Since Mary is the prototype and form of the Church, it is evident that all
Christians can find their model in this sublime creature. And so it was also
with us. In fact, we discovered in Mary our form, the model of our way of
Although the different moments in her life as presented by the Gospel were
extraordinary, they appeared to us as successive stages that we could keep in
mind to find light and encouragement as we passed through the different moments
of our spiritual life.
This clarification was so strong that we called our way the "Via Mariae,"
the "Way of Mary."
Here are some of the stages in a very brief synthesis, little more than
The first event in Mary's life is the Annunciation (Luke 1:25), when the Word
became flesh in her womb.
Looking at the lives of several saints, we can notice that something similar
happened to them.
When people go to visit St. Damian's Church in Assisi, where Clare lived, the
guide who explains that sacred place to them might sometimes say: "Here
Christ became incarnate in the heart of Clare."
Although Clare of Assisi had been living already a fervent Christian life,
her meeting with St. Francis, who was the personification of the word
"poverty" for the world, through a charism of the Spirit, brought
forth a new reality in her. It made Christ grow in her soul to the point of
making her one of the greatest saints of the Catholic Church.
Similarly, when people come face to face with the charism of unity and agree
to make it their own, something similar to what happened in Mary and certain
saints takes place in them. Christ, in their heart, can truly grow spiritually
in fulfillment of the reality of baptism.
The second episode in Mary's life is her visit to Elizabeth. She went in
order to help her. However, as soon as she arrived, having found in her relative
a person who was open to the mysteries of God, she felt that she could share
with her the great secret she had in her heart and she did so in the Magnificat,
in this way narrating to Elizabeth her extraordinary experience.
All those who get to know the Movement and choose God as the ideal of their
life realize that in order to translate this choice into concrete terms they
must begin to love. And they do love. But love is a light, and understanding
something of the action of God present within them, they perceive, for the first
time, the golden thread of his love in their life. And they willingly tell what
they have understood to their brothers and sisters. It's their experience.
The third event in Mary's life is the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:7; Matthew
1:25). In the Movement we love and we are loved in return because everyone wants
This mutual love brings about the presence of Jesus among people. It is -- as
I mentioned earlier -- a "generating of Christ," in imitation of Mary.
Mary presents her Son in the Temple and meets the old Simeon. It is a moment
of joy for her, because this just and holy man confirms that her child is the
Son of God.
At the same time though, it is a suffering. Simeon turns to her and says:
"And a sword will pierce through your own soul also" (Luke 2:35).
Those who want to live the spirituality of the Movement go through a similar
It is when they come to know that in order to walk along this way, it is
necessary to say "yes" to the cross. It is the announcement of the
mystery of Jesus crucified and forsaken as being essential to the life of unity.
Quite soon after Simeon's warning, Mary suffers during the flight to Egypt
(Matthew 2:13), undergoing a persecution that was marked by the blood of many
When Jesus is 12 years old, he stops in Jerusalem to speak with the doctors
in the Temple. When Mary finds him again, she says: "Son, why have you
treated us so? Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously" (Luke
2:48). And Jesus responds: "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know
that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49).
This is a new step in Mary's life. We could compare her frame of mind in that
moment with a typical period lived by those who follow our way. They become
aware, perhaps after years, that various temptations, painful aridity, long
since gone due to the effect of the charism they embraced, now resurface with
This makes them suffer and they turn to the Lord, saying: "Why have you
Then the Lord seems to answer them: "Did you not know that all the good
and beautiful things that you experienced were mine, that you received them only
out of pure grace?"
This lays the necessary foundations of humility so that Christ may live and
grow in these persons. This period might be the so-called night of the senses
which the mystics speak of.
Also for Mary, the loss of Jesus in the Temple was, in a certain way, a
"night of the senses": She no longer saw him, she no longer heard his
voice. His presence had been taken away from her mother's love.
After this trial, as far as we know, Mary lived a long period of intimate
family life with Jesus.
Likewise, those who humbly accept and overcome the preceding stages and
trials frequently find a new and deeper union with Jesus.
This period can last for a long time, even though crosses are not lacking.
Then Jesus begins his public life and Mary follows him in his mission with
her heart, at times, also physically.
All this reminds the people of the Movement of that period in their spiritual
life in which, having acquired the habit of listening to the voice of Jesus in
their heart, they become keenly aware of it and they follow it.
During his public life, Jesus pronounced words of eternal life, he worked
miracles, he formed the disciples and he founded the Church.
Persons of the Movement who have reached this point are involved in similar
facts performed by Jesus who is present in them and in their midst. In them too,
Jesus pronounces words which have the flavor of eternity.
Through them also, he works miracles of conversion, for example. His presence
in them knows how to shape his disciples and thus to bring about new
developments in the kingdom of God.
And now comes the hour of immolation for Mary. It is Mary desolate about whom
we have already spoken.
In the Movement there are sufferings similar to those of Mary desolate. We
have noticed in several members authentic signs of the "night of the
spirit," when God permits the terrible trial of feeling abandoned by him,
for example, or when faith, hope and charity seem to fade away.
And after the desolation? Mary is at the center of the Upper Room with all
her maternal charism toward the apostles, beside Peter whom Jesus had
constituted their head.
Mary no longer "follows" Jesus. Now, after the descent of the Holy
Spirit, we can say that she is transformed into him. And as another Christ, she
too contributes, in her own way, toward the spreading of the Church.
Those who live the spirituality of unity, proportions made, aim at reaching
this goal, and they can indeed reach it. This would be the step which the
mystics call the "transforming union," when the reality of Martha is
joined to Mary: A very special activity for the good of the Church is united to
a very special contemplation.
And finally, the Assumption, when God calls Mary to heaven. Only those who
have experienced this event know what it is.
Before dying, St. Clare of Assisi said these words: "Go confidently, my
soul, because you have a good companion for your journey. Go, because the One
who has created you ... has sanctified you ... has loved you tenderly."
Perhaps she meant to say: because in creating me, you glorified yourself. We
could even think that she died out of love.
May heaven grant that something similar, at least, may happen to us! Then we
too will rise up to meet with our Mother, our saint, our model, she who on earth
was our Head, Queen and Mother.
"The month of May, consecrated to the Virgin, begins tomorrow. It starts
with the feast of St. Joseph the Worker," the Pope said at the end of
today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.
"To the Virgin Most Holy, and especially to Joseph, her chaste spouse,
we entrust today in particular the world of work," he added. "May he
who experienced the exhaustion of daily work be an example and support to those
who in their activity attend to the needs of the family and of all the human
Not posted this week.
The director and editors of Mary Page under the auspices of the International Marian Research
Institute do not necessarily endorse or agree with the events and ideas expressed in this feature.
Our sole purpose is to report on items about Mary gleaned from a myriad of papers representing
the secular press.
Religion Versus Science Might Be All In The Mind [Source:
Sydney Morning Herald, 4/29/03]
For years now, one small branch of science has been chipping
away at the foundations of religious belief by proposing that
"otherworldly" experiences are nothing more than the inner workings
of the human brain. Many neuroscientists claim they can locate and explain
brain functions that produce everything from religious visions to sensations of
bliss, timelessness or union with a higher power.
These claims have been strengthened by the work of the Canadian
neuropsychologist, Dr Michael Persinger. By stimulating the cerebral region
presumed to control notions of self, Persinger has been able to induce in
hundreds of subjects a "sensed presence" only the subjects themselves
are aware of. This presence, Persinger suggests, may be described as Jesus, the
Virgin Mary, Muhammad or the Sky Spirit depending on the name the subject's
culture has trained him or her to use.
"Neurotheology", as this line of inquiry has been dubbed, has its
critics. Some say it fails to distinguish between experiences that contain a
moral or spiritual dimension (such as visions of God) from those that don't
(such as ghostly perceptions). Others point out that none of this research can
ever establish whether our brains have been designed to apprehend religious
experiences or whether these are simply the by-product of bad wiring.
