Written by Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, on May 2012 at the Induction in the College of Fellows
Gregory Wolfe, husband and father, writer, teacher, publisher and editor, loyal son of the Church, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology salutes you.
In his address to artists gathered in the Sistine Chapel in November, 2009, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the “friendship” that has always pertained between the Christian faith and the arts: “Christianity from its earliest days has recognized the value of the arts and has made wise use of their varied language to express her unvarying message of salvation. This friendship must be continually promoted and supported so that it may be authentic and fruitful, adapted to different historical periods and attentive to social and cultural variations” (Saturday, November 21, 2009).
Few in this country have done so much to promote the friendship between Christianity and the arts as have you. In 1989 you founded Image, now one of the country's leading literary journals, a quarterly devoted to exploring the relationship between faith and the arts, which Annie Dillard has referred to as “one of the best journals on the planet.” Its purpose is an exploration of the possibilities that are realized when the Christian tradition inspires literary and artistic works that are profoundly open both to the Revelation of the Father in Christ and to the world. In your own words, “Understandably, religion and art need each other. When we lack the kind of stimulus which only the imagination can provide, we make it more difficult to live the life of faith. And art, when it sees no creation to celebrate, and no soul in need of nurturing, loses its respect for truth.”
A convert to the Catholic faith, You have made personal the exploration of these themes, having published over two hundred essays, reviews and articles of your own in numerous journals and having authored or co-authored ten volumes, including, most recently, a collection of your own essays entitled, Beauty Will Save the World. You are soon to publish a study which is provocatively titled, The Company of good Letters: How Erasmus and his Circle of Renaissance Christian Humanists Shaped the Modern World.
You have lived your conviction that “beauty will save the world” in your solicitude, not only for those who are accomplished in literature and the visual arts, but also in teaching and mentoring the young. Eighteen years ago you founded the Glen Workshops, in which you offer summer programs for developing authors and artists and, since 2000, you have been Writer in Residence at Seattle Pacific University. There you founded and now direct the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, the first program in the country to integrate intentionally a studio writing degree with the resources of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
We live in a culture that, at least in academic and “educated” circles, has tended to embrace a radical secularism, to the degree that even the possibility of any transcendence about human life and experience is held suspect, if not denied outright. In a culture such as ours, the relationship of the Christian faith to the literary and visual arts is of utmost significance in that, “…in a certain sense, beauty is the visible form of the good, just as the good is the metaphysical condition of beauty” (John Paul II, Letter to Artists, 1999). If we are to awaken our culture once again to the ferment of the Gospel and to the One who alone is truly and utterly Good then it will be accomplished in no small part by the work that you have undertaken.
Therefore, as an expression of our esteem and gratitude, and in virtue of the authority invested in me by the Board of Trustees of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, I am privileged to bestow upon you, Gregory Wolfe, the degree Doctor of Letters honoris causa, and to name you a Fellow of the School.