Arts

Chronicle of Marian devotion doesn't go far enough

{mosimage}Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary by Miri Rubin (Yale University Press, 533 pages, hardcover $35).

Despite its title, this excellent new book is not a history of the Virgin Mary — it is a history of devotion to the mother of Jesus in medieval Catholic Europe. It presents the creative ways that Christians — and even some Jews and Muslims — thought about Mary and expressed themselves in writing, music, liturgy, art and popular devotions. It also looks back to the origins of the Marian devotion among Eastern Christians, follows the controversies about Mary during the Reformation and traces the spread of her cult to European colonies.

To write such a history is a daunting task. Nevertheless, a history of Mary must include the last, eventful four centuries.

The Book of Eli surprisingly reverent

{mosimage}More contemplative and lyrical than advertised, the first big action movie of 2010 incorporates religious faith and Judeo-Christian principles to a surprising degree.

Directed by twin brothers Albert and Allen Hughes, The Book of Eli (Warner Bros.) prompts the question whether, assuming a minimum level of respect, the attempt to integrate religion and Scripture into a mass-appeal film is by itself laudable.

Do I have to go to Mass?

{mosimage}Do I Have to Go? by Matthew Pinto and Chris Stefanick (Ascension Press, 156 pages, $12.99).

Many Catholics have asked themselves the question at least once — Do I have to go? — but rarely has the question received such a clear answer as the one provided in this book by authors Matthew Pinto and Chris Stefanick.

Do I Have to Go? explores “the Mass, the Eucharist, and your spiritual life” in easy to read question/answer format. Pinto and Stefanick eloquently cover almost every question imaginable regarding the Mass and the Eucharist.

Gregorian chant is old school for Luke Togni

{mosimage}HALIFAX - Luke Togni is old school — very old school. Or old schola, if you prefer.

Togni, 22, is passionate about Gregorian chant and refers to himself as “second in command” in a Halifax-based chant group, or schola. Directed by Robert Bruce and together for the past two years, the schola sings monthly at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Halifax, and less frequently at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Halifax.

Dead Sea Scrolls shatter ROM records

{mosimage}TORONTO - The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit comes to a close at the Royal Ontario Museum Jan. 3 after six months of unmatched popularity in the museum’s history.

“It’s definitely come down to between this and the Egyptian Art and the Age of the Pyramids which was in 2000,” ROM media spokesperson Marilynne Friedman said before Christmas. “There’s the expectation that 300,000 people will have visited the scrolls by close on Jan. 3.”

Celtic performance celebrates all Irish

{mosimage}BRAMPTON, Ont. - Nearly 200 people gathered inside St. Marguerite D’Youville parish Dec. 11 to witness and enjoy otherworldly performances by many of Canada’s best musicians and musical directors, including Juno-nominated Loretto Reid.

An ensemble of nine vocalists and six instrumentalists, mostly between the ages of 24-35, mixed traditional Celtic songs with contemporary Christmas carols on this evening, and again at the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto Dec. 12.

Much can be learned of Holocaust sensibilities

{mosimage}No Going Back: Letters to Pope Benedict XVI on the Holocaust , Jewish-Christian Relations and Israel, Edited by Carol Rittner and Stephen D. Smith (Quill Press, softcover, 180 pages, $20).

When Pope John Paul II visited Jerusalem and Palestine in 2000 he made a powerful and lasting impression. Prior to his visit and throughout his pontificate, the Catholic Church had done much to nurture and follow the spirit of Vatican II. Many Jews thought they had a friend in John Paul II and relations between the two faiths were warming.

The Priests used music during the Irish Troubles as a unifying force

{mosimage}TORONTO - When Fr. Eugene O’Hagen was a student at St. MacNissi’s College in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, one of his school friends used to dress up in an IRA uniform for parties and sing The Men Behind the Wire.

“It was his party piece,” O’Hagen explained on a recent visit to Toronto to promote The Priests’ latest CD, Harmony. The song begins:

Oberammergau carries a passion for the greatest story ever told

{mosimage}It’s a testament to human tenacity and faith that the people of a tiny Bavarian village, keeping a promise made four centuries ago, will again hold performances of the Oberammergau Passion Play next year.

Following the deaths of 80 townspeople in 1633 from a plague that swept Europe during the Thirty Years War, the people of Oberammergau promised to perform a play depicting the suffering, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ every 10 years if they could be spared further deaths. Miraculously, the epidemic ended and the following year the first presentation took place. Since then, with only a few exceptions when world events intervened, the people of Oberammergau have kept their pledge.

Lessons learned from Christianity's medieval past

{mosimage}Medieval Christianity in Practice , edited by Miri Rubin (Princeton University Press, 360 pages, $85).

In this new book, old voices offer lessons to modern Christians about the diversity and flexibility of their faith. Medieval Christianity in Practice gives short excerpts from medieval writings describing how medieval Christians lived their religion and provides commentary by leading scholars. The Middle Ages ended 500 years ago, but the period still inspires — and haunts — the 21st-century church. So it’s worth a visit.

The title evokes one of two opposite responses. For some, medieval Christianity represents the “good old days” when the Catholic Church presided over an undivided Christendom that seamlessly fused secular and religious spheres of life. Medieval conjures up soaring cathedrals, Latin chant, studious monks and nuns, wonder-working saints, heroic crusaders and a pious laity. Self-styled Catholic traditionalists see themselves as the preservers of an authentic and timeless faith passed down from the Middle Ages.

The Choir Boy connects new, old Toronto

{mosimage}TORONTO - If you’re strolling by the Eaton Centre this Christmas season, you should know there’s a Christmas present waiting for you in one of the store windows.

It’s not a Nintendo Wii, a box of chocolates or anything else you might feel compelled to buy before Dec. 25. It’s just a story about a St. Michael’s Choir School boy, his family and the build-up to Christmas. It’s called The Choir Boy and will be presented in 25 installments in a downtown Sears store window between Nov. 30 and Christmas Eve. It will also be posted online at www.thechoirboy.ca .

Christine Granger spreads the Virgin's wonder through iconography

{mosimage}TORONTO - Painting is to Christine Granger as singing is to the choir. Granger, an accomplished iconographer, has spent the past 30 years capturing the divine on canvas, mostly producing icons of the Virgin Mary and child.

“I can’t sing so I have to paint and I do it in colour and I do the same thing as the Gospel songs, I hope,” Granger said. “I praise and I thank and I say through my art Christianity is a wonder and a joy and I feel in spite of everything we have something so special in being Christian. We have this joy that can never leave us.”

To Fr. Raby, the person is important

{mosimage}The Little World of Fr. Raby, 1980-2007 by Msgr. Tom Raby (Catholic Register Books, 190 pages, $14.99.)

On the matter of Msgr. Thomas J. Raby, I cannot be impartial. At the age of 91, and 64 years ordained, he is the proudest boast of the Kingston presbyterate — the faithful priest who even now, in his infirmity, lives his priesthood as best he can.