Art, Culture and the Sciences

The great Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins tells us that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God”. This is so wonderfully true that, if we have eyes opened in humility, we can see God’s grandeur shining forth in all that is truly beautiful in Creation.

Faith and Culture

Our Art, Culture and the Sciences page brings to you articles relating to Catholic arts and culture, including the sciences.

Latest:

July 2022

Readers might be interested in this collection of videos from the recent conference held by the Society of Catholic Scientists, on the theme of the Stewardship of the Earth. There are presentations from some very learned scientists on diverse subjects such as “Bees Knees”, hurricanes, uranium mining and Laudato Si. An interesting video included is one where Br Guy Consolmagno shares some anecdotes on living in the Vatican and his insights into the daily life of the Pope. Br Guy is Director of the Vatican Observatory (it seems to surprise some people that the Vatican has an observatory).

March 2022

Many people imagine that the Catholic Church was historically opposed to the theory of evolution or that there is something dangerous or dubious about Darwinian evolution from the viewpoint of Catholic theology. These ideas are based on a variety of confusions and misconceptions. The talk below will show how Catholic thinkers and Catholic Church authorities looked at evolution. It will also respond to the arguments some Christians make against it, and examine some of the more subtle issues, such as the relation of chance to divine providence, and the questions surrounding human origins and human distinctiveness.

Stephen M. Barr, a theoretical particle physicist (Ph.D. from Princeton University), has held research positions at the Univ., of Pennsylvania, the Univ. of Washington, and Brookhaven National Laboratory. In 1987, he joined the faculty of the University of Delaware, where he is Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Director of its Bartol Research Institute. His research centers on “grand unified theories” and the cosmology of the early universe. He has written 150 research papers, as well as the article on “Grand Unification” for the Encyclopedia of Physics. He has lectured widely on the relation of science and religion and is the author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, A Student’s Guide to Natural Science, and Science and Religion: The Myth of Conflict.

February 2022

Music: We are so proud of our own Sea of Change choir who rehearse many of their performances in St Patrick’s Church. They have just carried out a virtual performance for an EU event that announced new initiatives as part of the EU’s Beating Cancer Plan. The online event took place earlier this week ahead of World Cancer Day, which takes place today February 4th. The Sea of Change Choir was formed in 2018 and is made up of women who have survived cancer or lost people close to them with cancer. It was the third time that the 48-member choir performed for EU politicians in Brussels. Check out the video here:

October 2021

Poetry: An interesting article that we came upon recalls how Brendan Kennelly was a lover of the Rosary. In a radio interview with Miriam O’Callaghan back in 2016, he was asked did he believe in God. His answer; “I do but I also believe in Mary,” and he added, “I say the Rosary every day.” This was surprising to many at a time when the great and good of Ireland seemed to be rejecting their Catholic faith. He continued, saying that it was the music of the prayer that appealed to him. We share this beautiful poem, translated by Kennelly from the Irish of an anonymous poet, and dedicate this to him. May he rest in peace.

Christ’s Bounty

I pray you, Christ, to change my heart,
    To make it whole;
Once you took on flesh like mine,
    Now take my soul.

Ignominy and pain you knew,
    The lash, the scourge,
You, the perfect molten metal
    Of my darkened forge.

You make the bright sun bless my head,
    Put ice beneath my feet,
Send salmon swarming in the tides,
    Give crops of wheat.

When Eve’s wild children come to you
    With prayerful words,
You crowd the rivers with fine fish,
    The sky with birds.

You make the small flowers thrive
    In the wholesome air,
Your spread sweetness through the world.
    What miracle can compare?

Poetry Update: Sept 2021

At Oxford Michael Symmons Roberts deliberately set out to demolish theism and the Spirit lead him elsewhere. He was soon to convert from atheism to Catholicism. A great Pentecost experience! Listen to Jairus from his 2004 Corpus. Words below:

JAIRUS
So, God takes your child by the hand
and pulls her from her deathbed.
He says: ‘Feed her, she is ravenous.’

You give her fruits with thick hides
– pomegranate, cantaloupe –
food with weight, to keep her here.

You hope that if she eats enough
the light and dust and love
which weave the matrix of her body

will not fray, nor wear so thin
that morning sun breaks through her,
shadowless, complete.

Somehow this reanimation
has cut sharp the fear of death,
the shock of presence. Feed her

roast lamb, egg, unleavened bread:
forget the herbs, she has an aching
fast to break. Sit by her side,

split skins for her so she can gorge,
and notice how the dawn
draws colour to her just-kissed face.

July 2021

On 22 April 2018, audiences around the world watched the performance of James MacMillan’s Stabat mater from the Sistine Chapel. The concert was a rare honour, bestowed on the Genesis Foundation, as few performances are given in the Sistine Chapel and even fewer are given by ensembles not based in the Vatican. It was the first ever concert to be live-streamed from the Sistine Chapel and The Sixteen became the first professional British choir to sing there in over 20 years.

James MacMillan’s Stabat mater from the Sistine Chapel
Apollo 5 recite James MacMillian’s “Oh Radiant Dawn” during this Eastertide

St Patrick’s Lucan events:

June 2021

Architecture: The Cathedral Church of St Mel is the cathedral church of the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, located in the town of Longford in Ireland. Built between 1840 and 1856, with the belfry and portico as later additions, it has been considered the “flagship cathedral” of the Irish midlands region, Longford’s “landmark building” and “one of the finest Roman Catholic churches in Ireland”. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Mél (died 488), who came to Ireland with Saint Patrick and who was ordained bishop at Ardagh, County Longford. On Christmas Day 2009 the cathedral was destroyed by a fire in the early hours of the morning. The restored cathedral re-opened in December 2014. The young architect who restored Mel’s was chosen from his wonderful restoration of Balbriggan Church. St Patrick’s Lucan has this connect, with Fr Barry who ministered to our Parish during his illness some years ago. He is interred on the grounds of the Church.

June 2021
Science: The Society of Catholic Scientists, whose calling is to ‘integrate the worlds of science and religion in their own intellectual and spiritual lives’ held a recent conference on the concepts of the hypothetical existence of extraterrestrial intelligence and “strong” artificial intelligence.   What does science say about the prospects of extraterrestrial intelligence existing?  Would such beings be likely to be similar to us and have similar minds? What would be the implications for Catholic theology?  Is artificial intelligence possible? 

The Mystery of the Cosmos

Would it truly have “intellect”?  What would be its theological implications?  These and other questions were discussed by members of the SCS and other eminent scholars from a variety of disciplines. Check out the recorded livestream links here (you may have to fast forward through the sometimes long conference comfort breaks).

Day 1 of the SCS Conference
Day 2 of the SCS Conference

May 2021
Architecture: From 1915 Gaudí devoted himself almost exclusively to his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família, a synthesis of his architectural evolution. He intended the interior to resemble a forest, with inclined columns like branching trees, helicoidal in form, creating a simple but sturdy structure. Gaudí applied all of his previous experimental findings in this project, from works such as the Park Güell and the crypt of the Colònia Güell, creating a church that is at once structurally perfect, harmonious and aesthetically satisfying.

TThe architect has designed a meticulous symbology that makes this building a mystical poem