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CONFLICT – TIME – PHOTOGRAPHY

Tate Modern

26 November 2014–15 March 2015

Admission £14.50, concessions available

This exhibition is inspired by Kurt Vonnegut Jr and his response to the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945. Vonnegut spoke about the challenge of ‘looking back’ and how photographers responded to that challenge provides the main content of the show. Following Vonnegut’s own experience in Dresden – he was locked up as a prisoner which protected him from the conflagration – there are practically no pictures of combat. The great exceptions to that are Robert Capa’s D-Day photos. However, there are pictures of the scenes of combat just moments after combat has taken place.

The opening few pictures set the tone. One set shows clouds of dust over Hiroshima, the photos taken at ground level some twenty minutes after the atom bomb was dropped. This is the defining event of modern warfare, the highpoint of technological killing. Its effects on survivors or the landscape were more intense than anything which had gone before and the reactions to the A bomb are a major theme in the following rooms. Most notable is the work of Shomei Tomatsu, both his individual photographs and the book 11 02 Nagasaki which combines photos after the event with shrines and relics of kamikaze flyers. The relics give a context to the pity evoked by photos such as that of a helmet and bone fused together by the extreme heat of the blast and one of the face of a pretty women cratered by radiation.

The pity for what happened to individuals in other wars is evoked by two further kinds of portrait. The massacres of Srebrenica are hauntingly remembered by understated formal family photos of individuals, with missing spaces for those murdered. And then at the end of the show there are Northern French landscapes, scenes not of warfare but of executions for cowardice, what we would now understand as shell-shock or trauma brought on by extreme violence (McCullin’s SheU-shocked Marine at the start of the show is the classic image of this, taken during the Vietnam War). Those executions were horribly mistaken and wrong, part of a mindset which forbade flyers parachutes in case they too became cowards. And yet it is surprising to learn that the British Army only executed about three hundred men in this way. It wasn’t right but it is a small number in the wider context of 700,000 from Great Britain killed in the war.

There is little doubt where the sympathies of the curators lie. This shows most clearly in the one room where there are lots of pictures of people, and where the common soldier hardly features at all alongside militaristic buffoons or victims of injustice. All true, of course, but like the figures for executions, hardly a balanced presentation – it is no surprise that the most heroic pictures of active fighters are those of Nicaraguan guerrillas.

A major pattern of these pictures is that with the absence of live conflict there is also an absence of people. Many of the photos are simply landscapes or townscapes. The earliest of these are pictures of Georgia after Sherman’s March to the Sea, a march of wholesale destruction and terror. A comparison with pictures of what was done to Northern France in the First World War shows a technologically advanced version of what Americans did to each other in their Civil War. The devastated towns look the same. The rural killing grounds and trench fortifications are not much different.

The pictures of battlefields years later on show an odd mixture. On the one hand there is the rubbish of bits of metal and lothing. Again the nineteenth century provides a prototype for modern conflict with a road littered with cannonballs after the siege of Sebastopol. The same photo has the dubious distinction of being possibly one of the first faked war photos.

Alongside the military refuse these landscapes also contain smashed buildings and the scars of earthworks. At their most extreme, as after the Angolan civil war, these look like an apocalyptic landscape. But more often they are banal urban wastelands, such as the blighted suburbs of East Berlin. Maybe there are only a certain number of views of bullet-marked reinforced concrete which can keep our interest. Even the ruins of the Atlantic Wall defences, precursors of the Southbank brutalism, look cheap in a natural landscape.

The return to the natural landscape is another theme of this show. At one level nothing will ever be the same. It is not possible to take a view of a cloudscape over urban Japan without a sense of the atomic bomb. Lines of trenches will be visible from the air like prehistoric paths and tracks. But there is the hope that nature will reassert itself. If Berlin can be united, if the Wall can be pulled down and the soldiers go home and the East become prosperous, then new life is possible. And yet the pictures of the sealed Turkish archive of the Armenian genocide is a potent sign of man’s inhumanity to man.

This is an artfully constructed show. There are not that many images which stick in the mind. Nevertheless, in a quiet way, the show is humbling. In religious terms it combines a sacramentalizing of the ordinary with the banality of evil.

