Angelus News | January 15, 2021 | Vol. 6 No. 1

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The story behind the

cathedral’s newest —

and final — tapestry

January 15, 2021 Vol. 6 No. 1



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1/7/21 9:52 PM


A stunning new tapestry of the Virgin Mary by artist John Nava was

unveiled at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on New Year’s

Day. On Page 10, Steve Lowery reports on how the new creation completes

a mission that was left unfinished for more than two decades.



Police officers stand guard Jan. 6 as supporters of

President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol.

Angelus will have more complete coverage of the events

on Capitol Hill and their consequences in the next issue.



Pope Watch 2

Archbishop Gomez 3

World, Nation, and Local News 4-6

Scott Hahn on Scripture 8

Father Rolheiser 9

Mentorship program unites LA cops and Catholic school kids 16

How a kidnapped Nigerian bishop’s local fan club came to his rescue 20

COVID-19 vaccine illustrates how Vatican made peace with science 24

Why our changing world needs ‘feminine genius’ 26

Greg Erlandson: 2020’s essential lessons for the new year 28

Separating good intentions from bad theology in Pixar’s ‘Soul’ 30

Heather King on a writer who could paint landscapes with words 32

/21 9:52 PM










January 15, 2021

Vol. 6 • No. 1

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2 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021

A time to calm spirits

Pope Francis asked Immaculate Virgin

Mary to help foster a “culture of encounter”

in the United States after the

recent violence in Washington, D.C.

“I extend an affectionate greeting

to the people of the United States of

America, shaken by the recent siege

of Congress. I pray for those who lost

their lives, five lost in those dramatic

moments,” Pope Francis said after his

Sunday Angelus address Jan. 10.

“I reaffirm that violence is always

self-destructive. Nothing is gained with

violence and so much is lost. I urge

the authority of the state and the entire

population to maintain a high sense

of responsibility in order to calm the

spirits, promote national reconciliation,

and protect the democratic values rooted

in American society,” the pope said.

In the midday Marian prayer broadcast

live from the Vatican, Pope Francis

invoked the intercession of the Immaculate

Conception, who was proclaimed

patroness of the United States in


Pope Francis’ comments came four

days after pro-Donald Trump protesters

stormed the U.S. Capitol Building Jan.

6 as Congress was in the process of certifying

the presidential election results,

leading to the evacuation of lawmakers.

At least five people died as a result of

the violence, including a U.S. Capitol

police officer.

In a video clip published Jan. 9, Pope

Francis said that he was “astonished” by

this incident that occurred in the U.S.


“I was astonished, because they are

a people so disciplined in democracy,

right? But it’s a reality,” the pope said in

the clip published to the website of the

Italian news program TgCom24.

“Something isn’t working,” Pope

Francis continued. With “people taking

a path against the community, against

democracy, against the common good.

Thanks be to God that this has broken

out and there was a chance to see it

well so that now you can try and heal

it. Yes, this must be condemned, this

movement. …”

The pope’s remarks came after U.S.

bishops condemned the violence,

which was described as a “coup” and

an “insurrection” by some in the


“I join people of goodwill in condemning

the violence today at the United

States Capitol,” said Archbishop José H.

Gomez in a statement released the day

of the attack by the U.S. Conference of

Catholic Bishops, of which Archbishop

Gomez currently serves as president.

“This is not who we are as Americans.

I am praying for members of Congress

and Capitol staff and for the police and

all those working to restore order and

public safety,” he said.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the

archbishop of Washington, D.C.,

described the events as an attack on

“sacred ground.”

“We Americans should honor the

place where our nation’s laws and

policies are debated and decided,” he

said in his statement. “We should feel

violated when the legacy of freedom

enshrined in that building is disrespected

and desecrated.”

Reporting courtesy of Catholic News

Agency Rome correspondent Courtney


Editor’s note: Due to deadline

constraints and the changing nature of

developments from Washington, D.C.,

Angelus will have more complete coverage

of the Jan. 6 events on Capitol Hill

and their aftermath in the next issue.

Papal Prayer Intention for January: May the Lord give us the grace to live in full fellowship

with our brothers and sisters of other religions, praying for one another, open to all.

Our urgent duty




On Jan. 12, Archbishop Gomez delivered

the keynote address for the annual

conference of the University of Notre

Dame’s De Nicola Center for Ethics

and Culture on the theme, “We Belong

to One Another.” His full address can

be found on AngelusNews.com.

One day, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

found an old and very sick woman

lying on the streets of Calcutta.

The woman was covered in open

sores; she was in a lot of pain, and

many of her wounds were infected.

Mother Teresa took her in and started

cleaning her up.

The whole time, this woman was

yelling at her, cursing at her. At one

point the woman cried out, “Why are

you doing this? People don’t do things

like this. Who taught you?”

Mother Teresa replied simply, “My

God taught me.”

Now, that made the woman calm

down a little. So, she asked, “Who is

this God?”

And Mother Teresa replied, again

very simply, “You know my God. My

God is called Love.”

This little story gets to the heart of

our responsibilities as Christians because

it tells us two important truths:

who God is and who we are as human


As Christians, we worship a God who

has revealed himself as Love. And

as Christians, we know that human

beings are made in the image of this

God, in the image of Love. We are

created out of love. And we are made

to love — as Jesus loved and as Mother

Teresa and the saints love.

Unless we know these truths, we

can never understand our Christian

commitments — for immigrants and

refugees, for the poor, the unborn, the

imprisoned, the sick, the environment.

Unless we know these truths, we can’t

know how to create a society that will

be good for human beings.

Right now in the West, nations

and corporations and international

agencies are trying to build a global

economic and political order that

does not need to rely on beliefs about

God or traditional religious values and


But what we are finding is that when

we lose this Judeo-Christian idea

— of a God who creates the human

person in his image — then we lose

the basis for all the noble principles

and goals that we have in our society.

We find that unless we believe in a

Creator who establishes values, there

is no foundation for human dignity,

freedom, equality, and fraternity.

To put our challenge in its simplest

terms: unless we believe that we have a

Father in heaven, there is no necessary

reason for us to treat one another as

brothers and sisters on earth.

That is one of the underlying concerns

in Pope Francis’ latest encyclical,

“Fratelli Tutti.”

At the heart of the Holy Father’s

appeal is that simple, beautiful truth:

that God is Love, that he is our Father

and we are his children, and he calls

us to form one human family and to

live together in love as brothers and


The Holy Father understands that

many of the troubles in the world

are more than a failure of politics or

diplomacy. They represent a failure

of human fraternity and solidarity. A

failure of love.

And that is our challenge and our

mission as Christians, as the Church.

We have an urgent duty in this

moment, especially in light of the

violence last week at our nation’s

Capitol, and the deep polarization and

divisions in our country.

Our society has lost its bearings. We

are living in an aggressively secular society

that has forgotten the truth about

God and the truth about the human

person. This crisis of truth is the root

cause of pain and hardship in so many

of our neighbors’ lives. It is the cause

of many of the injustices in our society.

But you and I, as Christians, we know

the truth.

In this moment, we need to bear

witness to the truth that we are all children

of God, that there is a greatness

to human life, that every one of us is

created in God’s image, endowed with

God-given rights and responsibilities,

and called to a transcendent destiny.

As Christians, we need to be models

for a new way of life — a life of love

and compassion and concern for others.

We need to work for dignity and

equality. We need to build a society

where it is easier for people to love and

to be loved.

As Mother Teresa taught us, our God

is called Love. And he calls each one

of us to love.

By our love — by the way we serve

our neighbors, by the way we care

for one another, especially the weak

and vulnerable — we can change the

world. We can help our neighbors to

find and encounter this God who is

called Love.

To read more columns by Archbishop José H. Gomez or to subscribe, visit www.angelusnews.com.

January 15, 2021 • ANGELUS • 3


Farewell to the Vatican’s

‘Latin Lover’

A Catholic priest known as the

Church’s top authority on Latin died

Christmas Day in Milwaukee of

complications from COVID-19 at the

age of 81.

Discalced Carmelite Father Reginald

Foster spent four decades at the Latin

Language Department of the Vatican

Secretariat of State after arriving there

in 1969.

Voters wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Bangui, Central African Republic, Dec. 27, 2020.

Africa: Post-election strife could get worse in C.A.R.


Father Reginald Foster wearing his trademark

plumber’s uniform near the Vatican post office

in 2007.

Despite wearing a plumber’s uniform

to work every day and a penchant for

making irreverent remarks, Father Foster’s

expertise made him indispensable

in the Vatican under three popes. He

also taught Latin at Rome’s Pontifical

Gregorian University, until he was

fired for accepting nonpaying students

into his classes.

He retired to his hometown of Milwaukee

in 2009 and continued writing

and teaching Latin, even remotely in

recent months.

Father Foster’s death was recognized

by the Vatican in a special message

on behalf of Pope Francis thanking

Father Foster for his contributions to

the Church. It was, of course, written

in Latin.


Catholics in the Central African Republic are worried that a post-election insurrection

by rebels will result in food shortages and a refugee exodus.

