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A recognisable story via Kath.net today. Painter Michael Triegel from Leipzig, once an atheist, entered the Church last Easter, and it was Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who helped him cross the Tiber. Triegel became known in Catholic circles in 2010, when he was commissioned by the Diocese of Regensburg – then still headed by Bishop Gerhard Müller, now the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a personal friend of the retired Pope – to paint an official portrait of Benedict.
^Triegel and the portrait he made, photographed in 2010.
Triegel himself doesn’t make a fuss about his conversion, although he recognises it is not something that happens every day. “You would not believe how often I have been asked over the past years, if I wanted to be baptised. There must have been telephone calls in higher Catholic circles, asking whether Triegel had already joined.” He was the atheist who painted the Pope, which made for juicy headlines. “Now I’m just an East German artist entering the Church. Also not exactly commonplace.”
What made him reach the momentous decision to receive the sacrament of Baptism was Benedict’s writings. “[These] were important, his theory that faith and knowledge need not contradict each other. For me that was the breaking point. [...] I foudn that faith entered my heart via my mind.”
Like I said, a recognisable story. My introduction to the faith and subsequent entrance into the Church coincided almost exactly with the start of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. He was elected in April of 2005, I first attended Mass in that year’s Advent. His magisterium has been instrumental in my discovery of the Church and the faith, and so also my personal development as a Catholic. Mr. Triegel’s “breaking point”, that faith and knowledge need not contradict each other, was also a major discovery for me. It shone through in all I read from Pope Benedict XVI, especially when I started blogging in 2010.
On the occasion of his Baptism, Triegel said, “When one concerns itself for 30 years with the true, the good, the beautiful and even with religion, it can’t remain without any consequences whatsoever. For me, now is the time to be baptised.”
“That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew.”
“It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.”
“I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”
Pope Francis, in the interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro S.J., on one of his favourite painting: The Calling of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio (1599-1600).
“[T]he liturgy is the celebration of the central event of human history, the redemptive sacrifice of Christ. Thus it bears witness to the love with which God loves humanity, to the fact that human life has a meaning and that it is through their vocation that men and women are called to share in the glorious life of the Trinity. Humanity needs this witness.
People need to perceive, through the liturgical celebrations, that the Church is aware of the lordship of God and of dignity of the human being. She has the right to be able to discern, over and above the limitations that will always mark her rites and ceremonies, that Christ “is present in the sacrifice of Mass and in the person of the minister” (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7).”
- Pope Benedict XVI to a group of French bishops on their ad limina visit,
17 November 2012
In the coming weeks I will be writing about the Sacra Liturgia conference that will be held in Rome from 25 to 28 June. The conference “on liturgical formation, celebration and mission” is the brainchild of Bishop Dominique Rey of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon in France and draws its inspiration in part from the teaching and person of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who strongly encouraged Bishop Rey’s initiative.
Why a major conference on the liturgy, and why special attention to it in this blog? Pope Benedict has spoken about it many times, both during his pontificate and as priest, bishop and cardinal. The quote I chose to place at the top is only the most recent I could quickly find, but it does give an indication of the reason. Our faith comes from God; it is His gift to us. In the liturgy, centered around the sacrifice of the Eucharist, God comes very near to us, nearer than we can ever hope to come to Him if left to our own devices. Since God is near to us, we must take care to show that in how we celebrate and participate in the liturgy. And because this is the place where God is tangible for us, the liturgy takes up a central place in our faith and life as Catholics. That means that we can’t take it for granted, but should treat the liturgy as an opportunity to learn and grow, and that is what the conference wants to aid in.
During the conference, various speakers will address a proper selection of liturgy topics. Standing out for me, upon a reading of the list of speakers, are Cardinal Raymond Burke (Liturgical law in the Mission of the Church), Archbishop Alexander Sample (The Bishop: governor, promoter and guardian of liturgical life of the diocese), Monsignor Guido Marini (Ars celebrandi in the Sacred Liturgy), Monsignor Stefan Heid (The Early Christian Altar – Lessons for Today), Father Uwe Michael Lang (Sacred Art and Architecture at the service of the Mission of the Church), Father Paul Gunter (Academic Formation in the Sacred Liturgy), Father Nicola Bux (Liturgical catechesis and the New Evangelisation), Dom Alcuin Reid (Sacrosanctum Concilium and Liturgical Formation) and Mr. Jeffrey Tucker (The Liturgical Apostolate and the Internet), although any choice here is strictly based on the various topic titles. I will be profiling several of the speakers in the coming weeks, with, obviously, a special focus on their thoughts and actions regarding the liturgy.
