Arts News

Growing up, Denyse Gervais Regan’s mother Marie Louise would always tell her children stories about her life.

Having been left by her mother in an orphanage at the tender age of four, and then going on to have 14 children of her own, what a story Marie Louise Gervais had to share.

“She’d always end by saying my life story would make a good book and I hope one of you kids one day writes that book for me,” Gervais Regan, 73, told The Catholic Register.

Fr. Lewis finds writing meditative, yet challenging


TORONTO - For Jesuit Father Scott Lewis, writing is a dominant part of his ministry.

A columnist for The Catholic Register for the past eight years, Lewis is the author of the recently published God’s Word on Sunday: Liturgy Reflections from Year B.

“You have to open yourself up to the Spirit when you go to write,” said Lewis on where he gets his inspiration from when he sits down to write his weekly columns. Drawn from his Register columns, God’s Word on Sunday examines the Sunday readings of the 2011-2012 liturgical calendar, a year that focuses on the Gospel of Mark. It follows on the heels of last year’s book on Year A.

Mary Jo Leddy shows us the face of the stranger


TORONTO - Mary Jo Leddy, co-founder of Toronto's Romero House, has discovered a school for Christian living. She has learned to live a Christian life by spending her days and nights among people who have been cut adrift by the violent politics and harsh economics we are usually sheltered from in Canada.

Leddy launched her new book The Other Face of God: When the Stranger Calls Us Home [click here to buy] at Regis College Oct. 20. The book is a spiritual guide to the practical, legal and bureaucratic process of settling refugees in this country. She has spent more than 20 years struggling against what she calls the bureaucratic absurdities and moral blindness of Canada's refugee system.

"Systems supposedly designed to do good develop routines of indifference, procedures for acceptable cruelty," she writes in the 150-page Novalis book.

New magazine brings faith to public square


More than two years in the making, Canada has a new magazine that intends to inject the voice of faith into public debates.

Convivium, which published its preview issue Oct. 18, is modelled on the influential American publication First Things. And just as First Things has been praised as an important vehicle to explore the delicate relationship between religion and society, Convivium publisher Peter Stockland hopes to engage religious-minded Canadians in public debates about the serious moral and cultural issues of our times.

Oratorio rises out of composer’s Holocaust obsession


TORONTO - Composer Zane Zalis has a story to tell. Give him 90 minutes, 200 singers and a huge orchestra and Zalis will lead you through an emotional tale of the Holocaust.

I Believe is a 12-part oratorio that marshals enormous, complex orchestral forces but tells its story with popular, musical theatre singers. The work will get its Toronto premiere at Roy Thomson Hall Oct. 25 as a kind of lead-in to the 31st annual Holocaust Education Week, Nov. 1-9.

Zalis, who grew up Ukrainian Catholic but later slid his family over to the Roman rite, intended his oratorio to be educational and accessible to young listeners.

Nuit Blanche project highlights Sisters of St. Joseph’s


TORONTO - The Sisters of St. Joseph are lighting up Nuit Blanche. They are featured in Cloister, a multimedia art installation spotlighting the Sisters’ nearly 160 years of service in Toronto.

“We want to emphasize their amazing contributions to the city. They are amazing leaders and an inspiration to young girls,” said Judy Pregelj, teacher-librarian at St. Joseph’s College School.

“They have a long tradition of helping the poor,” she said, referring to the Sisters of St. Joseph’s outreach to the poor through numerous operations, including the Furniture Bank and Mustard Seed ministry.

Forgotten Rembrandt sparks Christ art exhibit


TORONTO - For many years, a painting of Christ that sat in storage at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was believed to be a Rembrandt copy.

But there was something about the painting that piqued the curiosity of Canadian art expert Lloyd DeWitt, then the associate curator of the museum’s John G. Johnson Collection. DeWitt since June has been the curator of European art at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto 

Typical of the period, the painting was done on oak. That allowed DeWitt to initiate analysis of the painting using a process called dendrochronology, or “tree ring dating.” He made a remarkable discovery.

Canadian patrons help unearth Vatican’s Santa Rosa necropolis


TORONTO - A treasure that was buried for centuries within the Vatican walls will soon be on public display thanks to a triumph of local archeology and Canadian philanthropy.

The Canadian chapter of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums will travel to the Vatican Museums in October to celebrate its role in the restoration of the Santa Rosa necropolis, a Roman cemetery of significant archeological and historical value. The patrons have donated about $1 million to the restoration cause.

Discovered by accident in 2003 when a parking lot was being expanded, the necropolis was a burying ground mainly for slaves, servants and Rome’s lower classes.

Opera star Mark Doss has seen both sides of the good-evil divide


TORONTO - When bass-baritone Mark Doss takes the stage as King Thoas in Iphigenia in Tauris Sept. 22, an altar of sacrifice will stand at the centre of the Four Seasons Centre stage. It will be familiar territory for Doss.

Doss has played Thoas in Christoph Gluck’s most successful opera before. He premiered the role with the San Francisco Opera. The Canadian Opera Company has borrowed the San Francisco Opera production. But Doss’s knowledge of altars and sacrifice goes deeper than the opera roles he has played.

Doss arrived at classical singing by way of the seminary. His love of liturgy and sacred music eventually spilled over and his big voice found a natural home on the operatic stage.

Thirty years later, Doss’s experience of life in the seminary still influences his approach to opera.

“I’m the kind of person who really deals with the words,” said Doss. “It comes from that background — the Gospel as the Word of God, and you see it’s a really powerful thing. So, why go away from something that’s really powerful?”

Project records New Testament in Latin


WASHINGTON - A new initiative got under way this summer for the first audio recording of the New Testament in Latin.

Vatican Press has partnered with Faith Comes By Hearing, a non-profit, donor-driven interdenominational ministry “committed to the mission of reaching poor and illiterate people worldwide with the Word of God in audio” for the audio recording of the Neo-Vulgate, the Catholic Church’s official Latin translation.

Fr. Peter Stravinskas played a key role in spearheading this project.

“I’ve been involved with making available the liturgy in Latin since I was ordained,” said Stravinskas, founder and president of the St. Gregory Foundation for Latin Liturgy based in Pine Beach, N.J. Stravinskas said in the early 1980s he celebrated the only Latin Mass in New York.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, the priest said he learned about Faith Comes by Hearing, which for the past 30 years has made the New Testament available by audio in more than 500 languages. He e-mailed them and said he was impressed with the program but noticed Latin was missing.

Encountering the icon’s mystery, meaning


VANCOUVER - Embracing the Christian life is a sacred mystery and icons possess a mysterious power to draw the spiritual seeker to Christ, says iconographer Matthia Langone.

Icons are artistic “written” images of Jesus, Mary, the saints or angels that offer a living theology and experience of prayer. Iconographers not only offer their creative charism to God, they offer their whole heart, mind and soul.

“It is a transformational experience, a vocation,” said Langone.

She should know. When she encountered Russia’s most prized icons while attending an ordination in Moscow about 15 years ago, she was so struck with the stunning images, the course of her life was changed.