Category: 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.

Death, Beauty, Transformation

“Death,” wrote poet Wallace Stevens, “is the mother of beauty.” Without putting his line in context, how might we interpret it? One interpretation could be that men make beautiful things, paintings, music, poems, to sweeten life in the face of … Continue reading

The Charity of Song

Saint Augustine famously said cantare amantis est, that is, “singing belongs to one who loves” (s. 336, 1 – PL 38, 1472). (Josef Pieper wrote a book on this, and Robert Hickson gave a talk on it.) Apparently, the Doctor … Continue reading