St. Pope John Paul II: Create The Day
The Church celebrates St. Pope John Paul II’s feast day on October 22nd every year. There are so many parts of his life that I can turn to for wisdom and inspiration: his voice of hope and message to “not be afraid”, his bold teachings on the Theology of the Body and the Feminine Genius, his lasting impact in the solidarity movement, but I find myself drawn to a simple and often forgotten letter addressed to artists.
At his core, St. JPII was an exemplary poet, playwright, dreamer, and a visionary. He understood the depths of the human longing to create beauty, to participate in creation. In that sense, his Letter to Artists was a loving appeal to his kindred spirits, inviting them to redeem beauty in a world that desperately needed it. His words beckon to us now, just as much as they did in 1999, to give beauty a lasting face. In a particular way, as women longing to be mothers, we share a deep “creative spark”, a longing to link hands with God and offer a canvas for His incredible work. However incomplete, lacking, or challenging the cross of infertility may be, JPII’s words offer comfort, purpose, and understanding of the plight. Our beloved saint opened his letter by inviting his audience to reflect on the words of Genesis:
“God therefore called man into existence, committing to him the craftsman's task. Through his ‘artistic creativity’ man appears more than ever ‘in the image of God’, and he accomplishes this task above all in shaping the wondrous ‘material’ of his own humanity and then exercising creative dominion over the universe which surrounds him.”
What an incredible insight! As human beings, women and men are called to use created things, give them new shape, and to redeem them from chaos into something more beautiful. We are not the Creator, but we are participants, craftswomen sharing in the gift of creative splendor in whatever projects we undertake. St. Pope John Paul II goes on to speak to an even deeper truth:
“That is why artists, the more conscious they are of their ‘gift’, are led all the more to see themselves and the whole of creation with eyes able to contemplate and give thanks, and to raise to God a hymn of praise. This is the only way for them to come to a full understanding of themselves, their vocation and their mission.”
Let’s reread that line again, but instead replace the word “artists” with “women”, because at our hearts, we are artists! When JPII speaks of gifts, think of your spiritual gifts, your creative talents, your passions, relationships and compassion. “That is why [women], the more conscious they are of their “gift”, are led all the more to see themselves and the whole of creation with eyes able to contemplate and give thanks, and to raise to God a hymn of praise. This is the only way for them to come to a full understanding of themselves, their vocation and their mission.”
So, infertility may challenge our efforts to create human life in the present moment, but it can never take us away from fulfilling our vocation in God’s eyes. After all, God is the supreme Creator, and we are his artisans. We make good use of the material He has given us, and every endeavor we offer in faith is our sacred handiwork. As women, we create beauty through our relationships, talents, and convictions. By witnessing to the true potential of this world, we dust off the cobwebs of broken dreams and redeem the often neglected pieces of our space and time. We give them dignity, remind them of their purpose, and inspire them to shine. Yes, even when we feel broken in one aspect of our lives, we are quite the opposite at heart.
You, precious daughter of God, by your very nature are an artist, co-creator, and beauty-bearer. This goes far beyond procreation and into the deeper reality of who you are as a person. Everything and everyone you connect with and labor for is made more whole because of you! I believe the great challenge of infertility is to perceive our world through the eyes of an artist. JPII says:
“Every genuine artistic intuition goes beyond what the senses perceive and, reaching beneath reality's surface, strives to interpret its hidden mystery. The intuition itself springs from the depths of the human soul, where the desire to give meaning to one's own life is joined by the fleeting vision of beauty and of the mysterious unity of things.”
Beneath the surface, we long to understand the mystery of our experience - the distance between our longing and reality. The journey is an invitation to get our hands dirty, pursue an old passion, pick up a new skill, or nurture our relationships in need of loving tenderness. Doing so opens us up to being vessels of God’s creative glory, co-creators, and bearers of joy. Something beautiful happens when we step out in faith and begin a new endeavor. Our spirits soar and somehow make meaningful work of a seemingly distant dream. Through our love, our passions, and creative labors, we make our world more inviting, more meaningful, more holy. There is something profoundly redemptive in our perseverance to live brigh