Two-thirds of the country is currently controlled by rebels challenging incumbent

president Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who won the Dec. 27, 2020 elections

with 53% of the vote. However, opposition groups cited irregularities in the elections,

for which half of voters were unable to register because of militia violence.

People are “living in fear and anxiety,” said Bishop Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia,

who added that the conflict risked “turning into a nationwide hunt for innocent

people, based solely on their ethnicity or political affiliation.”

The bishop told the French Catholic daily La Croix Jan. 6 that the country’s

main supply route from Cameroon was occupied, causing shortages and surging


Maria Lozano, a Spanish laywoman who works for the papal charity Aid to the

Church in Need, told Crux that Islamic “jihadists want to ransack the country to

have resources they need to deploy elsewhere. Many of the rebels are foreign from

Niger, Chad, or Sudan, who’re fighting in a war that is not theirs for money.”

The violence is a setback for a country praised for slowly returning to peace and

stability in recent years.

Archbishop resigns following return from exile

An archbishop in Belarus resigned less than two weeks after his government

allowed his return from exile.

Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk submitted his resignation on

Jan. 3, his 75th birthday, in accordance with canon law. The same day, the

Vatican announced that the pope had accepted the resignation.

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz had been exiled from Belarus since August 2020,

only finally being allowed to return on Dec. 24. The archbishop was barred

from the country due to his public defense of protests against the reelection of

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been accused of electoral fraud.

The sudden resignation led Vatican-watchers to speculate the resignation was

part of a compromise between the Vatican and Lukashenko to allow for Archbishop

Kondrusiewicz to return to Belarus but without the official authority of

a bishop.

The Vatican has not yet named a permanent successor to Archbishop Kondrusiewicz.

4 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021


Catholics well-represented

in new Congress

Following last year’s election, not only is a Catholic

president for the second time in American history, but

Catholics are the largest religious group represented in


Thirty percent of the members of the 117th Congress

claim Catholic affiliation, including the Speaker of the

House, Nancy Pelosi. In the House, that breaks down to

77 Democrats and 57 Republicans; in the Senate, there

are 14 Catholic Democrats and 11 Catholic Republicans.

Regardless of shared religion, the two groups seem

diametrically opposed on policy. The Catholic League

reports that 95% of Catholic Democrats in the House

and 79% in the Senate have a pro-abortion voting record,

compared to the pro-life voting recording of Catholic

Republicans in the House and 91% in the Senate.

For many Catholics, these numbers demonstrate the

continued stratification of religious values, with Democrats

focusing on social justice, and Republicans more

concerned with right to life issues.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at last year’s opening Mass of the National

Prayer Vigil for Life.

March for Life prayer vigil

to be held online

Though the March for Life will still be held in person

this year, the annual vigil prayer service that precedes it is

moving online due to the pandemic.

The National Prayer Vigil for Life usually attracts 10,000

people at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate

Conception in Washington, D.C.

This year, the service will be broadcast live starting at

5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Thursday, Jan. 28, on

EWTN as well as the USCCB and the basilica’s internet


Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of

the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said that

“now, more than ever, our nation is in need of prayer for

the protection of the unborn and the dignity of all human



New York cardinal condemns

cathedral vandalism


SNOW ABSOLUTION — Warmed by a fire, Father Philip Bochanski

offers confession just inside the garage at the rectory of St.

Catherine of Siena Church in Trumbull, Connecticut, Dec. 20, 2020.

The parish’s priests normally hear “drive-through” confessions every

Sunday afternoon in the church parking lot, but a snowstorm that

week forced the priest to retreat “inside.”

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan took to his city’s famous

tabloid paper to denounce another act of vandalism to

the exterior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral as “ugly and unlawful.”

The cathedral was graffitied on Jan. 1 by protesters

connected by Black Lives Matter Brooklyn and Justice for

George, according to the New York Post. This act of vandalism

follows similar acts made during protests last summer.

“As a woman from the Bronx e-mailed me to say,” wrote

Cardinal Dolan in his Jan. 5 New York Post op-ed, “ ‘Cardinal

Dolan, it’s time we learn from our Jewish and Islamic

neighbors. A synagogue or mosque is defaced, and they are

quick to condemn it. The governor and the mayor would

join in. They’re right.’ ”

“So is she,” Cardinal Dolan continued. “This attack on St.

Patrick’s was ugly and unlawful.”

Cardinal Dolan also pointed out the city’s various Catholic-affiliated

ministries that seek to bring about the kinds of

racial equality called for by the protests.

January 15, 2021 • ANGELUS • 5


LA says farewell to two larger-than-life Catholics

They were two Los Angeles legends

who shared the same first name, the

beginning of a last name (appropriate

for the city they loved), and, most

importantly, the Catholic faith.

And so it seemed too much of a

coincidence that longtime LA city

politician Tom Labonge and legendary

Hall of Fame Dodgers manager

Tommy Lasorda passed away within

hours of each other on Jan. 7 and 8,


Labonge, 67, was one of eight sons

born to his devout Catholic mother,

Mary Louise, and his father, Robert,

who once worked as an editor for The

Tidings, the predecessor of Angelus.

He could often be found at Mass at his

home parish, St. Brendan’s in Hancock

Park, or at the Cathedral of Our Lady

of the Angels handing out pumpkin

bread from the nearby Monastery of

the Angels.

Lasorda, 93, came from an Italian

Catholic immigrant family who liked

to preach that “if you don’t love the

Dodgers, there’s a good chance you

may not get into heaven.” He was

known for his generosity toward priests

and women religious, and credited his

faith for helping him navigate success

and failure during his career.

You can find more coverage of the

two mens’ faith in the next issue of

Angelus and on AngelusNews.com.

Tom Labonge

Tommy Lasorda.



A passing of the torch

in San Bernardino

Coadjutor Bishop Alberto Rojas has

officially taken the reins in San Bernardino,

after Pope Francis accepted

the resignation of Bishop Gerald R.

Barnes on Dec. 28.

“There is no doubt, when looking at

the events of this past year, that I am

coming to lead the diocese at a very

challenging time,” Bishop Rojas said in

a statement the day of the announcement.

But, he said, he has “always

trusted in God’s plan … and that he

will give me all that I need to do his


Since becoming coadjutor for the

Diocese of San Bernardino last February,

Bishop Rojas had worked alongside

Bishop Barnes in overseeing the

diocese in a transitional period. Before

that, Bishop Rojas had been an auxiliary

bishop in Chicago for eight years.

Bishop Barnes has headed the San

Bernardino Diocese since 1996. He

turned 75 last June, and, as canon law

requires, submitted his resignation to

the pope.

OneLife LA goes virtual

OneLife LA returns for its sixth year

this month, but with a virtual twist

thanks to the ongoing COVID-19


The annual walk and celebration of

life will be held on Jan. 23, kicking

off with a virtual celebration at noon.

The day’s events still include a lineup

of speakers, singers, and dancing, but

performances will be aired in a onehour

online event, and shared on social

media with the hashtag #onelifela.

This year’s theme is sharing the “Joy

of Life.” For more information, or to

register, visit onelifela.org.


AN EARLY CHRISTMAS GIFT — In a local fundraising effort that went global, the Serra Club

raised $25,000 toward the Mission San Gabriel restoration fund. On Dec. 16, 2020, Pat

Livingston, LA district governor, Father Sam Ward, ADLA vocations director, Ed Lupton, Pacific

regional director, and Pat Manzo, board member, presented a check to Archbishop José H.

Gomez, earmarked to help the mission rebuild after last summer’s devastating fire.

6 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021




1 Sam. 3:3–10, 19 / Ps. 40:2, 4, 7–10 / 1 Cor. 6:13–15, 17–20 / Jn. 1:35–42


Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy,

a Catholic, Dominican,

independent, college-preparatory,

day and boarding school,

educates young women

for a life of

faith, integrity and truth.


440 St. Katherine Drive

La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011



“Calling of Peter and Andrew,”

artist unknown, Netherlands.

In the call of Samuel and the first

apostles, this Sunday’s Readings shed

light on our own calling to be followers

of Christ.

Notice in the Gospel that John’s

disciples are prepared to hear God’s

call. They are already looking for the

Messiah, so they trust in John’s word

and follow when he points out the

Lamb of God walking by.

Samuel is also waiting on the Lord,

sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant

where God’s glory dwells, taking instruction

from Eli, the high priest.

Samuel listened to God’s word and

the Lord was with him. And Samuel,

through his word, turned all Israel to

the Lord (see 1 Samuel 3:21; 7:2–3).

The disciples, too, heard and followed

— words we hear repeatedly in

Sunday’s Gospel. They stayed with the

Lord and by their testimony brought

others to the Lord.

These scenes from salvation history

should give us strength to embrace

God’s will and to follow his call in our


God is constantly calling to each of

us, personally, by name (see Isaiah

43:1; John 10:3). He wants us to seek

him in love, to long for his word (see

Wisdom 6:11–12). We must desire always,

as the apostles did, to stay where

the Lord stays, to constantly seek his

face (see Psalm 42:2).

