Archbishop’s Column: The rebirth of hope

Archbishop Aquila

“Christ my hope is arisen!” This line from the sequence sang at Easter Sunday Mass captures the heart of what happens in our redemption – the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit breaks through the bonds of death and sin to restore not only our life but our hope.

The entire sequence is worth deeply reflecting on and praying with, but the section recalling Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus is particularly powerful:

Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!

Jesus, in his wisdom first appeared after his Resurrection to Mary Magdalene, the woman out of whom he had driven seven demons. When she first spoke to Jesus, she thought he was a gardener and lamented that his body was no longer in the tomb. But Jesus broke through her sorrow by saying her name, “Mary.” Mary reacted by embracing Jesus, until he told her, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn 20:11-18).

With his ascension to the Father, Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the Church, bringing all believers into the full embrace of the Trinity. Before his death and resurrection, this reconciliation was impossible – the offense of our sins against God’s infinite goodness could not be overcome without Jesus’ infinite sacrifice.

Jesus speaks each of our names and calls us to receive the hope of his resurrection. This hope is different than being optimistic that things will turn out well. When we speak about the hope of the resurrection, we go beyond mere human optimism to speak of a grace that supernaturally sustains us.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes hope as “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit (emphasis added).”

Just last week, Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged what over 100,000 people and numerous experts have: that the systematic killing and brutal persecution of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East is genocide. These brothers and sisters in the faith – many of them lay people – can rely on supernatural hope, since it is linked with the happiness of heaven.

I frequently speak about the Second Vatican Council’s charge to the laity to be “leaven in society.” Yeast, or leaven, is what transforms bread dough, quietly expanding it until it is airy and no longer flat. If the yeast is dead, though, the dough will remain dense and inedible.    

To be active, living leaven, all of us need the gift of supernatural hope. I urge you to seek reconciliation with God in this Year of Mercy and ask the Holy Spirit to stir into flame the gift of hope born from Jesus’ resurrection, which every Christian receives at Baptism.

There are many ways that you can serve as leaven in our society. One apostolate that is an important part of bringing hope and life to the archdiocese is the Prayer in the Square gathering that happens every First Saturday at locations in Ft. Collins, Greeley, Highlands Ranch, and Stapleton. Their intentions include the unborn, the dying, persecuted Christians throughout the world, immigrants and the poor. The Prayer in the Square gatherings bear public witness to the power of prayer and to the Lord who strengthens us.

I encourage you to participate each First Saturday in this witness to prayer at a location nearby you and I invite you to join me at the next event on Saturday April 2, the anniversary of the death of Pope St. John Paul II. We will begin with Mass at the Cathedral at 9:00 a.m., followed by a Rosary and Chaplet of Mercy at the State Capitol, to pray in reparation for all sins against the dignity of human life and asking the Lord to build a culture of life.

May the Holy Trinity fill you with the joy and hope of the Resurrection, so that you may be leaven in our world! May you have a blessed Easter Season!

COMING UP: Local artists choose life in pro-life art show

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For someone who’s always been in love with art, it’s not surprising that Brett Lempe first encountered God through beauty. Lempe, a 25-year-old Colorado native, used his talent for art and new-found love of God to create a specifically pro-life art show after a planned show was cancelled because of Lempe’s pro-life views.

Lempe was “dried out with earthly things,” he said. “I was desperately craving God.”

Three years ago, while living in St. Louis, Mo., Lempe google searched for a church to visit and ended up at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

“I was captivated by the beauty of the 40 million mosaic tiles,” he said.

Lempe is not exaggerating. This Cathedral is home to 41.5 million tiles that make up different mosaics around the sanctuary. Witnessing the beauty of this church is what sparked his conversion, he said, and was his first major attraction towards Catholicism.

Lempe continued on to become Catholic, then quit his job several months after joining the Church to dedicate himself completely to art. Most of his work post-conversion is religious art.

Lempe planned to display a non-religious body of artwork at a venue for a month when his contact at the venue saw some of Lempe’s pro-life posts on Facebook. Although none of the artwork Lempe planned to display was explicitly pro-life or religious, the venue cancelled the show.

“I was a little bit shocked at first,” he said. “Something like me being against abortion or being pro-life would get a whole art show cancelled.”

Lempe decided to counter with his own art show, one that would be explicitly pro-life.

On Sept. 7, seven Catholic artists displayed work that gave life at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Denver.

“Catholicism lends itself to being life-giving,” Lempe said.

The show included a variety of work from traditional sacred art, icons, landscapes, to even dresses.

Students for Life co-hosted the event, and 10 percent of proceeds benefited the cause. Lauren Castillo, Development director and faith-based program director at Students for Life America gave the keynote presentation.

Castillo spoke about the need to be the one pro-life person in each circle of influence, with coworkers, neighbors, family, or friends. The reality of how many post-abortive women are already in our circles is big, she said.

“Your friend circle will get smaller,” Castillo said. “If one life is saved, it’s worth it.”

Pro-Life Across Mediums

Brett Lempe’s Luke 1:35

“This painting is the first half at an attempt of displaying the intensity and mystical elements of Luke 1:35,” Lempe said. “This work is influenced somewhat by Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ painting as I try to capture the moment when the “New Adam” is conceived by Our Blessed Mother.”

Claire Woodbury’s icon of Christ Pantokrator

“I was having a difficult time making that icon,” she said. “I was thinking it would become a disaster.”

She felt Jesus saying to her, “This is your way of comforting me. Is that not important?”

“Icons are very important to me,” she said. “I guess they’re important to Him too.”

Katherine Muser’s “Goodnight Kisses”

“Kids naturally recognize the beauty of a baby and they just cherish it,” Muser said of her drawing of her and her sister as children.

Brie Shulze’s Annunciation

“There is so much to unpack in the Annunciation,” Schulze said. “I wanted to unpack that life-giving yes that our Blessed Mother made on behalf of all humanity.”

“Her yes to uncertainty, to sacrifice, to isolation, to public shame and to every other suffering that she would endure is what allowed us to inherit eternal life.”

“Her fiat was not made in full knowledge of all that would happen, but in love and total surrender to the will of God.”

All photos by Makena Clawson