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Art and catechesis with Dr. Jem Sullivan

What role does ‘beauty’ play for our catechesis in the modern world? Emily and Edmund welcome Dr. Jem Sullivan, an expert in catechesis and sacred art, and professor at the Catholic University of America. Together they explore how beauty is a path for catechesis, including architecture, sacred music, paintings, sculptures, mosaic, and stained glass.

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Show Notes


(00:04) Edmund and Emily welcome you to this episode of Real+True’s podcast. They introduce the topic of this podcast, “Catechism and beauty, especially in art.” Emily welcomes this podcast’s guest, Dr. Jem Sullivan who serves as associate professor of practice in Catechetics in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America. Dr. Sullivan is the author of four books on catechetical themes: A Study Guide to the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults; The Beauty of Faith: Christian Art and the New Evangelization; Opening the Door of Faith: A Study Guide for Catechists and the New Evangelization; and Believe, Celebrate, Live, Pray: A Weekly Walk with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

(04:22) Dr. Sullivan explains that beauty is not a “luxury for elite few or sidebar to the liturgy but architecture, sacred music, paintings, sculptures, mosaic, stained glass” is central to our Catholic faith. 

(13:27) “Beauty speaks the language of the incarnation.” Our hosts and guest discuss the role of beauty in evangelization, pulling on wisdom from St. John Paul II, G.K. Chesterton and Pope Francis. They highlight how beauty breaks down barriers and is a “pre-sacrament” and a “path for catechesis.” Edmund makes this point that catechesis is an opportunity for souls to fall in love with Jesus.  

(23:40) A story from Pope Benedict XVI: The only really effective argument for Christianity: the saints the Church has produced and Catholic art. They discuss the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the power of the image on the tilma, and how God communicates himself through the miracle on the tilma. 

(28:20) Where can a catechist turn to learn more about art? Dr. Sullivan shared that art is for everyone, not just art expects– but the tradition of sacred art is grounded in the belief that art is for every person. Dr. Sullivan mentions looking for local art in your diocese’s cathedral. Emily asks Edmund, “why do you believe we need beauty?” The podcast ends with practical tips for living out a love for sacred art and making it part of your life.

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