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

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OUR LADY’S<br />

IN THE<br />

HOUSE<br />

The story behind the<br />

cathedral’s newest —<br />

and final — tapestry<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> <strong>Vol</strong>. 6 <strong>No</strong>. 1

<strong>2021</strong><br />


RECongress Virtual Event <strong>2021</strong><br />

$35.00 gives access to all 4 days and all content!!<br />

Workshops, Keynotes, Prayer Services, Youth Track,<br />

Sacred Space, Interactive Experiences<br />

Register now at: RECongress.org<br />

Registered participants will have access to all event content through March 21st.<br />

You must be registered by 8:00am PST, February 21, <strong>2021</strong><br />

REC_<strong>2021</strong>_<strong>Angelus</strong>_FP_7-875x10-50_final.indd 1<br />

1/7/21 9:52 PM


A stunning new tapestry of the Virgin Mary by artist John Nava was<br />

unveiled at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on New Year’s<br />

Day. On Page 10, Steve Lowery reports on how the new creation completes<br />

a mission that was left unfinished for more than two decades.<br />


IMAGE:<br />

Police officers stand guard Jan. 6 as supporters of<br />

President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol.<br />

<strong>Angelus</strong> will have more complete coverage of the events<br />

on Capitol Hill and their consequences in the next issue.<br />


Contents<br />

Pope Watch 2<br />

Archbishop Gomez 3<br />

World, Nation, and Local <strong>News</strong> 4-6<br />

Scott Hahn on Scripture 8<br />

Father Rolheiser 9<br />

Mentorship program unites LA cops and Catholic school kids 16<br />

How a kidnapped Nigerian bishop’s local fan club came to his rescue 20<br />

COVID-19 vaccine illustrates how Vatican made peace with science 24<br />

Why our changing world needs ‘feminine genius’ 26<br />

Greg Erlandson: 2020’s essential lessons for the new year 28<br />

Separating good intentions from bad theology in Pixar’s ‘Soul’ 30<br />

Heather King on a writer who could paint landscapes with words 32<br />

/21 9:52 PM



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<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong><br />

<strong>Vol</strong>. 6 • <strong>No</strong>. 1<br />

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2 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong><br />

A time to calm spirits<br />

Pope Francis asked Immaculate Virgin<br />

Mary to help foster a “culture of encounter”<br />

in the United States after the<br />

recent violence in Washington, D.C.<br />

“I extend an affectionate greeting<br />

to the people of the United States of<br />

America, shaken by the recent siege<br />

of Congress. I pray for those who lost<br />

their lives, five lost in those dramatic<br />

moments,” Pope Francis said after his<br />

Sunday <strong>Angelus</strong> address Jan. 10.<br />

“I reaffirm that violence is always<br />

self-destructive. <strong>No</strong>thing is gained with<br />

violence and so much is lost. I urge<br />

the authority of the state and the entire<br />

population to maintain a high sense<br />

of responsibility in order to calm the<br />

spirits, promote national reconciliation,<br />

and protect the democratic values rooted<br />

in American society,” the pope said.<br />

In the midday Marian prayer broadcast<br />

live from the Vatican, Pope Francis<br />

invoked the intercession of the Immaculate<br />

Conception, who was proclaimed<br />

patroness of the United States in<br />

1846.<br />

Pope Francis’ comments came four<br />

days after pro-Donald Trump protesters<br />

stormed the U.S. Capitol Building Jan.<br />

6 as Congress was in the process of certifying<br />

the presidential election results,<br />

leading to the evacuation of lawmakers.<br />

At least five people died as a result of<br />

the violence, including a U.S. Capitol<br />

police officer.<br />

In a video clip published Jan. 9, Pope<br />

Francis said that he was “astonished” by<br />

this incident that occurred in the U.S.<br />

Capitol.<br />

“I was astonished, because they are<br />

a people so disciplined in democracy,<br />

right? But it’s a reality,” the pope said in<br />

the clip published to the website of the<br />

Italian news program TgCom24.<br />

“Something isn’t working,” Pope<br />

Francis continued. With “people taking<br />

a path against the community, against<br />

democracy, against the common good.<br />

Thanks be to God that this has broken<br />

out and there was a chance to see it<br />

well so that now you can try and heal<br />

it. Yes, this must be condemned, this<br />

movement. …”<br />

The pope’s remarks came after U.S.<br />

bishops condemned the violence,<br />

which was described as a “coup” and<br />

an “insurrection” by some in the<br />

media.<br />

“I join people of goodwill in condemning<br />

the violence today at the United<br />

States Capitol,” said Archbishop José H.<br />

Gomez in a statement released the day<br />

of the attack by the U.S. Conference of<br />

Catholic Bishops, of which Archbishop<br />

Gomez currently serves as president.<br />

“This is not who we are as Americans.<br />

I am praying for members of Congress<br />

and Capitol staff and for the police and<br />

all those working to restore order and<br />

public safety,” he said.<br />

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the<br />

archbishop of Washington, D.C.,<br />

described the events as an attack on<br />

“sacred ground.”<br />

“We Americans should honor the<br />

place where our nation’s laws and<br />

policies are debated and decided,” he<br />

said in his statement. “We should feel<br />

violated when the legacy of freedom<br />

enshrined in that building is disrespected<br />

and desecrated.” <br />

Reporting courtesy of Catholic <strong>News</strong><br />

Agency Rome correspondent Courtney<br />

Mares.<br />

Editor’s note: Due to deadline<br />

constraints and the changing nature of<br />

developments from Washington, D.C.,<br />

<strong>Angelus</strong> will have more complete coverage<br />

of the Jan. 6 events on Capitol Hill<br />

and their aftermath in the next issue.<br />

Papal Prayer Intention for <strong>January</strong>: May the Lord give us the grace to live in full fellowship<br />

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

Our urgent duty<br />


OF FAITH<br />


On Jan. 12, Archbishop Gomez delivered<br />

the keynote address for the annual<br />

conference of the University of <strong>No</strong>tre<br />

Dame’s De Nicola Center for Ethics<br />

and Culture on the theme, “We Belong<br />

to One Another.” His full address can<br />

be found on <strong>Angelus</strong><strong>News</strong>.com.<br />

One day, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta<br />

found an old and very sick woman<br />

lying on the streets of Calcutta.<br />

The woman was covered in open<br />

sores; she was in a lot of pain, and<br />

many of her wounds were infected.<br />

Mother Teresa took her in and started<br />

cleaning her up.<br />

The whole time, this woman was<br />

yelling at her, cursing at her. At one<br />

point the woman cried out, “Why are<br />

you doing this? People don’t do things<br />

like this. Who taught you?”<br />

Mother Teresa replied simply, “My<br />

God taught me.”<br />

<strong>No</strong>w, that made the woman calm<br />

down a little. So, she asked, “Who is<br />

this God?”<br />

And Mother Teresa replied, again<br />

very simply, “You know my God. My<br />

God is called Love.”<br />

This little story gets to the heart of<br />

our responsibilities as Christians because<br />

it tells us two important truths:<br />

who God is and who we are as human<br />

beings.<br />

As Christians, we worship a God who<br />

has revealed himself as Love. And<br />

as Christians, we know that human<br />

beings are made in the image of this<br />

God, in the image of Love. We are<br />

created out of love. And we are made<br />

to love — as Jesus loved and as Mother<br />

Teresa and the saints love.<br />

Unless we know these truths, we<br />

can never understand our Christian<br />

commitments — for immigrants and<br />

refugees, for the poor, the unborn, the<br />

imprisoned, the sick, the environment.<br />

Unless we know these truths, we can’t<br />

know how to create a society that will<br />

be good for human beings.<br />

Right now in the West, nations<br />

and corporations and international<br />

agencies are trying to build a global<br />

economic and political order that<br />

does not need to rely on beliefs about<br />

God or traditional religious values and<br />

principles.<br />

But what we are finding is that when<br />

we lose this Judeo-Christian idea<br />

— of a God who creates the human<br />

person in his image — then we lose<br />

the basis for all the noble principles<br />

and goals that we have in our society.<br />

We find that unless we believe in a<br />

Creator who establishes values, there<br />

is no foundation for human dignity,<br />

freedom, equality, and fraternity.<br />

To put our challenge in its simplest<br />

terms: unless we believe that we have a<br />

Father in heaven, there is no necessary<br />

reason for us to treat one another as<br />

brothers and sisters on earth.<br />

That is one of the underlying concerns<br />

in Pope Francis’ latest encyclical,<br />

“Fratelli Tutti.”<br />

At the heart of the Holy Father’s<br />

appeal is that simple, beautiful truth:<br />

that God is Love, that he is our Father<br />

and we are his children, and he calls<br />

us to form one human family and to<br />

live together in love as brothers and<br />

sisters.<br />

The Holy Father understands that<br />

many of the troubles in the world<br />

are more than a failure of politics or<br />

diplomacy. They represent a failure<br />

of human fraternity and solidarity. A<br />

failure of love.<br />

And that is our challenge and our<br />

mission as Christians, as the Church.<br />

We have an urgent duty in this<br />

moment, especially in light of the<br />

violence last week at our nation’s<br />

Capitol, and the deep polarization and<br />

divisions in our country.<br />

Our society has lost its bearings. We<br />

are living in an aggressively secular society<br />

that has forgotten the truth about<br />

God and the truth about the human<br />

person. This crisis of truth is the root<br />

cause of pain and hardship in so many<br />

of our neighbors’ lives. It is the cause<br />

of many of the injustices in our society.<br />

But you and I, as Christians, we know<br />

the truth.<br />

In this moment, we need to bear<br />

witness to the truth that we are all children<br />

of God, that there is a greatness<br />

to human life, that every one of us is<br />

created in God’s image, endowed with<br />

God-given rights and responsibilities,<br />

and called to a transcendent destiny.<br />

As Christians, we need to be models<br />

for a new way of life — a life of love<br />

and compassion and concern for others.<br />

We need to work for dignity and<br />

equality. We need to build a society<br />

where it is easier for people to love and<br />

to be loved.<br />

As Mother Teresa taught us, our God<br />

is called Love. And he calls each one<br />

of us to love.<br />

By our love — by the way we serve<br />

our neighbors, by the way we care<br />

for one another, especially the weak<br />

and vulnerable — we can change the<br />

world. We can help our neighbors to<br />

find and encounter this God who is<br />

called Love. <br />

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

<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 3

WORLD<br />

Farewell to the Vatican’s<br />

‘Latin Lover’<br />

A Catholic priest known as the<br />

Church’s top authority on Latin died<br />

Christmas Day in Milwaukee of<br />

complications from COVID-19 at the<br />

age of 81.<br />

Discalced Carmelite Father Reginald<br />

Foster spent four decades at the Latin<br />

Language Department of the Vatican<br />

Secretariat of State after arriving there<br />

in 1969.<br />

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

Africa: Post-election strife could get worse in C.A.R.<br />


Father Reginald Foster wearing his trademark<br />

plumber’s uniform near the Vatican post office<br />

in 2007.<br />

Despite wearing a plumber’s uniform<br />

to work every day and a penchant for<br />

making irreverent remarks, Father Foster’s<br />

expertise made him indispensable<br />

in the Vatican under three popes. He<br />

also taught Latin at Rome’s Pontifical<br />

Gregorian University, until he was<br />

fired for accepting nonpaying students<br />

into his classes.<br />

He retired to his hometown of Milwaukee<br />

in 2009 and continued writing<br />

and teaching Latin, even remotely in<br />

recent months.<br />

Father Foster’s death was recognized<br />

by the Vatican in a special message<br />

on behalf of Pope Francis thanking<br />

Father Foster for his contributions to<br />

the Church. It was, of course, written<br />

in Latin. <br />


Catholics in the Central African Republic are worried that a post-election insurrection<br />

by rebels will result in food shortages and a refugee exodus.<br />

Two-thirds of the country is currently controlled by rebels challenging incumbent<br />

president Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who won the Dec. 27, 2020 elections<br />

with 53% of the vote. However, opposition groups cited irregularities in the elections,<br />

for which half of voters were unable to register because of militia violence.<br />

