A Book that Offers A Template for Catholic Education for Children

A Book that Offers A Template for Catholic Education for Children

I am often asked how my book, The Way of Beauty, which describes the principles of Catholic Education at higher levels, can be adapted for younger children. Now I know where to send!

This wonderful book, written by a professor of education from Notre Dame University, Sydney, Australia, has the answers and much more besides. Balancing the natural and the supernatural, the theoretical and the practical, and combining the best of traditional methods with modern educational theory and psychology (with great prudence), Gerard O'Shea describes how a mystagogical catechesis, rooted in the study of scripture and the actual worship of God is at the heart of every Catholic education. Then he describes how teaching methods and curricula should reflect these principles for children of different ages.

The Mystery of Mystagogy! Catholic Education is an Education in the Liturgy...nothing else!

angel ordersAs described before, on my return from the Sacra Liturgia 2013 conference in Rome I wrote an article for Catholic Education Daily in which I argued that the essence of Catholic education is education in the liturgy. The article is A School of Love: the Sacred Liturgy and Education. As part of the recommended reading of the conference and since writing this I got around to reading Sacramentum Caritatis.  Within the section on 'mystagogy' this very matter is discussed directly. Mystogogy means literally in Greek, 'learning about the mysteries'. Mystagogy in this context is, to quote Stratford Caldecott ‘the stage of exploratory catechesis that comes after apologetics, after evangelization, and after the sacraments of initiation (baptism, Eucharist, and confirmation) have been received’ and is sometimes referred to a formal stage of education of the newly baptised Christian in living out the faith.

Section 64 of Pope Benedicts XVI's encyclical Sacramentum Caritatis is entitled 'Mystagogical Catechesis'. In this he says:

'The Church's great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one's life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world...The mature fruit of mystagogy is an awareness that one's life is being progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated. The aim of all Christian education, moreover, is to train the believer in an adult faith that can make him a "new creation", capable of bearing witness in his surroundings to the Christian hope that inspires him.'

Once again, the full article is here.

Catholic Education Daily is run by the Cardinal Newman Society which is dedicated to the promotion of faithful Catholic education in our schools and colleges.

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A School of Love: Sacred Liturgy and Education. Reflections after Sacra Liturgia 2013 in Rome

Sacra Liturgia 1How do you teach Catholic engineering? What does it mean to be a Catholic plumber? The answer lies in the liturgy. I was invited to attend the conference on the Sacred Liturgy Sacra Liturgia 2013 in Rome by the Cardinal Newman Society and asked to write my thoughts on what I hear and how it might impact Catholic education. This was an inspiring three days. This was the Benedictine (as in our wonderful Pope Emeritus) understanding of liturgy made manifest. I will feature the articles over the next few weeks. Before I present what I wrote for them I just want to say what a star Archbishop Sample from Portland Oregon is. He spoke on how a Bishop can introduce changes in the liturgy in his diocese. He impressed my as being totally dedicated and able to win people over without compromising on principle.

In this article I discuss what is meant by a Catholic education, especially when you are teaching things that don't seem instrically religious, such as science. The link is here.

Founded in 1993, the Cardinal Newman Society has a mission to promote and defend faithful Catholic education.



What Teaches Wisdom - Poetry, Clear Prose or Beautiful Art and Music?

 love of learningAn education in truths that cannot be expressed in words  In his book, the Love of Learning and the Desire for God, Jean Leclerq describes various tensions playing out in education in the medieval period.

One arises from the love of beautiful literature, poetic or prosaic, that is not explicitly sacred. The danger is that at some point the beauty of these works is so compelling that it hampers the spiritual development of the individual, because ‘Virgil might outshine Holy Scripture in the monk’s esteem because of the perfection of his style’[1]. A properly ordered asceticism in this area consisted in a harmonization of sources and sometimes the more humbly written simple prose divinely inspired Scripture is necessary for us so that we focus on the beauty of what it directs us to, he says.

