Beauty will save the world: Key takeaways from Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists
Being a ‘creative’ in today’s world is not easy. In a society driven by progress and self-advancement, fostering creativity or being an artist can often be overlooked as unimportant or downplayed as just a hobby.
Having been a talented artist himself, Pope John Paul II understood the role of creativity. He penned his Letter to Artists at the turn of the Third Millennium to remind us all and especially those with the desire to create, about the importance of spreading wonder.
Whether you are an artist or an admirer of beauty, here are some great takeaways to inspire you:
1) God is creator, we are craftsman
There is a clear differentiation between the two. Pope John Paul II defines the “creator” as one who brings something into being, who can turn ‘nothing’ into ‘something’. The “craftsman” on the other hand, draws from something that already exists and brings a new form or meaning.
However, artists mirror the image of God the creator and even more powerfully, God wants artists to share in His creative power.
“With loving regard, the divine Artist passes onto the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling to share in his creative power.”
2) The vocation of beauty bestowed on you
Beauty is the visible form of good, and an artist plays a special role in making this known. Just as society needs teachers, scientists, parents and workers, artistic talent is essential: it is not meant to be wasted, but called to bear fruit.
“Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation—as poet, writer, sculptor, architect, musician, actor and so on—feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole.”
3) The church needs art
The church needs art and its ability to translate the invisible into something perceptible, meaningful and attractive. Like Christ, who used imagery extensively in His preaching to bring to life the Kingdom of God.
“The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force…
The Church also needs musicians. How many sacred works have been composed through the centuries by people deeply imbued with the sense of the mystery!
The Church needs architects, because she needs spaces to bring the Christian people together and celebrate the mysteries of salvation…”
4) Society needs you, artists
As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council expressed, art is powerful in its ability to delve into the true nature of humanity and the mystery of divinity. We need artists desperately to “enter into the heart of the mystery of the Incarnate God and at the same time the mystery of man”, and to bring about beauty, because “beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence.”
“It is up to you, men and women who have given your lives to art, to declare with all the wealth of your ingenuity that in Christ the world is redeemed: the human person is redeemed, the human body is redeemed, and the whole creation which, according to Saint Paul, “awaits impatiently the revelation of the children of God” (Rom 8:19), is redeemed.”