Saintly patron of the arts

Artists, Augustine Institute, to pay tribute to John Paul II

Nissa LaPoint

The Augustine Institute will acclaim the life and canonization of John Paul II through an artistic celebration April 26.

The day before the late pontiff is canonized in Rome, the community will gather for “The Making of Man,” an artistic salute at the Tolle Lege Coffee Bar next to the institute at 6160 S. Syracuse Way in Greenwood Village.

Andrew Whaley, who works at the coffee bar, organized the tribute that begins noon April 26 and continues through the early morning April 27 during the live canonization of the pope in Rome.

The celebration will begin with a small group discussion on Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists.”

“All my friends who are artists love this letter so we’ll discuss it,” Whaley said.

Local artists including Devin Montagne, Elizabeth Zelasko, Justin Jensen and Mark and Nicole Thomason will display their art work of the pope. Montagne will also do a live performance of a painting of the late pope.

Later at 6:30 p.m., John Paul II’s thoughts and legacy will be discussed by a group of panelists, including St. John Vianney Seminary professor Joel Barstad, Augustine Institute associate professor Michel Therrien and Bishop Machebeuf High School theology teacher Marc Lenzini.

“We’re going to talk about the whole concept of the making of man,” said Whaley, who will moderate the discussion. “We’ll also talk about the similarities between art, and teaching, and art in the moral life and in the thoughts of John Paul II.”

Then at 8:30 p.m., Perry West and Elizabeth Wood will perform live music.

Attendees will also be able to watch a performance in the style of Rhapsodic Theatre, a style of theatre John Paul II had developed.

“We’re going to read some of Karol Wojtyła and have a staged reading from Our God’s Brother, which is one of his best plays,” Whaley said. “A few hours before this man is declared a saint, some people dedicated to the new evangelization of which he is architect of, will stand on a darkened stage as he once did and will proclaim the words he used to proclaim.”

At about midnight, the gathering will pray and wait until the live feed of the canonization starts from Rome, which they’ll watch on a large screen.

“We’ll keep vigil and pray until the live feed starts,” he said.

The event is free but donations will be accepted. Food and drink will be available.

An RSVP is requested by emailing rsvp@augustineinstutute.org or calling 303-937-4420.

COMING UP: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.