By Martin E. Marty
Devoted to “public religion” or “religion-in-public,” the publication Sightings surveys public arenas that are not confined to the political world. Education, commerce, entertainment and the arts represent spheres where publics encounter religion.
The arts, which deserve more attention than Sightings gives them, have an important place in the Marty household. A favorite topic at home at the moment is Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites. Wife, Harriet, prepped for a recent broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of the Dialogues by spending months studying George Bernanos’ French-language text (which Poulenc set to music).
The April issue of Opera News was much devoted to this religion-themed opera. When Harriet and I read this issue, we were struck there by “Coda: Grace Notes,” a surprisingly personal column written by Brian Kellow. He tells the story of his almost life-long atheism or religious indifference and his lack of preparation for the profound “Grace” themes in Poulenc’ work.
Unexpectedly, in the penultimate paragraph of his Opera News column, Kellow writes: “When I turned fifty, I became a Catholic, something that stunned several friends and family members.” More: “Perhaps because I do not find getting older a place of refuge or peace, I still view the promise of grace…as an immensely powerful idea.” This month Kellow will attend a performance of Carmelites for the first time as a Catholic and wonders: “Will this make any difference in how I respond?” Read More…