People are “living in fear and anxiety,” said Bishop Nestor-Désiré <strong>No</strong>ngo-Aziagbia,<br />

who added that the conflict risked “turning into a nationwide hunt for innocent<br />

people, based solely on their ethnicity or political affiliation.”<br />

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

main supply route from Cameroon was occupied, causing shortages and surging<br />

prices.<br />

Maria Lozano, a Spanish laywoman who works for the papal charity Aid to the<br />

Church in Need, told Crux that Islamic “jihadists want to ransack the country to<br />

have resources they need to deploy elsewhere. Many of the rebels are foreign from<br />

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

The violence is a setback for a country praised for slowly returning to peace and<br />

stability in recent years. <br />

Archbishop resigns following return from exile<br />

An archbishop in Belarus resigned less than two weeks after his government<br />

allowed his return from exile.<br />

Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk submitted his resignation on<br />

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

Vatican announced that the pope had accepted the resignation.<br />

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz had been exiled from Belarus since August 2020,<br />

only finally being allowed to return on Dec. 24. The archbishop was barred<br />

from the country due to his public defense of protests against the reelection of<br />

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been accused of electoral fraud.<br />

The sudden resignation led Vatican-watchers to speculate the resignation was<br />

part of a compromise between the Vatican and Lukashenko to allow for Archbishop<br />

Kondrusiewicz to return to Belarus but without the official authority of<br />

a bishop.<br />

The Vatican has not yet named a permanent successor to Archbishop Kondrusiewicz.<br />

<br />

4 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>

NATION<br />

Catholics well-represented<br />

in new Congress<br />

Following last year’s election, not only is a Catholic<br />

president for the second time in American history, but<br />

Catholics are the largest religious group represented in<br />

Congress.<br />

Thirty percent of the members of the 117th Congress<br />

claim Catholic affiliation, including the Speaker of the<br />

House, Nancy Pelosi. In the House, that breaks down to<br />

77 Democrats and 57 Republicans; in the Senate, there<br />

are 14 Catholic Democrats and 11 Catholic Republicans.<br />

Regardless of shared religion, the two groups seem<br />

diametrically opposed on policy. The Catholic League<br />

reports that 95% of Catholic Democrats in the House<br />

and 79% in the Senate have a pro-abortion voting record,<br />

compared to the pro-life voting recording of Catholic<br />

Republicans in the House and 91% in the Senate.<br />

For many Catholics, these numbers demonstrate the<br />

continued stratification of religious values, with Democrats<br />

focusing on social justice, and Republicans more<br />

concerned with right to life issues. <br />

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at last year’s opening Mass of the National<br />

Prayer Vigil for Life.<br />

March for Life prayer vigil<br />

to be held online<br />

Though the March for Life will still be held in person<br />

this year, the annual vigil prayer service that precedes it is<br />

moving online due to the pandemic.<br />

The National Prayer Vigil for Life usually attracts 10,000<br />

people at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate<br />

Conception in Washington, D.C.<br />

This year, the service will be broadcast live starting at<br />

5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Thursday, Jan. 28, on<br />

EWTN as well as the USCCB and the basilica’s internet<br />

platforms.<br />

Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of<br />

the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said that<br />

“now, more than ever, our nation is in need of prayer for<br />

the protection of the unborn and the dignity of all human<br />

life.” <br />


New York cardinal condemns<br />

cathedral vandalism<br />


SNOW ABSOLUTION — Warmed by a fire, Father Philip Bochanski<br />

offers confession just inside the garage at the rectory of St.<br />

Catherine of Siena Church in Trumbull, Connecticut, Dec. 20, 2020.<br />

The parish’s priests normally hear “drive-through” confessions every<br />

Sunday afternoon in the church parking lot, but a snowstorm that<br />

week forced the priest to retreat “inside.”<br />

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan took to his city’s famous<br />

tabloid paper to denounce another act of vandalism to<br />

the exterior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral as “ugly and unlawful.”<br />

The cathedral was graffitied on Jan. 1 by protesters<br />

connected by Black Lives Matter Brooklyn and Justice for<br />

George, according to the New York Post. This act of vandalism<br />

follows similar acts made during protests last summer.<br />

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

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

Dolan, it’s time we learn from our Jewish and Islamic<br />

neighbors. A synagogue or mosque is defaced, and they are<br />

quick to condemn it. The governor and the mayor would<br />

join in. They’re right.’ ”<br />

“So is she,” Cardinal Dolan continued. “This attack on St.<br />

Patrick’s was ugly and unlawful.”<br />

Cardinal Dolan also pointed out the city’s various Catholic-affiliated<br />

ministries that seek to bring about the kinds of<br />

racial equality called for by the protests. <br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 5

LOCAL<br />

LA says farewell to two larger-than-life Catholics<br />

They were two Los Angeles legends<br />

who shared the same first name, the<br />

beginning of a last name (appropriate<br />

for the city they loved), and, most<br />

importantly, the Catholic faith.<br />

And so it seemed too much of a<br />

coincidence that longtime LA city<br />

politician Tom Labonge and legendary<br />

Hall of Fame Dodgers manager<br />

Tommy Lasorda passed away within<br />

hours of each other on Jan. 7 and 8,<br />

respectively.<br />

Labonge, 67, was one of eight sons<br />

born to his devout Catholic mother,<br />

Mary Louise, and his father, Robert,<br />

who once worked as an editor for The<br />

Tidings, the predecessor of <strong>Angelus</strong>.<br />

He could often be found at Mass at his<br />

home parish, St. Brendan’s in Hancock<br />

Park, or at the Cathedral of Our Lady<br />

of the Angels handing out pumpkin<br />

bread from the nearby Monastery of<br />

the Angels.<br />

Lasorda, 93, came from an Italian<br />

Catholic immigrant family who liked<br />

to preach that “if you don’t love the<br />

Dodgers, there’s a good chance you<br />

may not get into heaven.” He was<br />

known for his generosity toward priests<br />

and women religious, and credited his<br />

faith for helping him navigate success<br />

and failure during his career.<br />

You can find more coverage of the<br />

two mens’ faith in the next issue of<br />

<strong>Angelus</strong> and on <strong>Angelus</strong><strong>News</strong>.com. <br />

Tom Labonge<br />

Tommy Lasorda.<br />



A passing of the torch<br />

in San Bernardino<br />

Coadjutor Bishop Alberto Rojas has<br />

officially taken the reins in San Bernardino,<br />

after Pope Francis accepted<br />

the resignation of Bishop Gerald R.<br />

Barnes on Dec. 28.<br />

“There is no doubt, when looking at<br />

the events of this past year, that I am<br />

coming to lead the diocese at a very<br />

challenging time,” Bishop Rojas said in<br />

a statement the day of the announcement.<br />

But, he said, he has “always<br />

trusted in God’s plan … and that he<br />

will give me all that I need to do his<br />

work.”<br />

Since becoming coadjutor for the<br />

Diocese of San Bernardino last February,<br />

Bishop Rojas had worked alongside<br />

Bishop Barnes in overseeing the<br />

diocese in a transitional period. Before<br />

that, Bishop Rojas had been an auxiliary<br />

bishop in Chicago for eight years.<br />

Bishop Barnes has headed the San<br />

Bernardino Diocese since 1996. He<br />

turned 75 last June, and, as canon law<br />

requires, submitted his resignation to<br />

the pope. <br />

OneLife LA goes virtual<br />

OneLife LA returns for its sixth year<br />

this month, but with a virtual twist<br />

thanks to the ongoing COVID-19<br />

pandemic.<br />

The annual walk and celebration of<br />

life will be held on Jan. 23, kicking<br />

off with a virtual celebration at noon.<br />

The day’s events still include a lineup<br />

of speakers, singers, and dancing, but<br />

performances will be aired in a onehour<br />

online event, and shared on social<br />

media with the hashtag #onelifela.<br />

This year’s theme is sharing the “Joy<br />

of Life.” For more information, or to<br />

register, visit onelifela.org. <br />


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

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

Livingston, LA district governor, Father Sam Ward, ADLA vocations director, Ed Lupton, Pacific<br />

