Daniel McInerny on Catholics and the Arts

Rembrandt, "The Return of the Prodigal Son." Courtesy of Wikipedia.

At the website The Catholic Thing, Daniel McInerny offers an eloquent defense of the arts, very timely for the upcoming academic year and a nice resource for art teachers who -- not unlike theology teachers -- must defend their subject from those who deem it unnecessary.

In his brief essay "A Catholic Moment in the Arts?" McInerny asks: Why are works of art relevant and important? He answers:

Advertisement

Because they enable us to contemplate how life should be lived. To read a novel or watch or movie is to enter into a contemplative space; it is to wonder at imaginary human beings pursuing happiness real or mistaken and to reflect upon what their efforts mean for our own lives. And as in contemplative prayer, the contemplation of art compels our love as well as our mind.

That is what makes art so attractive: it is not just a conceptual exercise. We can gain much abstract, theological knowledge about the virtue of humility by reading St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae. But we can “see” humility in action, and in a sense fall in love with it, in reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

It is because we, in a sense, fall in love with works of art that they have such power to transform our lives. By subtle degrees, we tend to become what we love. Thus it is very important to produce works of the imagination that enable us to picture how actually to live out the decisions we have to make and the roles we have to play.

I encourage you to read the rest of his piece, where McInerny also discusses the examples of Flannery O'Connor and Evelyn Waugh and, like Dana Gioia, takes up the question: Where have all the Catholic writers gone?

 

 

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018
The coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII is seen during a ceremony in Vittorio Veneto Square after its arrival in Bergamo, Italy, May 24. The body of the late pope left the Vatican on May 24 to be displayed in his home region until June 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

BERGAMO, Italy (CNS) — Accompanied by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo and escorted by both Italian and Vatican police officers, the glass coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII left the Vatican early on May 24 for a 370-mile drive to Bergamo.

On this week's episode, we talk with Lieutenant Governor of Washington State, Cyrus Habib.
Olga SeguraMay 25, 2018