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February 23, 1998             SECTION ONE              vol 9, no. 38

Breakthrough on Iraqi Crisis attributed to Holy Father

      The phenomenal news out of Baghdad yesterday that United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and Iraq leader Saddam Hussein have come to an amiable agreement that could avert war in the Gulf. But many do not realize that the seeds for peace were first sown not by Annan or the United States but by the Vatican at the direction of the greatest peacemaker of this century Pope John Paul II as we discuss in today's commentary Because the Pope spoke, the world and Saddam listened!. Click on Today's CATHOLIC PewPOINT

Because the Pope spoke, the world and Saddam listened!

     The Holy Father was one busy man this weekend and the many of the seeds of unity he has sown are beginning to bear great fruit. Just as he was about to consecrate 22 new cardinals at the consistory this past weekend, word came out of Cuba that of the 300 requested prisoners to be released, 299 have been. The numbers are still up for question, of course, for sources only come from the communist government on that tiny island which Castro has a stranglehold on. But events over this past month have shown that grip isn't as overpowering as it once was. For more on that you can read the story in our NEWS & VIEWS section today. Some of the new cardinals voiced their opinions on events and circumstances regarding their particular constituencies. One was from the new cardinal from China Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-Hsi of Kaohsiung, Taiwan who has expressed optimism that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel in regards Vatican relations with mainland China and the possibility that religious freedoms will be addressed with the result being more relaxed rules by the Beijing government. The Vatican also released the itinerary this past week for the Holy Father's trip to Nigeria next month.

     No matter the issue around the world, it seems the one leader all look to for a solution is Pope John Paul II. Many don't want to hear it, but realize the clout and respect he holds as the most influential and trusted man on the face of the earth. This has been evident in his dealings with the various world agencies on population control, the media, and most recently on women's health where this past Friday he addressed the question of reproductive health which abortionists hold up as the standard to legitimize the rationale for abortion. The Holy Father stressed the importance of the woman's physiological, spiritual, and biological makeup which includes "not only the prevention of diseases and respect for her procreative powers, but also a need to understand the female psychological and spiritual needs." The pontiff asserted that the term "reproductive health" should never ever be used to justify an "offense against the dignity of women or the life of the unborn child." The theme of ecumenism seemingly begins and ends with Rome where almost all Christian faiths have sprouted from. In an effort to reunite them eventually and to bring harmony among God's children, the Holy Father has launched a crusade for ecumenism as we document also today in NEWS & VIEWS.

     But possibly his greatest triumph this year has to be the announcement yesterday that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan had come to an amiable settlement with Saddam Hussein to possibly prevent an American attack on Iraq. Though the media will credit Annan, others and, of course the Clinton administration will take credit as well, the real power and influence in Annan's peace talks were, once again, the Pope. Last week we announced on these pages that the Vatican diplomats had been working overtime in delivering a personal message from Pope John Paul II asking the UN leader to visit Baghdad to help negotiate a peaceful solution. Ordinarily the Vatican does not make such diplomatic efforts public, but it's on record they did and let's see the media play that one down. We believe without the strong urging of the Vatican the temporary peace agreement could not have been reached. Had Hussein thought Annan's offer came from the United States he would have rejected arrogance with arrogance, but because he, like every other head of state in the world has total respect for this humble, but confident Polish pontiff, Saddam was more willing to listen to reason. That's the kind of clout and leadership John Paul II carries. He is the "man of the twentieth century," a special saint God has given us in these turbulent times for our Church and all mankind, a God-given "unifier of hearts" in a heartless world. Oh, satan, will be furious at this latest news of averting war, and will do all in his power to foil the Holy Father's blueprint for peace. We are still in the period of the "false peace" the Blessed Mother has warned so often about. But in this world of hawks, one dove stands out. When the Pope speaks the world listens and the UN Secretary General went into action only after the Vatican proposal. John Paul II is a man of great spirituality, great compassion, great insight, great wisdom, great character, and has a greater understanding of nations, their people, cultures, faiths, economics, and politics than anyone else alive today; many times showing a greater handle on the situations than the particular nation's own leader. (The United States comes to mind in this respect!) Put those all together and there is even more reason for hope. For John Paul II is truly the reason...and reason is the reason today everyone is breathing a little easier for because the Pope spoke, the world and Saddam have listened!

Michael Cain, editor

Listening is the key!

