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Apparitions of Mary, in Art

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May is the month devoted to Mary. To close out the month take a look at some of the artistic interpretations of Marian apparitions throughout the ages.

Courtesy of Epicpew.

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Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university

Lawrence Klimecki is a deacon for the diocese of Sacramento as well as a working artist, he writes on art and faith at www.DeaconLawrence.org 

Painting and Gilding Workshop

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Iconographer Peter Murphy has an  upcoming workshop “Duccio to Fra Angelico: Painting and Gilding Techniques of the Early Italian Masters” scheduled for August 7-11, 2017 at the Sacred Arts Guild of Alberta.

email sagaworkshops@gmail.com for details.

Peter just completed this large icon for the Hereford Cathedral.

Read more about the Calgary workshops here.

Art and the Devotion of the Pilgrimage

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How can art support a devotion such as a pilgrimage? To find out take a look at Elizabeth Lev’s latest article on how Baroque art came to the rescue of the counter-reformation Church.

Read the article here. 

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Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university

Lawrence Klimecki is a deacon for the diocese of Sacramento as well as a working artist, he writes on art and faith at www.DeaconLawrence.org 

Restoration of St. Turibius Chapel

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There is a great article on Henninger’s website about their restoration of the St. Turibius Chapel at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.

This is one of the restoration works Fr. Longnecker featured in his article about “Restoring Beauty to Our Churches.”

Take a look.

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Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university

Lawrence Klimecki is a deacon for the diocese of Sacramento as well as a working artist, he writes on art and faith at www.DeaconLawrence.org 

Restoring Beauty to Our Churches **Updated**

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(This is an update on a previous post with a link to a longer article)

Fr. Dwight Longenecker reports on the growing trend of restoring beauty to churches.

“The most dire consequence of post Vatican II architecture was in the loss of sacramental signification in church design.

The traditional styles, whether Byzantine or Baroque, Romanesque or Renaissance, all conveyed a symbolic language of form and meaning which were expressive of the great Scriptural metaphors of the Church herself. This was a rich and interwoven formal language of the body, the city, the temple which, regardless of epoch or style, allowed us to understand the church as both a sacred place and particularly as an expression of the heavenly realities.” – Steven Schloeder, architect

Read the article here.

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Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university

Lawrence Klimecki is a deacon for the diocese of Sacramento as well as a working artist, he writes on art and faith at www.DeaconLawrence.org 

Pontifex University Biweekly Webinars – Helping to Incarnate the Idea of a Catholic University

Next webinar: Monday May 29th 4.30pm PST. Open to all registered Pontifex University students.

On Monday we have our third biweekly student webinar. This is intended as an extracurricular activity by which students can interact with teachers and each other in a relaxed and informal way.

In his Idea of a University, Cardinal Newman described his experiences as a student at Oriel College, Oxford in the early 19th century. He suggested that Oxford was perhaps the most effecient educational institution in the world for forming people in the desired way…to create men who would help Britain dominate the world and subjugate Catholicism!

While he did not agree with the end to which it was directed, he did see that the educational system. It still bore the pattern of that of the medieval model that had founded it, and was abolished in nearly every every major university in Western Europe by the occupying forces of Napoleon. Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews in Scotland survived. At this time, American universities looked to recently established French and German model that replaced the abolished structures of the old univesities rather than the traditional medieval (and now British model).

What Newman was talking about was the college system was an educational community – the college – bound by common worship and prayer, dining and study. Each was limited in size and so if it reached its natural limit, perhaps 250-300 people, then a new college would be founded.

He claimed, based upon his experiences, that for all the worthy discussion of how an education might be delivered by consideration of the curriculum, teaching methods, exam systems, tutorials vs seminars or lecture and so on, at least as important as any of these in the formation of the person was the culture of the community. In this respect, the greatest influence a student came not from teachers, but peers.

We can see how the beauty of the buildings, there relationship to each other in the quadrangles, and how architecturally they point to the heart and height of community life which is the chapel.

