Thursday, January 30, 2014

Marveling at Super-Pope Francis via Graffiti Art

Artist Mauro Pallotta with his graffiti art "Superpope" Francis (photo:  Andreas Dueren/CNA)
Mauro Pallotta is a 41 year old artist and sculptor based in Rome.  But Pallotta may better be known as a celebrated street artist based on widespread notoriety of his graffiti "Super-Pope" Francis on the Via Plauto, a tiny cobble stoned street in the Borgo Pio district near St. Peter's Square in Rome (Vatican City).

Pallotta (a.k.a. Maupal) was inspired to do the piece one evening when he was reading a comic book and the image of the Pope appeared on television.  Pallotta opined:

“I thought of representing this Pope, Francis, as a super hero of the Marvel (Heroes), simply because, according to me, he is one of the few people who, having a real power as a Pope, he uses it for the good like the superheroes of the American Marvel.” 
It dawned on the artist that this Pope also had superpowers in the form of humility and empathy.

Pallotta likened Super-Pope  to  "It's  a little bit like Greek mythology brought to modernity.”   In depicting Pope Francis as a superhero using his papal authority for the good, the pontiff is shown as a pop style dressed in his understated white cassock, simple shoes and an iron pectoral crosscross as the Super-Pope carrying a black briefcase labeled "Valores" (meaning values in both Latin and Spanish).  This symbolizes that the first New World  Pope only carries his Christian values.

A red and blue scarf is hanging out of the briefcase, which is for the Argentine San Lorenzo de Football (soccer) club, which the Pope been a fan of this underdog team since his boyhood.

Graffiti art in Buenos Aires, Argentina of Pope Francis &San Lorenzo Football Club (photo TripAdvisor)

Pope Francis greeted players from San Lorenzo at the Vatican in December after a Wednesday general audience to congratulate them on winning the Tornial Incial championship.

 Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken of the spiritual values of sports teams.  His Holiness exhorted Argentine and Italians sports clubs that:  "[R]ugby is like life because we are all heading for a goal, we need to run together and pass the ball from hand to hand until we get to it".

The artist explained that the San Lorenzo soccer scarf brought Super-Pope Francis to being human.  However, considering Pope Francis' connection between sports and spirituality, carrying  the San Lorenzo scarf with his values "baggage" , it can be seen as a reminder that even a "Super-Pope" needs the support of his underdog team to achieve the goal of advancing the kingdom of God.

Vatican Communications embraced Pallotta's Super-Pope folk art tribute by posting it on  its Twitter feed.

The Super-Pope graffiti art lasted but a day, as Rome's decorum police acted faster than a speeding bullet took down this street art in record time. 

Bishop Edward Burns on Faith

It is fitting the Bishop Burns' motto is "Pray with confidence".

Sunday, January 26, 2014

An Unruly Aviary Angelus

Pope Francis during January 26, 2014 Angelus, St. Peter's Square, Vatican City

Crowds gather in Vatican City on Sundays at Noon to pray the Angelus prayer with the Pope.  Often the Pontiff will make brief remarks in conjunction with praying this ancient Christian devotion to the Incarnation.  

However, those who sojourned to St. Peter’s Square this Sunday saw quite an unusual spectacle.  Pope Francis stood on the balcony of the Apostolic Palace and was flanked by a boy and a girl who released doves into the air.  This international symbol of piece should have served a dual purpose, marking the end of the Octave of Christian Unity as well as underlining the Pope’s call for peace.  Pope Francis focused on the bloody unrest in Ukraine, where he called for “constructive dialogue” to prevail in the Eastern European nation.

Alas, an unruly aviary altercation took the world’s attention.  After the two white doves took flight, a seagull and a large black crow swooped down on the doves immediately after they were released.  While one dove lost some feathers when it broke free from the gull, the other dove was repeatedly pecked by the crow.

Some wags have suggested the faith of the black bird might have been from The Religion of Pieces, but that remains unsubstantiated. 

While it was rather ironic that symbols of peace seemed under attack as they were released to the world, it would be wise not to ruminate on this grotesquerie in order to consider the call for peace in Ukraine.  

Eleanor Powell on Theology

Friday, January 24, 2014

Honoring St. Francis de Sales, the Patron Saint of Writers

Today is the feast day of St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622).  Francis de Sales was canonized in 1665.  St. Francis de Sales was known both for his medium as well as his message.  St. Francis de Sales was named a doctor of the Church by Pope Blessed Pius IX in 1877 for works like "An Introduction to a Devout Life".   

In 1924, Pope Pius XII  proclaimed St. Francis de Sales the patron saint of writers and journalists (and now bloggers) since he extensively used media (flyers and books in his spiritual direction and his apologetics to convert Calvinists in the region.   During his missionary work in Switzerland, Francis de Sales was able to help up to 70,000 people return to the faith.  Aside from his prolific wring, St. Francis de Sales was known for his concern for writing with truth and charity.  Hence, he is also considered a patron for Christian Unity. 

 Through your prayers, St. Francis de Sales, I ask for your intercession as I attempt to bring the written word to the world. Let us pray that God takes me in the palm of His hand and inspires my creativity and inspires my success. St. Francis de Sales, you understand the dedication required in this profession. Pray for God to inspire and allow ideas to flow. In His name, let my words reflect my faith for others to read. Amen.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Abortion War Casualties

Alas, it is the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  So the poignant political cartoon and the statistics of casualties of the judicially mandated imposition of abortion on demand are slightly out of date, but no less poignant.  

Yet politicians can demagogue about a "War on Women", yet forget about the children who are casualties, as well as sanction barbaric and illegal practices (ala Kermit Gosnell) which endanger womens' health so as nothing might endanger the so called "Right to Choose."  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Puckish Providence Church Sign Challenges the New England Faithful

Today is Championship Sunday, when the NFC and the AFC determines which teams go on to the Superbowl XVIII at the Meadowlands in New Jersey on February 2nd, 2014.

Ordinarily, football fans have regional loyalties which almost rival religious affiliation.  The Boston Patriots changed their name to the New England Patriots when the AFC team moved to a new stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts (32 miles from the Hub) in 1971 to embrace all of New England.  The Patriots string of Superbowl championships in 2001, 2003 and 2004 under the helm of  Coach Bill Belichick and the leadership of Quarterback Tom Brady has solidified Patriots fans for many years. 

Thus it was surprising to see this photograph of the First Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island (20 miles from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough). 

While this church sign was almost certainly put up by a puckish football contrarian, it does elicit some further thought.  The dedication to Roger Williams, the religious leader who founded Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is significant.  Roger Williams is also well known for the notion that soul liberty and freedom of conscience were gifts from God, and that everyone had the natural right to freedom of religion.   Williams left England and parted ways from the Puritans in  Plymouth Colony in 1634  to not submit to state religion. 

Howard Cosell likened American football fanaticism to being like a secular religion.  The First Baptist Church "sign master" mirrored Roger Williams rejection of state compelled belief in rooting for the Broncos. 

There is no word about the First Baptist Church of Providence's job status at this time.

Joel Osteen on Character

Joel Osteen

Monday, January 13, 2014

Butte Blasphemy By Fanatical '49ers Pastor?

Rev. Tim Christensen, Pastor of Golden Hills ECLA Church during one minute Mass

Sunday was the the conclusion of the National Football League's divisional playoffs.  The early game pitted the Carolina Panthers hosting the San Francisco '49ers.   On the East Coast, it was a 1  pm kick-off.  Alas, further inland, the starting time conflicted with some church services.

The Right Reverend Tim Christensen, pastor of the Golden Hill Evangelical Lutheran Church in Butte, Montana, had a dilemma.  Christensen is an avowed '49ers fan and apparently nothing would get in the way of  this priest watching this playoff game, not even his ministerial obligation of an 11 am CST service (1 pm EST).

Someone on social media shared a jocular post about Christensen conducting a severely short service and quipped tongue in cheek that unless Catholics could get a "Microwave Mass" done in under three minutes, she would convert.  Prima facia, rushing through a rubric to watch a secular sporting event seems quite misguided. However watching the video made my jaw drop.

Christensen conducted his "service" in less than one minute, giving an abbreviated absolution of sins.  Perhaps it was cute to show his 49ers t-shirt under his vestments at the conclusion of the sham Divine Service.  But kissing his biceps in closing ala San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is less than reverend.  More importantly, inviting the congregation to a Eucharistic buffet of bread and wine seems sacrilegious, showing no respect for the sacramental union which is the real presence of the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in which even Evangelical Lutherans profess to believe.

My own Catholic faith history revels in both prolonged smells and bells masses and shorter services.  In college,  I often went to a Mass where it took me longer to walk to and from the liturgy than the Mass itself.  The "Tower Express" had students in-out-and back on the streets in 17 minutes with 50 people served.  That being said, the service included a brief but thoughtful homily and a full mass without singing (albeit without saying the Creed).   In my youth, I remember a priest having a simple homily for a vigil Mass by simply donning a Detroit  Tigers hat when the baseball team had an evening playoff game.  Once again, it was a quick but full liturgy.

Ordinarily I worship on Sunday evenings.  But on Superbowl Sunday, my normal Mass cuts into the first quarter of the big game. Even though it is the only Sunday evening when it is easy to find a last minute seat for Mass at the infamous Catholic church in Georgetown, I will worship at another time, lest I miss the camaraderie of watching expensive ads with a festive group of friends (interspersed with a football game). 

It is ironic that the iconic ABC-TV sports journalist Howard Cosell once observed that: "The importance that our society attaches to sport is incredible.  After all, is football a game or a religion?  The people of this country have allowed sports to get completely out of hand."

 It seems that rearranging one's schedule to fit in both church and a Superbowl party is one thing and a pastor holding a flimsy pro forma Mass to watch football is quite something else.

There is some suggestion that Rev. Christensen staged this stunt  to go viral as a joke or in an attempt to reach the unchurched through the internet.  If this is the case, then there is no clarifying afterword on the official church posted Youtube video, the Golden Hill ELCA Facebook page or the church's website.  Supposedly,  the Pastor texted "To The Win" that he did not let his congregation off that easily and gave a full homily.   But mocking the Mass without context is not "kosher" for clergy, especially up on an altar.  If it was a 'teachable moment", why was the apologetic also captured on video to put it in proper context?

As I am not a Lutheran, I can not say with surety if this was a valid Divine Service, but it certainly does not seem like the norm.  The Wittenberg Concord from 1536 requires consecration, distribution and reception.  Inviting the faithful to a Eucharistic buffet seems to lack an essential element which should be at the heart of the sacrament.  

Pro arguendo, if this NFL edition of a Lutheran Divine Service is valid, does this de-sacralized service focus on essential truths and graces to help us on our Earthly journey to our eventual divine home?  It seems to me that it is a Butte blasphemy by a fanatical '49ers pastor who pretended to preside over a "Gold Rush" Mass.

Does this keep with the Decalogue's dictat to "Make Holy the Sabbath" (albeit on "the Lord's Day")?  For practicing Christians, does Rev. Christensen's abbreviated service feed the soul or lead the flock off the reservation?

Post Scriptus  01/14/2014-- Per the Montana Standard, Rev. Christensen intended the one minute mass as a prank and then conducted a traditional Divine Service.  His 18 year old son videotaped the tongue in cheek whirlwind worship session as he knew that his Dad would reveal his 49ers t-shirt.

Christensen thought that he would share the video on his personal social media page along with the Church's Facebook fan page, where people would understand the inside joke.

Yet the video went viral.  So let this be a lesson to anyone on the internet--inside jokes posted on the internet NEVER stay private thus they remain on your Permanent Record.

What do you think of the "One Minute Mass" by Rev. Tim Christensen
It fulfills a Sunday Obligation.
It fails to keep holy the Sabbath.
It shows a pastor leading his flock astray.
It makes a mockery of the Mass.
It reflects the day's priorites.
Who am I to judge?
Poll Maker