But all agree that the approach is far too simplistic. "Where reductionist
brain science fails," wrote John Cornwell, director of the Science and
Human Dimension Project at Jesus College, Cambridge, earlier this month in The
Tablet, the British Catholic weekly, "is in its failure even to mention,
let alone give an account of, human imagination.
"This is not to claim that imagination is some kind of Cartesian spooky
stuff, or to deny the theory of evolution, or to suggest that imagination is
somehow outside the realms of biology, but simply to reflect on the
consequences that flow from our ability creatively to compare things in one
domain with those in another."
This is the objection addressed in a paper, "Hallucinating God: The Cognitive
Neuropsychiatry of Religious Belief and Experience," to be presented at a
conference on evolutionary psychology in the United States in August. The paper
has been written by Ryan McKay, a researcher at Macquarie University's Centre
for Cognitive Science.
McKay says delusional beliefs may arise from so-called religious experiences
when two factors are in play: first, a brain deficit that gives rise to an
aberrant perception of some kind and second, a belief pathology that interprets
(or imagines) this perception in ways inconsistent with what is scientifically
plausible or otherwise generally regarded as acceptable.
The second factor represents a breakdown or dysfunction in the way the human
belief evaluation system normally operates. Put simply, we tend to evaluate
whether a belief is credible in light of everything else we know.
By contrast, when someone experiences an unusual sensory perception and also
suspends well-known and widely accepted logical, physical or biological
principles in their explanation of the perception, a belief pathology is
involved, says McKay. Significantly, one can occur without the other. Persinger,
for instance, claims to have had a mystical experience of "encountering a
God-like presence" the result of stimulating his temporal lobes
electromagnetically without developing a religious belief in God.
He thus represents what McKay calls a "mystical atheist" someone who
experiences paranormal sensations but is able to override the evidence of their
senses when forming beliefs about them and accepting instead a rational
explanation. Clearly, many adherents of religious doctrines develop and
maintain their beliefs in the absence of direct religious experiences. An
obvious reason is quite simply the effects of socialisation.
But McKay's argument goes to the origin of how such beliefs are generated in
the first place. "Individuals with the 'second factor'," he says,
"would tend to be misled by untrustworthy sources of information, and/or
tend to be prone to having their belief formation systems derailed and
overridden by their motives [wish fulfillment being chief among them]. Motives
thus help to explain what maintains delusory beliefs once they have been
generated by first-factor sources."
The jury is still out on whether such religious experiences are mere delusions
and whether God might be nothing more than a hallucination. But the argument
for both has just become a lot more interesting.
Statue weeps again [Source: The Advertiser, 4/28/03]
A Virgin Mary statue which apparently wept oily tears last year
- and drew thousands of pilgrims to a church near Perth - is claimed to be
The 70cm fibreglass statue went on display at Our Lady of Lourdes church at
Rockingham in August after claims it began weeping during the feast of St
Joseph and over Easter 2002.
Bought in Thailand by parishioner Patty Powell, it attracted worshippers and
From August 15 last year - the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into Our
Heaven - it reportedly wept continuously until mid-January.
Annette Maiella of Oakdale [Source: Newsday (NY),
The head of the Virgin Mary statue was naked. And while raising
four children on her bricklayer husband's salary was never easy, Annette
Maiella felt compelled to buy a golden, jeweled crown to top it.
"We weren't poor, but I think we were close," her son Jim Maiella
said. "She just got it into her head. ... She said, 'I'm going to somehow
get her a gold crown.'"
"We still don't know how she managed the money."
Using jewelry donated by family and friends and contributing about $2,000 of
her own money, Maiella in 1961 had a Manhattan jeweler create the crown that
still sits atop the statue at St. Barnabas Church in Bellmore. It was one of
many religiously guided acts in the devout Catholic's life.
Maiella died on Easter Sunday in her Oakdale home after years of failing
health. She was 89.
"The fact that she died on Easter Sunday just seems like, 'Of
course,'" Jim Maiella of Belle Terre said. "Her religion helped her
her whole life."
Until her death, the former president of the Legion of Mary of St. John
Nepomucene could often be found praying for her family.
Although her Italian parents were the product of an arranged marriage, Annette
Scaturro met her husband of 60 years, Frank Maiella, under more romantic
circumstances. It was around 1940 and her sister had pressured her into going
to the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. She kept falling on the ice when
Frank Maiella swooped her up, relatives said. The two married in 1942 and had
When the family moved to Oakdale in the 1960s, Frank built a backyard grotto -
from a collection of rocks the two had gathered on a trip to Italy - facing a
statue of the Blessed Mother. The spot would become the center of annual prayer
services for 25 years, attended by family, friends and fellow parishioners.
"She always just had such faith," her granddaughter Dina Maiella of
Manhattan remembered. "She had such simple answers for so many big things
and they were all faith-based."
In addition to her husband, son and granddaughter, Maiella is survived by two
other sons, Louis Maiella of Eureka Springs, Ark., and Frank Maiella of
Holbrook; a daughter, Lucille Maiella-Havlik of Medford; nine grandchildren;
and three great-grandchildren. Maiella was buried Wednesday at St. John's
Cemetery in Bohemia, following a Mass at the church there.
Standing before the mourners at the church, the Rev. Louis Reuss described a
woman who, even through financial struggles, put faith first. He told the story
of how after Maiella donated the crown, she noticed her husband had itemized it
on their taxes.
"She would just not hear of it," Jim Maiella said, remembering her
saying, "We did this because we love the Blessed Mother. We didn't do this
to reduce our taxes."
Her son chose not to tell her when the crown was stolen a few years back, only
to be returned later.
Bishop and mayor to fight in court for Madonna painting
[Source: The Daily Telegraph (London), 4/26/03]
An Italian bishop is taking the mayor of a Left-wing Tuscan
village to court over the future of a unique fresco.
The case, reminiscent of the Don Camillo novels of Giovanni Guareschi, in which
the Communists of an imaginary post-war town clash with its defiant priest,
centres on a fresco, the Madonna del Parto by Piero della Francesca.
It is said to be the only religious representation of a pregnant Virgin Mary in
existence and is the pride and chief tourist attraction of Monterchi, where it
was created in 1460.
The painting remained for five centuries in a church on the edge of town which
over the years was partly demolished and turned into a cemetery chapel. Then,
in 1993, it was placed in a former school converted into a museum.
Despite the village's isolation, it draws 50,000 visitors a year. But, worried
that the fresco was in an unconsecrated building, Bishop Gualtiero Bassetti of
Arezzo last year began trying to get the fresco back, saying it was his
diocese's property and should once more adorn a church as an object of
In the best Tuscan tradition, the village has stubbornly refused to part with
the masterpiece. After months of failed talks, the bishop has taken the matter
to the civil courts.
Yesterday the village council appeared to be maintaining a characteristic lack
of concern. "Right up until the end, when the court makes a decision,
there is always the chance to strike a deal," said Vittorio Chierroni, the
lawyer appointed to defend Monterchi. But lawyers for the other side said that
there was "no room left for manoeuvre".
Monterchi's villagers are said to be so fiercely proud of the work that, armed
with sticks, they stopped restorers from removing it to safety during the
Second World War. The restorers had to be rescued by the local police.
Art Interprets Duality of Jesus, Mary; Debates over human
and divine natures have played out in Western art for centuries, as a Getty
[Source: Los Angeles Times, 4/26/03]
In Caravaggio's painting "The Death of the Virgin,"
the model for Mary was either a drowned prostitute plucked from the Tiber River
or a harlot with whom the painter was in love. Or so the legend goes.
What's known for sure is that Caravaggio's commissioned painting, completed in
1603, was rejected by the friars at the Santa Maria della Scala in Rome,
who thought it didn't properly reflect the Virgin Mary's divine nature as the
mother of Christ.
She lies stiff on her deathbed. Her body is bloated, her feet dirty, her dress
and hair disheveled. The picture of a real and mundane human death jarred
Catholic officials, conflicting with their increasingly hallowed view of Mary.
