My Inspiration for This Week: Intersections of Faith & Culture!

God surprised me last week with a wonderful, unexpected resource that explores the great connection between faith and writing, called The Festival of Faith & Writing. There are a number of these kinds of events throughout the U.S., but what makes this one special is that they podcast some of the major addresses. Here is a description in their own words:

The Festival of Faith & Writing is a biennial celebration of literature and belief, both broadly construed. Drawing more than 2,000 people from across the world to Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Festival offers three days of lively lectures, readings, conversations, films, workshops, concerts, plays, and more, all fueled by coffee and good food. It’s a feast for readers, including those who also write.

Rooted in the Christian Reformed belief in common grace, the Festival of Faith & Writing creates space for meaningful discussion and shared discovery among people with different religious beliefs and practices. On the campus of Calvin College, we bring together diverse voices and perspectives in thoughtful reflection on the stories that we shape and that also shape us.

Rewrite Radio is the podcast from the Festival of Faith & Writing, and they seem to have included all of 2016’s lectures, as well as some older ones. This week, I was delighted to listen to two writers whose nonfiction has mentored me on my faith-writing journey: Madeleine L’Engle (from an early 1996 Festival) and Frederich Buechner (Rewind episode from 1992). And there are many more that I am looking forward to listening to. I’m hoping they will post up the 2018 Festival in the not-too-distant future!

 

A #MediaNuns Update

Last night Salt + Light TV’s Catholic Focus was on My Sisters, the Daughters of Saint Paul’s online community devoted to helping members meet Christ and experience his love in daily life. Each week, we have a Monday night “Spiritual Accompaniment” on Facebook Live, where we have a conversation about a chosen spiritual theme, and throughout the week we offer prayers, mini-conferences, and other resources to enrich members’ spiritual growth and life of faith. If you are interested in finding more support for your spiritual life from a community whose spirituality is Pauline, holistic, and communication/arts oriented, you may want to check it out! (Trial month is just $1.) Next week we start the Advent retreat, so it’s the perfect time to join! (For more information, visit https://mysisters.blog/ or to join, visit: www.pauline.org/mysisters )

 

O Glorious Night “Singing Nuns” Christmas Concert

Finally, it’s that time of year when our Daughters of Saint Paul Choir go on tour-this year to 7 cities!-for their beautiful Christmas concert. Concert locations are:

  • Staten Island, NY
  • Boston, MA
  • Lafayette, LA
  • New Orleans, LA
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Los Angeles, CA

You will not regret hearing this wonderful music and witnessing their incredible joy in Christ. Check out the concert nearest you!

 

 

 

 

 

Day 9 Novena to Blessed James Alberione

Day 5 Novena to Blessed James Alberione

Day 4 Novena to Blessed James Alberione

Day 3 Novena to Blessed James Alberione

Can Catholics Have Self-Esteem? on Salt + Light TV on Friday (Nov. 16)

On Friday, November 16th, at 7 PM EST, I will be appearing on Salt + Light TV’s Perspectives, for a full-ranging discussion with host Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann about self-esteem, pride, humility…and how all of those connect with the Gospels. (You can watch the program here online: http://saltandlighttv.org/perspectives/ ) As you probably know, I have been writing and speaking about self-esteem for a number of years. Last month, Pauline Books & Media released my new book of mini-meditations on self-esteem, titled: Just A Minute: Meditations to Grow in Self-Esteem. The classic book—See Yourself Through God’s Eyes: 52 Meditations To Grow in Self-Esteem—has proved so popular that we released it as an audiobook last year (available at Audible.com, iTunes, and on CD as well).

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to try to be live on social media during the broadcast (Facebook Page, my Facebook Group and Twitter), in case anyone would like to chat during or follow up after the show. Come and join me!

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Lately, I’ve discovered a few recent gems of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis about culture and faith—many of them direct addresses to writers, journalists, and artists. Here are a few of my favorite quotes that I am pondering in these days. I have included links to the full articles/texts, which are well worth reading in their entirety:

 

Trust in Christ’s truth, which sets us free!

“As Christian journalists, you are distinguished for your positive attitude towards the person and for your professional ethic. You do not merely do a job, but rather you dedicate yourselves to a task and to a commitment. How easy it is, though, to let oneself be carried along by popular opinion, by a dissatisfaction and a pessimism that paralyses and blinds! “By force of habit we no longer stand up to evil. We ‘let things be’, or as others have decided they ought to be” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, 137). Let us as for parrhesia, let us ask for the frankness that comes from the Holy Spirit and that helps us to trust in Christ’s truth, which sets us free. Let us scale the wall of sadness and resignation, and help people to open their eyes and ears, and most of all their heart, to take responsibility for each other and to be aware of being sons and daughters of the one Father.”  – To a group of German journalism students, on November 9, 2018)

“Be pioneers empowered by God!”

