Father Stephen Reid exhibit offers prayer through art

By Nicolette Paglioni

(Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

(Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington is showcasing Benedictine Father Stephen Reid’s artwork in an exhibit that opened Feb. 15 and will close soon.

The small, quiet gallery located in the shrine’s Memorial Hall includes 14 wood carvings and two large oil paintings; while most pieces have no date listed, it is believed that Father Reid created most of his art between the 1950s and 1980s.

Born in 1912 to Methodist parents in the Shenandoah Mountains, Father Reid led an obscure early life. He attended the University of Virginia, possibly in the early 1930s, where he may have studied literature and French.

Memorial Hall at national shrine in Washington. (Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

The national’s shrine’s Memorial Hall. (Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

After moving to Washington for reasons unknown, he received instruction from a priest at Nativity Catholic Church. He then became a Catholic and shortly after joined St. Anselm’s Abbey. There, he took the name Stephen in 1941 and was ordained a priest in 1945. No one knows for sure what led to his conversion and entrance into St. Anselm’s, but Abbot James Wiseman, his contemporary, believes that the centrality of the liturgy, the Benedictine emphasis on service, and the close-knit community of Catholic men “striving to serve God,” might have attracted Father Reid to monastic life.

During his time at St. Anselm’s Abbey, Father Reid had many roles. He taught French, English and religion. He helped students use the typesetter to print their publications. He even founded the Priory Players theater troupe, and directed, costumed, and built the sets for their annual productions.

(Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

(Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

He became well known at St. Anselm’s for his artwork, which now adorns the halls of both the abbey and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Glen Burnie, Maryland, where he served as a parish priest for over a decade.

The sculptures and paintings on display at the national shrine have drawn attention for their abstract form and simple — but not simplistic — design. Contrary to the familiar, detailed elegance of most Catholic sculpture, Father Reid seeks to accentuate, not his own talent, but the subjects of his sculptures using attenuated figures and flowing woods. Similarly, Father Reid wanted to avoid rendering the saints of his paintings as objects rather than subjects.

Father Reid hoped to “disrupt habitual responses” to religious art with his unique style, according to Bruce Nixon, author of “A Communion of Saints: The Art of Fr. Stephen Reid, OSB.”

Today, his art serves to “disrupt” our busy lives by taking us by the nose to the heart of prayer with subtle grace.


Father Reid’s Madonna and Child. (Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

According to the curator at the national shrine, Geraldine Rohling, one statue in particular has attracted many visitors — often more than once — to the gallery. Father Reid’s “Madonna and Child of the Woods” was discarded by the artist, and found 20 years later in the woods outside of the abbey. Now, with its prominent place at the front of the gallery, the piece has attracted a “phenomenal” amount of prayerful viewers.

Alongside his statues, Father Reid’s carved crucifixes have sparked significant interest for their apparent weightlessness; rather than sagging beneath the weight of the cross, Father Reid’s figures of Christ instead seem to hold up the cross by themselves, as Nixon notes. Their faces are largely disinterested in the agony of crucifixion, and their wounds, so often graphically rendered in most religious art, appear almost invisible.

Continuing his theme of humble simplicity, Father Reid’s paintings utilize large, rounded features and vibrant colors to tell the stories of the saints, of Jesus and of the church without distracting the viewer with obvious displays of the artist’s talent.

Indeed, the gallery as a whole seems to evoke a sense of prayer and thought that has nothing to do with Father Reid’s ability at all.

“St. Benedict is a name that means service,” said Abbot Wiseman. “Father Reid served people … by inspiring them and giving them a sense of heaven through his art.”

Father Reid’s art exhibit is on display in Memorial Hall North, on the crypt level of the national shrine, until June 19, and catalogs of his work are available in the bookstore.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 12, 2016

"I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me." -- Galatians 2:20

“I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” — Galatians 2:20


June 12, Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) 2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13

      Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11

      2) Galatians 2:16, 19-21

      Gospel: Luke 7:36-8:3 or Luke 7:36-50


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

This Wednesday, Bettina will spend two hours volunteering at her community’s free clinic, which offers a range of medical services for the working poor. She’s not a medical volunteer but goes to the clinic every Wednesday to greet and take information from clients and potential clients to determine or confirm their eligibility for services.

She’s aware that her tasks are minimal and that her annual monetary donation to the clinic is far more valuable than her service, but she has continued her weekly stint for years simply because she loves the free clinic for how it makes a significant difference in individuals’ lives — including hers.

She loves seeing the staff and volunteer nurses, doctors, dentists and pharmacists treat the patients with respect and genuine concern. She loves observing the easy, familiar relationship that various clinic personnel have with patients who have depended on them for years. Bettina’s love of the clinic is personal.

Many years ago, she was a patient there. Struggling financially and psychologically while trying to put herself through college, she depended on the free clinic for her regular medication for depression. The clinic literally was her salvation for two years.