Next to the engraving of "The Death of The Virgin" is a Rembrandt
etching with the same title, finished 36 years later. It shows a more stately
Mary, sitting in a regal bed surrounded by attendants. A light shines from the
heavens, giving the pictorial a divine quality, though a doctor taking Mary's
pulse hints at her humanness.
For centuries, Christians have wrestled with how to reconcile the two natures
of Christ as understood by the church, a savior who is both fully man and fully
The debate over the nature of Jesus also spilled into the Christian perceptions
of his mother. Catholics teach that Mary was immaculately conceived, and
therefore without sin. They also believe she was bodily assumed into heaven
three days after her death. Most Protestant churches reject those teachings.
The debates over the nature of Jesus and Mary have played out in Christian
theology and in Western art. The latter aspect of the debate is the focus of an
exhibition of 30 works, including the Caravaggio and the Rembrandt, now at the
J. Paul Getty Museum.
"Between Heaven and Earth: Images of Christ and the Virgin,"
illustrates creative ways artists have dealt with the difficult issues
surrounding the human and divine natures of the two figures at the center of
"With modern art, some people ask, 'What's the point?' " said
Stephanie Schrader, co-curator of the exhibit, which runs through June 29.
"These works were meant to be compelling, convincing and something that
supported a particular set of beliefs."
Taking images from its own collection, the Getty show uses artists' depictions
of the final days on earth of Jesus and Mary. Some of the works have been
acquired by the museum and the Getty Research Institute within the last two
The drawings, prints and illustrated books are arranged in major categories,
including the transfiguration, the agony in the garden, the Crucifixion, the
Resurrection and the death and assumption of the Virgin Mary. The groupings are
accompanied by the passage of Scripture if there's a description of the event
in the Bible.
In images reflecting the divine, Jesus is idealized with a perfect body and a
serene countenance, often floating above the crowd.
In the engraving "The Resurrection" by Schelte Adams Bolswert, taken
from an altarpiece by Peter Paul Rubens, Christ's body is surrounded by a halo
as he steps triumphantly from the tomb, holding a banner declaring the
The sight "elicits a variety of responses from the soldiers, who cower,
flee or gaze with rapt attention," said co-curator Louis Marchesano.
By contrast, in "The Agony of the Garden," French painter and
draftsman Carle Vanloo shows a very human Jesus fainting at the thought of his
impending death, his body supported by two angels.
The curators say the exhibit is meant, not to raise theological issues, but
rather to demonstrate how the debate within Christianity played out among
Renaissance and baroque artists who brought the beliefs and doctrines of their
church to the masses. Catholics leaned toward the divine interpretation of
Mary's and Jesus' nature and Protestants tended to depict their humanity.
How-to manuals were produced for artists who wanted to produce well-received
biblical and religious depictions. Featured in the exhibit is one such book,
"Theology for Painters, Sculptors, Engravers and Draftsmen,"
published in Paris in 1765.
Author Joseph Mery del la Canorgue, a Catholic, tells artists, "If there
is a mystery, in effect, susceptible to striking images and beauties of all
kinds, it is, without contradiction, the triumph of the mother of a god."
"These books tried to get artists to follow doctrines that were sanctioned
by the church," Marchesano said.
A cheaply produced booklet on display gives an account of Christ's death and
resurrection, something that was read by common Romans who filled the Colosseum
each Easter weekend. The booklet includes illustrations that are crude, but
still get the church's teachings across to the citizenry.
"The images circulated to all levels of society," Marchesano said.
"They taught you stories from the Bible and how to behave."
Taking Jesus as Spouse, and Living a Life in Prayer [Source:
New York Times, 4/26/03]
As Kathleen Danes prepares to become a June bride, in her
bedroom closet hangs her gown, in a shade of sky blue. It is not that Ms. Danes
is ineligible for virginal white. Quite the contrary; at her church ceremony,
she will formally become a consecrated virgin wedded to Jesus Christ. She chose
that hue, she said, because it was the color worn by the Virgin Mary.
"At this consecration, the greatest, most important celebration of my
life, I want to feel close to my spouse's mother," said Ms. Danes, 62, who
will participate in an ancient and little-known Roman Catholic rite called the
Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World. "There
is no better way to reach the heart of Jesus than through his most holy
When Ms. Danes, the sacristan at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in
Lighthouse Point, Fla., is consecrated in the Archdiocese of Miami, she will
join a tiny but growing number of consecrated virgins around the nation. The
rite allows women to be publicly recognized as living a life of prayer and
devotion while living in society rather than as nuns.
To become a bride of Jesus Christ, a woman must have never married and must
demonstrate a life of chastity and devotion to the church. There is no age
requirement, although some dioceses prescribe a minimum age like 30.
Consecrated virgins have no formal obligations besides daily prayer, but they
typically engage in service to the church. There is no equivalent vocation for
Loretta Matulich, a consecrated virgin from Oregon City, Ore., and president of
the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins, said there were at least
100 consecrated virgins in the United States, up from about 20 in 1995. In just
the last year, about 15 women around the nation were consecrated, and in the
next six months, another 15 will be, Ms. Matulich said.
Ms. Matulich said that although she was drawn to a religious life, becoming a
nun was not her calling.
"I knew from childhood that I wanted to give my entire life to Jesus
Christ in love," she said, "but I also knew that I wanted to teach in
the public schools and live and work with a variety of people from all walks of
In Los Angeles in the 1950's, when Ms. Matulich considered the sisterhood, nuns
did not teach in public schools or live and work outside Catholic institutions,
"So I waited until God would show me where I fit," she said. "I
found the exact fit in consecrated virginity lived in the world."
Awareness of the consecration has spread through word of mouth and articles,
and many women say they are pleasantly surprised to learn of its existence.
"I lived for 21 years without any real contact with other consecrated
virgins," said Ms. Matulich, who was consecrated in 1974 and formerly
taught at a community college in Oregon City. She met only two until she
attended an international conference of consecrated virgins in 1995 in Rome,
which led to the start of her organization.
"I was prepared to go to my dying day without ever meeting another
consecrated virgin," she said.
About 1,400 consecrated virgins live in other countries, Ms. Matulich said.
Why are there so few in the United States?
"In popular American culture, the word 'virginity' is not
attractive," said Bishop Raymond L. Burke of the Diocese of La Crosse,
Wis., the moderator of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins.
"When I talk to groups about consecrated virgins living in the world, I
sometimes see lay people snickering, even in church circles. In contemporary
culture, the idea of being a virgin is not prized anymore, it's not esteemed,
it's not cool, it's like, 'Who cares?' "
Judith Stegman, 47, of Haslett, Mich., said that while preparing invitations to
her consecration years ago, she told a friend that her title would be
"consecrated virgin living in the world." Her friend responded,
"You're going to say something more tactful, aren't you?"
Ms. Stegman said: "I changed the wording on the invitation to something
like 'celibacy.' I didn't use 'virgin.' Even I was embarrassed."
"Later I challenged myself to get used to it, even if people were
embarrassed," she said. "I wanted to be proud of it. I went the other
way, using it frequently. Saying the word 'virgin' about yourself immediately
gets the conversation going."
Becoming a consecrated virgin "promotes the dignity of women," Bishop
Burke said. "It's a very radical act of free will, giving yourself
completely to Christ. If you're a consecrated virgin, you're certainly going to
be countercultural. People will be questioning, what in the world have you
done? You have to be prepared to give an account of the whole meaning of the
The consecration may date from as early as the first century. It fell into
disuse by the 10th century but was restored by Pope Paul VI in 1970, Ms.
To educate church audiences and members of the clergy about the vocation, Ms.
