Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Two SGD Leaders Meet with Coptic Patriarch; Sodality Member Moves to Rome; Bible Study Looking for New Members

authored by scovich; photograph from Michael

Sodalitiers Among the Coptics
Last Sunday, September 21, Skylar and Michael attended Mass at Saint Mary Coptic Catholic Church in Glendale, Los Angeles.

Most Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, which broke away from the Catholic Church after the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century. However, after a brief reunion in the fifteenth century amidst the Ottoman conquest and a subsequent period of Franciscan and Jesuit missionary activity, some Coptics became Catholic in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, a patriarchate of Alexandria in communion with Rome was restored.

The current Catholic patriarch of Alexandria, Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, took office in 2013. Ibrahim is not yet a Cardinal, but the previous Coptic patriarch is. Ibrahim is visiting the United States, to participate in meetings about the protection of Christians in the Middle East, and to visit the Coptic Catholic churches here.

On the day Michael and Skylar attended Mass, Patriarch Ibrahim was visiting. He was able to celebrate with the children of the church, many of whom had their First Communion. We were able to meet with the patriarch, give him a Sodality holy card, and have our picture taken with him. We found the community to be very kind and welcoming. The Patriarch was very supportive of our efforts, and stated “we are truly united in prayer.”

The Coptic Catholic Church has adopted some customs of the Roman Rite, including the calendar of readings established after Vatican II. Coptic Catholics also have significant Catholic devotions such as the Rosary and the Sacred Heart. However, the Coptic Catholic Church celebrates Mass in ancient liturgies of the Alexandrian Rite which differ significantly from the Roman Rite. We attended Mass in the Liturgy of St Basil, in a version which combined Arabic, Coptic, Greek and English. The majority was in Arabic, including the use of the term Allah for God. Many of the chants were in Coptic, while the Kyrie, sung in Greek in an unusually fast and repetitive meter, was the most familiar part to us.
The chants were sung with percussion accompaniment, with musical settings that had much eastern influence.
You can watch the Liturgy of St Basil in English here. (However, it appears that this service is Coptic Orthodox, not Catholic.)

We had each previously attended Mass in the Byzantine Rite. The Coptic Mass differed even more significantly from Roman, so this way of worshiping was new to us. However, we found it quite spiritually uplifting, especially the translations of the prayers, which are arguably more elaborate and detailed even than the Tridentine Latin Mass.
Communion is taken on the tongue, with the bread dipped in wine as is done in the Byzantine Rite, but without a spoon.

Sodalitier in Rome
Meanwhile, one of our Sodality members is likely to attend an audience with Pope Francis, and would be able to do so while traveling only a few miles. Juliana had been a close friend of Matt and Skylar through other Catholic groups for several years, and attended some of our Sodality gatherings. She has now moved to Rome, and you can follow her adventures on her blog

Sodalitiers in Isla Vista
Finally, we will end this long post with some discussion of another important part of our Sodality which we have not yet mentioned on the blog. Since February, most of the leadership of the Sodality (Skylar, TMR, Matt, Michael, and more recently Liz), along with several others, have attended a Bible study which was started by one of the missionaries from FOCUS, the ministry which is resident at St Mark’s Parish in Isla Vista. From February until May we studied the concept of salvation history, focusing largely on Genesis. Throughout the summer we studied from the Book of Proverbs, and we are now studying the Book of James.
Some people have been surprised by our wide-ranging and often uproarious intellectual discussions, comparison of different Bible translations, and unique ways of relating the Bible to life in general. The Bible study usually meets Mondays at 8 PM.
For more information, you can find us on Facebook in the group IV Graduate Bible Study, or email

Next week we are planning to post in honor of the feasts of St Francis and St Therese. Following that we will post another interview with Michael about Bishop Garcia Diego and his painting of that subject, as promised.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sodality Updates, Mission Art, Refuge of Sinners Painting, and Church Calendar Notes

TMR has tasked me, Skylar, with putting together a blog entry. During this summer, we sodalitiers have continued to socialize frequently, though the blog is less active than during the school year. This summer we said goodbye to our chaplain, Father Andrew Garcia S.J. We will continue to have Sodality Masses with other priests who kindly support us. We now have many planned activities for the rest of the Ordinary Time and beyond.

We would like to welcome another companion to our sodality leadership. Liz was a part of previous Catholic groups which Matt and I had belonged to before she and many of our other close friends moved away. She even knew our intrepid editor, TMR, before most of us did. She has now returned to Santa Barbara, and we are delighted to include her in the governance of the Sodality: we are now the G6 instead of the G5.

Coverage of Local Catholic Art Begins Now
We commence a planned series of posts about local history and mission art. Michael Aberle has contributed to the solidarity of our group in many ways, particularly through his artistic talents. In an exclusive interview for this blog, he imparted some of his vast knowledge of local history and spoke of his own artistic process.
Michael is passionate about mission art and has produced paintings himself in that tradition. Some of this art is in the broader tradition of the santeros; artists throughout the southwestern United States during the (late) Spanish colonial period. Michael points out that this Spanish and Mexican colonial style of art is marked by simplicity and sincerity, which he finds very meaningful spiritually. He contrasts this style with the richness of Baroque art. Some of this mission art was painted on tin. Sacred art for the Catholics living in such contexts was particularly important for private devotion because access to the Mass and sacraments was sometimes quite limited. Some of the faithful lived at a distance from any of the missions; furthermore, in the 1830s most of the missions reverted to secular control (with the important exception of Santa Barbara).

Our Lady Refuge of Sinners
The first of Michael’s two paintings for the Sodality depicts Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners (Refugio de los pecadores), the patroness of our group. Michael discusses the importance of this title of Our Lady for the early inhabitants of Santa Barbara: Bishop Garcia Diego not only named her the patroness of California, he reinforced that title locally. The first educational institution of Santa Barbara, founded by Garcia Diego in the early 1840s, was the Refuge of Sinners School, which lasted until 1881.

There are many paintings of Our Lady Refuge of Sinners dating from the 1800s, indicating that she was a popular subject of painting. In Michael’s rendering, consistent with these earlier versions, Mary is holding the child Jesus and looking off into the distance. Mary’s act of mothering helps us see how she is a refuge for all of us, who need her intercession and guidance. The baby Jesus appears to be standing on a cloud. They both wear crowns; Mary wears pearl necklaces and earrings. In an upcoming post, we will discuss Michael’s newly completed painting of Bishop Garcia Diego.

Finally, note that tomorrow is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Three of the G6 are planning to go together to Latin Mass in Camarillo.
Next week, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are traditionally noted as Ember Days, days of penance occurring four times a year.