Learning to See Beauty
In a film I recently watched, A Walk in the Woods, there was a scene in which the two main characters got into a predicament and ended up sleeping under the stars. One of them commented on the beauty of the stars in the clear sky overhead, amazed at the millions of galaxies that he felt he could see that night. The two men were able to revel in the wonder of it all, quite possibly for the first time in their lives. The sight of countless visible stars seemed to give peace to both of them. They were in a situation in which they were not sure they would emerge unscathed, yet the beauty of creation somehow broke through and they were able to see and be amazed by it. There is a powerful lesson in this scene because what it is saying is that sometimes we have to learn to see what is right in front of us all along. It also reveals that even in the midst of sorrow or a desperate situation we are capable of learning to see beauty. Perhaps this is the key to finding peace where none seems to be found, and therefore is the way to find God where we are most in need of Him.
There is so much going on in our daily lives that it is easy to go from one chore, commitment, or activity to the next without taking the time to truly observe our surroundings. I love to take photos when I travel, yet increasingly I want to put the camera down and simply be where I am, taking in the sights and sounds of a place I may never set foot again so that I do not miss the gift given in that moment. This urge tells me that perhaps I should listen, spending more time ‘in the now’ drinking it all in, then clicking photos to remember it in the future. Truly, it makes absolutely no sense to take photos so that I can remember the moment in the future when all that will be remembered is that I took photos without having any sense of how I felt or what I really saw in the first place! This realization is also important insofar as we want to truly be present to the people who we are with so that we can delight in who they are, pay attention to what they are saying, and rejoice in the friendship we share. Even if we are with strangers or those who we feel are ‘challenging,’ increasing our ability to be truly present might help us understand just who they are or why we feel a challenge being with them; and perhaps we can learn to see the beauty that is hidden beneath their behaviors or opinions which differ from our own.
The great impressionist artist, Camille Pissarro once said, “Everything is beautiful; all that matters is to be able to interpret.” This is true in our efforts at learning how to see beauty, both in what surrounds us in nature and in the people with whom we might come into contact. If one were to look at the many paintings done by Pissarro one would see an abundance of landscapes and nature scenes. It seems that he was continually interpreting what he saw so that he was able to see beauty in literally watching the grass grow. There is ‘contemplativity’ in the scenes he painted. (I know that is not a real word, but bear with me.) I would dare say that all great artists have this capability, which is to look at the world around them and to interpret it into their medium, whether it be oils, stone, clay, music, or dance, to name but a few; or they have the ability to look deep within their inner world and take what is there and interpret it outward. But whichever it is, the common denominator is the ability to see beauty and attempt to interpret it for others, to help them learn how to see it for themselves.
Learning to see beauty is of immense importance because not only does the experience change us, but it also fosters a sense of gratitude. We rush around so quickly sometimes that we forget to put on the ‘contemplativity’ of the artist to see the gifts around us. What I mean by contemplativity is to have an attitude of contemplation, or to approach things as a contemplative might. This consists of simply slowing down for a moment and seeking God, asking Him to open our eyes just a bit more than they usually might be. When at Eucharist, for example, to put on contemplativity means we stop to really take in what is happening at the altar, so that we might be ‘bowled over’ at the depth of the mystery unfolding before our very eyes: ordinary bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It means we stop and listen to the words of Scripture being proclaimed and really let them sink in, (regardless if we understand everything about them). In doing so we might realize we are in the presence of God since these are the words which He inspired the authors to write. If we allow prayer to open our hearts and minds to God we can become just a bit more contemplative, chewing on the things surrounding us in sight and sound, reflecting upon what is going on within our own hearts, not missing the gift contained in that moment. It does not take hours to see or feel something which is beautiful. But it does take a disposition which is open and receptive. This disposition leads to gratitude which in turn leads to joy.
