It takes virtue to do virtuous things. Indeed, it takes virtue to even recognize virtue or to recognize its opposite. And if you possess this virtue, this grace — this natural penchant for the supernatural, this healthy sense of beauty, you will see, know, feel, and do things of which the rest are simply incapable.
Fr. Anthony J. Brankin
Cultivating a relationship with the Artist // Praying through Art
We all long to be virtuous. We all long for beauty, to be beautiful from the inside out. How can we create this within our lives of busy car trips, school and family demands, in a world that looks bleak and often offers nothing hopeful or promising? I deeply believe we need a return of beauty in all things. From fashion, films, and music, to architecture, food and personal graces. We need to become cultivators of the divine. We need to seek out the glorious that allows us to pray with our eyes, heart and soul.
Having a deep background as an artist and art educator, I find no separation between my Catholic faith and the creative. I simply cannot imagine one without the other. Art and music has been what has anchored me and given voice to my prayers. I have been able to cry out to God as I passionately created bold strokes of pain across a paper. It was through art that I have been brought to my knees by Christ’s crucifixion through the Pieta, as Mary enfolds her beloved sons crushed body. What she might have felt was made real through the touch and passion of an artist. It was while experiencing the dust on my shoes on the Appian Way that I came to fully realize what the Early Christians actually did for us today to be thriving Catholics. It was because a composer put their heart and soul into a splendid piece of music that I was I able to embrace my Dad’s passing and slowly begin to heal.
It’s not enough to just look at a piece or hear it. You have to experience the artwork, the music; you have to be transformed. Your senses have to be engaged. Like with God, to enjoy art you have to be in relationship with it. You have to spend time in its company, so you can come to know it. Where there is a relationship of beauty, there is goodness and ultimately you find God.
While technology often gets a bad rap it can be truly a lifesaver and an extraordinary means to help cultivate our withering hearts, if you know where to look. Today take the time for yourself and enjoy a virtual walk through the Vatican Museums. For many who haven’t been fortunate to get to Rome; these virtual tours and videos do not disappoint. While many shutter at the treasures the Vatican holds, I see it differently. I see it as a family tree connecting me to Jesus. I can see pieces of early Christian life leading me to the glories of the Sistine Chapel. I see the beauty once created to glorify our Lord and God. I can share in this beautiful legacy today by committing to a world of beauty, while rejecting the ugly and cold.
If the Vatican Museum wets your appetite and you long to dive deeper, move to the YouTube video by Sister Wendy Beckett, entitled Sr. Wendy’s Saints. She will lyrically and so gracefully usher you into the splendor of art made possible by our Catholic Faith. You will be captivated by perhaps one piece or many. When something strikes you STOP, SLOW DOWN SPEND TIME with the work. Come to understand its why’s and how’s and perhaps it’s who’s. Then reflect on how God is speaking to you. How is he trying to draw you closer? Are you being moved to tears? If so allow it to be and allow those tears to water the seeds for continued beauty. For when you find true beauty, undeniable beauty, you will find God waiting. Look for Him; He is waiting to lead you to authentic beauty, to His Sacred Heart.
Sister Wendy’s Saints