June 23, 2024: Who Am I? Whose Am I? What Am I Called to Be?

As you reflect on the Gospel reading this Sunday, imagine yourself in the boat with Jesus. Who are you? Which disciple resonates with who you are at this moment in time? Or do you resonate with Jesus’ persona? St. Ignatius calls this the Imaginative Prayer when you put yourself into the story and discover who you are in that story.

Jesus was asleep and not bothered by the waves knocking the boat around. He knew who he was, and he knew they were safe with him in the stormy sea. On the other hand, some of the disciples were nervous and felt they were in imminent peril. Yet, they did not know at this time Who Jesus really was, and they looked to him to save them. As soon as they awakened him, Jesus calmed the sea. Jesus questioned their faith and even though they still did not realize who Jesus was, the Son of God, they turned to him for help. When I was a Yale/ New Haven Bridgeport Hospital chaplain intern, we used this Gospel reading for our chapel time. As we entered into the Imaginative Prayer experience, I fell asleep, like Jesus, because I was on call all night. I leaned into Jesus. It was a stormy night with one code blue death, and I was the spiritual presence for the patient and the family. Life is filled with stormy days and nights, and when I lean into Jesus as my True North, I know I am safe.

To know Jesus, first and foremost, transforms and transcends who I am. In this discernment, I come to understand Whose I am. Who has called me by name? Of course, my parents, family, and friends play a key role in whose I am. Yet, God also calls me by name as his beloved daughter. Jesus is my brother, and I see the Holy Spirit as the feminine spirit of God-the Ruah, the breath or wind of God. As Catholics, we believe in the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When stormy seas arise, I relate to God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit depending on who I need the most at that time. I believe that Jesus’ disciples turned to God and looked upon Jesus as their brother, not knowing his true identity and destiny until the Last Supper. The disciples belonged to God, and when Jesus was with them, they belonged to him.

We can never be sure that Jesus’ disciples truly understood what he was calling them to be, as they laid the groundwork of faith for future generations. Do you think these men actually understood the depth of what they were called to be? The disciples’ faith wavered at times, and they didn’t always understand Jesus’ parables. Through these times of their waffling faith, Jesus reminded them of their mission and accompanied them. Jesus transformed them into becoming the apostles he needed to carry on his teachings when he would no longer be an earthly being. He was their rabbi —their teacher. Ponder on who or what you are called to be. Who are the important teachers in your life?

Reflecting on these three questions, Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., says, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human existence.” If you can think of yourself as a “spiritual being,” you will look at the world with new eyes. With these new eyes you will be awakened to the answers: Who Am I? Whose Am I? What Am I Called to Be?

As we approach the Synod in October and await the outcome of how woman might have leadership roles in our Church, St. Ignatius Loyola Women’s Voices is planning a Day of Reflection. Save the date for October 5 framed around these questions: Who Am I? Whose Am I? What Am I Called to Be?

— Jean Santopatre, Pastoral Associate

ISJ Essay: Muchas Gracias, San Ignacio

This is the story of Jose and Maria. In March 2023 they fled their native Venezuela with their three children in a desperate effort to escape from an increasingly dangerous homeland. They crossed 3,000 miles by foot, bus, and train. After two months of daily struggle and with threats of kidnapping and attacks from drug cartels, they crossed the border to Texas. This was June 2023. They were fortunate to meet members of Jesuit Relief Services, which paid their bus fare to New York. A few days later we met Jose, Maria, and the children at a migrant shelter near Kennedy Airport.

It was at this time that the St. Ignatius Social Justice Ministry launched the Migrant Accompaniment Team, under the leadership of Laura de Boisblanc. We were part of the team that assisted them in finding clothing, registering children in school, securing proper ID, obtaining health insurance, filing for asylum, and crafting resumes to assist them with employment.

The support of St. Ignatius parishioners was vital in the family’s adjustment to America. Parishioners donated clothing and school supplies. The families came to the 11 AM Family Mass. They participated in the LBGTQ Scavenger Hunt. They danced at the Snow Ball Dance as guests of Father Yesalonia. Social Justice held a Christmas party for the families. The St. Vincent de Paul Angel Project so generously donated gifts to the party. The children still love to show their photos with Santa Claus (AKA Father Hilbert).

