Culture: February 2009 Archives

Solome.jpg "None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when--like the artists of every age--captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you" (John Paul II, Letter to Artists, 1). With this in mind, I think of the various ways the arts of engaged my sense of beauty, how good art has expressed my relationship with God and how impoverished (even oppressive) life would be without the work of artists.


Honestly, I rarely think with any degree of seriousness on how religious posters have demonstrated the genius of human creativity much less how this medium has impacted the our sense of living in tension with the Divine. But I believe this is what we have here. The exhibit, "Reel Religion: A Century of the Bible and Film" gives us a strong indication of this impact and what has transpired since the 19th century.


The posters belong are a part of Dominican Father Michael Morris' (and look here) collection. Morris is a professor of art and religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California .

Besides posters there are other memorabilia such as Charlton Heston's tunic and cape from the 1959 award-winning Ben-Hur and correspondence from directors.

The "Reel Religion" exhibit opened February 6th and will close on May 17th.


See a video clip on the subject. 


"The Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) brings to the public an interpretation of art through the lens of biblical religions and an understanding of religion through its artistic manifestations."


A version of this exhibit was seen at St. Louis University's MOCRA last year.

Abp Demetrios.jpgThe President of Fordham University, Fr. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. announced Tuesday Feb. 17, a Jaharis Family Foundation gift establishing the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture as part of the Orthodox Christian Studies Program of this renowned Roman-Catholic Jesuit University.


The announcement came at the conclusion of the Sixth Annual Orthodoxy in America Lecture given this year by Fr. Stanley Harakas, ThD, who is the Archbishop Iakovos Professor of Orthodox Theology Emeritus at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Fr. Harakas' topic "The Future of Orthodox Christianity in America: A Normative Approach" captivated his diverse audience of academics, clergymen, students and laymen. He outlined the threats and pitfalls but also the opportunities of the social and cultural reality in America and suggested ways of what we need to do and ought to do, as Orthodox.


Following the lecture President McShane announced the establishment of the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture through a generous donation of two million dollars by the Jaharis Family Foundation. Fr. McShane welcomed Michael and Mary Jaharis as he expressed his great joy and gratitude. He further said that naming the chair after Archbishop Demetrios is a most deserving honor and that the University was "thrilled that his name (the Archbishop's) and the name of the Jaharis family will forever be associated with Fordham."


A new independent report on college costs published by The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education--the research division of The Cardinal Newman Society--reveals that some of the most faithful Catholic colleges and universities in the United States also offer students significant cost savings.

Among the study's key findings:

· Average tuition for students at the recommended faithful Catholic colleges is about $3,000 less than at other Catholic colleges and about $1,000 less than the average private college.

· The Newman Guide colleges provide students a larger portion of institutional aid (39%) than the average private college (29%).

· Students at the recommended Catholic colleges graduate with fewer loans and less debt--on average, about $2,000 less than at private colleges and $1,400 less than other Catholic colleges.

The study was conducted by Andrew Gillen, Ph.D., a leading expert on college affordability issues and the research director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. The study is available online at

In order to help families learn more about the Newman Guide's recommended faithful and affordable colleges, beginning today their campus profiles are available online for the first time at

The recommended Newman Guide colleges are Ave Maria University, Aquinas College (Tenn.), Belmont Abbey College, Benedictine College, The Catholic University of America, Christendom College, The College of Saint Thomas More (Texas), DeSales University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Holy Apostles College & Seminary, John Paul the Great Catholic University, Magdalen College, Mount St. Mary's University, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, St. Gregory's University, Southern Catholic College, Thomas Aquinas College, The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (N.H.), University of Dallas, University of St. Thomas (Texas), and Wyoming Catholic College.

Is he sorry?

| | Comments (0)

a-rod.jpgTonight's evening news had an update on the A-Rod drug scandal. What I find amazing is that a man would admit to taking steroids, citing pressure, to enhance his performance to play a high profile sport and get paid $275 million (by all accounts a record). A-Rod must think everybody is looking the other way and stupid. His defense was that as 25 year old he made some stupid decisions.


Fair enough, we all do things we regret. No one, except the Savior of mankind and the BVM can claim otherwise. Original Sin has deeply affected our lives. As a Catholic, I can testify to the beauty of the Catholic faith by the mercy experienced when you ask for the mercy of God (forgiveness!) through the sacrament of Confession, make amends with your brothers and sisters AND you change your life. I don't know A-Rod's faith life but something seems out of whack here in that he still has a job playing baseball and he's still being looked upon as a hero. Not telling the truth is a serious offence. If the news caught A-Rod expressing his sorrow by saying "I am sorry" to the public, it wasn't aired. I wonder if he said those 3 words. Personally, I think the Yankees should fire the man AND go to confession. But that's me.


Moreover, a 9 year old child told a report that what A-Rod did "wasn't wrong but he should not have used drugs." Not wrong? WHAT???? I suppose the child's moral formation is still in flux at the moment but this is crazy. I'd like to know what the parents teach this young man. What moral formation does this child get in school, in church, in the Boy Scouts?

