Archive of April 9, 2011

Catholic man creates biblical scenes using soap, coffee

Waterbury, Conn., Apr 9, 2011 (CNA) - During his 27 years building Broadway and movie sets, Ron Daisomont learned how to work with wood, metal and a variety of other materials. But with tight deadlines, patience was not his strong suit. “I’d be the guy you’d hear swearing,” he said.

Now, he is working with a new material, and he is learning patience. His art is biblical sculpture. His medium: bars of Dial soap.

You might say he has cleaned up his act.

“I used to work for Scenic Technologies, out of New Windsor, N.Y.,” he said. “I worked on all the major Broadway shows, including Cats, the original Les Miserables, the original Phantom (of the Opera), and a lot of road shows.”

Four years ago, he fell at a train station and fractured several bones. It put him out of commission, and he has had to look for other ways to use his talents. About a year ago, he found a way.

“A friend of mine took a bar of soap and carved a hand. He took another and carved another hand, so he had praying hands,” Daisomont said. “He put them on a base. I said, ‘Gee, I could probably do that.’ So, the next day I actually started carving crosses, and God gave me the name of it: Crosswerks Ministries.”

Presumably, God spelled it correctly, but a computer search told Daisomont that there were some 1,900 companies with “Crossworks” in their names. So he settled on “Crosswerks.”

Daisomont’s soap sculptures range in size from about four inches high and a few ounces in weight to nearly a foot high and weighing about three pounds. Some large pieces give a new meaning to “eight to the bar.”

Biblical scenes include King David’s golden harp, for which he uses dental floss for the strings; Noah’s ark, both during the flood and after landing on Mount Ararat; chariots with wheels that actually turn on axles fashioned from pen cartridges; crosses and crucifixes; chalices; gates of Samson; and more.

Does it matter which kind of soap he uses?

“Oh, absolutely, yes. Dial soap. Actually, I tried a few different types. My buddy didn’t really know what kind of soap he used.”

Daisomont discovered that a 3.2-ounce bar of Dial is dryer than most other brands and easier to work with. “I’ll go to a dollar store and buy like 16 bars at a time, three bars for a dollar. Ten days ago I bought 62 bars, and I think I have a dozen left,” he said. He saves all his shavings and molds them into tiny swords, helmets, shields and bases for his sculptures.

To join several bars, he will use a carpenter’s lap joint, fit them together, pour hot water over them, drain the water and press the bars together until they are fused.

Among the more than 100 sculptures he has made are about 30 armors of God. “If you look up Ephesians, chapter 6: 10-20, it will tell you all about putting on the armor of God,” he said. “I use the breastplate, the shield, the helmet; and then the sword, naturally, is the word of God.”

The only paint that he uses is gold paint for the chalices and David’s harp. “Anything that’s brown is instant coffee,” he said. Other colors are achieved by shaving colored pencil leads and mixing them with a special floor wax, letting it set, and then applying the mixture with a Q-tip.

Using a few simple tools like an X-ACTO knife, a razor blade, a hacksaw blade and sandpaper, he is able to achieve the look and texture of wood, marble, granite and other materials. But, he doesn’t take credit for it. “It’s all the work of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“I was a carpenter for many years and a certified welder, but I have absolutely zero training in art,” he said. “Doing these sculptures is like putting plastic models of cars together, except there are no directions. The Holy Spirit is my directions.”

Daisomont, who attends St. Michael Church in Waterbury, hopes to form a nonprofit organization, build a Web site and sell his sculptures at church bazaars to raise money for Catholic causes. Until then, he is stockpiling his art and selling it piece by piece, starting at $29.95. When a repairman showed up at his home to work on the television, Daisomont showed him the sculptures in his studio.

“He was here for over an hour,” Daisomont said. “My TV’s still the same.”

For more information on Crosswerks Ministries, contact: [email protected]

Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn.

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Be courageous Catholics, Archbishop Chaput urges Notre Dame students

South Bend, Ind., Apr 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver encouraged a gathering of pro-life University of Notre Dame students to be courageous in fighting for their beliefs and to always remember what being Catholic really means.

“(W)e need to learn that not from the world; not from the tepid and self-satisfied; and not from the enemies of the Church, even when they claim to be Catholic; but from the mind and memory of the Church herself, who speaks through her pastors,” he said in an April 8 speech at the university.

Chaput noted how the philosopher Leszek Kolakowski stressed the reality of evil. Though not an orthodox religious thinker, Kolakowski talked about Satan “not as a metaphor or legend or the figment of neurotic imaginations, but as a living actor in history.”

The devil, the archbishop said, “works in the present to capture our hearts and steal our future. But he also attacks our memory; the narrative of our own identity.” This is because our memory of history conditions our thoughts and choices in our daily lives.