Owen Higgs

 

 

ANOTHER STORY MUST BEGIN

A Lent Course Based on Les Miserables

Jonathan Meyer

DLT, 96pp, pbk

978 0232530278, £5.99

The musical Les Miserables has confounded the critics ever since Cameron Mackintosh’s English-language production first hit the London stage in 1985. The first reviews were mostly negative, and the cognoscenti have continued to be sniffy ever since. This is in part musical snobbery, pure and simple: the in-crowd don’t like a musical stuffed full of tunes that the people can hum, to paraphrase Tom Lehrer. But there is another reason why Les Miserables has been so consistently popular: it scratches an itch that many people don’t otherwise know how to deal with. Its message is uncompromisingly Christian, but with enough sentimentality (and theatricality) thrown in to appeal to the non-church-going religious (‘I say my prayers at home and watch Songs of Praise, but I don’t need to come to church’) and the ‘spiritual’ who are looking for something ‘deeper’ but are unable or unwilling to find it in organized religion. The truth is that the themes of sin, redemption and salvation with which Les Miserables deals have universal relevance and thus widespread appeal, even to those who would be turned off by the traditional teaching of the Church on these issues.

Les Miserables asks questions of us all: are we too much like the factory women whose prurient gossip and longing to cause trouble condemn Fantine to a life of prostitution and misery? Are we sometimes too much like the policeman Javert, whose unbending views on justice and righteousness preclude the possibility of forgiveness and redemption? Would we have the courage to behave with the dignity and honesty (in later life) of Jean Valjean? Would we follow in the footsteps of the Bishop of Digne, who offers hospitality to Valjean and teaches him love? Les Miserables asks questions of the Church too: what of the Church of England, which places innumerable obstacles, risks and threats in the way of clergy who might be minded to offer hospitality to wayfarers in just the way that the Bishop does to Valjean? But perhaps above all, Les Miserables confronts each one of us with the question that becomes central to Valjean’s story, and one day will become central to our own: ‘Who am I?’

In 2012, Tom Hooper’s film adaptation of the stage musical reached the cinemas: once again, it received a mixed reception from the critics, but was a box-office hit. In November 2013, Jonathan Meyer (the Vicar of the church in Oxfordshire which was used as the Bishop’s residence in the film) published Another Story Must Begin, designed to be a Lent course based on Les Miserables. It reached NEW DIRECTIONS too late to be reviewed in time for Lent 2014, but the book deserves not to go unmentioned in these pages.

Another Story Must Begin is unambiguously set out as a resource for the leader(s) of a Lent course, even down to indicating the number of minutes that each reading or discussion or question might take. But each chapter is prefaced by a prose section ‘to start you thinking’ which makes the book a useful resource for individuals as well – and not just in Lent. Meyer is right in saying that ‘our Lenten journey should be about imagining our future and realigning our lives in such a way that another story can begin’, but the themes of this book (i.e. the themes of Les Miserables) also have a wider and more general significance.

Meyer makes use of all three ‘versions’ of Les Mis: the film, the stage musical, and Victor Hugo’s original novel. The latter is used in particular to flesh out some of the details that the musical necessarily abridges – especially with the Bishop of Digne, whose act of forgiveness sets Jean Valjean on his new life, his ‘another story’. As presented here, the Bishop is the embodiment of the command to love one another – and Meyer rightly reminds us that often we do not know what impact the living out of that command will have on those around us. Fantine and Cosette are portrayed as representing respectively original sin and an idealized hope for the future (such as that sometimes portrayed by the prophets). Valjean symbolizes the power of forgiveness and grace to transform lives. And Javert is the embodiment of unquestioning obedience to the law, of elevating authority to the point of idolatry. Each of these is given a chapter/course session to themselves, before the fifth and final chapter/session draws the course to a conclusion with a discussion of the overarching themes of salvation and redemption.

I have already suggested that the themes of Les Miserables have universal significance. The story cries out to be used by churches didactically and spiritually, and we should be grateful to Jonathan Meyer for offering us this way of doing just that. He offers a number of insights, an example being the fact that Valjean is given both forgiveness and the silver to help him become an honest man. The Bishop gives him both spiritual and practical help. How useful or worthwhile are our prayers if we do not accompany them with some form (even the tiniest amount) of action?

In terms of the way Another Story Must Begin is presented as a Lent course, some may find it a little over-prescriptive, though of course there is always the option of adapting the book to local circumstances and needs. A slightly more important point is the fact that the author clearly assumes a well-educated, widely-read and generally intelligent membership of this Lent group. It would not be suitable for everyone, at least not without adaptation.

