Finding God’s Mercy through Music and Art

The raising of Lazarus by Michelangelo Caravaggio
The raising of Lazarus by Michelangelo Caravaggio

To celebrate the end of the Year of Mercy, St Aloysius parish in Glasgow organised two talks that were both experiential and helped participants to ‘think outside the box’ on the topic of God’s mercy.

The first presentation was by internationally renowned composer and former parishioner Sir James MacMillan who talked about finding God’s Mercy through Music. His talk to a packed auditorium at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was illustrated by some of his own compositions, as well as works by other composers.   Speaking about "high culture" and how it does not always lead to a merciful society, Sir James spoke with great compassion and included anecdotes from his own family experience. 

“What really struck a chord with me was when he spoke of music as the means whereby mercy can penetrate the crevices of the stoniest of hearts,” said St Aloysius parish priest, Fr Tim Curtis SJ.  “I was surprised to learn that the dearth of classical Scottish composers during the Renaissance was due to the lack of royal and ecclesiastical courts here in Scotland. It was an enlightening, moving and emotional talk and one that will be remembered for some time to come.”

Drawing the viewer into the storyThe Good Samaritan by Glasgow School of Art student, Adrian Wiszniewski

Last Monday (technically the day after the Year of Mercy had ended), it was the turn of Fr Geoff Wheaton SJ to talk at the Glasgow School of Art on God's Mercy through Art. Fr Wheaton used a wide selection of images, ranging from the catacombs, through Icons to classical and modern paintings to show that the mercy of God expressed in the ministry of Jesus centres on "raising up". “The gospel writers use the same Greek word as they use for the resurrection in many places,” reflected Fr Curtis after the talk, as with the son of the widow of Nain, the Samaritan leper or the prodigal son.  “An encounter with the merciful Saviour raises us up beyond our daily existence.   And many of the images selected by Fr Wheaton for his talk were thought-provoking and drew one into the story illustrated.   He has a wonderful knack of pointing out details one might otherwise have missed.”

Fr Curtis went on to express his appreciation to the venues that had opened their doors for these Year of Mercy events. “Each talk was excellent in its own right and greatly appreciated by the audiences including academics, students, parishioners, music and art lovers,” he said. “Holding the talks in these two great Glasgow institutions was symbolic, and I am hoping that it marks the beginning of further cooperation between St Aloysius parish and our neighbours.”