This week my book Jumbo Book of Art Ideas for school and home was published. It contains directions for over 300 art projects, many of them accompanied by beautiful samples created by my Sisters of Notre Dame—all in color. This prompts me to reflect this week on art’s role in fostering our faith.
As you probably know, long ago stained glass windows were the means to teach illiterate people the faith. Seeing the Good Shepherd carrying the lost lamb imprinted the idea of God’s mercy on their brains and hearts. As a child I collected holy cards. Maybe you did too. One of my favorites showed Jesus sitting on a rock looking out over the Sea of Galilee. Crucifixes, all kinds, are ubiquitous in Catholic churches and homes, reminders of God’s deep love for us.
Famous painters chose religious figures and stories as subjects for their masterpieces. Last year my week-long retreat was on portrayals of Mary, in particular Michelangelo’s “Pieta.” I once heard a priest speak for an hour about Caravaggio’s painting “The Calling of St. Matthew.”
Certain art pieces touch my heart, like the statue of the Flight into Egypt in our National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. All the members of the Holy Family are sound asleep!
Icons are viewed as windows into the divine and are painted prayerfully as a religious experience. I love the one of Our Lady of Perpetual Help where she holds Jesus and angels present instruments of his future passion. The child Jesus’s sandal is dangling off his foot as though he were in a hurry to fly to his mother for protection. The message is that we too can run to Mary for help. Any religious work of art can be a springboard to prayer.
Originally my book was based on the premise that creating art on religious themes can reinforce them and strengthen one’s faith. This holds true for children and adults. (I remember that as a preteen I drew pictures of Mary over and over, trying to make her as beautiful as possible.) Now I realize that the collection of art projects in the book are not limited to religious topics. They can be used to illustrate any subject.
The many ideas can also be a boon for parents and grandparents who are looking for some way to keep children occupied. My mother was glad to have a book called “What Can I Do Now, Mother?”
Of course, the divine Artist is not to be outdone. His artwork causes us to ponder his glory and pray. Here is a photo I took of one of God’s masterpieces: sunrise outside my apartment.
• What piece of art—a statue, painting, or stained glass window—moves your heart?
• What religious art have you created?