Saintly patron of the arts

Artists, Augustine Institute, to pay tribute to John Paul II

Nissa LaPoint

The Augustine Institute will acclaim the life and canonization of John Paul II through an artistic celebration April 26.

The day before the late pontiff is canonized in Rome, the community will gather for “The Making of Man,” an artistic salute at the Tolle Lege Coffee Bar next to the institute at 6160 S. Syracuse Way in Greenwood Village.

Andrew Whaley, who works at the coffee bar, organized the tribute that begins noon April 26 and continues through the early morning April 27 during the live canonization of the pope in Rome.

The celebration will begin with a small group discussion on Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists.”

“All my friends who are artists love this letter so we’ll discuss it,” Whaley said.

Local artists including Devin Montagne, Elizabeth Zelasko, Justin Jensen and Mark and Nicole Thomason will display their art work of the pope. Montagne will also do a live performance of a painting of the late pope.

Later at 6:30 p.m., John Paul II’s thoughts and legacy will be discussed by a group of panelists, including St. John Vianney Seminary professor Joel Barstad, Augustine Institute associate professor Michel Therrien and Bishop Machebeuf High School theology teacher Marc Lenzini.

“We’re going to talk about the whole concept of the making of man,” said Whaley, who will moderate the discussion. “We’ll also talk about the similarities between art, and teaching, and art in the moral life and in the thoughts of John Paul II.”

Then at 8:30 p.m., Perry West and Elizabeth Wood will perform live music.

Attendees will also be able to watch a performance in the style of Rhapsodic Theatre, a style of theatre John Paul II had developed.

“We’re going to read some of Karol Wojtyła and have a staged reading from Our God’s Brother, which is one of his best plays,” Whaley said. “A few hours before this man is declared a saint, some people dedicated to the new evangelization of which he is architect of, will stand on a darkened stage as he once did and will proclaim the words he used to proclaim.”

At about midnight, the gathering will pray and wait until the live feed of the canonization starts from Rome, which they’ll watch on a large screen.

“We’ll keep vigil and pray until the live feed starts,” he said.

The event is free but donations will be accepted. Food and drink will be available.

An RSVP is requested by emailing rsvp@augustineinstutute.org or calling 303-937-4420.

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.