Tag Archives: faith

The lost Caravaggio, The Martyrdom of St Lawrence, found with the Jesuits

OR.jpgThe art world is abuzz due to an article in L’Osservatore Romano on Sunday stating that a “lost Caravaggio” may now be found.

The as yet unauthenticated painting, “The Martyrdom of St Lawrence,” owned by the Society of Jesus, is thought to be a Caravaggio because it has the hallmarks of a Caravaggio, including dramatic lighting effects, the L’Osservatore Romano said. “Certainly it’s a stylistically impeccable, beautiful painting,” the article stated in its Sunday edition. “One can’t but be reminded of works like the Conversion of St Paul, the Martyrdom of St Matthew and Judith and Holofernes.”

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is the acknowledged pioneer of the Baroque painting technique of contrasting light and dark known in Italian as “chiaroscuro.” It is estimated that about 80 of the painter’s works are extant. He was born in Milan and trained there under Titian. Many are also aware of the artist’s wild lifestyle and the alleged murder he committed of a man in a brawl and then fled Rome. Moreover, Caravaggio’s mysterious death in 1610 has long intrigued scholars. Among the theories of his disappearance are that he was killed on a deserted Tuscan beach or collapsed there due to an illness. Italian anthropologists announced last month they had found the famous artist’s mortal remains. The artist’s club is observing the 400th anniversary of the artist’s death.

Leave it to the Jesuits to have at least two Caravaggio’s!

Seeking Christ’s face and body, a foreign concept to many Catholics

The authority of sacred Scripture should be authoritative enough, but in case Scripture fails your logic, the Church also says that Truth is identified and lived through and with sacred Tradition and the Magisterium. More clearly: the believing Catholic holds that Truth is revealed in three inter-related pillars: sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. One can’t have one of the pillars without the others. To do so would mean that you are Protestant.

Concerning many in the Church (catechist, laity and ordained) is the lack of understanding of who Jesus is, and His place in our lives today. Many Catholics are functional agnostics; they have no concept of who Jesus is, why He is important, and what he has to do with the Church. No surprise to me since I contend that many of the ordained can’t adequately explain matters of Christology or Sotierology (the study of Chist and the study of salvation respectively) as is evidence in their praying the Mass, preaching, their practice of the sacraments in their own lives, and their teaching in other venues. I would also contend that many of the ecclesial problems we face today are the direct result of not really knowing who Jesus is, and how to conform ourselves to His Way. The Pslams, as one example, tell us to seek the face of the Lord (the Christian would understand this to mean, seek the face of Christ). As one consequence of not knowing Jesus is the denial that we are already saved –that salvation has already happened, that the hundredfold promised by the Lord is already fulfilled. Do you know that you are saved? Do act as though you are saved or are still persisting in your sinful ways?

In the recent English edition of the L’Osservatore Romano (7 April 2010), Lucetta Scardaffia’s article “The Shroud and secularization” makes a few good points to think about when asking the questions about who Jesus is and what we face today:

“It seems incredible, but many young people do not even know that Jesus existed historically: in various countries, including Italy, today the history of Christianity no longer forms part of the school curriculum, and this leads to an ignorance that is also the result of tendencies geared to make Christianity a religion like others, with no specificity, hence leading to considering Christ as a mythical being, almost as if he were a Greek, Roman or Orienal divinity.

In international milieus — even in organizations such as the United Nations– propaganda for a mistaken concept of multiculturalism has been spreading for decades: this is proposed as a panacea for every conflict, providing that all religions be considered absolutely equal, in other words that each waives all claim to truth.

Remembering that Christianity is born from the existence in history of a man, Jesus, who said he was the Son of God, is an obstacle to the seemingly irenic fabrication because it highlights the difference of Christianity in comparison with other religions. A God who becomes incarnate to save human beings, in fact is an absolute unicum [absolutely unique], difficult to standardize.

The history of the birth of the individual is also interwoven with the history of the theological and sacramental significance of the Body of Christ –with the history of the sacrifice of the altar, for which the Body becomes a monstrance.

The search for God of all people, believers and non-believers concerns us, Pope said

The Holy Father’s annual address to the Roman Curia -the
Cardinals and bishops resident in Rome and other officials of the Roman Curia who assist him in
his governance of the Universal Church– took place yesterday. In it the Pope points to some notable concerns that he thinks that ought to be the concern of all
of us who believe faith is central our lives. Namely, belief and unbelief,
doubt and certainty and freedom with regard to God and humanity’s search for God. In my humble opinion, this papal address should be an essential point in any diocesan, parish or ecclesial movement’s pastoral plan in 2010 and beyond. In part the Holy Father said,

Even the
people who describe themselves as agnostics or atheists must be very important
to us as believers. When we talk about a new evangelization, these people may
become afraid
. They do not want to see themselves as an object of mission, nor
do they want to renounce their freedom of thought or of will
. But the question
about God nonetheless remains present for them as well, even if they cannot
believe in the concrete nature of his attention to us. 

