CNA News reports that Pope Benedict is expected to announce the creation of a new dicastery in the Curia. The Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization will be dedicated to the re-evangelization of Western countries that have lost their Christian identity.
Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican correspondent for the daily Il Giornale who is usually well-informed on new appointments at the Vatican, wrote today that “Benedict does not cease to surprise: in the upcoming week the creation of a new dicastery of the Roman Curia dedicated to the evangelization of the West will be announced, and be presided over by Archbishop Rino Fisichella.”
The new dicastery is aimed at evangelizing “countries where the Gospel has been announced centuries ago, but where its presence in their peoples’ daily life seems to be lost. Europe, the United States and Latin America would be the areas of influence of the new structure,” Il Giornale says.
There is no doubt that a New Evangelization is needed. It will interesting to see what concrete initiatives the Council takes.
In 2007, the Vatican set out to become the first carbon neutral sovereign state in the world by reducing its CO2 emissions and planting a forest in Hungary to offset whatever CO2 it did emit over the course of a year. But to date, Catholic News Service reports the trees have not been planted and the Vatican is now considering taking legal action against KlimaFA, the company that donated the resources for planting the forest:
“We know that there still have been no trees planted,” even though the company was repeatedly asked to carry through with their donation, Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, told the Italian Catholic news agency, ASCA, April 22. . . . “We understand KlimaFa is not doing well (financially), but the good name of the Vatican is at stake.”
Yes, the good name of the Vatican is at stake, but I don’t think carbon neutrality is the issue.
The Catholic News Agency reports that an Argentinian man, who was abandoned by his mother at birth, recently reunited with his mother through Facebook:
Mauricio, 23, was abandoned by his mother at birth. In an effort to find her, he created a Facebook group called “I’m searching for my mother.” Mauricio ended up finding her and the two were reunited.
Last Saturday afternoon, Mauricio spoke on the telephone with his mother for the first time.“My son,” she said, “it’s me, your mom. Don’t hate me. Forgive me. I always remembered you, I never forgot you.”
When Mauricio reunited with his mother in person he forgave her for abandoning him and thanked her for not aborting him, “Thank you for having the courage to bear me for seven months and for not having me aborted.”
The National Gallery of Art is, until the end of May, home to more than twenty Spanish devotional pieces of art—many exhibited for the first time outside their permanent homes in churches and monasteries—as part of the exhibit The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600-1700. These sculptures and paintings might not get out much because they are, quite frankly, not easy viewing. In her review of the exhibit for the Weekly Standard, Maureen Mullarkey describes Pedro de Mena’s Christ as the Man of Sorrows:
This half-length spectacle of desolation shatters detachment. Christ stands bound, a common prisoner released from a near-lethal Roman scourging. No hint of divinity relieves the stark reality of torment. Blood streams in dimensional droplets down the face, the battered torso, and into the folds of a loincloth. Eyes are swollen partly shut. Every device to enhance verisimilitude is put to use: glass eyes in the sockets, eyelashes of real hair, ivory or bone teeth visible between half-open lips. For many viewers, such figures, together with crucifixes, are anthropological curiosities that flutter on the edge of morbidity.
The art of Spain’s siglo de oro, Mallarkey argues was the fruit renewed devotion during the Counter-Reformation, “Devotion itself flamed, once again, into an art.” The museum goer who stumbles into this exhibit will be lost if he approaches artwork as only objects of aesthetic appreciation:
It hardly takes a Catholic eye to see these emblems of sanctity and solitary suffering. Nevertheless, to greet them as something more than relics of the Castilian Baroque requires sensitivity to the high poetry of theological expression. Each of these works is a call to recollection before it is a specimen of style. A rich word, recollection—and so different from appreciation, the term that clings to art like a trained spaniel. Recollection, confessors know, is the penitential spirit in play: It is a summons inward toward an examination of conscience, that hard awakening to one’s own trespasses that ends in contrition. Appreciation inclines, instead, toward the museum shop.
