The Way of Beauty

VATICAN CITY, 21 NOV 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Sistine Chapel, Benedict XVI met with artists in an event promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture to mark the tenth anniversary of John Paul II's Letter to Artists of 4 April 1999, and the forty-fifth anniversary of Paul VI's meeting with artists of 7 May 1964. The 262 artists participating in the meeting came from different continents and were divided into five categories: painting and sculpture; architecture; literature and poetry; music and song; cinema, theatre, dance and photography.


Benedict XVI refered to the Sistine Chapel fresco of the Last Judgement, explaining that it "reminds us that human history is ... a continuing tension towards fullness, towards human happiness. ... Yet the dramatic scene portrayed in this fresco also places before our eyes the risk of man's definitive fall. ... 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". The Holy Father also noted how the present 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".

"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? Beauty ... reminds us of our final destiny" and "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", the Pope added, "the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, ... a seductive but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will for power, possession, and domination over 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".

"Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, ... 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 Holy Father then turned his attention to "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 way of beauty leads us to grasp the Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in the finite, God in the history of humanity.
"Simone 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'".


U.S. CATHOLIC BISHOPS FOCUS ON LANDMARK VOCATIONS STUDY Executive Director of National Religious Vocation Conference provides bishops with major findings on vocation trends: Bishops asked to meet with religious leaders in their dioceses; speak often of vocations; establish religious life component in diocesan vocation offices

Baltimore, Nov. 18, 2009—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, gathered in Baltimore for their annual meeting, invited Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, Executive Director of the Chicago-based National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC), to present the results of the NRVC’s landmark Study on Recent Vocations to Religious Life, published this past August.
Bednarczyk outlined the study’s key findings including the need for collaborative efforts with dioceses, Catholic educators, and families in creating a culture of vocation within the Church. He asked for the bishops’ help “in promoting consecrated life as a viable, joyful, and grace-filled option for the men and women in your dioceses” and suggested three practical ways the bishops could do this: Meet with the major superiors and religious priests, brothers, and sisters in their dioceses to discuss
the results of the NRVC’s vocation research.

Make vocation promotion to all forms of ordained and vowed religious life a priority and speak often about vocations, especially to young people.

Provide a component in their diocesan vocation offices for the promotion of religious priesthood and consecrated life in addition to diocesan priesthood.

Bednarczyk cited Pope John Paul II’s Vita Consecrata, in which bishops were asked to give religious priests, brothers, sisters and others in consecrated life a “place in the pastoral plans of the Diocese.” He added: “If religious life, like priesthood, is a gift to the local church, clergy, religious, and laity all need to share in the responsibility for its promotion.”

The bishops received an outline of the major findings of the NRVC’s Study on Recent Vocations to Religious Life in the United States, conducted by the Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), a Georgetown University-based research center. Key among the findings is the dramatic 65 percent drop in religious vocations since their peak in the mid 1960s. The study also showed that new members bring increased ethnic and cultural diversity and a strong desire for communal living, prayer, and Catholic identity.

“Despite the challenges presented by the changing demographics,” said Bednarczyk, “our study affirms that the Holy Spirit continues to inspire and guide the Church as evidenced by the founding of new religious institutes, the multitude of charitable works established by religious, and most encouraging, the zeal and passion for the gospel and hope for the future embraced by our newer members.” Fostering vocations to priesthood and religious life is one of the stated priorities of the Bishops’ Conference, and Bednarczyk noted that the invitation for him to address the bishops was “an affirmation of the priority this Conference is giving to religious life and its future in this country.”

Br. Paul Bednarczyk’s address to the bishops and the NRVC vocation study are available at
The National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) was founded in 1988 as a professional organization of men and women committed to vocation awareness, invitation, and discernment to consecrated life as brothers, sisters, and priests. The NRVC has approximately 1,100 members, most of whom are vocation ministers for religious congregations. The NRVC serves its members by providing continuing education, resources, and services for professional growth. Its publications include HORIZON and VISION Vocation Guide.