The second tension that Leclercq describes relates to the study of logic, or sometimes called dialectic, which is another of the first three liberal arts that together comprise the trivium. As such it requires an understanding the technical language of logic. It is necessary in order to study philosophy and theology. The difference arose between two different sorts of school, the monastic and the town scholastic schools. The word scholastic is derived from the Latin word meaning ‘school’ and is applied to distinguish it from the monastic setting.

One the one hand is the more traditional monastic school that is more literary, drawing on Biblical language and traditional literary forms.

The monastic schools of the medieval period recognized the value of dialectic, but were suspicious of scholastic Schools in which there was a tendency, they felt, for dialectics to dominated to the detriment of the other liberal arts, and especially those concerned with the beautiful expression of what is true and good. As Leclercq puts it: ‘ The Scholastics were concerned with achieving clarity. Consequently they readily make use of abstract terms, and never hesitate to forge new words which St Bernard [as an example of an authority from the monastic school] for his part avoids. Not that he refuses to use the philosophical terminology which through Boethius had come down from Aristotle…but for him this terminology is never more that a vocabulary for emergency use and does not supplant the bibilical vocabulary. The one he customarily uses remains, like the Bible’s, essentially poetic. His language is consistently more literary than that of the School.’

And in the use of this traditional technical vocabulary there also exists a certain diversity: each monastic author chooses from the Bible and the Fathers his favourite expressions and gives them the shade of meaning he prefers. Within the overall unity there remains a variety which is characteristic of a living culture.’[2]

The strength of this is great flexibility is a noble accessibility and beauty that opens the door and draws in the ordinary reader to receive the wonders they describe; the weakness is its technical imprecision so that it can be ambiguous and this leads to a greater possibility of misinterpretation.

Those seeking to offer a Catholic education today are likely to draw on both the monastic and scholastic influences. Even in the few Catholic ‘Great Books’ programmes that exist today we can see how a polarization might develop, some favouring either poetic knowledge on the one hand or of a formal Thomistic training on the other. This needn’t be so. As a general principle, I suggest, the way to avoid extremes of an over emphasis on the poetic form on one hand and an overemphasis on dialectic on the other is to make prayer and the liturgy the central, harmonizing principle of the life of the student and professor alike, whether monastic or scholastic. This is something more than encouraging participation in the liturgy. It is making the participation in the liturgy the guiding principle in what and how we learn and teach. The students should understand clearly how everything that they learn is done in order to deepen our participation in the liturgy. In this regard, the liturgy of the hours is a crucial presence, I suggest. Then the praying of the liturgy will in turn illuminate the lessons learnt in the classroom.

In light of this I suggest there are aspects of education that are neglected in Leclercq’s account. He focuses almost exclusively on communication by language. I wonder if this is too narrow a vision. The teaching of truth expressed linguistically is the most important part of study, but it should not be emphasized in a way that excludes the visual and musical. A formal study of perceptible beauty, especially visual and auditory aspects of harmony, proportion and order is in the traditional study of the quadrivium. St Augustine[3] spoke of how the beauty of the form says things that words cannot.

There are levels of understanding that cannot be said in words alone, even poetic words, that can only be communicated visually or through words when they are sung beautifully. Any lover of holy icons would say the same, I suggest, in regard to visual beauty. Giving ourselves a beautiful visual focus for our prayer, especially Out Lady, the suffering Christ and the face of Our Lord is important in this regard.

Liturgy is the place where all of this can be synthesized and one is immersed in God's wisdom and this, deep in the heart of the person, is where we form the culture.

