Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Featured Work: Ave Maria by Fr. Dawid Kusz, OP

Photo by S. Smith Photography

Kusz's "Ave Maria", is an exercise in devotion moving from contemplative fragility to powerful affirmation. Fr. Kusz -- a recently ordained Dominican who lives in Krakow -- simultaneously studied sacred music and choral conducting while training for the Priesthood. His work has already become a staple in many Churches around Poland, and is a leading musical force in the "new aesthetic" in liturgical art currently taking place there. The "Ave Maria", like his other sacred works, grows strongly out of Catholic contemplative tradition while also giving a strong nod to the Gregorian Chant idiom. While the "Ave Maria" is built upon a renaissance aesthetic, the clever harmonic choices and vocal density make it a thoroughly modern work. As a composer, Kusz certainly stands on the shoulders of giants before him, looking ahead to a new musical renaissance within the Church. To listen to "Ave Maria", please click

Mark Nowakowksi
Curator of Architecture

Lessons in Iconography: The Scallop Shell

On January 10th, the Church will celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Christ. The Sacrament of Baptism instituted through Christ's own baptism has long been symbolized by the scallop shell. Often, a shell is used to pour water over the head in baptism, as we see in the painting above of The Baptism of Christ by Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci.

Additionally, the shell symbolizes pilgrimage. In Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus, also above, the figure at right wears a scallop shell pinned to his vest, identifying him with all pilgrims who seek and encounter Christ at the end of their own "road to Emmaus". This symbol and practice are closely tied to the Spanish shrine of Santiago de Compostela, one of the most prominent sites of Christian pilgrimage since the Middle Ages.

These two meanings are linked. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are born to new life in Christ and cleansed of original sin. The gates of heaven which were closed after the Fall are reopened to us through our reception of the Sacrament. Our life, therefore, is a pilgrimage through this world, and union with God in heaven is the goal of our journey.

Rachel Ross
Curator of Art

Artists as Prodigal Sons?

Rembrandt van Rijn
The Return of the Prodigal Son

The Church's historic relationship with the arts might best be understood as paternal rather than spousal. This is the view put forth by art historian Elizabeth Lev following the Holy Father's recent address to artists in Rome. The Church, as patron (from the Latin pater, meaning father), "acted like a nurturing father, providing education and boundaries but also exhorting artists to cultivate their gifts." Thus rather than characterizing the modern estrangment of this relationship as a "divorce", as it has been widely described, Lev contends that an "extended adolescence" is to blame. Modern artists, bent on self-promotion and self-expression, found the Christian narrative and aesthetic traditions contricting. "And so it came to pass that today's angry, sulky, self-absorbed adolescents of art chose to provoke instead of persuade, titillate instead of stimulate, and rage instead of reason." The Holy Father's call to artists, therefore, is for maturation, and for a return to the nurturing arms of their pater. To read the full Zenit article, please click

Message from the Executive Director

As we look forward to a new year dedicated to cultural renewal and evangelization through beauty, The Foundation for Sacred Arts is pleased to announce a number of significant milestones. Our website has been updated with image galleries, videos and other important resources. The Foundation has also welcomed new members to the board of directors. We continue to receive diverse inquires regarding our International Sacred Music Competition for Composers and creative personalities from around the globe are hard at work preparing their entries. We have also extended our deadline for our artist competition, I Believe: The Creed in Art. Our composer directory has nearly doubled in size in the last few months and we have at last unveiled the first additions to our architect directory. We anticipate the expansion of all of our directories in the coming months, and trust that these will be a key resource for pastors and patrons with a keen eye for excellence. Happy New Year!

Ann Marra
Executive Director