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

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

6 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>

SUNDAY<br />



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


Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy,<br />

a Catholic, Dominican,<br />

independent, college-preparatory,<br />

day and boarding school,<br />

educates young women<br />

for a life of<br />

faith, integrity and truth.<br />

www.fsha.org<br />

440 St. Katherine Drive<br />

La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011<br />

•<br />

626-685-8500<br />


“Calling of Peter and Andrew,”<br />

artist unknown, Netherlands.<br />

In the call of Samuel and the first<br />

apostles, this Sunday’s Readings shed<br />

light on our own calling to be followers<br />

of Christ.<br />

<strong>No</strong>tice in the Gospel that John’s<br />

disciples are prepared to hear God’s<br />

call. They are already looking for the<br />

Messiah, so they trust in John’s word<br />

and follow when he points out the<br />

Lamb of God walking by.<br />

Samuel is also waiting on the Lord,<br />

sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant<br />

where God’s glory dwells, taking instruction<br />

from Eli, the high priest.<br />

Samuel listened to God’s word and<br />

the Lord was with him. And Samuel,<br />

through his word, turned all Israel to<br />

the Lord (see 1 Samuel 3:21; 7:2–3).<br />

The disciples, too, heard and followed<br />

— words we hear repeatedly in<br />

Sunday’s Gospel. They stayed with the<br />

Lord and by their testimony brought<br />

others to the Lord.<br />

These scenes from salvation history<br />

should give us strength to embrace<br />

God’s will and to follow his call in our<br />

lives.<br />

God is constantly calling to each of<br />

us, personally, by name (see Isaiah<br />

43:1; John 10:3). He wants us to seek<br />

him in love, to long for his word (see<br />

Wisdom 6:11–12). We must desire always,<br />

as the apostles did, to stay where<br />

the Lord stays, to constantly seek his<br />

face (see Psalm 42:2).<br />

For we are not our own, but belong<br />

to the Lord, as Paul says in Sunday’s<br />

Epistle.<br />

We must have ears open to obedience,<br />

and write his word within our<br />

hearts. We must trust in the Lord’s<br />

promise, that if we come to him in<br />

faith, he will abide with us (see John<br />

<strong>15</strong>:14; 14:21–23), and raise us by his<br />

power. And we must reflect in our<br />

lives the love he has shown us, so that<br />

others too may find the Messiah.<br />

As we renew our vows of discipleship<br />

in this Eucharist, let us approach the<br />

altar singing the new song of Sunday’s<br />

Psalm: “Behold I come ... to do your<br />

will, O my God.” <br />

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

8 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>

IN EXILE<br />


What is your practice?<br />

Today, the common question in<br />

spiritual circles is not, “What is your<br />

church or your religion?” But, “What<br />

is your practice?”<br />

What is your practice? What is your<br />

particular explicit prayer practice?<br />

Is it Christian? Buddhist? Islamic?<br />

Secular? Do you meditate? Do you<br />

do centering prayer? Do you practice<br />

mindfulness? For how long do you do<br />

this each day?<br />

These are good questions and the<br />

prayer practices they refer to are good<br />

practices; but I take issue with one<br />

thing. The tendency here is to identify<br />

the essence of one’s discipleship<br />

and religious observance with a single<br />

explicit prayer practice, and that can<br />

be reductionist and simplistic. Discipleship<br />

is about more than one prayer<br />

practice.<br />

A friend of mine shares this story. He<br />

was at a spirituality gathering where<br />

the question most asked of everyone<br />

was this: “What is your practice?”<br />

One woman replied, “My practice is<br />

raising my kids!” She may have meant<br />

it in jest, but her quip contains an<br />

insight that can serve as an important<br />

corrective to the tendency to identify<br />

the essence of one’s discipleship with<br />

a single explicit prayer practice.<br />

Monks have secrets worth knowing.<br />

One of these is the truth that for any<br />

single prayer practice to be transformative<br />

it must be embedded in a<br />

larger set of practices, a much larger<br />

“monastic routine,” which commits<br />

one to a lot more than a single prayer<br />

practice.<br />

For a monk, each prayer practice is<br />

embedded inside a monastic routine<br />

and that routine, rather than any one<br />

single prayer practice, becomes the<br />

monk’s practice. Further still, that<br />

monastic routine, to have real value,<br />

must be itself predicated on fidelity to<br />

one’s vows.<br />

Hence, the question “What is your<br />

practice?” is a good one if it refers to<br />

more than just a single explicit prayer<br />

practice. It must also ask whether<br />

you are keeping the commandments.<br />

Are you faithful to your vows and<br />

commitments? Are you raising your<br />

kids well? Are you staying within<br />

Christian community? Do you reach<br />

out to the poor? And, yes, do you have<br />

some regular, explicit, habitual prayer<br />

practice?<br />

What is my own practice?<br />

I lean heavily on regularity and<br />

ritual, on a “monastic routine.” Here<br />

is my normal routine: Each morning<br />

I pray the Office of Lauds (usually in<br />

community). Then, before going to<br />

my office, I read a spiritual book for at<br />

least 20 minutes. At noon, I participate<br />

in the Eucharist, and sometime<br />

during the day, I go for a long walk<br />

and pray for an hour (mostly using the<br />

rosary as a mantra and praying for a<br />

lot of people by name).<br />

On days when I do not take a walk,<br />

I sit in meditation or centering prayer<br />

for about <strong>15</strong> minutes. Each evening,<br />

I pray vespers (again, usually in community).<br />

Once a week, I spend the<br />

evening writing a column on some<br />

aspect of spirituality. Once a month I<br />

celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation,<br />

always with the same confessor;<br />

and, when possible, I try to carve out<br />

a week each year to do a retreat.<br />

My practice survives on routine,<br />

rhythm, and ritual. These hold me<br />

and keep me inside my discipleship<br />

and my vows. They hold me more<br />

than I hold them. <strong>No</strong> matter how<br />

busy I am, no matter how distracted<br />

I am, and no matter whether or not<br />

I feel like praying on any given day,<br />

these rituals draw me into prayer and<br />

fidelity.<br />

To be a disciple is to put yourself<br />

under a discipline. Thus, the bigger<br />

part of my practice is my ministry and<br />

the chronic discipline this demands<br />

of me. Full disclosure, ministry is<br />

often more stimulating than prayer;<br />

but it also demands more of you and,<br />

if done in fidelity, can be powerfully<br />

transformative in terms of bringing<br />

you to maturity and altruism.<br />

Carlo Carretto, the renowned<br />

spiritual writer, spent much of his<br />

adult life in the Sahara Desert, living<br />

in solitude as a monk, spending many<br />

hours in formal prayer. However, after<br />

years of solitude and prayer in the desert,<br />

he went to visit his aging mother<br />

who had dedicated many years of her<br />

life to raising children, leaving little<br />

time for formal prayer.<br />

Visiting her, he realized something,<br />

namely, that his mother was more of<br />

a contemplative than he was! To his<br />

credit, Carretto drew the right lesson:<br />

there was nothing wrong with what<br />

he had been doing in the solitude of<br />

the desert for all those years, but there<br />

was something very right in what his<br />

mother had been doing in the busy<br />

bustle of raising children for so many<br />

years. Her life was its own monastery.<br />

Her practice was “raising kids.”<br />

I have always loved this line from<br />

the poet Robert Lax: “The task in life<br />

is not so much finding a path in the<br />

woods as of finding a rhythm to walk<br />

in.” Perhaps your rhythm is “monastic,”<br />

perhaps “domestic.” An explicit<br />

prayer practice is very important as a<br />

religious practice, but so too are our<br />

duties of state. <br />

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

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

<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 9

The completion o<br />

10 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>

of a cathedral<br />

Nearly two decades<br />

later, the Blessed Virgin<br />

Mary is finally taking<br />

her place among the<br />

saints at the cathedral<br />

built in her name<br />



Faithful witnessed the unveiling of the new Marian tapestry at the Cathedral of Our Lady of<br />

the Angels during Mass celebrating the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on Jan. 1.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 11


12 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong><br />


VIC<br />

As the shrouds were removed<br />

from the five panels of a<br />

stunning new tapestry honoring<br />

the Blessed Virgin Mary in the<br />

apse of the Cathedral of Our Lady of<br />

the Angels before morning Mass on<br />

New Year’s Day, it seemed fitting that<br />

their removal required the sound of<br />

ripping Velcro.<br />

A necessarily harsh sound to mark<br />

a clean break from a harsh year, one<br />

that, as Archbishop José H. Gomez<br />

acknowledged that morning, may<br />

have felt like a bad nightmare for<br />

many.<br />

But more importantly, the new<br />

tapestry, featuring a 14-foot-high depiction<br />

of the cathedral’s namesake,<br />

hands outstretched, eyes cast toward<br />

the altar and congregation, was<br />

unveiled on the day that the Catholic<br />

Church celebrates the solemnity of<br />

Mary, Mother of God.<br />

And by the time Mass was finished,<br />

it seemed as if it had always been<br />

there.<br />

For those who have called the cathedral<br />

their spiritual home since it was<br />

built two decades ago, the 29-by-50-<br />

foot tapestry seemed to signal an end,<br />

rather than a new beginning.<br />

“That’s always been the whole idea<br />

[of the new tapestry],” said Brother<br />

Hilarion O’Connor, the cathedral’s<br />

operations manager who helped shepherd<br />

the project. “The idea being the<br />

completion of the cathedral, completion<br />

of the tapestries.”<br />

Part of that completion might have<br />

felt long overdue. If you’ve walked<br />

through the long nave of the cathedral,<br />

you’ve likely gazed upon the<br />

more than 130 images of saints depicted<br />

on tapestries hung on opposite<br />

walls.<br />

Perhaps the most well-known of the<br />

cathedral’s artistic features, those<br />

tapestries were made by Californian<br />

painter and tapestry designer John<br />

Nava, who used real-life models for<br />

his depiction of the “communion of<br />

saints.”<br />

But what a visitor did not see until<br />

Jan. 1 was a depiction of the most<br />

important saint of them all: Mary,<br />

whose many titles in Catholic tradition<br />

include “Mother of God” and<br />

especially for Angelenos, “Our Lady<br />

of the Angels.”<br />

“It was always a little strange that I<br />

had [created] 136 figures for the interior<br />

of the church, but the one person<br />

who was not depicted was Our Lady,”<br />

said Nava, who wasn’t the only one to<br />

note the odd contradiction of having<br />

a cathedral dedicated to Our Lady<br />

lacking a prominent image of her.<br />

Among them was Archbishop José<br />

H. Gomez, who, upon arriving in Los<br />

Angeles a decade ago, told Brother<br />

O’Connor: “You know, we need to<br />

get Our Lady into the cathedral.”<br />

And now she has arrived, luminous,<br />

in a blue robe that distinguishes her<br />

from the saints in the nave, who now<br />

seem to look up at her, and that Nava<br />

portrayed in muted, mostly earth<br />

tones that complement the cathedral’s<br />

natural stone.<br />

This is a young Mary, but one whose<br />

countenance contains the unmistakable<br />

duality of the mother who is<br />

a harbor for our pain, and a woman<br />

projecting an air of someone who has<br />

experienced pain herself. She is large<br />

enough to suggest her power, but still<br />

radiates a sense of human vulnerability<br />

that so many people connect with.<br />

“She is the archetypal mother, I<br />

didn’t want her to be imposing, rather,<br />

I wanted her to be open, receptive,<br />

sympathetic,” said Nava, who studied<br />

art in Florence as a young man and<br />

visited many of Europe’s cathedrals, a<br />

good deal of them dedicated to Mary.<br />

As he did with his “communion of<br />

saints” that line the wall, Nava said it<br />

was important for this final tapestry<br />

to integrate the Church’s ancient tradition<br />

and history with contemporary<br />

people and times.<br />

“I wanted to connect it to the New<br />

World,” he said. “The greatest image<br />

of Mary in the new world, I believe, is<br />

the Virgin of Guadalupe. That’s why<br />

in her robe, I put in that floral pattern<br />

from the Virgin of Guadalupe, to<br />

refer to that figure.”<br />

The model for Mary was a woman<br />

in her 20s that Nava has known most<br />

of her life, a DACA recipient who he<br />

said was excited to know that her face<br />

would be used but who will remain<br />

anonymous so as to not confuse<br />

matters.<br />

After all, one should be contemplating<br />

Mary, not the model, when<br />

looking at the tapestry.<br />

“The art history of the Church is so<br />

varied, rather than doing a stylized<br />

image, I wanted to make a realistic<br />

portrait that people could connect<br />

with,” said Nava, who took two years<br />

to create the tapestry. “Something<br />

that they could say, ‘I know someone<br />

that looks like that.’ ”<br />

Also recognizable on the tapestry’s<br />

two outside panels, left and right, is a<br />

street map of downtown Los Angeles<br />

that is complete to the point that its<br />

upper right-hand corner contains a<br />

symbol for Dodger Stadium.<br />

Though he had followed the project<br />

from beginning to end, New Year’s<br />

Day marked the first time Brother<br />

O’Connor had seen the tapestry in<br />

its entirety without scaffolding in the<br />

way. It is “magnificent in how Our<br />

Lady is looking out on the congregation,”<br />

he noted, and it represents a<br />

fulfillment of what Archbishop Emeritus<br />

Cardinal Roger Mahony declared<br />

when it was first built: “I have helped<br />

build the cathedral, my successors<br />

will complete it.”<br />

Brother O’Connor marveled at<br />

how Nava was able to meet the size<br />

challenges of the church, the largest<br />

Catholic cathedral in the United<br />

States, while still maintaining an air<br />

of contemplation and scale.<br />

“John has an amazing talent for<br />

getting the images to meet the size of<br />

the cathedral,” he said. “That’s a big<br />

challenge.”<br />

Indeed, with such a project, an artist<br />

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”<br />

tapestry on the opposite end of the cathedral.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 13