[1] Ibid, p124

[2] Ibid, p201

[3] St Augustine, On Psalm 32, Sermon 1, 7-8; quoted in the Office of Readings for the Feast of St Cecilia, November 22nd

love of learning


A Recommended Book for Young Children

Here is a book introducing young children both to an aspect of the Faith and to the artistic traditions of the Church. It is not an unusual idea - there are other books for children making use of the works of Old Masters. However, this one caught my eye because it uses exclusively the art of one artist, Fra Angelico, which gives the project greater cohesion than many. Also, I love Fra Angelico, so anything that introduces his art to children is worth looking at in my opinion. Bethlehem Books, the publisher, says that this is 'a first board book in a set on the Blessed Trinity. The aim of The Saving Name of God the Son is to help guide the child listener and adult reader into the mystery of the Son of God, Jesus Christ'

There are ten described events, including The Resurrection, below, and with the front cover this makes 11 reproductions. There are very few words, perhaps two or three short sentences per picture, but they are taken from Scripture or the Catechism and it has been put together so that it runs smoothly, simply and understandably. Given the source of the text and the quality of the reproductions, I can imagine that it is likely to give the grown-ups doing the reading a resource for some pictorial lectio. At the back are comprehensive details about each picture (name, location of original etc) and the sources for the accompanying text, plus scriptural readings and sections of the Catechism that reinforce the theological point being made.

To get more information or order The Saving Name of God the Son, go to Bethlehem Books website,  here. Bethlehem Book publish this as part of their Holy Child teaching curriculum and present many ideas about how to use this book with different age groups to maximise the enjoyment and the quality of the educational experience, here.

There is an additional exercise that I would encourage. If parents encourage their older children to copy these beautiful images as best they can then it will impress the style of this wonderful artist upon their souls in some way and, who knows, it might stimulate a future Fra Angelico to realise his or her vocation!




Thomas More College links up with Internationally Known Atelier, Ingbretson Studios, Again

Thomas More College of Liberal Arts is pleased to announce that once again that undergraduates, the college's Guild of St Luke will be able to attend a weekly, day-long course in academic drawing at Ingbretson Studio, the internationally known studio of Paul Ingbretson in Manchester, New Hampshire. This is ideal for those want to go to college and get a Catholic formation, but don’t want to leave their art behind while they study. Thomas More College of Liberal Arts continues to be the one place where you can study both. This was a course run for the first time last semester and it was so successful that we are giving up to a dozen undergraduates the chance to learn this traditional method again. Through this they will receive a training that will give them a level of skill in drawing that is greater than many leaving a conventional art school after four years' study. The photographs shown are of the drawings produced by last year's students.

Paul Ingbretson is a modern Master of the Boston school and is one of those I mentioned who was given his training by Ives Gammell in the 1970s. He has been teaching ever since. His school has an international reputation (we were all well aware of it, for example, when we were studying in Florence). He teaches the rigorous 'academic method' of drawing which can be traced back to the methods of Leonardo da Vinci and was used by figures such as Velazquez and more recently, John Singer Sargent.

By coincidence Ingbretson Studios is just 10 minutes drive from the TMC campus. Those who have a strong enough interest will also have an opportunity to train full time for three solid months each summer if they wish to do so. This is part of the college art guild of St Luke in which students are able to learn also traditional iconography and sacred geometry.

I teach a course to all freshmen who attend the college called The Way of Beauty in which students learn in depth about Catholic culture, especially art and architecture, and its connection to the liturgy.


Public Lecture Series Scheduled for the Fall in New Hampshire

I have been invited to give a series of six public lectures through the Fall on traditional forms in art at the Exhibition Gallery of the Sharon Arts Centre in downtown Peterborough, New Hampshire. This is not a Catholic or even Christian organization, but reflects a growing (if perhaps not yet burgeoning) interest from secular circles in traditional art forms including Christian forms of art and this invitation is a hopeful sign. The first lecture is on Tuesday, September 6th at 7:15pm at the gallery space which is at 30 Grove Street in Peterborough, New Hampshire. They take place semi-monthly in September, October and November 2011. In this series I will not only discuss the form of the Christian traditions of geometric, iconographic, gothic and baroque forms. There will be lectures also, towards the end of the series on how non-Christian art such as Islamic, Hindu and Taoist art and even non-religious 20thcentury modern art reflects their respective worldviews. This is a distilled from my course, the Way of Beauty that is taught as part of the core curriculum at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH

There will be time after each lecture for some discussion and for socialising.

