How do we fund sacred art in the Church? This priest has an idea

Wilmington, N.C., Sep 16, 2017 / 04:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The John Paul II Foundation for the Sacred Arts is rethinking how the Catholic Church should fund well-crafted art. But why is good art in the Church important in the first place? “When a piece of art, a beautiful church, a flower or a sunset not only strikes the eye but pierces the soul and fills one with a sense of wonder, that is transcendent beauty – it goes beyond mere aesthetic enjoyment to hint at the truth and goodness of being itself,” Father Michael Burbeck told CNA. Fr. Burbeck serves as founder and director of the foundation, which was launched in March of this year. He explained that his own encounter with Europe’s beautiful architecture and sacred art brought him to convert to Catholicism and ultimately start the organization. However, beautiful art requires money – and Fr. Burbeck’s project aims to equip artists to create quality, Christ-inspired, original works. “Works of transcendent beauty have the potential to awaken the soul to the wonder of God, and so are evangelical in their own right,” he said. “This is what we mean by transcendent beauty: the beauty that flows from the goodness and truth of being itself.” On the group’s website, Fr. Burbeck recalled on how beauty awakened this wonder of God, and enabled him to fall in love with the Church and with Jesus Christ. Being able to stand before the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral created by Christopher Wren or Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child and along with numerous images of the crucified Christ, the soon to be priest was motivated to give his life to the Church.   “Because of beauty, I found the Catholic Church, fell in love with her, and was convinced of the truth of her teachings.” When he met artist Cameron Smith, Father Burbeck said that the two discussed a “crowd-sourced, entrepreneurial model” which relied on the beauty of an artist’s work to motivate donations. “Either a work is ‘popular’ enough to be funded or it is not,” he said, explaining that the foundation’s board of directors will choose which artists to give grants to based on if the “artist is capable of and intent on producing a work in keeping with our mission.” He said their mission is Catholic art which spreads the Gospel through beauty, but cautioned against the modern trend to reduce “beauty” to a particular time period or type, such as Renaissance or Contemporary. Fr. Burbeck also noted the problem with reducing art to self-expression, wherein an artist’s attempt at honesty will often display a faulty idea of reality – one where his or her existence is “marked by brokenness and a lack of meaning.” But as significant as these tendencies are in society today, the priest said the foundation is actually trying to combat two other problems: how art is treated in the church – namely, the dearth of original art – and the lack of funds to support faithful artists who create original works capable of moving viewers. Unoriginal pieces of art, or catalog style as Fr. Burbeck described it, are not necessarily offensive but may be a poorly produced copy or a “mimic of existing works that may be competently executed but which fails to touch the soul.” “That is why we partner with artists financially and promote works that are squarely in the great tradition, not copies, but drawing from the same inexhaustible well of beauty,” he said. Fr. Burbeck foresees fundraising as a potential hurdle, but he also expressed an appreciation for the enthusiasm already taking place. “Thankfully, there has been a great deal of excitement about the idea, it seems to fill an important niche, and we trust that the Holy Spirit is at work.” Read more