Catholics for victims of economic crises

November 21-22, US parishes hold campaign for victims of economic crisis

Washington, DC (Agnezia Fides) – According to a recent press release from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), this weekend (November 21-22), nearly all US parishes will participate in their 2009 Campaign entitled: "Families are struggling. Faith is calling." The CCHD holds a special collection every year, but this year the focus will be on aiding families who are suffering amidst the economic downturn the country is witnessing. The crisis has left many in the United States without jobs, health care, retirement funds, etc. U.S. Census poverty figures reveal that the number of people currently in poverty in the United States is estimated at 39.8 million, almost 3 million more people than the previous year’s readings. One out of every six children lives below the poverty line.

“The mission of CCHD is crucial in 2009,” said Bishop Roger Morin of Biloxi, Mississippi, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Subcommittee on CCHD, in a letter inviting parishes to be as generous as possible. “This year, our call as Catholics to bring glad tidings to the poor…to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free (Lk 4:18) is more important than ever before.” The CCHD is a member of Caritas Internationalis and twenty-five percent of the proceeds from its once-a-year campaign go to support projects in the diocese where the funds are collected, while the rest is distributed on a global level. In 2008, CCHD-funded groups involved 776 Catholic parishes, 18 Catholic Charities agencies and 51 religious communities. (AR) (Agenzia Fides 17/11/2009)

For more information

Ebargoed Letter of to Priests in China

This letter was ebargoed (banned) from Priests in China (though with modern means of communication I assume there must be a informal way that it will arrive in the country and reach priests).

VATICAN - Letter from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to priests in China for Year for Priests: “despite the persisting difficulties, the information that has come from different parts of China points also to signs of hope.”

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – An “invitation to hope” is what opens the Letter that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, has addressed to all priests of the Catholic Church in the People's Republic of China, on the occasion of the Year for Priests. In light of and in continuity with the “Letter of Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful in the People’s Republic of China,” on 27 May 2007, Cardinal Bertone recalls the Pope's indications for the life of the Church in China: reconciliation within the Catholic community and dialogue with Civil Authorities, without renouncing the principles of the Catholic faith. In this sense, he affirms that “despite the persisting difficulties, the information that has come from different parts of China points also to signs of hope.”

To continue on this path, every priest should draw “light and strength from the sources of priestly spirituality, which are the love of God and the unconditional following of Christ.” In China's situation, according to the expression used by Jesuit missionary Fr. Matteo Ricci, “it is still more a time of sowing than of reaping.” The Holy See is fully aware of the complex and difficult situation in which priests in China find themselves and “the new challenges, which the Chinese people must face at the beginning of the Third Millennium,” which require priests to open themselves “with confidence to the future and to continue trying to live the Christian faith integrally.”

As a “little flock,” the priests in China live amidst a great multitude of people, along with followers of other religions, as well as people who are either indifferent or even hostile towards God: “you share the same situation of many of your brothers in other parts of the world,” Cardinal Bertone says, inviting them to place their littleness in the Lord's hands, to thus become “instruments of salvation for many, for everyone!”

After highlighting that “in the school of Saint John Mary Vianney we must learn to identify ourselves with the ministry we have received” and that it is from this identification “that all the virtues necessary for every priest originate,” the Letter indicates the Eucharist as the source where the priest can find the strength to be faithful to his important mission. “The Eucharist, sacrament of communion, source and summit of ecclesial life and evangelization, is at the center of your journey of reconciliation...In fact, every celebration of the Eucharist presupposes the union not only with the local Bishop but also with the Pope, the order of Bishops, all the clergy and the entire People of God.” Likewise, it is necessary that the priest nourish himself with the Word of God, that he know it and love it, so much so that their life and activity is “distinguished by a determined witness to the Gospel.”

