The darkness of our time often feels like a liturgical anti-incense, a dense smog that can be only temporarily fanned away before quickly returning to choke us again. This metaphor is a ripe one for Catholic lay action, because while a single person cannot fan away the smoke of Satan for long, a small but determined group can support each other in at least clearing a small space wherein evil cannot predominate. The conclusion is simple: lacking greater power, one can fan away the smog only in his own neck of the woods, and hopefully find allies to help, share the burden, and stave off exhaustion.
One place where such a confluence of positive action has long been gathering momentum in the West is the Catholic Fine Arts movement. Often inspired by liturgical tradition, classical notions of beauty, and Pope John Paul II’s formative “Letter to Artists,” modern faithfully Catholic artists of our time have proceeded into difficult and often thankless careers, trudging forward boldly despite the rejection and frequent mockery of their secular artistic peers and the general indifference of the modern Church. They have sought solid spiritual and artistic formation, guidance, and support despite not being able to get it from the Church or the Academy, and they miraculously spawned a new Renaissance of authentically Catholic art, music, and architecture. It is my firm belief that when the accurate Catholic history of our time is written, these enterprising men and women will be considered some of the heroes of our time, among the first in the Church to turn against the tide of sin and mediocrity and – with often nothing more than childlike faith and isolated effort – push back.
Sensing the need for support, networking, and mutual encouragement among Catholic artists, a number of lay apostolates have emerged over the past twenty years to fill this need. Perhaps the most successful and fastest growing recent effort is the Catholic Art Guild, centered naturally at St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago.
Last year, the guild had its first annual national conference, a packed-house smashing success that could be seen only in hindsight as the authentically Catholic alternative gathering to the now infamous “Catholic Imagination” MET Gala. (You may recall my coverage of the event for 1P5.) Rooted in traditional liturgy and well formed notions of beauty and spiritual clarity, the guild was successful in putting on a conference that truly was a breath of fresh air – and a much needed injection of hope into our often beleaguered artistic ranks.
The guild is now returning with its second annual conference, to be held on Sunday, November 4, at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. “Formed in Beauty: Conference and Gala” will feature a number of speakers including our own Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, architect Ethan Anthony, artist Juliette Aristedes, and keynote speaker Alexander Stoddart (Sculptor in Ordinary for Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland). The conference will begin with a stunning Choral High Mass at St. John Cantius, followed by an afternoon and evening of stimulating talks that will also feature delicious food and the ability to meet and network with Catholic artists and art patrons from around the country. The evening concludes with a banquet in the gorgeous Drake Ballroom, followed by a roundtable discussion including all of the conference speakers.
After the incredible experience of the 2017 conference, I cannot wait for the 2018 edition. I furthermore cannot stress enough how positive and useful attendance can be for those looking to make a real and concrete difference in the battle against evil in our Church, as culture is yoked to destiny. And as promised, a discounted rate is offered just for 1P5 readers! Visit the website below (linked here) and click on “enter promotional code.” Use the code “1peter5” to receive a 15-dollar discount per ticket. The promotion ends October 5.
We hope to see you in November!
Dr. Mark Nowakowski is a scholar and composer whose music has been performed internationally and released on the Gramophone-praised Naxos Records album, “Blood, Forgotten.” His writings on Catholicism, music, aesthetics, and music technology appear in numerous publications regularly, while he also maintains an active schedule as a composer and professor of music. A proud native of Chicago, he currently lives with his wife and three children in Ohio.