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I am looking for Catholic and other Christian artists (of any type – visual artists, performing artists, musical artists, etc.) who are interested in exploring the idea of an institute of consecrated life dedicated to artistic creation and ministry to artists. This proposed institute would have both a residential community (probably located in either New York City or Los Angeles to start) and the ability for members to live individually. In addition, it would include both vowed members (professing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity in celibacy, and obedience) and non-vowed (or alternately-vowed) associate members, who can be either married or single, Catholic or non-Catholic Christian.

Visit the links on this post for more information about the vision of the institute. Fill out the contact form below if you would like more information, including a more recent draft document describing the proposed charism of and rationale for the institute.

I look forward to hearing from you. Prayers for discernment appreciated.

Blessed John Paul the Great and St Genesius, pray for us.

Yours in Christ,

Cole

From Kazimierz Braun, A History of Polish Theater, 1939-1989: Spheres of Captivity and Freedom (Contributions in Drama & Theatre Studies, #64) (London: Greenwood Press, 1996), p. 20, bold added:

While in Warsaw the Clandestine Theater Council worked on practical plans for the operation of theater after the war, in Cracow [the famous actor and director Juliusz] Osterwa alone drew up a statement on the moral, ideological, and religious foundations for future theater. Osterwa based his concepts on a thorough critique of the prewar Polish theater, including his own work, from an aesthetic as well as ethical point of view. He concluded that the Polish theater, along with the entire country, must undergo a “great transformation,” as a result of their “purification” by the sufferings of war. The purpose of the transformed theater would be an absolute devotion to the service of the nation and of God (testimony to Osterwa’s Catholicism). In the process of developing these postulates, Osterwa created a vision of the entire theatrical life in free Poland, encompassing different types of theater institutions, their objectives, organization, architecture, and rules for the Actors’ Union. To establish new work ethics and transform theater people internally, Osterwa envisaged two theatrical associations, Dal (“Further away”) and the Fraternity of St. Genesius or Genezja (“Born again”). Dal was to be a community of theater artists oriented toward service to society through service to art. A personal vocation to devote one’s entire life to theater would be a precondition for membership. Besides training, rehearsing, and performing in the productions, members would supervise community groups, teach acting, lecture, preach, and publish theater manuals. They would work within a cooperative structure, and their way of life would approach the monastic. Genezja would be an artistic-religious order, a brotherhood of theater people, representing the next step up beyond Dal. Service to God, within the Roman Catholic Church, would be the first priority in Genezja and the basis of service to society, through the medium of theater. The monk-members would lead a monastic life, observing religious practice, training as actors, preparing performances with religious themes, and organizing church ceremonies in which they would participate as lectors, vocalists, and preachers. Both Dal and Genezja were clearly utopian projects, but, like every utopian idea, they challenged the present and contained a seed for the future: a call for total sacrifice to theater and for the subordination of theater itself to higher values.

Anyone know where this statement can be found, or if either of these two ideas have been taken up? Anyone want to make them happen?

From Jerzy Grotowski, “The Theatre’s New Testament”, in Towards a Poor Theatre, ed. Eugenio Barba (London: Methuen Drama, 1991), pp. 50-51:

From where can this renewal [in the theatre] come? From people who are dissatisfied with conditions in the normal theatre, and who take it on themselves to create poor theatres with few actors, “chamber ensembles” which they might transform into institutes for the education of actors; or else from amateurs working on the boundaries of the professional theatre and who, on their own, achieve a technical standard which is far superior to that demanded by the prevailing theatre: in short, a few madmen who have nothing to lose and are not afraid of hard work.

It seems essential to me that an effort be made to organize secondary theatre schools. The actor begins to learn his profession too late, when he is already psychically formed and, worse still, morally moulded and immediately begins suffering from arriviste tendencies, characteristic of a great number of theatre school pupils.

Age is as important in the education of the actor as it is to a pianist or a dancer – that is, one should not be older than fourteen when beginning. If it were possible, I would suggest starting at an even earlier age with a four year technical course concentrating on practical exercises. At the same time, the pupil ought to receive an adequate humanistic education, aimed not at imparting an ample knowledge of literature, the history of the theatre and so on, but at awakening his sensibility and introducing him to the most stimulating phenomena in world culture.

The actor’s secondary education should then be completed by four years’ work as an apprentice actor with a laboratory ensemble during which time he would not only acquire a good deal of acting experience, but would also continue his studies in the fields of literature, painting, philosophy, etc., to a degree necessary in his profession and not in order to be able to shine in snobbish society. On completion of the four years’ practical work in a theatre laboratory, the student actor should be awarded some sort of diploma. Thus, after eight years’ work of this kind, the actor should be comparatively well equipped for what lies ahead. He would not escape the dangers that threaten every actor, but his capacities would be greater and his character more firmly moulded. The ideal solution would be to establish institutes for research which again would be subject to poverty and rigourous authority. The cost of running such an institute would be a half of the amount swallowed up by a state aided provincial theatre. Its staff should be composed of a small group of experts specializing in problems associated with the theatre: e.g. a psycho-analyst and a social anthropologist. [What about a theologian? - Cole.] There should be a troupe of actors from a normal theatre laboratory and a group of pedagogs from a secondary theatre school, plus a small publishing house that would print the practical methodical results which would then be exchanged with other similar centres and sent to interested persons doing research in neighbouring fields. It is absolutely essential that all research of this kind by supervised by one or more theatre critics who, from the outside – rather like the Devil’s Advocate – analyse the theatre’s weaknesses and any alarming elements in the finished performances, basing their judgements on aesthetical principles identical to those of the theatre itself.