Cardinal Bertone then addresses the Bishops, “who have received the fullness of the priesthood,” to recall their duty to care for the path of holiness of their priests. The Year for Priests also offers a good occasion to relaunch vocational pastoral ministry, promoting new initiatives such as days of prayer, encounters for the youth, greater attention in the formation of seminarians on a spiritual and academic level. A particular invitation was also made to Bishops to ensure the adequate permanent formation of the clergy, especially young priests who are also alone, subjected to new pastoral challenges “linked to the demands of the task of evangelizing a society as complex as present-day Chinese society.” The young priests should be welcomed and assisted by the older clergy, and have frequent occasions to meet with them and with the Bishop, so as to plan diocesan activities, share experiences, and help one another to resolve personal and pastoral difficulties.

In the conclusive part of the Letter, there is an invitation to consider the worship of the Eucharist outside the Mass as “of inestimable value in the life of every priest,” according to the teachings of the saintly Cure of Ars, and an exhortation to promote it so that the faithful, gathered around the Eucharist can experience ecclesial communion.

Faced with the contrasts and miseries that remain within the Catholic communities, the Letter asks them “to pay attention also to the human formation of all the faithful, priests and sisters included, because the lack of human maturity, self-control and inner harmony is the most frequent source of misunderstandings, lack of cooperation and conflicts within Catholic communities.”

The final argument addresses the need to promote agencies of communion, according to the ecclesiology of communion that is fundamental in the documents of the II Vatican Council, so as to promote the pastoral task of the Bishops and the growth of the diocesan community. When it is impossible to organize the entire diocesan Curia, Bishops should at least start to diversify the roles by gradually appointing a vicar general, chancellor, procurator, etc, in order to have someone at hand for consultation and cooperation in making juridical and pastoral decisions.

Cardinal Bertone concludes his letter by entrusting the Blessed Virgin Mary with “the wish that your priestly life may be guided more and more by those ideals of the total giving of oneself to Christ and to the Church which inspired the thought and action of the saintly Curé of Ars.” (SL) (Agenzia Fides 16/11/2009)

The Seeker: Sister Anne Flanagan: Desperation and the indefensible

The Seeker: Sister Anne Flanagan: Desperation and the indefensible a reflection on the upcoming Bishops The bishops' draft document, entitled "Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology."

Catechists in Singapore at mass media school

Use the mass media like TV, movies, music, and Internet in catechesis, to better adapt to the vocabulary of students: this is what catechists of the Archdiocese of Singapore are being called to learn in a diocesan training program given by experts and professionals.

According to religious Sister Pauline Rose Pacatte, who holds an MA in Media Education earned in London and who was one of the speakers in the program, catechists must adopt modern means of communication in order to dialogue with students and speak their own language . The sister said that “how you teach is more important than what you teach,” leaving the catechists a "Decalogue" which addresses the need to respect students, learn their language, be antennas in the contemporary world, thinking with the heart and, above all, “combining faith and life,” which is the most important witness and influences their own vision of the mass media. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/11/2009)
PHOTO: Graduates from the Advance Certificate in Media Studies in Los Angeles - a course directed by Sr Rose Pacatte.

Building Church on the Rejected Stone

Baptized Christians are fitted into a growing edifice that has Christ as its foundational stone (98). Becoming a Christian means becoming a part of the building erected on the rejected stone. Precisely in this way the Church fulfills the dream of hope, which ultimately supports all human construction. The building done by humans aims at the construction of a place to stay; it seeks security, a home, freedom. It is a declaration of war against death, against insecurity, against fear, against loneliness. For this reason the desire of humans to build is fulfilled in the temple, in that building in which they invited God. The temple is the expression of the human longing to have God as a fellow occupant, the longing to be able to reside with God and thus to experience the perfect way of living, the consummate community, which banishes loneliness and fear once and for all. The true temple of God is indestructible. God himself erects this temple and that dream of God dwelling among his people is fulfilled in those who trust in the rejected stone – they themselves are the temple (cf New Song for the Lord, Joseph Ratzinger).