Being hurried or distracted by our cares and concerns will keep us from fostering the ability to see beauty. If our eyes are clouded or our thoughts are on other things, we will miss so much that we will lose the ability to see what God hopes for us to see. We might even take beauty for granted, seeing, but not acknowledging. This could lead us to begin to lose sight of our own inner landscape, also a thing of beauty. And then that can spill outward to losing sight for seeing the beauty in other people, especially those who are different than we are. This is the point in which everything begins to break down in our communities and in society: when we fail to see beyond differences because we have simply lost the ability to see beauty and therefore do not revere that which we are seeing. Each one of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) The Psalmist also declared: “You have made him [her] little less than a god; crowned him [her] with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:6) This means that we need to learn to see the way God sees, which is to see beauty in the other even if we disagree with their politics or religion. It does not mean we have to reward bad behavior or be indifferent to that which is contrary to goodness and justice; nor does it mean that we have to become disingenuous, untruthfully saying that we agree, or somehow force ourselves into believing that we really do. But it does mean that we learn to see past actions or opinions and treat one another with respect because they, like us, are “crowned with glory and honor.”
Finally to learn to see beauty means that even in the midst of pain or sorrow, we trust that God remains. If we truly trust in Jesus, we know that when we cannot see Him because our eyes are clouded over in pain, that He is with us no less, and is actually closer to us than ever before. Just as we cannot see our shadow when the sun is directly overhead, so it is with God. He is with us when we see Him the least. His presence does not change; it is simply that our ability to perceive has been compromised by the immensity of our burdens. And even when ugliness rears its head, attempting to cloud that which was made for us to enjoy, beauty, which is a sign of God’s presence, is still there. We simply need to remember what it looks like and trust, therefore, that God is with us.
As Pissarro said, what matters is to be able to interpret. If we allow the grace of contemplativity to grow within us we can learn to interpret, to see beauty, even in the midst of great challenges. This is what the Christian life is about: learning to see as God sees, hear as God hears, and love as God loves. Learning these things means discovering how to see beauty everywhere. We are all capable of learning to see beauty in something as simple as a field of wheat, a cup of water, or an outstretched hand. And in this Year of Mercy we learn that being merciful means that we see beauty because we see Christ in the other and we accept the gift.
May we seek and find the beauty of Jesus surrounding us at every moment of every day! May we have hearts abounding in gratitude and thus be filled with joy! May we learn to ‘put on contemplativity,’ the attitude of savoring that which is in the present moment! May we learn to appreciate the presence of God in the midst of the extravagance of nature and in the beauty of others! And may we be able to interpret that which is beautiful in the gifts of Word, Sacrament, and all the ways God comes to us in love and mercy! Let us continue to meet in the heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
NOTE: I will be slowing down on my entries, only posting every other week for the most part. Therefore, the next post will be on August 1. You can check here frequently if you choose, though if you have previously subscribed you will get the notification as usual. You can always follow my blog page via Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/MicheleLCataneseBlog/ Finally, in between postings you can read older ones in the archives which are found on the right side of this page and are always accessible. Thank you for your faithfulness in reading. I appreciate your feedback more than you can know.
The first photo is a NASA photo of the stars as seen in the Northern Hemisphere; it is part of the Milky Way.
Second is one of my photos. I took this on Copper Mountain in Colorado. I chose this because it was a scene of beauty which struck me greatly at the time. Though it was July when this was taken, in the background one can see snow on the mountains, yet in the foreground are many wildflowers. It was as if the seasons were blending together to create a place of peace.
