Category Archives: Sacraments

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.

A.M.D.G.

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Pope Benedict says return to what is sacred

Pope Benedict says return to what is sacred

The Virtual Roman tour will continue this weekend and end with Pope Benedict’s Angelus at 12Noon on Sunday.

Holding an outdoor Mass here in Rome at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, San Giovanni Laterano, Pope Benedict XVI implored us to meditate on the sacredness of the Eucharist. He says that the disappearance of an understanding for what is sacred, “inevitably impoverishes culture” and risks leaving an open field for “many substitutes present in the society of consumerism, for other rites and other signs, which could more easily become idols”.

A.M.D.G.

Finding Jesus in the Simplest of Places, even in Rome

Several in the congregation remain after Mass to pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.

The previous post lauds the great art collections of the Catholic Church as items that help us remember our Catholic identity. This post explores the joys of growing in a personal relationship with God through simplicity.

Located just 69 meters away from Vatican City is a church in stark contrast to the art and glory of St. Peter’s Basilica. This church, San Lorenzo, serves as the youth mission of Rome. To really enjoy this church, you must truly desire a personal relationship with Jesus Christ because there are no stained glass windows or precious attractions to sustain the wandering mind.

Here are a few ways to grow in your relationship with Christ through simple means.

Silence St. Benedict, a 5th century Saint from what is now Italy, said that silence is one of the best ways to develop a spiritual atmosphere for listening to God’s will rather than inserting our own will into our prayer.

True presence of Jesus Christ All Christians are called to remember that the Eucharist is the true glory of the Liturgy. This is why Canon Law explicitly states that sacred images must not be placed as to dominate the attention of the faithful. Sacred images must be charitably placed to help the congregation understand the sacredness of the Mass rather than distract from it.

Be an Early Christian The early Christians had a zeal for Christian life just as we should have. In fact, many were persecuted and martyred. There is something very real about this faith.

A.M.D.G.

A Defense of Marriage

“If the state was the be-all end-all of marriage, would it actually be worth anything other than on paper?”

The same-sex rights movement has often been compared to the civil rights movement

 That is a really tough question to  address for those of us who are a part of Generation Y (Millenials, 80’s, 90’s babies). We’ve grown up in a culture that is tolerant of just about anything. The good news is that the state neither created marriage nor existed before it, and therefore it is not the be-all end-all of marriage.

There have been several heroic campaigns for human dignity just in this past century(freedom from Communism, civil rights, women’s suffrage, expanded realization of the right to self-determination after the World Wars). That prompts many to wonder whether or not gay marriage will be the civil rights movement of the 21st century.

What is Marriage?

Marriage is a union, before God, of one man and one woman. In Christianity, it is one of the seven Sacraments. In the historical context of our American culture, marriage is something that is recognized, but not created by the state. If the state was the be-all end-all of marriage, would it actually be worth anything other than on paper? The institution of marriage is very much a part of how we best express our human nature. It has been in existence since before the state and before the Catholic Church.

The Archdiocese of Washington released a statement last week on this topic, “The word ‘marriage’ describes the exclusive and lifelong union of one man and one woman open to generating and nurturing children. Other unions exist, but they are not marriage.

Natural Law

Because something is a preference, religious or secular, or even natural does not mean that it should be sponsored by the state. For example(but not in comparison), 17th century British philosopher John Locke, who was an inspiration to the Americans leading up to the War of Independence, said that human sacrifice should not be tolerated by the state even under the guise of religious liberty because it violates natural law and is therefore counterproductive to society (1st Treatise of Govt §58-9). If something is bad for the greater good of society, even if it is good for the individual, should it be tolerated?

This is not necessarily a religious issue. As we exist in nature, it is impossible(without technology) for two men to jointly father a child just as it is impossible for two women to be the biological mothers of one child. Continue reading