Friday, October 22, 2010

The Importance of Art in the Battle Over What it Means to be Human

Andrew Greeley starts his famous book "The Catholic Imagination" with the following:

"Catholics live in an enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures. But these Catholic paraphernalia are mere hints of a deeper and more persuasive religious sensibility which inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation. As Catholics, we find our houses and our world haunted by a sense that the objects, events, and persons of daily life are revelations of grace."

Greeley goes on to famously make the case (one that has been made before him) that we need to recognize the importance that culture and art play in helping to bring people to Christ. Often times, we neglect this aspect of the battle as Catholics, although it is quite clear that it is our faith that has principally championed the building up of culture from the beginning. While some of the protestant reformers and their followers smashed statues and destroyed all artistic imagery in Catholic Churhes throughout Europe, the Catholic Church has always been about the "smells and bells" - and it is the Catholic Church that has believed that a walk into a beautiful cathedral or basilica can be just as effective as a verse from the Catechism at inspiring conversion in the heart of a sinner.

To that end I want to pass on an AMAZING short film that I hope you take the time to watch. It is from a recent independent film festival called the doorpost project. It shows the way for many youngsters thinking about entering the arts (writers, singers, producers, directors, painters, wood and metal workers, architects) that the arts and culture are IMMENSELY important in the effort to both destroy the culture of death and build up a culture of life. The behind the scenes documentary of the film is also important.

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Also, I've bought some films from the USCCB for my classes, but they have all been so poorly done and so deprived of any creativity that I didn't even use them in class. All the videos were essentially a lecture with film overlayed on top of someone telling you or trying to teach you something. Lecture has its place (I use it in class all the time) but a lecture isn't "art." This is the latest "filmish" production of the bishops, and I think it is a HUGE improvement on some of the other sutff the Bishops have produced over the years. It has its weaknesses, but I was very glad to see the Bishops moving in the right direction. Check out their very short video on marriage here:

Finally, check out "Grassroots Films," a group out of New York. They are really leading the charge in Catholic Film work. Find someone doing good Catholic work in one form of art or another AND SUPPORT THEIR EFFORT.

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