In the Washington Times today, Midge Decter recollects the responsibility the United States shouldered during the Cold War and reflects on what our role in the world should be today:
So what is now to be our role in the world? To begin with, it must be said that to no other nation can such words be applied. Usually, after all, nations are not arrangements entered into but developments that happen. They are the results of nature, accidents of geography, the movement and spread of language, wars and hatreds and rivalries and the settlement of rivalries. But boasting, we too often forget, what has turned out to be the oldest continuously surviving form of popular government on earth, the United States was a nation invented — by, let us ever be on our knees in gratitude, a group of men of political genius, whom a benign providence happened to place upon the eastern shores of a vast and rich and empty continent.
Aside from the fact that it would take nearly a century and an almost unimaginably bloody civil war to keep their invention whole — we remain beneficiaries of what they devised for us there in Philadelphia nearly 234 years ago.
On Saturday, poet Samuel Menashe—who has a new poem in the April issue—gave a poetry reading at the 96th Street Library here in New York. Sean Curnyn recorded the event and offered his own reflection:
It’s funny: Although one’s enjoyment of Menashe’s poems certainly can increase from the context he offers when publicly reading them, I think that—more perhaps than many contemporary poets—his tiny poems also stand up quite straight and strong on the page without any added context whatsoever. It is one of those things that prove him to be a truly great poet, I suppose.
As the battle over the health-care reform bill intensified this week, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious sent a letter yesterday to every member of congress assuring them that “the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions” and that they, the LCWR, “as Catholics,” are “all for it.” Never mind that, as Catholics, they are in direct opposition to the statement released by Cardinal Francis George on behalf of the USCCB.
The LCWR claims more than 1500 religious superiors as members and represents more than 45,000 nuns across the United States, but they do not speak with as much authority as they’d like to suggest. Today, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious—the second largest organization of superiors in the United States—released their own letter making that quite clear.
George Washington prayed here. He attended a thanksgiving service at this elegant Georgian stone chapel, with its soaring steeple and classical portico, on the day of his inauguration at nearby Federal Hall, and he worshipped here during the two years New York served as the nation’s capital. Washington’s pew, with a painting of the Great Seal of the United States above, is still pointed out to visitors to this last remaining Colonial-era church in Manhattan.
St. Paul’s Chapel, on Broadway in Lower Manhattan, is steeped in history; it is, in fact, the oldest public building in continuous use in New York City. It was constructed in 1766 as a so-called “chapel-of-ease” for parishioners of Trinity Church, which stands a bit farther downtown, also on Broadway. Today, the two churches are one stop apart on the subway: It’s Fulton Street for St. Paul’s and Wall Street for Trinity.
St. Paul’s also has a place in more recent history: It stands directly across from where the World Trade Center once stood. In the months after September 11, 2001, the chapel became a refuge for police officers, firemen, and other workers, staffing counselors, and massage therapists around the clock for the weary workers. The wrought-iron fence that surrounds the churchyard became an impromptu memorial to those who died. It is, therefore, not surprising that there were as many tourists as parishioners entering St. Paul’s on Sunday, February 21, as the 10:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist service drew near.
The great British natural-law philosopher John Haldane made a good case earlier this week on the BBC’s world service broadcast that to make public policy regarding controversial issues like assisted suicide, genetic engineering, and embryo manipulation, lawmakers need a common ethical framework and understanding of the value of human life. Without this framework, decisions about life and death become purely pragmatic, a matter of pleasing the most—or at least the most powerful—people, or are based entirely on intuition.
Haldane’s interlocutors—Lord Falconer, former Lord Chancellor, and Lisa Jardine, chair of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, the government agency—provided perfect fodder to prove his point as they argued that a common ethical framework is impossible to achieve, and unnecessary. “Spiritual objections,” Falconer argued, cannot be considered by organizations like the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority. If they were considered, “then [the HFEA] couldn’t agree to half the things that they agree to.” Basic ethical principles, are unnecessary anyway, since “decent people”— as Falconer put it—and especially women, Jardine added, can rely on their their gut feeling to determine the morality and possible moral consequences of procedures like pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.
