The Unicorn Triumphant

AMDG

Help Wanted: Consecrated Artists for Christ

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.

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

Yours in Christ,

Cole

Next Steps: Catholic Artists’ Community in NYC

Brief update to let you all know what’s going on with the institute of consecrated life devoted to artists:

I’ll be disappearing to the family ranch in Kansas for the months of September-December to finish my dissertation. I will not be working on anything not related to my dissertation (which is on the Eucharistic theologies of the Reduta Theatre, the Rhapsodic Theatre, and Jerzy Grotowski’s Laboratory Theatre), except for a talk in New York City in November. (If you’re in the NYC area and want to get together then, let me know in the comments!)

In January, I plan to move to a house of spiritual formation for Catholic young adults on Long Island, New York. There, for a year, myself and other interested artists with whom I have been discussing the idea will lay the groundwork for a lay community of Catholic artists in the New York City area. Some of us will also be exploring the creation of a theatre company, or at least the mounting of individual productions.

open hands

Here are the answers to some questions you might be thinking:

Q: What’s a lay community? Is it the same idea as the institute of consecrated life?

A: The two ideas are different. The institute of consecrated life would involve eventual permanent vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in an institute recognized by the Roman Catholic Church (with a form of affiliated membership for non-Catholics). The lay community idea involved Catholic artists living together in intentional community, without vows or any promises of permanent membership/residence. I have discovered that while there are a few artists who feel called both to an artistic vocation and a consecrated vocation, there are many more who would like to live in community with other believing artists in a way that provides spiritual support for all the members, but without placing limitations on their work or careers, or their ability to pursue dating and marriage. The lay community would, basically, be a group of Catholics who are also artists living together in a shared house or apartment.

I expect that, out of the lay community, there may eventually arise a few candidates interesting in pursuing a consecrated life dedicated to service through the arts and to artists. At that point, we will explore the institute idea more fully.

Q: What would this lay community look like?

The current idea is that a small group of Catholic artists – probably 3-6 to start – would live in community in either donated or privately rented accommodation. (If you have any leads on appropriate sources of housing, please comment below, or email me!) We would continue to work in our normal jobs – as actors, filmmakers, painters, etc. – and would maintain our own individual finances. In order for the community to be intentional community, we would have at least some structured shared time together each week. (For example, when I lived in the Oxford University Catholic Chaplaincy, we took turns cooking each other supper on Sunday nights.) For those who wish, there could also be some times of shared prayer each day. In addition, anyone who wants to cooperate on a ministry project, could. However, requirements would be flexible, and not oppressive. This would be a freely-chosen and freely-developed way of community life, chosen for a period of time, not a permanent commitment to a structured monastic timetable. One of the benefits of living in the community house in which I intend to live over the next year will be learning what works and what doesn’t in structuring a community, especially one in which the members are not necessarily working normal 9-to-5 jobs. (For example, it makes no sense to require a house full of actors to attend communal morning prayer at 7.30am. Actors often work until midnight.)

Q: Why Catholic? Why not Christian (or ecumenical)?

The primary answer to this question, at the moment, is that it is Catholic artists who are interested. I have had conversations with non-Catholic Christian artists who are interested in some form of community life, but the ones who have indicated immediate willingness to create something now are Catholic artists interested in creating a Catholic community. It is important to me, as a Catholic raised in a Protestant church, that all the members of Christ’s Body work together. Therefore, I hope that a ‘merely Christian’ community can also be founded at some point. And if anyone wants to take up that project, let me know how I can support you. I am excited to see how the Spirit brings together these two ideas.

As for a religiously-ecumenical community – that is, a community of artists who belong to a variety of religions – I think such a community is a good idea. It is not, however, the idea I feel called to pursue. For me personally, at the moment, it is important to partner with other artists who share faith in Christ, so that we can support each other in that faith, and preach Christ to the world. However, my prayers and blessings go with anyone who does feel called to witness to the commonality of faith between people of different religions by living together in intentional community. For, in the world, we are all called to live together in community and love.