In March, Jose and Maria told us they had accepted jobs with Tyson Meat Company in Humboldt, Tennessee. The Migrant Accompaniment Team all said a tearful goodbye to our beloved friends. They keep in touch with us via weekly FaceTime and WhatsApp texts. They always say, “MUCHAS GRACIAS, SAN IGNACIO!” They report that the pay is good, allowing them to rent an apartment with a swimming pool in the complex. The children are now learning to swim and enjoy being kids. Jose likes his job in the meat-packing plant because he meets other workers from all over America and Latin America. Maria has opened a bank account. They obtained driver’s licenses and purchased a car. Despite its 100,000 miles, their Ford is ‘bellisimo.’

Now it is June 2024. Jose came to New York and stayed in our apartment. As we walked along 84th Street, he recalled so many happy memories of Family Mass. He remembered the Homework Help and ESL classes the Social Justice Ministry organized and taught with the help of students from Regis High School and Dominican Academy. He reminisced about the blessing Father Yesalonia gave the families about to begin their new lives in Tennessee.  Over dinner, he repeated how grateful he was to our parish. We admired his own religious fervor when several times a day, he pointed his fingers upward and said, “Dios es conmigo.”  The day Jose left for his return flight to Tennessee, he connected us via FaceTime to his mom who still lives in Venezuela. She waved to us and kept repeating, “MUCHAS GRACIAS, SAN IGNACIO.” Mama was so happy St. Ignatius helped her son.

Jose’s family and the other migrant families that still live in New York are our family, the family of St. Ignatius. The entire team is grateful that the Social Justice Ministry allows us to do this joyful work of migrant accompaniment. This support continues to flourish thanks to the assistance of the priests and countless parishioners who lovingly donate clothing, legal assistance, translation services, picnics in the park. As he said his final goodbye to us, he again repeated, “MUCHAS GRACIAS, SAN IGNACIO.”

— Dolores and Terry Quinn

June 16, 2024 Essay: On This Father’s Day

Father’s Day is a time to honor and celebrate the fathers and father figures who have left an indelible mark on our lives. Fatherhood, akin to motherhood, is a calling to nurture and shepherd young souls, making Father’s Day a moment of profound gratitude and admiration for the paternal figures who have shaped my journey. From my own father to my beloved husband, and all the father figures in between, their influence is felt in every aspect of my life.

My father was a man of many dimensions—a passionate, gentle giant, towering at six-foot-three, with a scholarly demeanor and a poet’s soul. His presence in our home was marked by contrasts; while his booming voice often echoed with impassioned discussions on politics or expressed disappointments in some of my choices, there were moments of quiet introspection, where he would be moved to tears by the melodies of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. In the midst of calmly teaching me life’s practical skills, like riding a bicycle or driving a car, there were other instances where his patience wore thin. Despite these contradictions, two things remained steadfast in my father’s character: his boundless love for his family and his unwavering faith.

Dad’s love for us shone through in countless small gestures—a tender hand holding my mother’s during their evening walks, a heartfelt poem penned to commemorate birthdays and anniversaries, or a simple goodnight kiss on the forehead. Moreover, his faith was deeply rooted in his daily practices—a devotion to Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, the recitation of the rosary without fail, and an avid reading of the Bible, seeking to deepen his relationship with God through prayer and reflection. Through his example, Dad instilled in me the virtues of courage, integrity, and above all, faith. As I reflect on the profound impact of my father’s influence in my life, I am filled with gratitude for his wisdom and the invaluable lessons he imparted.

Not surprisingly, my husband mirrors many of the qualities I admire in my father. From the moment we met, I was especially captivated by his discernment and contemplation of God’s presence in his life. Together, as a young married couple, we navigated life’s challenges hand in hand, rooted in our shared faith.

As the father of our two children, my husband embodies these same values of reflection, unwavering faith, and selflessness that shaped my upbringing. Whether he’s assisting with homework, tending to household chores, providing a compassionate ear, coaching our son’s Little League team, or attending countless recitals, his everyday actions are a testament to God’s love in action. He leads by example, teaching our children the importance of forgiveness and resilience. His role in our family is irreplaceable, it shapes our family’s dynamics and fills our home with warmth, joy, and love. His love is a reflection of God’s love, steadfast and unconditional, guiding our children toward becoming kind, discerning, and responsible individuals.

On this Father’s Day, let us remember the unwavering commitment, boundless love, and sacrifices made by our fathers and father figures. Let us honor and celebrate the men who have mentored us and have given of themselves to guide us. May their example inspire us to embrace the values of selflessness, humility, and courage in our lives and relationships, as we journey together in faith, love, and gratitude.