For we are not our own, but belong

to the Lord, as Paul says in Sunday’s


We must have ears open to obedience,

and write his word within our

hearts. We must trust in the Lord’s

promise, that if we come to him in

faith, he will abide with us (see John

15:14; 14:21–23), and raise us by his

power. And we must reflect in our

lives the love he has shown us, so that

others too may find the Messiah.

As we renew our vows of discipleship

in this Eucharist, let us approach the

altar singing the new song of Sunday’s

Psalm: “Behold I come ... to do your

will, O my God.”

Scott Hahn is founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, stpaulcenter.com.

8 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021



What is your practice?

Today, the common question in

spiritual circles is not, “What is your

church or your religion?” But, “What

is your practice?”

What is your practice? What is your

particular explicit prayer practice?

Is it Christian? Buddhist? Islamic?

Secular? Do you meditate? Do you

do centering prayer? Do you practice

mindfulness? For how long do you do

this each day?

These are good questions and the

prayer practices they refer to are good

practices; but I take issue with one

thing. The tendency here is to identify

the essence of one’s discipleship

and religious observance with a single

explicit prayer practice, and that can

be reductionist and simplistic. Discipleship

is about more than one prayer


A friend of mine shares this story. He

was at a spirituality gathering where

the question most asked of everyone

was this: “What is your practice?”

One woman replied, “My practice is

raising my kids!” She may have meant

it in jest, but her quip contains an

insight that can serve as an important

corrective to the tendency to identify

the essence of one’s discipleship with

a single explicit prayer practice.

Monks have secrets worth knowing.

One of these is the truth that for any

single prayer practice to be transformative

it must be embedded in a

larger set of practices, a much larger

“monastic routine,” which commits

one to a lot more than a single prayer


For a monk, each prayer practice is

embedded inside a monastic routine

and that routine, rather than any one

single prayer practice, becomes the

monk’s practice. Further still, that

monastic routine, to have real value,

must be itself predicated on fidelity to

one’s vows.

Hence, the question “What is your

practice?” is a good one if it refers to

more than just a single explicit prayer

practice. It must also ask whether

you are keeping the commandments.

Are you faithful to your vows and

commitments? Are you raising your

kids well? Are you staying within

Christian community? Do you reach

out to the poor? And, yes, do you have

some regular, explicit, habitual prayer


What is my own practice?

I lean heavily on regularity and

ritual, on a “monastic routine.” Here

is my normal routine: Each morning

I pray the Office of Lauds (usually in

community). Then, before going to

my office, I read a spiritual book for at

least 20 minutes. At noon, I participate

in the Eucharist, and sometime

during the day, I go for a long walk

and pray for an hour (mostly using the

rosary as a mantra and praying for a

lot of people by name).

On days when I do not take a walk,

I sit in meditation or centering prayer

for about 15 minutes. Each evening,

I pray vespers (again, usually in community).

Once a week, I spend the

evening writing a column on some

aspect of spirituality. Once a month I

celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation,

always with the same confessor;

and, when possible, I try to carve out

a week each year to do a retreat.

My practice survives on routine,

rhythm, and ritual. These hold me

and keep me inside my discipleship

and my vows. They hold me more

than I hold them. No matter how

busy I am, no matter how distracted

I am, and no matter whether or not

I feel like praying on any given day,

these rituals draw me into prayer and


To be a disciple is to put yourself

under a discipline. Thus, the bigger

part of my practice is my ministry and

the chronic discipline this demands

of me. Full disclosure, ministry is

often more stimulating than prayer;

but it also demands more of you and,

if done in fidelity, can be powerfully

transformative in terms of bringing

you to maturity and altruism.

Carlo Carretto, the renowned

spiritual writer, spent much of his

adult life in the Sahara Desert, living

in solitude as a monk, spending many

hours in formal prayer. However, after

years of solitude and prayer in the desert,

he went to visit his aging mother

who had dedicated many years of her

life to raising children, leaving little

time for formal prayer.

Visiting her, he realized something,

namely, that his mother was more of

a contemplative than he was! To his

credit, Carretto drew the right lesson:

there was nothing wrong with what

he had been doing in the solitude of

the desert for all those years, but there

was something very right in what his

mother had been doing in the busy

bustle of raising children for so many

years. Her life was its own monastery.

Her practice was “raising kids.”

I have always loved this line from

the poet Robert Lax: “The task in life

is not so much finding a path in the

woods as of finding a rhythm to walk

in.” Perhaps your rhythm is “monastic,”

perhaps “domestic.” An explicit

prayer practice is very important as a

religious practice, but so too are our

duties of state.

Father Ron Rolheiser is a theologian, teacher, award-winning author, and president of the Oblate School of Theology

in San Antonio, Texas. Find him online at www.ronrolheiser.com and www.facebook.com/ronrolheiser.

January 15, 2021 • ANGELUS • 9

The completion o

10 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021

of a cathedral

Nearly two decades

later, the Blessed Virgin

Mary is finally taking

her place among the

saints at the cathedral

built in her name



Faithful witnessed the unveiling of the new Marian tapestry at the Cathedral of Our Lady of

the Angels during Mass celebrating the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on Jan. 1.

January 15, 2021 • ANGELUS • 11


12 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021



As the shrouds were removed

from the five panels of a

stunning new tapestry honoring

the Blessed Virgin Mary in the

apse of the Cathedral of Our Lady of

the Angels before morning Mass on

New Year’s Day, it seemed fitting that

their removal required the sound of

ripping Velcro.

A necessarily harsh sound to mark

a clean break from a harsh year, one

that, as Archbishop José H. Gomez

acknowledged that morning, may

have felt like a bad nightmare for


But more importantly, the new

tapestry, featuring a 14-foot-high depiction

of the cathedral’s namesake,

hands outstretched, eyes cast toward

the altar and congregation, was

unveiled on the day that the Catholic

Church celebrates the solemnity of

Mary, Mother of God.

And by the time Mass was finished,

it seemed as if it had always been


For those who have called the cathedral

their spiritual home since it was

built two decades ago, the 29-by-50-

foot tapestry seemed to signal an end,

rather than a new beginning.

“That’s always been the whole idea

[of the new tapestry],” said Brother

Hilarion O’Connor, the cathedral’s

operations manager who helped shepherd

the project. “The idea being the

completion of the cathedral, completion

of the tapestries.”

Part of that completion might have

felt long overdue. If you’ve walked

through the long nave of the cathedral,

you’ve likely gazed upon the

more than 130 images of saints depicted

on tapestries hung on opposite


Perhaps the most well-known of the

cathedral’s artistic features, those

tapestries were made by Californian

painter and tapestry designer John

Nava, who used real-life models for

his depiction of the “communion of


But what a visitor did not see until

Jan. 1 was a depiction of the most

important saint of them all: Mary,

whose many titles in Catholic tradition

include “Mother of God” and

especially for Angelenos, “Our Lady

of the Angels.”

“It was always a little strange that I

had [created] 136 figures for the interior

of the church, but the one person

who was not depicted was Our Lady,”

said Nava, who wasn’t the only one to

note the odd contradiction of having

a cathedral dedicated to Our Lady

lacking a prominent image of her.

Among them was Archbishop José

H. Gomez, who, upon arriving in Los

Angeles a decade ago, told Brother

O’Connor: “You know, we need to

get Our Lady into the cathedral.”

And now she has arrived, luminous,

in a blue robe that distinguishes her

from the saints in the nave, who now

seem to look up at her, and that Nava

portrayed in muted, mostly earth

tones that complement the cathedral’s

natural stone.

This is a young Mary, but one whose

countenance contains the unmistakable

duality of the mother who is

a harbor for our pain, and a woman

projecting an air of someone who has

experienced pain herself. She is large

enough to suggest her power, but still

radiates a sense of human vulnerability

that so many people connect with.

“She is the archetypal mother, I

didn’t want her to be imposing, rather,

I wanted her to be open, receptive,

sympathetic,” said Nava, who studied

art in Florence as a young man and

visited many of Europe’s cathedrals, a

good deal of them dedicated to Mary.

As he did with his “communion of

saints” that line the wall, Nava said it

was important for this final tapestry

to integrate the Church’s ancient tradition

and history with contemporary

people and times.

“I wanted to connect it to the New

World,” he said. “The greatest image

of Mary in the new world, I believe, is

the Virgin of Guadalupe. That’s why

in her robe, I put in that floral pattern

from the Virgin of Guadalupe, to

refer to that figure.”

The model for Mary was a woman

in her 20s that Nava has known most

of her life, a DACA recipient who he

said was excited to know that her face

would be used but who will remain

anonymous so as to not confuse


After all, one should be contemplating

Mary, not the model, when

looking at the tapestry.

“The art history of the Church is so

varied, rather than doing a stylized

image, I wanted to make a realistic

portrait that people could connect

with,” said Nava, who took two years

to create the tapestry. “Something

that they could say, ‘I know someone

that looks like that.’ ”

Also recognizable on the tapestry’s

two outside panels, left and right, is a

street map of downtown Los Angeles

that is complete to the point that its

upper right-hand corner contains a

symbol for Dodger Stadium.