Q: How can I learn more?

Fill out this form, and let me know your questions. If you request, I can add you to my list of people to inform via e-mail once we get started. I can also send you a copy of my draft document describing the proposed institute of consecrated life dedicated to artists and service through the arts.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or comments, or would like to support this project, please comment below, or shoot me an email. Thank you for your prayers.

Yours,
Cole

_________

Image credit: Reg A. Klubeck – “I looked at my hands today”

Juliusz Osterwa’s Dal & Genezja: A Vision for Theatrical Religious Orders from Post-War Poland

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?

Grotowski’s Vision for a Theatre Renewal

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”?

Prayer of Blessing for Hollywood Artists and Professionals

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.

Another Prayer for Those in Theatre

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

Prayer for Artists from Archdiocese of Glasgow

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.

Consecrated Life and the Artistic Vocation

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.

Some Thoughts on Art from John the Baptist

When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’ – Luke 3:10-14

I was praying over today’s Gospel, and focused on the part written above. I was using Ignatian contemplation, in which you enter into the scene, and become part of it, possibly having conversations with the other characters in the scene.

After listening to John the Baptist tell the people that those who have extra clothing and food must share with those who have none, I listened to both the tax collectors and the soldiers in turn ask John what specifically they must do.

It struck me that both of these groups could be considered collaborators with the Roman occupation. The tax collectors certainly were – they took taxes from their fellow Jews for Rome, and the only way they made a living was by taking more than they were told to take. They worked on commission, as it were – ‘Rome must have its tax, but take an extra 10% for your troubles’. In telling the tax collectors to take no more than their rate – that is, to take no more than Rome’s tax – he is effectively asking them to work for zero salary, and become penniless.

However, he has just told the Jewish crowd as a whole that they are to provide for those without means. So therefore, in a way, he is saying to the non-tax-collectors in the crowd, ‘I am asking the tax collectors to become penniless, so that they may walk justly with their God as your brothers in the nation of Israel. Therefore, you must take care of them. If Rome requires that you give her men to take her taxes, then you must take care of these men so that they do not fall into unrighteousness. It is your fault if these men feel pressured to cheat in order to survive, and are tempted to cut themselves off from the community. You must make an effort to keep them still your brothers’.

He’s easier on the soldiers. He allows them to keep their jobs – and I’m assuming here that these are soldiers who work for Rome, not temple guards – but it’s also about money. He tells them not to rob or accuse others unjustly (so they can either blackmail them or take their property once they are unjustly convicted), and to be content with the pay they receive for a job that does do a service for the community, in terms of keeping the peace in the nation. They are allowed to be soldiers, but they must be satisfied with the small reward they receive for this service.

So if one thinks about the Roman context of this conversation, it is all about the community’s duty to help their brothers and sisters stay righteous, to stay in relationship with God and the community. To ease the pressures to fall into sin, and help each other on the road to salvation.

Keeping this Roman context in mind, I turned to the original question I had wanted to ask the Baptist at the beginning of the exercise: ‘What about us artists? What must we do?’

Here was the answer I got back: ‘You may make anything for which you are commissioned, except idols. [Idols here representing anything that violates God’s Law.] Let your honouring of God be showing in the excellence of your work. As for that which you make without any commission, of your own volition – let it be your praise. Let your art be a praise to God, your sacrifice of praise. Let it be your prayer of praise.

‘And for every piece of gold that is melted down to be beaten into a beautiful image to praise God – whether for a vessel or sculpture for the Temple, or for any other thing – that piece of gold must feed more people as a sculpture, by raising their minds, hearts, and spirits to God, than it would have fed if it were spent to buy food for people’s bodies. Only if it feeds more people as a sculpture than as bread is that piece of gold justified to be used for art.’

I offer these brief reflections for whatever value they may have. I’m not a historian, and these thoughts may have no grounding in actual history, but I hope they may still have some value in spiritual understanding, of how we should live as the community of Christians, and especially as Christian artists.