June 9, 2024 Essay: Deliver Us

As the school year draws to a close I feel unsettled. There’s a subliminal gnawing at my person that I cannot quite quell. It almost seems as though I stopped short in my car and all that I left unattended in the back seat has flown into the front seat. Although physically unscathed, my busy mind tells me I should have already tended to these items that are now crowded around me in the front of the car. The general sense of overwhelm is unnerving.

In this time of transition and unease, I remind myself we are never alone. It is easy to become wrapped up in the tasks of life and forget God is with us through every phase of our journey. I can place all the items sitting with me in the front seat of the car with my maker. I am called to action but God manages the results.

At each Mass the following lines from the liturgy truly speak to me:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy, keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Fretfulness is quite human and especially apparent when we transition from one season to another. Luckily, the human condition is not foreign to God. God became person out of love; to know us better and to truly understand us, our feelings and our needs.

How do we await in joyful hope and draw ourselves out of anxiety? One surefire way to remedy our self-centered angst is to turn our gaze outward toward those in need. In a few weeks the youth group and I head to the Hudson Valley for a mission trip: the Summer Outreach Week, led by the Capuchin Friars. We’ll be busy each day building bunk beds, assisting at Vacation Bible School, visiting the senior center, and feeding the homeless. In the evenings we’ll reflect on our service and how we experienced God’s presence in our work. With luck and grace, we’ll serve as a conduit helping to grant peace during our outreach week.

Focusing on the needs of others will make short order of whatever is sitting with me in the front seat. Service gives us opportunities to get out of self, see the face of God in others, and be the hands and feet of Jesus. I look forward to reporting back on what I am sure will be a transformative trip!

When the mission trip wraps up and the youth group is returned home after their week of service the summer offers yet another opportunity for me to draw closer to God and be relieved of my anxiety. In July I’ll head to a silent retreat with the Taizé Community in the Burgundy region of France. Taizé’s prioritizes prayer, silence and reconciliation with gentle encouragement to focus on living out the Gospel in joy and simplicity. A week in silent community will provide yet another occasion to dwell in the many ways the Lord delivers us from our burdens and calls us to wait in joyful hope.

Take some time as the seasons change, truly inhabiting the ways the Lord unwaveringly Delivers Us.

— Kate Noonan, Director of the Interparish Religious Education Program

 

 

June 2, 2024 Essay: The Real Presence

Today’s celebration of the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ reminds us that the Catholic Church in the United States is in the midst of a ‘Eucharistic Revival’ that will culminate in the Eucharistic Congress to be convened in Indianapolis from July 17-21. The revival was initiated by our bishops out of a concern that the people of God did not sufficiently understand our Catholic belief that the bread and wine offered in the liturgy of the Eucharist, the Mass, is transformed for us, by the power of God’s Spirit, into the real, risen body and blood of Jesus Christ. Today’s feast offers us an opportunity to reflect on the real presence of Jesus in the liturgy of the Eucharist, the Mass.

It is important to remember what our Church teaches with regard to the liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council, our Church teaches us:

…The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time, it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons [and daughters] of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper. (10)

It is the liturgy of the Eucharist itself that is the source and summit of Catholic life. In every celebration of the Eucharist, the Risen Christ becomes truly present in four ways.

The risen Christ is present in the priest who presides over the gathered assembly and acts in the person of Christ as he leads the people of God in praise and worship.

The risen Christ is present in all who have gathered to offer praise and worship to God under the leadership of the priest. The gathered assembly, with the priest, forms the Body of Christ that is the Church. Christ is present in the gathering of the members of his body.

The risen Christ becomes present in the words of scripture that are proclaimed. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. Every time, therefore, that we proclaim the scriptures, break open the word of God, we are encountering the risen Christ.

The risen Christ becomes present in the bread and wine that are transformed for us, by the power of God’s Spirit, into the real presence of his risen body and blood. Remember that the people of God bring forward the bread and wine that will become the real presence of the risen Christ. This is done to call attention to the fact that the celebration of the Eucharist is not the action of the priest alone. It is the action of the priest in union with the people of God who together are the Body of Christ. It is our collective prayer through which the risen Christ becomes truly present under the appearance of bread and wine. His presence is real. It is not symbolic. We, the Body of Christ, receive the real presence of the risen Body of Christ so as to help us fulfill the responsibility that is ours; to incarnate Christ once more in our world.

Every time we gather for the celebration of the liturgy of the Eucharist, we should consciously call to mind the four-fold presence of the Risen Christ in our celebration. His presence is real in each way Christ reveals himself to us. May we have the faith to recognize his self-revelation in every liturgy. Fired by his risen presence with us, may we go forth to give bold and courageous witness to him through our commitment to gospel values.

