Monthly Archives: November 2012

Statues and Sacred Images inside a Church

On Thanksgiving Day, the priest directed the attention of the congregation to the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe leaning against the flagstone wall near the sacristy. Father wanted to hang the painting up but first had to get permission from the Diocesan Office of Sacred Liturgy. So this raised the question about why the Church is taking great care to monitor the use of holy art.

Holy images in a church can enhance our awareness of the sacredness of the Mass and serve to inspire us with Christian models who dedicated their lives to Jesus.

The Catholic Cathedral of St. Louis in New Orleans depicts Sts. Peter and Paul, both facing the tabernacle with a Latin inscription above saying, “Behold, the Bread of Angels”

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He directed us to worship Him alone, “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath it, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shall not adore them, nor serve them” -Exodus 20:3-5

The National Cathedral(Anglican) in Washington has several stained glass windows depicting the life of General Robert E. Lee, the peaceful use of nuclear technology, and a depiction of the moon containing an actual reliquary with moon rocks.

The very first Christians did not view the use of holy images as a violation of this commandment. The Catacombs of St. Callixtus in Rome which depict cave like paintings of Christ as a lamb and the celebration of the Eucharist are examples of this. In fact, some 3rd century Jewish catacombs have  been known to feature similar paintings but without the Christian overtones(Which is not evidence of justification, but merely an interesting note).

Martin Luther the Protestant Reformer even said, “The custom of holding a crucifix before a dying person has kept many in the Christian faith and has enabled them to die with a confident faith in the crucified Christ.”

God is omnipresent and so we are always in His presence, but churches offer a particular place of dedicated prayer and worship. The purpose of having sacred images and statues in Church is NOT for worship. These images are meant to enhance our awareness of God’s presence and of the many paths there are to reach his Son. As such, they should never be so numerous that they distract from the liturgy. The Cathedral of St. Louis shown above demonstrates a setting with a moderate number of statues, and note that they are all oriented slightly toward the tabernacle.

This critique is only for the purposes of respectfully examining how art can be used incorrectly. The National Cathedral(Anglican) in Washington DC is modeled after the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris; however, the images and statues are half centered on God and half on man, which is a clear deviation from the intended purpose of the building. For example, the statue of Martin Luther(reformer) facing Desiderius Erasmus(reformer who defended primacy of the pope) can insight divisive feelings of “us vs. them” rather than directing attention to any Christian virtue the men may have exhibited.

There is also a large stained glass window commemorating the landing on the moon with a reliquary containing moon rocks which is not being used in any way to promote prayerful adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, or supplication.

The bottom line is that sacred art can be used to enhance our awareness of Christian virtue and place us in a mindset to pray a better prayer, but sacred images and statues must be carefully placed so that they do not distract from the greater honor and glory of God in the blessed sacrament.



The New Cardinals of the Catholic Church

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle (Philippines)

James Michael Cardinal Harvey (United States)

His Beatitude Bechara Cardinal Rai (Lebanon)

John Olorunfemi Cardinal Onaiyekan (Nigeria)

Ruben Cardinal Salazar Gomez (Colombia)

His Beatitude Baselios Cardinal Thottunkal (India)


Advent is around the corner

Construction has already begun on the oversize nativity set in St. Peter’s Square

Pro-Life as a Human Right

Simply saying “No” to abortion is not enough, in fact that advocacy is incomplete and can even hinder the promotion of human rights as a whole.  Being pro-life continues even as far as making sure there are good schools and even good jobs with healthy working conditions to lessen the pressure on families.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote extensively about natural law which continues to influence the philosophy of human rights even today.

Our Catholic Identity One of the primary undertakings of the Catholic Church is the promotion of human rights. We do this through our Catholic Charities, Propagation of the Faith(coordination and promotion of Catholic missions), Caritas’ services for the poor, etc. The Catholic Church educates more people than any other institution in the world and is at the forefront of providing health services to the sick. Our advocacy for human rights in an inseparable part of our identity as Catholics.

Rights vs. Civil Liberties “Rights” are fundamental conditions that innately belong to each person by merit of our participation in nature. It is possible to suppress  human rights, but suppression is a violation of nature and has no bearing on the rights we are entitled to as people. Sometimes we describe conditions that belong to each person because of social contract. Those are “civil liberties” and not necessarily “rights.”

The March for Life attracts several hundred thousand participants every January in Washington DC. The crowd is multicultural and increasingly younger, primarily fueled by a network of pro-life Catholics.

Life as a Human Right: The first human right is the right to life. Without full  protection for this, the rights to education and labor are seriously compromised. It is so fundamental that it includes protection for the most vulnerable among us(embryos, those sentenced to death, the ill, and elderly). Being truly pro-life continues even as far as making sure there are good schools and even good jobs with healthy working conditions to lessen the pressure on families.

What about social stigma? In a word, it is wrong. Acting or speaking in a way that may embarrass a mom or a woman post-abortion gravely hinders the efficacy and public opinion of the pro-life movement. We have a responsibility to do our best to speak charitably and be acutely aware of how sensitive the circumstances are for  the women we are advocating for.

But there are many reasons why moms may feel pressured to undergo the procedure!  That is why being pro-life continues well past advocacy for pregnant moms. Some of the driving forces of unplanned pregnancies include poverty and lack of access to a good education.

The advocacy reaches far… Are there quality schools in my neighborhood? Are there available jobs with healthy working conditions? Are workers being paid a just wage? Note that a majority of children with Down Syndrome do not make it to term by parental choice. Are there health care options available to less fortunate families?

Human Rights and advocacy: it’s inseparable from our identity as Catholics.


St. Albert “The Great”

The Great is an exceptional title given very sparingly and only by tradition in the Catholic Church. It is unofficial in a sense that there is no special canonization process to receive this title; however, although it stems from a nickname given by scholars or overtime by popular use, the Vatican has been known to reference it in official documents which in a sense makes it official. Cardinal Angelo Sodano reference John Paul the Great in a Vatican document which acts like an endorsement of the title.

S. Albertus Magnus (1193-1280)

Today is the feast day of St. Albert the Great, a doctor of the Church. Albert was born in present day Germany sometime around 1193 A.D. He was a Dominican priest who was curious about philosophy, world religions, and the physical sciences. St. Albert engaged Islamic scholars in academic critiques and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. In a spirit of humility, he refused to ride on the horse he was entitled to as Bishop of Regensburg.