Blackfriars Rep in the NYTimes

| | Comments (0)
In the Saturday (February 13, 2009) issue of the NYTimes' Connecticut section there's an article on the excellent work of Blackfriars Repertory Theatre. Have a read...

Music can proclaim Christ

| | Comments (0)

music.jpg"Music, like art, can be a particularly great way to proclaim Christ because it is able to eloquently render more perceptible the mystery of the faith." Music can "help us contemplate the intense and arcane mystery of Christian faith."


(Pope Benedict XVI spoke after a concert given Our Lady's Choral Society of the Archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland on the occasion of the 80th anniv. Vatican City State, 13 Feb 2009)

TBertone.jpgThe Cardinal Secretary of State to His Holiness, Tarcisio Bertone was in Mexico from January 15 to 19 to preside over the 6th World Meeting of Families. While in Mexico the cardinal met with Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa and with representatives of culture.

Bertone was interviewed by Carlo Di Cicco, deputy director of the Vatican newspaper, and Roberto Piermarini, director of the news service of the papal radio.


One of the relevant questions was on the family and culture why the cardinal gave substantial attention to these topics. What is good to keep before our eyes is the witness that BOTH family and culture can have for work in the Kingdom of God. In answer to this query, Cardinal Bertone said:


Because in reality, the family is the first transmitter of values and culture for the new generations; for children and young people growing up, the family is the transmitter of values. This is a proven fact in the experience of family life, despite all the difficulties that mark the way, not only in Europe but also in Latin America.

I recall a conference, a debate, that took place here in Rome, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, with Professor Barbiellini Amidei, precisely about the family, regarding its capacity or incapacity to address other instances of socialization in the task of transmitting values.

In the end we agreed that the family is the first instance of the transmission of values -- and this is also the conviction of the Popes: of John Paul II and, particularly, Pope Benedict, as taken up in the two messages addressed to Mexico -- the family is the first instance of human and Christian formation.

It transmits the identity, the family's own identity, and the cultural and spiritual identity of a people.

Then the state is born thanks to the grouping, the communion among families, that is why the state should have the mission to strengthen the identity of a people grounded in its roots, in its origins, which later determine the development of both the political and ecclesial community.


Regarding Culture the cardinal was asked:  In the meeting with [people of] the world of culture and education you emphasized the limited success that Mexican culture had during the last century. Is it not a rather harsh judgment for a Church that suffered persecution, including a bloody one?
Cardinal Bertone: It is, in fact, a question of harsh judgment. I literally quoted an author, Gabriel Zaid, who remembers his meeting with a European bishop who asked him: "Is a Catholic culture possible in Mexico? Can the Catholic Church have some cultural influence in the country?"  

When this European bishop, more precisely this Dutch bishop, asked him what could be expected of Mexico, Zaid, desolate, said: "I couldn't give him any hope.

"In Mexico, beyond the vestiges of better times and popular culture, Catholic culture has ended" -- you must realize that we were in the 70s -- it remained on the margin, in one of the most notable centuries of Mexican culture: the 20th century. How could that happen? -- Zaid replied -- "I'm still asking myself that!"

This diagnosis is certainly pessimistic: I have taken it up again precisely because there have been incentives, highly significant positive aspects, so that it would be very unjust to stress the negative and subscribe fully to this diagnosis.

Nevertheless, the writer's observation and the bishop's question require an answer; they are stimulating.

That culture is necessary in the work of the Church, and even more so in humanity itself, was affirmed by Pope John Paul II, in his great address in UNESCO, when he cried out: "The future of man depends on culture! The peace of the world depends on the primacy of the Spirit! The peaceful future of humanity depends on love!" Thus he related peace, culture and love.

For the Church, cultural promotion is an innate reality, written in her DNA, in her history: It is an urgent and necessary imperative.

By the very fact that the Gospel is itself creator of culture, the proclamation of the Gospel is cultural creation.
The truth is that the Church in Mexico was persecuted and gave many martyrs. I received and venerated the relics of a 15-year-old boy, who looked much more mature than his age, José Sánchez del Río, who took part in a cultural circle of Catholic Action.

Despite his young age, he was arrested, and after his capture he was killed. Before dying, he wrote "Long Live Christ the King," which was the cry of Mexican martyrs.

That is why Mexico's Church is certainly a martyr Church, but also because of this she has been marginalized. This Church has always practiced a great religion of worship, very significant, source of her fidelity to Christ and of her enthusiasm for the faith, but somewhat resigned from the cultural point of view. That is why it was and is necessary to re-launch the whole of cultural promotion that -- as I said -- is innate to the mission of the Church, particularly in Mexico.

dubois.jpgA Presidential insider takes up the work of faith-based initiatives for the Obama administration, it was announced on February 5th. The 26 year old Princeton grad, Joshua DuBois (also a BU alum) will lead a restructured office which got its sea legs in the Bush administration but had its antecedants in prior administrations of government. He is a Pentecostal pastor. Known to be charismatic and bright, DuBois will be assisting faith groups navigate federal funding policies while having the ear of the President. According to the White House Press Office,

"The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will focus on four key priorities, to be carried out by working closely with the President's Cabinet Secretaries and each of the eleven agency offices for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships:

-The Office's top priority will be making community groups an integral part of our economic recovery and poverty a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete.