For more details see here or the Upcoming Events page on this blog.

How an Artist can Seek Creativity and Inspiration

Nearly every artist I meet acknowledges a need for inspiration to guide creativity. The application of every stroke of charcoal or paint must be guided by a picture in the mind of the artist of what he is aiming to create. Sometimes the creation of the work of art involves a carefully thought out, obviously reasoned approach and sometimes it is or more intuitive and spontaneous. However, as long as the process is the realization of an idea and not just a random process without any thought of what the result will be (as with a chimpanzee throwing paint at a canvas) then the artists is employing his intellect and is making decisions about the form he creates. Artists need inspiration in both the formation of the original ideas; and in the decisions about how it will be best achieved. I have read a number of books claiming to have the secret to creativity and the inspiration of the imagination, a number of them best sellers. Steeped in high emotion and cod psychotherapy, I found them all unconvincing. I have met quite a few people who read them and thought they were wonderful. While it was clear that reading the book made them feel good, none seem to be able to point to visible results in their art (that I could discern at any rate). I was looking for something that actually seemed likely to contribute to my producing better art, rather than something that relieved my anxiety.

It seems to me now that the answer is so much simpler than most of these books suggest. This was to use the methods of the Old Masters of the past. All it requires of me is sufficient humility to follow the traditional forms of Western culture. A traditional art education will engender that humility by requiring me to follow the precise directions of the teacher, and by following in the footsteps of the Old Masters by regularly copying their work. (See here for me details on this aspect). No self-expression here! (This incidentally is a lot of the problem, that I could see, with many of the modern methods of trying to generate creativity. Although they might even acknowledge the need for an external source of inspiration, all the popular ones that I read in fact suggested techniques that engendered self-centred self examination that in fact did the opposite - very-loosely based, as far as I could work out on 20th-century psychotherapy methods.)

Regular prayer for inspiration is part of this, and I would say that the traditional prayer of the Church is the best. This comes back, once again to active participation in the liturgy in the fullest sense of the word. Participation in the liturgy, especially when it includes the liturgy of the hours (I have written a series of articles about the Liturgy of the Hours, here) is not only an education in beauty it is the greatest training in creativity and the most powerful prayer of inspiration and guidance.

I have spent much time with Eastern Christians. My initial contact came through learning to paint icons. One of the things that struck me about them was the way they prayed with visual imagery. It seemed to straightforward: they would stand and turn to look the icon in the face, addressing the person depicted directly. Also, they were inclined to sing their prayers in full voice. I might be with a family, for example, and before the meal, they all stood, faced the icon of Christ that was in the dining room and sang an ancient hymn. My reflections on this are in another article called Praying with Visual Imagery.

Upon further reflection, and coming back to this issue of creativity for artists, something that struck me is how unlikely it is that an artist who is not habitually praying with visual imagery is going to be able to produce art that nourishes prayer. If I am habitually making that connection between the prayer and the image, then I will instinctively produce art that nourishes my own prayer. If I am praying well, then that art will be beautiful and will, in turn, nourish the prayers of others. This practice of praying with visual imagery is developing my instincts for what is beautiful. It is also engaging my vision in the prayer, and conforming it to the liturgical practice. This is an act of humility therefore that opens the person as a whole to inspiration and guidance , with a particular focus on that faculty of the visual.

It has been said that historically, that all the great art movements began on the altar. Think of the baroque. It began in the 17th century as the sacred art and architecture of the Catholic counter-Reformation, but this set the style for all art, architecture and music, sacred and profane in both Catholic and Protestant countries.

Therefore the prayer with visual imagery in the context of the liturgy, is a hugely important factor in developing our instincts as to what is beautiful and is the bedrock for the visual aspects of all culture. Just as the liturgy, with the Eucharist at its heart, is the source and summit of human life, so liturgical art is the source of inspiration for and the summit to which all other art participates and directs us to.