Benedict addresses Roman Curia 2009.jpg

In Paris, I talked
about the search for God as the fundamental motive from which Western
monasticism was born, and with it, Western culture. As the first step in
, we must try to keep this search alive; we must take pains that
man not set aside the question of God as an essential question of his
. Take pains that he accept this question and the longing concealed
within it.

Here I am reminded of the words that Jesus quoted from the prophet
Isaiah, that the temple should be a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Isaiah
56:7; Mark 11:17). He was thinking about what was called the court of the
gentiles, which he cleansed of extraneous business so that it could be the
space available for the gentiles who wanted to pray to the one God there, even
if they could not take part in the mystery, for service of which the interior
of the temple was reserved.

A place of prayer for all peoples: by this was
meant the people who know God, so to speak, only from afar; who are
dissatisfied with their gods, rites, myths; who desire the Pure and the Great,
even if God remains for them the “unknown God” (cf. Acts 17:23). They
needed to be able to pray to the unknown God, and so be in relation with the
true God, although in the midst of obscurities of various kinds.

I think that
the Church should also open today a sort of “court of the gentiles”
where men can in some manner cling to God, without knowing him and before they
have found the entryway to his mystery, which the interior life of the Church
. To the dialogue with the religions it must above all add today a
dialogue with those for whom religion is something foreign, to whom God is
unknown, and who nonetheless would not like simply to remain without God, but
at least to approach him as the Unknown.

Beauty befits our destiny: Pope Benedict reflects the absolute need for beauty in our lives

With great joy I welcome you to this solemn place, so rich in art and in history. I cordially greet each and every one of you and I thank you for accepting my invitation. At this gathering I wish to express and renew the Church’s friendship with the world of art, a friendship that has been strengthened over time; indeed Christianity from its earliest days has recognized the value of the arts and has made wise use of their varied language to express her unvarying message of salvation. This friendship must be continually promoted and supported so that it may be authentic and fruitful, adapted to different historical periods and attentive to social and cultural variations. Indeed, this is the reason for our meeting here today. I am deeply grateful to Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, and likewise to his officials, for promoting and organizing this meeting, and I thank him for the words he has just addressed to me. I greet the Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests and the various distinguished personalities present. I also thank the Sistine Chapel Choir for their contribution to this gathering. Today’s event is focused on you, dear and illustrious artists, from different countries, cultures and religions, some of you perhaps remote from the practice of religion, but interested nevertheless in maintaining communication with the Catholic Church, in not reducing the horizons of existence to mere material realities, to a reductive and trivializing vision. You represent the varied world of the arts and so, through you, I would like to convey to all artists my invitation to friendship, dialogue and cooperation.


Some significant anniversaries occur around this time. It is ten years since the Letter to Artists by my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of John Paul II.jpgGod Pope John Paul II. For the first time, on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Pope, who was an artist himself, wrote a Letter to artists, combining the solemnity of a pontifical document with the friendly tone of a conversation among all who, as we read in the initial salutation, “are passionately dedicated to the search for new ‘epiphanies’ of beauty”. Twenty-five years ago the same Pope proclaimed Blessed Fra Angelico the patron of artists, presenting him as a model of perfect harmony between faith and art. I also recall how on 7 May 1964, forty-five years ago, in this very place, an historic event took place, at Blessed Fra Angelico.jpgthe express wish of Pope Paul VI, to confirm the friendship between the Church and the arts. The words that he spoke on that occasion resound once more today under the vault of the Sistine Chapel and touch our hearts and our minds. “We need you,” he said. “We need your collaboration in order to carry out our ministry, which consists, as you know, in preaching and rendering accessible and comprehensible to the minds and hearts of our people the things of the spirit, the invisible, the ineffable, the things of God himself. And in this activity … you are masters. It is your task, your mission, and your art consists in grasping treasures from the heavenly realm of the spirit and clothing them in words, colours, forms – making them accessible.” So great was Paul VI‘s esteem for artists that he was moved to use daring expressions. “And if we were deprived of your assistance,” he added, “our ministry would become faltering and uncertain, and a special effort would be needed, one might say, to make it artistic, even prophetic. In order to scale the heights of lyrical expression of intuitive beauty, priesthood would have to coincide with art.” On that occasion Paul VI made a commitment to “re-establish the friendship between the Church and artists”, and he invited artists to make a similar, shared commitment, analyzing seriously and objectively the factors that disturbed this relationship, and assuming individual responsibility, courageously and passionately, for a newer and deeper journey in mutual acquaintance and dialogue in order to arrive at an authentic “renaissance” of art in the context of a new humanism.


