University of Southern California

Office of Religious Life

Fostering a vibrant university community of spiritual reflection and free inquiry

Programs & Events

Spirituality and the Arts

The Office of Religious Life’s Spirituality and the Arts program explores and uncovers the spiritual and devotional dimensions of the arts. Through film screenings, plays, spoken word events, music concerts, dance performances, and art exhibitions, Spirituality and the Arts examines the ultimate questions of meaning, purpose, and identity as they manifest through the arts. Previous participants and performers include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Rainn Wilson, K.C. Porter, Salman Ahmad, Nishat Khan, D’Lo, Summer Watson, and Roger Steffens.


IN THE COURTYARD OF THE UNIVERSITY RELIGIOUS CENTER:

PRAYER BEADS OF THE WORLD

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The word “bede” in Anglo-Saxon means “prayer”.

Beads have been used for prayer for millennia, all over the world, in many religious traditions.

The Hindu mala is a necklace of 108 beads. Each bead is fingered while repeating a mantra. The Buddhists use mala beads in a similar fashion.

The Muslims may have copied the use of beads from the Hindus and Buddhists. They have a rosary of 99 beads, each one marking one of the names of Allah - with a head bead for Allah. An alternative form is 33 beads, used 3 times to complete the 99 names. The Bahá'í faith uses a similar rosary.

The Catholic Christians may have copied the Muslims in creating rosary beads. “Praying the rosary” involves a series of prayers marked by five “decades” of beads, with a cross at the head of the necklace.



IN THE URC KILGORE CHRISTIAN CHAPEL:


SANTOS OF NEW MEXICO

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“With all my faith in little Saint Jude Thaddeus I dedicate this retablo to give thanks for cleansing me of rheumatism.” This hand-painted image on tin was created in thanks for the intercession of a saint for the healing of a New Mexican in 1962.

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In northern New Mexico, once called New Spain, a unique folk art tradition developed during the period 1780-1907. Settlers from central Mexico colonized the rugged, austere landscape inhabited by the Pueblo Indians. They brought with them the Catholic tradition of devotion to images of saints. The isolation of the settlers resulted in a distinctive style of carving and painting wooden santos. The images have a direct emotional appeal, and appear uncluttered and naïve compared to their more elaborate counterparts in Spain. Santos come in two forms: retablos (often hand-adzed painted wooden panels) or bultos (hand-carved wooden three-dimensional sculptures). Cottonwood was the material used in most of the santos displayed here. The santero would apply gesso (gypsum paste) to the carving to give it a smooth surface, and paint it with indigenous vegetable and mineral pigments. The santero was regarded as the master artist of the village. Santos adorned homes, chapels, churches, and moradas (meeting places of the lay Catholic Penitente cult). They were images of the spiritual protectors and benefactors assigned to each person at birth. Santos were virtually members of the family, interceding between the people and God.


CROSSES FOR LENT AND PASSION WEEK

by Rev. Jim Burklo, Associate Dean of Religious Life, USC
in the Kilgore Chapel - Mar-April 2014

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IN THE URC MUSLIM PRAYER SPACE:
Ifrah Calligraphy

USC Office of Religious Life

University Park Campus
University Religious Center, Rm 106
Los Angeles, CA 90089
(213)740-6110
orl@usc.edu

Health Sciences Campus
McKibben Hall, Rm 160
Los Angeles, CA 90033
(213)740-6110
orl@usc.edu

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