God's Seven Works of Art
Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.
thing you can definitely say about us Catholics: We aren—t afraid of things.
In fact, it—s quite the opposite. We know that creation is good and that created
things can serve as a window through which we see something of who God is. For
us, things are not an obstacle to grace but a means of grace.
This is especially true in those celebrations we call sacraments.
Human beings are body, mind and spirit, and we Catholics come
to God with our whole being. We do not come to Christ with words alone. We do
not simply say, —Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.— We Catholics do more.
We go down into the baptismal tomb where we die with Christ and
are plunged into the waters of birth in him. We come up from the Church—s womb
wet with rebirth and new life to be oiled and soothed and strengthened by the
Holy Spirit and fed on the Body and Blood of the Savior at the eucharistic table.
Catholicism is an incarnated religion. It uses things, the ordinary stuff of
this world, to touch the world beyond.
An artist is always somehow embodied in his or her work. We can
look at a painting and say, —That is a Picasso— or —That is a Monet.— We hear
a piece of music and say, —That—s Mozart— or —That—s clearly Beethoven.—
In a similar way we can look at the sacraments and say, —That—s
God!— We see the artist revealed in the work of art. And that—s what the sacraments
are—seven great artworks revealing the Divine Creator.
Portraits of God
Baptism reveals God as the womb and source of all life. When
I see a newly baptized infant in the arms of its parents, I get a glimpse of
parental God embracing us—loving us, not because of what we have done for God,
but because we are God—s children. When I see adults approach the font at the
Easter Vigil, I see the Creator God continuing to make the earth new. Selfishness
and sin are no match for Spirit and light. Confirmation reveals our destiny;
we are to live so as to make visible in outward signs the —personality,— the
—Spirit— of our Creator God. We are to be signs of wisdom, understanding, right
judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, wonder and awe.
Eucharist says it all: We become present to the Lord who died
that we might have life—the Lord who feeds us with his Body and Blood so that
we become one Body filled with his Spirit and are taken up into the Godhead.
Reconciliation reveals a God ever ready to forgive and embrace
us. Anointing shows us a God who heals, a God who longs for the end of sickness
and pain and disease and calls us—along with all of creation—to wholeness. Holy
Orders gives us a glimpse of a God who shepherds the flock, leading and sanctifying
all into the Kingdom.
And what a powerful sign we have in marriage! In the faithful,
total, through-thick-and-thin, for-better-or-worse, no-matter-what love that
the bride and groom promise each other in the Rite of Marriage, all who witness
the sacrament can get a glimpse of how God loves us: faithfully, totally, through
thick and thin, for better or worse, no matter what. At their wedding, the bride
and groom often receive many wonderful gifts. But the gifts they receive are
not as wonderful as the gift the couple give us. They give us a sacrament, a
sign of who God is.
As Americans, we tend to value efficiency and production. We
like getting to the point and getting the job done. Sometimes this American
efficiency can blind us to the symbolic function of things and events.
Sacraments —produce— through symbols. Sacraments help us
see something more. They help us see God in a baby—s smile or in the touch of
a loved one; they help us to find God in the —I—m sorry— of someone who has
hurt us. The sacraments, and indeed all of creation, reveal the divine Creator
Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D., has a doctorate
in liturgy and sacramental theology from the Institut Catholique
of Paris. A popular writer and lecturer, Father Richstatter
teaches courses on the sacraments at Saint Meinrad (Indiana)
School of Theology. His latest book is The
Sacraments: How Catholics Pray (St. Anthony Messenger
Next: The EucharistGiving Thanks to God
Where, in all of creation, is it easiest for you to find God?
Talk about a time you celebrated a sacrament that helped you to "see God."
Power of Blessings
By Judith Dunlap
husband and I were given a holy water font for our wedding. It hung by the front
door of our first few apartments. I don't know what happened to it after that.
The miniature font was a nice reminder that our home was the domestic church.
Like the parish church, you dipped your hand and blessed yourself when you entered
or left both places. For whatever reason, you just don't see a lot of home fonts
I was reminded of that wedding gift recently as our parish prepares
to dedicate a new church. The rite of dedication reminds us that the church
is more than a building. We are church. Our parish is also preparing the people
to be rededicated. Two weeks before the dedication we are having a family gathering
to help folks understand this beautiful ritual, and we're giving every household
some holy water to take home.
Along with the water we are sending a brief prayer service for
families to bless their homes and each other. We are suggesting a do-it-yourself
blessing service. Each person decides who will say a prayer when each room is
blessed. The service ends with family members blessing each other and praying
the Our Father.
Blessing the house reminds us that our homes are church, and blessing
each other is an equally good reminder that we are the embodiment of that church.
The holy water is reminiscent of our baptism into God's family. Blessing each
other, just like blessing ourselves when we enter a church, is a reminder to
behave like God's children. Perhaps it's time for me to go out and buy another
holy water font.
Have a home blessing. Even if you have already blessed your house, there is nothing wrong with rededicating your space. Make sure you take time to bless family members too.
are commonly admonished to "walk in another's shoes" before making judgments
about them. The movie Freaky Friday is yet another formulation of this
idea, going considerably further by causing a mother and daughter to navigate
in each other's body for one "freaky" Friday.
