Dear members of the Marcellin family 

It is that time of the year when we acknowledge our Marcellin artists. Like most things this year we will be celebrating in a virtual way through an online Arts Assembly and an online exhibition of the work produced by our young men this year. 

What an important aspect of College life this is. In a recent blog I wrote about the significance of the Arts in shaping the way we view our world and ourselves. At an even deeper level, it gives us a window through which to view the spiritual nature of our lives. 

In the opening prayer for the Arts Assembly, Liturgy Captain Jack Meehan speaks of this connection when he says: 

Through their work, our Arts community encourages us to view our world through a different lens; to question and to reflect. Oftentimes, their art has the capacity to challenge the way we think and to identify what we most value. When we live consciously, when we are reflective and open to others, we allow God’s love to enter our world …. 

Daniel O’Leary in his book “An Astonishing Secret” puts it this way: 

A genuine work of art has the power to evoke in people emotions of awareness, of wonder, of belonging, stirring the deeper longings of the soul for a sublime intimacy. 

He goes on to suggest this power is imperative in the evolution of Christianity: 

From now on, our understanding of the meaning and urgent mission of Christianity today needs to be more artistic.” 

Daniel O’Leary (An Astonishing Secret, pp190/191) 

This is interesting because traditionally in our western world, our Christianity has been predominantly concerned with the understanding of God through conceptual and rational concerns. We try to rationalise things – work them out logically. Thus, we try to explain things verbally or in writing. This is ok, but if we don’t have other ways of expressing our understanding of God (or indeed of anything really) then we’re a bit limited. Sometimes, to understand something at a really deep level, we need to stimulate our imagination. 

So, art is not just important because it is pleasant to look at or demonstrates someone’s skill, as important as that is. It can also have a deeper purpose and speak to us in a way that other things can’t about “awareness, wonder, belonging and our deeper longings.” 

It is the same for the person involved in creating the artistic expression – the artist, actor, musician, set designer – whoever it is.  For them, it is an opportunity to express themselves in a different way – a way that is unique. That is the value of art and that is the value of the artist and it is why this College places such an emphasis on it. 

I want to give you the best example of artistic symmetry that I know. 

In 1889, Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh painted The Starry Night. Van Gogh was diagnosed as insane and died young, taking his own life. But in that short life his volume of work was unbelievably prolific. He did not begin painting until his late twenties, and most of his best-known works were produced during his final two years. He produced more than 2,000 artworks, consisting of around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches. 

In 1971, 82 years after van Gogh’s The Starry Night, American musician Don McLean wrote what many consider to be one of the greatest ballads of the latter part of the twentieth century. The song was called Vincent and the opening line was Starry, starry night. The song was not just a tribute to van Gogh but a soaring insight into his creative genius – his extraordinary talent for being able to communicate something deep, something beautiful and something eternal.  

Today we tend to judge works of art, like most things, on their monetary value. A van Gogh painting of the doctor who looked after him in his final years was sold for US$82 million in 1990. In his own lifetime, Van Gogh sold 1 (maybe 2) paintings and died in poverty. His paintings, like all works of art, can’t be valued by putting a dollar sign next to them. Their value is in what they communicate and their impact on us. Any art, be it by van Gogh or one of our young men here at Marcellin, has the capacity to speak to us in a totally unique way and can therefore teach us something new, something different. 

The Marcellin 2020 Art Exhibition will be available to be viewed online soon. I encourage everyone to take the time to get online and not only appreciate the creative talents of our artists, but to reflect on this ‘language of the soul’. 

With blessings for the week ahead 

John Hickey