Bishop of Missouri uses social media to showcase sacred artwork
Along with the year-long renovation and beautification of St. Joseph’s Cathedral in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight adorns his social media spaces throughout 2022 with “111 works of art sacred”.
He works with Catholic communications consultant Jill Alberti of Wichita, Kansas to showcase new images created by Catholic artists around the world.
“The goal is to sweeten the social media landscape with timely and uplifting images and messages that highlight the beauty and truth of our Catholic faith,” Bishop McKnight told the Catholic Missourian, the diocesan newspaper.
The title of the project invokes Psalm 111, which states, “I will praise the Lord with all my heart in the assembled congregation of the upright. And he understands the phrase: “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” Majestic and glorious is his work, his justice lasts forever. »
“Beauty and truth are contagious,” the Bishop noted, “and when deployed correctly, point us to Christ.”
He and Alberti worked for about six months to select original artwork to feature on his social media feeds: twitter.com/bpshawnmcknight; instagram.com/bishopshawnmcknight; facebook.com/BishopShawnMcKnight; and linkedin.com/in/bishopshawnmcknight.
Bishop McKnight began devoting more energy to his social media accounts last year as a way to meet people where many of them spend a lot of time: online communities.
“Our newsfeeds are often full of bad news, images of fear and messages of negativity,” Bishop McKnight noted. “Sharing something new and deliberately uplifting and beautiful in this environment is like planting a fruit tree in the middle of the desert. I hope more people will consider doing this.
The bishop’s online messages are common to invitations to pray for each other, discuss things in healthy ways and love one another in imitation of Christ.
Finding the right artwork is always a challenge, given the limited amount of faith-based artwork available in the public domain.
“Bishop and I began to think outside the box, and as we explored the options, we found a plethora of talented artists sharing their gift in creating religious imagery,” Alberti said.
She and Bishop McKnight set out to contact artists between the ages of 18 and 80 around the world.
“I had to use Google Translate to communicate with some of them,” Alberti said.
The message of each work transcends everything, including language barriers.
“How beautiful that works of art can connect us in this way?” remarks Alberti. “No matter what language we spoke, we looked at a picture of the Resurrection and all felt the same because of our faith.”
She and Bishop McKnight chose 111 sacred works of art by 40 artists encompassing diverse cultures and techniques, to be presented throughout 2022.
The number 111 seduced them because of the phrase of Psalm 111.
“It perfectly described what we were doing and we linked it to the project,” Alberti said.
“We couldn’t be happier with how this project came together and the amazing artists we were blessed to work with,” she said.
The diversity of artists involved in the “111 Sacred Works of Art” project have a common bond: “They use their gifts to serve God and spread our faith,” Bishop McKnight said. “My heart gives thanks to God for the fine works of their hands.”
The timing of many images is related to liturgical seasons and feast days. Others relate to major events, such as the Jan. 22 anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court rulings that legalized abortion nationwide — the companion rulings in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.
On the anniversary, Bishop McKnight released a painting titled “I Won’t Forget You” by Tianna Williams (sacredartbytianna.com).
“All human beings are created in the image and likeness of God,” the bishop said in the message. “On this day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children, let us unite in prayer to protect and respect life in its beginnings.”
The title of the image comes from Isaiah 49:15-16: “Can a mother forget her child, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if she forgets, I will never forget you. See, on the palms of my hands I have engraved you; your walls are always before me.
It is an expression of deep emotion and trust in God, painted after Williams’ first miscarriage, in loving memory of all babies lost.
“Followers absolutely loved this image,” Alberti said. “It’s just beautiful. The artist put all his heart into it. When you learn that she created this work of art after her first miscarriage, you can feel the passion, love, and pain in every brushstroke.
Many more of the “111 Sacred Works of Art” remain to be displayed and explored.
Nies is editor of the Catholic Missourian, the newspaper of the Diocese of Jefferson City.
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