Next is a painting by the impressionist (and later pointillist) artist, Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). The painting is called Fields, though the original title was Les seigles Pontoise. Pissarro was a member of the French impressionist group which included Monet, Cezanne, and Guillaumin. I chose this after poring over many of Pissarro's works because I felt like it captured a contemplative appreciation, and almost reverence, for beauty. It is a gentle scene, one which I find very peaceful: the grass, dotted with flowers, is swaying in the wind, the fields are going about their business of growing by soaking up the sun, and the clouds are floating in the sky. You can learn more about Pissarro by clicking here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Pissarro
Fourth is the Pieta sculpted by Michelangelo. It resides in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. I chose it because I think (taste is subjective, of course) that this is the most beautiful sculpture in the world. It is a work of magnificence which can be best appreciated in person, though it is behind glass for safety. While I am not an expert on sculpture by any means, I find that this work evokes every emotion one could have, and I think the mystery contained in the act of Mary holding the body of her dead son Jesus is beyond words. One simply has to be quiet before this piece. There are no words, and therefore, it calls me to contemplation like few other works can.
Next is the icon, my favorite in the world, Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I see this icon daily since I have a print of it in my home. But every time I see her, I still have the same reaction: I get a little weak in the knees because she is so beautiful. It makes me long for the day when I will see Mary in Heaven, along with Jesus. Though she is no doubt even more beautiful than any artist can paint, for me, this icon is as close as I am going to get on earth to what she might really look like. Let me be clear: as much as I love the image of Mary, it is what she is 'doing' that speaks most of her beauty. She is cradling the earth, which so needs protection and cradling. Her love and intercession is obvious. She is safeguarding the work of the Holy Spirit, as seen by the tongues of fire surrounding the fragile planet. You can find the icon at the following link, http://fineartamerica.com/featured/mary-most-holy-mother-of-all-nations-080-william-hart-mcnichols.html. I highly recommend getting your own copy so that you can get a bit weak in the knees, too. You can get a card, a copy in varying sizes, or a plaque.
The last photo is one of mine, taken on Fire Island, a barrier island just off the coast of Long Island, NY. I have always found the ocean to be a place of prayer. The ocean is where I put on my contemplativity most easily of all places in nature. I chose this photo because it captures the vivid colors and incredible life of the water, sand, and sky. ~ For this entry, I chose places and artwork in which I have learned to see beauty and thus, to see the hand of God. I recommend that you find your own place of beauty and then put on your own contemplativity.
What one does not see
This past week, on July 4th, Americans celebrated Independence Day. That same day was also the feast day of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, described as ‘a man of the Beatitudes’ at his beatification by another saint, Pope John Paul II. Bl. Pier Giorgio was honored for heroically living the beatitudes as well as for his passionate stance against political injustice. He is also remembered for his involvement in various spiritual organizations, being instrumental in the leadership of groups of young people who came together for prayer and fellowship. All of these actions are signs of one who truly wanted to live a life of service and sanctity. But the glue which held it all together, that one thing which truly made Pier Giorgio more than just a good man, was the humility that was at the core of his love for God and thus moved him outward in service to others. What one did not see, in other words, is what made Pier Giorgio holy.
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati was born into a wealthy family in Turin, Italy on April 6, 1901. His father owned a popular newspaper and was also a diplomat and a senator in the Italian government. This indicates not only status, but that the family was relatively well known. Pier Giorgio always had a heart open to all people, especially the poor, but if one looked only at the setting in which he lived his life it would not be obvious to see where his love of God and his love for the poor came from: his well-to-do parents were not religious at all, nor did they encourage any kind of spiritual life. In fact, his parents had no clue that Pier Giorgio was ever involved in helping the poor or that he spent hours in prayer either at church or in his room. Only his sister Luciana was aware of some of what he did, and while he volunteered at a hospital for the indigent, many of his actions were hidden. He bought food, clothing, and medicine to give to anyone he knew was in need, regardless of who those poor were. His friends knew he was generous, but his compassionate deeds went largely unnoticed until his untimely death in 1925 at the age of 24. But if we look past the outward trappings of his life, we can see that Pier Giorgio cultivated his love for Jesus and gratitude for the gifts God have him through prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist. He allowed grace to inspire him to seek and to find the love and mercy of God that impelled him into action as if he could not resist reaching out to the destitute with great care. Let us be clear: what he possessed, we also have been offered. God’s grace was not unique to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, and therefore we can grow in holiness just as he did.