The Parable of the Wheat & Tares

Today’s reading in the lectionary is the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30). From the Jerusalem Bible:

Jesus put a parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”’

You’ll notice that the Jerusalem Bible, which is used at Mass here in the U.K., uses the word ‘darnel’ instead of ‘tares’. I had never heard that word before, so I looked it up on Wikipedia, and here is what I found:

Darnel [Lolium temulentum, a.k.a., poison darnel or cockle] usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and is considered a weed. The similarity between these two plants is so extensive that in some regions, cockle is referred to as “false wheat”. It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. The ears on the real wheat are so heavy it makes the entire plant droop downward, but L. temulentum, whose ears are light, stands up straight. The wheat will also appear brown when ripe, whereas the darnel is black. When the Lolium matures, the spikelets turn edgeways to the rachis, where the wheat spikelets remain as they grew previously.

And wheat and darnel look almost exactly alike:

wheat (left) and darnel (right)

Jesus’ parable had more layers than I ever realised before. Instead of just being a parable about bad people being inextricably intertwined with the good people in the Church until the Judgement Day (the way this parable is usually explicated), the use of the word ‘darnel’ to translate ζιζάνια indicates that those who are destined for judgement, as the darnel is collected and burned, are almost indistinguishable in exterior appearance from those who are destined to be saved and gathered into the Father’s barn. Not only that, but the darnel looks nourishing, but is actually poisonous, and can cause death. Therefore, it is destined for death.

Here are some extra layers of understanding which I think the translation of ζιζάνια as ‘darnel’ brings out:

The similarity between these two plants is so extensive that in some regions, cockle is referred to as “false wheat”.

In the parable, wheat represents true followers of Christ, and darnel represents the false followers, who look almost exactly alike. (Note that it is both the farmhands – i.e., the angels – and the farmer – i.e., the Father – who are able to tell the difference in the parable. We might not be able.)

It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears.

False discipleship and true discipleship may appear to be the same, but ‘you will know them by their fruits’ (Matthew 7:16, from the Sermon on the Mount).

The ears on the real wheat are so heavy it makes the entire plant droop downward, but L. temulentum, whose ears are light, stands up straight.

True fruitfulness comes with the heaviness of the Cross. False fruitfulness is unbent by suffering and sacrifice, because it is not united with Christ on His Cross.

The wheat will also appear brown when ripe, whereas the darnel is black. 

I don’t want to make too much of this, other than to say look at this beautiful ripe wheat:

versus this forbidding-looking darnel:

One can probably stretch by making some point about true discipleship only being darkened by the lesser dark of venial sin, whereas false discipleship is corrupted by the utter darkness of mortal sin, but I think I’d rather just use the two images to show the contrast – since wheat isn’t really brown, but gold. It’s the colour of the Sun (of Justice, the Royal Son of the Father) and the Kingdom (gold), versus the colour of corruption and death (black).

When the Lolium matures, the spikelets turn edgeways to the rachis, where the wheat spikelets remain as they grew previously.

True discipleship stays on the straight path, whereas false discipleship causes a person to grow sideways, to become bent.

So it’s a parable not just about the Church not being able to separate herself from false followers of Christ, but also not being able for certain exactly who they are, until the final Judgement when all people’s fruits will become clear.

And finally, a last point from Wikipedia: ‘The French word for darnel is ivraie (from Latin ebriacus, intoxicated), which expresses that weed’s characteristic of making one feel poisoned with drunkenness, and can cause death.’

The healthy fruits lead to life, the poisonous fruits to death – not only in terms of the righteous receiving life, and the damned receiving death, as in the harvest of the parable, but also in terms of those who eat those people’s fruits. In Communion, we eat the Body and Blood of Christ, and become one with each other through the eating. If we commune with Christ in sincerity, we eat unto life. If we commune falsely, we eat unto death. And if we are united to death, we bring death to those who are joined with us. Whereas if we are united to life, we bring life to those who are joined with us. Thanks be to God for His Son Jesus Christ, who brings life out of our death.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.