Art • Music • Film • Poetry • Books
Janet McKenzie, Copyright 2009, www.janetmckenzie.com
Collection of Donald Goodrich, Bennington, Vermont
John Christman, SSS
Not too long ago, a Filipino woman came up to me after Mass and asked me to pray for her and her family. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she told me her story. She, like so many strong, self-giving women from the Philippines, had left her country to seek work that could help support her family in a time of crisis. Her husband had very serious medical issues that prevented him from working and created challenging medical expenses. Additionally, she had two children to support.
Her choices were limited in her country. So, like many other Filipino women, she left the land she loved to find employment opportunities elsewhere. Thankfully, she found work. In fact, she was working two jobs — one job during the day and another at night, with no time off to attend to her own well-being. And she did all of this to provide for her family, despite the pain and sorrow of not being able to be with them and living alone in a foreign land.
Through her tears, she told me she had just received word that her husband’s condition had worsened. She had been laboring away from her country for two years, hoping her tireless efforts would help improve his health so that she could come home. Now she was standing before me weeping and asking for my prayers.
While this woman’s story is particularly heart-wrenching, millions of other Filipino Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) make similar tremendous sacrifices every day to help support their families back home. The same could be said of so many people from China, India, and Mexico, the three leading countries with citizens working abroad and sending money home to support their families. It seems humanity has a long way to go to realize the basic Catholic values of economics based on the intrinsic value of the human person and the preservation of the family.
With all this in mind, gaze upon Janet McKenzie’s striking painting Madonna and Child with the Origami Angels. Can you not see some of that same strength and determination in the face of this Asian representation of the mother of Jesus? Does she not convey some of the character of the Filipino OFW who will provide for her family, come what may? Does not the Christ-child look completely supported and secure in her arms? Or are their intimate embrace and Christ’s closed eyes a sad acknowledgement that mother and child must soon part because the world is too unjust to keep them together? Is the somewhat somber tone of this painting a reminder of the cross that these two will bear in an often-cruel world? Is this a goodbye?
Advent and Christmas may not be when we wish to think about these realities. After all, we, too, need the joy and celebration of these seasons to lift the weight of the burdens we carry. Yet, surely, we can find some way, in the generosity of the season, to help those struggling in such circumstances. Christmas is a time where we celebrate the birth of the one who brings hope and salvation. What better way to celebrate the birth of our Savior than by helping bring hope to those families that are most in need!
Janet McKenzie’s painting reminds us of the importance of hope in a subtle, inculturated manner. The “origami angels” of the title are symbols of that hope. As the theologian (Chung) Hyun Kyung has so eloquently written of these origami angels or “cranes” in McKenzie’s painting, “In Asia, we fold paper cranes to help God hear our prayers, our deepest longings and hopes. . . . With the origami cranes behind them, showing the unfolding of peace, justice, and reconciliation, this dark Madonna with her child appears in a soft light of healing, wholeness, and transformation.”1
May we not only experience hope, “healing, wholeness, and transformation” this Christmas, but also be agents of hope, “healing, wholeness, and transformation” for those most in need. I pray especially for that Filipino mother’s tears. May she be comforted and reunited with her family this Christmas!
- (Chung) Hyun Kyung, “Madonna and Child with the Origami Angels” in Holiness and The Feminine Spirit: The Art of Janet McKenzie. Ed. Susan Perry (New York: Orbis Books, 2009), 63.
All Saints Church of the Kitchen Table
during this forever moment
we give thanks
over coffee, cream, and sugar
all things cereal, orange juice
litany of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast
for the altar is spread with mercy each morning
words fleshed sacred to the touch
speaking in tongues of laughter filling saucer and cup
chanting while opening jars of grandma’s pickled okra
across memories, stories that will help bury her tomorrow
children fed growing like wildflowers
around this our meadow with the festival hum of bees
placemats and paper plates fit for the feast
mac and cheese, fish sticks and tea
paper towels wipe faces linen clean
sunday and thanksgiving christmas and easter rising
chocolate cake birthdays and ice cream
come dressed in vestments most sacred most holy
pjs, slippers, jeans
come as you are
all are invited to this table
where we are all the citizens
and somewhat saints who psalm imperfectly amen
around this our meadow with the festival hum of bees
Lou Ella Hickman, IWBS
The darkness was deep with a heaviness of spirit
Perhaps, you had been too close to sorrow
Too close to the fears of the night
Too close to the old to recognize the new
In grace-filled light
You saw what all along had been there
Waiting for you to awaken from your separateness
Waiting for you to put down your defensiveness
And ease back into conversation with your soul.
