Blessed Pope John Paul II and the beauty of the arts


“Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation:

to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.”

—Blessed Pope John Paul II


 Pope Benedict XVI is seen here in Wadowice, Poland, with a painting of Pope John Paul II, May 27, 2006

Photo by Petr David Josek, AP


Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Blessed Pope John Paul II who was inaugurated on this date in 1978 as the 264th Vicar of Christ. He served the Church in this capacity for almost 28 years. We await with glad anticipation his canonization this upcoming Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014.

Last month I shared my joy when the date of his canonization was announced by Pope Francis. Read my reflections here.

The future Holy Father loved literature, poetry, and the theatre. He performed with a theatre troupe when he was a young man.



His love for the Arts was made evident in his beautiful 1999 Easter Sunday “Letter to Artists” which he addresses:  

“To all who are passionately dedicated to the search for new “epiphanies” of beauty so that through their creative work

as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world.”


Letter to Artists: 

In his introduction “The artist, image of God the Creator” the late Holy Father connects the artist to our Heavenly Father.

Enjoy some of his rich quotes from this letter: they read like artwork. 

“None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.”

His Holiness speaks of the need for art by the Church:

“Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery.”



Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden at the Baltimore Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Sculpted by Joseph Sheppard, this statue was based on a photograph taken of the late Holy Father with two children from his October 1995 Papal Visit to Baltimore.

The Church also needs musicians: 

“How many sacred works have been composed through the centuries by people deeply imbued with the sense of the mystery! The faith of countless believers has been nourished by melodies flowing from the hearts of other believers, either introduced into the liturgy or used as an aid to dignified worship. In song, faith is experienced as vibrant joy, love, and confident expectation of the saving intervention of God.”


The Church needs architects: 

“…. because she needs spaces to bring the Christian people together and celebrate the mysteries of salvation. After the terrible destruction of the last World War and the growth of great cities, a new generation of architects showed themselves adept at responding to the exigencies of Christian worship, confirming that the religious theme can still inspire architectural design in our own day. Not infrequently these architects have constructed churches which are both places of prayer and true works of art.”


Advice to Artists: 

“May your art help to affirm that true beauty which, as a glimmer of the Spirit of God, will transfigure matter, opening the human soul to the sense of the eternal.”



Pope John Paul II at Giants Stadium NJ 1995

—J. David Ake/AFP/Getty Images


Prayer for the Memorial of Blessed John Paul II: 

O God, who are rich in mercy
 and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second
 should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
 grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
 we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
 the sole Redeemer of mankind.
 Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.