Part XII: The Church Needs Art
12. In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must
make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It
must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique
capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds
which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself
of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery.
The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the
endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ himself made extensive use of images
in his preaching, fully in keeping with his willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the
The Church also needs musicians. How many sacred works have been composed through the
centuries by people deeply imbued with the sense of the mystery! The faith of countless believers has
been nourished by melodies flowing from the hearts of other believers, either introduced into the
liturgy or used as an aid to dignified worship. In song, faith is experienced as vibrant joy, love, and
confident expectation of the saving intervention of God.
The Church needs architects, because she needs spaces to bring the Christian people together and
celebrate the mysteries of salvation. After the terrible destruction of the last World War and the
growth of great cities, a new generation of architects showed themselves adept at responding to the
exigencies of Christian worship, confirming that the religious theme can still inspire architectural
design in our own day. Not infrequently these architects have constructed churches which are both
places of prayer and true works of art.