Sacred Nourishment

Our Savior is being stripped.  Ben Yanke on the iconoclasm in New York: “In August of 2013, Father Robert Robbins became the pastor of Our Savior.  One year later, many of the icons were removed, and the previously ornamented walls whitewashed in an effort to restore the “original vision” of the parish.  While it is certainly within the rights of a pastor to renovate his church building, these changes were done quietly, without much explanation to those in the parish…

“To date, 23 of the 30 icons have been removed, with the large Christ Pantocrator still behind the altar.  According to multiple sources, the Pantocrator icon is slated for removal as well, only 10 years after being put in.  When originally installed, it was not an innovation, but a replacement for a crumbling acrylic mural on canvas from the 1950s…However, it may be noted that there have been no plans to move the freestanding altar to its original location in the church for exclusively ad orientem worship.  It is also worth noting that the artist was not consulted in the process of these renovations.”

Steve Skojec has the best piece on this at the moment: “Some view what is happening as an attack on Fr. Rutler, who is well-known and well-liked, and unusually successful.  Some view it as an attack on the artist, or his art. And it might be either or both of those things.  But from where I sit, it appears to be an attack on the sacred.  Such attacks, by nature, are only too happy to inflict collateral damage on those who promote the sacred.  So in that sense, it’s probably all of the above.  We’ve seen it before.”

Not only have we seen it before, but it has run rampant in the modern Church.  St. John Paul II once visited a church and famously uttered, “There is little sense of the sacred in the new churches.”  He had a special admiration for Eastern sacred art including iconography, so it is likely he would be particularly appalled at the literal whitewashing of Our Savior’s sacred art.

More from Skojec: “The Case of the Vanishing Sense of the Sacred, you see, is a murder mystery with a tried-and-true formula.  It has been field-tested in parishes across the world for over half a century, and found more or less foolproof if the steps are followed.  The diminution of Catholicism has been imposed by parochial fiat from thousands upon thousands of pulpits, and has been enforced in the breaking of as many altar rails, the shoving off of as many tabernacles, and the stripping of as many altars and sanctuaries.  It all plays out behind a thick, velvety curtain of plausible deniability, or of pastoralism, or both, and complaints must be submitted in writing to the amicable but noncommittal bishop, who is inevitably shielded from such inconveniences by a small army of bureaucratic chancery staff, spinning red tape like diocesan spiders, ready to catch any grievance in their web.”

In a wonderful letter to artists, St. John Paul II wrote that “[Art] must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable.  Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colors, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen.  It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery.”

There’s a reason why stained glass windows became known as the poor man’s Bible.  And why churches with declining membership and little to no vocations are plagued by empty white walls or modernist abstract art.  This is what we lose when sacred art is erased: the nourishment of faith, beautiful art’s unique ability to translate abstract belief into something more tangible and meaningful, without diminishing its subject material.

More on the denuding of Our Savior: Maureen Mullarkey’s view on the vandalism.  Supporters of Our Savior held a small rally and managed to convey their message to a representative of the Archdiocese of New York.  Meanwhile, the church deleted comments related to the destruction of sacred art from its Facebook page.

Catholic Navel-Gazing

Marie Meaney reflects on her uncle’s death and euthanasia: “Suffering will still crush us no matter what we do. Illicit means will merely shift the pain, while attempting to create an artificial manmade happiness. Attempts to completely eliminate inevitable pain by terminating life cut us off from the fruits of human suffering since this approach assumes that nothing good can arise out of this natural process. The agony of death may have been curtailed, but the hopelessness taking its place is much worse and different in kind from the darkness experienced as one approaches eternity….

“Mother Teresa encouraged people to let Christ enter into their inner Calcutta, for he alone can bring light into the abyss that looms large as we approach death. Only God is capable of entering this pit and God alone can fill it. But if we run away from death, we are cutting ourselves off from the realization that it does not have the last word, that it can become redeemed by love. When we euthanize someone it means we believe this abyss is the ultimate reality, that suffering is meaningless and hopeless. But if we enter this darkness, we will come to see that Love itself dwells there, though it speaks softly and treads lightly.”

The former Prefect of the Papal Household spoke on communion for divorced and remarried couples: “Why do some pastors want to propose what’s not possible?” Mgr. Gänswein asked himself. “I don’t know. Perhaps they give in to the spirit of the time; perhaps they allow themselves to be guided by the human applause caused by the media … To be critical against the mass media is certainly less pleasing, but a pastor must not decide on the basis of applause or even less of the media. The measure is the Gospel, the faith, healthy doctrine, Tradition.”

Catholicism is dying in Germany.  Doesn’t this just say it all? “Commenting on the figures, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, said the bishops were “painfully aware” of the high number of withdrawals but declined to give specific reasons for people leaving the church.”

The Decline of Detroit: “When the Archdiocese failed to uphold the teachings on birth control and family, it was really undoing the Catholic school system, seminaries, and vocations. And in the end, it contributed to the decline of the city as well.”

African bishops seek a less Euro-centric synod in October.  Father Z on the interpretive twisting of St. John Paul II’s words in Familiaris Consortio for the upcoming synod.

Remembering Canon 212: on causing scandal and reporting scandal.

St. Thomas Aquinas on Christ’s temptation.

Rorate Caeli: The Gospel in a nutshell.