Tim Tebow, the year’s best college football player, is starring in a mildly pro-life advertisement—“Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life,” it concludes—scheduled to air during the Super Bowl this Sunday. And the ruckus over that fact has been one of the strangest things to watch in years.
Even the New York Timeshas agreed—in an unsigned editorial no less—that the objections to the ad are unwarranted:
The would-be censors are on the wrong track. Instead of trying to silence an opponent, advocates for allowing women to make their own decisions about whether to have a child should be using the Super Bowl spotlight to convey what their movement is all about: protecting the right of women like Pam Tebow to make their private reproductive choices.
Curiously, perhaps the most thoughtful treatment of the topic appeared in the sports pages of the Washington Post, where sports columnist Sally Jenkins takes a baseball bat and whacks around the old-line feminist organizations who’ve attacked the ad. Jenkins herself, she says, is no supporter of the pro-life cause, but she’s irritated that the ostensible defenders of choice are determined to tell her what to think:
Tebow’s 30-second ad hasn’t even run yet, but it already has provoked “The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us” to reveal something important about themselves: They aren’t actually “pro-choice” so much as they are pro-abortion. Pam Tebow has a genuine pro-choice story to tell. She got pregnant in 1987, post-Roe v. Wade, and while on a Christian mission in the Philippines, she contracted a tropical ailment. Doctors advised her the pregnancy could be dangerous, but she exercised her freedom of choice and now, 20-some years later, the outcome of that choice is her beauteous Heisman Trophy winner son, a chaste, proselytizing evangelical.
NOW and NARAL purportedly protect women from those who would tell them what they can and cannot do with their bodies—and all along, these organizations tell those women what thoughts they can and cannot consider. Talk about invasive. No wonder Jenkins balks:
Tebow himself is an inescapable fact: Abortion doesn’t just involve serious issues of life, but of potential lives, Heisman trophy winners, scientists, doctors, artists, inventors, Little Leaguers—who would never come to be if their birth mothers had not wrestled with the stakes and chosen to carry those lives to term. And their stories are every bit as real and valid as the stories preferred by NOW. . . . If the pro-choice stance is so precarious that a story about someone who chose to carry a risky pregnancy to term undermines it, then CBS is not the problem.
Many Manhattan hotels boast of luxurious rooms, world-class dining facilities, and breathtaking views, but the Salisbury Hotel on West Fifty-Seventh Street offers something rather different: Calvary Baptist Church is on the hotel’s ground floor. On the last Sunday in January, worshippers pressed quickly through the church’s doors for Calvary’s 11 a.m. Traditional Worship Service. The warmth—of both the church interior and the congregants’ greetings for one another—were a welcome change from the biting cold outside. The pews of Calvary Baptist filled with a mix of churchgoers young and old, of varied ethnic and, it appeared, economic backgrounds. As senior pastor David Epstein boasted in his sermon, “the wonderful diversity of this congregation . . . reflects what heaven will look like one day.”
Calvary traces its origin to Hope Chapel, an independent Baptist church founded in 1847. After a short stay on lower Broadway and a more extended stay on Twenty-Third Street, Calvary took up it its current residence in 1931. Above the doors, within a delicately Gothic-styled archway, the words “We Preach Christ Crucified, Risen, and Coming Again” are hewn in stone; above that entrance, the sixteen-story, brick-and-stone hotel rises like the spire of a modern cathedral.
The interior of Calvary reflects Baptist beliefs in its lecture hall–style layout. The ambo stands front and center in the sanctuary; before it, a small altar holds only a Bible. This arrangement emphasizes the belief, set forth in Calvary’s Articles of Faith, that the Bible is “the supreme standard and final authority for all conduct, faith, and doctrine.” A baptistery also stands at the front of the church; it is, again in accordance with the church’s Articles of Faith, an immersion pool.
