Category Archives: Arts and Culture

Arts and Culture

The term “art” covers a broad spectrum of creativity.  In the absolute sense only God can “create,” because creation implies making something out of nothing.  Man can imitate his Creator by being creative, however it is more accurate to say that man “produces” or “makes.” In “making” (faciendo) man must work with matter that already exists.

What does the word itself mean? The schoolmen define art as “the right method of producing,” (recta ratio factibilium) in contrast to ethics or morals, which is “the right way of acting, or doing.”

The arts can be visual, as in painting and sculpture; performing, as in music and dance; or literary, as in poetry. Nowadays the term is used in a much wider sense than in past centuries. The crafts, writing, film making, photography, and other media which exhibit what is beautiful, are all styled “art” today.

Culture, on the other hand, is specific and, usually, but not always, ethnic. Father Hardon’s Catholic Dictionary defines culture as “the personality of a society.” Notice he uses the broader term “society” rather than “race” or “people.” One cannot, therefore, speak of a “nation” as having a culture, because a nation is abstract; it is the people of a nation that produce a culture. Italy does not have a culture, but Italians do. And Italians certainly have subcultures within their generic culture, as Sicilians have personal characteristics far different than Florentines.

Cultures are not created, they are “cultivated.” And that maturation often takes centuries. Is there a “Catholic” culture?  Most definitely, but it is not that of a people, but of a religion. The Incarnation of the Son of God, who was born into the Jewish culture, elevated all cultures. He who was not image able, became image able. Culture and art could now express that image ability in a thousand different ways. The best expressions make the matter that we all know, intuitively, as Catholic culture.

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In Honor of Saint Mark: Gabrieli Music!

From YouTube user, Karl Barton, comes the video below. Giovanni Gabrieli was organist and composer for Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice. He was the more famous nephew of Andrea Gabrieli. Here is his description from YouTube: This features scenes from Venice near St. Mark’s Basilica with the music of Giovanni Gabrieli “Plaudite, psallite, jubilate Deo” (Clap, sing praises, make a joyful sound to God). St. … More →


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Review of Willa Cather’s ‘Death Comes to the Archbishop’

An interesting look at a Protestant who wrote with a pulsating intensity of the inner beauty of the Catholic culture of the Southwest. The Catholic World Report, Bradley J. Birzer: “I am amused that so many of the reviews of this book begin with the statement: ‘This book is hard to classify.’ Then why bother?”—Willa Cather, 1927 Willa Cather’s novel—or “narrative” in the style of … More →

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The Lamentations of Jeremias: Art and Music

During the sacred Triduum, the Lamentations of Jeremias are sung as part of the Tenebrae ceremony, i.e., the liturgical office comprised of Matins and Laudes, and done in the dark, as its Latin name suggests. Each liturgical lesson from Jeremias ends with Jerusalem convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum (Jerusalem, return onto the Lord thy God) which is an adaptation of Osee 14:2). Below are two musical … More →


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Father Rutler on Vatican Elegy of Bowie

A must read Father George Rutler, Crisis: In proof of Chesterton’s dictum that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly, I pound away at the piano playing the easier Chopin Nocturnes and I grind on my violin with a confidence only an amateur can flaunt. So I am not innocent of music.  I appreciate the emotive post-war French singers, and have a … More →

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Padre Tomás Luis de Victoria: ‘God’s Composer’

Having recently learned Victoria’s sublime O Magnum Mysterium to sing with the Brothers and Sisters at Midnight Mass, I just spent some Christmastide recreation time watching the BBC’s one-hour documentary on the composer. That video is embedded below, and is quite worth watching. Get a little culcha’ this Christmas! Victoria was a priest and by all accounts a devout one. He also enjoyed the patronage of his Monarch, … More →


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Prayers for This Agnostic Writer: They are the Push He Needs

This man, a very gifted writer to be sure, has been given a great grace. May Our Lady finish the work of his conversion. New Haven Register, Norm Pattis: It is easy to scoff at the Church until you stand inside one. There’s a silence in the air, the intimation of something holy. All truly is calm. This story of a virgin and her child … More →

