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Art and Advent: Professor creates inspiring online resource for Catholics nationwide

December 6, 2013

If some of the world’s most iconic Biblical paintings could talk, they would tell stories of faith perfect for this season of Advent. To inspire Catholics across the country this Christmas, Loyola University New Orleans professor Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, Ph.D., is bringing those stories to life. She is linking faith with art—from Michelangelo Buonarroti’s works in the Sistine Chapel to Paul Gauguin’s “Bébé”—in a free, online spiritual reflection series for Loyola Press, a national Jesuit publishing company.

Zsupan-Jerome, of the Loyola Institute for Ministry, was the only theologian in the country chosen to co-create this Advent-inspired “Arts & Faith” series with the Chicago-based Loyola Press, which provides resources to Jesuits nationwide.

The online video series, meant to help people pray and read scripture during Advent, highlights close-up details of famous works of art that evoke the spiritual lessons of Advent. The videos, which correspond with the Catholic Lectionary, include Zsupan-Jerome’s voice explanations for each artwork. Loyola Press will release a new video every Sunday during Advent.

“Engaging with art prayerfully really touches the human spirit at its core,” Zsupan-Jerome said.

For the first week of Advent, for example, Zsupan-Jerome highlights Michelangelo’s painting of Isaiah on the Sistine Chapel, right down to the emotion depicted in the prophet’s face.

“In Michelangelo’s depiction, Isaiah looks on the brink of a new thought, an inspired insight that reveals God’s grace in the course of history,” Zsupan-Jerome said. “As a prophet, his call was to invite God’s people with him into these moments of inspiration.”

Her favorite painting in the series, Paul Gauguin’s “Bébé,” is featured in the Christmas Day video post. The painting is of the nativity scene inside a Tahitian hut. “The baby is being held by this local woman … who seems to be thinking, ‘what do I do for this gift for the world?’” Zsupan-Jerome said.

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