Rome, Italy, Jan 21, 2017 / 10:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Saturday Pope Francis encouraged Dominicans to persevere in their good works of the last 800 years, which have been like the “salt” and “light” of Christ, spreading the Gosp… […]
Madrid, Spain, Jan 21, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The prison ministry founded by a Spanish Jesuit in the 1960s has had such fruits as a group of inmates donating their own money to help the needy at Christmas, according to the head of the foundation.
At Christmas of 2015, a group of prisoners in the Estremera prison in Madrid did their own food drive to buy non-perishable food with their own money from the prison store, Lola Navarro, president of the Father Garralda-Horizontes Abiertos Foundation, told CNA.
“All the prisoners who participated agreed to deliver the more than 220 pounds of food to the Fr. Garralda Foundation to help those they were thinking of, because they knew that there are people who needed it more than they did.”
Helping prisoners rebuild their lives, overcome addictions, and re-enter the workforce is a challenge that the Father Garralda-Horizontes Abiertos Foundation has been working toward for 40 years.
Navarro said Fr. Jaime Garralda began to work with prisoners and now serves, through his foundation, more than 200 people in prison, halfway homes for parolees, and with workshops on re-entering the workforce.
“Fr. Jaime Garralda, S.J., lived for 16 years in in a shanty town during the ’60s. Many women there wanted to visit their husbands or children who were in prison. Fr. Garralda and some volunteers began to accompany them and began a social action work in the prisons, also addressing all those realities related to the prisons,” Navarro explained.
“We also have the figure of the ‘volunteer resident’, or prisoners who are at the end of their sentence who help others in the prison achieve their goals so they can set out on an itinerary so their stay in the prison is as bearable as possible.”
She pointed out how this is “beautiful, because that person sees that you have helped them and now they’re the ones who get involved with the other prisoners to give back what was given to them, and the horizons that were opened up for them.”
The foundation has a rehabilitation center for prisoners who are addicted to drugs where more than 100 people live, with floors for HIV patients, and they vouch for prisoners who meet certain requirements so they can request a supervised leave.
“We call this assistance “toward freedom” because family members or friends need to give guarantees to ensure that the prisoner’s leave from prison meets some minimum conditions and also that he will return when his permission to leave expires. We vouch for certain people who have no one to turn to and we help make this transition as good as possible,” Navarro said.
She commented that her favorite program is one they do for the children of mothers who are in prison: “We organize camps for the children, outings with the mothers, workshops to lessen the prejudices created by prison, and we help mothers and children have a little more of a normal life, at least for a few days.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 20, 2017 / 10:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One year after Pope Francis visited the Great Synagogue in Rome, the Hebrew Choir of Rome “Ha-Kol,” and the Choir of the Diocese of Rome joined together to give a concert Jan. 19 on the theme: “Sing to the Lord a new song.”
The Pope’s attention to Jewish-Christian dialogue continues to be welcomed by the Jewish community in Rome, and events such as the concert is one way they can contribute to that dialogue, Richard Di Castro, president of the Ha-Kol Choir Association, told CNA.
“I believe that music can speed up the dialogue between all cultures and among all religions, and is a common thread that is understood in all latitudes and in all parts of the world,” Di Castro said.
“All the more so, the privileged nature of the dialogue that Jews and Christians have at this time, events like this where we can share our traditions, our musical culture, helps considerably in the dialogue.”
The concert, which consisted of musical interpretations of the Psalms in both the Jewish and Christian traditions, took place just a few days after the one year anniversary of Pope Francis’ visit to the synagogue on Jan. 17, 2016.
Pope Francis was the third-ever Roman Pontiff to visit the Great Synagogue, following the example of his two predecessors. St. John Paul II visited in 1986 and Benedict XVI in 2010.
Di Castro said that he considers Pope Francis’ visit, as well as the visits of the other two popes, very important.
“All this is definitely welcomed with much attention, very welcomed by our entire community. Furthermore, I believe that Pope Francis has always shown a lot of attention to the dialogue between Jews and Christians, and this clearly was always perceived very positively by our community,” he said.
The reason the songs in the concert focused on the Psalms, he said, is because the Psalms are “something that binds us together, something common to the two religious traditions.”
This isn’t the first time the two choirs have collaborated on events, Di Castro pointed out, saying “there is nothing better than the dialogue of music that unites cultures” and helps people to know and understand each other better, and eliminate prejudice.
