“the great tragedy of the artistic temperament is that it cannot produce any art”
As Jesus continues to prepare his followers for the time when He will no longer be visible, He imparts to us a great gift, peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.”
But this is not the kind of peace that we tend to think of, for Our Lord gives “not as the world gives.”
All too often in our world peace is little more than a ceasefire or even a type of “Cold War.” But the peace that comes directly from Christ is the only true and everlasting peace. It is an interior peace of heart which overflows into families, communities, and even nations.
This is the peace that converts souls and changes the world.
Cardinal Thuan is Imprisoned
In 2002 Cardinal Joseph Xavier van Thuan died in Rome, exiled from his homeland of Vietnam. Everyone who knew him in the last years of his life were impressed with his inner peace and joy. The Cardinal was someone who knew Christ's peace, and enjoyed the stability that came with knowing and embracing transcendent Truth.
Before he was exiled from Vietnam he served as the Archbishop of Saigon. When the communists took over after the Vietnam War, van Thuan was arrested by the authorities and imprisoned for 13 years. Communism accepts no authority higher than the state. In Vietnam, as it has attempted to do in other countries, the communist regime tried to destroy the Church.
For nine of the years he spent in prison, Bishop Joseph was placed in solitary confinement, suffering the most horrible conditions and privations. At first he was assigned only two guards as the authorities did not want to expose too many young men to the Archbishop's Catholic ideas. But after a month he made friends with both guards and taught them some Christian hymns and prayers.
The officials decided to rotate the guards every week in order to avoid such embarrassing conversions. But that didn't work either. The bishop radiated the peace of Christ to such an extent that he won over his guards without even trying. They watched him endure the most brutal physical and emotional torture and yet remain at peace. The guards were intrigued and asked to learn more about his “secret,” that is, his faith.
In the end the authorities went back to assigning two permanent guards, reasoning it was better to lose two men than twenty.
This is the kind of interior strength and peace of mind that Christ wants to give us. This is a peace that resolves conflicts and truly make the world a better place.
The Church must be a sanctuary of peace from the rest of the world. To do this she must overcome her own internal problems and divisions. This is accomplished with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Church reminds us of our need for peace throughout the Easter season. We need to be reminded that Christ's love, mercy, and mission can give us the interior peace we long for. As our friendship with Christ grows, so too does His peace within our hearts.
The Artistic Temperament
Every vocation knows trials and tribulations. Especially when the expectations of the secular world are at odds with the sacred. The secular world tells us how much money we should make, what kind of car we should drive, how we should dress, and what we should expect from the world. The sacred world cares only about knowing peace and contentment through Christ. The conflict between the two, as it affects artists and creatives, often results in so-called “artistic temperament.”
“The artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs. It is a disease which arises from men not having sufficient power of expression to utter and get rid of the element of art in their being. It is healthful to every sane man to utter the art within him; it is essential to every sane man to get rid of the art within him at all costs. Artists of a large and wholesome vitality get rid of their art easily, as they breathe easily, or perspire easily. But in artists of less force, the thing becomes a pressure, and produces a definite pain, which is called the artistic temperament. Thus, very great artists are able to be ordinary men-- men like Shakespeare or Browning. There are many real tragedies of the artistic temperament, tragedies of vanity or violence or fear. But the great tragedy of the artistic temperament is that it cannot produce any art.” G.K. Chesterton, “On the Wit of Whistler,” Heretics
Although many of us would like greater inner peace, we do experience it in many ways.
When life's storms become to much for us to bear, we turn to prayer and find our peace in Him. We experience it in the Eucharist and in the sacraments, particularly in the sacrament of Reconciliation when we go to confession. We can find peace in His mother, Mary, the Queen of Peace.
But many people around us will never know this peace at all. They search all their lives and never find it. They do not know, or refuse to believe, that Christ's friendship is the root of all peace. They do not know God's love or mercy. They do not know they have a mission here on earth.
If we, who know Christ, still struggle to experience inner peace imagine how much more difficult it must be for our brothers and sisters who do not know Him.
But we can help them. We can bring them to Christ through our words, our prayers and our actions. By living our lives as an example we can bring others the message that Christ brought to us.
If we approach others in this manner then we will truly build a world based on the foundation of peace, a world reflected in the Holy City envisioned by John. Old and new are held together, divisions are reconciled.
The gates of the twelve tribes of Israel are connected by stone walls that bear the names of the twelve apostles.
6th Sunday of Easter
Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.organd can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com