Built of Living Stones 150: The Artist Within the Christian Community

Sections 150 through 154 address artists and their relationship with the faithful. The US Bishops owe much of this discussion to Pope John Paul II.

§ 150 § When artists are called upon to serve the Christian community, there is an “ethic,” a “spirituality of artistic service.”(Letter To Artists 4)  Breadth of imagination enables artists to communicate deep meaning and powerful religious sentiment with grace and sensitivity. This gift from God is combined with refined educated talents that execute elegantly crafted objects for the good of the community and the glory of God. Like the gift of prophecy, religious imagination is a power through which the Holy Spirit can move and speak. As a result, artists do not always confirm comfortable piety but, like the prophets of old, they may confront God’s People with their faults and sins and they challenge the community’s injustice and lack of love. “Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption.”(Letter To Artists 10)

So we are told that good art isn’t about good feelings and comfort. One contemporary challenge, at least in the West, and particularly in the US, is that when a messenger bears bad news, they are often themselves blamed for it, or accused of being collaborators. So if an artistic piece does not inspire or assist “comfortable piety” then the artist may be accused of lacking piety. Like prophets, artists may find rejection–the dark side of confronting faults and sin.

Whenever I read passages like this, I wonder about the applicability to music. This isn’t a musical document, but Pope John Paul II’s vision certainly included musicians among his artists.

Your thoughts?

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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