DAILY CATHOLIC   Monday, February 23, 1998   volume 9, no. 38



A Renaissance for the Millennium

     With the beginning of Lent we thought it would be appropriate we bring you a site that edifies Holy Mother Church through the restoration of Catholic art. At the site called "Art for the Catholic Restoration", the webmaster and artist promoting this special crusade for modern masters Matthew R. Brooks presents a well-laid out website that features some of the most beautiful and edifying art you may have never seen. It is devoted to contemporary Classical religious art and, as time goes on, there will be many more paintings on this fascinating site. The art by Matthew Brooks is truly outstanding and you can see the reverent, prayerful intent in every stroke. Each piece represents a unique "view" as Mr. Brooks sees it and it brings home the beauty and lastingness of the Holy Catholic Church. His paintings of the Blessed Mother are truly inspirational and "heavenly" in the countenances he depicts. Probably our favorite, and not just because of the theme of Saint John Bosco's dream vision of the two pillars and barque of Peter we carry on our home port page, was Mr. Brook's magnificent mural of the "Vision of St. John Bosco's Dream" which illustrates the true struggle Holy Mother Church would face and is encountering today. The turbulent waves and ultimate detail in this painting are awesome from the enemies of the Church assaulting the barque of Peter listing hard toward port, to the specific details on the deck where the Pope stands with his cardinals and Swiss Guard et alii. In the distance one can see the two pillars on the horizon as the ultimate course the barque of Peter is set on. It is truly fascinating, as is the ceiling mural on the "Institution of the Rosary" with Our Lady on a cloud supported by the angels with Saint Michael handing an outstretched Saint Dominic the Rosary. Matthew Brooks is truly a talented master and his paintings support the course of tradition within the Church with a detail that can be attributed to a Michelangelo, Raphael, or Bernini to name a few. One of the most fascinating features of this site are his special use of LOWSRC loading where the picture comes up in black and white and then fills with color. It is reminiscent of the great masters who created their murals first with "tracing" marks on the ceilings and walls of the great cathedrals and basilicas, then outlined their work in black, and then brought them to life with their palettes. The same with this special method where you can imagine the artist's stroke as the black and white becomes a colorful canvas. Matthew provides thumbnails that one can view larger to see the phenomenal details in each painting.

      As inspiring as these paintings are, what's even more inspirational is the crusade Brooks is campaigning for with his "Institute of the Sacred Arts" which is not only a commendable and laudable effort, but a necessary one in these times when sacred art has become a joke in the face of modern thinking. Matthew's dream which is fast becoming reality is to establish a school specifically for the restoration of Sacred Art in paints, sculpture, frescos, architecture, design, manuscript illumination and countless other applications for churches, chapels and sacramentals such as chalices, monstrances, etc. This endeavoring to establish a rich culture in the sacred arts is being undertaken by establishing a place in Massachusetts where future masters can come and learn the arts, studying the masters of church art coupled with a strong prayer-life so that vocations can also flourish or, in the case of religious who have the God-given talents, they can devote their lives to praising God and, through their work, add a great deal to the edification of all that is holy for generations to come. Because this site has been criticized by modernist and liberal Catholic groups, we hold it in even higher esteem, therefore bestowing our prestigious. Matthew writes, "The biggest obstacle our apostolate faces in trying to encourage the adornment of Churches to honor Our Lord's presence there is the prevailing misconception that there is no inspiring art being produced in this barren age. NOT TRUE! We have been gathering artists of talent who have done religious art (admittedly there aren't that many but the quality is there) with the aim of providing a resource to parishes and religious organizations and stimulating a new renaissance of Catholic culture." But, as Matthew reasons, the art has to be seen and so often gaining viewers in the churches or, in this case, on the web is not easy. That is why we strongly recommend you go this site, tell others about it, and who knows - from this seed of exposure more modern masters may emerge from under their bushel baskets to reveal to the world the talents God has given them so that they can, through their art, give greater glory to God. Matthew asserts that the web site, while serving as a vehicle to inform everyone of this ambitious campaign, is meant to inspire and encourage devotion to the Eucharist through the adornment of God's House. In his archives section he offers excellent rationales on his purpose and the rise, decline and necessity for restoring Catholic art again in this age when teens can recite the words to the latest rock group's obscene lyrics, but can't tell you the words to the Apostles' Creed. The articles reveal much about the evolution of art in the Church. The cause Matthew Brooks is undertaking is well worth others to get involved and help through a donation and providing information on other artists and art throughout the country and the world. Matthew sums it up best when he writes, "It is to this purpose that I have set myself, not to singlehandedly turn the arts around, but to make a beginning. To go back to that point where the divergence began and by prayer, work, and the Grace of God to find the road that should have been taken and to begin to travel towards what might have been. Pope St. Pius X said we must "restore all things to Christ." It is my hope that others will join me in restoring the visual arts to Christ. It can only happen when men turn themselves towards the greater glory of God and begin again to seek to give Him the very best as is His due; when men begin again adorning altars and building beautiful churches; when Christ is again restored to His rightful place in the decoration of Christian homes, and when artists become uncompromising in their insistance on the proper use of the gifts God has given them."

     For the number of graphics on this site and background, it loads surprisingly fast. The layout is clean and easy to read with good use of space and an antique classical look throughout. The thumbnails are clear and the paintings brilliant in color and clarity. Probably the only setback we had was trying to access "The Mural" which is an 18 foot mural done by Brooks on Saint John the Evangelist. For some reason there was no scroll bar and we were not able to view the rest of the page. We have no doubt this will be corrected soon, possibly within the day and all can view this magnificent work which now adorns the Church of St. John the Evangelist. Other than that small glitch, this edifying site is well worth seeing and sharing with others. It combines beauty in art with the cause for prayer and action and therefore richly deserves to be acknowledged. Therefore, we present our "Golden Chalice Award" to this site and confer SEVEN Hail Mary's to this site for it truly depicts the hopes and dreams of Catholic art for the Third Millennium and gives us all a glimpse of the unmined talent that will signal the new renaissance within the Church - the Church which countless millions will flock to in the new era - the Second Advent - the Reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.