You can see below, the front quad, the chapel, dining hall, and the library. Notice how the chapel is designed for antiphonal singing as in a monastery choir. The Divine Office was sung daily; and even after the reformation, the singing of the Anglican Offices of Mattins and Choral Evensong drew the community together supernaturally. These are sung to this day.

This is something that I felt, palpably, in my own experience at Oxford nearly two hundred years later (my college was St Edmund Hall). I felt, in hindsight, that for all the immorality and lack of regard for any Christian ideals, that this influence and atmosphere of the community was immensly strong and was for the good; and could only be improved if informed by a genuinely Christian ethos.

What does this have to do with webinars at an online university? I joined Pontifex because I believed that this is the future of education – it can allow many more people to afford a high quality education which they could trust to be true to the Magisterium.

The technology is getting better and better and as a result the possibilities of a sense of personal contact between teacher and student become steadily greater. Furthermore, this will only improve in time.

There is one aspect that is at first sight more difficult to engender, and that is the creation of a educational community. How do we engender informal with and between students?

In fact, there are things that students can do to participate in community even when a loner on the end of a computer. For example, if we develop a liturgical piety based around the Mass and the Divine Office and through this pray for our fellows. Even if we have no direct contact then we are praying for and with our fellows, we are in communion with them. I encourage faculty, staff and students to pray for each other and for Pontifex as whole, that all may work for the common good in accordance with God’s will. The power of is should not be underestimated.

The webinar is an opportunity to have direct communication and exchange with other students. We have had two so far and my sense is that they really do engender discussion beyond the scope of normal classes and they represent a chance to think aloud without worry about what others think. The last one, on the creation of a schema for liturgical art for a church in the Roman Rite was exciting for me. I had ideas from our students about how to incorporate imagery into liturgical practice and cathechism that I have never heard before.

My hope is that as our student body grows, that people will connect locally and the discussions will continue. Amongst those who attended this time two were from the same parish in Oregon, so I hope that are talking about this when they see each other in the choir loft of St Stephen’s in Portland they will just continue the conversation!

And in the future I don’t see why we can’t have local networks and communities of people who gather from time to time to discuss, study, eat and pray together; this benefit their education and through their prayers, contribute to the good of the whole community beyond their own locale. This is the Way of Beauty that opens us up to God’s grace; and it is the path to divine wisdom.

We may not have a chapel like that of Oriel College, Oxford, but we can have a host of humble but beautiful domestic churches or icon corners that emulate the home altars of the early Church!

Sacred Arts Guild of Alberta – SAGA – Earn Credit for the MSA at Workshops in Calgary, Alberta

Some of you will be aware of the high quality art summer schools that have been taking place in Calgary for the past summers. Classes have been offered by Catholic artists in naturalistic, gothic and iconographic styles and are of the highest quality. There are great sacred artists invovled: teachers such as Martinho Correia, a Calgary native who divides his time teaching in Canada and Europe; and the Englishman Peter Murphy who travels to Alberta to teach and give talks on icon painting in a Western Romanesque style are involved.

The man who pulled of this together was Mark Charlton Ph D who until he retired recently was on the faculty at St Mary’s University, Calgary. The summer workshops were held at the university campus. Now that he has retired Mark is devoting much of his time to building on the great work that has been done and has launched the Sacred Arts Guild of Alberta.

Mark has a deep understanding of Catholic art and culture and his vision is inspired especially by the writings of Benedict XVI.

I would encourage people to support what they do. Their workshops are worth travelling to Canada to attend and as prices for the classes themselves are quoted in Canadian dollars and for those in the US, the exchange rate is very favorable right now. Furthermore, you can earn credit towards the Pontifex University Masters in Sacred Arts for a small additional fee ($150 USD).

I was invited to teach a class there a few summers ago and loved it. Aside from meeting so many like minded people, we travelled to Banff to see the Canadian Rockies – it is a beautiful part of the world!.

Below: crucifixion and icon of St Augustine by Peter Murphy;

Madonna and Child by Martinho Correia

Be A Monk for 48 Hours!

Here’s a reminder for an event I publicised earlier in the month.