Though he had followed the project

from beginning to end, New Year’s

Day marked the first time Brother

O’Connor had seen the tapestry in

its entirety without scaffolding in the

way. It is “magnificent in how Our

Lady is looking out on the congregation,”

he noted, and it represents a

fulfillment of what Archbishop Emeritus

Cardinal Roger Mahony declared

when it was first built: “I have helped

build the cathedral, my successors

will complete it.”

Brother O’Connor marveled at

how Nava was able to meet the size

challenges of the church, the largest

Catholic cathedral in the United

States, while still maintaining an air

of contemplation and scale.

“John has an amazing talent for

getting the images to meet the size of

the cathedral,” he said. “That’s a big


Indeed, with such a project, an artist

At left, above and below: John Nava poses with the central part of his “The Baptism of the Lord” tapestry in 2002, and 18 years later with the “Mary”

tapestry on the opposite end of the cathedral.

January 15, 2021 • ANGELUS • 13

“I wanted to make a realistic portrait that people

could connect with. Something that they could

say, ‘I know someone that looks like that.’ ”


An angel hovering over an artistic street map of LA on the new tapestry is seen through scaffolding last September.

14 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021



is tasked with creating something that

is visually stimulating without becoming

distracting. The art in a church

should move us to thought, to prayer,

to consideration of our lives, not on

how the art got there.

Nava has thought a lot about the

role of the artist in such circumstances.

When the cathedral first opened,

he remembers that his friend, the

sculptor who created the statue of

Mary at the cathedral entrance, the

late Robert Graham, told him, “This

isn’t about us.”

Instead, he said, it’s about creating a

larger meaning and consciousness for


“When you do a show in a gallery,

the focus is on you,” he said. “You’re

the artist and this is your work. But

this is not about John Nava. This

is about creating a reality that goes

beyond a particular painter.”

And now that it’s done, Nava smirks

when asked if he will be creating any

more tapestries. He said he is happy

that Our Lady has instantly brought a

“rightness” to the cathedral.

Before it was unveiled, it was not

uncommon for congregants to look

toward the back of the church, at

Nava’s equally magnificent “Baptism”


“People used to joke that the church

was backwards because everybody

looked that way,” Nava said, gesturing

toward the rear of the building. “They

looked that way because there was

someone to see.”

Turning his head to look up at the

vision of Mary, Nava added, “Now,

I think we have it in the right balance.”

Steve Lowery is the arts and culture

editor for the Long Beach Post and

a parishioner at American Martyrs

Church in Manhattan Beach.

January 15, 2021 • ANGELUS • 15

Estefiana Torres,

second from right, at

her Sept. 18 confirmation

ceremony at St.

Lawrence of Brindisi

Church in Watts. From

left: Her father, Luis

Torres; LAPD officers

Eric Ortiz and Ken

Busiere, and Estefiana’s

mother, Francisca

Arenas, far right.

Small drops of goodwill

By teaming LAPD officers with Catholic school students,

‘Operation Progress’ is changing attitudes in some of

LA’s toughest neighborhoods



In a fine white dress accentuated by

a bright red confirmation stole —

and matching red face mask — Estefania

Torres approached the outdoor

altar in the tented parking lot behind

St. Lawrence of Brindisi Church in


Standing behind the 16-year-old at

a social distance as she declared her

confirmation name and was anointed

on the forehead with sacred chrism

by the church’s pastor, Father Matt

Elshoff, was her sponsor, LAPD Sgt.

Ken Busiere, in full black uniform.

It is the kind of scene that nonprofit

organization Operation Progress has

become known for helping create.

“I know that many young people

today, and many young women, are

drawn in so many difficult directions

that can conflict with their faith and

I think it’s important to have a strong

Catholic mentor in their life,” said

Busiere, a father of three girls and an

18-year LAPD veteran assigned to the

LA Southeast Division.

A grassroots initiative started 20 years

ago by LAPD officer John Coughlin as

a way to better understand the needs

of a community historically fraught by

gang violence and poverty, Operation

Progress currently boasts nearly 100

students at three elementary schools

and three high schools.

Starting as early as third grade, students

grow according to “five pillars of

success”: academics, life skills, health

and wellness, service, and support and

safety. There are also 3.0 grade-point

16 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021


ight, at




tts. From

r, Luis






benchmark levels of achievement

measured by effort over ability. There

are surveys to measure self-confidence,

leadership, and the ability to share

their stories.

But the program’s success is something

its leaders say must be “measured

one scholar at a time.”

Take, for example, the trio who

Operation Progress’ executive director

Theresa Gartland calls the program’s

“north stars”: three young women who

joined the expanded pilot program

at St. Lawrence of Brindisi School,

graduated high school last June, and

are now freshmen in college.

Petra Avelar and Meah Watson grew

up in Watts’ Nickerson Gardens

housing development and joined

Operation Progress in 2013. Avelar, a

graduate of Mary Star of the Sea High

School in San Pedro, is now at Stonehill

College in Boston, while Watson

is enrolled at Morgan State University

in Baltimore.

Araceli Gonzalez, who started this

fall at Texas Christian University, came

into Operation Progress in 2014 while

in the Gonzaque Villages housing

development. Watson and Gonzalez

both went to St. Mary’s Academy in


Avelar’s story was among those told

in the 2017 documentary, “A Week

A poster from the 2017 documentary, “A Week

In Watts,” focused on Operation Progress.

In Watts,” directed and produced by

Gregory Caruso (and son of major Operation

Progress donor Rick Caruso)

and which boasted NBA legend Shaquille

O’Neal as executive producer.

The film followed the impact of the

program on six students living within

a two-mile radius of St. Lawrence of

Brindisi School, an area known for

gang violence between Crips and


Since the film’s release on Netflix,

police departments from across the

country have reached out to Operation

Progress organizers. It has since been

replicated in Ft. Worth, Texas, with the

help of a private Christian school in an

underserved neighborhood near there.

St. Lawrence of Brindisi School

counts some 60 of its current 295

students as program participants, with

a list of kids still waiting to be assigned

a mentor officer.

Some 25 officers at the LA Southeast

Division continue as mentors,

although Gartland would like that

number to grow to more than 50.

Recent officer promotions and

reassignments happened just before

Operation Progress was ramping up

for the 2020-2021 school year, and it

was during a recruitment push when

COVID-19 hit.

Verbum Dei High School in Watts

(blocks away from St. Lawrence of

Brindisi School) and St. Mary’s Academy

in Inglewood were two of Operation

Progress’ pilot high schools, and it

recently added St. Pius X-St. Matthias

Academy in Downey.

Besides St. Lawrence of Brindisi

School, there are a handful of students

from nearby Catholic elementary

schools San Miguel and St. Raphael,

some of whom have been paired with

officer mentors from LAPD’s 77th St.


Gartland said she sees a clear

correlation not only between officer

mentorship and the students’ school

performance, but in the attitudes of all


“Families see officers in a different

light,” said Gartland, who has led the

organization since 2013.

But, she added, “the best outcome for

me is seeing how the officers’ mindset

in the community has changed. They

seem more softer as they interact with

Petra Avelar poses next to a poster of herself

in the lobby of a theater at The Grove in LA

during the premiere of the documentary “A

Week In Watts.” Avelar joined Operation Progress

while at St. Lawrence of Brindisi School

in 2013 and is now a freshman at Stonehill

College in Boston.

families, which is something they

usually don’t get a chance to do.”

When Sgt. Busiere was approached

by her mother to

be Estefania’s confirmation

sponsor (her assigned LAPD Operation

Progress mentor, Senior Lead Officer

Roberto Yanez, isn’t Catholic), he considered

it an honor. The program has

given Busiere, who has mentored three

students over the last eight years for

Operation Progress, an intimate sense

of what families like the Torres face.

“I’ve seen how young people have

changed their opinions about police

officers, but it works both ways,” said

Busiere, who attends Saints Peter and

Paul Church in Wilmington with his


“Frankly, a lot of misunderstandings

in this country about race is because

we don’t spend enough time with

each other. And I think the Catholic

worldview is one where you are better

able to serve everyone’s needs and it

encapsulates the core values in the

police department.

“If we stray from that, we’re not the

best versions of who we should be. I’m

not sure how I’d do this job without my

Catholic faith.”

If Torres’ life was changed by Oper-


January 15, 2021 • ANGELUS • 17

ation Progress, it is because an LAPD

officer recommended the program to

her mother at a crucial time: she was

about to finish fifth grade when her

family was evicted from their home

amid a situation of domestic violence.

Both her parents were arrested, and she

was sent to foster care.

The turn of events brought her to

St. Lawrence of Brindisi School on

a scholarship when the pastor at the

time, the late Father Jesus Vela, was

helping LAPD officers recruit new

students for the program.

“I was a shy, very quiet kid, and I

didn’t realize how much of a traumatic

phase I was going through,” said

Torres. “I had a difficult time believing

in police officers when they took away

my parents. I was disappointed and

angry and resented the police; it is their

job to protect us. And now they want to

help by sponsoring me?”

Torres said getting to know officers

and the risks they take with their own

lives left an impression on her.

“I can now see the relationship I have

with the officers; it has started small

but it continues to grow, and now it’s

connected to my Catholic beliefs.”

Father Elshoff has a favorite story

he likes to tell when explaining

the positive impact the LAPD has

made on his flock.