Fr Tom thanks the world for their prayers

Rome, Italy, Sep 16, 2017 / 12:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, the Salesian missionary released this week after 18 months of captivity, thanked Saturday all those who have prayed and made sacrifices on his behalf, saying he recommits himself to the service of God. “With your prayers and sacrifices you have brought me from God and have brought me here,” he said Sept. 16. “I do not know how to thank you all. May the Lord God bless you and reward you and give you courage to go through whatever difficulties may come as we go on in this world.”     “And one day we will all be together to praise God, that should be our aim, that is actually our aim. May that happen… We all rejoice, thank God for my freedom. I am at the service of the Lord God. Let him continue to use me as he wants.” Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, who became known around the world through social media and news outlets as people prayed for his release, spoke to journalists during a press conference at the Salesian headquarters in Rome. An Indian native, Fr. Uzhunnalil, 59, was kidnapped March 4, 2016 from a Missionaries of Charity home in Aden. In the attack 16 people were killed, including four religious sisters. Throughout his 18-month captivity, several photos and videos of the priest were released, showing a thin Fr. Uzhunnalil with an overgrown beard, pleading for help and for his release, saying that his health was deteriorating and he was in need of hospitalization. In the press conference, Fr. Uzhunnalil emphasized that despite the great stress he was under and his inability to move about freely, being kept in one room, his captors did not physically harm him. He was provided with adequate food and water and even some small amount of medical treatment for his diabetes. He went on to explain that if in any of the videos it appears that his captors hit him, it was not a real blow, but acting which they planned in advance, telling him it was to quicken a response from authorities. Fr. Uzhunnalil said he has no knowledge of who it was that took him or what group they belonged to, but said that “God has been with me.” “The whole world must have been praying, you all might have made sacrifices. The fruits of all (this) must be that they have not injured me right from the first day,” he said. From the moment he was taken he was not afraid, he continued. “I said to myself: with the knowledge of God, nothing will happen to me. For Jesus has said, not a hair will fall from your head without the heavenly Father’s knowledge.” “Those words, that phrase flashed in my mind. Maybe that’s what gave me strength, kept my mind serene, calm.” In the press conference Fr. Uzhunnalil was calm, but did become emotional when he noticed the presence of a number of Missionary of Charity sisters, to whom he gave his condolences for the loss of their four religious sisters. “I’m sure they feel the pain of their loss, but their loss is for themselves and for the world; I am sure that these four who have gone are in heaven,” he said. Witnessing the death of those in his presence was a very traumatic moment for him. “He didn’t want to speak about that moment,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay told CNA Sept. 14. Cardinal Gracias had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Uzhunnalil soon after his arrival to Rome and was present when he met Pope Francis Sept. 13 after the Wednesday General Audience. Pope Francis was himself very touched by Fr. Uzhunnalil’s expression of faith in their meeting, Cardinal Gracias said. The Holy Father told the priest: “The whole world has been praying for you, everybody has been praying for you.” Fr. Uzhunnalil repeated over and over to the Pope that “Jesus is great, Jesus is great.” In the press conference Fr. Uzhunnalil recounted a detail from the day he was kidnapped. After the initial attack and killings, which took place while they were having adoration in the chapel, the attackers covered his head and locked him in a car, and then left to re-enter the chapel. At some point later he heard them return open the door of the trunk and place something heavy near his feet. His hands weren’t tied, he explained, so he “lifted the cloth, just looked to make sure, and it was the tabernacle.” He knew that it contained consecrated Hosts from the Mass he had celebrated the evening prior.   Although he did not have bread and wine with him in captivity, Fr. Uzhunnalil said he was still able to peacefully pray the Mass every day from memory. He said he would pray to God to spiritually give him the gifts of bread and wine for the Eucharist.   Another line he said he prayed frequently was: “One day at a time, sweet Lord. Give me the grace to live this day. I thanked God for that day. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not sure, so give me the grace to live this day.” While in captivity the Salesian lost more than 60 pounds, he said. But in the few days since his release has already gained back more than 11. He will, however, continue to remain in Rome for 8-10 more days for continued medical tests and recovery time before returning to India to see his family. “I thank in the name of the Lord God even my captors who have been understanding to me and have not hurt me,” he said. “It’s God’s intervention. And that is due to the prayers and sacrifices of all my brothers and sisters, all of you around the whole world, my own country, other countries, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, all men of good will. I’m sure each one has made sacrifices.” “I don’t believe in arms,” he continued. “The best weapon against any enemy is love, prayer, forgiveness.”Comments from Cardinal Gracias contributed by Elise Harris.   Read more

Fr James Martin disinvited from speaking engagement over protests

Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2017 / 10:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. James Martin, S.J., an editor at America magazine, has been disinvited from speaking at the Theological College, a seminary affiliated with the Catholic University of America, following pre… Read more

