“Ask a Priest: How Can I Produce Artwork With the Right Motive?”

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Q: I make statues and have been asked to make quite a high-profile, religious one. I am worried about how to make it with the right attitude. There is a worry that I take the job as a worldly ambition, but also it gives me the opportunity to make something for other people and for the future that carries meaning. It is a chance to exercise a talent I have, that presumably was gifted to me for a reason. How should I approach this task? How do you as a priest feel toward the statues in your churches and shrines? Thanks for any insights you are willing to give. – E.C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Using your talent to produce a beautiful religious statue could be a great way to give glory to God and to help people live their faith better.

And that’s a key point: to use our talents for God’s glory and not our own. The temptation to shine a light on ourselves is common, whether it involves simple tasks or spectacular feats.

A talent for art is a special one since beauty can have an irresistible power. Beauty in the service of religion can lift hearts and minds toward God.

We are body and soul together, and what we experience through our senses — such as sight — can help us pray more easily.

Now, a full answer to your question could fill a book. A quick suggestion is this: Before you work, take a moment to pray to Our Lord for guidance. Ask him for the grace for you to do everything for his glory.

And to help you delve deeper into the power of art, you might want to look at John Paul II’s Letter to Artists.

Also helpful might be the Holy See’s The Via Pulchritudinis, Way of Beauty and Bishop Robert Barron’s talk on “Catholicism and Beauty.”

Above all, you don’t want to bury your talent like the pitiable servant in Matthew 25:14-30.

And as for statues in churches and shrines: If they are tasteful and beautiful, they are a great reminder that the communion of saints is rooting for us on our way toward eternity.


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