Stegman, on behalf of the virgins association, is coordinating with the Diocese
of Lansing, Mich., to create a half-hour documentary about consecrated
Like Ms. Stegman, who is an accountant and president of her firm, many
consecrated virgins mix lives of devotion with secular jobs. At work, "I
meet clients all day long, who may not see that I have a rosary, icon and
candle on my desk," she said. "But I can see it, and I can say a
quick prayer for myself or the client across from me. That's a key part of my
At day's end, "after my last client has left, I close my office door and
clear my desk of clients' tax returns," Ms. Stegman said. "And I
recite the evening prayer."
"It's just catching those moments, taking the time to make that connection
with my spouse, who is Christ," she added. "That's where I'm drawing
my main support in life, just as some people go home to their spouse for
In Brief [Source: The Washington Post, 4/26/03]
The Vatican has confirmed a decision by Baltimore Cardinal
William H. Keeler to stop prayer services that drew hundreds to worship with a
woman who said she was receiving messages from the Virgin Mary.
Keeler appointed three priests to investigate the claims of Gianna Talone-Sullivan,
known as "Our Lady of Emmitsburg," who held prayer meetings weekly at
St. Joseph Church in Emmitsburg before the archdiocese banned them in 2000.
The visions were not supernatural or miraculous and contained
"negative" elements of apocalyptic prophecies, Keeler's panel found.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, in a letter to Keeler, said Keeler may officially announce the visions
were definitively not supernatural. Ratzinger's commission [the CDF] was formed by the
pope in 1542 to be arbiters of Catholic teachings and to review claims of
visions, divine messages and miracles.
Keeler reported the Vatican's confirmation in a letter April 2 to the Rev.
William O'Brien, pastor of the Emmitsburg church. Keeler told the priest that
the ruling should "relieve the doubts of the faithful regarding the
alleged apparitions and any public dissemination of their message."
Keeler's panel, after interviewing worshipers who attended the services and
conducting a 16-month investigation, wrote that with a worldwide "growing
addiction to the spectacular, we think that the Church should not promote or
encourage persons claiming to have extraordinary channels to God."
Keeler's commission wrote that there were "impressive results" from
some of the Talone-Sullivan sessions. Some people converted, more people
participated in confession, and there were physical and spiritual healings, the
But the panel also noted that Talone-Sullivan's proclamations included
"apocalyptic forebodings and the prediction of catastrophic events,"
such as the death of all the fish in the world.
O'Brien referred all comment to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Talone-Sullivan
didn't return a call to her home yesterday.
Art of the FAITHFUL [Source: St. Petersburg Times
As much as theologians try to explain it and artists try to put
a face on it, faith remains a mystery.
"Icons/Santos: Images of Devotion," a new exhibition at the Museum of
Fine Arts, shows us how intense is that longing of the faithful for a
connection with the ineffable, and how the church as an institution has often
attempted to emphasize that sense of mystery with barriers physical and
philosophical to keep worshippers at a distance.
The show is divided into two parts. One displays icons and other religious
objects, most of them from Greek and Russian Orthodox churches. The other
displays the Central American religious statues and images known as santos
and retablos, and it explores the melding of the Catholic faith with
indigenous traditions after the Spanish conquest of that region.
The first section is the most dramatic, owing to an enormous mahogany
iconostasis installed with the art. An iconostasis is the wooden wall that
separates the altar from the main interior of an Orthodox church, usually
distinguished by elaborate carving.
This iconostasis was commissioned by St. Mark Orthodox Church in Bradenton for
its new building and is on loan to the museum before its consecration in the
church. It's so big, it had to be divided into three sections. The massive arch
was fitted into the entrance of the Mackey Gallery, its doors positioned just
inside, and the two wall panels are a bit farther into the gallery.
It's a dramatic, telescopic effect that draws visitors into the show, quite the
opposite of its intended purpose, which is to separate worshippers from the
altar, the most sacred part of the church. There, priests perform holy rituals,
so the separation originally was intended, in part, to generate mystery and awe
among the faithful.
The wall's level of craftsmanship - all hand carved, no laser cuts - is rarely
seen anymore, and it is a marvel to view at close range. Inserted into the
panels are paintings, in the iconic tradition, of saints, the Virgin Mary and
the baby Jesus, and panels depicting important moments in the life of Christ.
The substance of the show, though, is the collection of icons, most from 19th
century Russia. Their general sameness is the essence of iconic art, which
began in the early centuries A.D. Stylistically, icons are associated with
Byzantine art, named for Byzantium, the capital city of Constantine the Great's
empire. (Later renamed Constantinople, the city fell to the Turks in 1453 and
is now Istanbul.) Icons are flat, without any attempt at fool-the-eye
perspective, and the subject matter, always religious portraits or scenes
depicting meaningful spiritual moments, is rendered with almost unvarying
There were good reasons for these conventions. The main purpose of icons was to
help worshippers make a direct connection with the holy. Worshippers believed
in the power of the saints, the Virgin Mary and Christ to intercede with God
for almost anything, to intervene in mortal lives and sometimes to produce
miracles. Icons gave these Christians a sense of real connection with the holy
ones, but to avoid any hint of idolatry, they had to be prototypes, without
variation or artistic interpretation. God was never an icon because it would be
blasphemous to personify the supreme deity. Also, iconic images had to be
recognizable by their features to a population that was generally illiterate
(labels or commentary would be useless), and the same visual clues accompanied
So we see in all the icons of St. Nicholas, chief patron saint of Russia whom
we in the United States associate with Christmas, the same high forehead and
curly, slightly fussy hair. The Vladimir Mother of God icon, painted in the
Ukraine in the 19th century, is almost identical to one painted in the 12th
century from Constantinople. And the 19th century Mother of God was even
repainted over an older one that had faded, its original paint still visible on
some parts of the wood panel. This sort of copying and overpainting would be
considered taboo by the standards of Western art, but it is acceptable in an
icon whose purpose was purely functional, not aesthetic. Until the late 19th
century, most were unsigned, the work of anonymous laymen or monks.
Another convention was the oklad, a cover that shrouded most of the icon
to protect it from too much veneration (it was customary to kiss the image) and
sometimes to mute the power of these "windows into heaven." An oklad
was often more elaborate than the icon, made of gilded silver and encrusted
with precious jewels.
The exhibition includes examples of portable icons, carried for protection and
special blessings; a display explaining the process of painting an icon onto a
wood panel; and an example of a fake icon, painted in the 20th century to look
old and identifiable as a fake because St. Nicholas is holding a copy of the
gospel with his bare hands. In old versions he would always cover his hand with
a cloth, out of respect.
The santos and retablos in an adjoining gallery are humbler
conduits of devotion. Like icons, they are depictions of holy personages who
could comfort, assist, forgive and work miracles but were created without the
dogmatic restrictions imposed on icons.
The santos, carved and painted wood statues, and retablos, images
painted on tin or display cases, were a way for native Central Americans to
reconcile the Catholic faith with their ancient myths. Like icons, the
individual images usually were portrayed with the same details. Our Lady of
Guadalupe, for example, probably the most beloved religious image in Mexico, is
always recognizable because she is accompanied by a crescent moon and stars,
apocalyptic images from the Bible as well as familiar elements in native
cosmology. San Pasquale is a crowned skeleton, the Christian version of the
Mayan lord of the underworld and a prominent character in the annual Dia de
los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
These Central American artifacts share with icons a preference for stylization
over naturalistic representation. And, like icons, they were not created to
express an individual artistic vision, though they have a spontaneous
exuberance that the studied, formal compositions of icons lack, a sense of
personality that icons were forbidden to have.
Icon or santo, created for a cathedral in Russia or a hut in Guatemala,
these objects were imbued by those who venerated them with the power to bring
their god and themselves together in a communion of shared faith.
"Icons/Santos: Images of Devotion" is at the Museum of Fine Arts, 255
Beach Dr. NE, St. Petersburg, through June 15. Also on view are "The Power
and Passion of Dance: The Carol Halsted Dance Photography Collection" and
"A Sense of Place: Still Life and Other Photographs by D.W. Mellor."
Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday. Admission is $8. (727) 896-2667.