Last June, when some 20 children in

St. Lawrence of Brindisi School’s kindergarten

class had a Zoom promotion

ceremony, each was asked from their

home what they wanted to be when

they grow up, and why.

“I believe it was a third of them who

said, ‘I want to be a police officer,’ and

the reason is because ‘I want to help

people,’ ” recalled Father Elshoff, a

lifelong educator who once served as

president of his alma mater, St. Francis

High School in La Cañada Flintridge.

“It wasn’t like they were all telegraphing

this to each other. I believe this

was because they so often see so many

officers on campus mentoring their


St. Lawrence of Brindisi School principal

Alicia Camacho said the officers’

dedication can be seen in their regular

participation in Catholic Schools Week

Career Day every January. They bring

their trained dogs on campus, give

tours of the patrol cars, and even fly a

helicopter overhead for a greeting.

During the COVID-19 pandemic,

the mentor officers continue to check

in on students’ grades and meet over

Zoom welfare updates.

“Our new first-graders are huge fans

of the officers,” Camacho said. “It’s

because the officers have cultivated

long-lasting relationships with our

students and brought a sense of safety

for all of us at school. I am grateful that

our students get to know the police

officers as individuals and caring


The parish’s relationship with the

LAPD has also helped Father Elshoff

stay connected with the community

during the pandemic. He and LAPD

Sgt. Tim Jones have been holding

community public meetings on

Wednesdays in the parking lot of Café

Oaxaca restaurant on Century Boulevard

and Central Avenue in Watts,

making themselves available to locals.

Father Elshoff, who moonlights as

chaplain for LAPD’s Southeast Division,

has taken to sharing experiences

of the encounters on his Facebook

page in a series dubbed “The Police

and the Padre.”

The Capuchin says the meetings have

helped him know people better, and

Father Matt Elshoff with Torres and her sponsor, Sgt. Busiere.

the joy he’s witnessed in them despite

the tough times “reinforces my mission

as a priest and follower of Francis of


“It animates me to give more, and

more often than not, in very ordinary,


18 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021

LAPD Sgt. Tim Jones

gets on his knees to

show his badge to a

young boy in Watts

during a meeting of

“The Police and the

Padre” outside of the

Café Oaxaca restaurant

on Century

Boulevard near Central

Avenue, across

from Ted Watkins

Park in Watts.

basic ways. It really doesn’t have to be


One poignant moment Father Elshoff

captured with his own cellphone

camera was a time when Sgt. Jones was

asked by a young boy if he could touch

his badge. Jones crouched down and

readily obliged.

“That’s our future,” Jones said of that

moment. “I think of that moment,

where we have to get down to the same

level where they are comfortable and

talk as equals. You can see people’s

minds shift as I talk about my own life

and my relationship with Father Matt.”

The son of a Southern Baptist minister,

Jones said his relationship with

Father Elshoff can be summed up by

the priest’s recent birthday gift, a St.

Timothy medal that he now wears

every day on patrol.

“I think you can’t know what’s right in

a community if you don’t know what’s

wrong,” said Jones. “I know I have a

better understanding since when I

came in 25 years ago. Small drops of

goodwill will spread the love and communication

that we’re here to serve.

That’s pretty cool.”



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January 15, 2021 • ANGELUS • 19






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11/29/20 12:09 PM

Bishop Moses

Chikwe at his episcopal


in Owerri, Nigeria,

in December 2019.


A New Year’s miracle

When news broke of a Nigerian bishop’s kidnapping

last month, friends of ‘Father Moses’ from his time

in SoCal sprung into action


During his nearly 15 years in Southern California,

Father Moses Chikwe was always up to something,

even when he wasn’t taking graduate courses at

Loyola Marymount University and UCLA.

The Nigerian priest helped in parishes, visited the sick

in local hospitals, served as a prayer group chaplain, and

joined soccer matches after Sunday Masses were done. He

even handed out rosaries to strangers on the Venice Beach


So when news reached California that Father Chikwe, now

an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Owerri, Nigeria,

had been kidnapped along with his driver Dec. 27, he had

an extensive network of old friends praying for his release.

“I feared for the worst. I couldn’t sleep,” recalled Patrick

Chikwe, a nephew of the bishop. The younger Chikwe,

who joined his uncle in California eight years ago and today

teaches at an LA area high school, knew who to call first

when he got the news.

“Everybody we asked started prayer chains like crazy,” said

Gary Micaletti, who became friends with “Father Moses”

during his time at the Church of Saint Mark in Venice.

Former parishioners from Saint Mark and parishes in San

Diego where he served spread the word. Family members,

prayer groups, and convents, including the Carmelite Sisters

20 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021

in Alhambra, were quickly mobilized to pray. Nigerian

priests serving in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles were on the

phone with updates.

Their efforts were not in vain. Five days after Bishop

Chikwe and his driver, Ndubuisi Robert, were abducted,

the Archdiocese of Owerri announced Jan. 1 they had been

released “unhurt and without ransom.”

“To GOD be the glory,” read a New Year’s Day post on the

archdiocese’s Facebook account.

Owerri Archbishop Anthony Obinna, who visited the

53-year-old Bishop Chikwe soon after his release, said he was

“looking and feeling very weak from the traumatic experience.”

A video circulating on social media later showed

Bishop Chikwe celebrating with well-wishers, dancing in

his white bishop’s cassock and flashing that trademark bright


“He was famous for that smile,” said Father Michael Rocha,

who was pastor at Saint Mark during Bishop Chikwe’s time

there. “He was always happy. That smile, and that laugh —

that’s what endeared him to people here.”

He first arrived in California in 2002, when his home

diocese in Nigeria sent him to Loyola Marymount

University to study educational administration. He

first took up residence at Visitation Church, just blocks from

the school’s campus in Westchester.

Esteban Hernandez, then a middle-schooler at the parish

school, remembered how easily the young priest connected

with students, despite his heavy accent and being new to the


“He was just a lovely guy to be around,” Hernandez

recalled. “You felt like you could always approach him on

the schoolyard during recess or after Mass and talk about


After getting his master’s at LMU, he stayed to pursue a

doctorate in education at UCLA. He briefly lived on the

school’s Westwood campus, until Father Rocha offered to

put him up at St. Mark. He did not have to be asked twice.

“He had that type of outgoing personality,” remembered

Then-Father Moses Chikwe with Gary and Cynthia Micaletti on a visit to

San Simeon during his time as a student priest in California.


Father Rocha, now pastor of St. Paschal Baylon Church in

Thousand Oaks. “He wanted to be back in a parish, and

people embraced him and welcomed him.”

During his five years in Venice, he helped as a hospital

chaplain and ministered to the parish’s Legion of Mary as

spiritual director. It was there that he grew close to Gary Micaletti

and his wife, Cynthia, whose daughter he baptized.

The Micalettis considered him part of their family, inviting

him often to join them for dinner and excursions to the

California missions.

“Being who he is, I

wouldn’t be surprised

if he just convinced

[the kidnappers] to let

him go,” said an LA

priest who lived with

Bishop Chikwe.

Once the Micalettis took him to Universal Studios, where

Cynthia convinced him to get on the Mummy ride. They

recalled with a laugh that he promised he’d never trust her


“Everybody who meets him knows he’s a very humble man,

just a beautiful-hearted man,” said Gary.

In 2011, he moved to San Diego while completing his

doctoral studies. He served there at St. Joseph’s Cathedral

downtown and at St. Mark’s in San Marcos, while also serving

as chaplain at the local veterans’ hospital.

The friendships he formed with the Micalettis and former

parishioners have survived the test of time — and distance.

Even after receiving his doctorate in 2013 and going home

to direct Owerri’s religious education office, he would come

back during summers to help out at St. Mark’s Church in

San Marcos and St. Paschal Baylon Church in Thousand


His friends told Angelus that he always brushed off suggestions

that he might one day move up in the Church’s

hierarchy. But in late 2019, their predictions proved true

when Pope Francis named him auxiliary bishop of his home

Diocese of Owerri, in southeastern Nigeria.

“Several times I said, ‘Moses, I’m telling you right now,

eventually you’re going to become a bishop.’ He would howl

and laugh and say, ‘Absolutely not.’ ”

January 15, 2021 • ANGELUS • 21

Owerri Archbishop Anthony Obinna (left) and Bishop Moses Chikwe.


“He just had that pastoral presence and love of the faith,

and an ability to get the people around him,” said Father

Rocha. “I think that’s what a bishop is called to do.”

Bishop Chikwe’s new assignment meant taking up a

shepherd’s role in one of the most dangerous places in

the world to be Catholic.

Of the more than 4,000 Christians killed for their faith

around the world in 2018, about 90% were from Nigeria,

according to the aid group Open Doors.

Nigerian Christians face violence from Muslim-majority

Fulani herdsmen in the country’s “middle belt,” a region

that separates Nigeria’s Muslim north and Christian south,

as well as from Islamic terrorists from ISIS affiliate Boko

Haram, and roving criminal gangs.

Since the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in

2015, the security situation in Nigeria has deteriorated, said

Father Chidi Ekpendu, a Nigerian priest who serves as a

judge in the LA archdiocese’s marriage tribunal.