All the relevant information regarding prices, accommodation and, certainly not least, the speakers and their topics can be found via the link I supplied above. Personally, I would have attended if it was within my means, but I’ll have to make do with a digital presence, via this blog and various social media.
Ever since the announcement of the Year of Faith, which starts in October, the Dutch dioceses and bishops have been planning and organising a number of events to mark the occasion. Here follows a short list, sorted by date, of events and announcements concerning the Year of Faith:
3 July: The Diocese of Breda publishes a special diocesan magazine about the Second Vatican Council, including an informative poster (front page at right).
4 July: The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam will offer several courses in the vein of the Year of Faith throughout 2012 and 2013. Courses include ‘What is faith?’, ‘the Second Vatican Council’, ‘Christian art’, ‘Theology of spirituality’ and and an impulse day on the missionary Church.
5 July: The Dioceses of Rotterdam and Breda announce a joint magazine on the new evangelisation. Publication will be in the summer in Breda and around Christmas in Rotterdam.
18 July: The Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch present its two-year course ‘Growing in faith’ in the light of the Year of Faith, as a means to rediscover the joy of the faith.
19 July: The Archdiocese of Utrecht sends the informative poster about the Second Vatican Council, that was created by the Diocese of Breda, to all her priests, deacons and pastoral workers. In his accompanying letter, Cardinal Eijk writes, “I hope that you, also in your own parish, will be willing to give form to the Year of Faith in a suitable way.”
September, October, November: The diocesan magazine of Haarlem-Amsterdam will devote issues to the Year of Faith.
11 October: The Diocese of Breda opens the Year of Faith with a pontifical High Mass offered by Bishop Liesen. The Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam will do likewise at the Shrine of Our Lady of Need in Heiloo. Clergy and pastoral workers are afterwards invited to attend a lecture on faith in postmodern times.
12 October: The Dutch Bishops’ Conference organises a symposium on the Second Vatican Council, focussing on the four Apostolic Constitutions, in Utrecht. Clergy and pastoral workers throughout the country are invited. Preceding the symposium is a pontifical High Mass, and a Vespers celebration will close the day.
14 October: The Year of Faith will be opened in the Diocese of Roermond with a pontifical High Mass.
12 April: A study day on the Second Vatican Council will be held at the Tiltenberg in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. Auxiliary Bishop Jan Hendriks will contribute.
While this list is far from complete (much may be added in the coming months), one thing is striking: much is aimed at priests, deacons and pastoral workers. Events for lay faithful, while present, are much less in evidence. This may point at two things: firstly, that clergy and pastoral workers are expected to communicate the content to the faithful in the pews, and secondly, that it is the clergy and the pastoral workers who need the Year of Faith just as much, if not more, as we lay faithful do.
And although many more events may (and should) be organised for and by Joe Faithful, this last option may not be that far-fetched…
Aside from blogging about Catholic things, another of my interests is history. Today I visited an exhibition of Viking artefacts, so why not share a view photos showcasing the Christian element in some of those artefacts.
The head of a crozier, depicting the Old Testament story of Jonah and the whale.
A large reliquary which once contained a relic of the Cross, the story goes. It ended up in Poland and was destroyed in the Second World War. This is therefore a replica.
Another reliquary, if much smaller, designed to be carried around on a necklace or in a pocket.
Silver thread on linen, an image of a deer. Deer were often used in Christian Viking imagery, no doubt based on Psalm 42.
Two days ago, as his Lenten retreat had just wrapped up, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Roman parish of San Giovanni Battista de La Salle. He celebrated Mass there and afterwards met with the faithful of the parish, which is part of the pope’s own diocese. The children had been getting creative in the run-up towards the Holy Father’s visit, as the photo below shows…
Just something light-hearted to close the day.
Photo credit: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images
I’ll give it away: it is art. Apparently. This is the photo, deredactie.be reports, that has been found as a so-called ‘temporary file’ on the personal computer of Cardinal Danneels. It is called ‘La Douche II’ and is the product of one Laura Baudoux. Many heralded it as possible proof that the cardinal had been involved in shady business with pedophiles and possibly child rapist Dutroux as well.
