I am an artist. A lot of people don’t know that. What they also don’t know is that my artwork is a visible representation of my spiritual journey. Viewing one of my pieces of artwork is like reading my journal. Each image I paint has something buried deep within it that makes it a blessing not only for me to complete but also for the viewer who gazes upon it.
Let me explain. One of the “rituals” that I undertake before I begin a painting is that I draw a very thin cross on the surface of the canvas with pencil. The focal point of the painting will be where the horizontal and vertical arms of the cross intersect. This is, for me, not only the focal point but also the place on the painting which is the most holy since I dedicate that place to God. I paint the rest of the painting in a “typical” way.
I think of this as I continue my series on the Holy Spirit. Archbishop Luis Martinez, in The Sanctifier, writes, “[The Holy Spirit] is going to accomplish a divine work in us; to trace in our hearts the living image of Jesus, that image which we must bear in order to enter into the eternal mansions. The Spirit directs this work, using us to help. He permits us, his disciples, to trace some lines of the picture under his guidance, of course, and according to the norms that he indicates for us. But there comes a time when the Spirit no longer wills us to perform the work at our own discretion. He takes charge personally and directly; and with very fine instruments he puts in the delicate characters, the faithful marks of the divine image.” 1
How does he do this? First and foremost, he instills a hunger within us to be holy. This hunger is also known as personal conversion. In St. John Paul II’s encyclical, On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World, we read, “Conversion requires convincing of sin; it includes the interior judgment of the conscience, and this, being a proof of the action of the Spirit of truth in man’s inmost being, becomes at the same time a new beginning of the bestowal of grace and love: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ Thus in this ‘convincing concerning sin’ we discover a double gift: the gift of the truth of conscience and the gift of the certainty of redemption.” 2
This is truly a work of the Holy Spirit! Another way of saying this is, He calls us to set out to live the virtues and through our personal victories and failures, try to weed out personal sin and our faults. The spiritual journey, in my opinion, is striving to live a virtuous life like a middle schooler; we can taste what it means to be grown up but we were not there yet.
Archbishop Martinez explains, “But a time comes when the virtues are no longer sufficient for the accomplishment of the divine work and our own direction is not enough. Then the Holy Spirit intervenes and he carries on the work, using the instruments that theologians call the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 2
These gifts, first given to us at our Baptism, are in “seed” form until we have responded to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit to choose to begin to live a virtuous life. When these “seeds” germinate through the gift of grace, the Holy Spirit outpours His gifts upon the soul.
These gifts are the “brush marks” of the Divine Artist working in us to re-create the image of Jesus within us; we are God’s wonderful work of art!
1Martínez Luis M. The Sanctifier. Pauline Books & Media, 2004. Pg. 139.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness