Walk The Blue Fields

6 September 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Global Catholic

Walk the Blue Fields is a new book of short stories by Irish writer Claire Keegan.  All but one of the seven stories is set in rural Ireland. blue3.jpg

In the title story, a priest marries a young couple and throughout the celebrations he is haunted by the memories of a love affair and the choice he made. When everything begins to close in on him, he leaves the party to walk.

Reflecting on the perennial question, “Where is God?” he discovers “tonight God is answering back. All around the air is sharp with the tang of wild currant bushes. A lamb climbs out of a deep sleep and walks across the blue field. Overhead, the stars have rolled into place. God is nature.”

A Chinese Bishop’s Comment at the Beijing Olympics

25 August 08 | Posted in Events, Global Catholic

“Air pollution is an issue for the Olympics. The government has shut down all heavy industry within an enormous area for three months. Factories within 200 kilometers of downtown Beijing have been requested to close. Only a little production can relocate to more distant places on short notice. Severe restrictions on cars and trucks in Beijing are another drastic measure to ensure clean air. These inconvenient and costly steps tell the whole world that clean air for the Games is essential. I wish they would also realize the importance of great religious and social freedom.”

– Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong bishoptong.jpg

Salvadoran Bishops: The Dangers of Mining

21 August 08 | Posted in Events, Global Catholic, Stewardship

The Catholic bishops in El Salvador put forth their stance on mining in the country a little more than a year ago in the declaration: Let’s Take Care of Everyone’s Home. It is a strong, clear statement about the dangers of precious metals mining.  The burgeoning gold and silver mines are primarily operated by Canadian companies and subject only to light regulation.

“Our small country is the place where God the Creator called us to life. This is the portion of the world that he has trusted us to take care of and use according to his will: ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.’ (Gen 1:28). But this blessed Earth that we love so dearly, suffers an increasing and insensitive deterioration. We all have a responsibility to conserve and defend it because the environment is ‘the house of all’: it is ours and that of future generations.”

“From this perspective of faith we wish to share with you our pastoral vision on a problem that deeply worries us: the possibility that mining of precious metals is authorized, to pen cast mining or subterranean mining, mainly in the northern part of our country.”

“The experience in brother and neighboring countries, that have permitted gold and silver mining, is truly sad and lamentable. The bishops of those nations have raised their voice. We also wish to pronounce ourselves against (mining) before it is too late.”

SHARE Foundation recently sponsored a trip to the U.S.  for Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador. Addressing a group in Kansas City, he said the mines have the potential to destroy El Salvador’s ecological system. bishop-rosa.jpg

“You know our country is very small,” he said. “Twenty-thousand kilometers (12,400 miles) square. Very crowded, 6 million people, or 300 people on each kilometer square. The mines are situated in the north of the country and the drinking water comes from the north. If the water is poisoned, everyone would be.”

The argument that such mining operations help the Salvadoran economy and provide jobs is fallacious, he said. “How much money remains in the country?” Bishop Chavez asked. “Two percent. There is no proportion between the profits and the damages.”

Pope Benedict’s August Prayer Intention

2 August 08 | Posted in Global Catholic, Spirituality, Vatican

Benedict XVI will be praying this month that all may be more aware of the gift of creation.

The Apostleship of Prayer announced the August intention chosen by the Pope: “That the human family may know how to respect God’s design for the world and thus become ever more aware of the great gift of God which Creation represents for us.” logo.gif

Nicknamed “the Pope’s own prayer group,” since the 19th century popes have asked the Apostleship of Prayer to pray for specific intentions each month.  Members pledge to pray for them every day. 

I had never heard of the Apostleship of Prayer before finding them on Google yesterday.  After reading their mission statement, and reading the August reflection for the environement, I joined. I was pleased to see the Prayer for the Month is St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun, the prayer of this blog.

Their mission is straightforward: “Whatever your walk of life, the Apostleship of Prayer offers you a simple, profound way to live it. We ask you to pray every day for the good of the whole world. That’s our whole mission. We believe prayer is the way to hasten the Kingdom of God on earth. Even if we don’t understand how it works, prayer itself changes things for the better. We also know that those who pray open themselves to loving service of others.”

The Right Hand of God

29 July 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Bible, Global Catholic

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The Dextera Dei, the Right Hand of God, is portrayed on the north face of Muiredach’s Cross, the largests of the stone “high crosses” at Monasterboice in Co. Louth, just north of Dublin. The Hand of God is shown resting on a round carved disk; underneath it two snakes intertwine three human heads. 

The monastery was founded around 520 A.D.  The cross was carved in the 10th century, and is dedicated to an abbot of Monasterboice, Muiredach mac Domhaill. His death is recorded in 923 A.D.

I was in the presence of the cross on a cold, bright spring morning. The ground was still wet with dew. I remained standing by the Right Hand of God long after the other members of my group moved away.  I studied, and looked, and counted, but I couldn’t crack its mystery.

Since I returned home, I have not been able to find any discussion of the iconography of this part of the cross. Are the roots of the artwork in the ancient Irish symbols for the sun, victory and divinity?  The Old Testament? The New Testament? All three? The images portrayed have their roots in both traditions: Life, Death, Kingship, Victory, Divinity. Snakes could symbolize the ancient native religion, Satan or fallen angels.

The location of the cross was in an ancient grove had its own meaning. That gently sloping knoll served as a sacred place to the local people well before the arrival of Christian missionaries and monks.

There are referrences to “right hand of God” throughout the Bible. As the messiah, Jesus is supposed to be seated at the Right Hand of God. 

But the cross of Muiredach pays as much attention to David as it does Jesus, so I think the origin for the symbols come from one of his stories or psalms. 

In my first attempt as a Biblical art detective, I propose the inspiration for the carving comes from Psalm 109.  It begins: “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at might right hand: Until I make thy enemies thy footstool.”