Why Do the Arts Matter in the Church?
It cannot be denied that we live in a time of violence, persecution, and hardship for many people around the world, including our Christian brothers and sisters. In the face of trials like these, it may seem frivolous or even foolish to focus on the arts. Yet, for centuries, religious leaders in the Church as well as laypeople have agreed on the importance of valuing the arts. What keeps bringing us back to this idea, even in the face of great trials?
In 2013, Pope Francis said,
“In every age the Church has called upon the arts to give expression to the beauty of her faith and to proclaim the Gospel message of the grandeur of God’s creation, the dignity of human beings made in his image and likeness, and the power of Christ’s death and resurrection to bring redemption and rebirth to a world touched by the tragedy of sin and death.”
Artists, then, have no small task in the Church. In the face of evil, it is their job to spread the Good News through their chosen medium to help others understand Christ’s triumph over evil.
Catholic art can take a number of different forms, as it has since the earliest days of the Church. Over the centuries, Catholic artists have created paintings, composed musical pieces, built churches, written novels and poetry, and performed theatre and dance to glorify God. We see evidence of this in the Mass, from the beautiful buildings we enter, to the statues of the saints in the church, to the music sung by the choir. Unlike the celebrity culture of the present, this art aims to give glory to God, not to the artist. Catholic art recognizes that God, as Creator, is the Divine Artist, and any art that we as His creatures make can bring us closer to Him. As Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium, “Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus.”
If art is a path to Jesus, it can never be frivolous or foolish. Rather, it is something to be cherished, to be grateful for. Even if we ourselves are not artists, we can participate by appreciating the beauty of the arts or encouraging artists to continue seeking God rather than their own aim.
In addition to helping us to hope in God during times of struggle, the arts offer a unique way to live the New Evangelization. St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all highlighted the importance of the New Evangelization, and creating good, faithful art, especially in the new media of the modern age, is a great opportunity to answer that call. Here at CatholicTV, we do it by prayerfully bringing you programming focused on the faith. Whether you are a creator of art or a consumer, try to think about the ways in which the arts bring you closer to God.