Some of you will be aware of this program already, but not everyone!. The Master 0f Sacred Arts program at www.Pontifex.University was introduced last year (and we even have the first people about to graduate!). But I wanted to let you know that we now pretty much have all the courses up there created by a great faculty. So this is a range of classes that are rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition as well as practical classes in painting, sculpture and sacred geometry (as part of the Mathematics of Beauty course).
The MSA offers a formation in beauty for artists, patrons of the arts and anyone who wants to contribute creatively to the transformation of the culture. It is a chance to travel on the Way of Beauty in a way never before available.
Thank you to all at Pontifex for the creation of this unique program, it is such a pleasure for me to see this available. It is the result of over 20 years’ work and study on my part and many hundreds of years of work if you include the unique contributions of our wonderful faculty.
Every course is unique to the Master of Sacred Arts. You can take the whole program or individual courses; audit or for credit to compliment what you already know or feel you can teach yourself.
Please Join us for a Book Signing with Sister Mary McGlone, CSJ
for her new book
“Anything of Which a Woman is Capable”
Sunday, January 7, 2018 — 3:00 PM
at Creator Mundi Gallery
901 Englewood Pkwy, Unit 112; Englewood, CO 80110; https://www.creatormundi.com/
RSVP to email@example.com by Friday, January 5
Mary M. McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. She has ministered in the United States and Peru and done short-term mission work in El Salvador., Ecuador and Romania. She holds a Ph.D. in Historical Theology. She writes for the National Catholic Reporter among other periodicals and has published several other books.
Carol K. Coburn of Avila University reviewed the book with the following words: “Like a diamond, this book has many facets. It is a story of spirit-filled women who respond directly to the needs of others. It is a story of women’s leadership, power, advocacy, struggle, adaptation and change. It is the story of the Sisters of St. Joseph who created a powerful religious and social movement that spanned over three centuries and thousands of miles. And ultimately, this book and these stories answer the question of what women are capable of — Everything.”
Abel, the son of Adam is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass as Abel the Just. It hasn’t been easy to confirm, but my best information is that his feast day is January 2nd for the Extraordinary Form Calendar and I was just informed (H/T Sequoia S) that it is December 24 for the Ordinary Form calendar. His story is in the book of Genesis. You may remember his offering, a sacrificial lamb, was appropriate, which that of his brother Cain was deficient. When Cain’s offering was rejected, Cain murdered Able out of jealousy.
He is a hugely important figure liturgically in that his story is one that helps to establish the pattern of religious life for us, with worship and sacrifice at its heart. This is true, broadly speaking for the patriarchs, and specifically, he is often associated in this regard with Melchizedek and Abraham. I have covered both of these figures in previous postings and any who have read those will remember the mosaic from Ravenna which has the three together.
This importance is made real, by the continued references to him in the Old Testament, as well as in the Mass, of course. Here is an excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
In the New Testament Abel is often mentioned. His pastoral life, his sacrifice, his holiness, his tragic death made him a striking type of Our Divine Saviour. His just works are referred to in 1 John 3:12; he is canonized by Christ himself (Matthew 23:34-35) as the first of the long line of prophets martyred for justice’ sake. He prophesied not by word, but by his sacrifice, of which he knew by revelation the typical meaning (Vigouroux); and also by his death (City of God XV.18). In Hebrews 12:24, his death is mentioned, and the contrast between his blood and that of Christ is shown. The latter calls not for vengeance, but for mercy and pardon. Abel, though dead, speaketh (Hebrews 11:4), Deo per merita, hominibus per exemplum (Piconio), i.e. to God by his merits, to men by his example.
The Ghent Altarpiece portrays this so beautifully, by connecting the two images of Abel and Cain with the fallen Adam and Eve (who have deep shadows associated with their images and who are naked, but ashamed of their nudity).
Here is an early gothic illumination, which again puts to the two important parts of the ‘Kayn’ and Abel biblical narrative (Read More)
I am wondering if the experiences of choir directors out there confirm an observation of mine about the power of a drone – that is a continuously sung note alongside the melody – to help engage people with sacred music in the right way? I have seen the drone used in Gregorian chant and Byzantine chant to powerful effect. I suggest that this is something that could be used more, especially in modern churches which are not designed with an acoustic that produces a harmonic resonance naturally. In my opinion, chant requires that faint suggestion of harmony that such a resonance lends to it, as one might hear in a gothic abbey for example, in order to have full effect as sacred music (I will explain my reasons for saying this later).
Here are my thoughts as to why this might be. One of the attributes of beauty, famously listed by St Thomas, is due proportion. When something has due proportion, each part of an object must be in right relation to each other in a way that is appropriate to the purpose of the whole. What constitutes due proportion in any particular situation is to a degree a matter of judgment, but there are geometric and arithmetical guidelines that can inform that judgment.
Beauty it seems is ordered by the number three. Going all the way back to pre-Christian classical culture, it was noticed that in the human response to things in combination – that is, in relation to each other – a minimum of three things were needed to constitute some sense of completeness in the arrangement. If there are just two in combination there can still be beautiful combinations, but there is inherent within it a sense that it is incomplete.
This is most easily explained in the natural response of most people to the combinations of notes in music. When two notes are placed in a relationship to each other, it is called an interval, and when it is pleasing it is described as ‘consonant’ meaning literally, ‘sounding together’. However, it was also noticed that when people hear a harmonious interval, it still seems to lack something. If you ask the music theorist why this is, they will tell you its because an interval could be the basis of either a major or a minor chord, and you don’t know which until the third note is supplied. When (Read More)
A video commentary by Bill Donaghy of the Theology of the Body Institute.
Here is the third in the series of 12 short videos on art by Bill Donaghy of the Theology of the Body Institute in Philadelphia. I encourage all to investigate the courses they offer, by the way, which are available through their website.
Once again there are great insights here. Here is one little nugget to tempt you with, if you will forgive the pun, is the play on the word ‘adoration’. Bill explains how this word is derived from the Latin, ad-oratio, that is ‘to the mouth’. To adore is to love intimately – mouth-to-mouth contact – as the imagery of the root portrays. As we see in this painting, the destruction of the harmony between God and man is brought about by a perversion of this, in which Blake show a mouth-to-mouth temptation by the serpent. I suggest that the restoration of this harmony, brought about by Christ, is a spiritual mouth-to-mouth resuscitation!
Again this is exquisitely rendered in a neo-classical form by Blake.
Temptation And Fall
I offer the following as a complement to your celebrations of the Nativity of Our Lord, not as a replacement! Like someone whose birthday is on Christmas Day, St Anastasia is not often commemorated. A separate Mass for her can be said on December 25th, but given the unlikelihood of this happening, I suggest that perhaps in order to revive her momory, as one of the saints of the Roman Canon, we could find a way of adding a veneration to her without distracting from the Nativity – perhaps though the insertion of her name at the prayers of the day in the Mass or the Divine Office, or through a veneration of her icon in the processions in such a way that it supports, rather than distracts from the main focus of the day, the Nativity of the Lord.
Perhaps we could take a lead from the Eastern Church which always commemorates the saints of the day even in Sunday liturgy by the singing of the multiple troparia (one-verse hymns) of the day at the appropriate juncture.
Not much is know about the saint, except that she was a Roman by birth who was martyred at Sirmium in modern-day Serbia during the persecution of the Emporer Diocletian. You can read about her in New Advent here.
This Western depiction of her shows her with the idealized features of a Greek goddess as would have been the norm in the neo-classical art of, for example, the High Renaissance or of the early 19th century.
Eastern icons of her show her with a bottle as ‘deliver from potion’ symbolising the power of her prayers to cure the sick.
This is one of a series of articles written to highlight the great feasts and the saints of the Roman Canon. All are connected to a single opening essay, in which I set out principles by which we might create a canon of art for Roman Rite churches, and a schema that would guide the placement of such images in a church. (Read it here.) In these, I plan to cover the key elements of images of the Saints of the Roman Canon – Eucharistic Prayer I – and the major feasts of the year. I have created the tag Canon of Art for Roman Rite to group these together, should any be interested in seeing these articles as they accumulate. For the fullest presentation (Read More)
What does the story of Jesus’ birth teach us about how God is present in our lives?