Finally, there are two theological issues with which I would wish to take issue. First, Meyer suggests that for many (himself included, it would appear), ‘the ‘church’ does not always offer us the sustenance we need... it is how we live our lives outside church that is important’. The use of small-c ‘church’ and those pesky quotation marks is very telling. I would suggest that while the Church may sometimes get things wrong at ground level, she never ceases to offer us all the sustenance that we need, through the Sacraments and the Word; and that how we live our lives outside church is merely the flip side of the same coin as what goes on inside church – and within the Church!

The second point is more serious. I cannot help thinking that Meyer simplifies the tension between law and grace which is at the centre of both Les Miserables and the Christian faith itself. That we are only saved by grace is a given: but the idea that rules and authority do not matter as a result is one of the most serious challenges facing both Church and society today. In the Gospel account, Jesus heals the leper, but then tells him to show himself to the priest, in accordance with the law. And having refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery he tells her, go and sin no more.

From a Catholic perspective, these issues would need careful handling by the group leader if Another Story Must Begin were to be used as the basis of a Lent Group. But there is much else in the book that is of value. Perhaps a clever Anglo-Catholic somewhere would like to take on the challenge of producing our very own Les Miserables Lent course for 2016?

Peter Westfield

VIA DOLOROSA

Meditations on the Via Crucis

Florian Kolfhaus

Gracewing, 72pp, pbk

978 0852448304, £5.99

The Christmas decorations are up in the shops as I write, and yet Advent has not even begun; as you read this review, those decorations will have come down even in church, and thoughts of Lent will be much more appropriate. God places upon our path through life all the resources we need for the journey: this is at the same time a key theme of these meditations, and also very much my experience as I start to prepare my Advent homilies. I had asked the congregation to suggest topics, and one such idea was to talk about how the humanity of Christ helps us to understand our own human suffering. The answer to this question can to a significant extent be found expounded here, in Mgr Kolfhaus’ series of texts for the devotion of the Stations of the Cross. This booklet is set out as a liturgical resource, with only a Preface of a few pages in addition to the material for each Station, and prayers to begin and conclude the devotion. The source of the book’s translation out of its original Italian is not specified, and there are a few minor editorial mistakes.

Kolfhaus asserts that God cannot will suffering for its own sake, and instead proposes the via Crucis as an opportunity for healing, as a prompt for men to develop as lovers of God and as a revelation of our createdness and indebtedness to the Father. Referencing Col. 1.24, he proposes the reorientation of our understanding of suffering towards the completion of the power of God’s grace in order that we should stand with Christ on Calvary ‘not as people convicted by an unpleasant fate, but as priests and kings, whose toils and sufferings God accepts as worthy offerings, because they come from people in love.’ Again, at the end of his preface, Kolfhaus counters the inclination towards a dysteleological view of human suffering: ‘[Jesus’] words are aimed especially at those who have a truly heavy burden to carry, to show them that their pain – as great as it may be – is not meaningless.’

The composition of this booklet reflects the author’s desire to put the response to human suffering onto the Lord’s own lips, with each meditation styled as from the perspective of Christ himself. This on the whole works well, and there are a number of (to me, at least) original insights: the women of Jerusalem, for example, are treated far less sympathetically here than elsewhere, but in a way perhaps truer to the scriptural evidence. Christ asks, ‘Why does not one of the women say a comforting word to Me with the caressing love of a mother consoling her child or with the flaming passion of a bride who vows fidelity to her husband?’ He says that they ‘have good sentiments but not passionate hearts’. I anticipated that the first-person perspective would be least effective for the final two Stations, where Christ has died, but to my surprise found the meditation for the thirteenth Station the most affecting. Jesus tells of his Mother tending to his broken and lifeless body: ‘her eyes glow like those of a tigress who still protects the bodies of her cubs even after they have died.’ Having sat with parents who have lost children in infancy, this came across as unbearably poignant. ‘She does not stop covering me with kisses as mothers do when they comfort their infants in order to ease their sufferings... She touches each of My wounds, every mark, and every bruise as if my disfigured body could be transformed by these signs of her love.’ I recommend this resource to priests and people alike, as a valuable aid upon the Via Dolorosa.

Richard Norman

 

 

PRAISE HIM

Songs of Praise in the New Testament: A Course in Five Sessions

Paula Gooder

York Courses

978 1909107069, £15.40 for Course booklet, CD and transcript; other combinations are available; see <www.yorkcourses.co.uk>

Those who have used the York Courses over the years will know that they have a track record of being consistently well written and accessible to people at all

levels of theological understanding. As usual it consists of a CD, a transcript of the CD and an accompanying Course Booklet. But again, as usual, the contents are refreshingly stimulating and thought provoking.