“I wanted to make a realistic portrait that people<br />

could connect with. Something that they could<br />

say, ‘I know someone that looks like that.’ ”<br />


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

14 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>



is tasked with creating something that<br />

is visually stimulating without becoming<br />

distracting. The art in a church<br />

should move us to thought, to prayer,<br />

to consideration of our lives, not on<br />

how the art got there.<br />

Nava has thought a lot about the<br />

role of the artist in such circumstances.<br />

When the cathedral first opened,<br />

he remembers that his friend, the<br />

sculptor who created the statue of<br />

Mary at the cathedral entrance, the<br />

late Robert Graham, told him, “This<br />

isn’t about us.”<br />

Instead, he said, it’s about creating a<br />

larger meaning and consciousness for<br />

people.<br />

“When you do a show in a gallery,<br />

the focus is on you,” he said. “You’re<br />

the artist and this is your work. But<br />

this is not about John Nava. This<br />

is about creating a reality that goes<br />

beyond a particular painter.”<br />

And now that it’s done, Nava smirks<br />

when asked if he will be creating any<br />

more tapestries. He said he is happy<br />

that Our Lady has instantly brought a<br />

“rightness” to the cathedral.<br />

Before it was unveiled, it was not<br />

uncommon for congregants to look<br />

toward the back of the church, at<br />

Nava’s equally magnificent “Baptism”<br />

tapestry.<br />

“People used to joke that the church<br />

was backwards because everybody<br />

looked that way,” Nava said, gesturing<br />

toward the rear of the building. “They<br />

looked that way because there was<br />

someone to see.”<br />

Turning his head to look up at the<br />

vision of Mary, Nava added, “<strong>No</strong>w,<br />

I think we have it in the right balance.”<br />

<br />

Steve Lowery is the arts and culture<br />

editor for the Long Beach Post and<br />

a parishioner at American Martyrs<br />

Church in Manhattan Beach.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • <strong>15</strong>