As I said, it was not only what people saw, but what they did not see that made Pier Giorgio Frassati a holy man. Though he was in church daily, the long hours he spent in prayer took place for the most part in private; what went on between Frassati and God will remain hidden forever, because he did not talk about it, nor did he write about the content of his prayer. Those who knew him recognized that he was always upbeat, but did not see his interior sufferings over the treatment of the poor, the burdens he carried in his hidden work, or his struggles due to the limitations put upon him by his studies. He was driven by love of God and never by ego. When his parents, especially his father, chided him because he did not seem to be amounting to their expectations for him, he accepted it in silence. He never told them what he was doing, but was content to let it remain concealed. His humility was so great that even in the illness that claimed his life, he said nothing of the great pain he was in, continuing to serve his family as he was actively dying. It was not until he literally collapsed on the dining room table, too sick to be saved, that anyone realized how ill he was. And as he lay in bed only hours from death his thoughts were of a poor man to whom he needed to deliver medicine!
Bl. Pier Giorgio acted quietly, but never sought honors. And if honors came, he accepted them, but did not cling to them. He teaches us that true humility means our giftedness is to be used but not clung to or announced. Our gifts are only to be made visible through our actions which include selfless love such as living the beatitudes, having a heart for the poor (both the materially and spiritually poor), or through serving in ways that are so small that they are beyond notice. The humble do not trumpet their spiritual prowess, hours spent in prayer, deeds of service, or theological knowledge. Rather, the humble have so interiorized these things that they simply appear to come naturally, almost beyond detection except that when they leave a room, (so to speak) everyone within it is richer for their having been there. Of course, the deeds of holy people do become obvious at some point, but they are so natural to the humble that they do not think that they possess anything special, and in fact, tend to think that they are poor in humility or sanctity. They are holy not for the sake of being holy, but for the sake of love for Jesus and His call to live the gospel.
Jesus emphasized humility throughout His ministry and there are numerous references to it in all four gospels. For example, He said: “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12) Truly this is at the heart of the gospel because it is only in humility that we can be like Jesus, the Son of God who became one of us and then laid down His life in the greatest act of humility ever offered. (Philippians 2:6-11) In other words, to love is to become as a humble servant. (See John 13:1-20) Even when we approach the Lord we do it with humility because we recognize that everything we have, and everything we seek, comes from Him alone. To recognize our sinfulness and to ask forgiveness are acts of humility, and when we allow Him to fill our hearts, to give us the graces we need to persevere and thrive, it is an act of humility which then propels us outward to others. We do not have to do anything overtly heroic to live a life of heroic sanctity. As we learn from Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, our lives can look exceedingly ordinary: he never worked a miracle during his lifetime, but enjoyed his friends, played practical jokes with regularity, loved outdoor activities, went to college, desired to be married one day and hence dated young women, and kept up his responsibilities at home and school. His passion for justice was anything but hidden, but the details of the work he did for the poor were known to God alone. He never sought recognition or honors and that was what enabled the cultivation of such a pure heart which beat totally for God.
What we learn more than anything else is that if we want to grow in holiness we need to look to Jesus and His teaching both through our study and our daily prayer. He can teach us how to look outward to the situations of daily life and the people with whom we interact, whether our family, friends or strangers, in order to see who is ‘Christ in need,’ (a reference to Matt 25). We can allow God to form our hearts into ‘receptacles’ filled with mercy and compassion especially during this Year of Mercy in which there are so many reminders as to how to do this. We can respond to invitations to grace and also to action, realizing that it is in the little things done with great love that we are truly serving. We can look to holy men and women like Bl. Pier Giorgio and see how simply it can be done. And we can continually pray to have pride removed from our hearts; temptation to pride is insidious and often difficult to detect. Therefore we need to ask for the grace to see it for what it is and refuse its seduction. The wisdom of Blessed Pier Giorgio teaches us that if we seek Jesus first, all the rest of what we need to serve Him will follow. Let us aspire to be men and women of humility, desiring that which is not seen, so that we can make the love and mercy of Jesus more accessible and effective in our world.