I always find the simple ‘Suggestions for Group Leaders’ section at the beginning of the course booklet very helpful. I have led more groups than I can shake a stick at, but still find it helpful to be reminded of some of the basics about running a successful course. I have had the unfortunate experience of attending groups where the leader has not checked out whether the size of the group, and the room they are to meet in, works well for them. I have also known groups where the provision of refreshments has led to new people feeling excluded rather than being part of the process of ‘welcoming’. This opening section with its practical checkpoints and suggestions is a great help to all group leaders, whether it is their first experience of doing this or their hundredth!

Dr Paul Gooder (who is Theologian in Residence for the Bible Society, a Reader in the Church of England and a lay canon of three cathedrals!) has focused this course around five ‘Songs of Praise’ in the Bible. The first session looks at Ephesians 1.3–14, under the heading of ‘Gratitude’. The second is based on Colossians 1.15–20, ‘The Image of God’. The third looks at Philippians 2.5–11, examining ‘Humility’. The fourth explores 1 Peter 1.3–12, studying ‘New Birth’, and the fifth concentrates on John 1.1–14, reflecting on ‘Word Made Flesh’.

On the CD, Simon Stanley, cofounder of the York Courses, asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby; Sister Wendy Beckett, who is a nun and art expert (who many will know from her highly successful television series) and David Suchet, the actor, perhaps most famous for playing Hercule Poirot, but in religious terms a convert from Judaism to Christianity, to reflect on each passage. Moira Sleight, editor of the Methodist Recorder, adds a short thought of her own at the end of each session. There is a list of question for the groups using this course to consider after each session.

Although the York Courses have been traditionally produced to help Christians reflect on their faith during Advent or Lent, this course has been designed so that it can also be used at any time of the year.

Because the three main contributors speak out of their own experience, this course is studded with memorable stories. The one that stuck in my mind was of the people who worked with child survivors of the Second World War concentration camps. The children were so traumatized by what had happened to them that they found it difficult to sleep. By chance, one worker found that if the children went to bed holding a piece of bread they could sleep, knowing that come the morning, they could be sure of having something to eat. Paula Gooder, who relates this story, uses it to ask what spiritual ‘bread’ we take to bed in order to prepare ourselves, spiritually, for tomorrow.

I do warmly commend this course to any individual (I listened to the CD in the car) or group to help them understand better the use of ‘Praise’ in the New Testament. I also eagerly await the next course that the York team will produce!

George Nairn-Briggs

 

TABLE MANNERS

Liturgical Leadership for the Mission of the Church Simon Reynolds

SCM Press, 199pp, pbk

978 0334045281, £19.99

Table Manners: Liturgical Leadership for the Mission of the Church offers a much-needed challenge to the prevailing anti-or pseudo-liturgical culture within the

Christian church. It is the author’s conviction that twentieth-century liturgical reform has introduced an unhealthy anthropocentric tendency into our understanding of the Eucharist, more at home with the Reformers than those who would call themselves Catholics. This has diminished our appreciation of the transcendental nature of divine liturgy, disembodied the ‘liturgical president’ from the Christian tradition he inhabits, and undermined our confidence in worship as the central act of Christian discipleship.

Reynolds’s introduction starts off like nearly every theological work (or synod document) these days – by presenting statistics to justify the exercise. However, unlike a synod document, our author quickly and successfully moves on to trace the influences on his work, which are then evident throughout: he is neither afraid to draw from priests and pastors from any Christian tradition or denomination, nor to critique them. He is happy to support his argument from patristic, medieval, reformed or contemporary theological debate, which is a refreshingly Christian approach to theological enquiry. He also illustrates his points in a variety of ways, gleaning phrases not only from Scripture, but from poets, playwrights, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists,
psychologists and theologians as well. He refers to works of art, television, dance and music, and he does so effectively, fitting much in what is really a very short volume.

Throughout his six chapters, Reynolds applies the principle that ‘the quality of worship’ matters for mission as it enables ‘seekers and enquirers to gain a foothold in the life of the church’. By contrast, in chapter one, he draws attention to the paucity of liturgical training received by ordinands, which he illustrates by emphasizing the fact that (in the syllabus in effect when he was writing his book) the Church of England’s national requirements for those in training for ordination contained only 38 words out of 1,600 about ‘basic liturgical competence’, despite a recent survey highlighting that across the traditions of the church, most clergy feel they are fulfilling their vocational calling most especially when celebrating the rites of the church, be that a mass, baptism, wedding or funeral. Building on this, Reynolds laments the fact that those recently ordained have been deprived of knowing their liturgical roots, through an endless pressure to be creative. His work in Table Manners seeks both to highlight these deficiencies and problems, and begin to provide a corrective.

