April 19, 2010

Culture of Life, Culture of Death; and the Family: By Monsignor Cormac Burke

Excerpted from "Culture of Life, Culture of Death; and the Family": Conference at the Catholic University of America, Dec. 2004 [originally published in Position Papers, Dublin, 2005] by Monsignor Cormac Burke.

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Culture suggests art; and the Chinese are renowned world-wide for an artistic tradition that goes back thousands of years, and is still expressed today with that fine touch of delicacy and beauty so often lacking in modern western art. I was reminded of this just yesterday when looking once again at one of those marvellous representations of Our Lady, Queen and Empress of China. What taste, I thought, the artist has!; what sense of beauty and tenderness!; just to look at that work of art raises one's heart to God.

Such works of art, then, inspire us to thank God not only for having made his Mother so beautiful and given her to the world, but for continuing to raise up truly artistic persons today, and to endow them with the talent and the desire to offer the world new representations of the beauty of Creation and of the even greater beauty given to us through the Incarnation.

Gifts to the world: that is what the true artist offers. John Paul II recalled this in his Letter to Artists of 1999, addressed "to all who are passionately dedicated to the search for new epiphanies [i.e. expressions] of beauty so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world".

The creative work of artists: how rich and enriching it can be. And the more unique and worthwhile the creation, the longer it lasts, carrying with it a touch of immortality. As one twentieth century writer, speaking of the artistic urge, put it: "you make something through your invention..., and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality" (Ernest Hemingway, Writers at Work, 1963).

But so often the modern celebration of life - when it believes only in mortality, not in immortality, is so hollow and offers nothing to enrich life. To believe in death, to believe that with death everything definitively dies, is not to believe in life. The only value I see in my own life is that its satisfactions outweigh its pains - for the time being. The moment that is no longer so, I can terminate it.

These thoughts are not far from our topic, for it is in the family, in the home, where life begins and is cherished and is meant to grow, being life always possessed of true immortality.

Are our homes focal points of life - which also means of youth and energy and joy and optimism? Or is there a lifelessness precisely there, where life should be at its most expressive? Do we have too many devitalized and depersonalized homes? One family just like another; one couple, two or even three children; all hooked together on TV, or separately on internet, and the same in the neighbouring flat and the one above and the one below. A "home alive" is the great artistic venture project God is proposing to married people: the creation of a family visibly stamped with the culture of life, with a burgeoning personality, with something humanly and divinely original to it. ...

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