May we pray for the intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati so that we may grow in sanctity through our prayer, love of the sacraments, and works of humble service! May we be inspired by the humility of the saints to respond to God’s grace with joy and gratitude! May we learn to see ‘Christ in need’ and respond with acts of kindness and generosity! May we have the perseverance to withstand the temptation of pride in all its forms, especially those which are most subtle! And in this year dedicated to Mercy may our hearts receive God’s mercy so that what we have received we may in turn give as a gift! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Verso l’alto! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
“Verso l’alto” was Bl. Pier Giorgio’s motto. It means “to the heights” and is intended to be a call to do our best to attain the highest sanctity.
Images: The first is a photo of Blessed Pier Giorgio, one of the most well-known of the many photographs of him.
The next is a photo I took which is one of the 'spots' in which Pier Giorgio liked to pray in Turin. The painting is the Immaculata. He had a great devotion to Mary, as well as to the Eucharist.
The third photo is also one of my own, taken in Pier Giorgio's bedroom in Pollone in the Frassati house near the Italian Alps. The bed is the one in which he died; he actually died in Turin, but the bed was moved to Pollone since the family home in Turin is no longer owned by the Frassati family and is now a bank.
Fourth is an icon called Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I chose it for somewhat obvious reasons, but I will say that it is a favorite of mine because it draws ones attention to the 'loves' of Pier Giorgio. He was a Third Order Dominican and so you can see the symbol of the Dominican Order which is above his left hand. He is pointing upward, as if to say "Verso l'alto!" He is also indicating his beloved mountains; as mentioned in the text he was an avid outdoorsman and mountain climber.
This icon can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/blessed-pier-giorgio-frassati-197-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Next is another of my photos, taken of the Austrian Alps surrounding Innsbruck, Austria. I have no idea if Pier Giorgio was ever in Innsbruck, but he always wanted to climb Mt. Blanc in the French Alps. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to realize that dream. I thought this photo would reflect his desire to climb in the Alps in a symbolic way.
Last is a photo of Pier Giorgio climbing in a rather dangerous spot, or so it seems. He apparently signed this photo with his famous motto, "Verso l'alto" so that is actually his handwriting on the picture.
You can find all sorts of information on Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati on the internet. I recommend Frassati USA: http://www.frassatiusa.org/
I also recommend going to their Facebook page to follow the journey of the relics (incorrupt body) of Blessed Pier Giorgio as it is being taken to Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day. Bl. Pier Giorgio has long been one of the patron saints of World Youth Day.
Until one visits St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome it is difficult to realize just how immense it truly is. I remember the first time I saw the Bernini colonnade on either side of the massive structure. It was as if the entire square was embracing me. Equally impressive, however, are the two enormous statues of Saints Peter and Paul, one on either side of the stairs leading up to the main entrance of the basilica. Peter is carrying the keys to the Kingdom, given to him by Jesus, and Paul is carrying a sword, the two edged sword of the Word of God, the truth by which he evangelized many Gentiles. The size of these statues seems to remind us that these men were the two most important pillars of the early Church. It is as if they are welcoming us into the Kingdom established by Jesus and nurtured by their efforts in evangelization and teaching, giving their entire lives to this end. They remind us that we are not alone in our efforts to live lives of faith, witnessing to others of the love and mercy of God.
