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Monday, February 19, 2007

The Fourth Spring

This is an essay I have written for the College's student journal, The Rambler. Hopefully it is not that incomprehensible. If there are any flagrent errors, then tell me. But remember, its published next week or so, so comments must be prompt. Grazia!

The Fourth Spring

In the last issue of the Rambler, John Jalsevac, editor extraordinaire, wrote about Ken Ferguson of M-Power media, a Catholic production company. Mr. Jalsevac commented that Mr. Ferguson urged Christendom students to get involved in movie making, that movies are a powerful medium. Such words of inspiration are true; much emphasis should be given to the art of moviemaking in today’s world for a very specific reason: a new spring is coming.

By spring I am not merely talking about the time of year when flowers come from the cold frozen soil, although the term is used equivocally. Rather, the new spring refers to a movement in the culture. Dr. Schwartz, in his book The Third Spring, discusses the “spring” that blossomed in the first half of the twentieth century. A “spring”, as one finds from reading the book, is a time of converting the culture to a Catholic renewal, the embodiment of this schools motto: to restore all things in Christ. The spring before “the third spring” was called the “second spring” by John Henry Newman, and consisted of the late Victorian convert writers such as Oscar Wilde and even Newman himself. The third one consists of names familiar to all: Chesterton, Dawson, Greene, Waugh, and even those who did not fully convert to the Church, but nevertheless became devout Christians, such as Lewis and Eliot.

What these “springs” have in common is the rebirth of Catholic culture through their converted writers. The converts approached their new found Faith with eagerness, desiring to express their joy in words. Whether one writer is more elegant or “better” than another, it cannot be denied that their Catholic faith, even those who were not Catholic per se, had a profound influence on their work. Because of their efforts, the culture was changed, and as when spring arrives,


Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain,[i]

so also the “springs” brought forth spiritual life from its writers’ pens.

So how do these writers of turn of the century England and America relate to our modern world? Its rather simple. What we are seeing is a new spring flowering. What happened a century ago is happening again. This time, however, it is not happening just in the writers of essays, poems, songs and stories, but also in a new format: films. How are films in the same field as poems and stories? Well, like poems and stories, a film utilizes creative writing, as well as visuals via the camera. Like plays films spread a message to the populous through audio-visuals..

We here at Christendom College have already seen some bits of this new form of the Catholic literary revival in our own Wojtyla-Ratzinger Film Club, a student club on campus whose principle aim is to make movies they hope will reflect their Catholic Faith. Even more prominent is Mirandum Pictures, the production company started Christendom grads Mike Powell, Nick & Colin Mason, and Dr. Keats. For these gentlemen, the Catholic literary revival is not some relic of the past but something to carry into the new millennium. Concerning their recently released film Chorus, Mike Powell said, "The object was to show the Catholic faith as something that’s real and assumed in the lives of Catholics, not something that is justified or self-conscious, but real, just there."[ii] This is not some simple hobby, but is a real attempt to fulfill the Christendom mission in the real world.

M-power is another example of the same thing. The movie Bella, which they co-produced, was a huge success at the Toronto Film Festival last year, and came home with the festival’s highly coveted People’s Choice Award, one of the most respectable awards this side of the Atlantic. What this movie has, as far as I have heard, that separates itself from other movies is its genuine Catholic content. And they are not alone in the film industry. Plenty of other film companies, least of which is Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions, are craving for the type of movies that come from Catholic producers.

There are other Catholic creative writers making mainstream waves. Although it is not strictly Catholic, there is rising interest in Christian music, including bands like Switchfoot, who manage to produce Christian songs for the popular culture. Others are following in their wake. In the realm of literature, that is books, there are several Catholic writers out there writing fiction and non-fiction alike for an eager hungry populous. Anne Rice, famous for her novels of vampires and witches (anyone ever seen Interview with a Vampire?), reverted back to the Faith in 1998, after having left at 18. She promised “that from now on I would write only for the Lord.”[iii] Her next three novels, the first one already released, concern the early years of Christ’s life, written from his perspective, drawn from such sources as the Apocrapha (the Gospel of St. Thomas, etc.), New Testament scholarship, and traditions surrounding the “lost years” of Christ’s life. There is Nicholas Sparks, another Catholic, whose novels, while not always involving Catholics, at least has Christian morals and messages within. Regina Doman is another more local example. Also, with the increased interest in Tolkien, Lewis, and others in today’s world, it can not be denied there is a market. And where there is a market, people will come and, as it were, feed.

So maybe in 100 years men will look back at the turn of the twenty-first century and note that their Catholic world is indebted to the great literary works of writers from Christendom College and their like. Maybe it will be you that people remember so many decades from now.

Go, my fellow students! Write for our Lord!

[i]T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland.

[ii]Anna Svendson, “Independent Filmmaking in the Making: The Newest Powell/Mason Production, Chorus,” The Rambler.

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