JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — In conjunction with the yearlong renovation and beautification of the Jefferson City Diocese’s 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,” McKnight told The Catholic Missourian, the diocesan newspaper.
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.” And it 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.”
“Beauty and truth are infectious,” the bishop noted, “and when deployed properly, they point us toward Christ.”
He and Alberti worked for about six months to select original artworks to feature on his social media feeds: twitter.com/bpshawnmcknight; instagram.com/bishopshawnmcknight; facebook.com/BishopShawnMcKnight; and linkedin.com/in/bishopshawnmcknight.
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,” 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.
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,” Alberti said.
She and McKnight set about contacting artists ranging in age from 18 to 80 all over the world.
“I had to use Google Translate to communicate with some of them,” said Alberti.
The message of each artwork transcends everything, including language barriers.
“How beautiful is it that artwork can connect us in this way?” Alberti remarked. “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 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 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 diverse array of artists involved in the “111 Sacred Works of Art” project have a common bond: “They are using their gifts to serve God and spread our faith,” said McKnight. “My heart gives thanks to God for the beautiful works of their hands.”
The timing for posting many of the images is tied to liturgical seasons and feast days. Others relate to major events, such as the Jan. 22 anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion nationwide — the companion rulings in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.
On the anniversary, McKnight posted a painting titled “I Will Not Forget You” by Tianna Williams (sacredartbytianna.com).
“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’ first miscarriage, in loving memory of all lost babies.
“Followers absolutely loved this image,” 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 Works of Art” remain to be posted and explored.
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Nies is editor of The Catholic Missourian, newspaper of the Diocese of Jefferson City.