Jesuit Fr. Philipp Renczes, Director of the Centre for Judaic Studies and Jewish-Christian relations at the Pontifical Gregorian University, agreed.
Getting to know one another is the “first major step” to unity, he told CNA. “Because as Augustine says…we can only love what we know.”
It is essential, Fr. Renczes said, that “Christianity, being rooted in Judaism,” be in dialogue with Judaism. “It is a way for Christianity to be in continuity with itself.”
During his 2016 visit, Pope Francis referred to St. John Paul II’s reference to the Jewish people as the “elder brothers” of Christians, and said that “we all belong to one family, the family of God, who accompanies and protects us as his people.”
“Together, as Jews and as Catholics,” he continued, “we are called to assume our responsibility for this city, making our contribution, first of all spiritual, and favoring the resolution of our diverse problems.”
“I hope that the closeness, mutual understanding, and respect between our two communities of faith always continue to increase.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 20, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Baroque Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi is hailed as a ‘feminist icon’ based on her portrayal of the female ‘hero,’ who through violence enacts symbolic revenge against men, and her supposed defiance of Counter-Reformation taboos.
But the artist should actually be remembered for the significant role she played in supporting the Catholic revival of art in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, as well as for her depiction of the core Christian struggle between virtue and vice, Vatican art historian Elizabeth Lev argues.
Considered one of the most accomplished artists in the generation following Caravaggio, her work is currently showcased in an exhibit running through May 7 at Rome’s Palazzo Braschi, which brings 30 of her paintings together in a single space for the first time.
Born at the end of the 16th century, Artemisia Gentileschi’s life has become predominantly known for the unfortunate circumstance of her rape at the young age of 17 or 18, and the difficult trial which followed, Lev said.
It is this story which art historians have “hijacked” as the basis for claiming her as a feminist hero. But should they?
Many art historians “build a sort of feminist box around her,” Lev said.
“And the feminist box has no time for anything Christian, overlooking the fact that this is a young woman who is working in the heart of Counter-Reformation art. Art patrons in that period are all on board with the Counter-Reformation.”
The Counter-Reformation, also called the Catholic Reformation, was the Catholic Church’s efforts to revive and truly reform Catholicism in Europe following the Protestant Reformation.
One of the Church’s many reforms during this period was a renewed effort toward funding the creation of sacred art, especially in the face of Protestants’ iconoclasm, the destruction of religious images.
Artemisia’s career first took off in the Medici court in Florence, “where you have a circle of people who are deeply involved in the Church’s Catholic response to the Reformation,” Lev said.
Reforming the Church through art and beauty “is a very, very important thing to the Church” at this time. Patrons continue to commission art “in the face of the Protestant iconoclasm,” but the art they commission “can’t be part of the problem, it has to be part of the solution,” she explained.
“You need to find artists who make works of art that are inspiring, that are exciting, that are stimulating, that are new, but that are also directing the correct message in an extremely difficult time” for the Church.
One of the reasons Artemisia was so successful is because this is, in fact, what she did, Lev explained: “She’s not going to be successful in Italy if she’s producing art about how much she hates the Catholic Church.”
“And I think it’s very foolish, arrogant, and generally, not very critical, to assume that Artemisia Gentileschi is succeeding in producing all these works that are anti-Church and selling them to Church patrons.”
Despite her success, Artemisia was only “in the second generation of women breaking into art,” Lev noted, “so it’s a struggle no matter how you look at it.”
This is why Caravaggio’s “innovative view, his light/dark contrast, his sense of struggle, his intense graphic passion, would appeal to her, and be kind of attractive as an art form.”
Artemisia’s paintings are also compared to Caravaggio’s in their treatment of the human form, chiefly the female: Artemisia’s women are portrayed less idealistically than many of Caravaggio’s. (Though Caravaggio himself was innovative in this respect.)
“But when you put one of her works next to Caravaggio’s works, you’ll see, that particularly in draftsmanship of hands and of anatomy, she’s superior,” Lev said, noting Artemisia’s considerable skill.
Because Artemisia was a follower of Caravaggio, it is interesting to note both their similarities and their differences. For example, it is common to compare the artists’ depictions of the Old Testament story of Judith beheading Holofernes.
In Caravaggio’s, Judith is “beautiful, she’s drop-dead gorgeous,” Lev said. The Judith by Artemisia, on the other hand, “is far puffier,” which is a more realistic representation of how women looked in the 16th century, since their diets were mainly composed of starch and sugar.