Patricia Chehy Pilette
Chicago, Illinois: Liturgical Training Publications, 2018
424 pp., $12.00
Daily Prayer 2019 continues a longstanding tradition of liturgical and prayer resources from Liturgical Training Publications. This year’s author is no stranger to readers of Emmanuel. Blessed Sacrament Father John Thomas Lane is a regular contributor. He is the pastor of Saint Paschal Baylon Church in Highland Heights, Ohio, and has authored Guide for Celebrating Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass and contributed to numerous other liturgical publications.
Editions of Daily Prayer have been helping Catholics to deepen their faith through prayer for over a decade. The format is straightforward and easy to use. For each day of the year beginning with the start of the liturgical year in December 2018 and ending on December 31, 2019, the reader is given a scripture reading taken from the daily liturgy, a psalm, a reflection on the reading, intercessory prayers, and a closing prayer.
The premise and format of this book enables Catholics to put into practice one of the central principles of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which counsels us that the liturgy is the source and summit of Christian life. For many, participating in daily liturgy is out of reach for a variety of reasons. Daily Prayer 2019 enables the reader to structure his or her daily prayer on the richness of the Church’s liturgical year and feasts.
In one of the reflections in the book, Father Lane writes, “Jesus continuously invites his followers to look at the bigger picture.” At times, our prayer can become myopic and self-centered, focusing on our own immediate needs. Through the reflections and intercessory prayers presented, the author challenges us to expand our prayer to include the broader needs of our Church and our human family, enlarging our vision of living and practicing our faith.
In addition to its value as a personal prayer aid, Daily Prayer 2019 offers parish ministers a valuable resource in providing prayer experiences for meetings and forming catechetical leaders in both day schools and religious education programs. RICA participants might also find in this resource a path to developing a liturgical spirituality.
Throughout its 17-year history, Daily Prayer readers have expressed how much this resource has helped them to grow in their spiritual life. Thanks to the insightful writing of John Thomas Lane, the tradition will continue with Daily Prayer 2019.
Associate of the Blessed Sacrament
New York, New York: Magnificat, 2017
192 pp., $24.95
Magnificat is a widely-read resource for liturgy and personal prayer. Founded in France in 1992 by Pierre-Marie Dumont, it debuted in the United States six years later under the editorship of Peter John Cameron, OP. Magnificat is known for its compact size, richly varied features and articles, and exquisite full-color covers.
In Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary brings together reproductions of 40 covers, enlarged details from them accentuating specific elements of the artwork, commentaries by Dumont, reflections on the mysteries of Mary’s life, and hymns drawn from the Church’s treasury of sacred music.
Dumont’s book is not a “collector’s work” or a “coffee-table volume” for the artistically inclined, as one might first assume. The highlighted covers weren’t chosen primarily for their artistic merits, but because, placed together, they offer a sweeping meditation on Mary’s life and role in God’s redemptive plan. Included are moments that are part of the scriptural record of the Virgin (e.g., the annunciation, the visitation, the nativity, the Magi, the presentation of Jesus in the temple, the wedding feast of Cana, the crucifixion, etc.) as well as others from the Church’s liturgy, tradition, and devotion (e.g., the wedding of Mary and Joseph, Anne and Joachim [“God’s Grandparents”], the dormition, the queenship of Mary, etc.).
Dumont’s intent is to open up the exalted mystery of the woman whom — echoing Mary’s hymn of praise in Luke 1:46-55 — the “Almighty has looked on with favor,” “done great things for,” and “lifted up.” The book is described as an “act of filial homage.” That being said, his commentaries on art and faith are interesting and informative. They examine the masterpieces and the respective artists, often in the light of today’s social-ecclesial reality.
