Saturday, 25 June 2011

Christianity Has No Magic, Says Pope

But God Is Renewing Humanity in Christ

ROME, JUNE 24, 2011 ( There is nothing magic in Christianity, no shortcuts, but God is patiently renewing humanity along the same path that Jesus followed, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made this reflection Thursday evening, when he celebrated Mass for Corpus Christi in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

After the Mass, he processed with the Eucharist through the streets of Rome.

The Holy Father spoke of how the Eucharist anticipates Christ's death on Calvary.

At the Last Supper, Jesus "accepts his passion out of love, with its trial and its violence, even to death on the cross; by accepting it in this way he transforms it into an act of giving," he said.

"This," stated the Pontiff, "is the transformation that the world needs most, because he redeems it from within, he opens it up to the kingdom of heaven."

God's method in renewing the world follows this same path, Benedict XVI said. "There is nothing magic in Christianity. There are no shortcuts, but everything passes through the patient and humble logic of the grain of wheat that is broken to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God."


The Pope affirmed that God wants to continue to renew humanity and the cosmos "through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament."

"Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which his Body and Blood is truly present, Christ transforms us, assimilating us in him," he said. "He involves us in his redeeming work, enabling us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live according to his same logic of gift, like grains of wheat united with him and in him. Thus unity and peace, which are the goal for which we strive, are sown and mature in the furrows of history, according to God's plan."

He added: "Without illusions, without ideological utopias, we walk the streets of the world, bringing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation. With the humble awareness that we are simple grains of wheat, we cherish the firm conviction that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence and death.

"We know that God is preparing for all people new heavens and new earth where peace and justice prevail -- and by faith we glimpse the new world, that is our true home."

The Bishop of Rome echoed the words of the disciples on the road to Emmaus as he noted the setting sun over Rome.

"Thank you, Lord Jesus! Thank you for your fidelity, which sustains our hope," he said. "Stay with us, because the evening comes. 'Jesus, good shepherd and true bread, have mercy on us; feed us and guard us. Grant that we find happiness in the land of the living.'"
Today's Inspirational Quote:

"Shared laughter creates a bond of friendships. When people
laugh together, they cease to be young and old, teacher and
pupils, worker and boss. They become a single group of human

-- W. Lee Grant

Friday, 24 June 2011

Surprise in the Vatican Museums; Church of the Eucharist

Matisse Collection Pays Tribute to Truth

ROME, JUNE 23, 2011 ( When one thinks of the Vatican Museums, Renaissance masterpieces come readily to mind. More startling to most visitors would be the discovery that this same museum, which houses the art of Raphael and Michelangelo, also has important modern stars in its firmament.

Wednesday, June 22, the Vatican brought to international attention its collection of 20th century art by unveiling another surprising treasure, the art of Henri Matisse.

The gallery of modern religious art, located in the depths of the Vatican Museums in the apartments of Pope Alexander VI Borgia and the basement of the Sistine Chapel, contains many lesser-known jewels. A tiny but moving Pietà by Vincent van Gogh, painted shortly before his death in 1890, a smattering of Chagall's religious paintings and now, at the heart of the collection, the preparatory drawings for Matisse's celebrated Rosary chapel in Vence, France.

Matisse was not the most Christian of artists. A self-described agnostic, Matisse nonetheless pronounced himself open to the source of beauty. Thus Providence brought him, at the end of his life, to work for the Church.

Born in 1869, Matisse had already started a career in law when he decided to turn his hand to painting. Matisse became a student of Gustave Moreau and soon after in 1905, became one of the co-founders of Fauvisme. Reflecting the spirit of the age, Fauvisme was a paganizing movement, glorifying intense sensation through art. After World War I, Matisse rejected any form of suffering in his work and achieved great success with his cheerful colors and bold patterns, producing sculptures, paintings and even theatrical costumes. He eventually moved to the south of France, drawn by the bright hues of the Mediterranean.

In 1941, after a difficult and painful operation for cancer, Matisse was left bedridden and in constant pain. His bright world collided with the hard reality of suffering. In this difficult time, Monique Bourgouis nursed him, and her charity and kindness deeply impressed the afflicted artist. In 1946, Monique decided to become a religious sister and joined the Dominican convent of Vence, taking the name of Sister Jacques Marie.

Thus began the idea of building a new chapel for the convent of Vence, dedicated to the rosary. Matisse, Sister Jacques Marie, Sister Agnes de Jesus, the superior of the convent, a Dominican brother Rayssiguier and Dominican Father Marie-Alain Couturier, then labored to transform the dream into reality. Completely committed to the project, Matisse sold his own lithographs to raise money for the chapel. His old friend Picasso was horrified. "A church!" he cried. "Why not a market? Then you could at least paint fruits and vegetables."

Matisse prepared hundreds of drawings for the work, painting the walls from his wheelchair with a brush on an extendable wand. He designed every aspect of the chapel; the stained glass windows, the vestments and even the bronze crucifix for the altar. The artist always planned to donate the preparatory sketches to a museum saying "it would be folly for the cartoons and the windows to remain in the same place."