That historic encounter, as I mentioned, took place here in this sanctuary of faith and human creativity. So it is not by chance that we come together in this place, esteemed for its architecture and its symbolism, and above all for the frescoes that make it unique, from the masterpieces of Perugino and Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli, Luca Signorelli and others, to the Genesis scenes and the Last Judgement of Michelangelo Buonarroti, who has given us here one of the most extraordinary creations in the entire history of art. The universal language of music has often been heard here, thanks to the genius of great musicians who have placed their art at the service of the liturgy, assisting the spirit in its ascent towards God. At the same time, the Sistine Chapel is remarkably vibrant with history, since it is the solemn and austere setting of events that mark the history of the Church and of mankind. Here as you know, the College of Cardinals elects the Pope; here it was that I myself, with trepidation but also with absolute trust in the Lord, experienced the privileged moment of my election as Successor of the Apostle Peter.


Dear friends, let us allow these frescoes to speak to us today, drawing us towards the ultimate goal of human history. The Last Judgement, which you see behind me, reminds us that human history is movement and ascent, a continuing tension towards fullness, towards human happiness, towards a horizon that always transcends the present moment even as the two coincide. Yet the dramatic scene portrayed in this fresco also places before our eyes the risk of man’s definitive fall, a risk that threatens to engulf him whenever he allows himself to be led astray by the forces of evil. So the fresco issues a strong prophetic cry against evil, against every form of injustice. For believers, though, the Risen Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. For his faithful followers, he is the Door through which we are brought to that “face-to-face” vision of God from which limitless, full and definitive happiness flows. Thus Michelangelo presents to our gaze the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End of history, and he invites us to walk the path of life with joy, courage and hope. The dramatic beauty of Michelangelo’s painting, its colours and forms, becomes a proclamation of hope, an invitation to raise our gaze to the ultimate horizon. The profound bond between beauty and hope was the essential content of the evocative Paul VI.jpgMessage that Paul VI addressed to artists at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on 8 December 1965: “To all of you,” he proclaimed solemnly, “the Church of the Council declares through our lips: if you are friends of true art, you are our friends!” And he added: “This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart, and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration. And all this through the work of your hands . . . Remember that you are the custodians of beauty in the world.”


Unfortunately, the present time is marked, not only by negative elements in the social and economic sphere, but also by a weakening of hope, by a certain lack of confidence in human relationships, which gives rise to increasing signs of resignation, aggression and despair. The world in which we live runs the risk of being altered beyond recognition because of unwise human actions which, instead of cultivating its beauty, unscrupulously exploit its resources for the advantage of a few and not infrequently disfigure the marvels of nature. What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation – if not beauty? Dear friends, as artists you know well that the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.


Indeed, an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy “shock”, it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum – it even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it “reawakens” him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft. Dostoevsky’s words that I am about to quote are bold and paradoxical, but they invite reflection. He says this: “Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here.” The painter Georges Braque echoes this sentiment: “Art is meant to disturb, science reassures.” Beauty pulls us up short, but in so doing it reminds us of our final destiny, it sets us back on our path, fills us with new hope, gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life. The quest for beauty that I am describing here is clearly not about escaping into the irrational or into mere aestheticism.


Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy. It is a seductive but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will to power, to possess, and to dominate others, it is a beauty which soon turns into its opposite, taking on the guise of indecency, transgression or gratuitous provocation. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence, the Mystery of which we are part; from this Mystery we can draw fullness, happiness, the passion to engage with it every day. In this regard, Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to Artists, quotes the following verse from a Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid: “Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up” (no. 3). And later he adds: “In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, the artist gives voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption” (no. 10). And in conclusion he states: “Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence” (no. 16).


These ideas impel us to take a further step in our reflection. Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality. This close proximity, this harmony between the journey of faith and the artist’s path is attested by countless artworks that are based upon the personalities, the stories, the symbols of that immense deposit of “figures” – in the broad sense – namely the Bible, the Sacred Scriptures. The great biblical narratives, themes, images and parables have inspired innumerable masterpieces in every sector of the arts, just as they have spoken to the hearts of believers in every generation through the works of craftsmanship and folk art, that are no less eloquent and evocative.


