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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

Announcing the Sheen Center Catholic Artist Residency!

As the first Artist-in-Residence at the Archdiocese of New York’s Sheen Center, I am helping develop the new residency program for Catholic artists. Feel free to share widely the information below. I look forward to reading your applications.

sheen center

The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, the Archdiocese of New York’s new arts center in downtown Manhattan, is offering new residencies for early- and mid-career Catholic artists (of all disciplines, including the visual, literary, musical, cinematic, and performing arts).

Artist residents receive:

-2-4 months of free housing at the Sheen Center
-Partially- or fully-subsidized workspace (depending on artist medium and space availability)
-Free invitations/tickets to Sheen Center events when available
-Direct access to Sheen Center artistic staff
-Introductions to artists and speakers who appear at the Sheen Center when possible, to help grow the resident’s network
-At least one showcase of the artist’s work at the Sheen Center (depending on artist medium and stated goals)

The residency does not include board, travel expenses, or a stipend.

The purpose of the residency is to support the development of Catholic artists, as well as to further the Sheen Center’s mission of exploring the true, the good, and the beautiful. The residency should culminate in a final public project suitable to the artist’s medium and goals, and the artist should expect to contribute to the life of the Sheen Center during his or her residency.

Catholic artists of all disciplines are invited to apply. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis, with a limit of 3 artists-in-residence at one time.

In order to apply please include:

COVER LETTER
ARTIST STATEMENT (no more than 2 pages)
STATEMENT OF INTENT (2-4 pages) – The statement of intent should include the number of months requested, how you envision using your time at the Sheen Center, and how this residency will further your artistic goals. Please include discussion of the Sheen Center mission, how your faith informs your work, and what benefit 2-4 months in New York City would have on your work as an artist right now.
BRIEF WORK SAMPLE – 1-3 short examples of your work

Please submit via email only to submissions@sheencenter.org. For more information, visit: http://sheencenter.org/about/submissions/artist-residency/.

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Image Credit

Fr. Rick Curry, SJ

rickcurrysj

Fr. Rick Curry, SJ, has died. He founded the National Theatre Workshop for the Handicapped and in the past several years had been helping wounded veterans tell their stories through theatre (and gain business skills through Dog Tag Bakery). He was a Jesuit brother for 48 years before being ordained a priest 6 years ago. Born without a right forearm, he received special permission from the Vatican to celebrate Mass with only one hand.

I met him once 4 years ago, when I was driving around the country talking to members of religious orders (mostly Jesuits) working in the performing arts. He told me this story:

When he began working with veterans, many of the veterans who were amputees identified with him, because of his missing arm. Many of them felt they could share things with him they couldn’t share with others, and some wanted to confess to him.

One veteran in particular asked Br. Rick to hear his confession. Rick explained that he was a brother, not a priest, and therefore couldn’t hear his confession. The man became angry, and asked Rick why he wasn’t a priest.

“Because I wasn’t called,” Rick answered.

“Who calls you, then?” the man responded.

“God, or God’s people,” Rick answered.

The man replied: “Well, I’M God’s people, and I’M calling you!”

That encounter shook Rick, and when he discussed it with his spiritual director, his director asked, “Do you think there might be an invitation here – to become a priest?”

Rick replied: “But I don’t even LIKE priests!”

I really appreciated that story, both as an example of how our calls from God are often mediated through other people, and as an example of humility. Rick was willing to listen and respond to what God was asking of him, even though it went against a strong sense of identity he had formed as a Jesuit brother, and meant mustering the courage to go deeper into his vocation as a Jesuit by growing into a new identity as a Jesuit priest.

In an interview with Kevin J. Wetmore, you can see how much joy this new identity brought him in the last several years of his life. I encourage you also to read the moving story that Fr. James Martin, SJ, shared of Fr. Rick’s encounter with St. Francis Xavier’s forearm as a child:

Dear friends: I am very sorry to have to share the very sad news with you that a remarkable Jesuit priest has died,…

Posted by Fr. James Martin, SJ on Sunday, December 20, 2015

Eternal rest grant unto Rick, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. May he live forever in the joyous Company of his Jesuit brothers, all the saints, and the Lord under whose standard he served. Amen.

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Image credit: Fr. James Martin, SJ, via Facebook

Catholic Artist Community in New York – In Progress!

It has been over a year since I last posted on this blog, so I thought I would give you an update. In honor of Thanksgiving, I am very thankful to God and to all the people who have brought me to where I am now.

In April 2015, I moved into the Domus Porta Fidei at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, Long Island as a Visiting Scholar, to complete my PhD dissertation.

In June, I moved into the Sheen Center in Manhattan, the Archdiocese of New York’s new arts center, as their first artist-in-residence. My primary responsibility as regards the Sheen Center is to help find other Catholic artists, of all disciplines, to be in residence for 2-4 months at a time. If you are interested in applying to be an artist-in-residence, please go here.

In August I submitted my PhD dissertation, and successfully defended it in October. I am currently completing my minor corrections.

This month, I started working part-time as the Molloy BFA Theatre Arts Program Coordinator at CAP21, a musical theatre conservatory in Manhattan.

All these activities are in support of my primary purpose in coming to New York City: to help found a residential lay community for Catholic artists, and hopefully, in time, an institute of consecrated life dedicated to ministry through the arts and to artists.

With the support of my spiritual director and witnessed by a priest who knows me, I have vowed to dedicate myself to God through the practice of the evangelical counsels (interpreted as simplicity of life, apostolic celibacy, and availability for service) in a life of prayer and work given for the spiritual needs of artists.

Last month, four other artists and myself founded a de facto lay association of the faithful, called the Catholic Artist Community of St. John Paul the Great, with the mission of supporting the spiritual and professional development of Catholic artists in the Archdiocese of New York by providing a house of prayer where artists can live in intentional community for their mutual support, in order to encourage each other as Catholics and as artists, and to be a base of service to the wider arts community and people of the Archdiocese and of New York City.

Members of the community participated in a weekend retreat for artists last month, which I organized and which took place at St. Mary’s Monastery in Petersham, Massachusetts.

I have spent the past several months meeting artists in the Archdiocese, to talk about the needs that they see for artists. The following initiatives have been most commonly repeated:

  1. A residential house of prayer in which artists can live together in intentional community for their mutual support and spiritual formation.
  2. A schedule of retreats and spiritual programs for artists, including both spiritual and creative retreats, as well as help obtaining regular spiritual direction.
  3. Social and networking gatherings to meet fellow Catholic artists, including the potential for artistic collaboration, and talks with leading Catholics working professionally in the arts.
  4. A central website with a portfolio database patrons can use to commission artists, an extensive list of resources useful for artists, and a blog with interviews, articles, announcements, and other content of interest to Catholic artists.

Locating a suitable house for a residential community that can house 3-12 artists has been my primary focus, and I am continuing to pursue all avenues, including meeting with Archdiocesan officials and members of religious orders. If you would like to offer the community a place to live or help us locate suitable housing, please contact me.

We have already held one retreat, and more are planned. Social gatherings and a central website will follow.

Please keep us in your prayers, and let me know if you would like to learn more or assist in any way.

Yours in Christ,

Cole

St. John Paul the Great, encourager of artists, pray for us.

Resources for Artists:

The Actors’ Chapel
Catholic Artists Society
The Sheen Center

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

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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.