I recommend Bruce Marshall’s review essay of Gary Anderson’s Sin: A History especially for these last two days of Christmas. Marshall shows the interesting history of how sin came to be understood as debt—rather than simply a burden or a wound—and then offers an excellent defense of this understanding of sin. For debt implies that repayment must be made. God could have simply forgiven our sins, washed them away, but by making us debtors he allows humans to be part of their own salvation. One of our own, God become man, made the payment for our sins and then allows us to join our own small efforts to repay our debts to his. It gives new meaning to the hymn we all were so recently singing: “O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be!”
As you send out your Christmas cards this year, don’t forget the pope! The Vatican Council for Social Communication’s website has now made it possible to send an electronic Christmas card to the holy father. You can attach pictures to the card and include a personal message:
“Dear Pope Benedict,
Warmest holiday wishes! Well, it’s been quite a year for the Duke family . . . ”
Or perhaps I’ll just stick with one of the four electronic Christmas cards that P2Yhas available for you to send to all of your friends with a picture of Pope Benedict and his Christmas greeting.
Gone are the days when high school kids who couldn’t wade through the 350 pages of Pride and Prejudice at least had to skim through 50 pages of cliff notes. 60second Recap offers to tear out the plot, symbols, motifs, and themes from classic works of literature (I imagine the books lying limply on the ground, spines broken after being ravaged by a yellow hi-liter) and cheerily distill them in the language of the youth: the 60 second video clip:
“We’re all forced to read them in school so we can get good grades so we can go to a good college so we can get a good job so we can forget all about that literature they used to force us to read so we could get good grades.
The 60second Recap™ aims to break this cycle of canonical irrelevance. We want to help teens (yes, teens of all ages!) engage with literature. We want to help them see it not as some chore to be endured, but as—dare we say it?—the gift of a lifetime. How? Through the language of our time—the language of video. Video that’s focused, engaging, informative . . . and short enough to hold just about anyone’s attention.
Smirk if you must. Consider this yet another mile-marker on civilization’s road to perdition. But here’s the fact: You won’t get non-readers to read by forcing them to read more. You’ll get them to read by opening their eyes to the marvels awaiting them between the covers of that homework assignment.”
Here’s the teaser trailer for Pride and Prejudice:
If that is Elizabeth Bennet in the 21st century, I do consider this yet another mile marker on civilization’s road to perdition.
Each book gets ten 60 second videos where the unflaggingly energetic Jenny Sawyer (USA Today calls her “the smartest kid in your English class” and “the big sister you’re just dying to talk to before class “because you just did not get the symbols in this book.”) bounces about the screen, juggling props and cracking jokes in an effort to keep kids watching—the first ten seconds of each video is spent trying to convince the viewer to tune in for the remaining 50 seconds.
I admire Ms. Sawyer’s command of literature but I doubt the effects of this method. The motifs and themes of a great play or novel take their force from being imbedded in the work. Ripped out and paraded across the screen in blinking bright letters, the words “deceit” “romance” and “fate” will not draw anyone to actually read Hamlet or Pride and Prejudice or Romeo and Juliet. And hitting kids over the head with symbols and driving home the relevance of literature to their every day lives takes away the unique pleasure of the poetic: the recognition of reality in what you are reading.
I recommend heading straight for the poetry. Mary Ellen is certainly right to point out Dana Gioia’s “Majority” as one of the gems of this issue. I also enjoyed Tim Murphy’s bracing advice in “Farm Boy, Call Kayla” and Rhina P. Espaillat’s tribute to him. Gail White’s “Bavarian Baroque” seems particularly timely as our church’s are filled with evergreens and poinsettias, and all the rich ornaments of Advent and Christmas.
At St. Therese of Lisieux—the oldest of the Discalced Carmelite foundations in California, located in Alhambra, a small city in the San Gabriel Valley region near Los Angeles—the Saturday 5 p.m. vigil Mass seemed marked by the motif of drawing to a close. Fr. Jan Lundberg, OCD, the 62-year-old pastor, began his homily by noting that this Mass also marked the drawing to a close of the liturgical year, the last time that we would hear the Gospel of Mark proclaimed in the Sunday liturgy until two more years have gone by.
In the Gospel reading, we heard again this message from Christ himself: