Friday, January 29, 2016

An Artist's Vocation

     Being 26 years old is peculiar; at least it is for me. It’s a seemingly less enchanting time for me than was my time in college, of which I am three years removed, but nonetheless exciting still because I would say that I am on the cusp of being a true adult...in age anyways (I still buy fruit roll-ups when I grocery shop). Much of my formation as a Christian up to this point has consisted primarily of theology and church teaching, with an emphases on the all-emphatic term, “vocation”. What is a vocation, and why is it more relevant to me now at 26 than it ever was in my youth?

     A vocation is a “call from God to a distinct state of life, through which a person can reach holiness.” (Lumen Gentium, 39). For us, this refers to our individual call to marriage, priesthood, religious life, or even the call to live a consecrated life as a single person. It’s so simple, and yet so complex at the same time. “Who shall I spend the rest of my life with in marriage?” “Am I called to become a priest?” “Are Franciscans part Jedi?”. I say my age is peculiar, because for the first time ever I am confronting these big questions in a real way.

     I am an artist. I compose and perform original and accompanied music all over the world, and for those of you in a similar state (or even those artists who are perfectly content)...I have found a solution: your vocation right now, and always, is to Beauty. Let’s see what Pope Pius Xll has to say about it in his encyclical “The Function of Art”:

      “Composers, filled with the Christian spirit, should feel that their vocation is to cultivate sacred music and to increase its store of treasures. Let them produce compositions, which have the qualities proper to genuine sacred music, not confining themselves to works, which can be sung only by large choirs, but providing also for the needs of small choirs and for the active participation of the entire assembly of the faithful.”

     A wise Franciscan (possible Jedi...) once told me that there are “Capital V” vocations, and “Lower- case v” vocations. For example, not everyone is called to live the religious life, but all Christians are called to live a life devoted to holiness. Holiness is a “lower-case v” vocation. I move that all artists, not just Christian artists, are called to live out a vocation to the discovery, conception, and example of Beauty for all people to witness. Just as a husband devotes himself to his bride in self-giving love, or a priest sacrifices for his bride, the Church, so you as a musician, composer, painter, dancer, writer, actor, singer, sculptor, and expressionist should give all of your self to your craft. Let your exhibit be one of complete exposition and vulnerability, just as the greatest example of Beauty, Jesus Christ, gave of himself on the cross for all to see.

     It’s hard. Sometimes you don’t know where your next check is gonna come from, or perhaps even how you might support a family one day. There are days where I let this get to me, and I run to the classifieds online looking for the quickest way to make $50,000 a year. At some point thereafter, though, I always come back to this: God is faithful, and I’ve never been at a want for anything. He desires for you to give the gift he’s given by His grace and for His glory. You are His work of art too.