What is the role of art?

What is the role of art in our life (from a Catholic point of view) or in the scheme of salvation? … by “art” I don’t merely mean the visual arts but also music, literature, poetry, etc.

To bring beauty and truth into tangible shape using the medium the artist uses. That can be done even by creating scary images (The Third of May 1808 by Goya) or even by a lack/the abscence of beauty (The Wastelands by Eliot).

The late sculptor Frederick Hart wrote alot about this. You might want to check him out.

I think its not only to know what other people are thinking and how they are living out their values and beliefs in the images they put on a medium or create through an instrument, but its also a means for us to know ourselves better, or to connect to God or our fellow man on a level that didn’t exist before the work of art was created.

Great post!

To elevate or tear down, to ellicit a positive or negative emotion, to calm, to aggitate, to teach, to taunt, to haunt, to cause wonderment,

To Glorify God and all of His Creation.

Also to Shock, Enable one to Question and Also to Think. :thumbsup:

Just a coincidence, but I just started watching this series a few days ago.


It seems to me that humans are the only creations that can appreciate beauty in any way, and the fact that we actually can appreciate it is a gift from God. Even if you personally can’t create music, or art, you can still see and acknowledge the beauty in it. One can also appreciate the talent, given by God to the artist.

If we can’t appreciate, or refuse to appreciate the beauty in front of us in this world, how can we ever deserve the infinite beauty of Heaven?

I’ve always thought that good art rendered a tasteful depiction of the truth.
Now, I’ll read the other posts on this thread.

To me there has always been two different communications that we label as art: those of man to man, and those of God to man or man to God.

You might call it a lower art and a higher art.

Men communicate to other men via symbols and metaphors–tropes. They hold more meaning than literal communication. I’ll put some of the Greek political comedies in the lower art sphere.

But God communicates to man also in symbols, and this makes sense as there is so much to communicate. Art that creates information (whether emotional in nature or spiritual or otherwise) that bonds us all together in a harmonic attachment not only to ourselves but to Himself…that is the higher form. I would put Michaelangelo here–but not his more humanist works, such as his David. Shakespeare, Cervantes, are interesting to debate. Too humanist? But there language reaches such a rarefied air–and you could also say the same for Michaelangelo as his gifts are so magnificent–that you might easily say God Himself has done the writing.

Read this letter by Pope John Paul II:



This quote may be helpful to you:

“The essential purpose of art, its raison d’être, is to assist in the perfection of the moral personality, which is man, and for this reason it must itself be moral” (Pope Pius XI, Vigilanti Cura, § I, art. 1; 29 June 1936).



Oh, and here is a short address of Ven. Pius XII titled, The Function of Art:


“The function of all art lies in fact in breaking through the narrow and tortuous enclosure of the finite, in which man is immerged while living here below, and in providing a window to the infinite for his hungry soul” (n. 5).

See also Ven. Pius XII’s Miranda Prorsus:


"Since God is the Supreme Good, He continually bestows His gifts upon men, the objects of His special love and care. Some of these gifts look to the spirit; others to the conduct of earthly life. These latter gifts are clearly subject to the former, in much the same way that the body should be subject to the soul with which, before He communicates Himself by the beatific vision, God is joined by that faith and love which ‘is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.’[14]

“Furthermore, since God desires to see the image of His own perfection reflected in man,[15] He has chosen him to partake in His divine generosity, and associated him in His works as a bearer of the good tidings, that he might be a liberal dispenser of them to the rest of his brethren and to the entire human community. For from earliest times man has been wont, by his very nature, to communicate his spiritual goods by symbols which he wrests from bodily things and which he attempts constantly to reduce to a more perfect form. From the art and letters of antiquity down to the technology of our day all the means by which men are united with one another have tended to this high end, that in this task men might in some way be ministers of God” (nn. 22-23).

"The Church encourages and fosters all that really assists in the enrichment of the mind (she is, after all, the patron and support of humane studies and liberal arts), but she cannot tolerate a breach of these rules and norms which direct and guide man to God, his final end. It is not surprising, then, that in a matter requiring such great caution she acts carefully and discreetly, in accordance with the Apostle’s instruction: ‘But test all things; hold fast that which is good. Keep yourselves from every kind of evil.’[20]

“Wherefore they are certainly to be reproved who assert that the publication of matters which impede or are opposed to the principles of morality should be approved if they conform to technical and artistic norms. In a short address on the fifth centenary of the death of Fra Angelico We said: ‘Of themselves the liberal arts certainly do not demand direction to a moral or religious function. But if artistic expression, in words, sounds, or images, is equated with false, empty, and confused techniques which are out of harmony with the plan of the Divine Creator; if instead of raising the mind and heart to lofty sentiments it moves them rather to base passions and desires, then it can attract men by it novelty, which does not always have value or virtue, or by its slight content of truth (for truth is present in every being), but such art will have abandoned its position of honor, strayed far from its first and necessary principle, and so be neither universal nor perennial, as is the human spirit to which it speaks.’[21]” (nn. 33-34).

Thanks, Ed,

The letter is overwhelming. I wish the artists who made the lewd exhibition now at the Smithsonian had read it. They may then had been inspired away from their obscene view of life.

God loves you,

Well Don, I had an opportunity to read the motivations of fine artists in an arts publication over the weekend. They were not healthy and were mostly psychological. In other words, they would take “found objects” and “repurpose” them, or they would simply try to get a reaction out of the viewer. In one case, an instructor told his students that viewers, not artists, were responsible for reacting to and defining the art.

All of this psychological nonsense means these artists produce distorted images or unrecognizable images. At some point it was decided that distortion or a collection of nondescript markings would be art. This is in contrast to artists who have a clear message to send to viewers with their art. Since art is a communications medium, I consider any art that does not have a clear message to give to the viewer as unsuccessful.

God bless,

Perhaps the message is that you as the viewer are holding on to symbols as if they are the real thing. A plastic cross is still just a piece of plastic, it’s you that gives it meaning. Profaning the object, only profanes the object, not the subject. We don’t worship idols.

Very sad. The flag of the United States is just a piece of colored cloth but it is handled with reverence for what it represents. The same with a plastic or wooden cross.

Our intentions are built into the objects we place in our Churches. A statue of Mary is not Mary but it helps to focus our prayers.

Profaning a depiction of a person profanes the person. When Sinead O’Connor tore a picture of Pope John Paul II in half on TV and said, “Fight the real enemy.” she performed an attack on his person.

Today, distortion has become art and dysfunctionality has become art. This type of negative and noncommunicative art destroys the primary purpose of art: to be a communications medium.

As one artist said: “I have come to destroy beauty.” Indeed some have.


And we have the constitutional right to burn our flag, it does nothing to what the flag represents. Again it’s just a symbol. A flag is a piece of cloth. We hold what is dear in our hearts and actions.

Do you practice voodoo? Because that’s what you are describing.

He has communicated to you - you are an idol worshiper.

The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger

Please look up libel and slander.


Voodoo is based on the premise that you can cause harm through a symbol of that Thing. That is what you are describing. Do you believe that it works? That a pop singer can cause harm by ripping a picture?

As for the art I am just saying what a possible message maybe. If you can’t take your symbols being defaced. you are worshiping the symbol. Worshiping an idol. An Idol Worshiper.

If you are taking it all personally, that’s on you my friend.

Uncharitable, uncalled for and reported to the mods.

How is it uncharitable is discuss terminology and methodology?

Voodoo operates on the premise that a thing can be harmed by harming it’s likeness. Magic.

An idol worshiper does worship idols. An idol is a symbol of something. If you are worshiping a symbol you are worshiping an idol. It is a valuable and valid message that art can covey.

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