Updated: Mar 25, 2020
Art is important to the spiritual life for a lot of reasons, but few more important than the unique ability it has to unite us to the suffering of our fellow human beings and, through that, to Christ. The photograph on the left, taken during a vigil held for victims of the recent school shooting in Oregon, really spoke to me because it is such a candid depiction both of suffering and the reliance we have on others at times when it seems the worst. The sculpture on the right, familiar to everyone as Michelangelo’s Pietá, is also a very stark image of human pain.
We live in a world today where the reality of what’s depicted in these images is rampant: people being driven from their homes and family because of violence and hatred; innocent lives being lost out of anger and hatred; people starving and freezing in the streets. What are we to make of this? Bishop Fulton Sheen once observed that nothing happens in the external world that has not first happened in the interior life of man; the external world is merely a reflection of the battles being waged in the deepest recesses of mankind’s heart and soul. Until we start looking for God in places where He actually IS, this turmoil will continue to rage.
So what hope do we have? Well, what struck me in each of these images is that in neither one do we see anyone suffering alone or in isolation. And neither do we. Even at those moments when we feel most at sea, we are still, in very profound ways, still connected both to others and, through them, to God. Jesus didn’t suffer alone on His way to Golgotha and He doesn’t expect or want us to, either.
Let’s always keep in our prayers those who suffer in loneliness and despair that they may feel the loving embrace of God, who, as the Eastern Church prays, “art everywhere present and filling all things.” Let’s also keep in our thoughts and prayers those who were victims of the Oregon school shooting and their families.