Book Review; Pilgrimages into and away from belief
Los Angeles Times, 4/15/03]
If, as she was once told by an Episcopal bishop, the idea of
pilgrimage is an attempt to "invite into our hearts what we know in our
heads," then the disparate journeys undertaken by Rosemary Mahoney in her
travelogue-memoir "The Singular Pilgrim" are successful in different
ways, inviting into her heart aspects of herself and her struggles with belief
that previously were known to her intellect alone. Though religion plays a part
in her searching, the excursions are as much into the human condition and the
traits we hold in common as they are reaches toward divine awareness.
Mahoney, author of the 1993 book "Whoredom in Kimmage: Irish Women Coming
of Age," considers herself a religious skeptic. She no longer follows the
Roman Catholicism of her youth and isn't quite sure she believes in God at all,
yet at the same time yearns for the kind of faith she witnesses in others.
Watching Greek Orthodox pilgrims make their way on hands and knees to venerate
an icon, she is touched by what she sees, even as her cynicism flares. "I
am attached to reason and am not easily awed by the miraculous powers of the
Virgin Mary, but I was awed by her pilgrims," she writes. "It wasn't
their religion that interested me so much as their faith, that palpable surge
of the soul."
After years of being an outsider to religion, Mahoney undertakes six
pilgrimages, aware that her disbelief may interfere with what she hopes will be
a transformative experience. At first she hides behind her curiosity and her
stance as a writer. But the journeys wear on, each more physically, emotionally
and spiritually demanding, until the act itself changes her, stripping away
some of her hesitation and dilating her willingness to believe.
She visits France's Lourdes, in whose grotto Our Lady is said to have appeared
to St. Bernadette; the spring water there is rumored to have healing
properties. "Some 400,000 people take the baths each year," she
reports, and she joins in, shocked by the frigid water. Mahoney then walks
Spain's 475-mile "Camino de Santiago" over the course of 23 grueling
days, unsure of her real motive, only that she needs to do it. Meeting odd
characters, encountering stunning countryside, enduring blisters and tendonitis
severe enough to require a hospital visit, she finds a quiet kind of peace.
"The best parts of these long days were the stretches when I was alone,
thinking and listening to the steady rhythm of my own footsteps trailing me
like a heartbeat."
On the west bank of the Ganges River in Varanasi, India, the holy Hindu city,
she makes friends with an intelligent boy who's trying to scrape together a
living in the poverty-stricken region. "Under the circumstances, a mind as
sharp as his seemed almost a curse," she laments. Ultimately, she realizes
that her time spent with the boy is the most sacred aspect of her journey. This
is a trait common to her six pilgrimages: The people she meets and the
difficulties she endures enrich her life more than her stops at holy places.
In the Holy Land she stays in Nazareth, looking for signs of Jesus, and is
surprised by her reaction to the landscape. "Being here in Galilee had not
made Jesus bigger in my mind; instead, it had brought him down to human size,
and that small size in turn made him great."
A tiny island on Lough Derg, Ireland, is the location of Mahoney's final
pilgrimage, an arduous scripted ordeal filled with fasting, an all-night vigil,
countless Hail Marys and Our Fathers while walking barefoot and kneeling at
preordained places. It is at this site, a place of penance for more than 1,000
years, as Mahoney is put through her paces with physical hardships, that her
resistance to faith peels away and she floats, if only for a few moments, on
the current of belief. "I had never imagined I would find myself on my
knees with a rosary in my fingers, pressing out the Hail Mary. But having come
and submitted myself to the stations of Lough Derg, I was a noisy tom-tom of
intentions, drumming out messages and sending them sailing over the
Her essays, filled with rich detail and lyric writing, speak to the human
desire to believe in something, even when religious faith seems untenable, and
of the need to take action toward that belief. Time and again, Mahoney
continues putting one foot in front of the other, circuitously approaching the
faith she admires while casting to the side (without completely dismissing) her
cynicism. Ultimately, this walking carries her from skepticism to a consoling
kind of belief -- if not in a specific religion then in the human struggle to
survive and flourish.
'The Singular Pilgrim'
Travels on Sacred Ground
Houghton Mifflin: 416 pp., $25
Atheists gather in Tampa for international convention [Source:
What else would a bunch of atheists do on Good Friday?
Besides the speeches and panel discussions scheduled for their annual
convention here this weekend, members of the Atheist Alliance International
took a side trip Friday to see a religious "miracle" - the famous
Clearwater building where believers say they can see an image of the Virgin
Christians flocked to the building by the thousands in 1996 when a
rainbow-colored stain appeared on its two-story glass wall that resembled a
shrouded Virgin Mary. Pilgrims still visit the site, which is now rented and
maintained by an Ohio ministry.
"I've had the same sort of thing happen on my windows, but I've never
called everyone to come around and see it," scoffed James Randi, a
magician and renowned debunker of psychics and faith healers. "I'm never
astonished at anything that people will seize upon as a miracle."
Randi's reaction was typical of the 50 or so from the group who milled around
inside the fenced site Friday, taking snapshots of each other in front of the
building. A towering crucifix has been erected next to it, as well as an altar
for the dozens of candles worshippers leave behind.
Glass experts who analyzed the image said it was created by a chemical reaction
and corrosion of the metallic elements in the glass coating, but they could not
explain why it took the shape it did.
"The bigger miracle was the Bucs winning the Super Bowl," quipped
Bobbie Kirkhart, the group's president.
"It looks like Marge Simpson, actually," offered Michael Shermer,
publisher of Skeptics magazine, referring to the animated matriarch of
"The Simpsons" TV show.
About 200 people from the alliance's 42 member societies are expected to attend
this weekend's sessions to hear from Randi, Shermer and other nonbelievers, and
focus their national agenda of church-state separation issues.
Other highlights include talks by British scientist, author and atheist Richard
Dawkins, and Michael Newdow, who will discuss his successful campaign to
eliminate the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance in his
daughter's Sacramento, Calif., school.
In a case that bitterly divided the nation and the federal judiciary, the 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Newdow's favor last summer, declaring
that use of the pledge in public schools violates the Constitution. It said use
of the words "under God" amounts to a government endorsement of
Atheists believe organized religion suppresses science and education and
persuades people to waste their time on earth preparing for an afterlife that
The conventioneers say being with other atheists for the weekend is refreshing
because there aren't too many of them around.
"We live in a context that frequently portrays (atheism) as the absence of
values," said Dale McGowan, an atheist who teaches at a small Catholic
college in Minneapolis. "And it's very satisfying to surround yourself
with people who also see it as an expression of positive values, instead of the
negation of something else."
Said Newdow: "There's always some comfort being with people who believe
the same things. I actually prefer being with people who disagree, though. I
like to argue."
After the atheists departed Friday, Paul Caissie busied himself straightening
the candles, post cards and framed photos of the Virgin Mary image that he
sells on behalf of the landlord, Shepherds of Christ Associates. He said he
didn't mind that they came to take a look.
"This is for everybody," he said. "Jesus gave them the grace to
come here. If nothing happens to them here, then He works in their heart."
Seattle Art Museum restoring 15th century painting found at
[Source: AP, 4/14/03]
The big painting - a devotional work awash with gold leaf that
depicts the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus flanked by six saints - dates from the
mid-1400s, when it was produced in Florence by Neri diBicci, a popular artist
of the day.
How it wound up at St. James Cathedral, the heart of Seattle's Roman Catholic
archdiocese, is anybody's guess.
"We know where it was 500 years ago," said church administrator Larry
Brouse. "Between now and then? No."
Checks with Interpol and the Art-Loss Registry turned up no reports that it had
been stolen or lost, he said.
The painting, probably a gift to the church in the 1930s or '40s, was first
displayed here after a 1950s renovation of the 1907 cathedral designed - in the
Renaissance style - by the New York firm of Heins and LaFarge, which also
designed the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan.
After a 1992 arson fire, the painting was removed for cleaning and research
that determined its surprising origins.
