Part II of 2013 repost on culture and holiness:
A last thought. Among the nearly infinite variety of cultural expressions native to human beings, the Church has always placed a special emphasis on the arts. Pope St. John Paul II, who himself was a talented artist, wrote a beautiful letter to artists in 1999. In that letter he said,
My hope for all of you who are artists is that you will have an especially intense experience of creative inspiration. May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder! Faced with the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude.
People of today and tomorrow need [your] enthusiasm if they are to meet and master the crucial challenges which stand before us. Thanks to this enthusiasm, humanity, every time it loses its way, will be able to lift itself up and set out again on the right path. In this sense it has been said with profound insight that “beauty will save the world”.
Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savour life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: “Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!”.(26)
Artists of the world, may your many different paths all lead to that infinite Ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy.
May you be guided and inspired by the mystery of the Risen Christ, whom the Church in these days contemplates with joy.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always: she is the “All-Beautiful,” portrayed by countless artists, whom Dante contemplates among the splendors of Paradise as “beauty that was joy in the eyes of all the other saints”.
“From chaos there rises the world of the spirit”. These words of Adam Mickiewicz, written at a time of great hardship for his Polish homeland, prompt my hope for you: may your art help to affirm that true beauty which, as a glimmer of the Spirit of God, will transfigure matter, opening the human soul to the sense of the eternal.
Is that not the true soul of the lay saint? Called to “transfigure matter, opening the human soul to the sense of the eternal.” We laity are iconographers of culture, co-creating with Christ a civilization writ beautiful by the coming of God’s Kingdom in and through us;
a Kingdom of truth and life,
a Kingdom of holiness and grace,
a Kingdom of justice, love, and peace.
Let me leave you with a 3-minute video featuring young artists reading selections from the Pope’s Letter to Artists. May his intercession raise up a laity who will, as Jim Keating once said, “suffer well” the dismissal rite: Ite, missa est, “Go, be sent.”