Please join us on Friday, November 22 for our Annual Chancellor’s Lecture. This year’s lecture will be presented by Fr. Francis X. Clooney, SJ, Parkman Professor of Divinity at Harvard University. His lecture “Constantine Beschi SJ (1680-1747): A Jesuit Poet’s Invention of a South Indian Catholicism” will take place in the St. Joseph Chapel of Regis College at 7 p.m. Registration for this event is free, and all are welcome to attend.
Constantine (Costanzo Gioseffo) Beschi was an Italian Jesuit who worked in south India from 1710 to his death in 1747. His Tamil works include hymns used in church, a manual of instruction for catechists, apologetic defenses of Catholic vs. Lutheran Christianity, and a book of wry tales exposing the folly of gurus and their disciples. He was notably committed to a full appreciation and use of the beauties of the Tamil language. Beschi’s most famous work, the nearly 4000 verses of Tempavani (The Unfading Garland), offers an eloquent and grand re-telling of the story of the birth and early life of Jesus, with full awareness of the whole Biblical story, with due attention to the role of the Virgin Mary but particularly from the perspective of St. Joseph. This retelling is characterized by complex versification, lavish imagery, and delight in natural and moral goods he believed present even outside the Christian world. His ultimate goal was to describe a natural world, already beautiful, that is made all the more radiant by the incarnation of the Son of God as Jesus of Nazareth. Beschi does not hesitate to preach a Christian message, but his practice, as missionary and writer, is to proceed by a “way of beauty” – rather than by norms of truth alone, or solely according to the demands of justice. He thus seeks to resolve the problem inherited from Roberto de Nobili and other great predecessors: how to preach the Christian difference in a way that esteems rather than ignores or abuses the best of Indian culture?