While there has been a recent uptick in priests being seized

for extortion, the kidnapping of a bishop is “unprecedented,”

Father Ekpendu told Angelus.

“There is a lot of confusion,” said Father Ekpendu, whose

home Diocese of Aba neighbors Owerri. “We have to say it

the way it is: There has been a complete breakdown of law

and order in the entire Nigerian state. People live in fear all

the time.”

Christians have borne the brunt of the suffering under

22 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021

Buhari’s rule. The former army general, who ruled as military

head of state from 1983 to 1985, has been accused of

empowering Islamic terrorists targeting Christians.

News of Bishop Chikwe’s kidnapping came as a shock to

the Micalettis, who had exchanged virtual messages just two

days before on Christmas.

Bishop Chikwe was well aware of the dangers of being a

priest in Nigeria, but always expressed calm when asked

about the situation there, the couple recalled.

“He would always say that the more responsibilities you

have, the more you need to pray,” said Cynthia.

Questions about who kidnapped Bishop Chikwe and his

driver and how they were released remain unclear. In a message

to Father Rocha a few days after his liberation, Bishop

Chikwe said he was “gradually healing” from the experience

and asked for prayers, but didn’t offer many details about the


Patrick, who described living the agony of his uncle’s kidnapping

here in LA as a personal “nightmare,” has not heard

who was responsible, either, but added that upticks in crime

in the area are common during the Christmas holidays.

And while he’s sure all the prayers helped, Father Rocha

also likes to imagine Bishop Chikwe’s smile — and his laugh

— winning over even the meanest of kidnappers.

“Being who he is, I wouldn’t be surprised if he just

convinced them to let him go.”

Pablo Kay is the editor-in-chief of Angelus.

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A poster of St. Stephen holding a “Holy Vaccine,” by the Rome

street artist known as Maupal, near the Vatican Dec. 11, 2020.


to the


From lockdowns to

vaccines, the Vatican

has had few issues

with listening to the

experts on COVID-19



ROME — When the COV-

ID-19 pandemic began to hit

Europe and much of the rest

of the world early last year, no one, it

seemed, was prepared.

That includes the Vatican, which,

being its own country, has tried from

the beginning to keep pace with


developing knowledge of the disease

and its implications. It has mostly

taken its cues from the advice given

by top medical and science experts.

In many ways, the pandemic has

served as another example in how

faith and science can be natural

allies, assuming, of course, that the

faithful trust the advice of experts to

keep them safe, and that those experts

heed what the Church has to say on

moral and ethical questions.

That intersection of faith and

science has emerged as one of the

consistent themes of Pope Francis’

papacy. Far from being a science

skeptic, the pontiff seems to have

become chaplain of the scientific

consensus on issues from the coronavirus

to climate change.

Since his election in 2013, he has

revamped both the John Paul II Institute

for Marriage and Family Sciences

and the Pontifical Academies for Life

and Sciences, the two Vatican entities

that deal directly with often-thorny

scientific questions, and revised the

curricula for Catholic universities.

In doing so, he has emphasized the

importance of dialogue and consistent

interaction between theologians

and secular experts in the given field.

Pope Francis is also the first pope in

modern times to be a trained scientist.

He graduated from a state-run

technical secondary school in his

native Buenos Aires with a degree in

chemistry, and worked in a chemistry

lab before entering the seminary.

This papacy’s easy relationship with

science helps explain the Holy See’s

reaction to the coronavirus crisis


24 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021

under Pope Francis’ guidance.

The Vatican’s own COVID-19

taskforce, for example, has five different

working groups, one of which is

dedicated to the research, study, and

analysis of the coronavirus pandemic

from an ecological, economic, political,

labor, health care, and security


Throughout Italy’s spring outbreak

and its three-month coronavirus lockdown,

Pope Francis urged Catholics

in the country, despite their frustrations,

to follow the government’s

restrictive orders, which were based

on advice from a scientific-technical

committee leading the government’s

anti-COVID response. Now, the

Vatican is keeping that cooperative

posture with the scientific community

in its public guidance on the COV-

ID-19 vaccines for Catholics.

Last month, amid heated debate

among some Catholics — bishops

included — over the morality of

using vaccines linked even remotely

to abortion, the Congregation for

the Doctrine of the Faith essentially

greenlighted the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech

and Moderna vaccines.

The two vaccines, which were both

developed using cell lines derived

from aborted fetuses in the 1960s,

were the first to be approved for use

in several countries last month and

claim efficacy rates of more than


In a Dec. 21 explanatory note,

the department said that in cases

in which “ethically irreproachable

COVID-19 vaccines” are not available,

“it is morally acceptable to

receive COVID-19 vaccines that have

used cell lines from aborted fetuses

in their research and production


The reason for this, they said, is that

the abortion from which medical

personnel harvested the cell lines for

the vaccines is “remote” enough that,

in this case, it is not an issue.

While stressing the “moral duty” to

avoid using products made with cells

from aborted fetuses, the department

also stressed that this duty “is not

obligatory if there is a grave danger,

such as the otherwise uncontainable

spread of a serious pathological

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago receives the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 23, 2020.

agent,” in this case, COVID-19.

“It must therefore be considered

that, in such a case, all vaccinations

recognized as clinically safe and effective

can be used in good conscience

with the certain knowledge that the

use of such vaccines does not constitute

formal cooperation with the

abortion from which the cells used

in production of the vaccines derive,”

they said.

Now, after announcing its acceptance

of the vaccines for Catholics

all over the world, the Vatican will

actually get to distribute it.

On Jan. 2, the Vatican’s office for

health and hygiene announced it had

acquired the Pfizer vaccine and will

begin distributing it to Vatican City

residents, employees, and their family

members in the second half of the


Doses will be stored in an ultra-low

temperature refrigerator and injections

will be delivered in the Paul VI

Audience Hall, beginning with health

personnel and those with greatest

contact with the public, as well as the


Pope Francis himself said he will

receive the vaccine sometime in

mid-January. Since early in the

pandemic, he has perhaps been

the world’s most vocal advocate for

equitable distribution of the vaccines

among the world’s poor.

Most recently, during his traditional

“urbi et orbi” address on Christmas

day, Pope Francis called the vaccines

a “light of hope” at the end of an

otherwise dark year for many.

Christmas, he said in the address, is

a time to celebrate “the light of Christ

who comes into the world, and he

comes for all, not just for a few.”

He then issued an appeal to all

heads of states, businesses, and

international organizations to seek “a

solution for everyone” in the coronavirus

pandemic, meaning “vaccines

for everyone, especially the poorest

and most vulnerable in every region

of the planet. In the first place, the

most needy and vulnerable.”

Over the next few months, all eyes

will be on how the Vatican handles

distribution of the vaccine for its own

employees and citizens. But whatever

decisions await Vatican officials, we

can expect they’ll be checking with

the experts first.

Elise Ann Allen is a Denver native

who currently works as a senior correspondent

for Crux in Rome, covering

the Vatican and the global Church.


January 15, 2021 • ANGELUS • 25

“Madonna of Mercy,” by Sano di Pietro, 15th century.

Why we need the

feminine genius

In the toughest of times, the Catholic Church has

relied on gifts that only women can offer



The COVID-19 pandemic, it

seems, has spared no one.

Sure, some have been blessed

to remain largely untouched physically

or financially by the pandemic.

But the anxiety of these uncertain last

few months, and the consequences of

isolation and loneliness, seem to have

found us all in some way.

As a result, the larger questions about

destiny and meaning — ones that were

dismissed more easily before — today

ask to be revisited in a totally new context.

After the bruising year that was

2020, those questions invite Catholics

to reflect deeply about our place in the

post-COVID world.

St. Augustine of Hippo lived in a time

of chaos and civilizational collapse,

marked by plague and political strife.

His advice for times like these? Stay

rooted in reality.

“Bad times, hard times, this is what

people keep saying; but let us live well,

and times shall be good,” he wrote in

the year 410. “We are the times: Such

as we are, such are the times.”

Such as we are, such are the times.

The great 20th-century philosopher

Simone Weil described being rooted

as the least recognized and yet most

important need of the human soul.

But what can help us fulfill this need?

Ironically, it was one of Weil’s admirers,

St. Pope John Paul II, who argued

that modern man’s loss of its own

sense of humanity called for a “manifestation

of that ‘genius’ which belongs

to women.”

“It is commonly thought,” the

Polish pontiff wrote in his 1988

letter “Mulieris Dignitatem” (On the

Dignity and Vocation of Women), that

“women are more capable than men

of paying attention to another person,

and that motherhood develops this

predisposition even more.”

Throughout history, it is the genius

of women that God has designed to

continually root mankind in reality.

And this is reality: Because of Jesus

Christ we are not victims of our

circumstances. We are being found,

cherished, healed, and saved.

This is what women represent and do

— find, cherish, heal, and save. Why?

26 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021

Because, as German writer Gertrude

von le Fort observed, “Wherever a

woman is most profoundly herself,

there she is also bride and mother.”

One of the greatest spiritual mothers

is St. Mary Magdalene, celebrated

liturgically as “the Apostle to the Apostles.”

