The Artistic Vocation || Ingenious creators of beauty that you are…

1. None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.

That is why it seems to me that there are no better words than the text of Genesis with which to begin my Letter to you, to whom I feel closely linked by experiences reaching far back in time and which have indelibly marked my life. In writing this Letter, I intend to follow the path of the fruitful dialogue between the Church and artists which has gone on unbroken through two thousand years of history, and which still, at the threshold of the Third Millennium, offers rich promise for the future.

In fact, this dialogue is not dictated merely by historical accident or practical need, but is rooted in the very essence of both religious experience and artistic creativity.

Letter to Artists, St. John Paul II

 Captivated. Really, that’s the only way to explain how anyone could willingly pursue a life creating art, whether it be in word or picture, on canvas or screen, or across the stage. There is something about creating that captivates, that makes all the hours of agonizing over the work you’re trying to create, of being forced to confront the fact that it will never be perfect or fully match what first sparked in your imagination, worth it. If it didn’t, no-one would bother with it.

I love this letter for two reasons.

One – it points out the goodness that artists bring to the world, which is sometimes easy to forget, or even consider entirely useless. Yes, not all art is good, but that doesn’t negate the importance of artists.

Two – because then it takes that point, so obvious once you’re reminded of it, and dives under the surface until you’re left standing there, a little awestruck…and maybe a bit terrified if you happen to be pursuing an artistic vocation.

If you’ve never read St. John Paul II’s Letter to Artists, then please do so. It’s wonderful. Or, if you’d prefer it in small portions, come back here regularly as I hope to delve deeper into it. The world is starving for beauty, and this letter is nothing less than a bugle call to charge head first into the mess.


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