On June 29th the Church celebrated the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. These men are paired together because they were the two most foundational leaders in the early Church. Peter was the first head of the Christian Church, chosen by Jesus who said He would build His church upon ‘this rock’ (a play on the name Peter); and Paul, called to bring the faith to the Gentile world, spread the faith in word and deed, leaving a legacy of many writings which continue to educate us in our theological understanding. These two men could not have been more different in background and temperament, yet together they laid the foundations of the Church as we know it today. Perhaps this is why their statues are on either side of the great basilica in Rome; they are ushering us, their spiritual descendants, into our home, the Church founded by Jesus Christ.
There are many ways that one can compare and contrast the lives and subsequent missions of these two heroic saints, but I would like to highlight how God worked with Peter and Paul to aid them in their efforts at building the Kingdom. Because they were teaching new things which challenged the dominant religions of the day they were subjected to a fair amount of suffering. Both had numerous imprisonments and had to endure considerable hardship; for example, Paul was beaten to the point of near death on more than one occasion. These men met with skepticism and sometimes violence from the crowds to whom they spoke, and they were exposed to many dangers in their travels. Yet both were kept safe by God during their respective missions until such time that they had done all they could and they were martyred, giving witness to the Lord in the most complete way possible. There are a few incidents recorded in the Acts of the Apostles in which each one received a miraculous intervention at a time when danger was most imminent. The Psalm in the liturgy for their shared solemnity reflects their experience: “The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him and he saves them.” (Psalm 34:8) An angel freed each of them from prison by literally opening wide the gates and unchaining them, (Peter, Acts 5:17-21 and Acts 12:1-19; Paul, Acts 16:25-40). When they were in any terrible situation, the Lord made sure they were protected or comforted by His presence. Their release not only helped them to continue their respective ministries, but it also bolstered the spirits of the fledgling Christian community who could see the hand of God with them and were subsequently encouraged in their own efforts. Even though Peter and Paul were finally martyred when their journeys were at an end, there is no doubt that the Holy Spirit comforted them as they awaited death.
As Christians in this day and age we are no different; we are also given God’s protection. Sometimes we know that we were literally protected from physical harm, or that we have been unchained from that which holds us captive, such as fear, anxiety, guilt, regret, remorse, or behaviors which cause us harm. Most of the time, however, we are unaware of the presence of the angel of the Lord (our guardian angel) or of the presence of the Holy Spirit. But the fact remains that we are indeed protected whether we know it or not. Prison doors have been opened that we never knew were closed and dangers were averted that we never even knew lurked. Just as God kept Peter and Paul safe while they were carrying out their mission, the Lord keeps us safe while we do what it is we were put on this earth to do. But lest we are mistaken, this does not mean there is a promise that we will be free of any suffering along the way. When the inevitable occurs, we rely upon our faith that Jesus is with us always and we remember that what He is protecting is our spirit, comforting us so that we do not give up faith in times of trial.
It is easy to fall prey to fear and anxiety or to be held captive by regrets, guilt, or uncertainty. In addition to that which we wrestle with in personal decisions or from memories of the past, we can be plagued by fear due to the dangers surrounding us in the world. These things – (fear, regret, guilt) – are not from God, and they are meant to distract us from our journey toward holiness and to incapacitate us in our desire to minister to others. It is equally easy to want to keep from ‘rocking the boat,’ or to hope we are not noticed lest we call undue attention to ourselves. It can be wise at times to keep our mouths shut or to know when to ‘shake the dust from our feet’ and move on. Therefore, what is most needed in all of the situations of our lives is the gift of discernment. If we were to stop discerning when we should say or do something in defense of our Christian values or to know what helps another come to know the love and mercy of Jesus, then where would our faith be? Who would pass on the ‘pearl of great price’ which countless martyrs have given their lives to entrust to us? To follow in the footsteps of Peter and Paul means we must continually pray for the gift of discernment. We always have access to the graces we have been given, especially the gifts we received at Confirmation. Perhaps what we really need is to pray for the grace of memory so that we remember to use them! We have immense power at our disposal, that is, we have been given many graces and must not allow them to lie fallow. Claim them with the boldness of Peter and Paul and know that with God’s power and presence we are never without the means to live the Christian life to which we have been called and gifted.