What do you get in the 40 chapters? Chapter 13, “The Begetting of Light — The Nativity,” is typical. In it, you will find an ancient hymn, O Gloriosa Domina, by Venantius Fotunatus (530-609), in Latin and in English; Dumont’s commentary on the Flemish-born painter Jan Stephan van Calcar’s The Nativity, with full-page and detail color renderings; and a concluding reflection by the twentieth-century Swiss physician and theologian Adrienne von Speyr. Together, they offer an uplifting presentation, both from the viewpoint of art history and that of belief and prayer.
I am not a subscriber to Magnificat nor have I ever been. I know many people who are faithful readers of it. Anyone who loves beautiful artwork and insightful analysis will appreciate In Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The believer, however, will find in it so much more to nourish his or her faith life and prayer. (It would make a very thoughtful Christmas gift for a cherished friend or parish minister!)
Anthony Schueller, SSS
Chicago, Illinois: Loyola Press, 2017
112 pp., $12.95
In this collection of 14 general audiences given between Advent 2016 and Lent 2017, Pope Francis offers reflections on various facets of the virtue of hope. His claim that “optimism disappoints, but hope does not” is tested throughout the book (1). He claims that hope brings a smile even when we walk through a desert. It gives the little ones cause to march on through God’s history, even in spite of the history that powerful leaders try to impose. Unlike worldly hope that merely wishes for an event to happen, Christian hope reaches for what already exists in the paschal mystery (64).
The pope draws from Isaiah, Genesis (especially the stories of Abraham and Rachel), Judith, and Jonah in addition to the Gospels and Paul in developing his thoughts on hope. In contrast to scriptural images of hope, Francis justly criticizes the hope afforded by money, alliances, ideologies, and even fortune-tellers (40-41). Those who try to make their own future brighter through abortion, power, success, or vanity will be disappointed. Hope leads people to prayer and can transform their world even to the point where they will come to friendly terms with “sister death,” as Saint Francis of Assisi claimed (51).
Occasionally, the pope might have explained more fully how Old Testament expressions of hope are transformed by New Testament insights. For example, he praises Judith for her courage in beheading Nebuchadnezzar’s general Holofernes (Jdt 13:4 ff.). For Francis, her faith and prayer show that God allows death as an instrument of salvation (56-57); yet it is also true that Jesus seems to qualify that kind of hope (Mt 26:52). If Francis had more time to develop his thoughts, he might have explored the interpretation of Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe, who summarized the story of Judith by the observation, “Chastity went forth to do battle against lust, and holy humility forward to the destruction of pride. He fought with weapons, she with fasts. He in drunkenness, she in prayer” (Epistle 2.29).
Hope looks for help, and that means that compassionate people will come to the aid of those who hope. They will build bridges for them, and not walls (71). Furthermore, hope respects creation and does not destroy it. Hence, Francis criticizes those who contaminate water in their careless effort to extract minerals from the earth (82).
This useful collection of papal reflections on hope can stir conversation and much reflection on the virtue of hope. Scholars and ordinary faithful alike can benefit from reading them.
Gerald J. Bednar, PhD
Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology
Kevin W. Irwin
Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2014
272 pp., Paperback, $24.95
On pages two and sixteen of this book, Father Irwin shares its purpose: “. . . to shed light on, and to invite discussion about, the experience in which Catholics have been engaged since the Second Vatican Council in implementing and praying the liturgy as reformed after the council.” He begins by focusing on ten specific questions in a reverential tone, “yet not uncritical of what has been done to implement the reform rites.” Irwin cites examples of what we have done very well; I hoped he would have shared a deeper insight into what we have not done well, or “failed to do.”
The title is something I struggle with, for I come from a more positive approach; it is nice for him to focus on the “Confiteor” text, yet he writes, “This book will, I hope, be of particular benefit for all those involved in preparing and leading us in the reformed liturgy: bishops, priests, deacons, readers, servers, cantors, musicians, [Communion] ministers, and the variety of pastoral ministers whose daily efforts shape how and what we celebrate.” The book is of great value for those familiar with a working history of liturgy and would help inform those new to the Church to understand the liturgical transition since the Second Vatican Council.
The book is divided into ten chapters focusing on areas the author deems most important: Church renewal, active participation, making memory together, the sacramental principle, liturgical translations, the proclamation of the word and the liturgical homily, liturgical roles and presiding at liturgy, the arts, liturgical education and mystagogy and devotions and spirituality. Each chapter is a good assessment of the topic and offers key insights.
