‘The Second Vatican Council and Impressionism’ was the intriguing subject of a guest lecture in the Milltown Institute by Brendan Staunton SJ on Monday 16 February. Those who heard his lecture said that it was like a master-class in how to capture an audience – and the Milltown hall was full. Brendan spoke in a leisurely, pleasant way, with no need to refer to notes, at ease with his material, fielding questions confidently, and with a quality of voice that was easy to listen to. At one point he linked the resistance of classical painters to such innovators as Kandinsky with the resistance of the Roman Curia to Pope John’s proposed council. For a sense of Brendan’s style and message, read on.Brendan discussed the 2nd Vatican Council, and Pope John’s struggle to make it what it later became, despite the dug-in heels of his curia. After his memorable opening address, decrying the prophets of doom and gloom, John was disheartened and exhausted, feeling he had not been heard. A friend persuaded him to appear at a window and address the crowds of young people. His message was: “Go home and give your mammy and daddy a hug, and tell them it’s from the Pope.”
Brendan compared the Curia’s resistance to Pope John with the resistance of classical painters to the revolt of the Impressionists, barring them from the big exhibitions, but yielding in the end to the new movement. When Brendan showed a painting of Kandinsky, a listener asked: “Has the church come as far as Kandinsky yet?” “I’m afraid not,” said Brendan.