“God is unexplainably born in our hearts moment by moment, breath by breath. In order to discover that, we must leave the noise and business of the inn, finding our way in the dark back to the stable. We have to enter into the humility, simplicity, patience, and delicate nature of what’s unfolding in our hearts to discover how God is being born in our lives. We are asked to bring this delicate simplicity out into the world.”
Scroll down on the website of the Center for Action and Contemplation to to listen to James Finley’s entire Advent meditation … and also find meditations by Cynthia Bourgeault and Richard Rohr!
A Survey of the Philosophy of the Good, the True and the Beautiful. An Online Course taught by Dr Carrie Gress for Pontifex University
When I first decided, many years ago now, to become an artist, I wanted to know how to create beautiful art. Given this goal, it seemed obvious, along with all the other aspects of my formation, that I should start reading about beauty itself.
However, to my surprise, I found very little to help me from Catholic writers. Books on aesthetics talked at length about the nature of beauty – and some seemed true (although many didn’t) but barely anyone seemed to offer anything that was of practical use to an artist.
Everyone told me to read Jacques Maritain. I’m probably going to commit a heresy that will offend Thomists here, but I wasn’t at all convinced by him either. As I read through Art and Scholasticism, which was admittedly, full of complex reasoning about the nature of beauty, I still wanted to ask the question: and how do I use all of this to help me judge what is beautiful? I am an artist, how is all this going help me to decide whether or not to direct the brush to the left or to the right? But there was very little there to help me.
Finally, right at the end of the book, he told us that the embodiment of all that he had been describing was in the paintings of Braques and Picasso. You have to be joking, I thought. I knew that their work was designed so as to promote an anti-Christian worldview, yet he seemed to be unaware of this. After pages and pages of proofs justifying the objectivity of beauty, in the end, even for Maritain it came down to an arbitrary application of personal taste to tell us that beauty is what he happens to like. Why not just forget the first 300 pages, I thought, and tell us that the answers to what is beautiful, is that it is what clever philosophers say it is? This principle of elitism was no different from any university in the country, where the intellectuals use wordy arguments to tell you what they like is good and you’re a Philistine if you think differently.
Although many Church Fathers had written about beauty, they didn’t treat the subject separately and so it was difficult to know where (Read More)
Simple and Practical Ways to Promote and Preserve Spiritual Joy, Inspired by St Paul
There is a series of wonderful meditations on the Claritas blog at the moment by priests from the Argentian order, the Institute of the Incarnate Word. I wanted to highlight this, and also share with you here third in the series of meditations for this third week of Advent, based upon the readings from last Sunday. It is by Father Nicholas Grace who is in Cowdenbeath in Scotland. It is so refreshing to hear a priest actually confirming something that I have long believed, that happiness is a choice we can make, provided know how to make the choice. This is simple but profound advice!
We have a wonderful topic this 3rd Sunday of Advent because the readings the Church presents give us the opportunity to speak about that most desirable Catholic disposition of soul, that is, Spiritual joy.
The readings offer plenty of material for speaking about spiritual joy. The spiritual joy of the glad tidings that Isaiah was asked to bring to the poor or the spiritual Joy expressed in the Psalm we heard. The Psalm which was an echo of Our Lady’s Magnificat, an expression of spiritual Joy in its purest form.
However, we will focus instead on the 2nd reading from the letter of St. Paul where we are encouraged to rejoice always, to rejoice in God.
I would like to focus on three of the means Paul offers to cultivate and maintain spiritual joy. I will mention three ways to pray without ceasing, and three ways to avoid quenching the spirit. Finally, both of these means will be summarized in Paul’s admonition to retain what is good and refrain from what is evil.
First: Paul urges, pray constantly. How is this possible? It is possible in three ways.
1st: He constantly prays who does not neglect the appointed time for prayer. This begs the question, do I have an appointed time for prayer? If not, why not?
2nd: Always cultivate good desires in the heart. “Lord, you hear the desire of the meek”.
We pray for the good, we desire the good and we do the good. Prayer is always present in the good things we do. For this reason, the wise man says, “He does not cease praying who does not cease doing good.”
Therefore, to constantly cultivate good desires in the heart, is to constantly cultivate prayer.
