THE UNBROKEN WORD

ART FOR ART’s SAKE?

In the world of Church and Prayer, we see seeing in a lot of different ways. In the Christian Tradition, particularly that of the Catholic Church, we find ourselves using objects, images and artifacts as a way of communicating with God.

In the most traditional ways, we use statues, paintings, and other objects as ways of reminding ourselves of our relationship with God. From the Crucifix to the Tabernacle, all of these objects are designed to remind us of some aspect of our relationship with God. This relationship we can call prayer.

In the sanctuary, we consider many of these items sacramentals. Holy objects which help us either enter into or stay in a prayerful relationship. We may not even consider this, but the simple act of blessing ourselves is also a sacramental one, so a sacramental does not always have to be an object, although often it is.

I want to introduce this prayerful way we look at certain objects or art as a means of understanding how we see things in our everyday life. An excellent study of this process is captured in a book by Stephen Pattison called Seeing Things. In this book, Stephen illustrates how we humans have become used to scanning things quickly from a visual perspective, categorizing them, almost without thinking and then miss the opportunity to understand the relationship or meaning they may have in our lives.

While no one would consider throwing a rosary or bible down in anything but a gentle manner, we often ignore what is going on in the objects around us in our everyday lives.

For example, when in an art gallery or museum, we immediately take a different form of attention when looking at the artwork because of its location or the fact it is framed than we do for all the other materials surrounding it. Once informed of its artful nature, we give it the respect it deserves as a result.

Part of this problem is we often view things in this manner by determining if they are “beautiful” or not. In his research, Pattison notes we often blow by something quickly if it does not fit into this category, and alternatively are willing to “gaze not glance” at objects which meet the first category. By doing so, we often miss many of important items that are a vital part of our everyday life, but are not in the category of artwork or a traditional sacramental.

So today, perhaps, we can take some stock at the items we have around us, even on our desks or dressers at home, in the kitchen, the toolshed, and see them for their own importance, their function and then lastly, our relationship with them. We often have a haptic (or feeling) relationship with these items which is sometimes not recognized until they go missing from our lives.

When we begin to notice these other things around us, we may find ourselves drawn into a new form of prayer, one of reflection and gratitude or memories which helps us immensely. We don’t ignore the everyday gifts and objects around us, but are rather thankful for them.

Art Thou Art

The blank frame stands proudly to attention,

Clearly displaying its nudity by the dust on the untouched wall behind it.

Still they stop and gaze

Thinking knowingly, there is meaning within.

Meanwhile the author, a simple carpenter,

Giggles from above,

Watching the security cameras,

Holding her morning Starbucks fav.

Later that day she places the sign below the frame.

“Art thou Art?”

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Monetary Car Wash

Copyright © 2020 Reflection, Poem and Photograph Michael J. Cunningham

THE UNBROKEN WORD

When we talk of God we often talk of His unconditional love for us. A willingness to do whatever it takes to show us what love is, without any underlying agenda to trick or fool us into something false. Just love itself.

This loving unconditional love, a love without strings attached is hard for us to comprehend. Even harder for us to emulate. It is often difficult to see where in our family lives that such love can be rendered by us mere mortals. To see this unconditional love, we often have to move down the chain of evolution, to our pets to see how this works.

This week, a beloved pet in our family, Rosie passed away. Rosie was my daughter Terri’s family dog. She was a rescued from a home which was inhabited by two heroin addicts, she was undernourished, had obviously been abused and in a need of a good home.

My daughter and her husband found Rosie at a rescue kennel many years ago. We didn’t really know how old she was at the time, perhaps a year or so would be a guess, but that’s all it would be. She stayed at our home in Massachusetts for a couple of months, until my daughter and husband moved into a home where she could legally stay in Washington D.C. This short training period with Rosie in New England began our relationship with this dog that lasted many years.

Rosie, was perhaps one of the least beautiful dogs you might run into. She was skinny, not great posture. When I walked her in the streets of D.C. I actually had people stop and tell me how “ugly” she was. None of this phased Rosie. She was happy to be with me. She was happy to be with any member of the family. She was happy to be with anyone. She was just happy.

While we had owned many dogs ourselves in our lives, for some reason Rosie, more than any others, exemplified “unconditional love”. She never seemed to worry about anything except being accepted in the family and despite years of having ears pulled and being sat on by her subsequent best friends who arrived in Terri’s family (her kids); she never complained.

If I had to emulate a dog in my life, I think Rosie would be a good one. Undemanding, peace filled, happy to do, well, nothing all day. Providing you were there of course.

Rosie of course, as does any dog with character, had some bad habits. She wanted to be close to you and would try and get on sofas where she could not read the “no dogs allowed” sign. Same for bedding. I think because her owners let her sleep with them, she was not the easiest dog to break the habits of being close to her dog sitters, wherever they lived. However, these were minor flaws in the scheme of things. After all, how can you feel angry towards someone who just wants to snuggle up to you.

I think we learn something from animals who exist with only one raison d’être, to be with us. Rosie was such a beast. Simply in need of our presence and love. (Well perhaps a little food and water too).

Rosie will be missed by our family. The spirit and love of Rosie however, lives on. She taught some young people and old folks in our family how unconditional love can be played out each day. And not just for the days we feel like giving it. I wonder where else we have heard that message?

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Rosie Segura: a beloved dog.

THE UNBROKEN WORD

We often hear the words it’s the journey, not the destination, which can provide solace to some but can also create a feeling of desolation and abandonment. When we find our circumstances changing and, even when we set the direction it in motion, it does not turn out the way we want.

At the time of this pandemic, many find themselves somewhere they did not expect. Separated from others, loss of income, loneliness, even feelings of helplessness can be overwhelming. At the same time, we see the incredible outreach occurring. Generosity beyond expectations, sacrifice for those in caring roles. The juxtaposition of these scenes litters our daily lives.

So what is this all about? Our internal reactions to dealing with the uncontrollable and the unexpected are tested to the limit. Sometimes it is our observation of how others are dealing with the changes in their lives.

The knowledge of God’s presence in all of this can be our only reassurance in these matters. It is a time when we need to not just trust, but to embrace the love which comes from knowing God is within, and always with us. (Matthew 28:20).

This week we can perhaps have empathy for those who do not have faith in God, but are relying on themselves and those around them (you perhaps) to give them the certitude that things will work themselves out. And you become that loving embrace so many are seeking at this time; through your Christian response to their needs and difficulties.

Heading Home

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Here I am heading home again,

Across the desert,

Across the oceans,

On straight roads,

On windy roads,

In the summer,

In the winter,

But always,

 

With You.

 

Within Me.