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October 16, 1987     The Message
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October 16, 1987

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Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville, October 16, 1987 3 i Faith Today * Page 3 g77 by Oxmoor House, Inc. Reproduced with permission, :he clay rth ' lea ,., pie commonly ask: "Why are the popes and the church so in- terJted in all kinds of art, not just religious art?" I can answer that question, as I did for him, by telling a story. A few years back I was invited to the studio of an artist I had met. She was a sculptor and w,s working then on a rectangular, brightly colored ceramic relief of a prophet. She was designing it for the altar wall of a local church. The l O-foot clay sculpture with raised features and flowing robes had been cut into 1-foot square tiles for glazing and firing. Nearly completed when I saw it, the tiles wcrc being reassembled on a large table like giant picces in a jigsaw puzzle. I was looking at the sculpted face with its stern black eyes and flowing beard and started to move my hand above it as it rested on the table. Then I drew back, lest I do something 1 shouldn't. "Go ahead," my friend said laughing. "It's as solid as a plat- ter. Besides," she added, "sculptures have to be touched to be appreciated. I molded it with my hands and I like people to 'look' with their hands." I ran my fingers along the features and commented that it must be a thrill to create something like this. "It's more than a thrill," she said. "For me it's a religious experience." She must have seen some glim- mer of surprise or questioning because she went on to give me a biblical lesson connecting the ar- tist's work with God's creativity. "Think back to the Book of Genesis," she said. "How did God make Adam?" I knew, of course, that God fashioned Adam "from the clay of the earth." As I was speaking she almost magically fashioned a primitive looking man from a small mass of red clay she picked off a battered work table near the wall. Then, with more care, she began to sharpen the expression in his eyes and on his face. "We artists make figures," she said, "but our real art is in having the deepest in the human spirit shine through the clay or the marble or the oil." "Do you remember the pro- logue to the Gospel of St. John?" she asked me. '"The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and we saw his glory.' "That's my work as a sculptor. To create human flesh out of clay in a way that allows the glory of God to shine through," she con- tinued. "It doesn't have to be a religious subject. But whatever I create, you have to see the humanity." I recalled this story for my friend who wondered at the pre- Christian art and some of the modern, abstract art in the Vatican's art collection andits connection with religion. "Art is not just an illustration for teaching religion Or the Bible," I told him. "More impor- tant, art is an attempt to portray what goes on inside us, to make the struggles of the human spirit visible and to put us in touch with what is best in us." (Father O'Rourke is on the staff of the Family Life Office in the Diocese of Oakland, Calif.) .FOOD FOR THOUGHT Artists are among those who express the taitb of God's people. Works of art constitute one of the "languages" of faith -- a faith which reaches not only into the mind, but into the heart. Through their creative endeavors, artists express faith and draw the human spirit more deeply into faith. Their work is a reminder that because of its poetic aspect, faith stirs when the spirit soars. *You can know and understand things through art sometimes better than through the written word, David Ramsey tells Katharine Bird. What do you think he means? *Artists generally are recognized as creative people. But all people are creative in some ways. What are some of these ways? Can the Spirit of God shine through the creativity of people like you, as it does through the creativity of artists? *Are there ways for you to bring your creativity to bear it) drawing those in your home more deeply into faith. How? -o-.o.-o.-o- Second Helpings, The church speaks in stories, symbols and through its rituals. These reflect the poetic and creative aspects of the church, writes Gertrud Mueller Nelson in To Dance With God: Fmily RituM and Communi- ty Celebration. The church, she says, "celebrates our cycles and seasons, inviting us to see and engage and feel and touch and be aware and grow and be transformed." She adds: "In its creative function, the church speaks directly to the heart, a heart which hears symbols." In this book the author provides useful suggestions for families and communities who want to celebrate the great seasons and feasts of the church year. Her suggestions include simple crafts that help bring out the significance of a special day or feast. Many ideas for family observances at special times of the year are included, for example ways to foster home customs h)r St. Nicholas Day Dec. 6, and how to set up an Easter breakfast table that is "a feast for the eyes." (Paulist Press, 997 Macarthur Blvd., Mahwah, N.J. 07430. 1986. Paper- back, $9.95.) Your Will Can Be A Prayer Your Last Will and Testament can be more than a legal document. It offers an opportunity for serious reflection and prayer -- a holy process of putting all things in order. That's because writing a will requires more than a mere listing of posses- sions. It's also a time to review the feel- ings you have for your family, frfends and the Church. Doesn't it make sense The Cathohc Church EXTENSION Soc,ety Dear Father Slattery: [] Please send me Extension's free will planning kit. Rev./Sr./Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms; Address that such an important document be an extension of your faith? Your will then becomes a statement of your belief in God and His Church. Extension's latest will planning booklet, "Your Will Can Be a Prayer," offers suggestions on how you can make the drafting of your will a simple spiritual exercise. Write today for a free copy. FT 0935 City Blrthdate __ State Zip __/__/__ Telephone { ) This mformatton wdl be kept strictly confidential. 55