— Rev. Mark Hallinan, S.J., Associate Pastor

May 26, 2024 Essay: A Battered Heart

Have you ever observed, either in person or a newsclip, a boat that has lost its mooring and is being battered by a stormed tossed sea? It bobs and weaves as if it were a puppet controlled by the relentless force of nature. Always in motion, yet never with an even keel. Are not our lives battered at times by forces beyond our control? When that happens, we feel adrift amidst a maddening crush of events in either the world or our personal lives. Our natural instinct is to seek a safe harbor, a refuge that is both familiar and under our control. Tragically at times, the very act of survival may ensnare us in a different and more insidious trap.

In times of trouble, real or perceived, the tendency is to withdraw and try to regain control. There is a false sense of security that many place on being independent, that in separating ourselves from others we will work through the threat on our own terms and by ourselves. The allure of isolation presents itself as the surest way to avoid danger. However, there is an inherent peril in falling victim to the “easy way out.” The more we rely solely on ourselves, as though that were possible, we will deceive ourselves and create an alternate reality. We will have failed to recognize that we cannot go it alone. Our hearts will become hardened by a false sense of security.

Paradoxically and most assuredly, when the walls of isolation and conceit are dismantled, a safe harbor will be found, even in the midst of a whirlwind of confusion and fear. For you see, we can never actually go it alone. We need one another and, most importantly, we need God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In his sonnet, Batter my heart, three-person’d God, John Donne wrote about the need in our lives to let God in and take control.

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new,

I, like an usurp’d town to another due,

Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,

But am betrothed unto your enemy;

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free.

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

 The tranquil harbor that we seek when we feel overwhelmed by forces beyond our control is available to us at each moment of our lives. In his sonnet, Donne shows us how to reach our desired destination. The seemingly impenetrable walls of ego and arrogance, that offer us only the appearance of security, must be breached. It is in our heart that we will discover what we seek if we but let in God. It is in that harbor of tranquil waters that we will experience God as our Creator, God as our Redeemer, and God as the Spirit always abiding within us.

May our prayer be that of John Donne. Batter my heart, three-person’d God that I may find in You the peace I seek in the midst of the whirlwind of my life.

— Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., Pastor

May 19, 2024 Essay: The Birth of the Church

Someone once said that the early Christian community waited in eager anticipation for the return of the Lord in glory but the Church showed up instead. Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. It has often been described as the birthday of the Church—the oldest living body in today’s world, yet one that is still going through its growing pains. This shouldn’t be too surprising. Anything truly alive goes through change and development all its life. This is the way with living things. People shouldn’t be unduly alarmed, therefore, at the changes happening in the Church in our time. This is a sign of its vitality.

Living things that don’t move are dead. If we want to check on whether a person is dead or alive, we first look for some sign of movement—a heartbeat, breathing, any kind of motion. For too long a time, many Catholics have associated the Church with a lack of movement. We have focused on one of its many attributes, its stability—the fact that, through the years, it remains basically the same in its form and core teachings. We may have forgotten that because it is a living reality, the Church must change and renew itself.

The great guiding force behind change in the Church is the Holy Spirit, the parting gift of Jesus to his then-small circle of friends. “I will not leave you orphans,” he had told them during his last supper with them. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you the Holy Spirit to be with you forever.”

In his Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke describes how that promise was fulfilled as the Holy Spirit came to the group of twelve apostles. The Resurrection and Ascension had come and gone. They were left feeling abandoned, with no sense of mission or purpose. As they huddled together for prayer on the Jewish Feast of Weeks (in Hebrew Shavuot), something quite extraordinary happened to them. Luke writes of a noise like a strong rushing wind, tongues of fire, and the ability to speak in several languages. The apostles suddenly felt energized and empowered. Soon Peter is out into the streets preaching to the crowds of pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the festival. We are told that 3,000 people were baptized that first Pentecost! This is more than the capacity of St. Patrick’s Cathedral! It was the birthing of the Christian Church.

What began on Pentecost spread like a forest fire. In thirty years, it spread so dramatically that Christianity became a powerful force in faraway Rome, and the Emperor Nero made it the target of an all-out persecution. With Pentecost, there was a new coming of God to the world—a sort of second Christmas—because God came in the Person of the Holy Spirit to be always with and in the Church. And twenty centuries later, the Church is still here—in every corner of the world—alive, changing and always growing, despite the schisms, the conflicts and scandals that have plagued the Church from its earliest days.