I try to do the same when I am participating in the Mass. Once a month we have the Melkite Liturgy at the college and the priest very obviously turns to face the large icons of Our Lady, or of Christ when addressing them in the liturgy. I do my best to take this lesson into my participation in the Roman Rite. Similarly, at the end of Mass on weekdays we say the Angelus, and we all turn and face the statue of Our Lady which is in our little chapel.

The Liturgy of the Hours is a place in which, as a layman, I can do much to adopt these practices. If I pray the Liturgy of the Hours at home, I can use an icon corner to orientate my prayer. When we pray the Liturgy of the Hours at Thomas More College, we finish with invocations special to the community including addressing Our Lady and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We turn and face these images as we pray. At Vespers and Compline we set up the icon of Our Lady because each has a strong Marian content. At Vespers we say the Magnificat, the song of Our Lady every day and at Compline we always finish with a Marian antiphon.

Of course, the use of imagery is just one aspect of engaging the whole person in prayer – appropriate use of incense, chant and posture allows for the active conformity of the whole person to the prayer and so greater openness to inspiration in any human activity. So this prayer of the artists is really a prayer by which any can hope to discover their personal vocation and flourish in it.

What does inspiration feel like? We can be transported in ecstacy, as in the painting of St Francis by Caravaggio, below, or St Theresa of Avila, right; but more commonly, the inspiration of the artist is not felt at all. We know it is has been there not because of how we feel during the painting process, but rather by the quality of the work at the end of it. Even if the painting of it felt like hard work, God might have been guiding our decision making processes. And frankly, it's going to be hard to paint if you are fainting into the hands of an angel like St Francis did!

And one final point that was made to me in this regard. Inspiration is given by God and He inspires whomsoever He pleases. It is not something demanded or taken by the artist. These methods are ways that develop our ability to cooperate with Him. In the end, if it is not my vocation to be an artist then all prayer and training in the world will not make a great artist of me. However, we can take heart, it will develop everybody's ability to cooperate with the inspiration that He gives to all of us in order to carry out our personal vocations whatever they may be. So we may find that this training leads some of us to something that is, in these cases, even more fulfilling than art.

This is one of series of articles about prayer and creativity through the liturgy, the most powerful and effective form of prayer: the others are here.

Anyone wishing to learn the traditional methods of art and prayer mentioned in the article can come to the summer programme of the Way of Beauty Atelier at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts. We have traditional art and chant classes that teach the methods in conjunction with the practice of prayer. Alternatively there is a weekend retreat which teaches the principles of the prayer with the art classes. All programmes are open to people of all ages (not just high-school students).

The painting at the top is by Vermeer (17th century baroque). Other images described below each one.

The Melkite Liturgy at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, Merrimack, NH. Chaplain, Fr Boucher turns to the icon of Christ at a point when he is addressing Him directly.

Pentecost (Jean Restout, French, 1732).

The Principles of a Traditional Art Education for Today

When I first met the president of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire, he asked me to describe my ideas for an art school that could contribute train artist to serve the Church. This was relatively easy for me to do. Inspired by John Paul II’s Letter to Artists,  I had been on a mission for several years to establish such a school and so describing it was something I had done many times. I described how I would give a training that was rooted in traditional principles, teaching an understanding of what they were doing, so that the tradition becomes a living tradition. A living tradition can develop and respond to the needs of the time without compromising on the timeless principles of beauty, truth, goodness and unity that underlie all genuinely Catholic art. This would enable us I said, to produce art for both sacred and profane settings, and contribute to the establishment of the art of Vatican II. This will evoke the art of the past, yet be distinct and in many ways of a previously unimagined in style. It will characterise our era as beautifully and distinctly as the Romanesque, the Gothic and the Baroque did theirs.