Our Scriptures for this weekend speak about God’s saving mercy. The Gospel tells how a person’s gratitude for being saved by Jesus’ mercy produces a deep and lasting love. A woman anointing Jesus’ feet after bathing them with her tears was lifted out of a life bound by sin. Now her love for him was sealed.

Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees that a personal experience of love and mercy begets a greater response of love and mercy than a lesser relationship. Bettina’s love and commitment to the free clinic grew out of her experience of mercy. Once lost in the darkness of depression, she was lifted free to have a productive future. Her gratitude to God and the people at the free clinic who do God’s work of compassion and healing is boundless and is shown in her actions.

While many people appreciate the valuable contributions the clinic and its volunteers make in the community, Bettina and others who’ve experienced its saving graces firsthand respond with true abiding love.


When have you directly experienced Jesus’ mercy? How has that experience affected your relationship with him?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 5, 2016

"The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother." -- Luke 7:15

“The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” — Luke 7:15


June 5, Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) 1 Kings 17:17-24

      Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13

      2) Galatians 1:11-14a, 15ac, 16a, 17, 19

      Gospel: Luke 7:11-17


By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service

Across the decades since I came into the church in 1974, I have seen many instances where God was at work in the world. I’ve seen healings and many more instances of God bringing about good results in situations for which there was no reasonable hope.

But there are abuses of the belief in miracles. The worst I ever heard about came through a friend who was teaching in East Texas. While there, she heard of the death of an infant for whom a Pentecostal church had prayed fervently. At the funeral, it was reported, the pastor lifted the lifeless infant in the air and declared, “This is lack of faith!”

That horrible moment must have caused some in the community to question their authentic faith in and love of God. The preacher’s arrogance and self-righteousness confused “faith” with human will as he suggested the people’s prayers weren’t good enough to save the infant.

Today’s readings hold the antidote to such flawed thinking by pointing out that God, not human strength, has miraculous power.

In the passage from Kings, the prophet Elijah cries out to God to restore life to the only son of the widow who was providing him shelter. Elijah, in service to God, pleaded the widow’s case and her son was saved — not by Elijah’s action, but by God’s.

When Elijah restored the child to his mother, she responded. “Now indeed I know that you are a man of God. The word of the Lord comes truly from your mouth.”

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is “moved with pity” when he witnesses a mother, also a widow, who has lost her son. He steps forward, touches the coffin and says, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” He is restored to life and to his mother.

The crowd, witnessing these events cries out, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.”

God was glorified in action in the first case by the faith-filled holy man, Elijah, and in the second by the acts of Jesus, the God-man. The people were not looking to the strength of their prayers but to their faith that a loving God would act. God acted and love of him increased.


Have you ever witnessed what you believe was a miracle?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, May 29, 2016

"Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people." -- Luke 9:13

“Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” — Luke 9:13


May 29, Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Genesis 14:18-20

      Psalm 110:1-4

      2) 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

      Gospel: Luke 9:11b-17


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

One day, just after starting my first job on a parish staff, I went searching for paper stock and wandered into the wrong supply closet, where I stumbled onto the church’s stash of sacramental wine.

I know it’s not really a “stash,” but to me, a recent convert at the time, it seemed like it. I stood staring at several stacks of common corrugated cardboard boxes that contained large bottles of wine — ordered from a wholesale distributor. But I knew the bottles’ secret.

My initial reaction was that I’d exposed them, opened the door on them before they became the blood of Christ. It was like unwittingly finding Superman’s Clark Kent clothes.

This week’s readings recall the covenant of Christ’s body and blood, transformed from ordinary bread and wine and given for our nourishment and salvation. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul recollects Jesus establishing that covenant at the Last Supper.

But the Gospel story of the multiplication of loaves and fish emphasizes the infinite supply of the Lord’s offering. We witness on the mountainside Jesus beginning with a small amount of bread and feeding thousands of his hungry followers. When all were satisfied, there was plenty available for whoever would come later.

The message is that an endless supply line will continue everywhere and forever, as long as people come seeking Jesus.

Since the Last Supper, Christians have provided bread and wine from sources in their own communities throughout the world and throughout the centuries — from vineyards and wheat fields to casks, jars and ovens to bottles and boxes to storehouses and closets.

From there, they are brought to altars, where they are consecrated as Jesus’ body and blood to nourish and save the faithful again and again.

I found one tiny store of ordinary wine in an appropriately unremarkable closet in a church office building. But as I received it in Communion the next Sunday, it was not the same, and neither was I.


What goes through your mind during Mass at the moment of the consecration? How do you relate the changed substance of bread and wine with a change in you?

Insights into Vatican II from St. John XXIII’s secretary

Cardinal Loris Capovilla, St. John XXIII’s secretary and the oldest member of College of Cardinals, has died at the age of 100.

Four years ago we interviewed then-Archbishop Capovilla, who shared his insights on the Second Vatican Council and his memories of the future saint.



We also spoke to Archbishop Capovilla about St. John XXIII’s hometown of Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo, where the saint’s secretary died May 26.


