Archive of August 17, 2013

'Norman Rockwell of Harley-Davidson' paints for Pope

Golden, Colo., Aug 17, 2013 (CNA) - There was an unusual meeting at the Vatican this summer when thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts rumbled into Rome for Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary celebrations in Europe.

Four days of reveling in and around the Eternal City kicked off June 12 when brass from the Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer had a chance to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican. Among members of the select group was Golden, Colo., artist David Uhl.

Uhl, well-known for his talent in capturing motorcycle culture with a timeless Norman-Rockwell-style of painting, was asked to make an exclusive piece to present to Pope Francis.

This image was then used for a special Vatican postcard.

“I was humbled by the opportunity,” he told the Denver Catholic Register during a conversation at his Golden studio July 30.

Uhl, 51, part of the Harley-Davidson organization since becoming their first licensed oil painter in 1998, received the request just a month before the event.

“The Vatican wants to commission a piece of art with us … so come up with something,” he said, relaying the gist of the phone call.

Putting other projects on the back burner, he began work on it immediately.

“I wanted to use a motorcycle that’s historic so you can’t really place the piece,” said Uhl, who has access to the Motor Company’s entire photo archive for inspiration. “It could be 50s, late 40s, 70s; who knows, it’s timeless.”

He settled on a 1948 Harley-Davidson FL panhead, and then came up with the concept of a group of clergy coming upon the bike while walking through a wide open St. Peter’s Square.

“(One of them) broke off from the gang to look at the bike,” he said.

The story was simple; the canvas was complicated.

“You’ve got a cobblestone road, a (bike) with a really complex grouping of chrome, and then you’ve got St. Peter’s Basilica with a thousand sculptures,” he said. “How do I get all this in the same piece and keep it so your focal point doesn’t get lost?”

Not only did he successfully manage the busyness, he did it in about a week, following more than two weeks of back and forth with Vatican officials.

Three weeks later, Uhl, with his wife and their two children, headed to Italy.

Following his regular weekly Wednesday audience June 12, Pope Francis took a short trip in the popemobile from St. Peter’s Square to a neighboring courtyard where Uhl and the rest of the Harley contingency waited. Others presented the pontiff with a leather Freedom jacket and two classic motorcycles, then Uhl was up.

What does one say when giving the Pope a piece of art?

“‘I’m humbled by this opportunity,’ ‘I can’t believe I’m actually here,’ ‘thank you so much,’” Uhl vaguely recalled his own words and mentioned that the pope, while smiling, was quiet.

“We were told he wouldn’t speak, that he understands English, but doesn’t speak it very well.”

Though he didn’t say a word, it was clear to Uhl and rest of the group that Pope Francis was pleased with the painting as evidenced by his double-take before leaving.

“He turned back around and looked at the painting and nodded,” Uhl shared. “Man, he loved it! I felt great about that, especially with all the art he’s seen.

“Everyone came out of that meeting 10 feet high.”

Pope Francis is a warm and radiant person, he said, and he considered the meeting a pivotal moment in his faith journey.

“For me, it’s crazy full circle,” said Uhl, the sixth of seven children raised in a devoutly Catholic family. “I went to Jesuit high school and he’s a Jesuit, and now I’m looking back at the things I was doing in high school.”

After attending St. John’s Jesuit High School in Maumee, Ohio, Uhl sought out other faiths, studying as many religions as he could get his hands on: Buddhism, Hinduism and Shamanism, among others.

“I was born with an intense curiosity,” he said. “I’ve always been that way.”
That journey ultimately brought him back where he started.

“I left a lot of that because I wasn’t capable of understanding it,” he said. “Now in the context of other religions and the kernel of truth they have, it’s brought me back to the Catholic faith.

“It’s a massive foundation, and the older I get the more I draw on it.”
While much of his work in the past decade-plus has been related to mechanical subjects, he hopes to paint more “from life” in the future.“

I just want to be the best conduit I can be for God as it comes through my fingers,” he said. “There’s nothing better than seeing something that’s holy and putting it on a canvas.”
For more about Uhl, visit

Posted with permission from Denver Catholic Register, official publication of the Archdiocese of Denver.

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Renovation of Crystal Cathedral praised as Christ-centered

Napa, Calif., Aug 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Under the motto “from Crystal to Christocentric,” southern California's famous Crystal Cathedral is undergoing a renovation that the local bishop calls “a thorough Christological transformation.”