Is this something we can, or ought to, do as Christians in the theatre? What would a network of small ensemble theatres made up of spiritually- and artistically-motivated Christian actors/pedagogues/researchers look like?

Would it be a network of Christian “theatre monks”?

Here’s another prayer for entertainment industry professionals, from Church of the Masses, the blog of Hollywood screenwriter and Catholic Barbara Nicolosi. Click here for the original source, as well as information about a new “ministry to provide communal prayer, retreats, spiritual direction and formation to Catholic professionals in the entertainment industry” which she and others have started this past August. (The name is not in the post, but I believe it’s called Lens, and you should be able to find it on Facebook.)

Prayer of Blessing for Hollywood Artists and Professionals
(taken from the writings of Bl. John Paul II)

Priest:
Let us ask for the blessing of the Holy Spirit
upon everyone here who labors in the field of film, television, radio and music.
Throughout the history of salvation,
Christ presents himself to us as the “communicator” of the Father.
May you find in the eternal Word made flesh, your perfect model in the work you do.

Like Jesus, may you be moved to compassion for the world’s suffering and seek to bring forth Good News of hope.
Like Jesus, may you always shows respect for those who listen, mindful of their situation and needs.
Like Jesus, may you serve your audience with a resolute determination to speak the truth to them, in wonderful new parables,
without imposition or compromise, deceit or manipulation.

Bear in holiness the cross that beauty demands and “Do not be afraid!”
Do not be afraid of new technologies! These rank “among the marvelous things” which God has placed at our disposal to discover, to use and to make known the truth.
Do not be afraid of being opposed by the world! Jesus has assured us, “I have conquered the world!”
Do not be afraid even of your own weakness and inadequacy! The Divine Master has said, “I am with you always, until the end of the world.”

Communicate the message of Christ’s hope, grace and love, keeping always alive, in this passing world, the eternal perspective of heaven.

To Mary, who gave us the Word of life, and who kept his unchanging words in her heart, we entrust your journey as a storyteller for the Church. May the Blessed Virgin help you to communicate by every means the beauty and joy of life in Christ our Savior.

All of these things we pray for you, artists and storytellers and we ask God’s blessing on you, your families and your work,

In the name of the Father,

And of the Son,

And of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Here’s another prayer for artists:

A PRAYER FOR THOSE IN THEATRE

O Christ,
by the miracle of your blessed Incarnation,
you became an actor in human history,
bringing Heaven’s light to a world steeped in darkness.
The drama of our Redemption
was played out in your Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
Help us whom you have called to play a role in spreading your Gospel.
Strengthen our faith during this Year of Faith
so that our witness may win many hearts to you.
Bless us with the graces of the New Evangelization
so that we may show your hope
to those oppressed by tragedy and hardship.
And may we at every moment enact the love you share with your Father
so as to draw many to the friendship made possible by your Presence,
you who are our Lord, now and forever. Amen.

-Rev. Peter Cameron, O.P.

Original source

A prayer for artists from the Archdiocese of Glasgow Arts Project:

The AGAP Prayer

Gentle Father, Creator God,

We thank you for your many gifts and acknowledge you as the Divine Spark from which all human creativity comes.

We praise you for the beauty of all created things and ask you to give us a deep respect for the life and dignity of all your creatures.

We rejoice in your great love for the work of your hands and ask you to help us to reflect that love in our dealings with one another, each of us made in your own image and likeness, respecting our differences and celebrating what we hold in common.

We thank you for your closeness to your creatures, most of all for the gift of yourself in the person of Jesus your Son; and we ask that he accompanies us as we pray, play, laugh and share our joys and sorrows with one another.

We pray that your Holy Spirit will continue to inspire men and women with creative gifts to enrich the society in which we live with new works of art to glorify you, for you are Life and Beauty itself.

We ask your blessing on artists and performers in every field and those preparing for careers in the arts; that they may act with conscience in the application of their gifts and that in moments of isola- tion and loneliness, may be given courage and consolation by your presence.

We ask you to be with all those that we hold dear, those we have been asked to pray for and those that have nobody to pray for them for we are all special in your eyes and our lives are the greatest work of art that we can offer you.

We make this prayer with Mary Our Mother, through Christ Our Lord. Amen

This prayer was written by Stephen Callaghan and instituted by Archbishop Mario Conti at the first Annual Mass for the Artistic Community in St Andrew’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Glasgow on the Feast of Christ the King, 23rd November 2008.

See the original, and learn more about the AGAP, here.

Last academic year, I was a member of a vocations discernment program here in the U.K. (Compass, which I highly recommend.) Three of us Catholic young adults interested in religious life met with two group leaders from apostolic religious congregations (a Missionaries of the Sacred Heart priest and Faithful Companions of Jesus sister) one weekend a month for nine months, to learn more about religious life. This year-long discernment solidified my sense of call to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

In addition, I have also continued to discern how my sense of calling to an artistic and academic vocation fits into my sense of calling to the consecrated life. You may have noticed that the theme of a community that blends religious life with the practice of theatre has been a common thread on this blog:

Towards a Christian Theatre Tribe

Offending the Audience

Theatre Company Brain Dump

More on a Christian Theatre

What Should a Professional Christian Theatre Look Like?

On a Benedictine Theatre Company

Thoughts on a Religious Theatre Community

New Ways of Making Theatre

And on my PhD program’s blog Transpositions:

Towards a Eucharistic Theatre

Thoughts on Consecrated Life for Artists

Image

Pelican altarpiece by Fr Marko Rupnik SJ, Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT, USA

I am ready to explore the next phase of how these two vocations – the vocation to the consecrated life and the vocation to art-making – go together. Stay tuned.

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