Sunday, July 15, 2012

Art and Being Catholic

One thing I like about being Catholic is that it's easy to say "I'm Catholic," without uttering a word. For example, I've worn a crucifix during Lent - and fairly often during the rest of the year. (July 13, 2010)

On the other hand, some folks who aren't Catholic wear a crucifix.

As I recall, a rock musician used an oversize crucifix as part of his costume. I don't like seeing an image of my Lord used that way: but by today's standards, it's not all that offensive.

Anyway, I suppose someone could see me wearing a crucifix and assume that I'm in a rock band, or maybe a groupie.

That's not likely, considering the way I look: but it could happen.

My home has a crucifix, or some obviously-Catholic art, on the wall in just about every room. It's a reminder to us of what we believe. What we have isn't the Sistine Chapel - not even close. But it's not 'Jesus junk' either, and I've been over that before. (August 9, 2010)

"...A Distinctly Human Form of Expression"

Catholic Churches generally don't display the blank-white-walls style of interior decorating. The Church is okay with art, partly because "art is a distinctively human form of expression:"
"...Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man's own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill,295 to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God's activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man.296"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2501)
Art is okay: an artist at work can have "...a certain likeness to God's activity...." And no, I'm not 'divinizing' artists or art. I'll get back to that. 'Art for art's sake' is out, but the Church is okay with art and artists. (Catechism, 2500-2503)

Sacred art, the sort of thing I see when I go to the parish church, isn't just 'eye candy:'
"...Genuine sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God, Creator and Savior, the Holy One and Sanctifier."
(Catechism, 2502)

The Other Side of the Store

I stopped in at Hidden Treasure, one of the shops in town that have been selling Spiral Light Candle products. 'Spiral Light' is my son-in-law's company, and I've written about that before. (August 2, 2011)

What you see, coming in by either the front or back entrance, is the north half of Hidden Treasure. That's where they have a nice selection of 'gift' stuff, including those candles. Walking past the cash register, and down a step, puts you in the south half of the store, where the 'Catholic' stuff is.

Like I said, it's easy to say "I'm Catholic," without saying anything. After two millennia, Catholic culture has developed a rich supply of symbols and art.


Hidden Treasure: Cards, gifts, and books. July 11, 2012.

Those crosses on the wall are an example. From this angle, all you're likely to see is the basic shape of the cross. Get closer, and there's more detail. I'd show you - but I didn't think to take a picture from that angle. Maybe I'll remember to do that another day. Or, not.

Moving on.

Statues, Carvings, and Assumptions


Also statues. Lots of statues July 11, 2012.

Someone told me that when he was telling a non-Catholic American about three-dimensional representations of a person, he used the word "carving." Apparently "statues" with a religious subject were supposed to be a sort of idolatry: but if he called the statue a "carving," it was okay.

I like being an American, and think my native culture has its good points. But there's room for improvement.

Prayer Cards, Bible Songs


Prayer cards, 'getting to know the Bible' books, and all that. July 11, 2012.

Prayer cards are often about the size of a credit card, or a bit larger. They've got a picture on one side, that relates to the prayer that's printed on the back. I think they're good devotional aids. Most of the ones I've seen have pretty good art on the front. A few: not so much, and I've written about that before, too. (November 29, 2010)

That 'Bible songs' book is one of many we use to help kids get acquainted with Sacred Scripture. The Bible is a big deal for Catholics, or should be:
"The Church 'forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful . . . to learn "the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ," by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." ' 112"
(Catechism, 131)

Idolatry, Worship, and Freedom

Idolatry isn't just worshiping some 'graven image.' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2097, 2112-2114, 2534) Idolatry is treating anything that's not God as if it is a god:
"...Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc...."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2113)
A problem with idolatry, as I see it, is that it twists worship around. Worship is fine: it's a built-in feature of humanity. But we're supposed to worship God, not the 'almighty buck,' a 'perfect' body, or whatever.
"...The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2097)
There's something to the stereotype that Catholicism has acres of rules. But they all boil down to 'Love God, love your neighbor,' and 'everybody's our neighbor.' (Matthew 5:43-44, 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:25-27, 10:29-37; Catechism, 1822, 1825)

'Love God, love your neighbor, and see everyone as your neighbor' is simple enough to remember. Doing it is another matter. I think those simple principles are important because my Lord said so - and that's another topic. (March 11, 2012)

Somewhat-related posts:

2 comments:

Sharon Houk Tellez said...

Thank you for sharing your careful thoughts. I appreciate your point of view. Also, I looked at the spiral candles. Very cool!

Brian Gill said...

Sharon Houk Tellez,

My pleasure: and "careful thoughts" is a phrase I don't remember being used before to describe what I right. Thank you!

Also, thanks for the good words about Spiral Light candles.

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