I think it was from The Crunch podcast where I first heard about St. John Paul II’s Letter to Artists. I searched for it, found the actual text and a video, so of course I clicked the video first:
And I started blubbering like a little girl. In the office.
So now I went for the full-text, loaded it into my Kindle (along with other Papal letters, exhortations and encyclicals – Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, anyone?), and started reading. For such a short piece, I think it took me weeks to go through it because I have to stop every now and then to absorb it.
None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. 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.
Story time: when I was applying for universities in college, one of my course choices in a university was Creative Writing because, well, I write. That was my second choice, because I wanted to take Computer Science, but if I didn’t get that and my first choice university.
When the results came out, I ended up passing that course, but I decided not to go for it because it’s was a Bachelor of Fine Arts course. And I can’t draw.
Not that I’m regretting my choice to go take my Computer Science course and my university (best years evaaaa). Even if I took the technical route, my path still led me to words, to communications and marketing, to using my creative side everyday, learning new creative things but with a techie touch. I still can’t draw, and while I’m handy with Adobe apps, I still consider myself more of a wordsmith than an artist. I noticed that when people refer to artists, writers aren’t always included in that list – maybe because words aren’t really pictures or moving art, even if some of the art we know now actually come from words. But yeah, in my own heart, I never counted myself as an “artist.”
And then this letter.
Mine is an invitation to rediscover the depth of the spiritual and religious dimension which has been typical of art in its noblest forms in every age. It is with this in mind that I appeal to you, artists of the written and spoken word, of the theatre and music, of the plastic arts and the most recent technologies in the field of communication. I appeal especially to you, Christian artists: I wish to remind each of you that, beyond functional considerations, the close alliance that has always existed between the Gospel and art means that you are invited to use your creative intuition to enter into the heart of the mystery of the Incarnate God and at the same time into the mystery of man.
There was something very freeing in this letter, as if it was reminding me of my call, my own “artistic vocation.” I never thought about it that way, but suddenly it’s become more important, the words that come out from me, written and spoken. And the words that I hear, consume, and take to heart.
If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know that this current work-in-progress has been taking its sweet, sweet time. I’m still working on it, and I hope I would get to write about the process it’s been taking soon. It’s a difficult book, that I could say, and this letter kind of affirmed me of why I decided to take this particular path for this one, and why, whenever I try to change it to go the easy way, I end up not writing a single word because it wasn’t what my heart believes to be true.
Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation—as poet, writer, sculptor, architect, musician, actor and so on—feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole.
I’ve loved St. John Paul II since I was a kid, even if I didn’t see him when he went to the Philippines in 1995. He’s always taking care of me – bringing me to Europe for WYD 2011, comforting me when I had my heart broken, reminding me to not be afraid, and even this, urging me to follow the call to “Give the world to tell His story” that has been placed in my heart using what the language of my soul: words. After all the stories I’ve read and heard of people following their vocation because of JP2, I’m not surprised that he’s doing it to me as well.
…it is up to you, men and women who have given your lives to art, to declare with all the wealth of your ingenuity that in Christ the world is redeemed: the human person is redeemed, the human body is redeemed, and the whole creation which, according to Saint Paul, “awaits impatiently the revelation of the children of God” (Rom8:19), is redeemed.