Just because I see you in Church doesn’t mean I am going to hire you as my accountant. I might think you are a holy person, but what I need is a really good accountant.
The same goes for the arts. Just because I go to Mass doesn’t mean my music is necessarily good. You might be good and virtuous, but the meaning of the word “good” in the arts and other disciplines is something altogether different.
Each thing is good only insofar as it serves its end purpose. A chair is only good if it gives you a stable surface on which to sit. If you want your art, music, or writing to be good you have to practice and refine your skills.
Here are a few resources that I have found to be helpful in aligning my music and writing to the Church so that I can attempt to simultaneously work on my craft while communicating something good, true and beautiful.
Art and Scholasticism by Jacques Maritain
This is a great little read on the philosophy of art by the Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain. It can be found on the Notre Dame website here:
Maritain discusses in depth what I briefly mention above—that there is a difference between being good and making good, each having its own end goal. He elaborates on the idea of art as an intellectual virtue and the meaning of the phrase “Christian art.” My favorite excerpt from this is:
“If you want to make a Christian work, then be Christian, and simply try to make a beautiful work, into which your heart will pass; do not try to “make Christian.”
JPII’s Letter to Artists
This is one of the most important pieces of reading for any aspiring Catholic artist. John Paul II affirms the distinction mentioned above when he describes the vocation of artist:
It is important to recognize the distinction, but also the connection, between these two aspects of human activity. The distinction is clear. It is one thing for human beings to be the authors of their own acts, with responsibility for their moral value; it is another to be an artist, able, that is, to respond to the demands of art and faithfully to accept art’s specific dictates.(2) This is what makes the artist capable of producing objects, but it says nothing as yet of his moral character. We are speaking not of moulding oneself, of forming one’s own personality, but simply of actualizing one’s productive capacities, giving aesthetic form to ideas conceived in the mind.
You can find the whole text on the Vatican’s website here:
Please, please, please read it.
The Glen Workshop
Each year there are two workshops led by the fine folks who bring you the Image Journal, a quarterly arts journal whose tag line is “Art, Faith, Mystery.” Each of these workshops is known as the Glen Workshop, one in the West and one in the East.
For years I had wanted to attend, and finally last year I saved up the money, blocked off the time, and headed to Santa Fe for one of the most artistically fruitful weeks of my life.
This is not a Catholics-only event. It is ecumenical in nature, and there are many artists there from the Orthodox and Protestant traditions. There are daily lectures and breakout sessions in poetry, spiritual writing, film, songwriting, painting, and photography.
This one is a resource specifically for aspiring Catholic musicians and people concerned with the authenticity of Christian music in general. Mysterium is a record label of sorts, perhaps more like a live music and recorded music production company. Based in Nashville, TN, the center of the music publishing world, especially contemporary Christian music, Mysterium is trying to find and promote musicians who are both good at their craft and who love the Church.
I participated in one of their concerts, Love Come Alive, in 2011 which was a promotional event for 40 Days of Life.
John Paul The Great Catholic University
I must admit before I continue that I have never been to the campus of JP Catholic. But from afar I have admired their mission as a school to train its students in the media arts as creators and entrepreneurs. There aren’t too many places where you can get an MA in Catholic theology as well as an MBA in film producing. Pretty cool.
Located in San Diego, Southern California, the belly of the beast, they are a great resource for anyone who is seriously interested in the business of the arts and entertainment as a way to serve the Church.
Learn more at http://www.jpcatholic.com.
Do you know of any more resources for Catholic artists? If so, please reply below.