By JOHN M. TODD COURSES for training missionaries to understand and develop native art styles in the service of the Church were held for the first time in England this summer.
The French society. Art el Louange (Praise and "Worship), which works under the direction of its honorary president, Cardinal Costantini, of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith, has bought Finedon Hall, Northants This was an experimental opening year. and except for a letter in THF. CATHOLIC HERALD and some individual invitations, little propaganda was done. Next year regular adver• tised courses will be held.
This society works within the great tradition of the Church that every human culture and civilisation can be baptised and made Christian. The Church has to be founded within the culture which already exists. This applies above all to the arts.
'Colonial' art When St. Augustine was sent as a missionary to England, Pope Gregory the Great gave him clear instructions. He was to destroy the idols, but not the temples: For if the churches arc well made they should be altered from the worshipping of devils to the service of God, so that when the people ace that their temples are not destroyed they may come to their usual buildings for the honour and service of God" (Ecclesiastical History of the English People. by the Venerable Bede), Similar instructions have always been given to missionaries. But sometimes the tradition has weakened. Gothic cathedrals or Renaissance basilicas have been built in places where the climate, local building Materials or local artistic traditions were not suited to them. But this "colonial" age is largely over now; every effort is being made to get natives to build their own churches and to express Christianity in their own traditional mediums in the settings which they know and love.
The present Holy Father and his predecessor have been exceedingly insistent on this point. Pope Pius XI inaugurated a magnificent exhibition of native art now housed in the Lateran Museum, and his dearest wish came to fruition under the present Pope in the Holy Year with the Native Missionary Art Exhibition. Many of the exhibits were due to Art Cl Louange, now coming to this country.
The society's immediate aim is simply "to help native artisans to build and decorate churches in the spirit of praise and honour for the Sacrament of the Altar, and to do this by using the traditions, symbols, techniques and materials of their particular country."
To do this it is necessary to train missionaries in a real understanding of the traditions of the country to which they are going. Art et Louange believes that the best way is not only to study but to do some practical work oneself. Finedon Hall is now well equipped with studios and workshops, for wood and metal work, weaving, drawing and frescoes.
It also has a laboratory for research on tropical diseases.
When I visited Finedon Hall there were amongst others two Little Brothers of Charles de Foucauld, including Brother Michel, a priest, who was about to go to make their first foundation in India. There were also two English Catholic art teachers. The "practice" work of some of these students is illustrated here.
M. Baranger, president of Art et Louange, told me: "Many missionaries from European countries have to learn English. During the summer months of their missionary training they have to leave Rome. It would be a good idea for them to come to England then. where the climate is more pleasant in the summer months. If they came to Finedon they could combine learning English with study of native art traditions."
M. Baranger is himself an expert on tropical diseases. His sister, Mlle. Baranger, secretary of Art et Louange, is a well-known frescoist.
We may hope their venture will flourish and that next year's courses will be well attended.