Estefiana Torres,<br />

second from right, at<br />

her Sept. 18 confirmation<br />

ceremony at St.<br />

Lawrence of Brindisi<br />

Church in Watts. From<br />

left: Her father, Luis<br />

Torres; LAPD officers<br />

Eric Ortiz and Ken<br />

Busiere, and Estefiana’s<br />

mother, Francisca<br />

Arenas, far right.<br />

Small drops of goodwill<br />

By teaming LAPD officers with Catholic school students,<br />

‘Operation Progress’ is changing attitudes in some of<br />

LA’s toughest neighborhoods<br />



In a fine white dress accentuated by<br />

a bright red confirmation stole —<br />

and matching red face mask — Estefania<br />

Torres approached the outdoor<br />

altar in the tented parking lot behind<br />

St. Lawrence of Brindisi Church in<br />

Watts.<br />

Standing behind the 16-year-old at<br />

a social distance as she declared her<br />

confirmation name and was anointed<br />

on the forehead with sacred chrism<br />

by the church’s pastor, Father Matt<br />

Elshoff, was her sponsor, LAPD Sgt.<br />

Ken Busiere, in full black uniform.<br />

It is the kind of scene that nonprofit<br />

organization Operation Progress has<br />

become known for helping create.<br />

“I know that many young people<br />

today, and many young women, are<br />

drawn in so many difficult directions<br />

that can conflict with their faith and<br />

I think it’s important to have a strong<br />

Catholic mentor in their life,” said<br />

Busiere, a father of three girls and an<br />

18-year LAPD veteran assigned to the<br />

LA Southeast Division.<br />

A grassroots initiative started 20 years<br />

ago by LAPD officer John Coughlin as<br />

a way to better understand the needs<br />

of a community historically fraught by<br />

gang violence and poverty, Operation<br />

Progress currently boasts nearly 100<br />

students at three elementary schools<br />

and three high schools.<br />

Starting as early as third grade, students<br />

grow according to “five pillars of<br />

success”: academics, life skills, health<br />

and wellness, service, and support and<br />

safety. There are also 3.0 grade-point<br />

16 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>

es,<br />

ight, at<br />

onfirmaat<br />

St.<br />

rindisi<br />

tts. From<br />

r, Luis<br />

officers<br />

Ken<br />

stefiarancisca<br />

ht.<br />


benchmark levels of achievement<br />

measured by effort over ability. There<br />

are surveys to measure self-confidence,<br />

leadership, and the ability to share<br />

their stories.<br />

But the program’s success is something<br />

its leaders say must be “measured<br />

one scholar at a time.”<br />

Take, for example, the trio who<br />

Operation Progress’ executive director<br />

Theresa Gartland calls the program’s<br />

“north stars”: three young women who<br />

joined the expanded pilot program<br />

at St. Lawrence of Brindisi School,<br />

graduated high school last June, and<br />

are now freshmen in college.<br />

Petra Avelar and Meah Watson grew<br />

up in Watts’ Nickerson Gardens<br />

housing development and joined<br />

Operation Progress in 2013. Avelar, a<br />

graduate of Mary Star of the Sea High<br />

School in San Pedro, is now at Stonehill<br />

College in Boston, while Watson<br />

is enrolled at Morgan State University<br />

in Baltimore.<br />

Araceli Gonzalez, who started this<br />

fall at Texas Christian University, came<br />

into Operation Progress in 2014 while<br />

in the Gonzaque Villages housing<br />

development. Watson and Gonzalez<br />

both went to St. Mary’s Academy in<br />

Inglewood.<br />

Avelar’s story was among those told<br />

in the 2017 documentary, “A Week<br />

A poster from the 2017 documentary, “A Week<br />

In Watts,” focused on Operation Progress.<br />

In Watts,” directed and produced by<br />

Gregory Caruso (and son of major Operation<br />

Progress donor Rick Caruso)<br />

and which boasted NBA legend Shaquille<br />

O’Neal as executive producer.<br />

The film followed the impact of the<br />

program on six students living within<br />

a two-mile radius of St. Lawrence of<br />

Brindisi School, an area known for<br />

gang violence between Crips and<br />

Bloods.<br />

Since the film’s release on Netflix,<br />

police departments from across the<br />

country have reached out to Operation<br />

Progress organizers. It has since been<br />

replicated in Ft. Worth, Texas, with the<br />

help of a private Christian school in an<br />

underserved neighborhood near there.<br />

St. Lawrence of Brindisi School<br />

counts some 60 of its current 295<br />

students as program participants, with<br />

a list of kids still waiting to be assigned<br />

a mentor officer.<br />

Some 25 officers at the LA Southeast<br />

Division continue as mentors,<br />

although Gartland would like that<br />

number to grow to more than 50.<br />

Recent officer promotions and<br />

reassignments happened just before<br />

Operation Progress was ramping up<br />

for the 2020-<strong>2021</strong> school year, and it<br />

was during a recruitment push when<br />

COVID-19 hit.<br />

Verbum Dei High School in Watts<br />

(blocks away from St. Lawrence of<br />

Brindisi School) and St. Mary’s Academy<br />

in Inglewood were two of Operation<br />

Progress’ pilot high schools, and it<br />

recently added St. Pius X-St. Matthias<br />

Academy in Downey.<br />

Besides St. Lawrence of Brindisi<br />

School, there are a handful of students<br />

from nearby Catholic elementary<br />

schools San Miguel and St. Raphael,<br />

some of whom have been paired with<br />

officer mentors from LAPD’s 77th St.<br />

Division.<br />

Gartland said she sees a clear<br />

correlation not only between officer<br />

mentorship and the students’ school<br />

performance, but in the attitudes of all<br />

involved.<br />

“Families see officers in a different<br />

light,” said Gartland, who has led the<br />

organization since 2013.<br />

But, she added, “the best outcome for<br />

me is seeing how the officers’ mindset<br />

in the community has changed. They<br />

seem more softer as they interact with<br />

Petra Avelar poses next to a poster of herself<br />

in the lobby of a theater at The Grove in LA<br />

during the premiere of the documentary “A<br />

Week In Watts.” Avelar joined Operation Progress<br />

while at St. Lawrence of Brindisi School<br />

in 2013 and is now a freshman at Stonehill<br />

College in Boston.<br />

families, which is something they<br />

usually don’t get a chance to do.”<br />

When Sgt. Busiere was approached<br />

by her mother to<br />

be Estefania’s confirmation<br />

sponsor (her assigned LAPD Operation<br />

Progress mentor, Senior Lead Officer<br />

Roberto Yanez, isn’t Catholic), he considered<br />

it an honor. The program has<br />

given Busiere, who has mentored three<br />

students over the last eight years for<br />

Operation Progress, an intimate sense<br />

of what families like the Torres face.<br />

“I’ve seen how young people have<br />

changed their opinions about police<br />

officers, but it works both ways,” said<br />

Busiere, who attends Saints Peter and<br />

Paul Church in Wilmington with his<br />

family.<br />

“Frankly, a lot of misunderstandings<br />

in this country about race is because<br />

we don’t spend enough time with<br />

each other. And I think the Catholic<br />

worldview is one where you are better<br />

able to serve everyone’s needs and it<br />

encapsulates the core values in the<br />

police department.<br />

“If we stray from that, we’re not the<br />

best versions of who we should be. I’m<br />

not sure how I’d do this job without my<br />

Catholic faith.”<br />

If Torres’ life was changed by Oper-<br />


<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 17

ation Progress, it is because an LAPD<br />

officer recommended the program to<br />

her mother at a crucial time: she was<br />

about to finish fifth grade when her<br />

family was evicted from their home<br />

amid a situation of domestic violence.<br />

Both her parents were arrested, and she<br />

was sent to foster care.<br />

The turn of events brought her to<br />

St. Lawrence of Brindisi School on<br />

a scholarship when the pastor at the<br />

time, the late Father Jesus Vela, was<br />

helping LAPD officers recruit new<br />

students for the program.<br />

“I was a shy, very quiet kid, and I<br />

didn’t realize how much of a traumatic<br />

phase I was going through,” said<br />

Torres. “I had a difficult time believing<br />

in police officers when they took away<br />

my parents. I was disappointed and<br />

angry and resented the police; it is their<br />

job to protect us. And now they want to<br />

help by sponsoring me?”<br />

Torres said getting to know officers<br />

and the risks they take with their own<br />

lives left an impression on her.<br />

“I can now see the relationship I have<br />

with the officers; it has started small<br />

but it continues to grow, and now it’s<br />

connected to my Catholic beliefs.”<br />

Father Elshoff has a favorite story<br />

he likes to tell when explaining<br />

the positive impact the LAPD has<br />

made on his flock.<br />

Last June, when some 20 children in<br />

St. Lawrence of Brindisi School’s kindergarten<br />

class had a Zoom promotion<br />

ceremony, each was asked from their<br />

home what they wanted to be when<br />

they grow up, and why.<br />

“I believe it was a third of them who<br />

said, ‘I want to be a police officer,’ and<br />

the reason is because ‘I want to help<br />

people,’ ” recalled Father Elshoff, a<br />

lifelong educator who once served as<br />

president of his alma mater, St. Francis<br />

High School in La Cañada Flintridge.<br />

“It wasn’t like they were all telegraphing<br />

this to each other. I believe this<br />

was because they so often see so many<br />

officers on campus mentoring their<br />

students.”<br />

St. Lawrence of Brindisi School principal<br />

Alicia Camacho said the officers’<br />

dedication can be seen in their regular<br />

participation in Catholic Schools Week<br />

Career Day every <strong>January</strong>. They bring<br />

their trained dogs on campus, give<br />

tours of the patrol cars, and even fly a<br />

helicopter overhead for a greeting.<br />

During the COVID-19 pandemic,<br />

the mentor officers continue to check<br />

in on students’ grades and meet over<br />

Zoom welfare updates.<br />

“Our new first-graders are huge fans<br />

of the officers,” Camacho said. “It’s<br />