The aim of such an education are threefold: to train in the practical skills; to increase in the individual an ability to apprehend beauty; and to open the individual up to inspiration from God through a disciplined training that looks to Masters for guidance.

Following traditional patterns of art training, there are five aspects (in no particular order):

  1. The study of past Masters of the traditions of Christian art – imitating them with understanding so that the students learn a visual vocabulary of art. In his Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict XV cites the icongraphic (of which the Romanesque is a Western variant), the gothic and the baroque ‘at its best’ as authentic liturgical forms.
  2. The direct observation of nature: this is the study of the work of the greatest Artist.
  3. Practice and study of abstract art in the Christian tradition and the principles of proportion and compositional design (sometimes called ‘sacred geometry’).
  4. Learning the theory of Christian art – an understanding of the Catholic worldview and the Church as it relates to art (theology, philosophy, liturgy linked to form and content) so that they understand all that they are practising.
  5. Finally, the development of a spiritual life that will open the student up to inspiration (should God choose to send it): artists are unlikely to be able to produce work that inspires prayer and devotion in others, if they are not practised in using visual imagery in prayer themselves.

Students would have an exposure to each of these elements. As study progresses, they would specialise in one of the artistic traditions listed, or into the development of new art forms consistent with the principles they have learnt and as required by the Church.

The president listened without interruption and then asked me a further question. What about those who aren’t going to be artists, can you provide a training that could be part of the core liberal-arts programme as an education in beauty?

I had never been asked this before. I stopped for moment to think before responding, then realized that this really was possible. The traditional artistic training not only taught people the skills, but also the ability to apprehend beauty. This aspect, I was certain could be taught to all and the result would be a transformation of the individual, for to open up someone to beauty, is to elevate their souls to God and to increase their capacity to love what is good. There would be change in emphasis, the practical elements would be there, but those aspects that would not be intimidating to someone who did not consider themselves good at art would be brought to the fore.

The result of this meeting was that I was invited to come to TMC to implement exactly what I had described. The first stage was to be the programme for undergraduates; this would be followed by the gradual identification of gifted artists from the undergraduate body, who would form the core of the specialist art school. I would be looking for those who not only wished to be artists, but were fired by the vision of the college and wanted to play a part in creating the ‘new epiphany of beauty’ called for by Pope John Paul II in his Letter to Artists.

This Fall, Thomas More College starts its Way of Beauty programme to be taken by all freshman (and offered as an elective for other students). It is a course that is, as far we know, unique in the world. It draws on the principles articulated by figures from the early Church, such as Augustine and Boethius and which have been drawn to our attention recently by John Paul II and especially Benedict XVI. What I had described in my interview were the principles of the quadrivium, the ‘four ways’ (the higher part of the traditional seven liberal arts).

The traditional quadrivium is essentially the study of pattern, harmony, symmetry and order in nature and mathematics viewed as a reflection of the Divine Order. When we perceive something as reflecting this order, we call it beautiful. For Christians this is a source, along with Tradition, that provides the model upon which the rhythms and cycles of the liturgy are based. Christian culture, like classical culture before it, was also patterned after this cosmic order; this order which provides the unifying principle that runs through every traditional discipline. Literature, art, music, architecture – all of creation and potentially all human activity – are bound together by this common harmony and receive their fullest meaning in the liturgy. This course teaches a deep understanding of these principles and how they link the liturgy, ie the cult, to its culture. When we apprehend beauty we do so intuitively. So an education that improves our ability to apprehend beauty develops also our intuition. All creativity is at source an intuitive process. This means that professionals in any field would benefit from an education in beauty because it would develop their creativity. Furthermore, the creativity that an education in beauty stimulates will generate not just more ideas, but better ideas. Better because they are more in harmony with the natural order. The recognition of beauty moves us to love what we see. Such an education would tend to develop also, therefore, are capacity to love and leave us more inclined to serve God and our fellow man. The result for the individual who follows this path is joy.

