A Talk that Cuts Right to Heart of What Education is About – Do Go If You Can

Jennifer Donelson is giving the next Catholic Artists Society lecture in New York City on December 10th.

I want to encourage anyone who is interested in the general formation of Catholics, not just Catholic artists, to go to this talk. The title is Sacred Liturgy as Primary Source for the Artist’s Imagination. I cannot get there myself so hope to have a transcript if I can.

This is a topic that is close to my heart and if the title is anything to go by, gets right the meet of what artistic formation and even Catholic education are about.

A lot of painters come to me asking about how they can get a formation as a painter. I always say that the most important thing is the worship of God in the sacred liturgy. That is not to rule out other aspects of an artist’s training of course, but without a connection to the primary source, the artist is cutting himself off from the primary source of inspiration that is available to him to direct his brush on the canvas; and to the wisdom that will guide him in the choices he makes in his own formation.

It is a topic that comes up as well in discussions about education in general. Some people who favor a ‘great books’ education seem to forget, it often seems to me, that the worthy books that are studied are the result of inspiration. Therefore in that regard they are secondary sources in themselves. The goal, of the study of them is, as much as an appreciation of their content, is to give the student an understanding that such wonderful works eminate from a source of inspiration that as Catholics is available to them in way that sometimes wasn’t even available to the authors of the books themselves (who weren’t Catholic) in the same way. This should, in my opinion, inspire us to look at these works and think that we could be not just equalling, but even surpassing them. The person who is satisfied in the study of such works of the past, and does not see them as pointing to something greater, the worship of God in the liturgy, is like the one who savors the smell of the meal but never actually eats. A Catholic inculturation therefore, does not necessarily require a student to be immersed in the full range of the canon of great books, rather, just enough to grasp the point that the liturgy is the wellspring of creativity that is the place of the universal Christian culture.

(That is not to mention the other point that arises from this discussion on a great books education, which is the prejudice of most academics, who have a book based education, against art and music as an essential element of education. There is a feeling that the study of these ‘lesser’ disciplines is more recreational than transformational. But as an artist, I suppose I would think that wouldn’t I!)

I know no more about what Jennifer is going to say than the title, but these are the thoughts that cross my mind as I ponder over this extremely important topic. Please go if you can.

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