In his 1999 “Letter to Artists,” Pope Saint John Paul II said this.
“Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.”
He then goes on to address those who are particularly gifted with artistic ability. Still, it is an important point to remember. Every person has been given a unique set of gifts, talents and abilities to accomplish a specific purpose in the world. How we use those gifts, how we develop them, nurture them, and expand upon them is up to us. Using our gifts properly is how we make our lives a masterpiece, a work of art.
The artists in the world, the creatives, the painters, musicians, architects, singers, writers, actors, poets, and all those who embrace their role as “sub-creator,” have a difficult time. We live in a world that largely does not hold to Christian values, particularly when it comes to art. Art has become a commodity, and so ubiquitous that it has become nearly invisible. We have lost the sense of purpose of the gift of artistic ability. We have wandered off the path.
Saint Paul reminds us that everyone is given some manifestation of the Holy Spirit to be used for the common good. (1Corinthians 12:7)
All of our gifts, even, or perhaps especially, the artistic gifts, are given to us for the benefit of others. You could even say that they are not gifts given to us so much as they are gifts given to others through us. As artists it is our responsibility to recognize the value and purpose of our gifts, to lift heats and minds to God, to help our brothers and sisters on their own spiritual journey, to bring hope and joy to the world.
We do this by creating works of Beauty. Works that convey in the soul that sense of longing for our true home, to be at one with God. Beauty is the vocation of artists, creating new revelations of the Divine that draw people beyond the surface to the Truth behind the image.
The great work of making our lives a masterpiece of art is a heroic journey. Like the heroes of countless stories told over the ages we embark on a spiritual journey, crossing thresholds into unknown worlds of wonder, slaying the dragons of the mind that prevent us from finding our true selves, and winning a prize beyond measure, the prize of understanding who we truly are and why we are here. And we have guides to help along the way, mentors that provide us with tools and teachers that give us wisdom, all so that we can turn around and help other discover their gifts and how to use them to discover who they truly are.
“Human beings, in a certain sense, are unknown to themselves. Jesus Christ not only reveals God, but “fully reveals man to man”. In Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself. All believers are called to bear witness to this; but it is up to you (artists), 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. The creation awaits the revelation of the children of God also through art and in art. This is your task. Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny.”