“The art he liked was dynamic art, the art that changed skylines, the art that created beautiful customs, that inspired men and women to love one another, the art, in brief, that transformed lives. The art that would do that tomorrow, he maintained, was the art of the motion picture. ‘Once,’ he said, ‘the cathedral builders and the troubadours, interpreting truth, created a beauty that was as current as language and almost as essential as blood. Then came the printed word to spread confusion, to throw a twilight over the world in which men became little more than shadows chasing shadows. But now, we have a new art, luminous, vivid, simple, stirring, persuasive, direct, universal, illimitable—the animated picture.’”
— Mr. Blue, by Myles Connolly
Mr. Blue, Myles Connolly's holy fool and modern lover of Lady Poverty, is not a fan of the continued obsession with the Gothic in Church architecture. He wants a new art for a new age, a new art and a new architecture for a new public language. Madonna Della Strada, built in the 1930s and opening in 1938, embodies, for me, a cinematic church. It’s in dialogue with the old, but its liquid arches and sharp angles and the interaction of light and space mark it as a distinctly cinema-aged sanctuary. And it is beautiful.
I have heard a lot of priests talk about the Church’s mission recently, and encourage young people to join in the mission.
But I wish priests just told young people to quit their jobs and do what they thought would be the best thing for them to do to make the world a place where it is easier to be good and where the common good is less uncommon.
I wish someone had told me sooner to quit my day job and to rejoice in being poor, and that, in doing so, I would find community. I wish the Church could assure me that if I were to become poor like Christ, like the Eucharistic Lord, I would not be left alone, but find myself embraced by a fellow company of impoverished members who shrug off the “good life” as portrayed in advertisements, Instagram posts, and embrace a different sort of living. I wish someone would have told me that living my vocation, following the call of the Gospel would mean living in a completely different way than the American Dream.
I wish someone had told me from the pulpit that we are told to be successful we have to run the rat race. Virtue or “Catholic action” means running the rat race while being nice to the people around us and not actively being mean to others. Or running the rat race and then giving the fruits of our running to the poor or to some innovative tool designed to alleviate the pain of the poor, rather than being in community with the poor.
It also means not looking back to look at the people who are left behind, who the steps we climb up are built upon, whose pain is the cost of our portfolio’s flourishing.
I wish someone told me that saints depend upon the providence of God, not in theoretical, spiritual, or emotional ways only, but in very physical, material ways.
And that is not something that is only for crazy people, but it is a viable mode of existence for all Christians. And is, in fact, the only compatible mode of existence with Christianity.
I wish someone had told me—and I wish someone would tell the young people filing into church pews on Ash Wednesday—that serving God and rejecting Mammon were full of joy.
And I wish that someone had taken me out of my theology school classroom and into the streets and said: the least of these are not only the treasures of the Church, but the Church’s theology as well. If you wish to know and understand what the Church’s message and mission has been over the course of two millennia, go to the poor and don’t serve them, but be one of them.
Clearing out Zoom storage, since I have three years of interview recordings in there. Tag yourself. I’m the red in my eyes in photo five:
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Now that the Spirit of Grace has registered your third ear, where will you lead?