While the apostles were behind

closed doors because of fear after Jesus’

execution, Mary “stood weeping outside

the tomb” of Jesus (John 20:11).

We perceive in her not so much fear

or anxiety, but a solitude born from

her affection for Jesus and the knowledge

that only he could adequately

respond to her insecurity.

When her love and tears are rewarded,

she becomes the first “testis

divinae misericordiae” (“witness of

divine mercy”), and then immediately

evangelizes the apostles: “I have seen

the Lord!”

This particular receptivity of women

is why women have always been and

will continue to be the engines of the

Church in their capacity to generate

something new by creating a space for

the other.

It is always the temptation of the

Christian to become self-absorbed, to

focus on one’s weakness, to become

angry at one’s limitations, and therefore

behave negatively or reactively.

Especially in times of crisis it is very

easy to fall into obsessions with external

solutions or placing one’s hope or

certainty into politics or ideology. And

since politics are ultimately worldly solutions

to spiritual problems — wherever

you happen to land in the public

landscape — the Christian will always

be dissatisfied.

At the end of the day, when all our

ideologies and formulations fail, we

are reminded that the other demands

to be engaged on an emotional and

spiritual plane.

And this is precisely the place where

women are experts.

Women ground us and keep us in

the right state of mind because they

remind us of God when we have

forgotten him in one another.

Consider the witness of Christian women

in the early Church. Jesus treated

women with the dignity their nature

deserved and women ran with it and

transformed the Church, the world,

and the very empire that was crumbling

before their eyes. They embraced

their dignity and then generated a

dignified civilization because of it.

“Appearance of Jesus Christ to Maria Magdalena,” by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov, 1835.


This historical reality is why Archbishop

Fulton J. Sheen noted that “to a

great extent the level of any civilization

is the level of its womanhood.”

The first Christians lived in a time

of systematic persecution, plagues,

famines, economic hardship, a culture

of death with soaring rates of abortion

and infanticide (of largely baby girls),

and zero legal rights for women.

And yet, the Christian faith did not

just survive — it flourished.

In the ancient world, a woman’s

testimony meant nothing, culturally or

politically. So paradoxically, it was the

witness and testimony of women that

brought forth the newness of Christianity.

The majority of converts and

therefore evangelizers were initially


The witness of happy marriages and

families attracted pagans to this strange

new monotheistic faith, as did their

often fearless charity in the face of

deadly plagues. Infected pagans were

often abandoned by their own families

and ended up being cared for by


It seems in our own day, it will once

again be the transcendental of the

Good and not primarily the True or

the Beautiful that will be most needed

and persuasive for an unbelieving


The feminine genius is subtle in

expression but phenomenal in consequence.

It is impossible to recount all

its manifestations throughout history,

but for those who have eyes to see and

ears to hear, the presence and prophetic

power of women will always serve

as a reminder that spiritual power is

the only power and that faith is the

victory that overcomes the world (1

John 5:4).

For this reason, we can rejoice at

what God has done for us and what

he is doing here and now, even in this.

This particularly feminine perception

and communication is a “vocation

to the other” in a world in desperate

need of motherhood.

Simone Rizkallah is the director of

Program Growth for Endow. She blogs

at www.culturalgypsy.com.

January 15, 2021 • ANGELUS • 27



Health care workers at

United Memorial Medical

Center in Houston treat

patients infected with

COVID-19 on New Year’s

Eve Dec. 31, 2020.


New year, new normal

The year 2020 ended for me with an emergency root

canal. It seemed a fitting way to close out a year that

had so little to recommend it. It was a ghastly year,

filled with disease and death, upheaval and rumors, ersatz

controversies and real ones. Why shouldn’t it end with an

angry molar whose nerves were calling it quits?

And yet. When we zoom in from the macro dysfunction

to the micro events of our daily lives, there were blessings to

be found in 2020. So my New Year’s resolution of sorts is to

appreciate the silver linings of 2020 in the hope that it will

improve my attitude going into 2021.

Take that root canal, for instance. Thank goodness there

were dentists willing to work during a pandemic and willing

to tackle my “hot tooth,” sticking their hands into my germ

factory of a mouth even when they didn’t know me from

28 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021

Adam and didn’t know how well I was abiding by pandemic


A blessing that I hope lingers is my rediscovery of what

“essential” means. In 2020, I was reminded that essential did

not mean powerful, rich, or celebrated. Essential was the

cashier at my grocery store who showed up for work when

there were no Plexiglas protectors and no toilet paper, when

nerves were raw and the risk seemed oppressively real.

Essential was not just the doctors with the big salaries.

Essential meant the nurses in the ICUs and the ERs who did

most of the caregiving and the handholding and too often

lost their lives in service to others. Listening to the tearful testimonies

of nurses who had seen so many people die alone,

I felt for their pain and for the goodness that drove them to

return to work each day and face that pain all over again.

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And it wasn’t just the nurses who acted selflessly. Another

blessing easy to miss was that most of us cared about one another.

Despite the blizzard of media reports about pandemic

crazies who refused to believe it was real or who refused to

wear masks, most of us, most of the time, were trying to do

the right thing.

We tried to take seriously the safeguards that were intended

not only to save us but to save others. The pandemic exposed

the selfishness of some, but it also affirmed that many more

of us are guided by an altruism that characterizes humanity

at its best.

I consider it a blessing that in the first months of the

pandemic I recovered the sounds of silence. Traffic was

minimal. Air pollution levels dropped. We walked in our

neighborhoods instead of driving to work. I started noticing

bird songs. When I took breaks from working at the dining

room table (my new office), I fed the mourning doves and

cardinals who were my only regular visitors.

Judging from the profits of Jeff Bezos and Amazon, I’m not

sure how many of us supported our struggling local shopkeepers,

but a lot of us tried to help the hardy entrepreneurs

who make up the backbone of our communities. Many of

us also donated a lot more to caring services as well, grateful

that we had jobs and income. In 2020, need was not something

far away. It was all around us.

This notion of community as something real and tangible

may be a blessing we all share in 2021. In 2020, I found

myself walking more and greeting people more readily. If

our public culture as embodied by social media was degenerating

to the howl of the mob, my neighborhood culture

became, well, more neighborly.

Our Church had a rough go of it in 2020, with closures

and lawsuits and the McCarrick report, but we had blessings,

too. Pope Francis’ remarkable “urbi et orbi” in Rome at

the height of the first wave of the pandemic was perhaps the

most visually striking moment of his papacy.

The livestreamed rosaries and Masses united us not just

with our parish but with Catholics from around the world. I

found the international audience attracted to the livestreamed

Masses of Bishop Robert Barron to be as inspiring

as his homilies.

Even our pang of hunger for the Eucharist was a blessing,

I believe. Surveys may suggest that many Catholics see the

Eucharist as a symbol, but the hunger we felt was for more

than a mere symbol. The challenge we face in 2021 will be

to return to church and accustom ourselves once again to

Mass as a community.

This was a most extraordinary year: painful and yet not

without rewards. I don’t think I will recover my “old normal”

for a long time, if ever. I do hope my “new normal” contains

some of the blessings unexpectedly found in 2020.

Greg Erlandson is the president and editor-in-chief of Catholic

News Service.


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Living just

to live?

Pixar’s ‘Soul’ asks all the right

questions, but prefers to leave

the biggest one unanswered


Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx, in Disney and Pixar’s “Soul.”


Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas,

and Kierkegaard have all tried

to answer the question: What

is the meaning of life?

Now, it’s Disney’s turn.

The new Pixar movie “Soul” (now

streaming on Disney+) follows Joe

Gardner, a jazz musician who finally

gets his dream gig of performing

with a famous jazz quartet, and then

immediately dies. Joe’s soul faces a

large glowing light called “the Great

Beyond,” refuses to accept his fate, and

runs in the opposite direction.

Joe ends up in “the Great Before,”

the place where souls are manufactured,

given their “spark” and sent to

earth. The spirits who run the Great

Before confuse him for a mentor soul

and they pair him up with an unborn

soul, the 22nd soul ever created, who

has spent millennia in the Great Before

with no desire to go to earth. After

some spiritual hijinks, both souls end

up on earth with 22 stuck in Joe’s body

and Joe’s soul is in the body of a cat.

“Soul” is standard for Pixar, with

cute character design and a beautiful

score. It is reminiscent of “Inside Out”

in its personification of abstract ideas

like human emotion and the afterlife.

Just like NBC’s “The Good Place,”

the afterlife is imagined as a divine

bureaucracy, where people can slip by

undetected and accidentally be resurrected.

To no Catholic’s surprise, the

movie’s theology leaves something to

be desired. But its philosophy is what

caught my attention.

The characters repeatedly reference

something called a “spark.” In the

Great Before, a soul needs to find its

spark in order to go to earth. Joe thinks

the spark is a soul’s purpose and falsely

deduces that music is his purpose for

living. At the end of the movie, Joe

asks one of the spirits about this and

they say, “Oh, the spark isn’t your life’s


The spark, we learn, is connected to a

soul’s desire to live. 22 eventually finds

her spark after living in Joe’s body. She

realizes life is worth living after she

tries pizza, rides the subway, and sees

leaves falling from a tree. She enjoys

walking so much, she suggests walking

could be her life’s purpose.

