“Five Things the Church Can Do to Fix the Culture Fast”

Here is a nice piece based on an interview I gave to Catholic News Agency this past weekend at the Living the Catholic Faith Conference of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Lots of potentially inflammatory quotes here about how the Church, like the world, is currently awash in the banal, the ugly and the stupid. But here’s the heart of the talk:

She concluded her talk by presenting five things the Church can do to change the culture. First, she said the Church must identify those people who can represent us well to the wider culture. Media spokesmen are needed, orators are needed, and good singers are needed, she said.

Next, the Church needs to start training artists again. Those with talents for creating beautiful works of art need to be identified, encouraged, and taught, all within the Church. Nicolosi lamented that there is not one Catholic school among the top 20 film programs in the country – “there is no place in the Church to send your artist kid to be the best.”

Nicolosi’s third recommendation for Catholics to change the culture is to start treating the arts as important, by again becoming patrons of beauty. Singers and architects need to well-compensated for their efforts to produce beautiful works of art; “we used to be willing to pay for gorgeous art.”

Medieval inhabitants of Europe sacrificed to produce magnificent Cathedrals, giving a sign of their faith for the future. Our sign for the future, Nicolosi lamented, is the popular 1980s hymn, “Gather Us In.”

Fourth, we need to work with professionals in the media field. Poorly made Catholic media does not evangelize: “ugly, shoddy, embarrassing work is not orthodox Catholic – it’s another kind of lie,” she said.

“You’re saying one thing with your mouth, and something else with your style.” As when building a Church one hires construction professionals, not necessarily daily Mass-goers, the production of Catholic films must include professional filmmakers.

Finally, Nicolosi urged prayer for artistic geniuses – for “Mozarts.” We must “pray to God to send a new influx of beauty, and people who can send it into our midst.”

“Ask God to send a Mozart, and that we’ll recognize him,” she concluded. “Let us, for the sake of the people out there beyond our doors, make what John Paul II called the sacrifices that beauty requires.”

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  • http://www.patheos.com Amy

    In total agreement. When I am in a church where the classics are played during specific times in the Mass, I feel drawn to Heaven…Heaven on Earth. And unfortunately, in the vast majority of Catholic churches, there is noice..nothing to lift the soul to God. And yes, others will say, “we do the best we can with what we have, don’t judge.” I just agree, we can do better. Remember the scene from Shawshank Redemption where Andy played the piece from one of Mozart’s operas?

  • Will


    I’m only spitballing here, but paintings might do the trick, I grant you.

    • Will


      Ok, I understand that I was uncivil and ugly and used too much sarcasm in my last post when I should have simply stated that charges of coverups in the Church has caused a lot of harm. I struggle with a lot of hate in my heart. You are very right to be so vigilant and worried about incivility in the Internet culture. The way people are so nasty today ought to be considered a crime.

  • Theodore Seeber

    Works for the spiritual works of mercy, but I, like many others raised in the bad catechisis of the 1970s, will be asking about how this helps the corporal works of mercy.

    • http://www.patheos.com Amy

      I, too, was exposed to the 70s catechisis but also had good Catholic teaching. I just chose to “shelve it all” and walked away for a time. God drew me back because I desired to be back. He put people in my path to help me. That was 30 years ago and I am still learning and still in love with my faith! Catholic bloggers, Catholic radio, EWTN are all good media sources. Have you see or heard of Catholicscomehome.org? The first time I saw their commercial, I was mesmerized and filled with absolute joy. It makes one who is Catholic extremely proud to be Catholic. Its gentle, inspiring, moving message encourages lapsed Catholics to “take a closer look. Rediscover what awaits you in the Catholic Church.” (My quote.) Corporal works of mercy, building upon and glorifying God by means of time, treasure and talent… they are there for the doing. How much we “build” upon these treasures and the kingdom of God is really up to each of us.

      • Theodore Seeber

        Once again Amy, I see all of that doing wonders for the Spiritual works of Mercy- building up our treasures in Heaven for the Faithful, which is *really really important* and needs to be done, I have no doubt.

        I’m a Knight of Columbus- we help fund CatholicsComeHome.org for good reason, it is absolutely true. And I rejoice with every ex Catholic making a good confession, or every Protestant or Atheist who converts.

        But I don’t see good art solving the mortal sins of greed and lust that have taken over Northern Europe and the United States *at all*. It is worse than a lack of good spirituality, it is even worse than the moral relativism we hear so much about. It is active moral subjectivism that needs to be battled- the idea that universal, Catholic morality can’t be known *at all*.

        What is the connection between that and art?

        • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

          For many who are blinded by the “glamour” of greed and lust, it is only through art that they experience anything transcendent, anything that calls them out of their selfish desires and obsessions. That transcendence shows them that there is something real, something good, something beyond their moral subjectivism – and that this something is worth striving for. It is the first hint of the Gospel.

          For those who already know Christ, art uses those same transcendent experiences to deepen our relationship with Him, to open up new insights into His call, and to strengthen us in the midst of confusion in the world.

          And for artists themselves, art is the means of proclaiming Christ’s name – even if not explicitly spoken – to the nations, and fulfilling that primordeal commandment to “keep and tend the garden.”

          Relativism cannot produce good art because it denies that there is anything real to represent artistically; and it cannot stand in the face of good art, because art manifests the glory of God in the reality of his creatures.

  • http://fpb.livejournal.com/ Fabio P.Barbieri

    Great art is great catechesis. Michelangelo sets out the biblical history in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the Last Judgment above the altar. Beethoven describes Transubstantiation in the Benedictus of the Solemn Mass; even the supposedly pagan Tiziano, in The Vendramin Family, shows the mystery of God – in a relic of the True Cross – dominating and drawing to itself one of the mightiest noble families in Europe. Proper exegesis is catechism, too. Read some of Chesterton or Lewis’ works of criticism and you will be surprised how often they go back to religious truth. True religion makes great art; great art leads to true religion.

  • http://www.patheos.com Amy

    Orators – meaning, good homelitics. Sorely lacking in our churches.
    And Barbara, fashion is an art form. I personally am all for fashionable, early Christian and medieval dress that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and would be pleasing to God. A good business to venture in – artisans who need employment = cottage industry, growing the economy, wages, satisfied customers who are properly clothed. Yes, they would definitely be “clothing the naked.” Yes?

  • midwestlady

    There’s only one thing the Church needs to do to fix the culture: Help Catholics to become genuine disciples of Jesus Christ by getting a living ongoing relationship with him.

    This is not just my opinion. This is what the data says; this is what case experience says. The lack of a personal relationship with God is what’s driving the exodus out of the Church. A lot of Catholics don’t know that; Catholics don’t like to admit it; most Catholics don’t even have words or concepts to talk about it; only about 60% of Catholics even think a close personal relationship with God is even possible. Some Catholics think that’s a “Protestant thing.” It’s not. Prescriptive post-reformation cultural Catholicism no longer works with most people and that’s why they leave.

    • barbaranicolosi

      Yeah. But culture matters too.

      • midwestlady

        There is such a thing as an evangelizing culture in Catholicism. It used to be the normal culture. Remember that we started out with 12 people and in just a few hundred years, there were millions of Christians. Along the way we stopped doing that, and a big piece of that loss happened at the counter-reformation which we are still getting over.