He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.
-St. Francis of Assisi
Watching the light pour into the Cathedral I’m reminded of the many people who have stood where I stand. Felt what I feel. I’m sure you’ve all felt it - you know - the feeling that you’re so small, while simultaneously part of something so much larger. It’s comforting and inspiring and terrifying all at once.
While many that enter the Cathedral look above, this summer I’ve spent some time looking down at my feet. I’ve talked to the artisans and masons, watched as the terrazzo tile was polished, the decades of wax cleaned from the stone molding, the foundation smoothed.
Witnessing the transformation of the Cathedral has been cleansing and I can’t help but feel connected to those who have entered before me. Did they too feel inspired? Comforted? Overwhelmed?
As Missioner of Cathedral Arts, colleague and friend Brynna Carpenter-Nardone so articulately wrote, “Cathedrals were built on the understanding that art is an expression of God’s glory that has power to convert human hearts. In the age before the printing press and before most people had access to scripture, Cathedrals served as sermons in glass and stone.”
From my perspective as the Cathedral's apprentice, it became clear to me that thinking I experienced art and God separately had divided my emotions for God. That of course, experiencing art and faith together would amplify them and draw me closer to God. It suddenly made sense to me why a stone mason would spend hours, days, years to make sure terrazzo tile was placed perfectly within a Cathedral. Why 10 different architects would work on St. Peter's Basilica - knowing they may not see the final product.
It’s not only important that the final product helps to illustrate God. The spiritual journey of the artist also teaches us.
Through Cathedral Arts, we all have the opportunity to be artists. To write, to read, to meditate, to paint, to draw, to play, to speak, to listen. Through doing these things we make our own creative expression to illustrate God to others while bringing God closer to ourselves. What a gift.
I know now why when I walk into the Cathedral I feel close to those who have entered before me. Sure, they stood where I stand (although not on the new part of the floor), but the real connection comes from experiencing the sanctity and the beauty of the Cathedral and realizing that God’s presence is all around us. We are immersed and blessed.