Arts News

Toronto opera singer Robert Pilon, who is a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament parish. (Photo courtesy of Robert Pilon)TORONTO - The room falls silent as Toronto opera singer Robert Pilon sings the first lines of the Les Miserables classic “Bring Him Home.”

Pilon, who for three years starred as Phantom in Toronto’s Phantom of the Opera, has performed this song and other classics at many galas for the Caritas Project, a Catholic charity that works with people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. The organization also supports people with mental health issues and behavioural problems.

Pilon’s volunteer work with the community reflects a successful musical career that is now geared towards helping others and working with charities. He is also involved with Toronto’s Blessed Sacrament Church, where he is a parishioner.

“It is a place of faith. I offer my services at Easter and Christmas to Blessed Sacrament Church so I can thank God for my gift,” he told The Catholic Register.

The Borgias made more for ratings than for jabs at Church, professor says

By
Actor Jeremy Irons portrays Pope Alexander VI in the upcoming TV series 'The Borgias'.WASHINGTON - The upcoming series The Borgias may be interpreted less as a swipe against the Catholic Church than the desire for the Showtime pay-cable channel to produce a follow-up in the same vein as its racy predecessor, The Tudors.

"They're going for the flamboyant, the exotic, the erotic," said Timothy Thibodeau, a history professor at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. "Everybody's heard of Henry the Eighth," the central character in The Tudors, Thibodeau added, while Rodrigo Borgia (who became Pope Alexander VI) is a figure "a lot of people have never heard of. For most historians it's very well known."

It's because of this, Thibodeau said, that leads him to doubt whether The Borgias "will present anything new that will stand the test of time."

The Borgias debuts April 3 on the Bravo network in Canada and Showtime in the United States. John Mulderig of Catholic News Service's Media Review Office, in a review of the premiere episode, said it "sometimes degenerates from an intriguing study in power politics — however misplaced and lamentable — to an obvious exercise in sensationalism."

Vatican partnership will assure faith focus for Canadian pilgrims

By
Patrizia De Libero Brown says Ornit-organized tours will allow pilgrims to meet with the local Church. (Photo by Michael Swan)TORONTO - If Catholics are ever going to feel at home in a global Church and a globalized world, they had better get out there, far from home, said Fr. Caesar Atuire, CEO of the Vatican’s service to pilgrims.

Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi has forged a North American partnership to offer travel services for Canadian pilgrims. Ornit, official distributor of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi services in North America, will offer pilgrimage packages to Rome, Lourdes, Israel and Palestine, walking pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, social justice tours of Nepal and event packages for World Youth Day and the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

Working with Opera Romana, Ornit’s tours assure a faith focus for all their pilgrimages, including daily Mass.

Vatican offers hands-on approach to art

By
A corner of a sarcophagus is seen in the pre-Christian and early Christian art and artifacts display at the Vatican Museums. The Museums have started special tours for the deaf and blind, offering a multi-sensory experience of some of its most famous works. (CNS file photo/Nancy Wiechec)VATICAN CITY - The Vatican Museums have launched special tours for the deaf and blind.

The two-hour tours are free to the hearing- and visually impaired and seek to offer a multi-sensory experience of some of the Museums’ most famous works.

Seven women, five of whom are deaf, received specialized training in art history and archeology at the Museums so they could work as professional guides for the new tour for the deaf.

The tour for the deaf includes stops in the Raphael Rooms, the Sistine Chapel and visits to the classical statues collection. The guides are fluent in a number of sign languages, including British and French.

Doug Barry brings the Passion to life

By
Doug BarryPICKERING, ONT. - When Doug Barry gets to the scourging of Christ in his one-man performance of the Passion, he plays the part of the soldier who wields the whip. The soldier turns to the audience and says, “You sit there thinking you are 2,000 years removed from this in your little, sanitized, religious box.”

The rest of the hour to hour-and-15-minute performance is an elaboration of that one, central point.

“If we do not make that connection — that this was not just an historical event that happened 2,000 years ago — then it’s easier for us to detach ourselves from our sin today,” Barry told The Catholic Register.

Out of the rubble emerges a ministry of reconciliation

By
Coventry CathedralCOVENTRY, ENGLAND - Most of the ruined churches of England are the outcome of the violence of an early age, the dissolution of the monasteries. But the ruins of St. Michael’s Church in Coventry are the consequence of the violence of modern times.