     In his column today, Father Stephen Valenta, OFM Conv. brings the point home how noise and the cacaphony of the world have prevented man from listening - to each other, to himself, and to God. The fact Kofi Annan and Saddam Hussein "listened" is truly amazing and that can be attributed to the Holy Father listening to the Holy Spirit, which Fr. Valenta advises if we can get through the clutter and tune our ears and hearts to God's Will. Not easy when our eardrums are already damaged as Fr. Stephen explains in his first part of "Speak, Lord, your servant is LISTENING" with "They have ears, but do not hear." Click on HEARTS TO HEART TALK

How to Pray with the Heart

Column Twenty-Two: "They have ears, but do not hear."

     In many households the continuous blaring of the television, stereos, shouting, and God-knows how much other cacaphony have done something to the hearing apparatus of its inhabitants. The technological culture in which we live has done much to bring on a noise pollution such as has not been known in all of human history. Modern contraptions such as automobiles, trucks, tractors, airplanes, lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners, blenders, chain saws, boom boxes and the like have caused significant damage to the ears of millions of people. The new digital sounds in the theaters are deafening to the ear drums. The human ear, with its delicate makeup, was not made to take such buffeting and those who know of such things have told us that hearing loss is at its highest ever!

     It is one thing to be inflicted with almost a global hearing loss, but it is quite another thing to realize that even the listening power is at a very low ebb. To be able to LISTEN demands more of the individual than mere hearing. In listening, one's whole being has to be attuned to and even absorbed by what is being said by another. Body and soul are called upon to cooperate in every act of listening. Much is required both of the body and of the soul. The body needs to stop any major activity in which it is engaged. The head is expected to turn towards the person speaking, with eyes fixed on the speaker. The will of a would-be listener is expected to come up with a WANT to listen. The mind must be cleared of thought and be set into a receptive mode. A true act of listening calls upon the whole being of a person to give his/her full attention to what is being said. It is no easy task in our day for anyone to become a "good listener."

      That listening is put into the category of an "art" is understandable. In any area of a bookstore or library, under the title of "self help," one might come across a title such as, "The Art of Good Listening." Why is it understandable? Because we are a damaged people. This must be the chief reason. Remember, way back in King David's time, people must have had this problem. In Psalm 115: 6 we read, "They have ears, but do not hear." The same problem appeared in Jesus' time. How often we find Him saying in the gospels, "He who has ears, let him hear." This problem gave concern to Jesus as He quotes the prophet in Matthew 13: 15, "Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted and I will heal them." It must be that the problem of good listening is a characteristic of fallen man. It is part of our lot in being conceived in Original Sin. In spite of the fact that this Sin has been washed away by Baptism, we still find heavy on our shoulders its effects.

In my next installment I will continue with this as I share my counseling experience about listening and how satan manipulates us to not hear what is truly being said.

To review Father Valenta's previous columns in this series, go to Archives beginning with the August 18, 1997 issue of A CALL TO PEACE: volume 8, no. 16.

The Laity is listening more to the calling.

     In his apostolic letter to the Laity entitled Christifideles Laici, Pope John Paul II emphasizes the importance of the laity's role in the Church in apostolate work and parish life. This apostolic exhortation is expertly summarized by Dr. Joseph Bagiackas who has written a series of books analyzing the Pope's writings and been praised in many high circles, specifically Cardinal John O'Connor. For the eighth installment of this feature on the Holy Father's Teaching on the Laity, click on THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

eighth installment:

Chapter Two: 8. The Normal Lay Apostolate

     Involvement in ministries within the Church must not lead to the idea that being active in the Church means performing directly religious ministries. The field of the lay apostolate, properly speaking, is not mainly this sort of activity, but the secular realm, discussed previously. Pope Paul VI taught that the laity's "field of evangelizing activity is the vast and complicated world of politics, society, and economics, as well as the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media. It also includes other realities that are open to evangelization, such as human love, the family, the education of children and adolescents, professional work, and suffering" (p. 57).

9. Charisms and the Laity

     The Pope also acknowledged the manifestation of a great variety of charisms of the Holy Spirit since the Council. These charisms must be welcomed as a grace for the Church provided by the Holy Spirit. The Church should gratefully receive these charisms, but she must exercise discernment to insure that genuine charisms are being exercised.

10: The Parish

     The Pope next discussed the main ways that the Church lives as a community. First, he discussed the diocese, encouraging lay persons to develop a "feeling for their own diocese." This can help us as Catholics cultivate a greater sense of being part of the universal Church, thus having a mature grasp of God's overall plan.

     The parish, however, remains the foundational expression of Church community. Among the main purposes of parishes are the following: to be a place to celebrate the Eucharist regularly, to build Christian community, to inititate and to form Catholics in their faith, and to organize for charitable works. It is also the place where the laity can best use their ministries and charisms. Furthermore, in our age of dehumanization and disintegration of social structures, parishes can be islands of community where those who seek community can find refuge.

