Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Father Libor serves the Czech Catholic diaspora - The Pope meets with artists

Father Libor Svorcik came to Canada to assist Czech immigrants for a period of five years. He has been here for eleven already.

Based at St. Wenceslaus Parish Church in Toronto, the priest is still in his 40s and vigorous; Father also acts as an itinerant chaplain for Catholics of Czech origin in Kingston, Montreal and Ottawa (generally every three weeks in good weather; less frequently in winter when driving the roads is hazardous).

From time to time, he extends his reach even farther, heading west to minister to Czech-speaking Catholics in Calgary and Winnipeg.

On one of his recent visits to Ottawa for an anticipated Sunday Mass on a Saturday afternoon, I met with Father; these Masses are celebrated at St. Leopold Mandic church, our archdiocese's Croatian Parish directed by Father Adam Tabak at 170 Hinchey in the Mechanicsville neighbourhood. We discussed the possibility of my concelebrating Mass with the Czech faithful in the future, with an opportuniyt to meet this tiny flock for whom we both share responsibility.

In September of this year, the Holy Father visited the Czech Republic. Here are excerpts from Pope Benedict's reflections upon that visit at the Wednesday General Audience on his return to Rome:

"The Love of Christ Is Our Strength": This was the theme of the journey, an affirmation that echoes the faith of so many heroic witnesses of the distant and recent past -- I am thinking in particular of the past century. But, [also a theme] which above all wishes to interpret the certainty of today's Christians. Yes, our strength is the love of Christ! A strength that inspires and animates true revolutions, peaceful and liberating, and which sustains us in moments of crisis, allowing us to rise again when liberty, arduously recovered, runs the risk of losing itself, [of losing] its own truth....

The love of Christ began to reveal itself in the face of a Child. Arriving in Prague, in fact, my first stop was in the church of Our Lady Victorious, where the Child Jesus is venerated, known precisely as the "Infant of Prague." This effigy refers to the mystery of God made Man, to the "close God," base of our hope.

Before the "Infant of Prague" I prayed for all children, for their parents, and for the future of the family. The real "victory" for which we pray today to Mary, is the victory of love and of life in the family and in society!

...Symbol of this synthesis between truth and beauty is the splendid Cathedral of Prague, dedicated to Sts. Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert, where the celebration of vespers took place with priests, religious, seminarians and a representation of laymen committed to ecclesial associations and movements. This is a difficult moment for the Central Eastern European community: To the consequences of the long winter of atheist totalitarianism, are being added the noxious effects of a certain Western secularism and consumerism.

Because of this I have encouraged all to draw new energies from the Risen Lord, to be able to be evangelical leaven in the society and to commit themselves, as is already happening, to charitable activities, and even more so to educational and school activities.

I extended this message of hope, founded on faith in Christ, to all the People of God in the two large Eucharistic celebrations held respectively in Brno, capital of Moravia, and in Stara Boleslav, site of the martyrdom of St. Wenceslaus, the nation's principal patron. Moravia makes us think immediately of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, evangelizers of the Slavic peoples and, hence, of the inexhaustible force of the Gospel that, as a river of healing waters, crosses history and continents, taking life and salvation everywhere.

On the portal of the Cathedral of Brno are engraved the words of Christ: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

Dear friends, I thank the Lord because, with this journey, he has allowed me to meet a people and a Church with profound historical and religious roots, which commemorates this year different events of high spiritual and social value. To the brothers and sisters of the Czech Republic I renew a message of hope and an invitation to the value of the good, to build the present and future of Europe.

I entrust the fruits of my pastoral visit to the intercession of Mary Most Holy and to that of all the saints of Bohemia and Moravia. Thank you.

* * * * * *

"Dear Artists, You Are the Custodians of Beauty"

Here is an excerpt from the text of the pope's speech given on November 21, 2009, in the Sistine Chapel, to representatives of all the arts: painters, sculptors, architects, novelists, poets, musicians, singers, men of the cinema, theatre, dance, photography

With great joy I welcome you to this solemn place, so rich in art and in history. I cordially greet each and every one of you and I thank you for accepting my invitation.

At this gathering I wish to express and renew the Church’s friendship with the world of art, a friendship that has been strengthened over time; indeed Christianity from its earliest days has recognized the value of the arts and has made wise use of their varied language to express her unvarying message of salvation.

This friendship must be continually promoted and supported so that it may be authentic and fruitful, adapted to different historical periods and attentive to social and cultural variations. Indeed, this is the reason for our meeting here today.

I am deeply grateful to Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, and likewise to his officials, for promoting and organizing this meeting, and I thank him for the words he has just addressed to me. I greet the Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests and the various distinguished personalities present. I also thank the Sistine Chapel Choir for their contribution to this gathering.

Today’s event is focused on you, dear and illustrious artists, from different countries, cultures and religions, some of you perhaps remote from the practice of religion, but interested nevertheless in maintaining communication with the Catholic Church, in not reducing the horizons of existence to mere material realities, to a reductive and trivializing vision. You represent the varied world of the arts and so, through you, I would like to convey to all artists my invitation to friendship, dialogue and cooperation.

Some significant anniversaries occur around this time.

It is ten years since the Letter to Artists by my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II. For the first time, on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Pope, who was an artist himself, wrote a Letter to artists, combining the solemnity of a pontifical document with the friendly tone of a conversation among all who, as we read in the initial salutation, "are passionately dedicated to the search for new ‘epiphanies’ of beauty".

Twenty-five years ago the same Pope proclaimed Blessed Fra Angelico the patron of artists, presenting him as a model of perfect harmony between faith and art.

Blessed Fra Angelico, The Annunciation of the Lord, in the Dominican Convent of San Marco, Florence -- note that, in the artist's view, this saving mystery "takes place" in the convent itself (in the very act of contemplation, the vocation of the followers of Dominic; they are to pass on what they have contemplated contemplata tradere), thus undoing the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden

I also recall how on 7 May 1964, forty-five years ago, in this very place, an historic event took place, at the express wish of Pope Paul VI, to confirm the friendship between the Church and the arts. The words that he spoke on that occasion resound once more today under the vault of the Sistine Chapel and touch our hearts and our minds.

"We need you," he said. "We need your collaboration in order to carry out our ministry, which consists, as you know, in preaching and rendering accessible and comprehensible to the minds and hearts of our people the things of the spirit, the invisible, the ineffable, the things of God himself. And in this activity … you are masters. It is your task, your mission, and your art consists in grasping treasures from the heavenly realm of the spirit and clothing them in words, colours, forms – making them accessible." So great was Paul VI’s esteem for artists that he was moved to use daring expressions.

"And if we were deprived of your assistance," he added, "our ministry would become faltering and uncertain, and a special effort would be needed, one might say, to make it artistic, even prophetic. In order to scale the heights of lyrical expression of intuitive beauty, priesthood would have to coincide with art."

On that occasion Paul VI made a commitment to "re-establish the friendship between the Church and artists", and he invited artists to make a similar, shared commitment, analyzing seriously and objectively the factors that disturbed this relationship, and assuming individual responsibility, courageously and passionately, for a newer and deeper journey in mutual acquaintance and dialogue in order to arrive at an authentic "renaissance" of art in the context of a new humanism.

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