Reynolds spends his second chapter forming the theological framework for his recommendations in chapters three to six. He achieves this by drawing to the fore the work of people like Margaret Barker, though whom we have rediscovered the centrality of the Temple cult within Christian worship. This must affect the Eucharistic president, who needs to understand ‘his or her role as much more than simply someone who models his or her ministry on the host at a domestic supper party’. Instead, to preside means ‘to stand in the gap between heaven and earth, past and present, local expectations and the exigencies of the whole human race, and to enact the sacrifice of praise which restores the peace between God and his fractured creation’.

This understanding has practical implications for the celebrant at mass, which are explored in the final chapters of the book, on the role of liturgical language, the use of ritual, the liturgical environment, and the development of a ‘Liturgical and Presidential Instinct’. Importantly, Reynolds offers through these chapters sound theological justifications for the restoration of Christian practices which have for some time been considered ‘old fashioned’ or ‘out of date’, such as the use of plainsong, silence before mass, mass ‘ad orientem’, and even using a building in a manner appropriate for the liturgy for which it was originally designed. He detests mass ‘in the round’.

Reynolds does not become partisan in his book, which is theoretically as accessible to an evangelical or someone of middle churchmanship as well as a Catholic. The advantage to this is that he encourages his reader to discover that Anglicanism has an inherent catholicity, expressed most especially by the celebrant in the liturgy. The disadvantage is that Reynolds feels unable to commit to any particular limits to the employment of sound liturgical theory; this means he fails to dispel the myth that context should take precedence over rubric; furthermore, he fails to present an argument justifying uniformity of practice. There is also an insufficient appreciation of the objectivity of beauty, and an unhealthy obsession, along with the authors of Common Worship, with the term ‘presidency’, which is particularly frustrating.

Overall, however, this is a splendid book, whose author advocates a confident, unembarrassed and secure approach to the liturgy by any liturgical president. It is a challenging and prophetic contribution to Christian thinking on liturgy and mission, drawing from a treasure trove of sources, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who finds himself in a position of liturgical responsibility, and most especially those from across the Christian spectrum whose vocation is to celebrate the Mass.

Christopher Johnson

 

THE WRITING ON THE WALL

Everyday Phrases from the King James Bible

Richard Noble

Sacristy Press, 114pp, pbk

978 1908381224, £7.99

This is a clever book with a simple idea at its heart. It seeks to examine phrases from the Authorised Version which have become part and parcel of the English language, used in everyday conversation, often by people who have no idea of the provenance of the words they are using.

It is more than simply a book of trivia, however. By taking one phrase from each book of the Bible (excluding the Apocrypha, sadly), the author turns his linguistic compendium into an introduction to the Scriptures which, for the beginner, is as fun and accessible as any other I have found. Since there are 40 phrases in the first section and 25 in the second, it can also be used as a daily study guide through the seasons of Lent and Advent – though it is by no means a ‘Lent Book’ or ‘Advent Book’ in the narrow sense of the term. With its combination of Bible study for beginners and linguistic facts for everyone, this book should have broad appeal and deserves a wide audience.

For each entry, there is a brief introduction both to the relevant book of the Bible and to the phrase as it appears therein, followed by a short explanation of how the use of the phrase has developed since. Some phrases come to us indirectly from the Biblical usage – thus, our phrase ‘fly in the ointment’, comes to us from the verse in Ecclesiastes, ‘dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour’. Others are more direct, though no less interesting for that – witness the murderous Cain’s banishment to wander in the ‘land of Nod’ as described in Genesis. The fact that Noble has chosen one phrase from each book of the Bible does inevitably mean that some phrases are more worthy entries than others. But this is only a minor problem – the range of phrases covered here is generous and fascinating, and frequently taught me new things.

The author’s summaries and commentaries are generally accurate and accessible, though there are occasional details with which I would wish to quibble. These are perhaps indicative of a type of churchmanship and liturgical background rather than any inherent fault: witness, for example, the observation that ‘the Psalms are still widely used today in Christian worship’. True in a sense, but it hardly conveys the depth of the reality that the Psalms are the bread and butter of the daily liturgy of the Church, and not a mere or occasional adjunct.