Whatever the context, it’s not a pleasant sight, that photo. But now that it is known to be ‘art’ it is apparently suddenly okay to look at a naked child who, let’s face it, looks far from healthy. It probably says more about the state of modern art and society’s understanding of art than it does about the browsing habits of any bishops or cardinal.
Go, check you’re own computer. You’ll probably have a stack of temporary files, many of which will be quite unknown to you. Some may even be as disturbing as the one found on Cardinal Danneels’ computer.
In the meantime, the courts in Belgium have yet to find anything incriminating in the official and personal documents of dioceses and bishops, or even to explain the legality of their raid of two weeks ago.
Today, the Church celebrates the solemnity of St. Joseph, breaking the Lenten custom of fasting for a day. St. Joseph is the patron of many things, including the universal Church and yours truly. I chose his name at my baptism and confirmation in 2007, since I consider St. Joseph inspirational because of the trust in God he displayed. When his soon-to-be wife was pregnant, he accepted the explanation offered to him in a dream, although he did not fully understand it. This is what faith means: it goes beyond a mere acceptance of something as being real. Faith is ultimately about trust, despite all human doubts and failings. In the movie The Nativity Story, these doubts are beautifully shown when Joseph wonders if he can ever teach the Son of God anything. But despite that he continued, silently and with bleeding feet, to Bethlehem, trusting in God the Father.
In art, all saints are usually depicted with certain attributes that identify them. A necessity since the catalogue of saints contains a rather large number of bearded men, among them St. Joseph, who has a certain variety in attributes. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Carpenter’s tool – Pretty self-explanatory: Joseph was a carpenter, although he probably didn’t do the same work as modern carpenters. He may have been an artisan in general, also working with stone, for example.
As a descendant of kings (the Gospels trace his lineage back to King David), Joseph was far from royal. Rather, we get the impression of a fairly average man, skilled perhaps, with a good source of income, but not powerful or overly important in his society.
His tools place St. Joseph firmly in Jewish society in the Roman Empire. Extended forward in time, he remains an average man. As such, his sainthood is an inspiration, showing that faith is not beyond the grasp of anyone. We don’t need any special tools for it, so to speak. But we do need to know what we’re doing, and what we can’t do or know.
A staff with lily blossoms – This can be traced back to an apocryphal legend about St. Joseph. When a husband needed to be found for Mary, each prospective husband was told to hold a staff. In all cases nothing happened, until it was Joseph’s. He was an unlikely candidate, far older than Mary. But when he took the staff, lilies sprouted forth from the tip, symbols of purity and chastity.
The marriage of Mary and Joseph was predetermined, as was their purity, which they kept up, the legend says, even after they were married.
A chalice and a cross – The chalice can mean many things, but the most direct meaning is that of the Eucharist, as the cup containing the Blood of Christ. It also signifies faith, something of which St. Joseph is an example of. The meaning of the cross is of course similar, being the symbol of our entire faith.
The infant Jesus – While we can hardly call Him an attribute, the presence of the child Jesus does indicate a special closeness to Christ. Of course, as His foster father, St. Joseph was indeed close to Him. We don’t read much about St. Joseph in the Gospels, but there are stories about his life with Mary and Jesus. He is usually depicted as being quite a bit older than Mary and it is indeed said that he died in the presence of his wife and the Son of God. That is why he is also the patron saint of a good death. What better way to enter heaven than to do so in the arms of Christ?
Prayer to St. Joseph for the Whole Church
O glorious St. Joseph, you were chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus, the most pure spouse of Mary, ever Virgin, and the head of the Holy Family. You have been chosen by Christ’s Vicar as the heavenly Patron and Protector of the Church founded by Christ. Protect the Sovereign Pontiff and all bishops and priests united with him. Be the protector of all who labor for souls amid the trials and tribulations of this life; and grant that all peoples of the world may be docile to the Church without which there is no salvation.
Dear St. Joseph, accept the offering I make to you. Be my father, protector, and guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me purity of heart and a love for the spiritual life. After your example, let all my actions be directed to the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and your own paternal heart. Finally, pray for me that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.