A Pope, on Art

Contemporary Angel Painting

As a theology grad student, I had a spirituality course on Art & Beauty/Sacred Spaces in religion.  Sight and symbol are integral features of the way humans experience meaning, connection and community on life’s journey.  As part of introducing the topic, the instructor provided this letter from Pope John Paul II to artists.  The Catholics do have a rather rich store of iconographic forms and legacy.

However, this is not necessarily the same as the kind of appreciation for beauty that already exists in the world, budding, living, dying, shifting, eroding, blooming — cycle after cycle, for an untold amount of so-called “time.”  Many human beings find sacred space in nature, and experience a sense of worshipful awe in front of figures that are entirely organic.  William Paley’s work on Natural Theology was seminal to the idea that the beauty and precision of the natural world was in fact evidence of a Creator.  Adherents to a science without creator propose that it is not necessarily so.

Albatross, Falkland Islands
Albatross, Falkland Islands

At the very least, it seems entirely reasonable to argue that whether a believer in a creator or not, one is never the worse for climbing the hilltop or considering the lilies; finding time to soak up the beauty of the world to help offset the barrage of ugly news that seems to dominate the day.

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