On another note, I learned this week that my Angelus column, which I excerpt here usually each Friday, was just awarded, for the third year in a row, First Place for Best Weekly column on Arts, Culture, Leisure and Food by the Catholic Media Association.
Of course I’m honored, humbled and thrilled–though I do get a laugh out of the fact that Arts and Culture is lumped with Leisure (!) and Food. That says a lot about the regard, or lack thereof, in which the American Church holds literature, music, painting, dance…and by extension, the vocation of the artist.
Here’s JPII’s 1999 “Letter to Artists”: well worth reading.
The particular vocation of individual artists decides the arena in which they serve and points as well to the tasks they must assume, the hard work they must endure and the responsibility they must accept. Artists who are conscious of all this know too that they must labour without allowing themselves to be driven by the search for empty glory or the craving for cheap popularity, and still less by the calculation of some possible profit for themselves. There is therefore an ethic, even a “spirituality” of artistic service, which contributes in its way to the life and renewal of a people. It is precisely this to which Cyprian Norwid seems to allude in declaring that “beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up”.
I love that Pope John Paul II right off the bat referenced a Polish Romantic poet (1821-1883) (“The Sphinx,” “Narcissus,” “Chopin’s Piano,” “Tell Her–What?”)
I’d never heard of him. From wiki: “Norwid led a tragic and often poverty-stricken life (once he had to live in a cemetery crypt). He experienced increasing health problems, unrequited love, harsh critical reviews, and increasing social isolation. He lived abroad most of his life, especially in London and, in Paris where he died.”
A cemetery crypt? I would love to have chatted with him.
4 Replies to “CHAT ROOM”
I love the comments by POPE JP11 about the artists. The artists edify us and help us transcend this mortal coil as did POPE JP the Gerat!!
Yes. Diana!! To be faithful to our vocation as artists (or any vocation) is its own form of “activism.” Here’s another excerpt from the “Letter to Artists:”
“Every genuine artistic intuition goes beyond what the senses perceive and, reaching beneath reality’s surface, strives to interpret its hidden mystery. The intuition itself springs from the depths of the human soul, where the desire to give meaning to one’s own life is joined by the fleeting vision of beauty and of the mysterious unity of things. All artists experience the unbridgeable gap which lies between the work of their hands, however successful it may be, and the dazzling perfection of the beauty glimpsed in the ardour of the creative moment: what they manage to express in their painting, their sculpting, their creating is no more than a glimmer of the splendour which flared for a moment before the eyes of their spirit.
Believers find nothing strange in this: they know that they have had a momentary glimpse of the abyss of light which has its original wellspring in God. Is it in any way surprising that this leaves the spirit overwhelmed as it were, so that it can only stammer in reply? True artists above all are ready to acknowledge their limits and to make their own the words of the Apostle Paul, according to whom “God does not dwell in shrines made by human hands” so that “we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold or silver or stone, a representation by human art and imagination” (Acts 17:24, 29). If the intimate reality of things is always “beyond” the powers of human perception, how much more so is God in the depths of his unfathomable mystery!
Thank you for sharing this lovely conversation and introducing me/us to Ron Zito and his work. I am moved by how he sees–and paints–the sacredness found in abandoned objects, rooms and even landscapes. I actually said “YES!” out loud when you made the connection to Flannery O’Connor. I’ve recently been immersing myself in her work and that “incarnational” element seems kindred to Zito’s work IMHO. The phrase “contemplative realism” also came to mind as I just finished reading Joshua Hren’s Contemplative Realism: A Theoogical Aesthetical Manifesto (Benedict XVI Institute, 2022).
Thank you also for including JPII’s “Letter to Artists.” It is a beautiful reminder of the “work” (not leisure, lol!) before us.
Theresa, I’m so glad you responded as I did to Ron and his work…right, SO not a life of leisure. Not that there’s anything wrong with leisure. But the notion that the vocation of the artist is a kind of la-di-dah hobby…no indeed! I know of Joshua Hren through Dappled Things…will try to check out this new book, Contemplative Realism. Spounds intriguing and thanks so much for sharing–