On the night of Nov. 14, 1940, the German Luftwaffe devastated the city of Coventry. And as it burned, the cathedral burned with it. A total of 568 people lost their lives.

This past summer I co-led a group on a Reconciliation and Unity study pilgrimage, and Coventry, the only English city to lose its cathedral as a result of aerial bombardment, was one of the places we visited. It would not have been surprising if, following the raid, another kind of flame were to have been fanned into being — the fire of bitterness and hatred. It was largely due to the inspired, prophetic leadership of the cathedral provost at the time, Dick Howard, that a different spirit prevailed.

No conspiracy against Catholic TV, says Rosica

By
Fr. RosicaTORONTO - Salt + Light Television CEO Fr. Tom Rosica is trying to convince a vocal segment of Canada’s Catholic TV audience there is no dark conspiracy against Catholic television.

Since news broke of Bell TV’s decision to drop the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) from its satellite offerings, Salt + Light has been bombarded with e-mails, phone calls and letters from “people who automatically jumped to conclusions that this was an all-out attack against the Church,” Rosica told The Catholic Register.

Responding to angry blog posts, many of the callers and writers seem to believe in a conspiracy against Catholics rather than a straight business decision on the part of Bell, Rosica said.

Can't find a chant choir? Well, start your own

By
Surinder MundraTORONTO - Looking for a choir to join, Surinder Mundra couldn’t find what he was looking for. He went to one Mass where the choir was singing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” during the homily. In contrast, during the drive home from Mass, he was listening to Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, a composer of sacred music in the Renaissance.

“It was backwards,” the concert pianist, piano teacher, organist and music director at both St. Patrick’s Church in Toronto and St. Georges Anglican Church in Pickering, Ont., told The Catholic Register. “I was listening to secular music in a Church. I had to leave the Church, go into my car and drive home to listen to liturgical music.”

Disillusioned by this, along with the emphasis that many parish choirs have on performance instead of spirituality, Mundra decided to start his own choir. In 2006, he founded St. Patrick’s Gregorian Choir, which specializes in Gregorian chants in its proper liturgical context. One of the only of its kind in Toronto, the choir currently has 15 members.

Bell drops EWTN from digital service

By
Thousands of loyal and faithful watchers of Eternal Word Television Network across Canada are losing their favourite station as Bell TV will drop EWTN from its digital satellite television service as of Feb. 27.

“EWTN had a low viewership and Salt + Light (Canada’s national Catholic television channel) is a strong alternative. This channel capacity is needed for new and high-demand channels,” said Bell spokeswoman Marie-Eve Francoeur in an e-mail to The Catholic Register.

For Toronto EWTN fan Glen Burke, the network is a big part of his TV habit.

John Paul II's army was greater than the most powerful armies of his time

By
Pope John Paul IIOn Oct. 16, 1978, the day that a relatively obscure Polish cardinal named Karol Wojtyla stepped onto St. Peter’s Square and announced himself as Pope John Paul II,  Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn was living in exile in Cavendish, Vermont. Informed that a Pole, a man with firsthand experience of communism, had just been chosen to lead the world’s oldest and largest Christian church, Solzhenitsyn said: “It’s a miracle! It’s the first positive event since World War I and it’s going to change the face of the world.”

How right he was! Solzhenitsyn and John Paul ll are now both dead, but each man irrevocably altered history: Solzhenitsyn, by his heroic witness to truth amidst the freezing darkness of the Gulag Archipelago and Karol Wojtyla — “a man from a far country” as he called himself — by the 27 years of his papacy.

George Weigel, the Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in Washington, D.C.,  is a leading authority on Catholic matters and the author of the definitive (and bestselling) 1999 biography: Pope John Paul ll: Witness to Hope. Weigel has now returned to this subject in The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul ll, the Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, and the Legacy (Doubleday, 2010).

Poems of Christmas

By

magiWe weren’t sure what to expect when we launched our Poems of Christmas contest. But three dozen readers took the time to send us rhyme, and what splendid creativity poured forth from the nativity.

Entries were received from the young and the old, and we had one wonderful entry from a 66-year-old woman who forwarded a poem written when she was 17.  

Every entry stayed true to the example of Msgr. Tom Raby, the former Register columnist whose annual Christmas poem was the inspiration for this contest, by focussing on the peace and joy of the true meaning of Christmas.