because the officers have cultivated<br />

long-lasting relationships with our<br />

students and brought a sense of safety<br />

for all of us at school. I am grateful that<br />

our students get to know the police<br />

officers as individuals and caring<br />

citizens.”<br />

The parish’s relationship with the<br />

LAPD has also helped Father Elshoff<br />

stay connected with the community<br />

during the pandemic. He and LAPD<br />

Sgt. Tim Jones have been holding<br />

community public meetings on<br />

Wednesdays in the parking lot of Café<br />

Oaxaca restaurant on Century Boulevard<br />

and Central Avenue in Watts,<br />

making themselves available to locals.<br />

Father Elshoff, who moonlights as<br />

chaplain for LAPD’s Southeast Division,<br />

has taken to sharing experiences<br />

of the encounters on his Facebook<br />

page in a series dubbed “The Police<br />

and the Padre.”<br />

The Capuchin says the meetings have<br />

helped him know people better, and<br />

Father Matt Elshoff with Torres and her sponsor, Sgt. Busiere.<br />

the joy he’s witnessed in them despite<br />

the tough times “reinforces my mission<br />

as a priest and follower of Francis of<br />

Assisi.<br />

“It animates me to give more, and<br />

more often than not, in very ordinary,<br />


18 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>

LAPD Sgt. Tim Jones<br />

gets on his knees to<br />

show his badge to a<br />

young boy in Watts<br />

during a meeting of<br />

“The Police and the<br />

Padre” outside of the<br />

Café Oaxaca restaurant<br />

on Century<br />

Boulevard near Central<br />

Avenue, across<br />

from Ted Watkins<br />

Park in Watts.<br />

basic ways. It really doesn’t have to be<br />

complicated.”<br />

One poignant moment Father Elshoff<br />

captured with his own cellphone<br />

camera was a time when Sgt. Jones was<br />

asked by a young boy if he could touch<br />

his badge. Jones crouched down and<br />

readily obliged.<br />

“That’s our future,” Jones said of that<br />

moment. “I think of that moment,<br />

where we have to get down to the same<br />

level where they are comfortable and<br />

talk as equals. You can see people’s<br />

minds shift as I talk about my own life<br />

and my relationship with Father Matt.”<br />

The son of a Southern Baptist minister,<br />

Jones said his relationship with<br />

Father Elshoff can be summed up by<br />

the priest’s recent birthday gift, a St.<br />

Timothy medal that he now wears<br />

every day on patrol.<br />

“I think you can’t know what’s right in<br />

a community if you don’t know what’s<br />

wrong,” said Jones. “I know I have a<br />

better understanding since when I<br />

came in 25 years ago. Small drops of<br />

goodwill will spread the love and communication<br />

that we’re here to serve.<br />

That’s pretty cool.” <br />


626.795.8333<br />

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Suite 208<br />

Pasadena, California 91101<br />

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<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 19<br />

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<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 19<br />

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11/29/20 12:09 PM

Bishop Moses<br />

Chikwe at his episcopal<br />

consecration<br />

in Owerri, Nigeria,<br />

in December 2019.<br />


A New Year’s miracle<br />

When news broke of a Nigerian bishop’s kidnapping<br />

last month, friends of ‘Father Moses’ from his time<br />

in SoCal sprung into action<br />


During his nearly <strong>15</strong> years in Southern California,<br />

Father Moses Chikwe was always up to something,<br />

even when he wasn’t taking graduate courses at<br />

Loyola Marymount University and UCLA.<br />

The Nigerian priest helped in parishes, visited the sick<br />

in local hospitals, served as a prayer group chaplain, and<br />

joined soccer matches after Sunday Masses were done. He<br />

even handed out rosaries to strangers on the Venice Beach<br />

boardwalk.<br />

So when news reached California that Father Chikwe, now<br />

an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Owerri, Nigeria,<br />

had been kidnapped along with his driver Dec. 27, he had<br />

an extensive network of old friends praying for his release.<br />

“I feared for the worst. I couldn’t sleep,” recalled Patrick<br />

Chikwe, a nephew of the bishop. The younger Chikwe,<br />

who joined his uncle in California eight years ago and today<br />

teaches at an LA area high school, knew who to call first<br />

when he got the news.<br />

“Everybody we asked started prayer chains like crazy,” said<br />

Gary Micaletti, who became friends with “Father Moses”<br />

during his time at the Church of Saint Mark in Venice.<br />

Former parishioners from Saint Mark and parishes in San<br />

Diego where he served spread the word. Family members,<br />

prayer groups, and convents, including the Carmelite Sisters<br />

20 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>

in Alhambra, were quickly mobilized to pray. Nigerian<br />

priests serving in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles were on the<br />

phone with updates.<br />

Their efforts were not in vain. Five days after Bishop<br />

Chikwe and his driver, Ndubuisi Robert, were abducted,<br />

the Archdiocese of Owerri announced Jan. 1 they had been<br />

released “unhurt and without ransom.”<br />

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

archdiocese’s Facebook account.<br />

Owerri Archbishop Anthony Obinna, who visited the<br />

53-year-old Bishop Chikwe soon after his release, said he was<br />

“looking and feeling very weak from the traumatic experience.”<br />

A video circulating on social media later showed<br />

Bishop Chikwe celebrating with well-wishers, dancing in<br />

his white bishop’s cassock and flashing that trademark bright<br />

smile.<br />

“He was famous for that smile,” said Father Michael Rocha,<br />

who was pastor at Saint Mark during Bishop Chikwe’s time<br />

there. “He was always happy. That smile, and that laugh —<br />

that’s what endeared him to people here.”<br />

He first arrived in California in 2002, when his home<br />

diocese in Nigeria sent him to Loyola Marymount<br />

University to study educational administration. He<br />

first took up residence at Visitation Church, just blocks from<br />

the school’s campus in Westchester.<br />

Esteban Hernandez, then a middle-schooler at the parish<br />

school, remembered how easily the young priest connected<br />

with students, despite his heavy accent and being new to the<br />

country.<br />

“He was just a lovely guy to be around,” Hernandez<br />

recalled. “You felt like you could always approach him on<br />

the schoolyard during recess or after Mass and talk about<br />

anything.”<br />

After getting his master’s at LMU, he stayed to pursue a<br />

doctorate in education at UCLA. He briefly lived on the<br />

school’s Westwood campus, until Father Rocha offered to<br />

put him up at St. Mark. He did not have to be asked twice.<br />

“He had that type of outgoing personality,” remembered<br />

Then-Father Moses Chikwe with Gary and Cynthia Micaletti on a visit to<br />

San Simeon during his time as a student priest in California.<br />


Father Rocha, now pastor of St. Paschal Baylon Church in<br />

Thousand Oaks. “He wanted to be back in a parish, and<br />

people embraced him and welcomed him.”<br />

During his five years in Venice, he helped as a hospital<br />

chaplain and ministered to the parish’s Legion of Mary as<br />

spiritual director. It was there that he grew close to Gary Micaletti<br />

and his wife, Cynthia, whose daughter he baptized.<br />

The Micalettis considered him part of their family, inviting<br />

him often to join them for dinner and excursions to the<br />

California missions.<br />

“Being who he is, I<br />

wouldn’t be surprised<br />

if he just convinced<br />

[the kidnappers] to let<br />

him go,” said an LA<br />

priest who lived with<br />

Bishop Chikwe.<br />

Once the Micalettis took him to Universal Studios, where<br />

Cynthia convinced him to get on the Mummy ride. They<br />

recalled with a laugh that he promised he’d never trust her<br />

again.<br />

“Everybody who meets him knows he’s a very humble man,<br />

just a beautiful-hearted man,” said Gary.<br />

In 2011, he moved to San Diego while completing his<br />

doctoral studies. He served there at St. Joseph’s Cathedral<br />

downtown and at St. Mark’s in San Marcos, while also serving<br />

as chaplain at the local veterans’ hospital.<br />

The friendships he formed with the Micalettis and former<br />

parishioners have survived the test of time — and distance.<br />

Even after receiving his doctorate in 2013 and going home<br />

to direct Owerri’s religious education office, he would come<br />

back during summers to help out at St. Mark’s Church in<br />

San Marcos and St. Paschal Baylon Church in Thousand<br />

Oaks.<br />

His friends told <strong>Angelus</strong> that he always brushed off suggestions<br />

that he might one day move up in the Church’s<br />

hierarchy. But in late 2019, their predictions proved true<br />

when Pope Francis named him auxiliary bishop of his home<br />

Diocese of Owerri, in southeastern Nigeria.<br />

“Several times I said, ‘Moses, I’m telling you right now,<br />

eventually you’re going to become a bishop.’ He would howl<br />

and laugh and say, ‘Absolutely not.’ ”<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 21

Owerri Archbishop Anthony Obinna (left) and Bishop Moses Chikwe.<br />


“He just had that pastoral presence and love of the faith,<br />

and an ability to get the people around him,” said Father<br />

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

Bishop Chikwe’s new assignment meant taking up a<br />

shepherd’s role in one of the most dangerous places in<br />

the world to be Catholic.<br />

Of the more than 4,000 Christians killed for their faith<br />

around the world in 2018, about 90% were from Nigeria,<br />

according to the aid group Open Doors.<br />

Nigerian Christians face violence from Muslim-majority<br />

Fulani herdsmen in the country’s “middle belt,” a region<br />

that separates Nigeria’s Muslim north and Christian south,<br />

as well as from Islamic terrorists from ISIS affiliate Boko<br />

Haram, and roving criminal gangs.<br />

Since the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in<br />

20<strong>15</strong>, the security situation in Nigeria has deteriorated, said<br />