11. Free Associations of Laity

     The Pope strongly encourages the many associations and groups that have sprung up since Vatican II, along with groups that existed before the council. He even speaks of a "new era of group endeavors of the lay faithful" (p.70). Although he mentions no names, he is referring to Marian groups such as the Medjugorje movement, charismatic groups, "basic community" groups, retreat movements such as Cursillo, Marriage encounter, among others. These groups are a sign of the truth of the council's vision of the Church as communion/community.

Next week: Chapter Two: Lay Freedom to Form Groups

Art for Art's sake? No! This site promotes Art for God's Sake!

     Today's recipient of our "Golden Chalice Award" is a worthy recipient for the cause they are advancing is even worthier - to restore reverence to, for and with art in a review titled Renaissance for the Millennium in which we inform the reader of this excellent site and edifying paintings - probably the most spectacular paintings the reader has never seen. Click on SIGNIFICANT SITE OF THE WEEK


A Renaissance for the Millennium

     With the beginning of Lent we thought it would be appropriate we bring you a site that edifies Holy Mother Church through the restoration of Catholic art. At the site called "Art for the Catholic Restoration", the webmaster and artist promoting this special crusade for modern masters Matthew R. Brooks presents a well-laid out website that features some of the most beautiful and edifying art you may have never seen. It is devoted to contemporary Classical religious art and, as time goes on, there will be many more paintings on this fascinating site. The art by Matthew Brooks is truly outstanding and you can see the reverent, prayerful intent in every stroke. Each piece represents a unique "view" as Mr. Brooks sees it and it brings home the beauty and lastingness of the Holy Catholic Church. His paintings of the Blessed Mother are truly inspirational and "heavenly" in the countenances he depicts. Probably our favorite, and not just because of the theme of Saint John Bosco's dream vision of the two pillars and barque of Peter we carry on our home port page, was Mr. Brook's magnificent mural of the "Vision of St. John Bosco's Dream" which illustrates the true struggle Holy Mother Church would face and is encountering today. The turbulent waves and ultimate detail in this painting are awesome from the enemies of the Church assaulting the barque of Peter listing hard toward port, to the specific details on the deck where the Pope stands with his cardinals and Swiss Guard et alii. In the distance one can see the two pillars on the horizon as the ultimate course the barque of Peter is set on. It is truly fascinating, as is the ceiling mural on the "Institution of the Rosary" with Our Lady on a cloud supported by the angels with Saint Michael handing an outstretched Saint Dominic the Rosary. Matthew Brooks is truly a talented master and his paintings support the course of tradition within the Church with a detail that can be attributed to a Michelangelo, Raphael, or Bernini to name a few. One of the most fascinating features of this site are his special use of LOWSRC loading where the picture comes up in black and white and then fills with color. It is reminiscent of the great masters who created their murals first with "tracing" marks on the ceilings and walls of the great cathedrals and basilicas, then outlined their work in black, and then brought them to life with their palettes. The same with this special method where you can imagine the artist's stroke as the black and white becomes a colorful canvas. Matthew provides thumbnails that one can view larger to see the phenomenal details in each painting.

      As inspiring as these paintings are, what's even more inspirational is the crusade Brooks is campaigning for with his "Institute of the Sacred Arts" which is not only a commendable and laudable effort, but a necessary one in these times when sacred art has become a joke in the face of modern thinking. Matthew's dream which is fast becoming reality is to establish a school specifically for the restoration of Sacred Art in paints, sculpture, frescos, architecture, design, manuscript illumination and countless other applications for churches, chapels and sacramentals such as chalices, monstrances, etc. This endeavoring to establish a rich culture in the sacred arts is being undertaken by establishing a place in Massachusetts where future masters can come and learn the arts, studying the masters of church art coupled with a strong prayer-life so that vocations can also flourish or, in the case of religious who have the God-given talents, they can devote their lives to praising God and, through their work, add a great deal to the edification of all that is holy for generations to come. Because this site has been criticized by modernist and liberal Catholic groups, we hold it in even higher esteem, therefore bestowing our prestigious. Matthew writes, "The biggest obstacle our apostolate faces in trying to encourage the adornment of Churches to honor Our Lord's presence there is the prevailing misconception that there is no inspiring art being produced in this barren age. NOT TRUE! We have been gathering artists of talent who have done religious art (admittedly there aren't that many but the quality is there) with the aim of providing a resource to parishes and religious organizations and stimulating a new renaissance of Catholic culture." But, as Matthew reasons, the art has to be seen and so often gaining viewers in the churches or, in this case, on the web is not easy. That is why we strongly recommend you go this site, tell others about it, and who knows - from this seed of exposure more modern masters may emerge from under their bushel baskets to reveal to the world the talents God has given them so that they can, through their art, give greater glory to God. Matthew asserts that the web site, while serving as a vehicle to inform everyone of this ambitious campaign, is meant to inspire and encourage devotion to the Eucharist through the adornment of God's House. In his archives section he offers excellent rationales on his purpose and the rise, decline and necessity for restoring Catholic art again in this age when teens can recite the words to the latest rock group's obscene lyrics, but can't tell you the words to the Apostles' Creed. The articles reveal much about the evolution of art in the Church. The cause Matthew Brooks is undertaking is well worth others to get involved and help through a donation and providing information on other artists and art throughout the country and the world. Matthew sums it up best when he writes, "It is to this purpose that I have set myself, not to singlehandedly turn the arts around, but to make a beginning. To go back to that point where the divergence began and by prayer, work, and the Grace of God to find the road that should have been taken and to begin to travel towards what might have been. Pope St. Pius X said we must "restore all things to Christ." It is my hope that others will join me in restoring the visual arts to Christ. It can only happen when men turn themselves towards the greater glory of God and begin again to seek to give Him the very best as is His due; when men begin again adorning altars and building beautiful churches; when Christ is again restored to His rightful place in the decoration of Christian homes, and when artists become uncompromising in their insistance on the proper use of the gifts God has given them."

