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Christian unity: The past encounters the future

October 13th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

           

Something virtually unthinkable happened during the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s. Numerous Christians who were not Roman Catholics were invited to serve as formal observers of the council proceedings in Rome.

These observers’ surprising presence at the council confirmed that a centuries-long polemical era of disputes and contention, a time when divided Christians basically turned their backs to each other, was undergoing a profound transformation. Read more »

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On giving life to each Catholic’s faith: The Counter-Reformation

October 6th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

The story of the Catholic Church at the time the 16th-century Catholic Counter-Reformation began is multidimensional.

Rarely forgotten are the denunciations that marked this time of unfamiliar new divisions in the Christian world. But what today may escape notice are the efforts in the 1500s by new religious orders and congregations to renew Catholic life. Read more »

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Scripture, no longer a divider of Christians

September 29th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

Future church historians will explain to my great-grandchildren how an age of dialogue arose during the 20th and 21st centuries, displacing the hostile, suspicious age of polemics that for 400 years shaped relationships between Catholics and members of the Reformation churches.

Divided Christians during the age of polemics shied away from examining faith together or remembering that Scripture constitutes a shared treasure.

The Bible became a point of contention. Read more »

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Unity in diversity: Challenge for the ages

July 31st, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

Do you know any wife and husband who hold identical views on every practical concern in their lives together? Typically, spouses differ to some degree about the best ways of spending their free time, or raising and disciplining children, or planning for the future. Pope Francis believes something good can come of this.

“Keep an open mind,” he exhorted couples and families in “The Joy of Love,” his 2016 apostolic exhortation on marriage and family life. “Don’t get bogged down in your own limited ideas and opinions but be prepared to change or expand them,” he advised. Read more »

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Do we look forward to the life of the world to come?

July 20th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

Heaven is so hard to imagine! For heaven is to such a great extent unknown to us.

Yet, we who are Catholics profess in the Nicene Creed during the Mass that we “look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” But do we? Pope Benedict XVI wondered about that. Read more »

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Looking anew at the realities of suffering

June 30th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

Profound suffering, like a howling wind sweeping over and around people, is a force to contend with. It shakes people, knocks them off balance and causes them to feel uncertain what to do or which way to turn.

Harsh suffering damages the hope that people require and leaves them feeling isolated in their anguish — alone, misunderstood, weakened and struggling. Read more »

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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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