-It will be one voice among several in the administration that will look at how we support women and children, address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion.

-The Office will strive to support fathers who stand by their families, which involves working to get young men off the streets and into well-paying jobs, and encouraging responsible fatherhood.

-Finally, beyond American shores this Office will work with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world.

"The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will include a new President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds. There will be 25 members of the Council, appointed to 1-year terms.

Members of the Council include:

Judith N. Vredenburgh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers / Big Sisters of America
Philadelphia, PA

Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director & Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and noted church/state expert
Washington, DC

Dr. Frank S. Page, President emeritus, Southern Baptist Convention
Taylors, SC

Father Larry J. Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA
Alexandria, VA

Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
Cleveland, OH

Eboo S. Patel, Founder & Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Corps
Chicago, IL

Fred Davie, President, Public / Private Ventures, a secular non-profit intermediary
New York, NY

Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA
Philadelphia, PA

Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs and expert on church/state issues
Winston-Salem, NC

Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church Distributed
Lakeland, FL

Dr. Arturo Chavez, Ph.D., President & CEO, Mexican American Cultural Center
San Antonio, TX

Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, Sojourners
Washington, DC

Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Knoxville, TN

Diane Baillargeon, President & CEO, Seedco, a secular national operating intermediary
New York, NY

Richard Stearns, President, World Vision
Bellevue, WA

All are interesting choices and all seem to be leaders in their respective faith traditions or organizations. I wonder if this group can work with the faith groups across the spectra and not just the people who follow their particular brand of faith. Two members of the Council are Catholics (one being a priest) and they are seemingly on the left side of the Church. THE common thread which unites this group is experience in community organizing, just like the President. I look forward to seeing the fruit of their labors. Dealing with the secularists is not going to be easy even for the theologically left of center people chosen for the Council.

Regarding the mandate to "address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion" I wonder just how this goal is going to be accomplished. It sounds fishy to me as I don't trust the double-speak of President Obama when it comes to protecting life. He certainly has not demonstrated that pro-life matters are part of his makeup. In fact, the opposite is true: Obama has stepped on the pro-life efforts of reasonable people of all faiths.

Fathers Garry and Harry Giroux are twin brothers, both Roman Catholic priests in a small town in upstate New York. In 2004, Father Harry was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, and his brother Father Garry has been his caregiver ever since. "Garry and Harry" explores this fascinating story and the relationship of these brothers as they deal with their faith, family, and hope in the face of tragedy.

This film is the work of Steven Madeja, a freelance filmmaker and film festival director in Potsdam, NY. Madeja received a Bachelor's with honors degree in Film from Vassar College in 2008.

Watch "Garry and Harry"

Thanks to my friend Rachel for sharing this video.

Help the poor by drinking tea

| | Comments (1)

fairtrade.jpgToday's Zenit posting had an article titled: Nuns Invited to Help Poor by Drinking Tea. Interesting idea, I thought. Help the poor by drinking tea. (I like coffee more.) Sounds easy and given the recent economic problems we're facing in the USA --and scanning the news services shows problems with the economy are global-- I wonder what we are doing about the poor of this country. Granted the poor in the developing world are far poorer and have much less access to resources to fulfill human basic needs than our poor brothers and sisters in the USA. Nonetheless, I think we all need to figure out an adequate plan on how to assist the poor in our own cities and abroad. The Beatitudes quickly come to mind as does the parable of the widow's mite, and the rich young man. I'd be negligent if I didn't say the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

A variety of religious congregations of sisters are leading the charge by making this invitation as concrete as possible by encouraging others to buy tea and coffee sold by Fairtrade workers. Of course, the Franciscans are behind this good work! The Zenit article says: "Springing from a financial vision and a commitment based on the values of the Gospel," the organizers explained, "new economic relations can arise, challenging men and women religious to make their choices as consumers, beginning with a critical conscience, with bases in the political, economic and social reality." My challenge: let's not let the vowed religious do this act of mercy alone.

fairtrade tea.jpgAre good deeds only left to nuns and priests? I hope not. The Good News of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is for all people and therefore we have to let the words announcing our salvation to cut closely to our human experience. Would it be possible for us, on this side of the ocean, to purchase food products from Fairtrade? Yes, because Fairtrade also operates here in the USA. See the links below. Those unfamilar with the work of Fairtrade should know that it is an organization that represents more than 4,000 groups of workers worldwide.

In early January, the Pope called on Governments to assist the poor: "We need to give new hope to the poor," he said. "How can we not think of so many individuals and families hard pressed by the difficulties and uncertainties which the current financial and economic crisis has provoked on a global scale? How can we not mention the food crisis and global warming, which make it even more difficult for those living in some of the poorest parts of the planet to have access to nutrition and water?" (Address to Diplomatic Corps, 8 January 2009). Pope Benedict, quoting the First Letter of Saint John, offers us a challenge in this year's Lenten message: "If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him -- how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17).

Fairtrade USA

Fairtrade UK

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



Humanities Blog Directory

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from February 2009.

Culture: January 2009 is the previous archive.

Culture: March 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.