We do not have to stand up and speak in public squares or try to evangelize the masses to spread our faith. All we need to do is take the opportunities which present themselves in our daily lives, the ones which invite us to reach out in compassion, to offer an act of mercy, (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, counseling the doubtful, giving comfort to one who is suffering, etc.), or to forgive an offense. Some might be called to more encompassing missionary work which requires travel to a far-off land; we definitely need those people to respond. But others of us are called to live the faith quietly, yet firmly within our communities, families, and occupations. We live the faith through our witness: through kindness, peacefulness, fairness, sharing, bolstering up friends in need, and not letting go of our respect for the gift of all life (from conception to natural death). And when we can barely get by because we are reminded of the dangers around us, when we have crushing burdens to carry or decisions to make, when we are overwhelmed by the uncertainties abounding or the seeming magnitude of evil, we need to remember what the Psalmist said: “I sought the Lord and He answered me.” (Psalm 34:5) Regardless of whether we perceive that God is with us, and regardless of whether we perceive an answer to our prayer, He has heard and He is answering. We are as Peter and Paul were, called to be missionaries to those who are searching for God even if it is simply to help them to see that He is really here. Therefore let us call on Saints Peter and Paul, the giants of the faith, to intercede for us and to guide us into the arms of Jesus where we always have a home.
May we call upon Saints Peter and Paul to lead us to Jesus, our true rock and our strength! May we turn to Saints Peter and Paul to guide, inspire, and teach us how to be strong in our faith! May we seek the gift of discernment, calling upon the Holy Spirit to enliven that grace! May we have the courage to live the gospel in an ever intensifying climate of attack upon our values! May we recognize that our efforts, small or large, are important to helping to build the Kingdom established by Jesus and nurtured by the apostles! And may we continue to rely upon the mercy and love of Jesus, who is always with us, indeed until the end of time! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
All the photos are my own. The first was taken from the top of the dome of St. Peter's in Rome. This 'bird's eye' view captures the enormity of St. Peter's Square as one looks outward at the city of Rome. This is what we do as Christians: we look outward to see how we might bring our faith, mercy, and love to those who do not know the love of God.
The next two photos are Saints Peter and Paul, respectively, as they stand in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. As mentioned in my text, St. Peter holds the keys to the Kingdom and St. Paul is holding a sword as a defender of the faith. These photos really do not capture the size of the statues, but they are impossible to miss when standing in front of the Basilica.
The fourth photo is the famous (or infamous) Tower of London. I chose this photo because many Christians were held there and many met their deaths either within these walls or just outside of them after having been imprisoned within. God was with those brave men and women; many attested to having a sense of peace as they awaited their fate. There were some, however, who did not die there, but who were set free.
Next is a painting called Cliff Walk at Pourville by Claude Monet. I chose this because it depicts the enjoyment of a beautiful vista shared by the two women seen on the cliff. The puffy clouds float freely in the sky, the grass sways in the gentle breeze, the sailboats in the distance appear to glide upon the water, and the figures on the cliff seem carefree. I invite you to use this painting as a meditation to soothe any anxieties you might have at the moment.
Following the Monet is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called St. Paul the Apostle. I chose it because Paul is holding a book of the Scriptures which today include many letters he wrote to help some of the early church communities have a better understanding of the faith. I also like the mountains in the background and the hill with the tree upon it in the foreground which remind me of the many difficult travels of Paul. The cloud seems to indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit with him. This icon can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/st-paul-the-apostle-196-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
Last is a photo I took at sunset on a rooftop in the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome. In the distance (to the right) is the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. I have always loved this photo because it seems to blend the everyday life of ordinary neighborhoods and ordinary people with the Church, our spiritual home-away-from-home (Heaven). I love the colors of the sunset, which speak of the variety of beauty created by God and of His presence everywhere.
Heart Speaks to Heart