Most Anglo-Saxon priests work in churches that are no more than 150 years old. Many are beautiful - some are very beautiful indeed - but they rarely equal the splendour of the churches you find in Italy. I've sometimes wondered what I would do if I was the Rector of a church in Rome, surrounded by beautiful frescoes, the odd Bernini monument and centuries (even millennia) of history. How could one best use these priceless resources to spread the Faith in a secular age?
Part of the answer was provided by my visit yesterday to one of my favourite churches in the Eternal City - the Basilica of SS Ambrogio e Carlo al Corso (the Milanese Church). In a side chapel near the entrance was a selection of publications, available for a donation. These included books and - yes -DVDs about the art in the church. One book and DVD dealt with the church's paintings: not simply detailing the artist's name and the size of the frame but including 'catechetical notes' - thus, a portrait of Blessed Pius IX sparks off a reflection on Papal Infallibility and that of his predecessor, Innocent X, leads to a brief consideration of Jansenism (which he condemned in 1653). Another colourful book, supplemented by a DVD, is entitled Le Virtu in Simboli negli Affreschi - a magnificent catechesi in immagini looking at the virtues.
As I was leaving, I noticed a line of racks containing 33 'tracts' in each of the major languages. These cover key questions: the divinity of Christ, life after death, prayer and the sacraments, and the Church's teaching on abortion, euthanasia, marriage and homosexuality. This series appeared in 2005 and in the first year of publication over 800,000 copies were taken by visitors to the basilica. The Italian versions can be found here and they seem very informative.
These fantastic resources are the brain child of Mgr Raffaello Martinelli, an Officiale at the CDF (who was involved in the production of the recent Compendium) and the Primicerio of the Basilica. Perhaps we should imitate such projects in these cooler climes?
Labels: Roma Eterna