The world's great cathedrals “are designed to bring the light of God to people’s daily life; the cathedral is a place that draws, welcomes, calls, and sends forth at the same time,” said Bishop Kevin W. Vann of the Diocese of Orange.

“This is the goal of the Christ Cathedral: being at the same time a place for the exercise of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy,” he remarked Aug. 2 at the Napa Institute Conference – the theme of which was “Building a Catholic Culture.”

The Orange diocese purchased the 3,000-seat Crystal Cathedral in February of 2012 from the Protestant church which founded it. The architectural landmark is made from over 10,000 panes of glass, and its interior must be renovated to make it suitable for Catholic worship.

“Building a cathedral is a challenge and an opportunity,” Bishop Vann said, who went on to explain that  a cathedral must express the unity of the local Church and the centrality of the ministry of the bishop, especially in his role in the sanctification of his people.

Bishop Vann said that numerous aspects of the current building, including its central location in Orange, its easy access by public transportation, and a vast space to foster community, contribute to accomplish the goal of making the cathedral the very center of the spiritual life of the local Church.

Tim Busch, co-chair of the financial committee assured that “we will redesign the main building to comply with our Catholic liturgical tradition and needs. It will be a demanding challenge, but one we are seriously committed to.”

Since being acquired by Orange diocese, the building has been re-named Christ Cathedral.

Cindy Bobruk, executive director of the Orange Catholic Foundation, said that it will be “a cathedral that becomes a beacon of Catholic culture, Catholic education,  and evangelization.”

The future cathedral contains the fourth largest church organ in the world, valued at $25 million. It is due to be dismantled and shipped to Italy for renovation, and then re-installed.

The Crystal Cathedral campus consists of seven building on 34 acres, and will have room for several permanent fixtures, including a school, space for cultural events, and place for prayer and Eucharistic Adoration. 

It will house the diocesan chancery, which will be established on the property by October.

The oldest building on the campus, known as the “Arboretum,” was the first to be renovated. It was brought to conformity with current safety and building standards. The renovation, which included a new air conditioning system, was completed in 150 days.

The campus was purchased for $57.5 million under Bishop Vann's predecessor, Bishop Tod Brown. The purchase was made after Crystal Cathedral had filed for bankruptcy in Oct., 2010 when some of its creditors sued for payment.

The Orange diocese is the tenth most populous in the U.S., home to some 1.2 million Catholics.

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Thai Catholics encouraged to imitate Virgin Mary's faith life

Bangkok, Thailand, Aug 17, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Mary is a perfect model for Christians, who should imitate their Blessed Mother and learn from her, said a Thai bishop on the feast of the Assumption of Mary in Bangkok. 

The Thai faithful have a very strong devotion to Mother Mary, and she is invoked as the patroness of Thailand and especially of the Archdioceses of Bangkok, Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij told CNA.

Bishops, priests, religious and more than 2,000 lay Catholics gathered in Bangkok to celebrate the solemnity on Aug 15.

In his homily, Archbishop Kovithavanij described how Catholics understand the relationship of Mary with humanity, along with all of the saints who intercede for the living.

He noted that sometimes, these devotions are practiced simply because people have become accustomed to seeking graces through Mary.

“But this type of pious devotion is not enough,” the archbishop stressed. “We should rise above this to a higher level of faith life.”

Liturgy, prayers, sacraments and pious popular devotions are important for enhancing our Christian faith life, he said.

Archbishop Kovithavanij illustrated a two-point method to be “adopted and to be actuated” into daily life, referencing the Second Vatican Council.

First, he explained, is “to believe and accept,” like the Virgin Mary, “acknowledging” the annunciation communicated by the angel Gabriel. Second is “to live a life of love and charity,” just as Mary went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth.

The feast of the Assumption is particularly meaningful for Archbishop Kovithavanij, who was installed as leader of the archdiocese of Bangkok on the feast day in 2009.

Also participating in the Assumption Mass was Monsignor Andrew Vissanu Thanya Anan, deputy secretary general for the Thai bishops’ conference and former Vatican undersecretary for the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue with various national commissions.

The Mass took place at Bangkok’s Assumption Cathedral.

Father Joseph Vuthilert, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Bangkok, told CNA that the cathedral is an 18th century monument that underwent major “restructuration” in early 19th century.

But now, he said, the cathedral again needs restoration, and work has already begun.

The architecture of the cathedral has a French-Romanesque style, with stained windows capturing Christian sacred art.

Blessed Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral during his 1984 Apostolic visit to Thailand.

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