While in Paris this summer I was introduced to Father Luc Reydel, Chaplain to Artists of the City of Paris, by a longtime friend, Laurent Mortreuil .
(Picture from right to left: Laurent Mortreuil, Webster Young – Founder of Restore the Arts, Maya – the sister-in-law of Laurent Mortreuil and a concert pianist, and Father Luc Reydel)
Since Restore the Arts has a stated interest in improving all the arts, including the arts that appear in churches, it is of great interest to learn of Father Reydel’s concern not only for all artists, but also for the arts themselves. He was an actor in France before studying for the Priesthood and still has a great interest in the theater.
One of the projects close to his heart is to see the city of Paris develop a small to medium sized theater that will be state-of-the-art for theatrical and musical production, and available to any qualified group that wants to perform there, as well as open to sacred plays or plays with a religious theme – such as Paul Claudel’s “L’ Annonce Fait a Marie”. This is something that doesn’t exist in Paris right now.
Another, perhaps grander project he has in mind is the reform of the College of Les Grands Bernardins – a powerful French institution that has had as its core mission the development and advancement of the fine arts for use in the Catholic Church. Father Luc says that the college has departed from a meaningful realization of its original mission and currently underwrites, with large sums of money, art that is neither highly skilled nor sacred. Its reform is a task that may well take years to achieve, but success could prove invaluable to all the arts in France.
In two long discussions with Father Luc, I raised the prospect that Restore the Arts and the Chaplaincy to Artists could be of help to one another. We agree that the advancement of the fine arts, in themselves, and the advancement of the Catholic Church as a patron of the arts can go together – and of course, this has been the case in the past with great fruitfulness – resulting in some of the greatest works of art and music in history.
I explained to Father Luc that Restore the Arts is not concerned exclusively with sacred art, and that while a majority of our academy is Christian, we are quite open to members who are not, but who agree with our principles. He made it clear to me that he understands this. He also definitely agreed with me that secular art can have a sacred aspect – and that the boundaries of sacred and secular art are not so stark as they once were seen to be.
He asked me if there is any equivalent to the City of Paris Chaplaincy for Artists in the United States, and I could only reply that there is not. I did recommend to him the Journal “First Things”, which is probably closest to his concerns ( and is also present here at WordPress.com).