3rd (Read More)
In the Outhouse by Michael Moynahan, SJ
It’s been a long,
A steep and winding road
up the sides of mountains.
They race the sun
with prospects of a new head to tax,
albeit a small one,
an impending certainty.
Sky and mother
are visual proof.
They reach the city
but full of hope.
mistaken on occasion
for her father,
fails to act his age
and dashes toward
a door about to close.
Could you give us a room for the night?
Some place to lay our heads?”
“Can’t you read, buster?
We’re all filled up.”
It’s my wife.
She’s about to have her first child.”
“That’s not my problem.”
“He’s not a problem.
He’s a fact
“Open your ears, buddy,
because I’m only
gonna say this once.
We aint’ got no room.
by the sound of a
Three times he will try
to find them lodging.
And with each failure
feel less capable
of caring for his wife
and that life within her
“It doesn’t look good.
All their rooms are taken.”
God will provide.”
And all the time thinking:
“That’s what I’m afraid of.
but they’re full.
It’s looking bleak.”
“God will give us
what we need.”
He shakes his head.
She believes this
and it comforts him little.
The third stop
looking like a
distant bleak relation
of the previous two.
Until the owner’s wife
spies the young girl wince
from movements she understands
all too well.
“You can have
the place out back.
It isn’t much
but it will be a roof
over your heads.
There’s fresh hay thrown.
The animals won’t bother you
and the child will be warm.
I’ll get some rags and water.
Go on now,
the young girl’s face
I was delighted to receive notice of the completion of a major commission by Thomas Marsh.
It is of the Holy Spouses, Patrons of the Unborn and is located at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Bakersfield, CA.
I love the restrained use of color as applied to the bronze. Also, note that the faces are not portraits of a model, but rather they are idealized, taking inspiration from the Greek ideal, that was used by High Renaissance and Baroque masters. This is something that is so important in sacred art, yet is not understood by so many artists who work in naturalistic styles. I explain the reasons why idealization is important in sacred art in an earlier blog post here.
Beautiful art is as important to the creation of a culture of life as the noble political battles fought by those in the Right to Life movement, I suggest!
Below is a detail of the original clay model that the cast was based on:
Thomas has been an advisor to me in the creation of the Masters of Sacred Arts program at www.Pontifex.University, which offers the all-round formation, the Catholic inculturation that would tell an artist how to direct his brush or chisel, and a patron which artists to commission!
He is also the teacher of Deborah Samia who has created one of the two online studio classes required for the MSA program, an Introduction to Sculpting the Figure.
Anyone who wants to learn to draw and paint in the naturalistic style should consider classes at the atelier of Catholic master artist Anthony Visco. The perfect combination would be to learn your practical artistic skills with Anthony at his Atelier for Sacred Arts and take the Master of Sacred Arts with www.Pontifex.University in order to have the all-round formation and Catholic inculturation that will help direct your brush…and chisel…and crayon!
A video commentary by Bill Donaghy of the Theology of the Body Institute, Here is the second in the series of 12 short videos on art by Bill Donaghy of the Theology of the Body Institute in Philadelphia.
This week and next he discusses two paintings by William Blake the poet and artist. In this case, he discusses illustrations to Milton’s Paradise Lost. First is Satan Watching the Caresses of Adam and Eve.
At first glance, the art of Blake may seem a world apart from the grand fresco of Adam and God in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. However, both draw on the ancient Greek ideal of the human form for inspiration. This can be seen if you compare the paintings in each case with any Venus or Hermes (as below)
This is appropriate to the subject matter and consistent with the ideas of John Paul II because he stated that in his view the Greek ideal might be the starting point for the art of the Theology of the Body.
Here is the video:
It was recorded in April last year and so the course that Bill refers to is past, but I would encourage people to look for courses in the coming year. His approach to art and beauty is fully in harmony with that of Pontifex University and my own Way of Beauty book.
The dream of God is a vision of Shalom, a rich Hebrew word often translated as “peace” but meaning much more than the absence of war. It means well-being in a comprehensive sense. It includes freedom from negatives such as oppression, anxiety and fear, as well as the presence of positives such as health, prosperity and security. Shalom thus includes a social vision: the dream of a world in which such well-being belongs to everybody.