Catholic youth have something to say – and the Church is listening

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As preparations continue for next year’s Synod of Bishops on young people, the Vatican hosted young adults and global experts for a seminar in Rome aimed at listening to the experiences of youth from around the world. “So far we can see everyone allowing us time. The progression from the first day to today, is that they’ve given us more time to speak and given the microphone to the youth to share their thoughts and feelings,” Caroline Montefrio, 28, told CNA Sept. 14. “And I guess that’s a direction led by the Holy Spirit to know that the Church really wants to listen to us.” Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Congregation of Bishops, told CNA that “the Church is the mother, so she needs all her children and in particular those who are young because they are the present moment of the Church and the present moment of our society and the world.” “And they’re also the future, our future, our hope, of the Church and of the world as well. If we manage to give this testimony of happiness, of joy, and of life lived to the fullest, I believe we will also manage to walk with our youth and proclaim Jesus as well.” The Sept. 11-15 seminar was led by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and included young adults from almost every continent. The schedule included presentations from experts as well as time for young people to share their experiences. Small working groups made up of people of various ages and vocations also were a large part of the week’s work. Topics during the preparatory seminar included, among other things, technological advancement and migration and their effect on youth. Originally from the Philippines, but raised in Dubai, Montefrio said that the challenge of migration is something that she could relate to. “I know there are other youth like me, who lack that sense of identity. Because you’re not from this country, and you’re also not from your home country,” she said. “To know that the Church focuses on your identity as a son or daughter of God and your identity as part of the bigger Catholic Church, that’s a good starting point to know where you are in life and how this leads up to your purpose in life.” Because the theme for the October 2018 General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is formally “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation,” vocation was a large topic at the seminar, and something various young participants named as important elements of their lives. Ashleigh Green, from the Diocese of Broken Bay, Australia said that she thinks the process of finding your vocation is necessary for living “a full and meaningful life.” “Because at the end of the day, everyone has a purpose and everyone has something to contribute and God has a plan for everyone, so it’s up to all of us to search for what it is that God’s calling us to in our life.” Green said that one thing that helped her in discerning her vocation, besides prayer and time in silence, was the presence of good mentors in her life. Kerishé Higgins, 29, and a youth director in Jamaica, also noted the importance of accompaniment. She mentioned that at a time when she was deeply struggling with her faith, lack of support was very apparent. “At that moment, there was no one who was journeying with me, there was no one who was walking with me,” she told CNA. “And so you see the need for that accompaniment. That person who understands the faith, who is trying to live out their faith.” No one is perfect, she acknowledged, but what is important is that you have a community of people who are all trying to live out the call to sainthood, to holiness. “That constant striving,” she said. Her hope for the outcome of the synod is that “we recognize that as a community each person has a part to play and that we play that part.” But to do that, young people need the support of the Church, she said. Particularly in education and training to help people understand what their role is, how they can contribute, even how they can contribute to the development and support of another person in turn – whether that’s in their own neighborhood or across the world in a place that needs help. “And I think that’s what I have personally been trying to do and that’s what the synod is trying to teach us, to tell us how is it that we are going to try to live out this call to holiness, that it’s not just one-on-one, but it’s a community,” she said. “And that’s what the Church should be. It should be that home of community where we come together and we journey and we grow and we love each other.” Green said that in Australia they carried out a survey of 15,000 young people, and one issue identified by participants as important to their lives was mental illness. Green said she thinks the loss of community is one reason for the high rates of mental illness. “To experience that community in our parishes through all of the various liturgical aspects and the social aspects is something that’s really, really important.” The seminar follows a conference in April which focused on World Youth Day, but also included two days of presentations and discussion on the preparatory document for the 2018 synod. According to an April 6 statement, Cardinal Baldisseri said it’s important to note that the upcoming synod is not being put on by young people or about them as subjects of study, but that it is for them, and that is why it is important they are included. “A lot of young people, particularly in Australia, give up on the Church before even giving it a go, out of fear that they can’t talk about the issues that are important to them. That they wouldn’t feel welcomed in the Church,” Green said. “So I really hope that from this synod, more young people do feel like they have a place in the Church and that they don’t have to fit into a small box to feel like they’re welcome here. And that’s what Pope Francis has been emphasizing all along, that this synod isn’t just for young Catholics…but that it’s called a synod on youth and that it’s for everyone.”Alexey Gotovsky contributed to this report. Read more

What are the Vatican’s next steps in the child porn case?