Father Chidi Ekpendu, a Nigerian priest who serves as a<br />

judge in the LA archdiocese’s marriage tribunal.<br />

While there has been a recent uptick in priests being seized<br />

for extortion, the kidnapping of a bishop is “unprecedented,”<br />

Father Ekpendu told <strong>Angelus</strong>.<br />

“There is a lot of confusion,” said Father Ekpendu, whose<br />

home Diocese of Aba neighbors Owerri. “We have to say it<br />

the way it is: There has been a complete breakdown of law<br />

and order in the entire Nigerian state. People live in fear all<br />

the time.”<br />

Christians have borne the brunt of the suffering under<br />

22 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong><br />

Buhari’s rule. The former army general, who ruled as military<br />

head of state from 1983 to 1985, has been accused of<br />

empowering Islamic terrorists targeting Christians.<br />

<strong>News</strong> of Bishop Chikwe’s kidnapping came as a shock to<br />

the Micalettis, who had exchanged virtual messages just two<br />

days before on Christmas.<br />

Bishop Chikwe was well aware of the dangers of being a<br />

priest in Nigeria, but always expressed calm when asked<br />

about the situation there, the couple recalled.<br />

“He would always say that the more responsibilities you<br />

have, the more you need to pray,” said Cynthia.<br />

Questions about who kidnapped Bishop Chikwe and his<br />

driver and how they were released remain unclear. In a message<br />

to Father Rocha a few days after his liberation, Bishop<br />

Chikwe said he was “gradually healing” from the experience<br />

and asked for prayers, but didn’t offer many details about the<br />

ordeal.<br />

Patrick, who described living the agony of his uncle’s kidnapping<br />

here in LA as a personal “nightmare,” has not heard<br />

who was responsible, either, but added that upticks in crime<br />

in the area are common during the Christmas holidays.<br />

And while he’s sure all the prayers helped, Father Rocha<br />

also likes to imagine Bishop Chikwe’s smile — and his laugh<br />

— winning over even the meanest of kidnappers.<br />

“Being who he is, I wouldn’t be surprised if he just<br />

convinced them to let him go.” <br />

Pablo Kay is the editor-in-chief of <strong>Angelus</strong>.<br />

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

street artist known as Maupal, near the Vatican Dec. 11, 2020.<br />

Sticking<br />

to the<br />

science<br />

From lockdowns to<br />

vaccines, the Vatican<br />

has had few issues<br />

with listening to the<br />

experts on COVID-19<br />



ROME — When the COV-<br />

ID-19 pandemic began to hit<br />

Europe and much of the rest<br />

of the world early last year, no one, it<br />

seemed, was prepared.<br />

That includes the Vatican, which,<br />

being its own country, has tried from<br />

the beginning to keep pace with<br />


developing knowledge of the disease<br />

and its implications. It has mostly<br />

taken its cues from the advice given<br />

by top medical and science experts.<br />

In many ways, the pandemic has<br />

served as another example in how<br />

faith and science can be natural<br />

allies, assuming, of course, that the<br />

faithful trust the advice of experts to<br />

keep them safe, and that those experts<br />

heed what the Church has to say on<br />

moral and ethical questions.<br />

That intersection of faith and<br />

science has emerged as one of the<br />

consistent themes of Pope Francis’<br />

papacy. Far from being a science<br />

skeptic, the pontiff seems to have<br />

become chaplain of the scientific<br />

consensus on issues from the coronavirus<br />

to climate change.<br />

Since his election in 2013, he has<br />

revamped both the John Paul II Institute<br />

for Marriage and Family Sciences<br />

and the Pontifical Academies for Life<br />

and Sciences, the two Vatican entities<br />

that deal directly with often-thorny<br />

scientific questions, and revised the<br />

curricula for Catholic universities.<br />

In doing so, he has emphasized the<br />

importance of dialogue and consistent<br />

interaction between theologians<br />

and secular experts in the given field.<br />

Pope Francis is also the first pope in<br />

modern times to be a trained scientist.<br />

He graduated from a state-run<br />

technical secondary school in his<br />

native Buenos Aires with a degree in<br />

chemistry, and worked in a chemistry<br />

lab before entering the seminary.<br />

This papacy’s easy relationship with<br />

science helps explain the Holy See’s<br />

reaction to the coronavirus crisis<br />


24 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>

under Pope Francis’ guidance.<br />

The Vatican’s own COVID-19<br />

taskforce, for example, has five different<br />

working groups, one of which is<br />

dedicated to the research, study, and<br />

analysis of the coronavirus pandemic<br />

from an ecological, economic, political,<br />

labor, health care, and security<br />

perspective.<br />

Throughout Italy’s spring outbreak<br />

and its three-month coronavirus lockdown,<br />

Pope Francis urged Catholics<br />

in the country, despite their frustrations,<br />

to follow the government’s<br />

restrictive orders, which were based<br />

on advice from a scientific-technical<br />

committee leading the government’s<br />

anti-COVID response. <strong>No</strong>w, the<br />

Vatican is keeping that cooperative<br />

posture with the scientific community<br />

in its public guidance on the COV-<br />

ID-19 vaccines for Catholics.<br />

Last month, amid heated debate<br />

among some Catholics — bishops<br />

included — over the morality of<br />

using vaccines linked even remotely<br />

to abortion, the Congregation for<br />

the Doctrine of the Faith essentially<br />

greenlighted the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech<br />

and Moderna vaccines.<br />

The two vaccines, which were both<br />

developed using cell lines derived<br />

from aborted fetuses in the 1960s,<br />

were the first to be approved for use<br />

in several countries last month and<br />

claim efficacy rates of more than<br />

90%.<br />

In a Dec. 21 explanatory note,<br />

the department said that in cases<br />

in which “ethically irreproachable<br />

COVID-19 vaccines” are not available,<br />

“it is morally acceptable to<br />

receive COVID-19 vaccines that have<br />

used cell lines from aborted fetuses<br />

in their research and production<br />

process.”<br />

The reason for this, they said, is that<br />

the abortion from which medical<br />

personnel harvested the cell lines for<br />

the vaccines is “remote” enough that,<br />

in this case, it is not an issue.<br />

While stressing the “moral duty” to<br />

avoid using products made with cells<br />

from aborted fetuses, the department<br />

also stressed that this duty “is not<br />

obligatory if there is a grave danger,<br />

such as the otherwise uncontainable<br />

spread of a serious pathological<br />

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

agent,” in this case, COVID-19.<br />

“It must therefore be considered<br />

that, in such a case, all vaccinations<br />

recognized as clinically safe and effective<br />

can be used in good conscience<br />

with the certain knowledge that the<br />

use of such vaccines does not constitute<br />

formal cooperation with the<br />

abortion from which the cells used<br />

in production of the vaccines derive,”<br />

they said.<br />

<strong>No</strong>w, after announcing its acceptance<br />

of the vaccines for Catholics<br />

all over the world, the Vatican will<br />

actually get to distribute it.<br />

On Jan. 2, the Vatican’s office for<br />

health and hygiene announced it had<br />

acquired the Pfizer vaccine and will<br />

begin distributing it to Vatican City<br />

residents, employees, and their family<br />

members in the second half of the<br />

month.<br />

Doses will be stored in an ultra-low<br />

temperature refrigerator and injections<br />

will be delivered in the Paul VI<br />

Audience Hall, beginning with health<br />

personnel and those with greatest<br />

contact with the public, as well as the<br />

elderly.<br />

Pope Francis himself said he will<br />

receive the vaccine sometime in<br />

mid-<strong>January</strong>. Since early in the<br />

pandemic, he has perhaps been<br />

the world’s most vocal advocate for<br />

equitable distribution of the vaccines<br />

among the world’s poor.<br />

Most recently, during his traditional<br />

“urbi et orbi” address on Christmas<br />

day, Pope Francis called the vaccines<br />

a “light of hope” at the end of an<br />

otherwise dark year for many.<br />

Christmas, he said in the address, is<br />

a time to celebrate “the light of Christ<br />

who comes into the world, and he<br />

comes for all, not just for a few.”<br />

He then issued an appeal to all<br />

heads of states, businesses, and<br />

international organizations to seek “a<br />

solution for everyone” in the coronavirus<br />

pandemic, meaning “vaccines<br />

for everyone, especially the poorest<br />

and most vulnerable in every region<br />

of the planet. In the first place, the<br />

most needy and vulnerable.”<br />

Over the next few months, all eyes<br />

will be on how the Vatican handles<br />

distribution of the vaccine for its own<br />

employees and citizens. But whatever<br />

decisions await Vatican officials, we<br />

can expect they’ll be checking with<br />

the experts first. <br />

Elise Ann Allen is a Denver native<br />

who currently works as a senior correspondent<br />

for Crux in Rome, covering<br />

the Vatican and the global Church.<br />


<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 25

“Madonna of Mercy,” by Sano di Pietro, <strong>15</strong>th century.<br />

Why we need the<br />

feminine genius<br />

In the toughest of times, the Catholic Church has<br />

relied on gifts that only women can offer<br />



The COVID-19 pandemic, it<br />

seems, has spared no one.<br />

Sure, some have been blessed<br />

to remain largely untouched physically<br />

or financially by the pandemic.<br />

But the anxiety of these uncertain last<br />

few months, and the consequences of<br />

isolation and loneliness, seem to have<br />

found us all in some way.<br />

As a result, the larger questions about<br />

destiny and meaning — ones that were<br />

dismissed more easily before — today<br />

ask to be revisited in a totally new context.<br />

After the bruising year that was<br />

2020, those questions invite Catholics<br />

to reflect deeply about our place in the<br />

post-COVID world.<br />

St. Augustine of Hippo lived in a time<br />

of chaos and civilizational collapse,<br />

marked by plague and political strife.<br />

His advice for times like these? Stay<br />

rooted in reality.<br />

“Bad times, hard times, this is what<br />

people keep saying; but let us live well,<br />

and times shall be good,” he wrote in<br />

the year 410. “We are the times: Such<br />

as we are, such are the times.”<br />

Such as we are, such are the times.<br />

The great 20th-century philosopher<br />

Simone Weil described being rooted<br />

as the least recognized and yet most<br />

important need of the human soul.<br />

But what can help us fulfill this need?<br />

Ironically, it was one of Weil’s admirers,<br />

St. Pope John Paul II, who argued<br />

that modern man’s loss of its own<br />

sense of humanity called for a “manifestation<br />

of that ‘genius’ which belongs<br />

to women.”<br />

“It is commonly thought,” the<br />

Polish pontiff wrote in his 1988<br />

letter “Mulieris Dignitatem” (On the<br />

Dignity and Vocation of Women), that<br />

“women are more capable than men<br />

of paying attention to another person,<br />

and that motherhood develops this<br />

predisposition even more.”<br />

Throughout history, it is the genius<br />

of women that God has designed to<br />

continually root mankind in reality.<br />

And this is reality: Because of Jesus<br />

Christ we are not victims of our<br />

circumstances. We are being found,<br />

cherished, healed, and saved.<br />

This is what women represent and do<br />

— find, cherish, heal, and save. Why?<br />

26 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>

Because, as German writer Gertrude<br />

von le Fort observed, “Wherever a<br />

woman is most profoundly herself,<br />

there she is also bride and mother.”<br />

One of the greatest spiritual mothers<br />

is St. Mary Magdalene, celebrated<br />

liturgically as “the Apostle to the Apostles.”<br />

While the apostles were behind<br />

closed doors because of fear after Jesus’<br />

execution, Mary “stood weeping outside<br />

the tomb” of Jesus (John 20:11).<br />

We perceive in her not so much fear<br />

or anxiety, but a solitude born from<br />

her affection for Jesus and the knowledge<br />

that only he could adequately<br />

respond to her insecurity.<br />

When her love and tears are rewarded,<br />

she becomes the first “testis<br />

divinae misericordiae” (“witness of<br />

divine mercy”), and then immediately<br />

evangelizes the apostles: “I have seen<br />

the Lord!”<br />

This particular receptivity of women<br />

is why women have always been and<br />

will continue to be the engines of the<br />

Church in their capacity to generate<br />

something new by creating a space for<br />

the other.<br />

It is always the temptation of the<br />

Christian to become self-absorbed, to<br />

focus on one’s weakness, to become<br />

angry at one’s limitations, and therefore<br />

behave negatively or reactively.<br />

Especially in times of crisis it is very<br />

easy to fall into obsessions with external<br />

solutions or placing one’s hope or<br />

certainty into politics or ideology. And<br />

since politics are ultimately worldly solutions<br />

to spiritual problems — wherever<br />

you happen to land in the public<br />

landscape — the Christian will always<br />

be dissatisfied.<br />

At the end of the day, when all our<br />

ideologies and formulations fail, we<br />

are reminded that the other demands<br />

to be engaged on an emotional and<br />

spiritual plane.<br />

And this is precisely the place where<br />

women are experts.<br />

Women ground us and keep us in<br />

the right state of mind because they<br />

remind us of God when we have<br />

forgotten him in one another.<br />

Consider the witness of Christian women<br />

in the early Church. Jesus treated<br />

women with the dignity their nature<br />

deserved and women ran with it and<br />

transformed the Church, the world,<br />

and the very empire that was crumbling<br />

before their eyes. They embraced<br />

their dignity and then generated a<br />

dignified civilization because of it.<br />

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


This historical reality is why Archbishop<br />

Fulton J. Sheen noted that “to a<br />

great extent the level of any civilization<br />

is the level of its womanhood.”<br />

The first Christians lived in a time<br />

of systematic persecution, plagues,<br />

famines, economic hardship, a culture<br />

of death with soaring rates of abortion<br />

and infanticide (of largely baby girls),<br />

and zero legal rights for women.<br />

And yet, the Christian faith did not<br />

just survive — it flourished.<br />

In the ancient world, a woman’s<br />

testimony meant nothing, culturally or<br />

politically. So paradoxically, it was the<br />

witness and testimony of women that<br />

brought forth the newness of Christianity.<br />

The majority of converts and<br />

therefore evangelizers were initially<br />

women.<br />

The witness of happy marriages and<br />

families attracted pagans to this strange<br />

new monotheistic faith, as did their<br />

often fearless charity in the face of<br />

deadly plagues. Infected pagans were<br />

often abandoned by their own families<br />

and ended up being cared for by<br />

Christians.<br />

It seems in our own day, it will once<br />

again be the transcendental of the<br />

Good and not primarily the True or<br />

the Beautiful that will be most needed<br />

and persuasive for an unbelieving<br />

world.<br />

The feminine genius is subtle in<br />

expression but phenomenal in consequence.<br />

It is impossible to recount all<br />

its manifestations throughout history,<br />

but for those who have eyes to see and<br />

ears to hear, the presence and prophetic<br />

power of women will always serve<br />

as a reminder that spiritual power is<br />

the only power and that faith is the<br />

victory that overcomes the world (1<br />

John 5:4).<br />

For this reason, we can rejoice at<br />

what God has done for us and what<br />

he is doing here and now, even in this.<br />

This particularly feminine perception<br />

and communication is a “vocation<br />

to the other” in a world in desperate<br />

need of motherhood. <br />

Simone Rizkallah is the director of<br />

Program Growth for Endow. She blogs<br />

at www.culturalgypsy.com.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 27



Health care workers at<br />

United Memorial Medical<br />

Center in Houston treat<br />

patients infected with<br />

COVID-19 on New Year’s<br />

Eve Dec. 31, 2020.<br />


New year, new normal<br />

The year 2020 ended for me with an emergency root<br />

canal. It seemed a fitting way to close out a year that<br />

had so little to recommend it. It was a ghastly year,<br />

filled with disease and death, upheaval and rumors, ersatz<br />

controversies and real ones. Why shouldn’t it end with an<br />

angry molar whose nerves were calling it quits?<br />

And yet. When we zoom in from the macro dysfunction<br />

to the micro events of our daily lives, there were blessings to<br />

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

appreciate the silver linings of 2020 in the hope that it will<br />

improve my attitude going into <strong>2021</strong>.<br />

Take that root canal, for instance. Thank goodness there<br />

were dentists willing to work during a pandemic and willing<br />

to tackle my “hot tooth,” sticking their hands into my germ<br />

factory of a mouth even when they didn’t know me from<br />

28 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong><br />

Adam and didn’t know how well I was abiding by pandemic<br />

protocols.<br />

A blessing that I hope lingers is my rediscovery of what<br />

“essential” means. In 2020, I was reminded that essential did<br />

not mean powerful, rich, or celebrated. Essential was the<br />

cashier at my grocery store who showed up for work when<br />

there were no Plexiglas protectors and no toilet paper, when<br />

nerves were raw and the risk seemed oppressively real.<br />

Essential was not just the doctors with the big salaries.<br />

Essential meant the nurses in the ICUs and the ERs who did<br />

most of the caregiving and the handholding and too often<br />

lost their lives in service to others. Listening to the tearful testimonies<br />