Now it's undergoing a full-blown restoration by the Seattle Art Museum's chief
painting conservator, Nick Dorman - a major undertaking and one of the first to
be tackled by SAM's brand-new conservation studio.
In exchange, St. James will lend it to SAM for display next spring with a
collection of smaller religious works from the Renaissance.
"They're very small, like fragments of altar pieces,' Dorman said.
"This piece" - roughly 4 feet high and 5 feet wide - "has a bit
of scale, a bit more impact. We think we can use that to bring out our
Works this old "all have the tracks of history on them," he said. The
diBicci "actually has some candle burns from when it was in Italy and they
had the candles right in front of the altarpiece."
After the outing at SAM, the diBicci will be returned to the church in time for
St. James' centennial.
The church is also contributing to an infrared camera - used to see through
paintings to the underlying pencil drawings - for SAM's conservation studio, a
more lasting alternative to "somebody just writing a check," Brouse
An infrared camera is "something we'd love to be able to offer - both to
ourselves and the rest of the community," said Dorman, who signed on with
SAM last year after a stint with the national art collection in Munich,
He's been consulting with colleagues in the Northwest, New York and in Europe
on this project. Earlier this year, the diBicci was hauled up to Virginia Mason
Medical Center for X-rays, so Dorman and his colleagues could glean as much
information as possible about it.
The painting is on four horizontal poplar planks more than an inch thick, glued
together and possibly secured by small dowels. It was produced in the Florence
studio run by third-generation painter Neri diBicci, who also wrote an art
history that helped confirm its origins.
"He wasn't one of the great innovators" whose names are better known,
Dorman said. "In some senses, they're sort of workaday paintings, but they
were very competent, very popular, very successful."
The Virgin is seated, her baby in her lap. She is flanked by Saints Luke,
Bartholomew, Lawrence, John the Baptist, Martin and Sebastian. Each saint is
accompanied by a symbol to recall his history: St. Bartholomew, who was flayed,
carries a knife; St. Lawrence, roasted alive, a metal grill; St. Sebastian,
martyred with arrows, holds one.
"Most people then were illiterate," and such works were used to
educate, Brouse said. "That's what stained glass and carvings in churches
are all about."
Such works "were very fashionable in the 19th century," Dorman said.
"It possibly came to the United States then and was owned by a private
person who gave it to the church."
It's in remarkably good shape, he said, but the past 5 1/2 centuries have taken
Woodworm damage can be seen around the unpainted edges where the original frame
was attached and has undermined small areas in the body of the work, leaving
little for the paint to cling to.
At some point, the top plank broke off - a break that runs through the faces of
When the board was glued back on, the join was leveled out with some sort of
putty and the faces repainted somewhat crudely with pigment that has since
turned dark brown.
Portions of the painting cleaned recently by Dorman and in tests after the 1992
fire reveal the saints' original pale skin color - a startling difference.
The contrast suggests the overpainting may have been done many years ago, and
"It can't always have looked that inappropriate. You wouldn't have just
done that and left it," Dorman said.
"What we recovered underneath is paint that is pretty much in perfect
condition. ... It's a much more subtle painting," with delicate detail in
the emerging faces.
"The original work has such brilliant colors - it's amazing," Brouse
"I get frustrated when I get something that's been so changed through
restoration and conservation," Dorman said. "But to be fair, I'm sure
there are instances where we wouldn't have those paintings if that hadn't been
Nowadays, museum experts try to to keep restoration changes to a minimum, using
mostly natural materials - matching the originals where possible.
"It's a struggle, and everybody makes mistakes," Dorman said.
The background is gilded, as are the haloes and some decorative work on the
eight figures. New gilding has been added over the centuries, along with a
yellowy oil glaze.
When the gilding is cleaned, it will be "very, very bright," Dorman
The glaring gold will have to be balanced against the blue in the Virgin's gown
and other colors that have darkened over time, "so it retains a degree of
"The ideal thing is if you can work on it and it doesn't look like a
freshly restored painting," he said. "That's my objective."
Enthronement rites [Source: Business World
A solemn enthronement ceremony of Our Lady of Guadalupe was
held at the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral on April 22, officiated by Reverend
Bishop Teodoro J. Buhain, Jr. and Monsignor Nestor Cerbo, Rector of Manila
Cathedral. On the occasion of the celebration of the 50th year of Filipino-
Mexican diplomatic relations, and in recognition of the great devotion of the
Filipinos to Our Lady of Guadalupe, CEMEX Philippines, one of the three largest
producers of cement in the world, donated two digitalized laser true copies of
the original portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe (measuring 1.72m x 1.07m) to the
Archdiocese of Manila and Archdiocese of Cebu. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the
only true self-portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary and
is likewise the patron saint of mothers and the unborn child, proof of her
being the pillar of strength of every family. Enthronement ceremony for Our
Lady of Guadalupe is also scheduled at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral on May 7
at 6:30 p.m.
PLUMBER CARVES BUSINESS OUT OF CHRIST STATUES
[Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4/20/03]
While sculpture tides him over during the year, it is during
Lent that this former plumber earns the most from his images of Jesus Christ
and other characters involved in His sufferings and crucifixion.
Ramon Vibar, 48, has been engaged in this craft for almost 15 years. His
products include images of various sizes like the Santo Nino, Virgin Mary,
angels, and popular saints and he sells them to customers from as far away as the
United States and Australia.
"Most orders coming in are for images of saints and Christ, which I really
love to work on," Vibar tells SundayBiz, saying he feels as if he's
blessed every time he works on these images. Early orders of sculptured images for this year's Lenten season started to pour in as
early as October last year.
"As much as possible, they need to order six months before the occasion,
so that I could already estimate the time I need to spend on each piece,"
He proudly says he has always met his clients' deadline, which means that he
has to work overtime just to get the work done.
He uses different materials such as wood, cement or marble depending on the
customer's preference and budget.
And depending on the size and the materials used, the price per image ranges
from P10,000 to P85,000.
Vibar says sculpting the eyes of the image is the most difficult part of the
"When you make the eyes and these don't fit the image, then the whole
thing will be useless, so I need to be very careful in making them," he
The eyes are usually made from crystal, which his men melt and then mold into
the desired shape to fit a certain figure. They can also make the statue's head
and eyes move to make the figure more lifelike.
Vibar says he never thought that he would end up making a living out of this
craft, which he learned from his late father.
"I had no interest in it when I was just a kid, unlike my father who
learned how to carve when he was four," he admits.
He says he only started helping his father in the business when he was already
33 years old since all 11 children ventured to different fields with him
deciding to become a plumber.
The desire to earn more, however, forced him to take up sculpture as an
additional source of income.
"I needed to look for an outlet to earn for my family, since I was already
a family man at that time, so I decided to help in my father's art shop," he
says, adding, "I was encouraged since I saw how my father earned from it
and I have no regrets now," Vibar stresses.
He says it is probably his destiny to be a sculptor.
"I knew even before that I could do what my father was doing but it was
just that I did not have the heart for it before," he explains.
When his father passed away in 2000, Ramon continued the tradition and put up
his own art shop.
Equipped with excellent training from his late father, he shortly became a
force to reckon with in the image-carving world. His first product was an image
of the Santo Nino.
"Designing these images gives me sense of fulfillment," he says with
"I know my father is happy about what's going on now, because the job that
helped raise us did not end when he passed away," he says.
Vibar and his workers have become part of the tradition during Lenten season,
with their works being displayed and playing an important role in the
traditional procession held during Good Friday.
He says almost 75 percent of the images on different karos (carts) that join in
parade or procession during Holy week, came from their sweat.
"I'm very proud, especially when I already see our works on the streets
during Good Friday," the sculptor says.
Vibar adds that many images of saints, Jesus Christ and other Holy
personalities in different churches in the Bicol region came from his shop.
As an expert in his own field, Vibar says he personally does not believe in
crying images or images whose eyes shed blood.
"Even my late father who was in the industry for almost his life never
believed in that. And that's our personal opinion," he stresses. "One
can simply make the image cry and make people believe it's a miracle."