Washington D.C., Sep 15, 2017 / 04:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- What happens when Vatican City State diplomats commit crimes? The recent recall of a Vatican diplomat from the U.S. Nunciature in Washington, following suspicions of child pornography possessio… Read more

Cardinals Müller, Sarah urge unity, charity in liturgical matters

Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2017 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinals Gerhard Müller and Robert Sarah encouraged unity over partisanship at a conference held in Rome Thursday to mark the 10th anniversary of Benedict XVI’s motu proprio on the “extraordinary form” of the Roman liturgy. “We must also overcome the tensions and polarizations,” Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told CNA Sept. 14 . He noted that some in the Church say “we belong to this party,” while others say “we belong to that party.” “That is not Catholic,” he said, and stressed the need to understand the liturgy “in the context (of) and with a deep understanding of the fundamentals; what is the essence, what is the substance of the liturgy?” Cardinal Müller was a keynote speaker at the Fifth Roman Colloquium on Summorum Pontificum, which was held in thanksgiving for the 10th anniversary of the motu proprio. Other keynote speakers at the event included Archbishop Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.Summorum Pontificum widened access to use of the older form, or “Tridentine” liturgy. It established that the post-Vatican II Roman Missal, first issued by Blessed Paul VI, is the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, and that the prior version, last issued by St. John XXIII in 1962, the “Tridentine Mass,” is the Roman Rite’s “extraordinary form.” In the motu proprio, Benedict noted that the “extraordinary form” of the Mass was never abrogated. He acknowledged the right of all priests of the Roman Rite to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962, and established that parish priests should be willing say the extraordinary form for groups of the faithful who request it. By publishing the motu proprio, Benedict XVI “wanted to overcome the tensions which came out of the reform of the liturgy” following the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Müller said. The main objective of the reform, he said, was “not a change of the fundamentals of the liturgy as an objective praise of God.” “The liturgy we have now is the same substance, the same liturgy, as in the older form, the extraordinary form,” he said, reiterating that “the substance, the constitutive elements, are the same.” Cardinal Müller said the Church must look to the new rite “altogether, in this new synthesis,” rather than falling into division. Liturgy, he said, “is a participation in the work of salvation, it is a participation of the life of…Jesus Christ …  and in the Holy Spirit, who is present in all life and all the sacramental actions of the Catholic Church.” During his address, Cardinal Sarah also emphasized the importance of avoiding division in the Church and focusing on unity, and opened by saying, “God wants the unity of His Church, for which we pray in every Eucharistic celebration.” With Summorum Pontificum, Benedict XVI “wanted to establish a sign of reconciliation in the Church, one that has brought much fruit,” he said. “We are called to continue to pursue this path of reconciliation and unity, as an ever-living witness of Christ in today’s world.”Cardinal Sarah’s address focused on silence and the primacy of God in the liturgy. He stated that “silence of heart, mind and soul” are the key to achieving “full, conscious and actual participation” in the liturgy, which was the very goal of the liturgical movement. Pointing to the “scandal of the divisions” in the Church following the liturgical reform following the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Sarah said Summorum Pontificum has done a lot to mend these divisions, but noted that there is also “more to do to achieve the reconciliation Pope Benedict XVI so desired, and which work Pope Francis has continued.” “We must pray and work so to achieve that reconciliation for the good of souls, for the good of the Church and so that our Christian witness and mission to the world may be ever stronger.” The extraordinary form ought to be seen as “a normal part of the life of the Church of the twenty-first century,” he said. And while statistically the number of people who attend the older form might, as predicted by Benedict XVI, stay a minority, “there should be no competition between the more recent rites and the older ones of the one Roman rite.” “Both should be a natural element of the life of the Church in our times,” he said, adding that “Christ calls us to unity, not division! We are brothers and sisters in the same faith no matter which form of the Roman rite we celebrate!” Offering a “paternal word” to all those attached to the traditional rite, Cardinal Sarah noted that many people refer to them as “traditionalists,” and that even those who attend Masses in the old rite refer to themselves as such, “or hyphenate yourselves in a similar way.” “Please do this no longer,” he said. “You do not belong in a box on the shelf or in a museum of curiosities. You are not traditionalists: you are Catholics of the Roman Rite as am I and as is the Holy Father.” As members of the Catholic Church, those who are drawn to the extraordinary form of the Mass “are called by God, as is every baptized person, to take your full place in the life and mission of the Church in the world of today, not to be shut up in – or worse, to retreat into – a ghetto in which defensiveness and introspection reign and stifle the Christian witness and mission to the world you too are called to give.” If experiencing 10 years of Summorum Pontificum has meant anything, “it means this,” he said, and told his audience that “if you have not yet left behind the shackles of the ‘traditionalist ghetto,’ please do so today. Almighty God calls you to do this.” Read more

