Arts

Jesuit archives 'very precious' to Canada

{mosimage}Three linear kilometres of books, documents and artifacts await scholars in the new home of the Canadian Jesuit archives in Montreal.

With material dating back from five centuries, the recently opened joint archive of Canada’s two Jesuit provinces, English and French, includes more than 300 items from New France in the 1600s, 18,000 books, 1,500 rare books and the memoirs and official records of generations of Jesuits who have been more than priests. Doctors, scientists, theologians, academics, social workers, community leaders and activists have been Canadian Jesuits over the centuries.

A creative city is a spiritual city

{mosimage}TORONTO - During his five years as Toronto’s poet laureate, Fr. Pier Giorgio Di Cicco says what’s surprised him the most is the “unspoken need for spirituality” in Canada’s largest and most prosperous city.

Di Cicco told The Register in an e-mail interview that there has been a surprisingly “deep civic hunger” in the city. He said his presentations, talks and city-building initiatives to different community groups echoed “a call to a common spiritual language.”

Film fest highlights religious people and social activism

{mosimage}TORONTO - The spirituality of making the world a better place gets a close look at the Conscious Activism Doc Fest.

The documentary film festival at the University of Toronto’s Hart House will present four movies that examine how religious people take on social and political issues.

266 popes in 565 pages

{mosimage}Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy by Roger Collins (Basic Books, softcover, 565 pages, $40.50).

Roger Collins believes trying to describe in a single volume the entire history of the papacy — which covers nearly 2,000 years — is probably far too ambitious an undertaking.

Nevertheless, the author of Keepers of the Keys of Heaven, a medieval specialist and honorary fellow at Edinburgh University, ably demonstrates he has a solid grasp of his subject. To bring such vast material and the stories of 266 popes into one volume is evidence of his competence.

The task for the serious reader is equally daunting. The 565 pages of text, footnotes and other supportive documentation is a huge challenge. A major slice of Western history is covered. To understand the story of the popes tells us more fully what it means to be part of contemporary Western culture.

Each of the book’s 21 chapters covers a century or a significant era since St. Peter.

God books are back

{mosimage}In bookstores across the country, award-winning author David Adams Richards’ new book God Is: A Search For Faith In A Secular World stands out on the shelves. It is a sharply argued and closely observed testament to a civilization that thinks it is cool to diss God and believers of any stripe. But more than that, the book is part of the evidence that a tide has turned.

In Ecclesiastes, the wisdom is “To everything there is a season.” It is an insight the publishing industry knows very well. If the trend of the last few years has favoured the militant atheist, the polemical humanist and the over-reaching scientist, the current publishing catalogues say the backlash is on and, as one title aptly puts it, “God Is Back.”

Ellen Gable Hrkach's success proves romance novels need not be smutty

{mosimage}In the beginning, she just wanted to tell her story. But now, writing has become something of a vocation for Ellen Gable Hrkach — secondary to her marriage and motherhood of course — as she weaves fictional romance with church teachings on sexuality.

“Fiction is a wonderful way to evangelize and I don’t think it’s used enough,” Hrkach said.

The Ottawa Valley mother of five boys first set out with the mindset that if she touched one person’s life, that would be enough. But more than one person has been moved by Emily’s Hope, published in 2006, and have gone on to devour her second novel, In Name Only, released this year. The self-published author has sold 1,700 copies of her first book and continues to get a passionate response from readers.

Toronto artist, Farhad Nargol-O’Neill, aims for 2011 Venice Biennale

{mosimage}TORONTO - For some artists the idea of devotional art may be laughable — an obscure subspecies of Hallmark greeting card imagery with no purpose other than to excite shallow sentiment. But for Toronto sculptor and painter Farhad Nargol-O’Neill there’s no such thing as meaningful art without devotion.

“Creation of art is an act of devotion,” Nargol-O’Neill told The Catholic Register on a recent visit to his studio.

Linden MacIntyre's Christian soldier slogs on

{mosimage}The priest as a hardworking assassin just doing his job, eliminating child abusers and perverts from the priestly ranks, is not a very likely starting point for a serious novel about a man in middle age struggling with meaning in his life. Award-winning CBC journalist Linden MacIntyre makes it work in The Bishop’s Man .

It’s been 21 years since the Mount Cashel Orphanage scandal erupted — the first of a long series of awful stories about sexual and physical abuse of minors by Catholic priests and vowed religious. While David Harris’s Unholy Orders: Tragedy at Mount Cashel did the journalistic job back in 1991, it has taken this long to get a thoughtful treatment of the post-scandal church in a novel.

Exploring the dark side of the brain

{mosimage}Cruelty: Human Evil and the Human Brain , by Kathleen Taylor (Oxford University Press, hard cover, $34.95 [U.S.]).
 

Could eradicating cruelty ever become government policy? According to Kathleen Taylor, author of Cruelty: Human Evil and the Human Brain, it should.

Such policy might involve stronger punishment for cruel behaviour, pedagogical programs aimed at fostering empathy in children and the encouragement of openness and acceptance. It would require human beings to admit that our societies — and we ourselves — are capable of cruelty and are often perpetrators of cruel actions. It would also entail that we re-inject moral parametres into our concrete societal objectives. Taylor thinks this is desirable — that is, if we all agree on a definition of cruelty and its causes.

Harry Potter's continuing struggle against darkness

{mosimage}NEW YORK - Played out on a vast — sometimes overcrowded — canvas, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros.) is a richly textured adventure narrative in which good and evil are clearly delineated, but characters present a range of moral shading.

As they did in the franchise's earlier films, magical elements in this sixth adaptation of J.K. Rowling's hugely popular fantasy novel series serve merely as props in a study of loyalty, friendship and the varied human responses to temptation. Unlike the moral lessons on display, these spells and potions are not intended to have any more application to real life than the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.

Given a chance, peace is possible

{mosimage}John Dear on Peace: An Introduction to His Life and Work by Patricia Patten Normile, S.F.O. (St. Anthony Messenger Press, softcover, 137 pages, $17.55).

Millions pray for peace. Many strive for peace and some of us even act on the premise that world peace is possible. Yet peace clearly remains frustratingly elusive and increasingly, it seems, a pipe dream.

A greener shade of Pope

{mosimage}Ten Commandments for the Environment: Pope Benedict XVI Speaks out for Creation and Justice by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker (Ave Maria Press, softcover, 160 pages, $15.95).

Anything that helps Catholics live their lives and construct their churches today in an ecologically friendly manner ought to be a good thing. The problem with Ten Commandments for the Environment: Pope Benedict XVI Speaks out for Creation and Justice is that it won’t do these things. In fact, I fear it just might make things worse.

He who is without sin...

{mosimage}Just last year, a Pakistani couple was stoned for adultery, a Somali woman met a similar fate on the same charge and two Iranian men were executed in this excruciating manner. Five of the world’s predominantly Muslim countries, as well as about one-third of Nigeria’s 36 states, still include stoning among the penalties in their criminal codes.

This barbaric practice is depicted unflinchingly in The Stoning of Soraya M. (Roadside/Mpower), a compelling, often moving film version of Freidoune Sahebjam’s 1994 best-seller, based on an actual incident in 1986. Set in a remote Iranian village, the narrative charts a harrowing chronicle of oppression and community corruption.