Investors pushing ExxonMobil to respond to climate change

Faith-based investors will ask ExxonMobil to change some of its corporate practices to better address climate change during the company’s annual general meeting in Dallas today.

(CNS/Gustavo Amador, EPA)

(CNS/Gustavo Amador, EPA)

Working through the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and advocacy groups, the shareholders have introduced a series of resolutions meant to change how the world’s largest publicly traded energy company responds to global warming.

Dominican Sister Patricia Daly, executive director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, said the resolution that her group of 34 institutional investors has introduced seeks a “moral response” from the company through a policy acknowledging the need to limit global average temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Speaking during a teleconference with reporters May 23, Sister Patricia said the resolution, like others pertaining to climate change, “have always been grounded in justice and good business.”

Six resolutions related to global warming are on the agenda for the meeting in Dallas. In a letter to shareholders, a company official has called for their rejection, saying the firm has long addressed global warming concerns.

The company had tried to remove the resolutions from the annual meeting agenda; however, the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled in March that shareholders must be allowed to vote.

While efforts such as the one from the investment coalition have been soundly defeated in the past, this year’s proposals come as ExxonMobil is under scrutiny for its long-standing policy of failing to publicly acknowledge how climate change was impacting its operations.

Seventeen state attorneys general are investigating ExxonMobil and other energy producers for fraud in concealing the impact of climate change on the world.

Another resolution proposed by Capuchin Father Michael H. Crosby, executive director of the Wisconsin/Iowa/Minnesota Coalition for Responsible Investment, asks that the ExxonMobil board of directors nominate at least one candidate with expertise in climate change and environmental matters.

Father Crosby explained during the teleconference that the resolution was introduced because the company “won’t give us access to board members.” He said that by having an environmental expert on the board, the company would be better able to managing the risk of climate change to its business model.

This year’s annual meeting will give Exxon Mobil “a chance to restore the public trust,” Father Crosby said.

Company spokesman Alan T. Jeffers told The New York Times in mid-May that ExxonMobil welcomed discussions with shareholders to help them understand that the firm sees the risks of climate change and that it is working on technology to lower carbon emissions.

UPDATE: None of the resolutions related to global warming and climate change were approved by ExxonMobil shareholders May 25.

The ICCR said in a press release afterward that the collective votes in favor of eight climate-related proposals “sent a clear message that shareholders are dissatisfied” with how the company is “managing climate risks, responding to the moral imperative and political reality of the 2-degree Celsius target, and aligning lobbyist activities and trade association memberships with its stated positions on climate change.”

The resolution submitted by Sister Daly on acknowledging the 2-degree Celsius target received support from 18.5 percent of shareholders.

Sister Patricia in the statement challenged a claim from CEO Rex Tillerman that ExxonMobil’s energy outlook is aligned with the climate change agreement reached in Paris in December, saying it was “misleading at best.”

“What the world needs and what shareholders demanded today is for ExxonMobil to acknowledge the  2-degree Celsius target and to begin to move their business sin that direction.”

A push also was made at Chevron’s shareholder meeting in San Ramon, California, Wednesday, where a similar shareholder  resolution received more than 41 percent support. Another proposal from the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia called on the company to report assessing the impact of hydraulic fracturing — fracking —  to produce natural gas on communities and water supplies. It received 31 percent support.

Sister Nora Nash, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis and a fracking expert, said in the ICCR statement the vote was encouraging and that efforts to press Chevron for greater disclosure will continue.

“Standing with Pope Francis we are shaping ‘the future of our planet.'” she said.


Bishop treads the boards in high school musical

Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, California, says his cameo role as a gambler, dapperly dressed in a striped suit and fedora, in the final theater production of the season for Santa Margarita Catholic High School brought back memories.

Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, Calif., makes cameo appearance in Catholic high school musical. (Photo/Orange County Catholic)

Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, Calif., center, makes cameo appearance in Catholic high school musical. (Photo/Orange County Catholic)

His brief stint in the school’s performance of  the hit Broadway musical “Guys and Dolls” last month reminded him, he said, of when he portrayed the story’s Nicely Nicely Johnson in a community theater version of the  musical when he was a pastor in the Midwest.

“Thanks to all of them, after a couple of more serious months of ministry and decisions, I found that I still could sing, laugh, and yes, even still dance a few steps, even at now nearly 65 years old! I had played the role of Nicely Nicely Johnson in an abridged version of that musical when I was a pastor back in Decatur, Illinois,” Bishop Vann told the diocesan newspaper, the Orange County Catholic. “So my time with the Santa Margarita production of that musical helped me to connect with that important time in my life and ministry!”

The story in the Orange County Catholic about his performance includes a video clip. The Orange County Register, the daily paper, covered it too.

“What was most impressive to me in that month of singing and practicing and performing,” Bishop Vann said, “was the hard work, dedication and the faith of our young people in the cast and crew! I truly enjoyed being with them, and ‘hanging with them,’ perhaps more than they know, and they made me, and all of us proud.”





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