Faith helped couple choose baby over chemotherapy treatment

Detroit, Mich., Sep 15, 2017 / 11:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Michigan mother with a lethal form of brain cancer who declined treatment in order to save her unborn child has died, a few days after her sixth child was born. Carrie DeKlyen, 37, was a mother of five in April when she was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive, malignant cancer that typically affects the spine and brain, and is usually lethal. While she had surgery to remove the tumor, DeKlyen was about to begin a clinical trial treatment when she discovered she was pregnant. She decided to decline chemotherapy in order to save her unborn daughter, who was born last week and was fittingly named Life Lynn DeKlyen. Carrie’s husband Nick DeKlyen said the couple’s Christian faith carried them through the difficult decision. “Me and my wife, we are people of faith,” Nick told the Detroit Free Press. “We love the Lord with everything in us. We talked about it, prayed about it.” “I asked her, ‘What are you thinking?’ She said, ‘All the treatments, I’m not doing any of them.’ We went back to the surgeon. He said ‘If you choose to do this, you will not live another 10 months. I promise, you will die.’ Nick said that ultimately, it was Carrie’s decision, and she was at peace choosing to save her baby instead of prolonging her own life. “We’re pro-life,” Nick said. “Under no circumstance do we believe you should take a child’s life. She sacrificed her life for the child.” Carrie’s choice to give up her own life for that of her baby has garnered worldwide attention. While Carrie underwent four brain surgeries to try to treat her tumor, she slipped into a coma in July from which she never regained complete consciousness, though family reported that she would sometimes respond to a hand squeeze or other attempts to communicate. By September, Carrie had stopped responding to pain. Baby Life was delivered by caesarean section Sept. 6, at 24 weeks and 5 days. The following day, Carrie’s feeding and breathing tubes were removed, and she died Sept. 9. Nick told the Associated Press that some of his last words to his wife were, “I’ll see you in Heaven.” During a celebration of her life, held Sept. 12 at Resurrection Life Church in her hometown of Wyoming, Michigan, Carrie was remembered as someone who left behind “a legacy of love,” Michigan Live reported. She was a kind and selfless wife, mother, daughter and neighbor, who sang in the church choir and volunteered in her community, according to numerous friends. “Carrie, a mom, a soul mate, a daughter, a sister, a friend. Heaven’s gain,” Pat Binish, the community’s pastor, said at the celebration. Binish added that many had asked on social media why Carrie had to suffer and die. “Are you ready for the answer? I don’t know. Our job as humans is to pray. God’s job is to heal, end of story. We don’t understand the bigger plan. We don’t have the understanding. One day, we will.” The Cure 4 Carrie Facebook page, which the family once used to post updates about Carrie’s health, is now being used to update family and friends on Life Lynn, who struggled at first but is now in stable condition in the neonatal intensive care unit at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “Life Lynn is defying all odds,” said a Sept. 15 post. “Heart rate is green oxygen is blue. Good job baby girl!” Read more

