such a day; when again the true faith will be proclaimed, the forgiveness of sins will be preached, our hunger to receive the Lord in the Eucharist will be stirred and the TRUTH will set us free.

In the meantime, there are too many who remain silent to protect the clerical world which is crumbling before their eyes. They seek to protect their “place” like Caiphas wished to do when he said “it was better for one man to die than the entire nation perish.” They have forgotten who God is and forgotten what the garment they wear signifies.

When the Pope makes a man a cardinal he clothes them in red, a sign of martyrdom. They are to witness the truth even to the point of shedding their blood for the truth. Unfortunately, sometime the red does not symbolize this willingness, in fact it becomes a sign of pride and vanity (the very antithesis of giving witness to Our Lord who was humility defined).

This reminds me of a recent song by Five for Fighting called “Superman (It’s Not Easy).” Toward the end of the song there is the verse, “I’m only a man in a silly red sheet.” Obviously, the line refers to Superman’s cape, but it made me think of the Cardinal’s who defy the truth and have turned the red cloth of martydom into a “silly red sheet.”

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