Missionary ambition

During my junior year in college I fled my home institution of Vanderbilt for a semester abroad in Rome with Loyola University. It was an experience that changed my life. About a year ago I was asked to serve on the board of the Rome Center or LURC as we used to call it. This position has allowed me to get to know Father Mike Garanzini, the charistmatic relatively-new president of the university in Chicago. (This past weekend Garanzini’s turnaround of Loyola was the cover story of the Chicago Tribune Magazine.) Father Mike has big plans for LURC. One idea is really appealing to me. He’s interested in creating something called the Ricci Scholarship, a funded full-year of study abroad for exceptionally talented undergraduates. It would place them in Rome for a semester of study and then, through a partnership with Fordham University, move them to Beijing to finish the year. The goal would be a comparative assessment of business, art, mathematics, history, you-name-it and the outcome would be a senior year thesis on the same. It is a bold idea, but one that will likely work given the long history of respect in China that Jesuits enjoy in the country. Named for the missionary Matteo Ricci and undertaken in the spirit of synthesis of East and West the program may begin as early as 2007. With the western world so eager to crack the nut that is Chinese culture and business and with China determined to spread Mandarin around the world this seems very timely.

Unrelated but personally interesting is an exhibit at the Loyola Museum of Art, which I only learned of today. It presents works of Caravaggio as digital replicas per se in a darkened gallery using high-res display monitors. This is the first that I know of bringing the virtual inside the physical so literally. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m eager to know what happens to the sense of aura that standing in front of a tangible artwork produces when you’re once removed from it. I can’t imagine it is any less real than standing 30 people back gazing at the diminuitive Mona Lisa encased behind bulletproof glass.