Curating Art from the World’s Ugliness

“Curate every aspect of your life, as much as you can. It’s in the things that deeply inspire us that we find ourselves. Surround yourself with truth, and you’ll have built yourself a heaven.”

The source of this pithy quote is unknown—which means it’s a meme (something imitated or copied). Makes sense, since that’s what inspiration is for—to inspire imitation. The following quote from Paul to the Thessalonians (1 THES 5:16-24), this Sunday’s second reading) inspired the search for that quote about curation:

Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

That’s what a curator does—acquires, retains, and cares for works of art. A curator also discovers frauds and counterfeits and protects others from them.

A prophet does that too.

Upon further investigation, you’ll find that “Curate” is both a verb and a noun. The noun is defined as a low-ranking member of God’s clergy charged with the care of souls. That applies not only to Paul, but to the prophet Isaiah, to John the Disciple and to John the Baptist, as well. Each of these “curates” was eager to overcome his own faults for the benefit of others. All of them are our benefactors in this Sunday’s readings. John the Baptist embraces his role as a curate in John’s gospel (JN 1:6-8, 19-28), citing Isaiah as his role model:

“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’” as Isaiah the prophet said.” … “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

None of us is worthy of God’s curation. We’re all HIS lowly curates. But by God’s mercy, He planted within each of our hearts the potential to care for other souls. That inherent value caused Isaiah to get over his own sense of inadequacy so he could say to God, “Here am I! Send me.” With that, Isaiah the lowly curate became a highly honored curator of souls—someone who saw great worth in all of God’s creatures and helped bring that value out of them (IS 61:1-2A, 10-11):

[God] has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

We lowly curates are called to bring those rarely-seen works of God’s art to the attention of all potential patrons.

–Tom Andel

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