Wednesday, July 28, 2010

John Paul the Great's Letter to Artists

Who doesn't love JPII? Even in the secular world most regard him as a heroic figure for his advocacy on behalf of the weak and poor, and for his role in defeating the Russian Communist regime. Beyond that, John Paul II proved you can be both holy and cool! Not an easy thing to accomplish, but JPII did it with the soul of a saint and the charisma of a rock star. And he had droves of screaming young fans to prove it!

I am definitely part of the JPII generation, as I was only a preschooler when he was chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead the Church. As I grew into adulthood, John Paul became more than the beloved spiritual grandfather I offered prayers for as a child. As a philosophy and theology major in college I relished the opportunity to study JPII's writings, and fell in love with his incredibly insightful encyclicals and beautiful poetry. When he went to his heavenly reward, I wept as though I had lost a family member.

The following is from John Paul II's "Letter to Artists." While the whole letter is wonderful and absolutely worth reading, in true JPII form it's a bit lengthy to post here. I chose to post the tail end of the letter with its rousing plea to artists and the Church to work together for the good of the world. Sounds a lot like what the Catholic Artists of Etsy Guild endeavors to do!

An appeal to artists
14. With this Letter, I turn to you, the artists of the world, to assure you of my esteem and to help consolidate a more constructive partnership between art and the Church. Mine is an invitation to rediscover the depth of the spiritual and religious dimension which has been typical of art in its noblest forms in every age. It is with this in mind that I appeal to you, artists of the written and spoken word, of the theatre and music, of the plastic arts and the most recent technologies in the field of communication. I appeal especially to you, Christian artists: I wish to remind each of you that, beyond functional considerations, the close alliance that has always existed between the Gospel and art means that you are invited to use your creative intuition to enter into the heart of the mystery of the Incarnate God and at the same time into the mystery of man.
Human beings, in a certain sense, are unknown to themselves. Jesus Christ not only reveals God, but “fully reveals man to man”.(23) In Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself. All believers are called to bear witness to this; but it is up to you, men and women who have given your lives to art, to declare with all the wealth of your ingenuity that in Christ the world is redeemed: the human person is redeemed, the human body is redeemed, and the whole creation which, according to Saint Paul, “awaits impatiently the revelation of the children of God” (Rom 8:19), is redeemed. The creation awaits the revelation of the children of God also through art and in art. This is your task. Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny.
The Creator Spirit and artistic inspiration
15. Often in the Church there resounds the invocation to the Holy Spirit: Veni, Creator Spiritus... – “Come, O Creator Spirit, visit our minds, fill with your grace the hearts you have created”.(24)
The Holy Spirit, “the Breath” (ruah), is the One referred to already in the Book of Genesis: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (1:2). What affinity between the words “breath - breathing” and “inspiration”! The Spirit is the mysterious Artist of the universe. Looking to the Third Millennium, I would hope that all artists might receive in abundance the gift of that creative inspiration which is the starting-point of every true work of art.
Dear artists, you well know that there are many impulses which, either from within or from without, can inspire your talent. Every genuine inspiration, however, contains some tremor of that “breath” with which the Creator Spirit suffused the work of creation from the very beginning. Overseeing the mysterious laws governing the universe, the divine breath of the Creator Spirit reaches out to human genius and stirs its creative power. He touches it with a kind of inner illumination which brings together the sense of the good and the beautiful, and he awakens energies of mind and heart which enable it to conceive an idea and give it form in a work of art. It is right then to speak, even if only analogically, of “moments of grace”, because the human being is able to experience in some way the Absolute who is utterly beyond.
The “Beauty” that saves
16. On the threshold of the Third Millennium, my hope for all of you who are artists is that you will have an especially intense experience of creative inspiration. May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder! Faced with the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude.
From this wonder there can come that enthusiasm of which Norwid spoke in the poem to which I referred earlier. People of today and tomorrow need this enthusiasm if they are to meet and master the crucial challenges which stand before us. Thanks to this enthusiasm, humanity, every time it loses its way, will be able to lift itself up and set out again on the right path. In this sense it has been said with profound insight that “beauty will save the world”.(25)
Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savour life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: “Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!”.(26)
Artists of the world, may your many different paths all lead to that infinite Ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy.
May you be guided and inspired by the mystery of the Risen Christ, whom the Church in these days contemplates with joy.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always: she is the “tota pulchra” portrayed by countless artists, whom Dante contemplates among the splendours of Paradise as “beauty that was joy in the eyes of all the other saints”.(27)
“From chaos there rises the world of the spirit”. These words of Adam Mickiewicz, written at a time of great hardship for his Polish homeland,(28) prompt my hope for you: may your art help to affirm that true beauty which, as a glimmer of the Spirit of God, will transfigure matter, opening the human soul to the sense of the eternal.
With my heartfelt good wishes!
From the Vatican, 4 April 1999, Easter Sunday.

