Not all forms of communication are verbal or purely journalistic or sent via social media. A wonderful world of communication is found in art and beauty. We need to spend time on this form of communication as part of any tour through Church wisdom on communication. Saint Pope John Paul II issued his Letter to Artistsin 1999.
John Paul was a mystic who climbed mountains and enjoyed the beauty of creation. He appreciated beauty on a panoramic scale. He had also been a poet, playwright, and actor. He was writing to his fellow artists.
Beauty and goodness are intertwined, the Holy Father said in this important document. Artists are captivated by the hidden power of sounds, colors, shapes, and their reflection of the glory of God. One important point about art of all sorts: God is the Creator. We do not create out of nothing, but we build from what God has already created. Artists cannot bring something out of nothing. The craftsman uses something that exists and gives it form and meaning. Artists participate in this as “sub-creation,” as J. R. R. Tolkien described it.
All art and communication require a sense of humility. We are dealing with something bigger than ourselves. We are copying, learning, listening. The creative person must be a good observer.
From paragraph 2: The special vocation of the artist. Artists must work within the rules and dictates of art and the chosen medium. The medium chosen is an expression of their inner soul.
From paragraph 3: One’s artistic vocation is in the service of beauty, in response to the divine spark. One must develop this sense of service and respect if they feel that spark. Art must honor the dignity of the individual and that individual’s reflection of the Spirit communicating through his or her unique talent and character.
From paragraph 4: Society needs artists. Our artists reflect who we are as a people. They may be pulling or pushing from the edges of society. “Edgy” or not, there still is a requirement for lines and limits that establish framework and cohesion. Artists challenge us to be mindful of the perspectives they bring us from the margins of the society and the status quo.
The Church pays attention to communication partly because it realizes its messages in many forms have an impact beyond the current moment. Communication is going to have ripple effects that need to be thought out. Need consciousness of the context—not just the words, but the effect of those words upon others. Communication is serious business, but the beauty of great artistic communication is meant to lift us up or surprise us.