Cardinal Nichols decries London terror attack, offers prayers

London, England, Sep 15, 2017 / 10:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a terrorist attack on a commuter train left more than 20 people injured in London on Friday, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster decried the act as cowardly and offered his prayers for peace. “I am dismayed at yet another cowardly attack on innocent people, including young children, as they were commuting to work and school this morning,” he said in a Sept. 15 statement. “I pray for all who were injured in the blast and in the ensuing stampede, and for all who were affected by the incident. May God grant them and all Londoners peace and strengthen our resolve to stand against such evil acts.” <blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>I pray for all the injured and those affected by the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ParsonsGreenExplosion?src=hash”>#ParsonsGreenExplosion</a>. May God grant them and all Londoners peace.</p>&mdash; Cardinal Nichols (@CardinalNichols) <a href=”https://twitter.com/CardinalNichols/status/908695429994418177″>September 15, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script> During morning rush hour an impoverished explosive device was detonated on a commuter train at Parsons Green station in southwest London. At least 22 people were taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries, which were primarily burns, local authorities reported. Authorities have reported that a timer was found on the device, indicating it likely was meant for much greater destruction than what it achieved. The incident is being treated by officials as a terror attack, and a manhunt is underway for the perpetrators. This is the fourth terror attack in London this year. In addition to offering his prayers for the victims, Cardinal Nichols also thanked the emergency responders as well as those living and working near the station where the incident occurred who also offered their assistance. “The generous actions of those who rushed to tend to the wounded and those who were in shock demonstrate all that is good in humanity as a small number seek to divide our society. We should all be alert, but remain calm.” Thus far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Read more

Vatican recalls priest as child porn investigation opens

Vatican City, Sep 15, 2017 / 06:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Friday that after being informed by U.S. officials of a possible breach of child pornography laws on the part of a Holy See diplomat, it has recalled the priest in question and an investigation has been opened. According to a Sept. 15 Vatican communique, “the Department of State of the United States of America notified the Secretariat of State, through diplomatic channels, of a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See accredited to Washington.” The priest was recalled and is currently in Vatican City. Information regarding the findings of the U.S. State Department was passed along to the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice, who opened an investigation “and has already commenced international collaboration to obtain elements relative to the case.” The Vatican declined to identify the diplomat, or his nationality. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. State Department had asked the Vatican to lift the priest’s diplomatic immunity, but the request was denied. The possession of child pornography is considered a “canonical crime” in the Church, and in 2010 Benedict XVI added it to the list of “most grave delicts,” meaning crimes which are dealt with directly by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and can result in dismissal from the clerical state.  This is a developing story. Updates will be made as details become available. Read more

