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 or calling 303-937-4420.

COMING UP: Strong temptations? Defeat them like the Desert Fathers

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The fact that we don’t do what we want but instead do what we hate is a problem as old as our first parents. Yet, we can interpret temptation either as that which is always keeping us away from God or as the very vehicle to grow closer to him.

The Desert Fathers believed it to be a necessary vehicle: “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” St. Anthony of the Desert used to say. They saw the fight against these evil enticements as a step to love God in a deeper way.

Here’s how these radical followers of Christ – who fled to the Egyptian desert during the 3rd to 5th centuries to live a form of daily martyrdom in a land where being a Christian was no longer a risk – survived the strongest enticements of the flesh and the devil, as they sought to live out the Gospel and grow in perfection.

The sayings, teachings, maxims and stories they left behind, compiled and known as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, show that a combination of three things: self-awareness, prayer and practicality, are key to battling the strongest disordered passions.

Alertness and action

“The early monks understood that temptations often come in the form of thoughts. We become attracted and have fantasies, whether that be in petty things, bodily appetites or social interactions,” explained Father Columba Stewart, O.S.B., expert on early monasticism, scholar and director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

The first disposition they considered to be key, was self-awareness, “knowing what happens in our minds and hearts… how to recognize [bad thoughts] before we actually do a sinful action,” he said.

After this base, which requires continuous self-examination and attention to the inner impulses of the heart, the importance of prayer and practicality follow.

A hermit of the desert said to a young monk suffering from strong temptations, “This is the way to be strong: when temptations start to speak in your mind do not answer them but get up, pray, do penance, and say, ‘Son of God, have mercy upon me.’”

Prayer is not isolated from action. The hermit tells him to “get up,” “do penance” and “pray.”

Practicality can take on different forms, such as going in the opposite direction of the temptation or seeking help from another, Father Stewart pointed out.

“For example, when you’re angry with someone… thoughts of anger start emerging, and you replay in your imagination what made you angry. Then that turns into a mental video of how you’re going to get revenge. This is when self-awareness comes in and you realize that the thoughts you’re having are inappropriate,” Father Stewart said.

A first practical action would be to step away instead of going to find that person, he continued. “Then to use your mind and imagination to instead remember the times when your relationship [with that person] was better or think about the future and how great it will be when this passes.”

Light overcomes darkness

Also, this “get up” practicality consists in bringing to light one’s sins or temptations to someone else and not fighting alone.

“A common exhortation, attributed to many different monks, was that the Enemy, the devil, rejoices in nothing so much as unmanifested thoughts… A sin which is hidden begins to multiply,” Father Stewart wrote in an article.

He then explained that “If the devil was delighted by a monk’s self-imposed isolation, surely this was because the opposite of isolation, encounter with another, was the way to salvation.”

According to Father Stewart, this understanding led the Fathers to break from “the illusion of self-sufficiency, a pose which encourages self-absorption,” and find spiritual fathers.

“The desert tradition is universally insistent upon the young monk’s need for a discerning elder,” he explained. “The basic insight of the desert… was that one cannot grow towards perfection through isolated, solitary effort: grace is mediated through one’s neighbor, especially one’s abba [spiritual father].”

The way these early hermits fought temptations is one of many treasures that Father Stewart says they left behind. In fact, he encourages readers to look at the Sayings of the Desert Fathers as a source that is still “amazingly relevant.”

“[The Sayings of the Desert Fathers] have been very popular sources of wisdom and inspiration throughout history,” he said. “What sets [them] apart… is that they speak from and to experience rather than text or theory.”

“The tradition of Christian wisdom is great,” he concluded. “People only need to know where to find it.”