Irwin highlights that the objective of the liturgical reforms was the renewal of the Church, particularly at the intersection of Church life and liturgy. He cites exposure to the RCIA, the cycle of readings, the improvement of the liturgical year, especially the Triduum, the anointing of the sick, the liturgy of the hours, and the restoration of evening prayer as examples of this renewal. He offers an excellent reflection on symbol and the history of translating liturgical texts. Irwin carefully points out inconsistency and redundancy in the Church’s language, specifically in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, about our liturgical life, such as “active participation.” The section “Questions for Liturgical Preaching” should be mandatory reading for preachers.
While I hoped for more insights into the future, this book is an excellent assessment of the history and present reality of liturgical celebration. Irwin is noted for his fine writing, his excellent observations, and his devotion. His on-target analysis reminds us of the prime importance of celebrating the liturgy well, allowing it to become the “source and summit of our lives” and revealing a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
John Thomas Lane, SSS
Saint Paschal Baylon Church
Highland Heights, Ohio
Ed. Jeana DelRosso, Leigh Eicke, and Ana Kothe
SUNY Press, Excelsior Editions, 2017
146 pp., $19.95
The “unruly” of the title Unruly Catholic Nuns carries a straightforward etymology, with the prefix “-un” negating the sense of “rule,” in a notion whose familiar synonyms include “uncontrollable,” “ill-disciplined,” and “intractable.” Jeana DelRosso, Leigh Eicke, and Ana Kothe take delight in the contrast between this wayward litany of descriptors and the historical image of nuns bound by obedience to the rules of their congregations and Church. The book is the third in the editors’ series on the errant theme, following The Catholic Church and Unruly Women Writers: Critical Essays (2007) and Unruly Catholic Women Writers: Creative Responses to Catholicism (2013).
In an orderly presentation of its “disorderly” focus, the collection offers 24 selections of prose, poetry, and drama, some less than a single page, none longer than 20 pages. Subtitles for its three sections come from Julian of Norwich’s Showings: Part One: “Our Father Wills”; Part Two: “Our Mother Works”; and Part Three: “The Holy Spirit Confirms.” Engaging “the global conversation about the role of women religious in the Catholic Church” (4), DelRosso, Eicke, and Kothe, in their introduction, hail the “intelligent, dedicated, often strategic” maneuverings of sisters pursuing “the work that God calls them to do” (2). “What’s unruly about that?” the editors seem to suggest.
The book’s thought-provoking array of creative writing, unified in substance but varied in topic and expression, invites readers to answer that question in the particular. The opening selection, “The Nun Speaks to Her Church,” is a poem prompted by the 2009 Vatican investigation of U.S. sisters written by one surprised, after almost six decades of service, to find “now that I am 75, / you do not trust me” (12). “The Chancery,” by Jean Molesky-Poz, recounts the day she signed official papers releasing her from vows, wrenching to her but a moment of mere bureaucracy at the diocesan offices. Mary Ellen Rufft, inspired by her practice as a psychologist, offers “The Altered Boy” in the voice of a pedophile’s victim and “Bed or Bread?” in the voice of a woman forced by poverty into prostitution. Pat Montley provides first a reflection on her path out of religious life and then a beguiling one-act play, “The Renunciation,” in which the angel Gabriella invites Mary to become the Messiah, only to have Mary negotiate the role of mother of the Messiah instead.
Although brought together for a popular audience, works have been solicited from authors with substantial resumes. Contributors include co-founders of FutureChurch, New Ways Ministry, and the Vancouver Catholic Worker, as well as a winner of two Catholic Press Awards, a double winner of the Nassau Prize, and a nominee for the Pushcart. Among them are sisters, former sisters, even former Catholics; Carole Ganim finds value in being “out of order” (55) while Pat Montley professes, “The unruly life is not a comfortable one. But for me it is the only honest one” (68).
Certainly, in its “unruliness” the compilation pushes far beyond the usual territory of pastoral writing. Nonetheless — nuntheless — the overall impression it conveys is one of grateful, respectful admiration for religious women. Patricia Dwyer’s enduring embrace of those who shared religious life with her can extend to all the women who tell their stories here, whether in or out of bounds: “We remain sisters” (88).
Christine De Vinne, OSU
Professor of English
Pepper Pike, Ohio