I was a very shy child.
So shy, I think most people hardly realized I could speak, let alone thought there was any value in me doing that. My thoughts, dreams, feelings, and observations were hidden away, locked behind fears and anxieties. It wasn’t until I found theater, that I was able to give voice to my interior life by acting out the words and stories of playwrights. It was freeing. I could speak, I found community, and was able to share the spirit and unique insight I had within me, with the world. My life since has been devoted to the arts in one way or another. I’ve developed or implemented art programs for years and now serve as the co-chair of the Before Gethsemane Initiative Arts Committee.
Pope John Paul II wrote in his 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.” Artists can reveal to us the nature, character, and mystery of God. They are blessed to share in the work of creation and make tangible in the world (through visual art, music, media, and writing) what we know to be true but can not yet see, or are not willing to see. In this way, art can also be a powerful tool for bringing about racial harmony and reconciliation in the church and in the world. If we simply look at the facts of the world, the current news, it is easy to become overwhelmed and despondent with the polarization, pain, and mistrust displayed and to focus only on how we are different and fractured. But through our hopeful, faith-filled imagination we can visualize something better, something more; peace, union with God, eternal life, freedom from death and sin, deliverance from racism. Through the hands of artists, we can begin to see, feel, hear, and understand more deeply what the fulfillment of these truths could be like.
At the end of his letter, Pope John Paul states, “Artists of the world, may your many different paths all lead to that infinite ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy.” I think it is time for an artistic revival in the Catholic Church. One that takes this current moment of division, misunderstanding, and mistrust and calls into being the truths of our faith. An artistic revival that sheds light on the wounds of racism and provides us with a vision that can heal, redeem, sanctify, and unify our communities and our Church.