Shusaku Endo’s Borrowed Faith

The tension between art and faith in the work of a novelist who happens to be a Catholic is nothing new. But there is something deeply compelling about the working out of this tension in the stories of a Japanese novelist who was also a Catholic. Shusaku Endo, the much-decorated Japanese writer who died in [...]

Reading souls… the easy way

If you're familiar with the popular social art project Post Secrets, you'll get the concept behind Soul Secrets right away. Sponsored by Patheos, Soul Secrets asks visitors to share their most private thoughts on God and religion. Posters are anonymous, and the contributions can be intensely personal: I really want to come out as a [...]

Maritain Vindicated

Few have written more wisely on the relation of art and culture than Jacques Maritain. In Art and Scholasticism, written just after the end of the World War I, Maritain traced the deterioration in modern art to the artist's turn toward ideology. When the artist becomes preoccupied with communicating ideas, the beauty of what he [...]

Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas

Christmas is closely associated with coziness, and reasonably so. It happens at the time of year (in the northern hemisphere) when we are all snugged up like badgers while it snows, blows, and rains outside. What with all the lights, hot chocolate, cheery fires, and beautiful music of the time (not to mention the warm [...]

Mary, in the Glass Coffin of the Museum

The Bible, decked with jewels and precious metals, was placed just above waist level -- the perfect height for us to bow and kiss it. And that's what would have happened in the Orthodox church for which the holy book was created. But if we'd tried that here, our lips would have bumped into a [...]

12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able to Answer

Freedom of speech is a great thing. Unfortunately, it comes at a price: When citizens are free to say what they want, they'll sometimes use that freedom to say some pretty silly things. And that's the case with the 12 claims we're about to cover. Some of them are made over and over, others are [...]

Gwen John: Art and Faith in the Shadows

On September 18, 1939, the public hospital in the port city of Dieppe, France recorded the death of a sixty-three year old woman, a Catholic painter of some reputation. Gwen John had traveled to this city from Paris only days before, carrying nothing except a notarized copy of her will and burial instructions. Augustus John, [...]

Mere Taste

At present, more rap stars have been killed than abortionists. I was sitting on an airport shuttle bus when I overheard two men in their thirties discussing the second murder of a rap singer. "People need to see that this isn't just about music," one said. I think I know what he means. Taste never [...]

The Case for Catholic Studies

Once upon a time, Catholic parents sent their sons and daughters off to a Catholic college confident that their children would receive a sound Catholic education. They expected their offspring to return home in four years not only with professional skills and greater knowledge of science, art, and culture but with a deepened understanding of [...]

In the Midst of Life We Are in Death

Media vita in morte sumus -- in the midst of life we are in death. This antiphon is attributed to the Benedictine monk Notker I of Saint Gall, who died in 912. Legend has it that the musician and poet wrote it when he saw construction workers building a bridge hover over an abyss. Most [...]

Cleveland man rescues religious statues

When a parish is closed, what happens to the art? Lou McClung, an artist and jack-of-many-trades near Cleveland, Ohio, wondered just that and decided to do something unusual: open a museum for rescued statues. A local paper, the Canton Rep, carried the story. McClung, who owns Lusso Studio, recently bought a decommissioned church to show [...]

Archbishop Dolan takes on the New York Times

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York City is not happy with the New York Times. In a post from his personal blog yesterday, he bemoaned "the common, casual way [the paper] offends Catholic sensitivity, something they would never think of doing — rightly so — to the Jewish, Black, Islamic, or gay communities." He cites [...]

The Truth about Virtue and Happiness

During four years of college and seven of graduate school, most of it in philosophy and theology, I heard only one lecture on virtue -- the virtue of art. Thus I consider it miraculous that the language of virtue has returned to public discourse. But the virtues don't tell the whole story about human life. [...]

Are narcissists more creative?

According to experiments, narcissists are excellent at convincing people that their ideas are the most creative. The same thing happens in groups when there is a handful of narcissists. This short article in Science Now reports that creativity and narcissism often appear to go hand in hand: ...Creative people often appear self-important, hungry for attention, [...]

The Rubrics of Coffee

Among friends and family, I'm known for being an amateur barista and coffee aficionado. It's not that I'm a connoisseur -- far from it -- but I have high standards when it comes to the quality of my coffee, and I try to stay informed on how to achieve excellence in every sip. Knowing this, [...]

Of Beauty, and Saying Goodbye

This past weekend was a farrago of extreme experiences -- the anniversary of September 11, the build-up to rallies favoring and opposing the Ground Zero Victory Mosque, marches by paranoid 9/11 "truthers" -- and a solemn farewell to a dear friend I will never see again. All this at once, in just two days, might [...]

The Whole Story

During four years of college and seven of graduate school, most of it in philosophy and theology, I heard only one lecture on virtue -- the virtue of art. Thus I consider it miraculous that the language of virtue has returned to public discourse. But the virtues don't tell the whole story about human life. [...]

In defense of the pram in the hallway

Words of encouragement for Steve and all parents juggling family and writing (or any other creative pursuit): Frank Cottrell Boyce, author of Millions and father of seven, says that, in spite of the number of people who reproach him with Cyril Connolly's aphorism that "There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the [...]

Painting Angels: Saints and Their Symbols

Few saints are remembered in art, but those who are tend to appear with frequency. In their representations, these holy figures have come to be associated with some characteristic symbols… St. Peter with the keys Jesus gave him, St. Paul with the sword that killed him, and so on. In this piece, I've focused on [...]

Romanian monastery treasures

The Maldavian prince Stephen the Great won his first big victory over the Turks more than 500 years ago, and he celebrated by having a monastery built and hiring artisans to cover it in beautiful murals. According to Peter Wortsman in Sunday's New York Times travel section, Stephen kept erecting monasteries and filling them with [...]