Wherever the Spirit is at work we can be sure there is a call to live in the community of the Church and to be involved in that community. This is what happened to the apostles on that first Pentecost. Instead of remaining isolated and fearful of the Jewish religious authorities who had plotted the murder of Jesus, they immediately began to proclaim the Good News about the Resurrection of Jesus. Small Christian communities began to spring up near and far.

Christians of every generation are called to be part of that same movement—the movement away from isolation and individualism to community and involvement. The Holy Spirit will always be a challenge to the one who thinks, “I don’t need the Church, I can go to God on my own.” It may be a hard lesson for some to learn but we are saved together. No one is saved on their own.

— Rev. William J. Bergen, S.J., Senior Priest

May 12, 2024 Essay: Notes From Some of Our New Catholics

Nineteen adults were received into the Catholic Church at the March 30th Easter Vigil. Here are a few highlights of their journeys to the Catholic faith.

If there is love, there is God. Coming from a difficult upbringing, I pondered whether I had ever truly felt love for most of my life. Being an overthinker, I found incomplete answers in many places. My journey with the Catholic Church has helped me realize that love is not something to be found, it is already in us because God dwells in us through the waters of baptism. In these final days before my first Pentecost, I look forward to my new life, one centered on giving love and giving God. — Tianci Guan


My parents surrounded my brothers and me with the Lord and love from birth. I met my wife, Grace, in college when I was still discovering my relationship with God. God placed her in my life for many reasons, one of them was for her to take me by the hand and walk down the path of religion together. I learned the foundation of my faith from my family and childhood, but Grace was the gift from God who has inspired me to journey with the Lord. I am happy to be welcomed to a Church of open hearts and strong conviction. From the parents in the back of the church taking care of their children to the quiet lady praying the rosary after church, we are all part of God’s love. — Grant Lee


It was a long journey till now (born in a Catholic hospital in Tokyo, ballet lessons in a Catholic school, a friendship with a Catholic missionary from Paris). After all these connections to the Catholic faith, I feel this is the right place to arrive in my life. I arrive with great joy and happiness! Thank you so much indeed! I enjoy so much being with you all in this community of faith. I look forward to continuing my journey. — Mika Kimura


I grew up attending a Methodist church but was never baptized or confirmed and largely fell away from it through high school and college. As a young adult, I desired to build a stronger relationship with God but didn’t know where to start and felt I was too far behind to join a church.

After my husband and I became engaged, he told me it would mean a lot to him and his family if we were married in the Catholic church. We started attending Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola regularly and began the Pre-Cana process.

Everyone I met through Pre-Cana was wonderful and inspired me to deepen my relationship with God. I read the entire Bible, was baptized by the Methodist pastor of the church I attended growing up, tried out a couple of Methodist churches in the city, and attended St. Ignatius Loyola with my husband. At the time, I didn’t think of converting as an option and figured my husband and I would work out our religious differences after the wedding.

Looking back, experiencing the sacrament of marriage marked a turning point in my faith journey. Shortly after the wedding I was walking by St. Patrick’s Cathedral and suddenly came to the realization that I wanted to fully join the Catholic Church. The RCIA process has been incredible, thanks to the whole team. I have learned that my Protestant concerns about Catholicism were largely unfounded, and have come to appreciate the richness of the Catholic faith. This process has strengthened my relationship with my husband, and changed my entire outlook on life. I am so happy to be Catholic and incredibly appreciative to everyone at St. Ignatius for their love and support. — Emily Seitz

April 28, 2024 Essay: Betwixt and Between

The predominant themes of the Easter season are joy and new life, yet these 50 days between Easter and Pentecost can also teach us something about being in liminal space. Richard Rohr, the Franciscan spiritual writer and teacher, says of such times, “All transformation takes place here. There alone is our old world left behind, though we’re not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin.”

To be in liminality is to be betwixt and between. These threshold moments require us to hold with integrity a variety of emotions—hope, joy, relief, anxiety, confusion, fear, grief, impatience, among many others. Change can be terrifying; it’s understandable that one would want to go back to the familiar, to the way it used to be. Consider Mary Magdalene: The Gospel of John reports that on Easter morning, Jesus had to tell her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” I’m sure she wanted to believe that the Jesus she knew was back and everything would be as it was. God’s dream, however, was for something unimaginably greater. And this would require time and patience on the part of the disciples. Between resurrection and the coming of the Spirit, they had to go to the upper room.

