Congruent with the yearlong renovation and beautification of the Cathedral of St. Joseph, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight is adorning his social media spaces throughout 2022 with “111 Sacred Works of Art.”
He is working with Catholic communication consultant Jill Alberti of Wichita, Kansas, to highlight new images created by Catholic artists from all over the world.
“The goal is to sweeten the social-media landscape with timely, uplifting images and messages that point to the beauty and truth of our Catholic faith,” said Bishop McKnight.
The project’s title invokes Psalm 111, which states: “I will praise the Lord with all my heart in the assembled congregation of the upright,” (verse 1) and includes the phrase: “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Majestic and glorious is His work, His righteousness endures forever.” (verses 2-3)
“Beauty and truth are infectious,” the bishop noted, “and when deployed properly, they point us toward Christ.”
He and Mrs. Alberti worked for about six months to select original artworks to feature on his Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter feeds.
It is an act of evangelization.
Bishop McKnight began devoting extra energy to his social media accounts last year as one way of meeting people where many of them spend large blocks of time: online communities.
“Our newsfeeds are often overflowing with bad tidings, images of fear and messages of negativity,” Bishop McKnight noted. “Sharing something new and deliberately uplifting and beautiful in that environment is like planting a fruit tree in the middle of the desert. I hope more people will consider doing it.”
Common to the bishop’s online messages are invitations for people to pray for each other, discuss things in a healthy manner, and love each other in imitation of Christ.
Whatever is beautiful
Finding just the right illustrations is always a challenge, given the limited number of available faith-based artwork in the public domain.
“The bishop and I began to think outside the box, and as we explored options, we found a plethora of talented artists sharing their gift by creating religious images,” said Mrs. Alberti.
She and Bishop McKnight set about contacting artists ranging from ages 18 to 80, all over the world.
“I had to use Google Translate to communicate with some of them,” said Mrs. Alberti.
The message of each artwork transcends everything, including language barriers.
“How beautiful is it that artwork can connect us in this way?” said Mrs. Alberti. “No matter what language we spoke, we looked at a picture of the Resurrection and all felt the same thing because of our faith.”
She and Bishop McKnight settled on 111 sacred artworks by 40 artists encompassing various cultures and techniques, to feature throughout 2022.
The number 111 appealed to them because of the phrase from Psalm 111.
“It perfectly described what we’re doing, and we tied it to the project,” said Mrs. Alberti.
“We could not be happier with how this project has come together and the amazing artists we have had the blessing of working with,” she said.
The 111 Sacred Works of Art project, like all good art, glorifies God by lifting up His people, who are His own masterpiece.
The diverse array of artists have a common bond: “They are using their gifts to serve God and spread our faith,” said Bishop McKnight. “My heart gives thanks to God for the beautiful works of their hands.”
A time for everything
The timing for posting many of the images is tied to liturgical seasons and feastdays.
On Jan. 9, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Bishop McKnight presented “Baptism of Christ,” a painting by Eric Armusik (armusik.com), which depicts the moment Jesus made the waters of Baptism holy by stepping into them.
One of Bishop McKnight’s online followers, a deacon in the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, commented that Mr. Armusik’s original painting adorns St. Mary Church in Hamburg.
“He shared that he has pointed to this painting during baptism homilies to emphasize the profoundness of the Father’s love for each of His adopted children in baptism,” said Mrs. Alberti.
For Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion-on-demand throughout the United States, Bishop McKnight posted Tianna Williams’s (sacredartbytianna.com) painting, titled “I Will Not Forget You.”
“All human beings are created in the image and likeness of God,” the bishop stated in the post. “On this Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of the Unborn Children, let us join in prayer to protect and respect life at its earliest stage.”
The image’s title comes from Isaiah 49:15-16 — “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you; your walls are ever before me.”
It is an expression of deep emotion and trust in God, painted after Williams’s first miscarriage, in loving memory of all lost babies.
“Followers absolutely loved this image,” Mrs. Alberti stated. “It is just beautiful. The artist poured her heart into it. When you learn that she created this piece of art after her first miscarriage, you can feel the passion, love and pain of each brushstroke.”
Many more of the 111 Sacred Artworks remain to be posted and explored.
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