On the evening of April 6, I, alongside various other students, faculty and members of the Fairfield community, gathered at the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius of Loyola to hear Father John O’Malley, S.J., present his keynote lecture, “The Jesuits and the Arts: How and Why It Happened.” The event was co-sponsored with the Center for Ignatian Spirituality and was presented in concurrence with “The Holy Name. Art of the Gesù: Bernini and his Age” exhibition at the Bellarmine Hall Gallery. O’Malley is a published author and specialist in the religious culture of early modern Europe, particularly Italy. He’s received a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is currently a professor of theology at Georgetown University, Washington D.C.
The evening began with Reverend Gerry Blaszczak, S.J., President Mark R. Nemec, and Michael Tunney, S.J., introducing O’Malley as the event’s main speaker. O’Malley took the stage and began his lecture. The primary focus of the event was the history of the Jesuits and how they connect to the Art of the Gesù exhibit the school has the current honor of hosting. O’Malley began by informing the audience about the Jesuits’ origins and then tying it to how and why the religious organization grew interested in the humanities. It was intriguing to hear O’Malley discuss all the various pieces of history and link them together – conveying a chain of events that would eventually lead to the constructions of Jesuit churches and other forms of artwork.
The lecture itself was very informative. As a student at a Jesuit university, I went into this lecture knowing the origin story of the Jesuits and St. Ignatius of Loyola. However, I never knew how the Jesuits became an organization involved with the arts and the humanities. One of the many reasons being that the Jesuits established various schools which then led to a primary study within the arts. Not to mention the various Jesuit central art projects, like the construction of the church of Gesù. Overall, it was beneficial for me to have O’Malley explain the process because it cleared up a lot of points.
As a speaker, O’Malley was concise and consistent with his points. I found the images, point and pull quotes he presented on a slide show alongside his lecture to be extremely effective as they allowed the audience to better solidify the information in their heads. Despite a few uncontrollable mishaps throughout the lecture, like O’Malley’s water cup spilling, he continued to be professional and went on with his lecture as if nothing has happened. In fact, he was a bit comical, resulting in the occasional chuckle from the audience. Ultimately, I found O’Malley to be an effective and impactful speaker.
The lecture was originally supposed to take place in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business until it was moved to the Chapel, which I was pretty grateful about being that I didn’t have to take the agonizing hike over to Dolan. I also found the chapel to be a fitting location for the lecture because it was about the Jesuits. Not to mention the University’s iconic Ignatius statue was there to greet attendees the moment they entered. Even if the 6 o’clock setting sun blasted me in the eye at one point, I enjoyed having the lecture at the chapel and thought it enhanced the entire experience.
The lecture was not only a great way to learn about the history behind the Gesù, but also behind Fairfield University. It was a nice, relaxing and educational time for members of the Fairfield community to come together and learn a little something new.