E-Conference on the Gospel of Luke for over 5,000 prisoners

I was in prison and you visited me -  Sydney (Agenzia Fides) – The Gospel of Luke has entered into the gray walls of the Long Bay Jail in Sydney and in many other detainment centers in Europe and America. It is one of the most inspiring fruits of the e-conference on the Gospel of Luke, held yesterday (November 4) in Brisbane, organized by the Australian Bishops' Conference, with technical assistance from Broken Bay Institute. As Agenzia Fides learns from local Church sources, the conference entitled “St. Luke: Come to the Table” was transmitted on over 200 Internet websites worldwide, with over 5,000 registered participants.

The e-conference on Saint Luke was organized after seeing the great success of the E-Conference on Saint Paul, which was held at the close of the Year of St. Paul. Australian Catholic communities and others from around the world came together to listen to Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra and Goulburn, and Dr. Elizabeth Dowling, Theologian.

The Bishops of Australia have decided to hold the event to create an “e-community” in pastoral ministry and in the Church in Australia's work of evangelization. The event shows that the mass media, put to good use, can be an efficient source of evangelization. Thanks to the web and the new technologies, the conference is followed by faithful from all different cities, parishes, and towns across the country. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 5/11/

Art: beauty, truth and goodness


VATICAN CITY, 5 NOV 2009 (VIS) - At midday today in the Holy See Press Office, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, and Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, held a press conference to present Benedict XVI's forthcoming meeting with artists, due to take place on 21 November in the Sistine Chapel.

Archbishop Ravasi recalled how the meeting, promoted by his dicastery, is to be celebrated on the tenth anniversary of John Paul II's Letter to Artists of 4 April 1999, and the forty-fifth anniversary of Paul VI's meeting with artists of 7 May 1964.

"The event", he explained, "is not like a general audience of the Holy Father, open to any artist or exclusively to Christian-inspired artists, rather it aims to be representative of the desire for dialogue between the Church and the world of the arts, a dialogue which must necessarily develop over various stages and using various means".
The 255 artists who have accepted the invitation to attend come from various continents and are divided into five categories: painting and sculpture; architecture; literature and poetry; music and song; cinema, theatre, dance and photography.

The Mystery of Hope

From The Portal of the Mystery of Hope

By Charles Péguy

The faith that I love best, says God, is hope.
Faith doesn’t surprise me.
It’s not surprising.
I am so resplendent in my creation. . . .
That in order really not to see me these poor people would have to be blind.
Charity says God, that doesn’t surprise me.
It’s not surprising.
These poor creatures are so miserable that unless they had a heart of stone,
how could they not have love for one another.
How could they not love their brothers.
How could they not take the bread from their own mouth,
their daily bread, in order to give it to the unhappy children who pass by.
And my son had such love for them. . . .
But hope, says God, that is something that surprises me.
Even me.
That is surprising.
That these poor children see how things are going and believe that tomorrow things will go better.
That they see how things are going today and believe that they will go better tomorrow morning.
That is surprising and it’s by far the greatest marvel of our grace.
And I’m surprised by it myself.
And my grace must indeed be an incredible force.
~trans. David L. Schindler, Jr.

All Saints; All Souls

Thoughts on the immortality of the soul from Escatology by Joseph Ratzinger

"Christ throws open the portals of time and death..."

"Whenever someone enters into the 'I' of Christ, he has entered straight away into the space of unconditional life."

"Where there is communion with Jesus, the boundary of death is overshot here and now. It is in this perspective that we understand the discourse on the Eucharist in John 6. Feeding on Jesus' word and on his flesh, that is receiving him by both faith and sacrament, is described as being nourished by the bread of immortality."

"The borderline between Sheol and life runs through our very midst, and those who are in Christ are situated on the side of life, and that everlastingly."