Integrating our faith with our art is an important part of our role as Christian artists, as proposed by Pope Benedict and Blessed John Paul II (cf. Letter to Artists, #10). Lately, I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about the perspective of faith in my own life. Faith and art can be mutually enriching, how can I bring a perspective of faith to everything I do (and write)? And how does my writing enrich my faith? I thought I’d begin by expressing some musings on faith as I’m living it in these days.
Discovering God in Other People: Tonight I will be hosting our Faith & Film Night on the theme of the Ninth Commandment. The film that we are showing is a devastating portrayal of the consequences of giving in to lust–of seeing other people solely as things to gratify to our own needs. American Beauty is a disturbing film because of all the moral lines it crosses, but to me, the foundation of all the dysfunction and tragedy is the attitude each character has towards other people. I think we’re in for a profound dialogue tonight.
Viewing each person as a mystery and a gift is the perspective of faith I try to nurture, by: listening to others, seeing beyond the surface, going beyond my own self-centeredness, finding ways to identify with or connect somehow with each person.
Discovering God in Nature: Spring has awakened so quickly that I am still happily surprised when I step out the door to go to Mass and don’t need to take a jacket. The heart-warming colors of spring carpet the grays and browns of winter. I’ve noticed for years now that I make my best retreats when I’m able to spend most of the day out of doors, praying. For me, connecting with God in nature is highly intuitive, and requires little faith. The only nurturing it requires is to make the time to get away from the hubbub of the city.
Discovering God’s Will: This year, Daughters of St. Paul the world over are meditating on our rule of life (Constitutions). I’ve been struck by a fundamental insight of our Founder that I had never really thought much about: that the vows are concrete helps to radically living the theological virtues–obedience leads to faith, poverty to hope, and chastity to love. Religious sisters, brothers, or priests believe that God reveals his will for us not just through the ordinary ways he reveals his will to others (the Word of God, prayer, the Church, the circumstances we find ourselves in, our desires and gifts, etc.), but also specifically through our superiors. (Of course, matters contrary to conscience, or sin, are excepted.)
I’m guessing that not just religious, but most Christians are called at times to radical obedience and radical faith. However, I suspect that religious are called to to this more often.
Because other people–superiors included–are so human, it can be hard to believe that God is actually directing us through them. Obedience to God under the guise of a person in personal matters–such as where I will live or what kind of work I will do–can feel counter-intuitive. This kind of radical obedience requires radical faith–like that of Abraham who left behind everything he knew to go and search for the land God promised him.
Discovering God’s Closeness: The sacraments, in which God tangibly makes his presence felt and shares his very life with us, are tremendous gifts. Yesterday at Mass, I was sitting at a ninety-degree angle to the altar. When Father raised the host at the consecration, all I could see was a thin white sliver. How fragile the sacred sign–and yet how life-giving! Only faith allows us to “see” the omnipotent God in a fragile wafer.
Faith gives us the possibility of seeing God in a world where God can seem invisible and intangible. What a tremendous gift to be prayed for and to nurture, and what a unique perspective that we as Christian artists can bring to our art.