The real miracle is being able to carve magnificent images out of perseverance,
patience and God-given talent.
Giotto's Lamentation plays down the tears
[Source: The Hamilton Spectator (Toronto, Ontario), 4/19/03]
Lamentation over Christ
Giotto di Bondone (1266? - 1337)
185 by 200 centimetres
Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy
The earliest scenes of the Virgin Mary mourning over the body of Christ are
meant to make viewers weep. But Giotto di Bondone takes a more balanced
approach, playing down the grief and emphasizing hope. His Lamentation, painted
around 1305, reminds us of Christ's imminent Resurrection.
Giotto, already a famous Florentine artist, was commissioned by Enrico
Scrovegni, one of Padua's wealthiest citizens, to paint the interior of his
newly built chapel. Giotto depicted about 40 scenes from the life of Christ and
that of his mother, most of them arranged in three rows on the north and south
walls. The Lamentation is on the north wall.
Scenes of the Lamentation -- Pieta in Italian, Pity in medieval English -- show
the moment after Christ's body has been taken down from the cross and given to
his mother for her final farewell. This event is not described in the Gospels.
It does not appear in the early repertoire of Christian art, but becomes
popular by the 12th century.
Most medieval Lamentations, both painted and sculptural, aim to provoke an
emotional reaction in the viewer. Giotto, however, wants the viewer to mourn
less and look ahead to the Resurrection, the central teaching of Christianity.
He achieves this in two ways. First, he tones down the emotional impact that
the main figures -- the Virgin Mary and her dead son -- have on the viewer.
Second, the Lamentation's relationship to other scenes in the chapel sends a
message of life after death.
A large and varied group of mourners, male and female, human and divine, have
gathered around the Virgin Mary and the dead Christ. The bleak, rocky landscape
points to Christ's burial shortly thereafter in a nearby cave.
While all the figures look toward Christ and the Virgin Mary, they are also
there to pull the viewer away from this pair. This visual tug-of-war means that
Christ and his grieving mother do not dominate.
This tug-of-war begins as soon as we enter the work, approaching from the
preceding scene on our left. The first figure we encounter is a veiled female
mourner, seated in the left foreground with her back to us.
Figures with faces engage the viewer. This faceless woman rendered as a solid,
sculptural mass feels like a wall which momentarily pushes us out. Pushing the
viewer out is a traditional way of creating a kind of emotional time-out for
the viewer between scenes.
On re-entering, we see that the seated mourner holds Christ's head in her
hands. So we move rightward to the Virgin and her dead son.
Mary embraces her son sitting on the ground, supporting his upper body on her
knees. His shoulders rest on her right knee, his waist on her left leg. Her
braided hair is slightly disheveled in the traditional manner of a mourner. Her
furrowed brow and tightly set mouth speak of grief.
She leans over Christ and places her face close to his. At first glance, this
position looks intimate enough. But to a contemporary viewer, accustomed to
Lamentations in which the faces of mother and son touch, it would have felt
The Virgin might have already kissed Christ or be about to do so, but Giotto
has chosen not to depict her during a mother's most heartbreaking moment, when
she kisses her child for the last time. So the artist has not raised the
emotional temperature as high as we might expect.
As we linger on the faces of Christ and his mother, we are constantly
distracted by the seated mourner on the left because of her hands under his
head. Also, both the mourner and the Virgin Mary are placed directly in front
of two standing mourners. This encourages the viewer to move upward.
In moving up, we encounter a group of 10 female mourners, all in varied
positions. The woman standing at the front has an expressive face and gesture.
Her mouth is slightly open and she raises her hands, palms facing forward, in
grief or prayer.
The veiled woman in green beside her is also distracting, as are, to a lesser
degree, three other women with sorrowful faces.
All these women look downward so we can return to the mother and son. But we
can just as easily go back to the mourners.
A similar back-and-forth movement involves the three women and three men on the
other side of the composition. In the foreground, a woman wearing a green cloak
and white veil holds Christ's right wrist. She has her back to us in a pose
that mirrors the first mourner we encountered on the left.
She is linked to two other female mourners because she overlaps them. A woman
with a pale blue cloak over her head holds Christ's left wrist and Mary
Magdalene supports his feet.
Christ, whom we take in as we move among the seated women, looks more heroic
than pathetic. This is not the helpless Christ that artists use to provoke
weeping. That type is usually shown with closed eyes and blood flowing from his
wounds. Giotto's Christ has his eyes open, which refers to his imminent victory
over death. And only one of his five wounds is visible, on his right foot.
A man in a pale red garment stands immediately behind the blue-cloaked woman.
He's been identified as John, one of Christ's 12 apostles. With eyes closed and
mouth slightly open, he leans and stretches out both arms behind him. His
gesture is appropriate to mourning, but it also has the effect of pushing us to
the right and pointing to two more apostles.
John also draws us upward since he stands in front of a rocky hill which winds
its way up on a diagonal to the right. There a tree, bare but about to
flourish, grows out of the rock, symbolizing life after death.
Above the mortal mourners, 10 small angels hover in a variety of grieving
attitudes. They contribute to the sorrowful mood, but like almost everyone in
the painting, they also distract the viewer from the Virgin Mary and her son.
Visual parallels with other scenes reinforce the message of new life. For
example, the trio of mourner, dead Christ and grieving mother in the
Lamentation echoes the midwife, newborn Christ and mother in the Nativity on
the south wall. In both groups, the two women hold the reclining Christ, whose
head is below and between theirs. In the Nativity, as in the Lamentation,
Giotto shows a moment before or after a more intimate maternal gesture -- the
Virgin's face does not touch Christ's.
The Lamentation is placed between the Crucifixion and Resurrection on the north
wall. This is the chronological order, of course, but this order was not always
followed in church decoration. Giotto's placement of the Lamentation underlines
its close association, not just to death, but to the Resurrection. So while the
event inspires grief, it also conveys hope.
Regina Haggo, a former professor of art history at the University of Canterbury
in New Zealand, teaches at the Dundas Valley School of Art. You can contact her
Papal visit to Russia possible "in near future": Russian PM
[Source: Agence France Presse, 4/22/03]
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said Tuesday he
believed a visit to Russia by Pope John Paul II was possible "in the near
future," but a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox church reminded him
sharply that its approval would be necessary.
"This is not a decision to be taken at government level, but we hope to
receive the pope in the near future," Kasyanov told reporters during a
visit to the northern city of Rybinsk, as quoted by the Interfax news agency.
Vatican authorities have said they could include a stopover by the pope in the
Russian city of Kazan, 800 kilometres (500 miles) east of Moscow, when he
travels to Mongolia in August.
The visit would enable the pope to return the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, one of
the most venerated icons of the Virgin Mary in the Orthodox Church, stolen from
the city in 1904 and which found its way to the Vatican. Kasyanov has strongly
backed the pope's declared wish to visit Russia and said during a visit to Rome
last week that his government was working actively to heal a rift between the
Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church.
His latest comments came after a Moscow patriarchate spokesman on Monday said
he hoped Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi would help to resolve the
differences between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches.
Berlusconi told Kasyanov on Friday that he had requested a meeting with
Patriarch Alexy II with a view to preparing a possible papal visit to Russia.
The Moscow patriarchate said it had not been informed of the proposed visit and
made clear that it would not approve of one until formal negotiations were
Spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin said on Monday he hoped Berlusconi might contribute
to easing differences, though no request for a meeting with the patriarch had
"The future of our relations lies with the Vatican. We hope that everyone
interested in their positive development, including the prime minister, will
persuade the Vatican to take concrete steps to resolve problems," Interfax
quoted him as saying.
"If he (Berlusconi) makes an official request, the patriarch will
certainly consider it," he said.
Reacting to Kasyanov's comments, Chaplin said he hoped the Vatican would not
start planning a visit without prior approval from the Orthodox authorities.
