Vail’s Shield of Achilles Featured in Catholic Faith & Culture Video Course

Vail's Shield of Achilles featured in University of Dallas Catholic Studies Video Course

A busy Spring and a hectic Summer have finally been replaced by a painfully slow stroll into Fall as October has arrived on our doorstep. Excruciating lower back pain does have a way of slowing us down, eh? I’ve never been in this much pain for such a prolonged period and it’s really wearing me down… but on the other hand, it has dumped me back into my desk chair and refreshed my relationship with my handsome hero, Achilles. He and his shield have the magical ability to make me forget everything around me as Achilles’ world fills my imagination with Homeric lore – I couldn’t ask for better medicine!

The Stadhoudersvaas, an Apulian red-figure neck amphora depicting Achilles battling with Memnon. The artwork is attributed to the Ixion painter, who probably worked in Capua between 330 and 320 BCE. Source: Free download from the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden via rmo.nl

So, settling down to write this blog post, I want to tell you that just about this same time last year, as I was excited about launching my book, Reconstructing the Shield of Achilles, I received an exciting email from Susannah, the librarian at the University of Dallas. She informed me that UD, a Catholic liberal arts university in Texas, was assembling videos for a Catholic faith and culture program. She asked permission to use images of my Shield of Achilles, and I happily agreed, with the condition that I would be credited appropriately and provided a copy of the video featuring my shield when it was published.

Finally, I have time to share the exciting results of UD’s Catholic Faith & Culture video course featuring my shield! The program is quite interesting – I didn’t at first get the connection between Homer’s ancient Greece and Catholicism, but the website description offers a great starting point:

University of Dallas Catholic Studies Program Description [Screenshot link]

Okay, I have to admit I’ve always felt a bit spiritually squeamish while gallivanting across Ancient Greece in the polytheistic company of Achilles, Odysseus, Helen, et al… I was born into a big Irish Catholic family and enjoyed my first 4 years of elementary education at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School. I adored my 2nd-grade teacher, Sister Mary Leo, and have often cringed at what she might think of all my fun times with Achilles.

Blessed Sacrament School Kids and Teachers

Blessed Sacrament school kids and teachers (yes, I’m sure I looked just like this little girl, and for sure that was Sister Mary Leo behind me). Source and Copyright BSS.org

Can you imagine my incredible surprise to discover a Catholic University interested in endorsing my lifetime love of Achilles and my reconstruction of his spectacular shield?! It was – and still is – indescribably delightful!!

Inviting local community members to start a Catholic Faith & Culture cohort, the University of Dallas has prepared these video courses for participants to engage in a higher level study of faith. Founded on a Catholic understanding of the human person, these video courses explore resources from across the Liberal Arts, including fine arts, literature, philosophy, and even political science.

It’s a great honor for my reconstruction of the Shield of Achilles to be included in such a thoughtful and enlightening program. Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, Program Director and Theology Professor, presents a compelling and lovely spiritual interpretation of the center boss of Achilles’ shield, as well as the inner ring, with its scenes of marriage and other aspects of civil life.  Also, the video wizards behind the curtain did a fantastic job of animating the rings of Achilles’ shield, as you will see in the video – it’s quite an appealing effect!

You are welcome, of course, to view the video from the Catholic Faith & Culture website, and the resolution there is clearly superior, to be honest. But I’ve uploaded the same video segment to youtube so that it can be played here directly, in spite of the lower resolution:

This is not a full transcript from the above video segment, but offers a sweet spoonful of Sister Jane’s lovely narration:
 

“The shield represents the totality of the cosmos… but also the totality of Greek life, of Greek civilization. The very civilization that Achilles is fighting Troy for.

“So, Homer is teaching us through this shield.

“So, what I’d like to do, is to use this shield as a kind of guide as we go through each of the different facets of Catholic social teaching.

“So, the first facet that we’re going to look at today is marriage and family. So, how is this related to the shield? Well, in the boss, or the center of the shield, Hephaistos puts the cosmos. So the earth, the moon, the sun, the constellations, the Pleiades, the Orion; and a Catholic reading of this is that the center of the shield represents God. God: He who is above and beyond us. He who is the source of all order, beauty, truth, and goodness. And the rest of the shield kind of comes forth from God. So I love that the second fold, right next to God, or closest to God, is marriages, festivals. Isn’t that fitting? That what most images God (is) marriages, and festivals, the family.”

 

Detail of the Inner Ring from the Reconstruction of the Shield of Achilles by Kathleen Vail
(copyright–all rights reserved)

My deep thanks and appreciation go out to all the kind folks involved with the production of these videos, especially the segments featuring my reconstruction of the shield of Achilles. I hope and pray that the University of Dallas’ Studies in Catholic Faith and Culture Program will enjoy the greatest success and I am very pleased to participate in their program.

 


 

Please Note: This post is offered purely to share my delight at seeing my reconstruction of Achilles’ Shield adopted for the purpose of higher learning. Spiritual beliefs are naturally very personal and we are often quite sensitive about expressing them in public. And while I deeply appreciate spiritual faith in all its diverse presentations, this post should be viewed only as an appreciation of, not an endorsement for, the Catholic faith.

I’m pretty sure my beloved Sister Mary Leo would never forgive me for converting to Islam, even if she could get over her dismay at my fascination for superhero pagans. What can I say? I also have a fascination for the One God, head coverings, and prayer beads. But celibacy? Er, not so much…;^)

But, on the other hand, I must be fair and admit that I might be underestimating Sister Mary Leo. I’m rather impressed by this recent photo of two young schoolgirls at Blessed Sacrament School:

 

Refreshing diversity among students at Blessed Sacrament School. Source & Copyright BSSCatholic.org

 
 
[direct link to High-Res video:]

Vail's Shield of Achilles featured in University of Dallas Catholic Studies Video Course

Click this image to view the hi-res video on the UD website. (Source: Screenshot via catholicfaithandculture.org)

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