Denis McNamara and Benedictine College’s Center for Beauty and Culture

Monday, March 30, 2020

Update: Former Center Director Denis McNamara was placed on administrative leave from Benedictine College on March 3, 2023, and resigned from the college on March 9, 2023.

In the fall of 2019, Benedictine College welcomed McNamara into the role of director of the newly-created Center for Beauty and Culture. The Center is one of many initiatives of the college’s strategic planning process, Transforming Culture in America. Simply stated, the goal of the center is to transform culture through beauty.

McNamara holds a Bachelor of Arts in History of Art from Yale University, as well as a Masters and Doctorate in Architectural History from the University of Virginia. Prior to coming to Benedictine, he spent the past two decades at Mundelein Seminary, near Chicago, where he served as Academic Director and Associate Professor at the Liturgical Institute. His written works include How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Ecclesiastical Architecture. He’s a sought-after lecturer, scholar, architectural consultant and judge of sacred art, as well as co-host of the popular podcast, Liturgy Guys.

In addition to his duties as Director, McNamara teaches courses in the Architecture department, during which students learn to explore sacramental and biblical theology experienced through art and architecture. He also teaches courses on the theology of beauty in the Church’s worship and liturgical theology of the twentieth century. The vision for the Center for Beauty and Culture is continuing to take shape. The underlying objective will be to provide the tools and opportunities to help artists achieve what McNamara calls “the highest goal of the artist—to reveal God in created media.”

“It’s the Sacramental Principle of St. Leo the Great,” said McNamara. “Matter reveals the invisible, spiritual realities of the mind of God. Christ is the Word of the Father, but came to earth in the form of matter. The Incarnation proves that the Word of God can be revealed through matter.

“The artist’s job is to use matter to reveal and make present the heavenly realities.”

In a recent podcast, McNamara revealed what he found so attractive about the opportunity to become a part of Benedictine College.

“It is this intensely Catholic place where the students who come here are really excited about their faith,” he said. “The administration has realized that they have done what they wanted to do here with their strategic planning over the last 20 years and now they want to turn it outward and take the treasures they have here and send it out to the world.”

The objective of Transforming Culture in America could not be stated any better than that— to take the mission of community, faith and scholarship that has made Benedictine College what it is and take it to the greater society for the good of all. A dedication to beauty inspired by the mind of God is a great first step.