God Bless!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Garden of Francis Introduction

Greetings in Christ!

Our shop on Etsy is an extension of our work at Garden of Francis where we can best focus on the handmade, natural items that we love so much.

Our small family Montessori-homeschools, strives to enjoy the life that God has given us while maintaining simplicity and a return to all-natural materials (the computer exempted!). I am a Catholic single mother so the emphasis on family is absolutely key. My son's items will also be posted as his abilities increase - he is looking forward to contributing to the family finances as well :) What a little man!

What inspired you to start an Etsy Shop?
I love how Etsy focuses on the handmade nature of items, and there is a large community within Etsy which seems to be be more centered around beauty and natural materials. Etsy seems the perfect match the ideals of our main store and allows us another venue to sell our homemade soaps, modest clothing, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and other handmade materials.

Tell us about your art:
Our work serves a function as well as being a thing of beauty. While some would say that modest clothing is not an art form, I disagree. Modest clothing decorates the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The simplicity of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd materials are a beauty within themselves, but also point to a greater beauty: the Creator Himself.

Some photos of our available or soon-to-be-available work:

Where do you create?
We create our items everywhere in our home - every room serves a purpose towards our work. seat to knit or sew.

Do you sell your work anywhere else?
I also sell our materials in person, on various homeschool boards, and at Garden of Francis - Main Website

What is your favorite devotion?
Our favorite devotions are with St. Francis and St. Michael the Archangel. We need the protection and guidance of these two saints. St. Joseph protects our family as well; we beg the intercession of all the angels and saints to keep us on the right path towards Heaven.

The hands are the instruments of man's intelligence.
The human hand allows the mind to reveal itself.
~Maria Montessori

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Dear friends of mine suffered the loss of their child at 6 months gestation. They knew weeks earlier that the survival odds for Agnes Cecelia were slim to none. At that time, they trustingly place their daughter in God's hands and began what my friend calls the hospice of the womb. I was blessed to be able to witness the love and faith with which this family prayed and accepted the Will of God in their lives.

One of the fruits to come from my friends' redemptive suffering is the book authored by the mother and entitled Stretched in Love: Hospice of the Womb. This book is a comfort and consolation to all who have suffered a miscarriage or still-birth. In fact, their story is a comfort to all Catholic Christians who strive to follow the Will of God or who are suffering in any way.

Stretched in Love: Hospice of the Womb can be found at

Monday, July 19, 2010

Catholic Etsy Artists Guild Members'...

rosaries, chapel veils, and medals with matching keepsake pouches from Gracehill:

Friday, July 9, 2010

organizing yarn for color work

We have an upscale grocery store in our area where we shop from time to time. Actually, my husband is the family grocery shopper (yes, I am very grateful!). He says that the cost of the fresh fruits and veggies is actually comparable to other stores. But I digress...

He has purchased wine at this store and has been given a complimentary "go green" bag with 6 compartments and a handle to carry the wine bottles home without breakage. As I was getting ready to do a knitting project with several yarn colors, this bag came to mind. I am able to put each color in a separate compartment so that the various yarns do not get tangled as I knit. At the same time, I only have to carry around one bag for the project. What a way to reuse a reusable grocery bag!

Once I'm done with the project (a vest for that wonderful husband), I will post it here.

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!

Hilaire Belloc