Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists

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Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to artists, which I knew about but hadn’t read till recently.

I feel like he has read my mind–or he simply put into words what I’ve felt all this time when practicing my craft. He is taking seriously the concept of art used to glorify God. He acknowledges the duty which the Lord has given us creatives, sharing the vision I’ve always had, or maybe I share his: We are, after all, one body.

In the opening paragraph, the Pope wrote:

A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.

The video these students have put together filled me with so much joy. You can see the light in their eyes as they pass on the Pope’s message. You can see the passion of the artist as they recite each word–and I felt happiest when they mentioned writers. When someone says artist they are usually referring to the visual arts. I haven’t met a lot of people who in general attribute the word to every art medium.

I’ve always seen it as, since we’re made in God’s image, we have a creator’s instinct inside of us. Of course we can’t pull things out of a void and create them in midair–we need pencils, paper, the tools with which to make them. The Pope wrote this in his letter:

God therefore called man into existence, committing to him the craftsman’s task. Through his “artistic creativity” man appears more than ever “in the image of God”, and he accomplishes this task above all in shaping the wondrous “material” of his own humanity and then exercising creative dominion over the universe which surrounds him. With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power.

This letter puts me at rest with the truth: Art and storytelling are needed in this world.

Society needs artists, just as it needs scientists, technicians, workers, professional people, witnesses of the faith, teachers, fathers and mothers, who ensure the growth of the person and the development of the community by means of that supreme art form which is “the art of education”. Within the vast cultural panorama of each nation, artists have their unique place. Obedient to their inspiration in creating works both worthwhile and beautiful, they not only enrich the cultural heritage of each nation and of all humanity, but they also render an exceptional social service in favour of the common good.

It isn’t a very long letter, and I think everyone should read it–or else I’ll end up quoting it all here. This world tends to be difficult for artists, because everything seems to favor the computerized and digital. Trust me when I say that creativity feeds the soul more than we’ll see immediately.

Keep doing what God has called you to do, and give it all your passion–art time can be prayer time.

This video made me cry joyful tears. I urge you to watch it–a truly beautiful piece.

Mariella Hunt

Mariella Hunt

Mariella Hunt is 20 years old and lives in the Treasure Valley. She writes fiction and reflections on the Catholic faith. In 2014, she is self-publishing an anthology of short stories and a Young Adult novel, Dissonance. A practicing Catholic, she is actively involved in the New Evangelization. She’s an associate editor for Catholic websites Ignitum Today and Catholic Lane, and is a book reviewer for Catholic Fiction. Recently she has also started a vlog for the New Catholic Generation video movement.

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2 thoughts on “Pope John Paul II’s <I>Letter to Artists</i>”

  1. Pingback: Online text and video: “Letter to Artists”, by Pope St. John Paul II | Catholic eBooks Project

  2. Pingback: Online text: “The Liturgical and Theological Aesthetics of Pope Benedict XVI”, by Roland Millare | Catholic eBooks Project

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