Why this bishop thinks memes may just be the tool for evangelization today

Sydney, Australia, Sep 15, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Between the Harambe memes and quick explanations of Catholic doctrine on his Twitter page, Richard Umbers, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, says that online humor is about more than just the laughs. In fact, he says, Christian humor online can help to reach out to parts of our modern world that are in the process of secularization. This kind of online engagement – with a wink- plays into a larger need for Christians to engage in society and to promote a vision of Christian life. Bishop Umbers is quick to note in his Twitter bio that he is indeed an “actual person and a realbishop”, adopting the description given him by Tommy Tighe, the “Catholic Hipster”. <blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”und” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://t.co/Dh88ZEjeuy”>pic.twitter.com/Dh88ZEjeuy</a></p>&mdash; Bishop Down Umber (@BishopUmbers) <a href=”https://twitter.com/BishopUmbers/status/906526961983356928″>September 9, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script> Whether in art, online culture, or political discussion, Christians should be giving an example of how to evangelize and to speak to the challenges society faces today. “You need the contemporary expression of Christian faith,” Bishop Umbers said of what the Church needs from its faithful today. The writings of Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis’ Laudato si’, can provide such a template for living an “alternative” lifestyle as a Christian, while also speaking to contemporary culture, he indicated. “You can promote a coherent alternative lifestyle, which is what Catholicism really is in our society.” Bishop Umbers was born and raised in New Zealand, joining the personal prelature of Opus Dei before moving to Sydney to finish his degrees in economics. After guidance from a mentor, he discerned a call to the priesthood, upon which he travelled to Rome and then to Spain to continue his studies. He was ordained a priest of the prelature in Spain in 2002. Fourteen years later, Umbers was consecrated a bishop, becoming in 2016 the youngest bishop in Australia, at the age of 45. Five or six years ago, he told CNA, he got his first Twitter account and started to use it regularly. In the past several years, he has used his twitter account to reach out on issues affecting Australian society – as well as to joke about a variety of topics: “You can have fun with memes.” Part of the reason he’s drawn to memes, Bishop Umbers said, is not only because they match his sense of humor, but because of his own limitations. “I have an artistic vision with zero talent,” he joked. More seriously, memes do indeed convey a message. Like political cartoons, which have spread powerful ideas and opinions for centuries, memes can also convey earnest information. The creation of a meme culture in online Catholic spaces, or use of other kinds of social media outreach can help reach out and participate in conversations. In fact, he said, people tend to take notice when a conversation is constructive, rather than a “flame war.” Also, he warned, any conversation can sometimes face the threat of miscommunication, or being “overly ironic.” Honesty and consideration can add balance to online evangelization. “I tell people all the time: be yourself,” Bishop Umbers said. He also advocated that Catholics online display their convictions, and even make “strong comments” – but also advised them consider what they say before they type. The bishop also urged that Catholics online have faith and conviction in their beliefs – especially if they dabble in memes or in online discussions. “[It] takes a certain confidence in your own faith,” he said of online participation and discussion. This confidence can even help bring out the humor of the whole situation. While throughout history “believers have always had a go” during important disagreements, poking fun at topics and laughing about the misunderstandings is “a lasting human tradition.” It’s this sense of conviction that Bishop Umbers hopes believers can bring to conversations happening not only online, but in the Archdiocese of Sydney. Australian society is currently experiencing “rapid secularization” and increasing “sectarianism”, he said, as issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia come to the center of Australian political debates. While more Catholics continue to identify as Catholic, as opposed to the shift to “non-religious” among other Christian groups, some Catholic institutions have remained quiet or even supported positions that fly in the face of Church teaching. “To stand up for Catholic teaching puts you, once again, on the margins”: Bishop Umbers explained that taking a counter-cultural position is likely to impact funding of Church programs as time goes on. The marginalization of traditional Christian beliefs, however, does not mean that people do not listen or that people do not take interest in the Church’s arguments. “You’re definitely not irrelevant,” he said of the Christian voice in the public square. Rather, he said, effective communication and coordination seem to be the major stumbling-block facing the Church in the Sydney area. “That’s where social media can play a big role,” Bishop Umbers offered. For example, he pointed to a successful social media campaign started by three young women which protested the expansion of abortion in the Australian state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital. The young pro-life advocates started a twitter hashtag that started to change the conversation surrounding abortion, and inspired local communities to get involved. “Because of them, there was a huge campaign across all the parishes to have people sign a petition.” More than 80,000 signed the petition, which eventually contributed to the bill’s defeat in parliament, the bishop said. The center of a successful online campaign like the one in New South Wales, or of a meme, or of any mode of evangelization, lies, at its core, in the truth, Bishop Umbers said. “Really it’s an expression of who you are, and I think that’s where evangelization comes from,” he said of online engagement. “It’s not a campaign. It is truly a sharing of your own convictions and your own thoughtfulness.” Read more