The drawings for the stained glass were finally donated to the Vatican 30 years ago by the artist's son Pierre in agreement with his siblings Marguerite and Jean, and in 1980 came to the Vatican collection.

This gift followed the 1979 donation of the epistolary correspondence between Matisse and Sister Agnes of Jesus tracing the development of the chapel. These letters provide remarkable insight on the growth of Matisse's first religious project.

The large drawing of the Madonna and Child prepared for the ceramic tile decoration was on display in the Gallery of Modern Religious Art but the exposition never did justice to the work nor represented the importance of the donation. The letters remained unpublished.

Matisse unveiled the chapel in June of 1951 and exactly 70 years later, the Vatican Museums opened their new Matisse room. The funding and idea for the project came from the Patrons of the Vatican Museums, specifically from the Montecarlo chapter, a few short miles from Vence. Mrs. Liana Marabini, president of the Montecarlo chapter, personally provided the gift to prepare the exhibition space with special conservation equipment for paper and textiles, allowing the Vatican Museums to illustrate the artistic conversion of this stellar artist.

The drawings for the windows are brilliantly displayed, but the room is dominated by the giant Madonna and child drawing. Father Marie-Alain Couturier, Matisse's theological adviser, interpreted the harsh black lines as "letters written in haste, under the shock of some very great emotion." There is also a copy of the bronze crucifix from the chapel. A short video recounts the events that brought about the convergence of Matisse and religious art, and the letters will be on rotation in the same space to be joined later by some of the chasubles designed by the artist.

Michol Forti, the curator of the modern religious art department of the Vatican Museums, will publish the Vatican collection of Matisse letters in December in a volume titled "Like a Flower: Matisse and the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence."

Matisse considered the chapel to be his "masterpiece," despite its imperfections -- an illuminating reflection from a man whose 50-year career had been dedicated entirely to the secular. The Vatican Matisse Room is a perfect expression of the Museums' mission: to preserve and honor great examples of man's creative genius, but also to proclaim how Truth inspires both beauty and goodness.

* * *

Poetry, painting and procession

Today Rome celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi with Eucharistic processions crisscrossing the city, the most important of course being the papal procession from St. John Lateran to St. Mary Major in the evening. On this glorious day, singing fills the air and bright banners waft through the streets, but these ephemeral visions soon fade away. In the Vatican Museums however, the recently restored "Mass at Bolsena" by Raphael Sanzio has immortalized this miracle in colored stone.

The Miracle of Bolsena, often considered to be the catalyst for the feast of Corpus Christi, recalls an event in the Umbrian region of Italy in 1263. A priest named Peter from the city of Prague nurtured doubts regarding the transubstantiation of the Host during Mass, and during his pilgrimage toward Rome prayed to be relieved of his questions. While saying the words of consecration in the church of St. Christina in Bolsena, the Host dripped blood on his hands and on the cloth below.

One year later, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of Corpus Domini with the bull "Transiturus de hoc mundo" and commissioned Thomas Aquinas to write the liturgy for the feast. The Angelic Doctor thus wrote two of his finest hymns, Pange Lingua and Tantum Ergo.

The corporal from Bolsena is still preserved in the Cathedral of Orvieto constructed expressly to house the precious relic.

Raphael made his own contribution toward immortalizing this miracle when in 1512 he painted The Miracle at Bolsena in the apartments of Pope Julius II. The painting, restored this spring, brings the miracle to life in vivid color.

The priest kneels before the altar, staring at the Eucharist, which displays a cross of blood both on the Host and the corporal. His lips are parted in surprise but the figure always retains the dignity expected of the celebrant. The dramatic reactions are reserved for the crowd gathered below who crane their heads to see the miracle, or twist and turn as they recount the event to others.

The altar is framed with the monumental architecture absorbed by Raphael through his relative, papal architect Donato Bramante. Sturdy Doric columns reach heavenward and the top of the painting is open to a sky pierced with light. Across from Peter of Prague there is an anachronistic touch. Pope Julius II kneels bareheaded with four of his cardinals and a small contingent of his Swiss Guards.

Two elements stand out in the work. The first is the still solemnity of the clergy in adoration. Compared with the other works in the room -- Peter's dramatic escape from Herod's prison, the chase and capture of Heliodorus and the Expulsion of Attila the Hun -- the eye finds restfulness and focus when contemplating the miracle.

The other, revealed in the restoration, is the color. Raphael had been in contact with Venetian painters in the period and his new use of color stands out amid the dramatic chiaroscuro of the Liberation of St. Peter and the bright metallic hues of the Expulsion of Heliodorus. Raphael's colors seem to be tangible -- heavy, rich crimsons seem to undulate through the lunette. The blood red is laced with bright crisp whites of linen or silk.

The sensual surface qualities of the work underscore the reality of the scene: The blood that dripped onto the priest's hands, the cloth soaked with the blood of Christ, drive home the reality of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, one of the principal themes of the 13th and 14th centuries.

St. Thomas in poetry, Rome in procession, and Raphael in images all remind us of the same theme that Blessed John Paul II underscored in 2004: The Catholic Church is the Church of the Eucharist.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Today's Inspirational Quote:

"Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let
them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness,
insight. When we do the best we can, we never know what
miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another."

-- Helen Keller