One of the most formative writings that I return to about once a year is Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists. In it he lays out the relationship between the Church and every type of artist, including musicians. The man was brilliant.
It is not a long read. It is short enough that you can take you time with it and truly savor what he is saying to us. Through the vocation of being an artist, we not only create – we also discover who we truly are. He writes
“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.”
Another point I really gel with is the fact that our own lives are, in a sense, pieces of art. The choices I make that define my character are comparable to the choices a painter makes with her brush or a pianist makes with his fingers.
We all know what a cesspool of vanity the music industry, as it stands today, is. The business side of our art is filled with a lot of burnt-out and self-centered people, many of whom have calamitous and expensive vices to pay for, not caring about making the world better but to encourage as many people as possible to celebrate their own vicious weaknesses. All for the mighty dollar. However, he writes, the true artists themselves, even if surrounded by the darkness of that world, are following an impulse to create light.
Even beyond its typically religious expressions, true art has a close affinity with the world of faith, so that, even in situations where culture and the Church are far apart, art remains a kind of bridge to religious experience. In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption.
I highly recommend reading this. It is a great starting place to begin seeing your place as a creative songwriter or any other type of artist in the Church and in the world.