In this regard, one may speak of a via pulchritudinis, a path of beauty which is at the same time an artistic and aesthetic journey, a journey of faith, of theological enquiry. The theologian Hans Urs von BalthasarHU Von Balthasar.jpg begins his great work entitled The Glory of the Lord – a Theological Aesthetics with these telling observations: “Beauty is the word with which we shall begin. Beauty is the last word that the thinking intellect dares to speak, because it simply forms a halo, an untouchable crown around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another.” He then adds: “Beauty is the disinterested one, without which the ancient world refused to understand itself, a word which both imperceptibly and yet unmistakably has bid farewell to our new world, a world of interests, leaving it to its own avarice and sadness. It is no longer loved or fostered even by religion.” And he concludes: “We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past – whether he admits it or not – can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.” The way of beauty leads us, then, to grasp the Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in the finite, God in the history of humanity. Simone Weil.jpgSimone Weil wrote in this regard: “In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature, religious.” Hermann Hesse makes the point even more graphically: “Art means: revealing God in everything that exists.” Echoing the words of Pope Paul VI, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II restated the Church’s desire to renew dialogue and cooperation with artists: “In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art” (no. 12); but he immediately went on to ask: “Does art need the Church?” – thereby inviting artists to rediscover a source of fresh and well-founded inspiration in religious experience, in Christian revelation and in the “great codex” that is the Bible.


Dear artists, as I draw to a conclusion, I too would like to make a cordial, friendly and impassioned appeal to you, as did my Predecessor. You are the custodians of beauty: thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement. Be grateful, then, for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty! Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity! And do not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty! Faith takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them, it encourages them to cross the threshold and to contemplate with fascination and emotion the ultimate and definitive goal, the sun that does not set, the sun that illumines this present moment and makes it beautiful.


St Augustine of Hippo.jpgSaint Augustine, who fell in love with beauty and sang its praises, wrote these words as he reflected on man’s ultimate destiny, commenting almost ante litteram on the Judgement scene before your eyes today: “Therefore we are to see a certain vision, my brethren, that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived: a vision surpassing all earthly beauty, whether it be that of gold and silver, woods and fields, sea and sky, sun and moon, or stars and angels. The reason is this: it is the source of all other beauty” (In 1 Ioannis, 4:5). My wish for all of you, dear artists, is that you may carry this vision in your eyes, in your hands, and in your heart, that it may bring you joy and continue to inspire your fine works. From my heart I bless you and, like Paul VI, I greet you with a single word: arrivederci!


Je suis heureux de saluer tous les artistes présents. Chers amis, je vous encourage à découvrir et à exprimer toujours mieux, à travers la beauté de vos œuvres, le mystère de Dieu et le mystère de l’homme. Que Dieu vous bénisse!


Dear friends, thank you for your presence here today. Let the beauty that you express by your God-given talents always direct the hearts of others to glorify the Creator, the source of all that is good. God’s blessings upon you all!


Sehr herzlich grüβe ich euch, liebe Freunde. Mit eurem künstlerischen Talent macht ihr gleichsam das Schöpferwirken Gottes sichtbar. Der Herr, der uns im Schönen nah sein will, erfülle euch mit seinem Geist der Liebe. Gott segne euch alle.


Saludo cordialmente a los artistas que participan en este encuentro. Queridos amigos, os animo a fomentar el sentido y las manifestaciones de la hermosura en la creación. Que Dios os bendiga. Muchas gracias.


Pope Benedict XVI

Sistine Chapel
Saturday, 21 November 2009

Fan the Fire 2009

Fan the Fire 2009.jpg

The group photo of Fan the Fire 2009!
(Can you find me?)
Fan the Fire is now an annual youth rally hosted by St. Rose of Lima Church (Newtown,CT) in conjunction with the Diocese of Bridgeport. 2009 was the fourth time Fan the Fire was held. This youth rally reminds me of a mini world youth day in the sense that there are hundreds of teenagers present; there’s Mass, Confession, Eucharistic Adoration, presentations on the faith, small and large group discussions and an opportunity for friendship. Numbers were down this year: only 500 youth from the Diocese registered with some coming from the neighboring Archdiocese of Hartford.
The day together was electric. You could feel the enthusiasm and zeal of the teens in attendance. They were there not because of some obligation but there was a desire in their hearts to be together for each other, for themselves and for Christ and the Church. The rally while a bit large and seemingly unwieldy was well done: I believe it was a time for all to meet Christ.
Bishop William Lori spent Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening with Fan the Fire participants. He gave two presentations and led two Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction services and celebrated Mass. Priests from around the diocese heard confessions and lent a hand in teaching.
All of this would not be possible without the assistance of Msgr Robert Weiss and many, many of the parishioners, Sisters and Knights of Columbus of St Rose!

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]yahoo.com.
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