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Catholic College Opens in Iraqi Kurdistan

This is an incredible achievement in a land torn by ISIS terrorists. AsiaNews: Msgr. Warda, Archbishop of Erdil: “I hope that all the students – Christians, Muslims, Yazidis – will be able to breathe the Catholic faith and its fundamental values,” the prelate told AsiaNews. The facility will have various departments: “oriental studies, information technology, languages, education and business administration.” It will also host young … More →

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A Poem by Rose Hu, Prisoner of Mao’s Labor Camps for 26 Years

The following is a poem written by Rose Hu. She was the president of the Legion of Mary in China in the 1950s and suffered imprisonment for twenty-six years (1955-1981). Rose is still living. She wrote a beatuful book, Joy in Suffering, in exquiste prose about her ordeal. The following poem was published in 2007. VINE I WAS STRUGGLING IN THE WIND; TRUDGING IN THE … More →

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Here’s to Bocce Ball

When I used to walk through Branch Brook Park on my way home from high school in Newark, New Jersey, I would see elderly Italian men throwing little bowling balls on a paved court about ten feet wide and twenty feet long. I never stopped to watch even though you could see that they were having a wonderful time. I wish that I had stopped, … More →

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A Synopsis of the Sixteen Novels of Robert Hugh Benson

Ann Applegarth, Catholic World Report: An impressive list. And, unlike many “Christian”—even “Catholic”—novels that may entertain yet contain no insight whatever into the human condition, Benson’s fictional fare is sustenance for mind and soul. Intended by the author to be tales of timeless truths rather than timeless literature—which he would never have had the patience to write—these stories can help guide readers to a surer footing … More →

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Saint Norbert and the Octave of Corpus Christi

Today is the feast of Saint Norbert. It also continues the “phantom octave” of Corpus Christi. Two days ago, I mentioned the concurrence of Saint Francis Caracciolo and the Feast of Corpus Christi. The day Saint Francis Caracciolo died was the eve of Corpus Christi (which begins at First Vespers on the eve). In life, he was particularly instrumental in promoting Eucharistic adoration, it being among the works … More →


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Three Versions of the ‘O Sacrum Convivium’ (and one more)

One of the problems with the 1962 liturgical reforms was the senseless suppression of the glorious Octave of Corpus Christi. The suppression of the Octave of the Epiphany is another. (There are many more!) We consider both of these, in a way, tragic. In an effort to continue the spirit of the Octave of Corpus Christi, and to do special honor to the Blessed Sacrament … More →


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Look! Beautiful New Statuary at Saint Benedict Center

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, six new statues, handmade in Peru, are now beautifying our sanctuary, lining up as an honor guard on either side of the Holy Trinity. These six saints are, after Our Lady and Saint Joseph, the patrons of our Order. Our Lady and Saint Joseph have side shrines with much larger statues. Beginning on the Gospel side top, we have … More →


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Father Václav Gunther Jacob: Bohemian, Benedictine, and Baroque

Searching for a recording of Ian Dismas Zelenka’s wonderful Missa Dei Filii (Mass of God the Son), I found myself continuously running across a work of the same name by another Bohemian composer of the Baroque era, Václav Gunther Jacob. I had never heard of him. Finally stopping to learn something about Zelenka’s fellow countryman and contemporary, I was thrilled to learn that Jacob was not only a Catholic priest, … More →


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Lenten Music: Jan Dismas Zelenka’s ‘Miserere’

The Jesuit educated Czech Catholic composer Jan Zelenka, sometimes called the “Catholic Bach,”* is too little known. Worthy to be listed alongside his contemporaries, Bach, Händel, Vivaldi and Telemann, his music presents fine specimens of glorious Baroque counterpoint. Damian Thompson has an informative and entertaining piece on him in the U.K. Spectator that’s worth reading — complete, though it be, with Thompson’s personal eccentricities. And Robert … More →


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