     For the number of graphics on this site and background, it loads surprisingly fast. The layout is clean and easy to read with good use of space and an antique classical look throughout. The thumbnails are clear and the paintings brilliant in color and clarity. Probably the only setback we had was trying to access "The Mural" which is an 18 foot mural done by Brooks on Saint John the Evangelist. For some reason there was no scroll bar and we were not able to view the rest of the page. We have no doubt this will be corrected soon, possibly within the day and all can view this magnificent work which now adorns the Church of St. John the Evangelist. Other than that small glitch, this edifying site is well worth seeing and sharing with others. It combines beauty in art with the cause for prayer and action and therefore richly deserves to be acknowledged. Therefore, we present our "Golden Chalice Award" to this site and confer SEVEN Hail Mary's to this site for it truly depicts the hopes and dreams of Catholic art for the Third Millennium and gives us all a glimpse of the unmined talent that will signal the new renaissance within the Church - the Church which countless millions will flock to in the new era - the Second Advent - the Reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The final days of Jesus' public ministry

     Today we begin Lesson 2 on the Mysteries of the Rosary as imparted to the Hidden Flower of the Immaculate Heart from the Blessed Mother during Lent of 1993. The first part is a prophetic "intuition" to her spiritual director before beginning her interior vision of Jesus on his way to the House of Lazarus. For part one of Lesson 2 of this series we will continue to bring you daily throughout Lent, click on "IT IS CONSUMMATED!"

Meditative Lesson 2:


part one

     It is late afternoon, for the shadows have grown long. The weather is warm and the flowers abound in this place where I see our Dear Lord sitting upon a stone bench. Jesus is tall and of slender build. His garment today is clean and He appears almost emaciated by the gauntness of His holy face. Yet again I am drawn to His eyes. O! They cannot be described for to behold them is to behold the ardent gaze of Divine Love: so ardent as to make my poor, wretched heart feel as if it will burst, while I am instantly filled with holy remorse for all of my sins, failings and weaknesses. In this brief moment while I gaze upon My Jesus, I am overcome with hope and trust, and I want to run and throw myself into His arms never, ever to move!

      Now there is a sound of footsteps and I turn to see an elderly man, nicely dressed, approach this quiet place where Jesus has withdrawn to pray and be with His Father.

      "Master," the servant whispers respectfully.

      "Yes?" answers our Lord who stirs, moves and rises, allowing by His movements the servant to approach.

      "The household has quieted. The women have retired to their quarters with your Holy Mother. Lazarus has prepared a room where you may meet with those whom you desire. Afterwards, Master, the meal will be served." The servant looks intently at our Lord, no doubt noting the physical fatigue, and does not say that having the meal first would seem more prudent.

      "Thank you, Jonathan. Go now and tell Lazarus and his sisters that I shall come. I will see the women first, one at a time, and then My Blessed Mother."

     Jonathan bows and hurried off while Jesus steps into the sunshine and lifts His face toward Heaven. He prays - silently - and not even a breeze disturbs His communication with His Father. All of nature responds with respect to the Divine Will. Then Jesus comes forward and I see Him so at peace. I am filled with His peace. It is unshakable. Nothing of the world can describe it or compare to it.


Click here to go to SECTION TWO or click here to return to the graphics front page of this issue.

February 23, 1998 volume 9, no. 38         DAILY CATHOLIC