Fr. John Fullenbach, SVD – Kingdom of God as Principle of Action in the Church
St Lucy is a 3rd-century saint, a virgin martyr who was venerated from the moment of her death and whose feast is celebrated on December 13th in both East and West. An account of her life can be found here. As with all worthy images intended for worship, we see in this portrayal of her (by the great 18th century Venetian, Tiepolo) we see an account of her story and the characteristics that identify her uniquely. So we see her receiving communion just at the moment of death caused by being stabbed in the throat. As the instrument of her death, the dagger is placed bottom right in the composition, along with her eyes on a plate. This latter symbol is most commonly associated with her, although it is developed relatively late, in the middle ages, linked to her name which is derived from the Latin word for light. Other attributes we will see are a palm branch – which is appropriate to all martyrs – as seen in this famous Renaissance period painting by Francesco de la Cossa And, people struggling to move her. The consul Paschasius ordered that she be removed to a brothel and abused until she died. However, teams of men tried but failed to move her. We see this in the painting below in this 15th-century depiction. Teams of oxen are being used. A tradition iconographic image has the saint holding a cross as a sign of martyrdom as in the beautiful fresco: I finish with Caravaggio and his burial of St Lucy. This is a late painting done when he was in exile, so to speak, from Rome and living in Sicily, the home of St Lucy. It is an altarpiece and in my opinion, one of the most brilliant paintings he has done. I do not know if the stylistic development is by accident or design, but regardless I like the result. Notice how much more this reflects the developing baroque style than his early work. It is shrouded in more mystery, with disappearing edges, far more numinous monochrome rendering and less colouration than he might have painted in his youth. The composition is brilliant, with the arcs of the arcs of the limbs of the two figures in the foreground creating a mandorla, which frames the figure of St Lucy. This is one of a (Read More)
Christmas is just around the corner, and here at Creator Mundi in Denver, Colorado, we have religious gifts for kids that will help bring the true meaning of Christmas into your home this year. We offer a wide selection of beautiful, sacred items that’d make lovely gifts for the young ones in your life.
Any religious boy or girl would love to receive one of our unique cross pendants this Christmas season. Our solid brass filigreed Tree of Life pendant is distinguished, yet elegant. The Jerusalem Cross Pendant is handcrafted from wood and symbolizes the symbolically vibrant design of the Jerusalem Cross. For a more delicate looking cross pendant, consider one of our Italian handcrafted glass pendants.
A stunning wall cross would make an excellent addition to a child’s room. Our bronze wall crosses feature unique and detailed designs. Here are a few of the ones you’ll find in our selection:
- We Join Our Hands Together Cross
- Called to Serve Cross
- Manna From Heaven Cross
- Tree of Life Cross
- Filigreed Tree of Life Cross
- Resurrexit Cross
- Transformation Cross
- New Beginning Cross
- God’s Creation Wall Cross
If you’re looking for something meaningful, yet affordable for the children in your life, consider giving a gift of faith with one of our pocket pieces. Made from solid pewter, these pocket pieces are beautiful and would make a great gift this Christmas. Quantity discounts are available.
Our figurines are popular for spiritual gift giving. They can be displayed on a desk, shelf, dresser, or nightstand. They can also be carried in a purse or pocket as a reminder of comfort and protection.
Children and adults alike enjoy the traditions that help us anticipate the Christmas holiday with excitement and wonder. Dating back to 19th-century Germany, Advent Calendars are one way to countdown to the big day. Our Advent Calendar features the story of Christ with whimsical pictures. Let your children experience the story of the nativity with our Children’s Nativity set. This plush nativity scene is adorable and safe for all ages. Let’s not forget to keep a reminder of Christ hung prominently on the Christmas tree. The elegant Cross Nativity Ornament is made of copper, brass, and tin and will serve as a reminder of the sacred nature of this holiday season.
Shop Creator Mundi for Christmas
Whether you’re looking for a gift for a child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or someone in your Sunday School class, you’ll find the perfect spiritual gift at Creator Mundi in Denver, Colorado. Visit us and purchase that special gift today.