Archbishop Chaput encouraged his audience to participate in politics, saying, “Christ never absolved us from defending the weak, or resisting evil in the world, or from solidarity with people who suffer.”

Catholics cannot exclude their religious beliefs from guiding their political behavior, because God sees that this “duplicity” is a kind of cowardice. This lack of courage wounds Christians’ individual integrity and also discourages others who try to witness publicly to their faith.

Christians should act on their beliefs always with humility, charity and prudence, but also always with courage, he emphasized.

“We need to fight for what we believe,” he said. “Nothing we do to defend the human person, no matter how small, is ever unfruitful or forgotten. Our actions touch other lives and move other hearts in ways we can never fully understand in this world. Don’t ever underestimate the beauty and power of the witness you give in your pro-life work.”

The archbishop also described abortion as “the foundational human rights issue of our lifetime.”

“We can’t simultaneously serve the poor and accept the legal killing of unborn children. We can’t build a just society, and at the same time legally sanctify the destruction of generations of unborn human life,” he added.

Abortion is no longer the only major threat to the right to life, which now faces a range of challenges including physician-assisted suicide, cloning, genetic screening, genetic engineering, and cross-species experimentation.

He noted that people are discussing the need to return science to its “rightful place” in human life, warning that this can become a slogan to justify unethical research. Citing the Jewish bioethicist Leon Kass, he said the present day is an age of “salvific science” in which a “scientific savior” supposedly takes away the “sin of suffering.”

Yet science accountable to no moral authority outside itself leads to “a hatred of imperfection” in real human persons, and the simplest way to deal with imperfections is to eliminate the imperfect.

Science and technology are “enormously powerful tools” but they can undermine human dignity just as easily as they can advance human progress.

“Virtue does matter,” the archbishop said as he finished his talk. “Courage and humility, justice and perseverance, do have power. Good does win. And the sanctity of human life will endure.”

The sanctity of life will endure, he said, because young men and women like those in his audience will remember that “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son” and “it’s worth fighting for what’s right.”

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Paris dialogue with non-believers raises need for youth outreach

Vatican City, Apr 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - After the first official dialogue session with non-believers in Paris, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and the Pontifical Council for Culture plan to approach future meetings with a greater emphasis on reaching out to young people.
The forum is called the "Courtyard of the Gentiles," and it seeks to engage adults and youth alike in contemplating spirituality through discussion on subjects like culture, philosophy and politics. It creates a "courtyard" like that outside the temple in ancient Jerusalem, which was reserved for debates between Jews and non-Jews.

The Vatican-sponsored event took place in Paris, France from March 24-25. It was divided into encounters that involved high society, intellectuals and politicians, and a final encounter with the city's youth at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

It was during the encounter at Notre Dame, with a jovial atmosphere in the outer square and a prayer service going on inside led by the ecumenical Taize community, that the cardinal was struck by the interest of non-Catholics in the prayer.

In a pre-recorded video message aired earlier in the square, Pope Benedict XVI had asked curious non-believers to take the initiative to enter the cathedral and see what was going on inside. He even asked them to pray in their own way.

As Cardinal Ravasi surveyed the cathedral, he saw a group of Christians kneeling before a cross and a few of young people in the margins following along in booklets provided. The divide between believers and non-believers was apparent.

Many of those standing off to the side appeared only to examine the interior of church, but they stayed.

The cardinal saw the Taize community leading songs and addressing those seated in the cathedral.

At the end of the cardinal's 40 minutes there, non-believers had nearly filled the open seats in the cathedral.

"What does this mean? That perhaps proposing these things to them ... is a possibility to be tried, proposing in addition something adapted for young people," said Cardinal Ravasi.

The cardinal was speaking to reporters at a press conference at the Holy See's Press Office on April 8 to present the 14th Santo Domingo International Book Fair in the Dominican Republic. This year, the Holy See will be the guest of honor for the May event, and he will be Pope Benedict XVI's official delegate to the event.

Among the events the cardinal will oversee is a meeting with youth. He envisions a type of event like that which took place at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

"We must truly begin to start studying and reflecting more" about engaging young people who are prone to indifference towards themes of religion and spirituality, he said.

Youth, he added, are "carriers of a new cultural identity. They have their own languages and ways of reading things differently.

"It is not so much the groups that are strongly religious or those who are extremely and conscientiously secular, but the great part of them are those who live in a state of imprisonment ... of superficiality which is created by the style of the previous generation."

Society itself contributes to this worldview through mass communication messages and political, social and cultural elements, he observed.

"These things," he said, "like at Notre Dame, I want to touch on in Santo Domingo."

Cardinal Ravasi also mentioned that "Courtyard" events are planned for this year in Bucharest, Romania and Tirana, Albania. Interest in creating dialogue between believers and non-believers is growing across the western world, he said.

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