Pope Francis

Robert Draper: Will the Pope change the Vatican or will the Vatican change the Pope?  Rorate Caeli has a good insight: “[T]he article’s value is derived from its snippets of interviews with the Pope’s circle of close friends.  These shed much light on his plans and strategy for the future of the Church.  Equally as important are the assertions that Pope Francis, far from being spontaneous and guileless, carefully plans the things he says and does.  From the Synod of the Family, to clerical celibacy, to the Pope’s attitude towards homosexuality, a clear picture emerges of a Papacy that, without explicitly aiming at changing doctrine, does aim at a very real revolution within the Church.”

Luke Coppen has an unsettling piece on the potential that Francis will try to move the Church closer to Evangelicalism.  Phil Lawler has more on the chaos at the Vatican: if Fr. Lombardi doesn’t know what Francis is doing, then who does?  We do know of one important focus for Francis: the real threat of the devil.

Call me troglodyte: Jeff Mirus on climate change, Laudato Si, carbon credits, and the Cross.  Why Cardinal Pell was right to speak out about Laudato Si.  Which leads us to the inevitable: Pope Francis’s approval ratings have plummeted in the U.S.  Francis may be a legendary critic of unfettered capitalism, but his September visit has fueled a free-wheeling, money-making opportunity in the finest free market tradition.

Francis has named three new auxiliary bishops to Los Angeles, including new media evangelist Fr. Robert Barron.  With Fr. Barron leaving Mundelein Seminary, Archbishop Cupich can further reshape Chicago.  Phil Lawler: it’s not likely to be an improvement.

More on Planned Parenthood

Another video of another Planned Parenthood employee, this one haggling over the price of babies’ body parts to get a Lamborghini.  Why the Catholic behind the Planned Parenthood videos went undercover.

Ross Douthat: Looking away from abortion.

Why are these videos so damning for Planned Parenthood?

Culturally Catholic

Leila Marie Lawler has a comforting reflection on wasted and lost time.

Film reviews: Joy and sadness in Inside OutPixels: not as family-friendly as advertised.

What can we learn from the Saints?  Father Z: the Holy Maccabees may be models for us today.  On pilgrimage with St. James.  Thomas Van: heresy and St. Irenaeus.  Feast of the Week: St. Peter Chrysologus, who said, “If you jest with the devil, you cannot rejoice with Christ.”

Fr. Schall on The Boys in the Boat: transcendence passes through the home.

George Weigel on Flannery O’Connor’s Catholic realism: “She knew that an ice-your-own-cupcake world was a world that had forgotten its need for redemption, and an ice-your-own-cupcake religion was incapable of calling that kind of world to recognize the reality of sin and the need for conversion.”

John Cuddeback reflects on a father’s presence in the home: “The first and most significant action—one within the power of any father—is to take possession of his household by investing it with his intention and attention. The old saying should perhaps be taken as prescriptive, not descriptive: ‘Home is where your heart should be.’”

Catholic chaplains in combat.

What ever happened to Purgatory?

Spiritual Kevlar and Teflon: we are the Church Militant.

Kelsey Paff on the end of single-sex higher education.

A Catholic gardener’s spiritual almanac.

Living the Benedict Option

Anthony Esolen: Reform and renewal starts with us. “Build new schools, reform old schools, and abandon irreformable ones…Restore your parish church and bring reverence back to the liturgy…Acquaint yourself with the proper use of the zipper.  Be social…Read good books…Recover the human things…Pray like the pilgrim you are…

“Whatever you do, do it as if everything depends on just that.  It does, after all. Let no one say to you, “What difference does it make if you sing beautiful hymns at Mass?”  That’s the way the world thinks.  For the world, despite all its pretense of love for every individual, considers men to be mere stuff, an accumulation or amalgamation.  Do not believe it.  The next person you greet may be on the verge of sainthood or damnation.  Every moral choice we make repeats the drama of Eden.  No one can do everything.  Everyone can do something. Begin.”

Joseph Shaw on the Tridentine Mass and the evangelization of men:  “The sacral formality and lack of spontaneity of the Extraordinary Form, its orientation to the transcendent, and its expression of profound truths without demanding an openly expressed verbal or emotional response from the congregation, are features which do not make demands upon men with which they are uncomfortable. At the same time, they provide something particularly attractive to men: the expression of ideas through action, the drama of the ceremonies.”

Postures of prayer: “choosing to kneel affirms our submission when our hearts struggle to do so, and bowing our heads can reflect the honor due to God in his Holiness.”  More on kneeling and the Eucharist.

“We have become apathetic to apostasy. We no longer viscerally react to the widespread abandonment of the one, true, faith by millions…The time has come for every Catholic of good will to go to their window, or at least to Facebook and Twitter, and shout to the world: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!'”

Thinking about the Benedict Option: Austin Ruse: St. Josemaria Escriva is a good model for the Benedict Option.  J.R.R. Tolkien and the Boromir Option: how straw men attacks cheapen public discourse.

Politics and News

The Little Sisters of the Poor appeal to the Supreme Court.  An interview with Sr. Constance Veit, LSP about the lawsuit and the threat to the Sisters.

Colorado women win legislative battle to derail bill that would have provided contraceptive implants and IUDs to teens without parental consent.

Eighth Circuit rules that parents have standing to file suit over Obamacare.  Here’s the full decision.

Archdiocese of Newark sues over New Jersey headstone law.

A new era of Vatican budgeting.

Wisconsin bans abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later.

The beginning of the end for Christianity in the Middle East.

Oldest Biblical text found since the Dead Sea Scrolls.

New painting discovered in the Catacomb of St. Callixtus.

Expanded tours now available at the Quirinale Palace in Rome, once home to thirty popes.

After shooting, Lafayette bishop offers prayers and sympathy.

Just for Fun

A 360 view of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The case of Fr. Robert Barron: why do bad things happen to good people?