This is, however, a tiny flaw in what is otherwise an excellent book. The Writing on the Wall will be useful as a devotional aide, as a beginner’s guide to the Bible, as a linguistic fancy; but above, all as a worthy homage to the King James Bible, which in the author’s words, is ‘the shared linguistic heritage of all English speakers’.

Janet Backman

 

ARTIST AND MONK

Dom Theodore Baily (1898-1966):

Iconography and the Renewal of the Liturgical Arts in England

Aidan Nichols OP

Gracewing, 128pp, pbk

978 0852448274, £9.99

Theodore Baily’s monastic life and ministry were characterised by his artistic gifts and his love of solitude. The son of a zealous convert, Baily joined the Benedictines of Downside at the age of sixteen, but before long moved to the more contemplative community at Caldey, itself only recently received into the Roman Catholic Church. During his years at Caldey, Baily enjoyed mutually enriching encounters with Eric Gill and David Jones. In particular, Baily learned the craft of lettering from Gill, and in return shared his knowledge of and love for St Thomas Aquinas. Baily moved to Prinknash with the rest of his community, and it was during the Prinknash years that Baily turned his own very definite ideas about the nature and value of sacred art into a plan for renewal in England. Baily believed that sacred art is rooted in liturgy. Thus, liturgical art is different to mere religious art. The latter may incorporate all kinds of sentimental notions, whereas the former is à graphical expression of a theological idea’. One logical outcome of this distinction is the conclusion that only a man of prayer is truly capable of drawing Christ, the incarnate God. The same is also true of the writers of icons, which was an important part of Baily’s work and interest.

To make this lofty ideal reality, and to counter the sad fact that, as Baily himself put it, ‘in God’s house how often it would seem that any vulgar machine-made trash will serve’, Baily conceived the idea of a community of craftsmen (not all of them professed religious) living in a monastic house where the liturgical life is lived out in its fullness and is the root of all other aspects of life and work. Thus the League of St Joseph was founded in 1934 – not St Joseph the Worker as might have been expected, but St Joseph Benedict Labre, ‘the holy poor man, the beggar who had nothing but the love of God and of his Church’. The League worked well until the election of a new abbot in 1938 led the Prinknash community in a somewhat different direction. Baily himself moved in 1943 to the new house at Farnborough, where the cards which remain in print thanks to the work of St Michael’s Abbey Press became an important part of his work. He also celebrated Mass for the Sisters and pupils of the nearby Farnborough Hill School for Girls, developed a love for the writings of the medieval English mystics, and gardened. But his creative writing dried up at Farnborough, and younger monks recall a sense of melancholy about him. He died there in 1966.

This sense of melancholy creeps into Aidan Nichols’ study of Baily just once or twice: in one sense, his legacy is not as great as it might have been. Yet this is countered by Baily’s own assertion, vividly recounted by Nichols, that all images of Christ are failures in one way or another – they are bound to be, since who can depict the fullness of Christ? Yet where artistry fails, the faith of the Church succeeds, through which we do indeed receive the ‘very likeness’ of Christ himself. For Baily, it was the faith of the Church that came first. He believed – and taught, and exemplified – that only when artists rooted themselves in that faith, and approached their work in such humble fashion, could truly sacred art be produced. And, as Nichols makes clear, his ideas about the nature of sacred art, architecture, vestments and furnishings are much needed by the Church today: ‘the networking of like-minded architects working with the grain of Tradition, and not against it, is equally needed in Catholic Christianity fifty years after Theodore Baily’s death’.

Baily is a fascinating character, whose life and work brought him into contact with other, equally fascinating and important artists and men of faith. Artist and Monk is attractively produced, with a generous selection of colour and black and white plates of Baily’s life and work. It would have been useful if references to these had been embedded in the text or footnotes. Fr Nichols is clearly fascinated by Baily, and presents this study – which occasionally verges on the esoteric – with the stylish, playful and sometimes waspish prose which is his hallmark. The book is both an historical account and something approaching a manifesto for the future: ‘A simple monastic lifestyle, an exemplary Liturgy, and the pursuit of the arts and crafts in the service of the Church: it is by no means clear that this recipe, so congenial to Theodore Baily, and so successful in the contemplative monasteries of the Caldey family, could not gain fresh adherents today’. Well, quite.

Conrad O’Riley

 

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