In the first of a series that will run for the next few weeks, here is a beautiful and simple analysis of this scene from the fresco by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It is presented by Bill Donaghy of the Theology of the Body Institute in Philadelphia. The Institute offers a series of intensive classes for a certificate on the writings of St John Paul II, which I recommend wholeheartedly. They focus especially on their relevance to the culture and the New Evangelization, as well as marriage and the family. In this five-minute presentation, we see all three come together!
John Paul II was a great admirer of Michelangelo and his style. He suggested that idealized naturalism, which draws on the ancient Greek ideal, might be a way to represent mankind ‘naked without shame’.
Advent is a time of waiting — in the widest sense. Be blessed!
A Blessing for Waiting
by Jan Richardson, Circle of Grace
for the night
for the night
in the hospital room
in the cell
who wait in prayer
for the phone call
who wait for a word
who wait for
who will come home
who will not come home
Who wait with fear
who wait with joy
who wait with peace
who wait with rage
who wait for the end
who wait for the beginning
who wait alone
who wait together
what they wait for
should not wait
when they should be
when they need
when they need
to set out
for the end
for the fullness
And How the Sacred Art Reveals It
Have a look at this ancient wall painting of the prophet Daniel’s companions in the fiery furnace. It is from the Roman catacombs and is one of the images that is included in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Scripture tells us of the fate of Daniel’s three friends (Daniel 3: 49, Knox translation). It says that an ‘angel of the Lord had gone down into the furnace with Azarias and his companions and drove the flames away from it, making a wind blow in the heart of the furnace, like the wind that brings the dew. So that these three were untouched, and the fire brought them no discomfort. Whereupon all of them, as with one mouth, began to give praise and glory and blessing to God, there in the furnace.’ Afterwards, the king who had thrown the youths into the fire, Nebuchnudnezah said he saw four figures, and the fourth was ‘as it had been a son of God’ (v92).
I recently examined this passage in scripture because the song that the three subsequently sang is known as the Canticle of Daniel and is sung on Feast days at Lauds. I was looking at the background to this and considering why it is sung in the liturgy.
My understanding is that in the interpretation of the Church Fathers, the reference to the wind and the dew in the scriptural account has been connected to the Creation story in which the Spirit of God was over the water, and then to the baptism of Christ in which the Holy Spirit comes down and the sacrament of baptism is initiated. Baptism is, through water, the instrument of the death of the old self spiritually so that we can be resurrected, also spiritually, in Confirmation or Chrismation by the action of the Holy Spirit.
There is a similar connection to the passages describing the crossing of the Red Sea and the crossing of the Jordan by Joshua, in which the water and wind are connected. Wind is the action of the Spirit, as is fire (as at Pentecost which the Church Fathers also connected to the burning bush).
These common themes are the reason why traditionally in baptistries we would see portrayals of all these scenes, as described here.
So who is the fourth figure?
He can be represented simply as ‘an angel of the Lord’, as in this contemporary (Read More)
How about this from Durham Cathedral – St Cuthbert in the style of the School of St Albans? It is in the Galilee Chapel at the Romanesque cathedral in northern England. I suggest that this approach of simple line drawings describing form, and simple coloration is one that artists of today could adopt. If they do so, a wonderful new 21st-century gothic style can emerge for the greater glory of God and the Church! If done’ properly this would be simultaneously contemporary and traditional in a way that speaks powerfully of the Faith.
This shows that the miniature illuminations of Matthew Paris, which www.Pontifex.University promotes, can work well on a grand scale on walls too. Here is a miniature by Matthew Paris, from the 13th century.
I say on this pilgrimage of life, let’s set the bow of the barque headed firmly towards heaven, with tradition at the tiller!
Artists! Learn to paint in the style of the School of St Albans in the www.Pontifex University. My course, A Study of Artistic Method for Patrons and Artists not only teaches you how to paint in egg tempera, but it explains the principles by which you can make any style of art you like your own; and it so happens that the style I focus on in the class to illustrate is the School of St Albans style, as seen in the Galilee Chapel of Durham Cathedral!
Here are some more photos of Durham Cathedral to give you some context.
The Norman nave of Durham Cathedral, a World Heritage Site, Durham, County Durham, England, UK.