They Also Serve
An intelligent woman who has studied iconography with another intelligent woman (who happens to be my wife) was recently in Florence. An art historian by training, she was lecturing on and revisiting the old Catholic masterworks there, long-time objects of affection. Many were produced during the Renaissance and Counter-Reformation in order to reinforce Catholic belief and combat the Protestant revolt. (Elizabeth Lev has a fine book, How Catholic Art Saved the Faith, on this subject.)
But this trip, she was especially aware of the even older, rich, pre-Renaissance, Eastern-inspired icons and similar works in the city, which she hadn’t noticed during multiple earlier trips. There’s a lesson here for those of us caught up in – otherwise quite crucial – polemics and activism: We often suffer from limited connection with our richer tradition. And we need to remedy that narrowness, even for the sake of practical action. Because as a Catholic should realize, we are in a struggle not only over Church practices and public policies; we are in a battle, as St. Paul says, with diabolical principalities and powers.