Announcing Center for Beauty and Culture at Benedictine College in Kansas

The newly-created Center for Beauty and Culture at Benedictine College in Kansas looks promising.  The Executive Director is Dr. Denis McNamara, PhD, a graduate of Yale who appears to be doing great things.  The goal of the center is to transform culture through beauty.  Indeed, the center is a part of the college's overall planning initiatives to help students explore the theology of beauty in Catholic culture.  There the students learn the importance of beauty, the centrality of the experience of beauty to the Catholic worldview and the significance of beauty in contemporary life and temple worship.  Meanwhile, the vision for the center continues to take shape.  Dr. McNamara quotes in an interview the sacramental principle of Pope St. Leo the Great, "Matter reveals the invisible, spiritual realities of the mind of God.  Christ is the Word of the Father, but came to earth in the form of matter.  The Incarnation proves that the Word of God can be revealed through matter."

I include the bio of the new Director: "Dr. Denis McNamara is an Associate Professor and the Executive Director of the Center for Beauty and Culture at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.  He is the former Academic Director of the Liturgical Institute.  He holds a BA in the History of Art from Yale University and a PhD in Architectural History from the University of Virginia, where he concentrated his research on the study of ecclesiastical architecture with Richard Guy Wilson and Carroll William Westfall.  Dr. McNamara makes a specialty of bridging the gap between the Church's great artistic tradition and the documents of the Second Vatican Council.  He has also done groundbreaking research on scriptural understandings of architecture and the sacramental meaning of the classical architectural tradition.  He is author of Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic ChicagoCatholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy, and How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Christian, which was published in eight languages."

Meanwhile, the Liturgical Institute (Mundelein, Illinois) has an impressive new course for an online certificate program being taught by Dr. McNamara.  This looks interesting.  A short sample video is available.  The Institute is located at the University of St. Mary of the Lake and Mundelein Seminary (one of the most beautiful seminary campuses in the world).

See their official website here.

I include a sample quote:
"The church building is a sacrament of God reconciled with humanity, as the Catechism tells us (No. 1180).  It is made up of many members, such as bricks, stones, and steel beams, all arranged with an eschatological glory to provide a place where God dwells with humanity.  Just as we say the altar 'is' Christ, so we can say that the church building is a great sacrament of Christ's many members assembled in their heavenly glory.  This course provides an introduction to Catholic liturgical art and architecture, understanding them as bearers of sacramental realities which participate in the glorification of God and the sanctification of the world.  Class sessions discuss foundational sacramental theology, the meaning of the Temple, Early Christian use of the classical tradition, the Baroque, the influence of early liturgical reform, and the recent loss and recovery of traditional design after Vatican II."
Indeed, there can be great hope in these fresh initiatives.  I can say after the dark years of the 1960's we have come to a crossroads and find ourselves at a turning point, a time of restoration of beauty, rediscovery of the past and moving forward.  This brings to mind in some ways a Renaissance quote from Lorenzo Valla, "The arts of painting, sculpture, modelling and architecture had degenerated for so long and so greatly that they almost died with letters themselves, but in this age they have been aroused and come to life again."

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