This course not only teaches the students an understanding of these principles. It teaches them how to apply them. The course is directed towards the creation of beauty as well the appreciation of it. We will chant the Liturgy of the Hours, relating not only the structure of the Office itself to the Mass and the Heavenly Liturgy, but the form of the music to the harmonious principles that are replicated in the visual arts as, for example, the abstract geometric art of the Cosmati pavements of the middle ages; and used as principles for compositional design in figurative art. They will construct geometric patterns that reflect this

The practical aspect is not an extra bit of light-hearted fun tacked on to the end of the course. It is considered a vital component. It is the practical creation of beauty that effects the transformation in the person. First, it develops the habit of conforming the whole person to divine order, which is impressed by degrees upon the soul. Second, it is exercising the creative aspect of the intellect in us. We are made by God to be with Him in heaven, partaking of the divine nature. God’s intellect is purely creative intellect – if He thinks something it is. The creation of beauty is therefore a temporal step into our heavenly destiny and so directs us on to the path to heaven. Third, when beauty is created it is a gift for God and directs the hearts of others who behold it to God, bringing glory to Him. Therefore it is an act of love. This is the most powerful transforming principle of all.

The benefits to the person are present most powerfully in the Liturgy, but it is important that there is an experience also of the creation of art other than the praying of the liturgy also. This demonstrates to the students how these liturgical principles are made present in the wider culture. Even the form of the Liturgy of the Hours we are learning is developed to emphasise this link between the culture and the Liturgy. It was first developed at the Maryvale Institute, in Birmingham, England, as part of their art theory course, Art Inspiration and Beauty from a Catholic Perspective, where I taught before moving to the US. The students learn to involve the whole person in the prayer, body and soul, so that it is a greater gift to God and they are fully open to inspiration and God’s grace. This means that we engage the senses directly with sacred imagery, chant, incense and consider bodily posture. This is a simple and beautiful form that draws on the tradition of the Church.

And what about the art school? It was felt that to make all students learn to paint icons was not a good thing, as some would be intimidated by this. There will be elective classes in icon painting and drawing throughout the year so that those who are interested can develop their interest. We will be offering a summer school next year open to people outside the college as well and that offers a condensed form of the Way of Beauty in a week (which like the undergraduate class, is for artists and non-artists).  Artists would wish to take in addition a two-week course in iconography and a two-week course in academic drawing, as taught in the ateliers of Florence.

I arrived at Thomas More College in January this year and I have been surprised (and very pleased) by the interest that the appointment of an Artist-in-Residence has created. There have been numerous newspaper features and even a TV appearance (I was invited to talk about the TMC programme on EWTN in late spring). This demonstrates to me that the is a great desire in the Catholic world to see once again a distinctly Catholic culture of beauty united to the liturgy. In fact as a result of this I have had several enquiries from people looking to study art full time who are well grounded in the Faith and committed to the wider vision, so much earlier in the development process than I had originally planned, I am even expecting our first full time art student to begin this Fall.


The Brussels Academy of Icon Painting

As a postscript to the article about the work of Irina Gorbunova-Lomax, a reader has sent me information about two more websites with more up-to-date work of hers on display. You can see them here and here. I was also contacted by an old friend of mine from Oxford, a Catholic, who is studying with her. As ever, I am delighted to receive this additional information from readers and, in turn, happy to pass it on to you. Originally from the Ukraine, Irina studied in Russia. She is married to an Englishman and lives in Brussels (she is not based in France as I first thought). She runs a 4-year, part-time course in icon painting (38 three-hour lessons over this period). She is an excellent teacher by all accounts and, I was told, she is respectful of the Catholic Faith and many Catholics are already learning with her. Details about her school, can be found at the Brussels Academy of Icon Paintingsite. Based upon the recommendations I have received and the quality of her work, any wishing to learn icon painting who can get to Brussels should consider her classes. The photos below are of her classes and exhibitions of student studies. The final picture of work by Irina.