Love Your Neighbor Lifting up the arts

Posted on October 21, 2019


“Beauty,” said Fr. Michael Burbeck, “is like a love note from God.” It was the beauty of Renaissance sacred art that led him to God, the Catholic Church, and his ministry. Like many young students, he took a trip to Europe, envisioning a kind of grand tour, in 2002. Though he wasn’t Catholic, he visited churches and cathedrals, drawn to the beauty and power of sacred works of art.

“Pope Emeritus Benedict said that beauty is like an arrow that wounds the heart and then truth enters through that opening. That’s my experience,” Fr. Burbeck said. “It was beauty that opened me, and then once I was open, God came in.”

With a firm belief in the evangelizing power of art, in 2017 Fr. Burbeck, by then a priest and the pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in North Carolina, founded the nonprofit John Paul II Foundation for the Sacred Arts to help fund contemporary artists whose work has the power to touch souls.

His is a moving, affirming, and inspiring story, but it’s not unique. Catholic nonprofit organizations around the country are supporting artists, building community through creativity, and harnessing the power of art. In painting, sculpture, music, the written word, theater, and more, today’s Catholic artists are using their talents for God, and organizations large and small are backing them and their output.

“The Church needs art,” wrote St. John Paul II in his 1999 Letter to Artists.

Musicians and composers lead voices. Writers and poets pen stories that open hearts. Painters and sculptors create images that give sacred mysteries a palpable presence. Architects build chapels, churches, and cathedrals. At the same time, artists need the Church.

Artists are constantly in search of the hidden meaning of things. … Is it not perhaps within the realm of religion that the most vital personal questions are posed, and answers both concrete and definitive are sought? (Letter to Artists, 13)

On a practical level, artists also need to make a living. They need spaces to create and present their work. They need audiences. Catholic Digest looks at three nonprofit organizations — one small, one medium, and one large; one in a rural community, one in a small city, and one in the heart of New York — to see how they help make sure beautiful messages from God are delivered.


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