"The Russian state authorities have invited the pope on a number of
occasions but, as the Vatican itself agrees, official visits to a country have
to be approved by both the state and the predominant church or religious
community," he said.
However "we appreciate that the Vatican has thus far refrained from
planning the pope's possible visit to Russia without the consent of the Russian
Orthodox Church," Interfax quoted him as saying.
Chaplin noted that papal advisor Cardinal Walter Kasper and Metropolitan Kirill
of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, meeting in Geneva last month, had agreed that a
settling of differences between the two churches was "very remote."
However they also agreed to set up regular contacts to discuss their
The heads of the two rival churches have not met since the Great Schism of
1054, and the ailing pope has made it clear that one of his outstanding
ambitions is to meet Alexy II.
Relations between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, already
strained, deteriorated further in February last year when the pope said he was
creating four new Catholic dioceses in Russia.
The Moscow patriarchate is angered at what it perceives as Catholic proselytism
in its heartlands and over the situation in western Ukraine, where it says it
has lost three bishoprics to the Uniate Catholics.
Although the Kremlin could formally invite the pope to visit Russia as a head
of state, the Moscow patriarchate wields an effective veto.
Vietnam's bleeding Virgin Mary believers subjected to public
[Source: Agence France Presse, 4/15/03]
A group of Vietnamese Catholics who spread a rumour that a
statue of the Virgin Mary had bled have been criticized
in a public session, officials said Tuesday.
The believers had also stated the Virgin Mary herself had appeared to them in
1999. The public criticism session was carried out last Friday in Tan Phu
The twenty-one offenders were blamed for supporting Nguyen Van Vinh, who was
detained in March last year for disseminating the rumours, a local official
Vinh and his underlings had issued and circulated several superstitious
documents, books and videotapes about the appearance of the Virgin Mary in the southern province of Dong Nai.
They had also said the eyes of the statue in Hoa Binh Church had bled, drawing
thousands of curious people there in 2001.
The 21 were criticized for "abusing freedom of conscience to create social
disorder". But Vinh and some others will face a trial for "abusing freedom and democracy to harm the State interest".
Vietnam has Asia's second largest Catholic community after the Philippines,
with an estimated seven million believers in a population of some 80 million.
The country also has lots of small sects and religious bodies mixing different
religious and traditional beliefs, some of which are under government scrutiny.
Mobile Media goes on a merrymaking spree in the month of May
[Source: Business World (Philippines), 4/28/03]
The entire Philippines turns festive in May as practically all
towns and cities in the country celebrate Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan, both
colorful and usually grand events marked by an abundant offering of flowers and
And in mid-May, a burst of hues wraps the cool, quiet town of Lucban, Quezon in
celebration of the Pahiyas, one of the most popular and well-attended festivals
in the country.
The Flores de Mayo is a month-long Catholic tradition wherein little girls
offer flowers everyday to the Virgin Mary after praying the rosary. It
culminates in a procession, with carriages generously decorated with flowers
bearing the image of Mary, on the last day of the month.
The Santacruzan, also an event rooted in the Catholic faith, is a parade
commemorating the search of St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine of Rome,
for the Holy Cross. The original Santacruzan concept is to have 18 ladies, each
one representing a Catholic virtue or a significant woman of the religion, walk
around town while the rest of the devotees trail behind, ahead, and beside them
to light their way. The representative of St. Helena - or Santa Elena in the
vernacular - comes at the end of the parade and is the most well-lit and most
awaited by onlookers on the sidelines.
Nowadays, though, the parade can be as long as the number of households who are
willing to shell out money to dress up one of the ladies in the family. Other
variations that have cropped up over the years include little girls dressed and
made up to look like young ladies and gays who sometimes look more beauteous
than real women.
In the capital Metro Manila, there is a grand Santacruzan every year with
celebrities on parade donning gowns created by the country's famous designers.
This is usually held in the city of Manila.
May 15th marks Pahiyas, a thanksgiving celebration in honor of San Isidro de
Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. Houses in Lucban, particularly those
along the route of the procession, are elaborately adorned with Kiping, Lucban
longganisa (chinese-style sausage), fruits and vegetables, and handicrafts.
Kiping - made from rice flour, shaped using leaves, then painted in bright
colors - serves as the main decorative material. Pahiyas actually comes from
the word "payas" which means to decorate the wall with kiping. The
practice is done both in gratitude for the past year's bountry as well as in
prayer for a blessed year ahead.
One house is adjudged as the best for the year, adding extra motivation for
residents to be more creative in dressing up their homes. Other than taking
part in the procession and basking in the radiant houses, another highlight of
the annual event is the Tiyangge sa Lucban wherein the town's products
are showcased and sold at prices than can be haggled to a good low. Topping the
list of must-buys is the Lucban longganisa and buri/buntal merchandise
like hats and bags.
Watch out for the Mobile Media's' coverage of these Maytime merrymaking events!
Gardens honor Mary [Source: Scripps Howard News Service,
At the dawn of human civilization, nature was distinctly
female. Small statues of heavy, pregnant women were the first human symbols of
nature's fertility found in archeological digs. But while plants and animals
are female, the Earth itself was thought to be male.
The embodiment of nature became a series of nature goddesses. Many of the
plants devoted to them included female names. Maidenhair fern was first known
as Freyje's hair in Iceland. Its botanical name, "Adiantum
capillus-veneris," indicates it was later sacred to Venus. Today it is a
plant of the Virgin Mary.
These female names are everywhere in the ancient texts, but in the Middle Ages
goddess references became inconvenient to the spread of Christianity. Because
monasteries were the storehouses of botanical knowledge at the time, they
overlaid new meaning upon the goddess names.
They would honor mostly the Virgin Mary, but also Mary Magdalene, other women
in the Bible and various saints and martyrs. The nomenclature did not change
much, but the meaning did. In fact, a great deal of interesting folklore
appeared to explain this new dedication to the Christian women.
Today there is a growing interest in this relationship of flowers and gardens
to Mary. It is fueling an entirely new devotion, which combines a reverence for
Mary with a love of plants and flowers.
At homes, churches and holy sites, people have created gardens composed
entirely of plants dedicated to Mary by name, legend or history. There is a
Mary garden at the U.S. Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, and
one at the University of Dayton in Ohio. One of the earliest Mary gardens was
planted at St. Joseph's Church in Woods Hole, Maine. The gardens are springing
up in parishes all over America.
Creating a Mary garden at home or parish is easy to do, but they may vary
considerably in size. An apartment Mary garden might be a large pot of flowers
and a porcelain statue of her standing among them.
A small townhouse might have a niche garden of Mary plants. More institutional
applications may contain hundreds of flowers plus trees and shrubs.
Fortunately, John Stokes has created the Mary Gardens Web site where you can
find everything you need to get started with yours this spring.
At this site you can browse dozens of well-researched articles about the
history of Mary plants and botanical folklore old and new. There are
step-by-step guides to creating gardens for patio, home, parish, indoors and on
windowsills. The details explain how to obtain and grow the plants
successfully. You can also peruse a whole library of articles on Mary garden
devotions from theology to prayers and meditations.
Begin by downloading the 10-page "Introductory Annuals Mary Garden
Booklet," which gives you background on all the elements. Its plant list
includes easy-to-grow summer garden flowers, organized according to the
Mysteries of the Rosary.
There's even a plan and associated plant designation to take the guesswork out
of layout. The one element that all Mary gardens share is a statue of her as
the central focal point.
Nature created by God or a higher power is a concept that is growing ever more
important to our spiritual lives. Gardeners have always known that working
among plants feels quite spiritual, whether one is religious or not. This
closeness to living things that are both beautiful and silent inspires us in so
many ways and fills the heart and soul with a sense of peacefulness.
This spring, consider planting a little garden for Mary or simply for the
universally divine female. Go there when you feel stressed or angry. Allow its
purity to return you to the healing power of the creator, which is the essence
of all life. You will soon discover that what they say is true - that from
earth we were born, and to earth we shall return, and in between we garden.
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