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By Lynn and Bob Gillen

Links for Learners | April 2001

The Sacred Art of Michael O'Neill McGrath

Q U I C K S C A N


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Links for Learning

Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:
Christian lifestyles—praying through art; sacramentals and symbols; saints and other models of Christian behavior
Art history—artistic expression through the ages; various art mediums; church architecture

Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs outside the classroom, such as:

Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
Parents will also find this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for the key words and terms below as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself or from the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners. You can also find a list of terms on the glossary page of AmericanCatholicYouth.org.

Religious brother

Healing power of creativity

Prayerful nature of art

Religious arts

Francis de Sales

Thea Bowman

Book illustration

Saints



Art as Christian Ministry

This month's online article quotes Brother Michael O'Neill McGrath as saying, "… art is a way to recognize that we have a human need to see and touch mystery." For Brother Michael, art is another way to pray, a means of discerning God's presence in our lives. Art is a way to God. This month we offer you some suggestions for sharing your own prayer, your own stories, through artistic expression. The following resources may help:

Sister Thea Bowman
This tribute to Sister Thea Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, features Bowman-inspired art and includes illustrations by Brother Michael. Sister Thea was the first black woman to receive a doctorate in theology from Boston College. Brother Michael draws extensively from Sister Thea's life and writings when preaching and conducting retreats.

Hill Connections
Dedicated to both contemplation and social justice, Hill Connections highlights Sister Thea's life spreading the gospel though song, dance and story. More McGrath art can be found at this site. In "Spirituality Through Art" Hill Connections offers multiple graphics and writings/prayers for online inspiration.

Church Art and Architecture
Why do some church crosses display the resurrected Jesus? Have you wondered why newer churches situate the baptismal font near the church entrance? Through sign and symbol, Christ makes his presence felt among us. The Bishops' Committee on Liturgy issued a document in 1978 called "Environment and Art in Catholic Worship." Recently, in November of 2000, the bishops updated the document in "Built of Living Stones." The bishops remind us that liturgical art and architecture find their foundation in the theology of the eucharistic assembly and its liturgical actions.

Stained Glass Making
As a youngster, Brother Michael drew inspiration from stained-glass windows and other church art. The Stained Glass Association of America offers an extensive history of stained glass as an art. The association also publishes a quarterly journal and offers scholarship opportunities for potential artists.

Modern Masters
Are you curious about how stained-glass art is made? Have you watched a sculptor fashion figures from clay and fire them in a kiln? See Home and Garden Television's series "Modern Masters," featured on cable television and described on their Web site. The artists featured include contemporary sculptors, metal workers and glassmakers.

The Art of Music
"What kind of beautiful music am I going to make today?" asks David Grossman, a 23-year-old bass player for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In a 10-part series on music careers, CNN interviews the youngest member of the New York Philharmonic. Is music your expression of prayer, your path to God, to mystery, to joy?

Artistic Expression for the Disabled
For many disabled persons, art is the outlet for creative expression, perhaps the only voice they may have to share themselves with the community around them. Nuvisions for Disabled Artists, for example, offers services and resources for disabled artists in the southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey area.

Another group, Access Bolton Arts, maintains a Web site for disabled artists where they can share their writing, graphic arts, painting, music and fashion with others.

The Saints
Brother Michael doesn't hesitate to use whimsy in his art. He depicts St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, sitting in front of a computer. Can you create a parallel with your own favorite saint? Do you admire St. Peter, the brash and courageous first pope?
Could you, for example, sketch him riding in the "popemobile," as Pope John Paul II does in his visits to foreign countries? How about St. Francis of Assisi, the lover of animals, as a veterinarian, much as James Herriott in All Creatures Great and Small? Try your hand at artistic whimsy.

Additional Perspectives on Christian Art

Art History 101
You've studied world history and American history. You've seen timelines interconnecting events through history. Art has its own history as well. Art History 101, a feature of About.com, offers a comprehensive overview of art throughout the ages of humankind.

The Vatican Museums
Do you appreciate religious art? The magnificent art housed in the Vatican Museum collections is reproduced on this site.

Sister Wendy Beckett
Does the significance of art elude you? A renowned television art critic, Sister Wendy has published a number of books and videotapes that explain the paintings and art of the ages. The great works of art, Sister Wendy believes, tell incredible stories of what it means to be human. Is there a work of art that holds special meaning for you, a piece that touches your deeper side? Would you be willing to share your feelings with your class or discussion group?

Children's Book Illustrators
What was your favorite storybook as a child? Much of Brother Michael's art includes book illustrations. From illustrating copies of the Bible (the famous Book of Kells, for one) to children's storybooks, artists have long added their artistic view to the written word. Denise Ortakales researched and documented the history of illustrating children's books and the role of women in illustration. The About.com site also features her own portfolio of illustrations.

"Learn to see with other eyes - the eyes of the soul." So says Brother Michael of his art. After exploring your own artistic expression, can you now see more clearly, more deeply?


Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
Time Magazine
CNN
MSNBC
The Associated Press
The Chicago Tribune
People Magazine
The History Channel
The Miami Herald
The Close Up Foundation Washington, D.C.-based organization
ABC News
Channel One’s online resource
The Vatican
National Conference of Catholic Bishops



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