Recall a richly decorated church built years ago. Or imagine that you are in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. You are surrounded by the baroque—ornate images full of imaginative power. A thick visual cloud, full of life and energy. Scratch the Catholic imagination a little and you’ll see: Catholics still bleed baroque, full of amazing images of the saints, angels, the power of God, and the vision of the heavens. At the same time, of course, we know that modernity is an age of disenchantment, of loss in that sense. That’s really what we typically mean by secularity—a loss of that religious imagination with its power to penetrate our lives and give such meaning to how we see the world. Today many Catholics naturally try to recapture that baroque imagination. Yet that time is past, and our church is much more than the baroque; just think of it: The baroque and even St. Peter’s was really only the work of the past few centuries! Like the baroque and the Catholic religious imagination associated with it, so many other forms of the religious life have come and receded. They do not finally go for Catholics, but live on in various recesses. We have the centuries-old Benedictine spirituality, Franciscan spirituality, the spiritual insights of the ancient churches, such as the Maronites of Lebanon, the Church of St. Thomas in India, and so many others. But the baroque can no longer have the overwhelming hold on our religious imagination that it once did—times have changed. We are not even in modernity any more but rather in postmodernity, a time when we encounter so many other religious narratives in an experience of religious pluralism, some of which offer us real insight into ourselves as Catholic Christians. We have begun to color our world again with living multidimensional images, making up for the monochrome of modernity. That is the task we have today: not to go back to a baroque past that is no longer with us but to paint a Catholic religious world full of living color, of vision with saints of today and hope for tomorrow. A truly global, deeply eschatological vision. Christian imagination can never be tilted toward our time but must see into God’s time and God’s purposes and yet be grounded in our reality and with our human eyes and hearts and spirits. © 2010, Bryan Froehle.
Authors Bryan FroehleRestricted