Through these remaining days of Easter, I invite you to reflect on the liminal places in your life, your personal “upper room”. Perhaps there is a child who will be graduating next month, preparing to leave home for new adventures. Perhaps a loved one has died, and you are still navigating the stages of grief, waiting on a sense of acceptance and peace. Perhaps you are newly retired and still searching for a routine. For my family, our liminal space at this moment is the loss of family homes. The houses that belonged to my grandparents and to my wife’s grandparents are both being sold. Generations of memories were made in these special places, but now we must let them go. This transition has taught me to consider anew what it means to “come home” because the day inevitably arrives when you can’t come home anymore. I know, however, that new memories in new places are waiting to be fashioned. A new chapter of our families’ stories is going to be written, but right now, we are on that blank page between the two.

The spiritual masters tell us that these liminal moments are spiritually rich times. I have found this to be true. I think this is because there is vulnerability in beholding new life, in coming to grips with a new reality. Oftentimes, when we’re off balance, when our defenses are down, when we’re feeling bewildered, God can do God’s best work! Again, think of the disciples—after the liminality that came with the first Easter, they were instilled with the courage, zeal, and resolve to carry the good news to “the ends of the earth.”

The lectionary readings this season, especially from the Acts of the Apostles, affirm that beyond liminal space awaits something new and life-giving. When Pentecost came, the Spirit moved the disciples from a place of waiting to a place of courageous journeying, witnesses, and ministering. They “left home”, whether it was the confines of the upper room, the precincts of the Temple, or the city of Jerusalem itself, and were sent to places they could never have imagined, to a future that was unknowable but ripe with hope and promise.

As we journey toward the close of the Easter season, my prayer is that God gives us the courage to attentively, hopefully behold the power of the resurrection, savoring the moments in our “upper rooms” of liminality, whatever and wherever they may be, as we prepare to follow the Spirit to a grace-filled future.

— Brian Pinter, Pastoral Associate

April 14, 2024 Essay: Four Freedoms in Art

“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.” — Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our parish lecture series this year has been (and it’s not over yet!) dedicated to the Four Freedoms enunciated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his State of the Union address of 1941. As I mentioned in my essay of January 7th, FDR considered freedom “the supremacy of human rights everywhere.” The speech evidently inspired the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, cited above in its Preamble where it mentions the four freedoms: freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear and want.

Norman Rockwell, the master of Americana, captured the essence of daily life in hundreds of 20th-century magazine covers, and 80 years ago, he accomplished a greater feat, translating the nation’s ideals into indelible images known as the Four Freedoms, also inspired by President Roosevelt’s vision.

By illuminating rights that every American—and every person—should enjoy, Rockwell’s Four Freedoms validated the U.S. decision to enter World War II and overcome powerful enemies whose actions devalued human life. His enduring messages have lingered in the national consciousness, remaining as significant today as they were when the Saturday Evening Post published them in four consecutive weeks during the winter of 1943.

Immediately after publishing Rockwell’s four paintings—Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear (link)—the magazine received 25,000 requests to purchase copies. Color reproductions of all four sold for 25 cents apiece. The paintings became the basis for 4 million war posters sold as part of the War Bonds effort, raising $132,992,539. “They were received by the public with more enthusiasm, perhaps, than any other paintings in the history of American art,” The New Yorker reported in 1945.

At the beginning of 1941, when isolationist sentiments still held sway over many Americans, Roosevelt’s goal was a simple one: to convince voters that standing alone ultimately could sacrifice freedoms at home and abroad.

“By an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to the proposition that principles of morality and considerations for our own security will never permit us to acquiesce in a peace dictated by aggressors and sponsored by appeasers,” he told Americans. “We know that enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of other people’s freedom.”

Rockwell faced the difficult task of transforming governmental phraseology into evocative tableaux on canvas. He had expected to finish all four scenes in two months, but the work dragged on through seven months of false starts and revisions.

Nonetheless, Rockwell was fully committed to the Four Freedoms. “I just cannot express to you how much this series means to me. Aside from their wonderful patriotic motive,” he told his impatient editors, “there are no subjects which could rival them in opportunity for human interest.”

To complement the educational, inspirational, and personal lectures that have lifted our spirits and raised our consciousness, I invite you to allow the paintings to speak to you about the timeless meaning of freedom, perhaps now more imperative than in the past eight decades.

— Fr. Michael Hilbert, S.J., Associate Pastor

The fifth and final lecture in the series will be on Monday, May 6th, at 7 PM in Wallace Hall. The topic will be “Freedom from Fear” and the guest speaker will be Senator Angus King of Maine.