Seminarian Related to Bueronese Art School Founder

Ethan Menning ‘26 (Archdiocese of Omaha) was a high school student, praying his Holy Hour at Mount Michael Abbey near his Nebraska home, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. A burly and bearded Benedictine priest asked if his last name was Lenz. Ethan’s mother had been a Lenz prior to marriage, and the priest—Fr. Daniel Lenz—had become aware of their shared lineage. After tracing back their ancestry, another Benedictine priest was discovered in the family tree: Fr. Desiderius Lenz (1832-1928).

Fast forward to May 2, 2023. Menning was at the tail end of his first year in college seminary at SJV. Renowned local iconographer Nicholas Markell joined the seminarians for their Tuesday night community meal to share insights behind the Beuronese imagery he created for SJV’s new chapel. The style maintains classic form and proportion but is made more naturalistic to be accessible for prayer. Markell mentioned the Beuron school of art founded in Germany to carry out Pope Pius IX’s desire to maintain artistic history and tradition in a time of progressivism. To Menning’s surprise, the school’s founder was none other than Fr. Desiderius Lenz.

With newfound zeal, Menning began a deeper dive into appreciation for the arts with an especial fondness for the pieces in SJV’s chapel. “It was gradual,” he explained. “Last year, I went over to the Minneapolis Institute of Art and thought ‘I guess the family likes this, so I’m going to try it out.’ And I loved it. Before, I could care less about these images, but now I can appreciate the richness. Almost like I’m getting some of the care Fr. Desiderius had for these things.”

The Catholic Vision course Menning took last semester taught him how to interpret scripture, music, art, and poetry through a Catholic lens. A class assignment led him to a deeper study of the two pieces outside SJV’s confessionals featuring Christ and St. Peter on the shores of Galilee and St. John Vianney hearing the confession of a seminarian.

“Each image in the chapel is now a source of prayer for me,” Menning explained. “It’s so much homier because it’s like a token of my family. The Lord doesn’t just love us generally, He loves us personally. Almost as though the Lord prepared this and placed me at SJV two hundred years later, saying, ‘I’m making these for Ethan.’ And that’s mind-blowing.”

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