Fr Dunstan and Fr Gregory of St Mary’s Benedictine Monastery in Petersham, Massachussetts, dropped me a line about their next monastic experience weekend, in which they hope to give people an experience of monastic life, and men the opportunity to explore a vocation to the religious life. One of the attendees from the last year’s event is now novice, so let’s hope for more.

It takes place on the weekend of June 2-4. For further information you can contact Father Gregory at monks@stmarysmonastery.org, or call him at 978–724–3350. For a printable flyer, click here.

St. Mary’s Monastery is a contemplative Benedictine community of monks in Petersham, in central Massachusetts. They pray the office in Latin and…

live monastic life as described in the Rule of St. Benedict — an ancient and proven way still vibrant in today’s world. It is a life of prayer and work within the monastery, radically centered on Christ, and structured around the Seven Hours of the Divine Office. We sing this great prayer in Latin using Gregorian Chant with the nuns of St. Scholastica Priory, our “twin community”. We are inviting single men (18-40 years old) for an opportunity to experience from within the rhythm and balance of Benedictine monastic prayer and community life in a house of Benedictine monks.

Fr Sebastian Carnazzo Describes the Importance of the Mary on Arab American TV

If you want to know why Mary the Mother of God is important in Christianity, in one half hour lesson, then watch this. If you want to know how to describe the importance of Mary in Christianity to doubters…then watch this.

Here is an interview given recently by Fr Sebastian Carnazzo, Pontifex University faculty member on Arab American TV.

I suggest that if you want to see the role of Mary in Christianity and in culture, that after watching this, you then read the Marian Option – God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis.

To draw one detail from this we can understand the emphasis on the strong shadow behind Mary painted by Fra Angelico in this painting of the Annunciation. Note how the Archangel Gabriel is not overshadowed in the same way, even though Mary is holier than the angels and will be shining with the uncreated light just as the archangel is. This arises from the gospel of Luke in which he describes how the the Holy Spirit ‘overshadows’ Mary, which is echoing the language of the Old Testament where the same word is used to describe the place where God’s glory cloud rests on the ark of the covenant; and references to the ark of the covenant in the Book of Revelation.

Ephraim the Syrian and the World of Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies

There is a scene from a TV sitcom I saw recently in which there was a scene in which a zombie movie was being made and the pedantic perfectionist director was permanently unhappy with his cast. In trying to get a more authentic performance out of his actors, he turned to one who had just completing a scene as a lowly extra doing nothing but the characteristically stiff, stuttering zombie walk: ‘Richard,’ he said, ‘Your performance – it’s good as far as it goes, but there’s still something missing. I’m getting lots of dead from you, plenty of dead, that’s great…But I’m not getting undead.’

This was a parody of whole genre of movies that seems to be here to stay and which seems to capitalize on the natural fascination of believers and unbelievers alike with our ultimate end and our desire for immortality. Aside from the classic zombie movies, there are others which seem to have similar themes  – vampire films and werewolf films for example. Each will have some twist on the themes of either spiritual death and immortality; or spiritual death and bodily resurrection

I admit that while I am not scandalized by such things (perhaps I should be, I don’t know) I just find most of them pretty dull. I must be unusual in this respect for they are popular and most successful make a lot of money for those who make them.

There are some that over the years I have enjoyed. American Werewolf in London, for example, which is in part a comedic spoof. And there are other films that have similar themes and which are not horror films at all. Highlander, was sombre but not a horror film, for example. Groundhog Day is another in which the protagonist cannot die and regardless of what happens to him he rises again, spiritually dead but bodily resurrected – ‘undead’ in a manner of speaking. The relative optimism of Groundhog Day arises from the fact that it is made clear quite early on that a redemption of sorts is possible and in this imagined scenario the protagonist, played by Bill Murray, eventually breaks out the cycle of misery by becoming a virtuous, loving man. After countless failed attempts at getting the same day right, he finally succeeds by acting selflessly and is permitted, by the unidentified force that controls the rules of this make-believe world, to return to a familiar reality in which time moves forward.

Why are these films successful?

