December 30, 2009

Beauty, the Bearer of Hope

By Rachel Ross

On November 21, Pope Benedict XVI gathered 250 artists in the Sistine Chapel in an effort to renew the long friendship between art and the Church, challenging them to reengage the power of authentic beauty in their work.  The representatives he gathered came from various cultures, faiths and fields, and the themes of his message were universal: the experience of beauty leads us to discover and confront the meaning of our lives, and a return to authentic beauty in the arts is a powerful...

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December 09, 2009

Can Catholics paint icons?

By David Clayton

Whenever I write about icons, there very often are comments from readers suggesting that Catholics can’t paint icons. The iconographic tradition, they argue is inseparable from Eastern spirituality and liturgy, and so Western Rite Catholics shouldn’t even try unless they follow the Eastern pattern of prayer and fasting. Some go further and suggest that even for Eastern rite Christians, only a monk can achieve the spiritual status necessary to paint icons well. Whether or not we accept this...

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October 05, 2009

The Importance of Beauty to the Catholic Church

By Arthur C. Lohsen, AIA

“Beauty is indeed a good gift of God” – St. Augustine, City of God, Chapter 22   Beauty is an integral and essential part of the Catholic liturgy.  It is indeed a gift from God, as St. Augustine points out.  But is much more than a fleeting stimulus to the senses.  Beauty is an enduring, tangible, and necessary indication of the Lord.  When beauty has been allowed to wither, the liturgy and the faithful are moved away, however unintentionally, from the divine presence.   My argument...

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August 25, 2009

Novelty vs. Beauty

By Erik Bootsma

When I tell Catholics I meet that I’m an architect, invariably they ask me, “Why doesn’t the church I attend look like a church?  Why don’t they build nice churches like the old ones we love?”  Sometimes I come up with a complicated answer or theory, but most of the time I answer, “architects.”  In the United States, we have a fairly good tradition of building beautiful churches in which one can feel a true sense of reverence.  One would be hard pressed to find a church built before World...

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In Life In eras previous to our own, there was often concern about the effect of musical styles on our moral lives, from ancient Greece all the way to the mid-20th century. Christian philosopher Anicius Boethius, wrote in the 6th century: "Music can both establish and destroy morality. For no path is more open to the soul for the formation thereof than through the ears. Therefore when the rhythms and modes have penetrated even to the soul through these organs, it cannot be doubted that they...

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Every time I paint I have to ask myself two questions: what will I paint? And how will I paint it? The answers to these questions govern the content and the style, respectively, of my finished painting and in turn their conformity to what is good, true and beautiful. It was a surprise to me to learn that style is just as important as content in the Christian tradition. If an artist was to follow the modern secular outlook in art, then style is simply a matter of individual taste. Christian...

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In his 1999 Letter to Artists, Pope John Paul II writes, “Every genuine artistic intuition goes beyond what the senses perceive and, reaching beneath the reality’s surface, strives to interpret its hidden mystery” (6).  For virtually all of Christian history, the Church has called on artists to make present the Christian mystery, specifically within a liturgical setting.  How does a work of art draw us more deeply into the mystery of our faith?  Let’s look briefly at one recent example of...

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Living and working for a time in Krakow -- the city that John Paul the Second loved -- I have been struck with numerous lessons regarding music, the arts, aesthetics, and the American Catholic Church. Poland gave the Church one of her greatest Popes, a man fiercely attuned to the merits, failings, and needs of the world and its Church. It comes as no surprise to me that aesthetics figured centrally in his thoughts. "Does the Church need art?" he asked. Indeed "does art need the Church?" It...

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March 18, 2009

What is the future of Catholic Art?

By Hamilton Reed Armstrong

If there is to be a genuine Renaissance of Catholic art in our times, rather than ape the convolutions and idiocies of the secular art world, we must turn to our own past and build on the foundations of the Faith, “once and for all handed down to the saints.” (Epistle of St. Jude)   When one enters a church of the ancient Byzantine tradition, either Eastern Orthodox or Catholic, one is struck by the multiplicity and variety of icons or images. These icons, often hauntingly beautiful, have...

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It is a fascinating realization that our ancient Catholic Mass, when applied within the totality of our faith, just happens to correspond to what science has taught us about human learning patterns.All of our modern research on education informs us that people all learn in different ways. There are visual learners. There are those that learn from doing and repetition. There are those that learn by hearing, while others learn by repeating. Others require a combination of methods to learn most...

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