of nurses who had seen so many people die alone,<br />

I felt for their pain and for the goodness that drove them to<br />

return to work each day and face that pain all over again.<br />

Send __<br />

Name __<br />

Address _<br />

City ____

And it wasn’t just the nurses who acted selflessly. Another<br />

blessing easy to miss was that most of us cared about one another.<br />

Despite the blizzard of media reports about pandemic<br />

crazies who refused to believe it was real or who refused to<br />

wear masks, most of us, most of the time, were trying to do<br />

the right thing.<br />

We tried to take seriously the safeguards that were intended<br />

not only to save us but to save others. The pandemic exposed<br />

the selfishness of some, but it also affirmed that many more<br />

of us are guided by an altruism that characterizes humanity<br />

at its best.<br />

I consider it a blessing that in the first months of the<br />

pandemic I recovered the sounds of silence. Traffic was<br />

minimal. Air pollution levels dropped. We walked in our<br />

neighborhoods instead of driving to work. I started noticing<br />

bird songs. When I took breaks from working at the dining<br />

room table (my new office), I fed the mourning doves and<br />

cardinals who were my only regular visitors.<br />

Judging from the profits of Jeff Bezos and Amazon, I’m not<br />

sure how many of us supported our struggling local shopkeepers,<br />

but a lot of us tried to help the hardy entrepreneurs<br />

who make up the backbone of our communities. Many of<br />

us also donated a lot more to caring services as well, grateful<br />

that we had jobs and income. In 2020, need was not something<br />

far away. It was all around us.<br />

This notion of community as something real and tangible<br />

may be a blessing we all share in <strong>2021</strong>. In 2020, I found<br />

myself walking more and greeting people more readily. If<br />

our public culture as embodied by social media was degenerating<br />

to the howl of the mob, my neighborhood culture<br />

became, well, more neighborly.<br />

Our Church had a rough go of it in 2020, with closures<br />

and lawsuits and the McCarrick report, but we had blessings,<br />

too. Pope Francis’ remarkable “urbi et orbi” in Rome at<br />

the height of the first wave of the pandemic was perhaps the<br />

most visually striking moment of his papacy.<br />

The livestreamed rosaries and Masses united us not just<br />

with our parish but with Catholics from around the world. I<br />

found the international audience attracted to the livestreamed<br />

Masses of Bishop Robert Barron to be as inspiring<br />

as his homilies.<br />

Even our pang of hunger for the Eucharist was a blessing,<br />

I believe. Surveys may suggest that many Catholics see the<br />

Eucharist as a symbol, but the hunger we felt was for more<br />

than a mere symbol. The challenge we face in <strong>2021</strong> will be<br />

to return to church and accustom ourselves once again to<br />

Mass as a community.<br />

This was a most extraordinary year: painful and yet not<br />

without rewards. I don’t think I will recover my “old normal”<br />

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

some of the blessings unexpectedly found in 2020. <br />

Greg Erlandson is the president and editor-in-chief of Catholic<br />

<strong>News</strong> Service.<br />


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Living just<br />

to live?<br />

Pixar’s ‘Soul’ asks all the right<br />

questions, but prefers to leave<br />

the biggest one unanswered<br />


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

©2020 DISNEY/PIXAR<br />

Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas,<br />

and Kierkegaard have all tried<br />

to answer the question: What<br />

is the meaning of life?<br />

<strong>No</strong>w, it’s Disney’s turn.<br />

The new Pixar movie “Soul” (now<br />

streaming on Disney+) follows Joe<br />

Gardner, a jazz musician who finally<br />

gets his dream gig of performing<br />

with a famous jazz quartet, and then<br />

immediately dies. Joe’s soul faces a<br />

large glowing light called “the Great<br />

Beyond,” refuses to accept his fate, and<br />

runs in the opposite direction.<br />

Joe ends up in “the Great Before,”<br />

the place where souls are manufactured,<br />

given their “spark” and sent to<br />

earth. The spirits who run the Great<br />

Before confuse him for a mentor soul<br />

and they pair him up with an unborn<br />

soul, the 22nd soul ever created, who<br />

has spent millennia in the Great Before<br />

with no desire to go to earth. After<br />

some spiritual hijinks, both souls end<br />

up on earth with 22 stuck in Joe’s body<br />

and Joe’s soul is in the body of a cat.<br />

“Soul” is standard for Pixar, with<br />

cute character design and a beautiful<br />

score. It is reminiscent of “Inside Out”<br />

in its personification of abstract ideas<br />

like human emotion and the afterlife.<br />

Just like NBC’s “The Good Place,”<br />

the afterlife is imagined as a divine<br />

bureaucracy, where people can slip by<br />

undetected and accidentally be resurrected.<br />

To no Catholic’s surprise, the<br />

movie’s theology leaves something to<br />

be desired. But its philosophy is what<br />

caught my attention.<br />

The characters repeatedly reference<br />

something called a “spark.” In the<br />

Great Before, a soul needs to find its<br />

spark in order to go to earth. Joe thinks<br />

the spark is a soul’s purpose and falsely<br />

deduces that music is his purpose for<br />

living. At the end of the movie, Joe<br />

asks one of the spirits about this and<br />

they say, “Oh, the spark isn’t your life’s<br />

purpose.”<br />

The spark, we learn, is connected to a<br />

soul’s desire to live. 22 eventually finds<br />

her spark after living in Joe’s body. She<br />

realizes life is worth living after she<br />

tries pizza, rides the subway, and sees<br />

leaves falling from a tree. She enjoys<br />

walking so much, she suggests walking<br />

could be her life’s purpose.<br />

In a key line, Joe responds to 22:<br />

“That’s not a purpose. That’s just<br />

living.”<br />

Joe realizes the spark isn’t purpose at<br />

all. The spark is what makes a soul enjoy<br />

life. So maybe your spark is music,<br />

math or walking. Whatever makes you<br />

enjoy living life is your spark.<br />

Ultimately, the film seeks to answer<br />

“What is the meaning of life?” but<br />

comes up with a circular answer: The<br />

meaning of life is just to live it. That<br />

might sound like a simple, wise idea,<br />

but it begs another question: What<br />

does it even mean to live in the first<br />

place?<br />

Here, finding an answer is even more<br />

elusive.<br />

There is a right way and a wrong way<br />

to live, and the movie acknowledges<br />

that. The hippies help a hedge-fund<br />

manager realize he’s wasting his life,<br />

but what makes managing a hedge<br />

fund different from playing music?<br />

Why can’t he live his life that way?<br />

“Soul” doesn’t distinguish between<br />

the right way and the wrong way to<br />

live enough to actually help a viewer<br />

discern what a “spark” really is.<br />

The movie claims its characters are<br />

in search of life’s “big questions,”<br />

but maybe the characters are satisfied<br />

with those questions remaining<br />

unanswered. For some reason, Joe is<br />

fine with knowing what happens after<br />

death and not telling anyone. The<br />

spirits beyond the grave are capable of<br />

communicating the meaning of life<br />

but choose not to. It is left up to individuals<br />

to find out what the meaning<br />

of life is for them.<br />

This answer is pure relativism. Ironically,<br />

“Soul’s” meaning of life is satisfactory<br />

only if you assume an objective<br />

Joe and 22 in “the Great Before.”<br />

30 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>

©2020 DISNEY/PIXAR<br />

moral code. In other words, the movie<br />

gives viewers license to create their<br />

own meaning for life, assuming that<br />

meaning won’t violate the generally<br />

accepted moral laws. While it does<br />

encourage viewers not to chase after<br />

useless things (money, fame, etc.), it<br />

doesn’t give them a real reason not to<br />

do so.<br />

The decision made at the end of the<br />

film by a key character reveals a core<br />

belief of the movie: Life on earth is<br />

better than death. Certainly, if there<br />

is no heaven or hell, no personal,<br />

all-powerful God, and no objective<br />

morality, then this makes sense.<br />

But even if the purpose of life is simply<br />

living, then death is the ultimate<br />

inescapable defeat. And since defeat<br />

is inevitable, why is life worth living<br />

at all?<br />

“Soul” deserves credit — and serious<br />

attention — for confronting the<br />

question of existence and purpose<br />

head-on (since it is a movie made for<br />

children, parents should follow it up<br />

with a quick discussion afterward).<br />

And yet, Christianity gives a different,<br />

and radically more hopeful answer to<br />

the apparent hopelessness of death.<br />

Through the historical event of what<br />

was Jesus Christ’s resurrection from<br />

the dead, the Gospel assures victory<br />

over death through death.<br />

The key difference between “Soul”<br />

and say, St. Aquinas, is that the former<br />

Characters from Disney and Pixar’s “Soul.”<br />

embraces hopelessness as if it is hope<br />

itself. The danger here is that if the<br />

hopelessness isn’t felt, God is not<br />

sought.<br />

It is a philosophy that could only<br />

come from a culture that has embraced<br />

this hopelessness. A culture, in<br />

other words, that is in desperate need<br />

of the Gospel. <br />

Patrick Neve is a youth minister and<br />

speaker based in Pittsburgh. He hosts<br />

The Crunch Podcast and is studying for<br />

his master’s in theology at Franciscan<br />

University of Steubenville. You can<br />

find his writing on his website, https://<br />

patneve.blog/.<br />



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<strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong> • ANGELUS • 31<br />


THE CRUX<br />


Loch Lomond in southern Scotland.<br />


Longing for a lost Eden<br />

Robert Macfarlane (born 1976) is<br />

an award-winning British writer<br />

on landscape, place, people,<br />

language, memory, and meaning. He’s<br />

also a fellow of Emmanuel College,<br />

Cambridge.<br />

“Mountains of the Mind” (Granta<br />

Books, $16) explores the history of<br />

mountaineering and our sometimes<br />

fatal fascination with the metaphysical<br />

dimension of precipitous, perilous<br />

terrain on which we long to be the first<br />

to place our feet or flag.<br />

“The Wild Places” (Penguin Books,<br />

$<strong>15</strong>) charts a series of journeys made<br />

in search of the ever-shrinking wildness<br />

remaining in Britain and Ireland.<br />

“The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot”<br />

(Penguin Books, $<strong>15</strong>) is a kind of elegy<br />

to one of Macfarlane’s heroes, the poet<br />

Edward Thomas (1878-1917), who<br />

was a lover of nature, a depressive, and<br />

a passionate lifelong walker, especially<br />

in and around the South Downs. “The<br />

Old Ways” include holloways, pilgrimage<br />

routes, cliff paths, animal passages,<br />

ancient byways, rights-of-way, and foraging<br />

grounds in England, Scotland,<br />

Palestine, Sichuan, and Palestine.<br />

Together, the three form a loose<br />

trilogy about the “landscape and the<br />

human heart,” a subject upon which<br />

Macfarlane speaks eloquently in a<br />

2012 IQ2 talk of that name available<br />

on YouTube.<br />

His books have been adapted for television<br />

and film and won many prestigious<br />

awards. There are several more.<br />

“Underland: A Deep Time Journey”<br />

(W. W. <strong>No</strong>rton & Company, $<strong>15</strong>), his<br />

most recent, digs deep into catacombs,<br />

caves, nuclear waste facilities, and<br />

other underground physical and imaginative<br />

realms, and was named a New<br />

York Time’s “100 Most <strong>No</strong>table Books<br />

of the Year.”<br />

He’s the type of writer who leads you<br />

to 10 other artists, walkers, or poets:<br />

Nan Shepherd’s “The Living Mountain:<br />

A Celebration of the Cairngorm<br />

Mountains of Scotland” (Canongate<br />

Canons, $13), “The Peregrine,” by J.A.<br />

Baker (1967; reissued by New York<br />

Review Books Classics in 2004 with an<br />

introduction by Macfarlane), a kind of<br />

cult classic among the nature literati.<br />

His capacity to conjure landscape<br />

is alone astounding. Add to that an<br />

astonishingly wide-ranging grasp of<br />

geography, geology, natural history,<br />

32 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>15</strong>, <strong>2021</strong>

cartography, and literature. Throw in<br />

the fact that he’s no mere scholar or<br />

armchair philosopher.<br />

Every book is grounded in his<br />

willingness to take on the physical<br />

hardship of mountain climbing, hiking,<br />

camping, sailing, and tramping.<br />

But what makes Macfarlane sublime<br />

is the aching longing for a lost Eden<br />

that sounds like a bass note beneath all<br />

his work.<br />

An excerpt from “The Wild Places:”<br />

“In 1977, a nineteen-year-old Glaswegian<br />

named Robert Brown was arrested<br />

for a murder he did not commit, and<br />

over the course of the following days<br />

had a confession beaten out of him by<br />

a police officer subsequently indicted<br />

for corruption. Brown served twenty-five<br />

years, and saw two appeals fail,<br />

before his conviction was finally overturned<br />

in 2002. When he was released,<br />

one of the first things he did was to go<br />

to the shore of Loch Lomond and sit<br />

on a boulder on the loch’s southern<br />

shore in sunlight, to feel, as he put it,<br />

‘the wind on my face, and to see the<br />

waves and the mountains.’ Brown had<br />

been out on the loch shore the day<br />

before he was arrested. The recollection<br />

of the space, that place, which he<br />

had not seen for a quarter of a century,<br />

had nourished him during his imprisonment.<br />

He had kept a memory of<br />

it, he recalled, afterwards, ‘in a secret<br />

compartment’ in his head.”<br />

Robert Frost once said, “A poem<br />

begins with a lump in the throat; a<br />

homesickness or a love sickness.” And<br />

perhaps above all, even when writing<br />

prose, Macfarlane is a poet. “The Lost<br />

Words: A Spell Book” (Anansi International,<br />

$23), however, is a collection<br />

of actual poems, in oversized book<br />

format and gorgeously illustrated by<br />

British writer and artist Jackie Morris.<br />

The idea sprang from Macfarlane’s<br />

discovery that words describing and<br />

expressive of nature were disappearing<br />

from the Oxford Junior Dictionary:<br />

bramble, conker, raven, willow,<br />

wren, Kingfisher, otter, magpie, fern,<br />

heather.<br />

The entry for “Heron” begins like<br />

this:<br />

“Here hunts heron. Here haunts<br />

heron. / Huge-hinged heron. Greywinged<br />

weapon. / Eked from iron and<br />

wreaked from blue and / Beaked with<br />

Robert Macfarlane<br />

steel: heron, statue, seeks eel.”<br />

Morris’ self-described “gold leaf, iconlike<br />

images” are faithfully realistic and<br />

also hauntingly evoke the supernatural<br />

dimension of reptiles, mammals, and<br />

birds.<br />

Children and adults alike went wild.<br />

“The Lost Words” was the bestselling<br />

poetry book of 2018, sold 500,000<br />

copies worldwide and has been adapted<br />

to, among other genres, classical<br />


music, indie folk, puppet shows, board<br />

games, podcasts, and theater. “Magical,”<br />

“bewitching,” and “the wonder<br />

of nature” are ways people from across<br />

the globe have described verse and<br />

artwork.<br />

Through crowdfunding campaigns,<br />

copies were purchased and donated to<br />

every hospice and to more than 75% of<br />

the primary schools across the British<br />

Isles. “The Lost Spells” (Anansi International,<br />

$30), a follow-up collection,<br />

began when Macfarlane scribbled<br />

some lines about goldfinches while<br />

keeping vigil over his dying grandmother.<br />

He and Morris hope to inspire hope,<br />

action, and change. And Macfarlane<br />

adds, “that [the work] might touch<br />

readers’ hearts a little in this hard<br />

autumn.”<br />

Perhaps the surest sign that Macfarlane’s<br />

heart is in the right place is<br />

this: he has three young children who,<br />

he notes in “The Lost Words,” have<br />

taught him more about the world than<br />

any book. <br />

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

heather-king.com.<br />




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