Prof Caleb Brown, whom I met recently is a screen-playwright and teaches a online film appreciation class called Christian Humanism in Modern Cinema told me that it is generally accepted that in the drama of film the highest stakes – what audiences fear most, generally speaking – is not death, but rather eternal damnation or eternal misery. This is, according to Hollywood, the audience’s greatest fear regardless, it seems, of whether or not they acknowledge the existence of an afterlife.

This is part of a simple, deeper answer, which is true of any drama. And that, strange as it may seem, is that these films speak in some way to our natural sense of the story of our own lives, which is as yet not fully realized. Any film will connect with an audience if at some level – albeit sometimes superficially or falsely – it seems to strike a chord in response to the basic questions of life – where do I come from? Where am going? And Why?

The Christian film, in common with every aspect of the culture, evangelizes by illuminating the fact that the story of our own lives is a participation in the grand drama of salvation. This may be done explicitly or subtly, directly or indirectly, but this is what it must do. Then it will stimulate the facility in us to recognize our true story in the Faith and lead us to it. There is even a place for the horror movie within this, I suggest, provided that they portray a message of hope. Regardless of the terror that is protrayed, real or imaginary, if it is portrayed as either redeemable or avoidable by means that is in some form that is analagous, at least, to God’s mercy then it will lead people in the right direction. Furthermore, because these are the fundamental questions that we all want answered, this is the film producers’ guide to greatest box office success, I suggest.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells (CCC282) that the bible tells us a story that relates to ‘the very foundations of human and Christian life’. And the story of the bible is told most effectively in the context of the liturgy as Fr Jean Danielou tell us in his influential book, the Bible and the Liturgy. I recently read Robert Taft’s book, The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West, and he makes a similar point. He tells us, p 371, that in order to profit from praying the liturgy as a whole, including the hours, as a school of prayer:

…one must e a person who prayes and whose life is penetrated with the Scriptures. The Bible is a story of God’s ceaseless calling, drawing, gathering and of his people’s constant waywardness. And the Fathers and monks of the early Church, in their meditation on this ever-repeated story, know that they were Abraham, they were Moses. They were called forth out of Egypt. They were given a covenant. The knew the wandering across the desert to the Promised Land was the pilgrimage of their life too. The several levels of Isreal, Christ, Church, us, are always there. And the themes of redemption, of exodus, of desert and faithful remnant and metaphors of the spiritual saga of our own lives.

And it is the first three chapters of Genesis  are crucial to this story. They express in unique way the

‘truths of creation – its origin and its end in God, its order and its goodness, the vocation of man and finally the drama of sin and salvation’ (CCC 289)

I recently heard of an interesting intepretation of the expulsion from Eden, as related in these early chapters of Genesis by Ephraim the Syrian, 3rd century Doctor of the Church.

He suggests it took place not as a punishment, but as an act of mercy to save mankind by preventing Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the tree of life as fallen people. This would have condemned them, and us, permanently to an eternal life of misery without death, as fallen people.

Rather than allow that to happen, the expulsion took place and then salvation was offered through the Christ and his Church. Through the triple sacrament of Baptism, Confirmation and Communion we die spiritually but then are raised up, again spiritually, and partake of the fruit of the new tree of life, which is Christ. This tells us that the possibility of an eternal but miserable life without death is not even possible – so we don’t need to fear vampires!

We can choose eternal misery after death, but through the mercy of God we never need to. This is the good news.

Just yesterday I read the following in the Office of Readings from St Cyril of Alexandria’s commentary on the gospel of John which relates to this:

When the life-giving Word of God dwelt in human flesh, he changed it into that good thing which is distinctively his, namely, life; and by being wholly united to the flesh in a way beyond our comprehension, he gave it the life-giving power which he has by his very nature. Therefore, the body of Christ gives life to those who receive it. Its presence in mortal men expels death and drives away corruption because it contains within itself in his entirety the Word who totally abolishes corruption.

I don’t mind a portrayal of flesh eating zombies or blood sucking vampires provided that they direct us to the flesh and blood that will genuinely give us eternal life. This is story that is worth telling and it is one that everyone wants to hear. We just have to tell it and maybe the horror genre is one way to do it.