In a key line, Joe responds to 22:

“That’s not a purpose. That’s just


Joe realizes the spark isn’t purpose at

all. The spark is what makes a soul enjoy

life. So maybe your spark is music,

math or walking. Whatever makes you

enjoy living life is your spark.

Ultimately, the film seeks to answer

“What is the meaning of life?” but

comes up with a circular answer: The

meaning of life is just to live it. That

might sound like a simple, wise idea,

but it begs another question: What

does it even mean to live in the first


Here, finding an answer is even more


There is a right way and a wrong way

to live, and the movie acknowledges

that. The hippies help a hedge-fund

manager realize he’s wasting his life,

but what makes managing a hedge

fund different from playing music?

Why can’t he live his life that way?

“Soul” doesn’t distinguish between

the right way and the wrong way to

live enough to actually help a viewer

discern what a “spark” really is.

The movie claims its characters are

in search of life’s “big questions,”

but maybe the characters are satisfied

with those questions remaining

unanswered. For some reason, Joe is

fine with knowing what happens after

death and not telling anyone. The

spirits beyond the grave are capable of

communicating the meaning of life

but choose not to. It is left up to individuals

to find out what the meaning

of life is for them.

This answer is pure relativism. Ironically,

“Soul’s” meaning of life is satisfactory

only if you assume an objective

Joe and 22 in “the Great Before.”

30 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021


moral code. In other words, the movie

gives viewers license to create their

own meaning for life, assuming that

meaning won’t violate the generally

accepted moral laws. While it does

encourage viewers not to chase after

useless things (money, fame, etc.), it

doesn’t give them a real reason not to

do so.

The decision made at the end of the

film by a key character reveals a core

belief of the movie: Life on earth is

better than death. Certainly, if there

is no heaven or hell, no personal,

all-powerful God, and no objective

morality, then this makes sense.

But even if the purpose of life is simply

living, then death is the ultimate

inescapable defeat. And since defeat

is inevitable, why is life worth living

at all?

“Soul” deserves credit — and serious

attention — for confronting the

question of existence and purpose

head-on (since it is a movie made for

children, parents should follow it up

with a quick discussion afterward).

And yet, Christianity gives a different,

and radically more hopeful answer to

the apparent hopelessness of death.

Through the historical event of what

was Jesus Christ’s resurrection from

the dead, the Gospel assures victory

over death through death.

The key difference between “Soul”

and say, St. Aquinas, is that the former

Characters from Disney and Pixar’s “Soul.”

embraces hopelessness as if it is hope

itself. The danger here is that if the

hopelessness isn’t felt, God is not


It is a philosophy that could only

come from a culture that has embraced

this hopelessness. A culture, in

other words, that is in desperate need

of the Gospel.

Patrick Neve is a youth minister and

speaker based in Pittsburgh. He hosts

The Crunch Podcast and is studying for

his master’s in theology at Franciscan

University of Steubenville. You can

find his writing on his website, https://




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Loch Lomond in southern Scotland.


Longing for a lost Eden

Robert Macfarlane (born 1976) is

an award-winning British writer

on landscape, place, people,

language, memory, and meaning. He’s

also a fellow of Emmanuel College,


“Mountains of the Mind” (Granta

Books, $16) explores the history of

mountaineering and our sometimes

fatal fascination with the metaphysical

dimension of precipitous, perilous

terrain on which we long to be the first

to place our feet or flag.

“The Wild Places” (Penguin Books,

$15) charts a series of journeys made

in search of the ever-shrinking wildness

remaining in Britain and Ireland.

“The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot”

(Penguin Books, $15) is a kind of elegy

to one of Macfarlane’s heroes, the poet

Edward Thomas (1878-1917), who

was a lover of nature, a depressive, and

a passionate lifelong walker, especially

in and around the South Downs. “The

Old Ways” include holloways, pilgrimage

routes, cliff paths, animal passages,

ancient byways, rights-of-way, and foraging

grounds in England, Scotland,

Palestine, Sichuan, and Palestine.

Together, the three form a loose

trilogy about the “landscape and the

human heart,” a subject upon which

Macfarlane speaks eloquently in a

2012 IQ2 talk of that name available

on YouTube.

His books have been adapted for television

and film and won many prestigious

awards. There are several more.

“Underland: A Deep Time Journey”

(W. W. Norton & Company, $15), his

most recent, digs deep into catacombs,

caves, nuclear waste facilities, and

other underground physical and imaginative

realms, and was named a New

York Time’s “100 Most Notable Books

of the Year.”

He’s the type of writer who leads you

to 10 other artists, walkers, or poets:

Nan Shepherd’s “The Living Mountain:

A Celebration of the Cairngorm

Mountains of Scotland” (Canongate

Canons, $13), “The Peregrine,” by J.A.

Baker (1967; reissued by New York

Review Books Classics in 2004 with an

introduction by Macfarlane), a kind of

cult classic among the nature literati.

His capacity to conjure landscape

is alone astounding. Add to that an

astonishingly wide-ranging grasp of

geography, geology, natural history,

32 • ANGELUS • January 15, 2021

cartography, and literature. Throw in

the fact that he’s no mere scholar or

armchair philosopher.

Every book is grounded in his

willingness to take on the physical

hardship of mountain climbing, hiking,

camping, sailing, and tramping.

But what makes Macfarlane sublime

is the aching longing for a lost Eden

that sounds like a bass note beneath all

his work.

An excerpt from “The Wild Places:”

“In 1977, a nineteen-year-old Glaswegian

named Robert Brown was arrested

for a murder he did not commit, and

over the course of the following days

had a confession beaten out of him by

a police officer subsequently indicted

for corruption. Brown served twenty-five

years, and saw two appeals fail,

before his conviction was finally overturned

in 2002. When he was released,

one of the first things he did was to go

to the shore of Loch Lomond and sit

on a boulder on the loch’s southern

shore in sunlight, to feel, as he put it,

‘the wind on my face, and to see the

waves and the mountains.’ Brown had

been out on the loch shore the day

before he was arrested. The recollection

of the space, that place, which he

had not seen for a quarter of a century,

had nourished him during his imprisonment.

He had kept a memory of

it, he recalled, afterwards, ‘in a secret

compartment’ in his head.”

Robert Frost once said, “A poem

begins with a lump in the throat; a

homesickness or a love sickness.” And

perhaps above all, even when writing

prose, Macfarlane is a poet. “The Lost

Words: A Spell Book” (Anansi International,

$23), however, is a collection

of actual poems, in oversized book

format and gorgeously illustrated by

British writer and artist Jackie Morris.

The idea sprang from Macfarlane’s

discovery that words describing and

expressive of nature were disappearing

from the Oxford Junior Dictionary:

bramble, conker, raven, willow,

wren, Kingfisher, otter, magpie, fern,


The entry for “Heron” begins like


“Here hunts heron. Here haunts

heron. / Huge-hinged heron. Greywinged

weapon. / Eked from iron and

wreaked from blue and / Beaked with

Robert Macfarlane

steel: heron, statue, seeks eel.”

Morris’ self-described “gold leaf, iconlike

images” are faithfully realistic and

also hauntingly evoke the supernatural

dimension of reptiles, mammals, and


Children and adults alike went wild.

“The Lost Words” was the bestselling

poetry book of 2018, sold 500,000

copies worldwide and has been adapted

to, among other genres, classical


music, indie folk, puppet shows, board

games, podcasts, and theater. “Magical,”

“bewitching,” and “the wonder

of nature” are ways people from across

the globe have described verse and


Through crowdfunding campaigns,

copies were purchased and donated to

every hospice and to more than 75% of

the primary schools across the British

Isles. “The Lost Spells” (Anansi International,

$30), a follow-up collection,

began when Macfarlane scribbled

some lines about goldfinches while

keeping vigil over his dying grandmother.

He and Morris hope to inspire hope,

action, and change. And Macfarlane

adds, “that [the work] might touch

readers’ hearts a little in this hard


Perhaps the surest sign that Macfarlane’s

heart is in the right place is

this: he has three young children who,

he notes in “The Lost Words,” have

taught him more about the world than

any book.

Heather King is an award-winning author, speaker, and workshop leader. For more, visit





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(800) Bob-Smith

24400 Calabasas Road

Calabasas, CA 91302

Test Drive the

ALL NEW 2021


Test drive the all new

2021 BMW

Test drive the all new




Sales &


7 Days

a Week





Mike Smith

(St. Bede’s)

Pete Smith

(St. Bede’s)

Todd Rankin

(Our Lady of Perpetual Help)

Emily Johnston

(St. Bede’s)

3333 Foothill Boulevard La Crescenta, CA 91214

Jaime Guzmán

(Our Lady of Guadalupe)


(800) Bob-Smith

Test drive the ALL WHEEL HYBRID



Test drive the ALL NEW









2021 Toyota RAV4

BOB SMITH TOYOTA | Sales Open: 7 Days a Week | Service Open: Monday - Saturday

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12/28/20 1:54 PM

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