This slapstick comedy, available on DVD, is meant to be for family
viewing, purporting to unpack the typical misunderstandings between teenager
and parent—and, in a subplot, rivalries between siblings.
Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a psychologist and widow who
is about to remarry. Focused on her own busy life, she proves unsympathetic
to the forces driving her teenage daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan), who repeatedly
gets in trouble at school for fighting with a petty and malicious classmate
and who plays in a rocking girl band. Her mother is stressing out over wedding
arrangements while dealing with an over-needy client. Anna won't accept her
mother's fianc—, Ryan (Mark Harmon), because she hasn't gotten over losing her
Conflict erupts when Anna's band gets its big break, a chance
to play the opener at a hip club—at the very time her mother's wedding rehearsal
dinner is scheduled. Of course Mom refuses to excuse her daughter from the dinner.
Into the conflict steps a busybody restaurant proprietor who puts mother and
daughter in each other's body with the help of magical matching fortune cookies.
The cookies conveniently tell us how the story will proceed: "A journey soon
begins, its prize reflected in the other's eyes. When what you see is what you
lack, then selfless love will change you back."
When Tess and Anna awaken in the other's body, they agree to keep
it quiet and figure out how to reverse things. This means Tess (in Anna's body)
will have to go to school, and Anna (in Tess's body) will have to counsel clients
and make decisions about wedding details.
The complications are predictable but fun. Tess discovers that
Anna's life at school is not a cinch, and she sees just how attractive and admirable
Anna's boyfriend is. Anna, forced to appear on a TV talk show in an adult body
to discuss her mother's esoteric new book, develops an appreciation for her
mother's life. Both mother and daughter struggle with romantic feelings for
the "wrong" boyfriend.
The problem comes to a head at the rehearsal dinner. Fianc— Ryan
brokers a period of time when Anna can join her band at the club. But of course
that means Tess, who owns Anna's body, must appear on stage despite her limitations
as a performer. In the end, each woman has walked a day in the other's body,
discovers selfless love and is rewarded with the return of her own body.
Freaky Friday is hardly profound, but it delivers a worthwhile
message in a good laugh.
What values do you find in this film?
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
St. Vincent Ferrer (1350?-1419)
in the Church isn't a 21st-century phenomenon. It dominated the life and ministry
of Vincent Ferrer in the late Middle Ages during the Great Western Schism of
almost 40 years. He lived to see Church unity restored only two years before
Born in Spain, Vincent entered the Dominicans and developed a
strong interest in philosophy and preaching. He was ordained by Cardinal Pedro
de Luna, who later made history as the antipope Benedict XIII at Avignon. For
a time, Vincent sided with Benedict, serving as his personal theologian, confessor
and adviser. At the outset, Vincent was convinced that the popes at Avignon
had a legitimate claim to the papacy—not those in Rome.
That opinion changed over time and Vincent came to see the Avignon
papacy as the problem, not the solution. He urged Benedict to at least begin
dialogue with the pope in Rome, but to no avail. Further efforts to persuade
Benedict to step down resulted in failure and forced Vincent to take a bold
and courageous step. Vincent publicly denounced Benedict at an assembly over
which the antipope was presiding. Benedict fled for his life, leaving behind
any credibility or support he had once had.
As a priest Vincent preached all over Europe, often addressing
huge crowds. He became known as the —Angel of Judgment— for his focus on sin
The final two years of his life were quiet for Vincent as the
Church inched toward unity. He lived to see that unity restored at the Council
of Constance with the election of Pope Martin V—one pope who resided in Rome.
Vincent died in peace at age 70. He was canonized 36 years later
by Pope Callistus III and is the patron saint of builders and plumbers. His
feast day is April 5.
wintry Saturday in March 1999, Maureen Willenbring saw change happen right in
front of her—amazing, heartening, unexpected change.
The setting was simple. Forty or so women from the St. Paul and
Minneapolis Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women and the Archdiocesan
Commission on Women had agreed to spend some time exploring
two topics almost certain to have them holding diverse viewpoints.
Sitting on folding chairs arranged in small circles, they probed
the changing roles of women in society and the Church and the
use of exclusive/inclusive language.
The selection of such polarizing issues wasn't an accident. It
was the point of the day, and part of a pilot project sponsored by the National
Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) and the Catholic Common Ground Initiative (CCGI).
Common Ground was inaugurated in 1996 by Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin months
before his death.
Following CCGI principles of dialogue, the women engaged in discussion
rather than debate; listened with respect to people holding different points
of view; struggled to learn where they agreed rather than disagreed. "I saw
polarization at the start, and at the end I saw people get to a new place of
understanding," Mrs. Willenbring told Every Day Catholic.
She remains active in the NCCW as well as its council in St. Paul/
Minneapolis. Mrs. Willenbring also remains convinced that CCGI builds unity
and Church community. She would love to see its principles of dialogue used
in parishes and among Church leaders. "It's beautiful to see people seek to
understand each other. Diversity enriches us—and our faith."