Additionally, the posture of the two Judiths differs. In Artemisia’s, the nurse is helping to hold down Holofernes, and Judith has her knee up on the bed, one arm visibly restraining him, the other struggling to cut his neck with the sword. Artemisia’s is also far messier, with blood spraying everywhere.
This isn’t to say that Artemisia’s ‘Beheadings’ (she made more than 20) are objectively better than Caravaggio’s. He had his own things to say in his paintings, Lev said.
But Artemisia’s “is really hands-on messy; blood is splattering on her robes, on her face. It’s messy, messy, messy – all of her ‘Beheadings’ are messy.”
A Catholic perspective
In the context of religious art, the image of Judith and Holofernes has always been about virtue conquering vice, Lev said. “
“That’s the whole point of the story, the whole point of the painting,” and why so many were made during the Counter-Reformation.
What Lev sees as the point of these paintings is that “to conquer vice, to conquer sin … is a messy, dirty job.”
“There is nothing easy about conquering our desire towards lust, dishonesty, power, whatever it is that we have to fight now,” Lev said. Just like Judith in the painting, “it involves rolling up your sleeves, getting splattered in the mud and fighting it down.”
“I think that’s what makes Artemisia so exciting,” she continued. “This is a woman who understands, the same way Caravaggio does, that battling sin, we don’t all get to look like St. Michael, with the perfect skin and the perfect curls.”
The repentant sinner
Another favorite subject of Artemisia’s is Mary Magdalene, Lev said. For every heroine “sawing off the head” that she painted, she also painted an image of Mary Magdalene; the number of paintings only differing by one or two.
Artemisia’s “Conversion of the Magdalene” (c. 1620)
As the image of repentance, Lev continued, St. Mary Magdalene “rises to the highest echelons of art in the Counter-Reformation, together with St. Jerome.”
While St. Jerome was preferred in Rome because he’s a model for priests, bishops, and cardinals, Mary Magdalene “becomes the model for every other person in the world.”
Lev said that she finds Artemisia’s interest in representing this model of the repentant sinner to be “savagely ignored by feminist art historians.”
“I think that that is one of the very important parts that is overlooked, but that fits in perfectly with the Catholic restoration mentality,” she stated.
Lev said that people don’t even seem to bother looking at her from that perspective today, and instead simply conclude that the content of her paintings must be connected to the tragic events in her life.
But the “real struggle is not coming to terms with an injustice that happened to her, because injustices happen to us every single day – that’s not her real struggle. The real struggle that everyone has in that period – and they make that plain to you every minute of every day – is who are you before God and who are you going to be at the last day?”
“Her paintings accompany that struggle. And particularly for women. And so she is a magnificent role model for feminists,” Lev noted, “but for feminists who want to learn to work with God’s plan, instead of railing at some Church that won’t let them be priests.”
Berlin, Germany, Jan 19, 2017 / 02:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A German artist was fined after doing 27 pushups on a Catholic altar and posting a video of the stunt online.
In the video, 38 year-old Alexander Karle can be seen walking over a barrier at the communion rail at St. John’s Basilica in the city of Saarbrücken. He then climbs up on the altar, with his shoes on, to do the pushups, and briefly brushes off the altar with his hands before he leaves.
Karle, who studied art at a local university, published a video of the act on YouTube, under the title “Pressure to Perform.” He said that he wanted “to study the links between religion and the need to conform to high standards of the time,” according to reports from Russian and German news sources.
The video first caught the attention of Church officials when it was displayed at an art center last February. The parish brought charges against Karle, accusing him of defiling a place of worship.
“The Christian faith expects to be treated with respect,” local priest Fr. Eugen Vogt told Zeitung für Saarbrücken, calling the stunt an act of “provocation and offense.”
The General Prosecutor’s Office initially fined Karle €1,500 for disturbance of religious activities and illegal entry in a church domain closed to the public. The Prosecutor said that using the altar for something other than its original intention was not a “necessary condition for providing the right of freedom of speech and creative self-expression of the artist.”
However, Karle insisted that the act was not an attack against the Church but an artistic performance, and so the case was forwarded on to a local court.
Karle told local media that he had hoped his piece would trigger a conversation about materialism in the Church, and the high pressure to live up to the Church’s standards, among other things.
The trial took place on Tuesday of this week in front of a local court in Saarbrücken, which fined Karle €700 (approximately $746).