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Experiencing an intimate connection with God

June 23rd, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

Are you a mystic? It is an odd-sounding question, isn’t it?

We contemporary Christians — heirs of an elevated, rarified notion of Christian mysticism — tend to retreat from the whole idea.

Recently, however, Pope Francis struck a different tone in describing mystics. The mystic simply is someone who “experiences the intimate connection between God and all beings,” said his 2015 encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’.” Read more »

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How can fatherhood possibly be a vocation?

June 9th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

I am the same father today that I was 44 years ago when my parenthood journey began. Yet, paradoxically, I am not the same. Fatherhood changed me!

Fatherhood, after all, encompasses a vast commitment, and no real, ongoing commitment leaves people as it found them. Read more »

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The art of the church architect

May 12th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

A simple, white-granite altar, together with the crucifix and striking white baldachin suspended above it, catches and holds the eye as soon as one enters the remarkable church constructed in the early 1960s at St. John’s Abbey and University in central Minnesota.

In planning this church, its Hungarian-born architect, the widely known Marcel Breuer, and members of the abbey’s Benedictine community, known for expertise and leadership in all things liturgical, confronted a key question.

Could a way be found, through the church’s very design, to foster unity among everyone present during celebrations of the Mass and to encourage their full participation in the liturgy?

The church opened in the fall of 1961, not long before the promulgation late in 1963 of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. It asked that “great care” be taken when churches are built “that they be suitable for the celebration of liturgical services and for the active participation of the faithful.”

Those present for celebrations of the Mass “should not be there as strangers or silent spectators,” the council declared. “Full and active participation by all the people” is the aim.

When you think of artists serving the church, architects might not be the first to come to mind. But they came to mind for St. John Paul II in his 1999 “Letter to Artists.”

An artist’s work has the potential to reflect God’s creative work, he suggested. It was particularly the beauty created by artists that captured the pope’s attention.

“It can be said that beauty is the vocation bestowed on (the artist) by the Creator in the gift of ‘artistic talent,'” a talent that ought to “bear fruit,” he wrote. Among the artists mentioned were poets, painters, sculptors, architects, musicians, actors and others.

I confess that I am partial to the church at St. John’s and to its uniquely simple beauty. My 1963 class at the university the monks run was the second to graduate in the new church.

Years later when I participated in Sunday Mass there, I felt that the underlying purpose of the Liturgy of the Eucharist still to come was made plain when several monks came forward after the homily “to set” the Lord’s table at the main altar.

Of course, the church’s interior architectural design drew all eyes to this action at the altar. No columns obstruct one’s view of the altar, or the monastic choir, or the congregation. The floor plan, with its trapezoid-like shape, lends itself to pulling the assembled community together and making it one.

Thus, it aids worship by nurturing a sense that those participating in the liturgy are bonded both to God and to each other.

Contemporary architects frequently “have constructed churches which are both places of prayer and true works of art,” St. John Paul noted in his “Letter to Artists.”

The church, he told them, needs artists, needs them to “make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God.”

Gibson served on Catholic News Service’s editorial staff for 37 years.

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“There is something about art that touches the soul” writes Alaine DeSantis in a March 25 article for the Catholic Stand. “Whether it be a breathtaking painting, a powerful poem or a song that speaks to the heart, art — in all forms — has the unique ability to transform, uplift and inspire.”

Without art, Catholic churches would lose part of their vibrancy, DeSantis says. Art is a means to visualize faith in paintings, sculpture, statues. Music, too, lifts worshippers’ voices and spirit in song and prayer.

DeSantis also points to church architecture as a form of art: The design of churches and cathedrals draw attention heavenward.

“Art connects to us at a very human level,” bringing intense emotions, she writes. It holds power, as “it connects us with the true beauty of God himself.”

When we place ourselves before art, “we are uplifted into a new awareness of who we are” and ultimately, “encounter God.”

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‘Development means peace,’ 1967 encyclical said

April 11th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

Development is “the new name for peace,” Blessed Paul VI declared in “The Progress of Peoples” (“Populorum Progressio”). Those well-known words reflect the heart and soul of this encyclical, whose 50th anniversary we celebrate in 2017.

Blessed Paul wanted to communicate a clear message that “peace is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power.” Extreme economic, social and educational disparities between nations often jeopardize peace between them, he stressed. Read more »

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The liberation Easter brings

April 10th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

Easter begins in the darkness and at night, when the great vigil Mass for this central Christian feast is celebrated. Yet Easter is all about daylight — a “new day” in time.

The resurrected Jesus is “the Morning Star,” according to the Exsultet, the rather ancient and remarkable hymn still heard during the Easter Vigil. Like the morning star shining at dawn, Jesus signals a new day’s arrival, with all the hopes attached to it. Read more »

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Why fasting is a paradox

March 13th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

Fasting is a paradox for Christians. It encompasses seemingly contradictory intentions.

First, fasting appears to possess a negative quality. It asks us to do less of something — to eat less, to reduce the amount of our TV viewing or curtail our spending and the time devoted to shopping, for example. Read more »

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How a marriage strengthens and grows

February 3rd, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

Marriage is like a crucible. At least Pope Francis appears to think so.

But how is marriage anything like a crucible in which, for example, metal is melted in order to be remolded into a new shape? Read more »

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Living Our Faith: ‘The time of grandparents’

January 13th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

“A plant without roots does not grow.” Pope Francis was thinking of grandparents when he made that statement recently in Tbilisi, capital of the country of Georgia. Read more »

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Walking in the shoes of the Magi

December 29th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:

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Catholic News Service

Starlight guided the steps of the gift-bearing Magi “from the east,” who soon after Jesus’ birth undertook a journey that led to “the newborn king of the Jews,” enabling them to pay homage to him.

The Gospel of Matthew tells of the Magi (2:1-11). A bright star in the heavens beckoned to them. So they set out from home and traveled toward its light. Read more »

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Book review: Businessman finds traits of ‘Great Catholic Parishes’

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Catholic News Service

“Great Catholic Parishes: How Four Essential Practices Make Them Thrive” by William E. Simon Jr. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2016). 202 pp. $17.95.

No single thread connects the Catholic parishes that are vibrant and thriving in the 21st century. “There is no silver bullet for doing great parish ministry in the Catholic Church today,” writes William E. Simon Jr. Read more »

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