“Please be pioneers empowered by God (cf. 2 Cor 3:6). But do not give in to the temptation of domesticating these frontiers: it is essential to go out to the frontiers but not to bring frontiers home to touch them up with a little varnish and tame them. Today’s world, subject to rapid changes and convulsed by matters of great importance for the life of faith, calls for a courageous commitment to educate in a convinced and mature faith, to give life meaning and to offer convincing answers to all who are seeking God. It is a question of supporting the Church’s action in all the fields of her mission.” – Address of Pope Francis to the community of writers of La Civilta Cattolic, June 14, 2013 

 

Spread a Eucharistic Culture

“…Spread, through prayer and activity, a “Eucharistic culture” – in other words a way of thinking and working grounded in the Sacrament yet perceptible also beyond the limits of the Church community. In a Europe afflicted by indifference and swept by divisions and forms of rejection, Christians renew before everyone, Sunday after Sunday, the simple and powerful gesture of their faith: they gather in the Lord’s name and acknowledge that they are brothers and sisters. And the miracle is repeated: in the hearing of the word and in the sign of the broken bread, even the smallest and lowliest assembly of believers becomes the body of the Lord, his tabernacle in the world. The celebration of the Eucharist thus becomes a cradle of attitudes that generate a Eucharistic culture, for it impels us to express in our way of life and our thinking the grace of Christ who gave of himself to the full.”  – Pope Francis, to participants in Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, November 10, 2018

 

The Contemplation of Beauty

“To admire the icons and the great masterpieces of Christian art in general, leads us on an inner way, a way of overcoming ourselves; thus in this purification of vision that is a purification of the heart, it reveals the beautiful to us, or at least a ray of it. In this way we are brought into contact with the power of the truth. I have often affirmed my conviction that the true apology of Christian faith, the most convincing demonstration of its truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful.” – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Message at Rimini, “The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty” An exquisite exploration of beauty and how it draws to truth and to the Truth, Christ himself. Essential reading for any artist today. 

 

The Way of Beauty

“One may speak of a via pulchritudinis, a path of beauty which is at the same time an artistic and aesthetic journey, a journey of faith, of theological enquiry. The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar begins his great work entitled The Glory of the Lord – a Theological Aesthetics with these telling observations: ‘Beauty is the word with which we shall begin. Beauty is the last word that the thinking intellect dares to speak, because it simply forms a halo, an untouchable crown around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another.’ He then adds: ‘Beauty is the disinterested one, without which the ancient world refused to understand itself, a word which both imperceptibly and yet unmistakably has bid farewell to our new world, a world of interests, leaving it to its own avarice and sadness. It is no longer loved or fostered even by religion.’ And he concludes: ‘We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past – whether he admits it or not – can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.’ The way of beauty leads us, then, to grasp the Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in the finite, God in the history of humanity. Simone Weil wrote in this regard: ‘In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature, religious.’ Hermann Hesse makes the point even more graphically: ‘Art means: revealing God in everything that exists.’ ”  – Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Artists in Sistine Chapel, November 21, 2009

 

Daily Routine: the Hidden Art of the Love Story of Each Person with the Living God and Their Brothers and Sisters

“…The history of the Church is also inseparably the history of culture and art. Works such as the Summa Theologiae by St Thomas Aquinas, the Divine Comedy, Chartres Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel or Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantatas are unparalleled syntheses of Christian faith and human expression. However, if these are, so to speak, the peaks of such syntheses between faith and culture, their convergence is brought about daily in the life and work of all the baptized, in that hidden art which is the love story of each one with the living God and with his brethren, in the joy and effort of following Jesus Christ in the daily routine of life.”  – Pope Benedict XVI, 25th Anniversary Pontifical Council for Culture, June 15, 2007

Finding God in the Culture

Here a few interesting resources I’ve recently found online:

In last week’s Message to the Information Agency of the Italian Episcopal Conference of Bishops (English translation provided by Zenit.org) Pope Francs reiterates his concerns that journalists focus on the truth, quoting this year’s Message for World Communications Day. At the end of his message, Pope Francis gives a few tips on how journalists and communicators can create “bridges of understanding and dialogue” that can help the truth to emerge:

I hope you will always be ready to listen and to engage in sincere dialogue, to let the truth emerge. I encourage you to focus more and more on the fullness of quality information that can build bridges of understanding and dialogue. Walk, as you have done so far, on the beautiful and tiring paths of thought, of not compromising with anyone. Be free and keep your distance from reductive models. Help to understand the facts in their complexity and their deep meaning.

Perhaps this could become a helpful checklist for the times when we communicate in a tension-filled, potentially divisive situation?

Does my message:

__ give quality information that focuses on context, breadth, and depth (always according to the communication media being used)

__ foster dialogue, that is, build a bridge of understanding between sides, between concerns

__ tirelessly seek the truth, free of compromise

__ free of agenda

__ stay clear of “reductive models” such as taking sides, overpoliticizing, stereotypes, etc.

__ help others to understand the meaning of events, going beyond the facts by giving them a context and a sense of the human complexity of the situation

 

In his homily for the Mass at the closing of the Synod on Young People, Faith, and DIscernment, Pope Francis offers us another tip for those of us who are consciously striving to evangelize: “We are called to carry out God’s work in God’s own way: in closeness, by cleaving to him, in communion with one another, alongside our brothers and sisters. Closeness: that is the secret to communicating the heart of the faith.”

 

This is a fun and fascinating article about the journey of Tim Clemente from cop to FBI agent to Hollywood screenwriter--and how he always puts his faith and family at the heart of his life and career.

 

Paul Asay’s Watching God column on Patheos has had some excellent columns in the past which I have quoted or linked to. In this week’s column, he looks at two new network television shows that explore faith.  Although I do not currently have the opportunity to often watch network TV, I found myself intrigued by his commentaries on both shows and thought you might enjoy it.

 

Finally, in my recent article on the Pauline Media Studies Center blog, I highlight how documentaries have increasing accessibility and value today, and I recommend three good documentaries produced this year.

Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash