Creation of the Week - Charles Collins' Glassworks

Art is broad reality, the multifaceted expression of the human experience, our innate search for beauty and truth that is nothing less than the thirst for God in our hearts. Among all the art forms out there, at least in my opinion, one of the ones that best blends practical application with aesthetic power, is the art of glass blowing.

Creating something that is designed to be both useful and beautiful is remarkable. Add working at mind-boggling temperatures into the mix, and you have quite a unique craft. And that’s exactly what Charles Collins loves most about this medium, and we’re featuring his work this week. He recently created a set of whiskey glasses that are not only hand-blown, but are inlaid with gold leaf. I reached out to Charles for an intro:

My name is Charles Collins. I was raised in Mobile, Alabama, one of five children. I have an older sister and three younger brothers. I graduated from the University of South Alabama as a four-time letterman in Track & Field throwing the javelin. While earning a degree in Sports Management I started blowing and manipulating glass in my senior year. During that first class three years ago, I fell in love with the art form.

After graduation, on a leap of faith, I moved to Houston, Texas to intern at Western Academy, a private liberal arts school for boys. I have just completed my first year as a full-time teacher for Western Academy as the Art Director, P.E. Coach, Assistant Football Coach, and Head Track & Field Coach.

Upon moving to Houston, I found a small glass studio, Three Dimensional Visions, where I continued my passion for glass blowing. After a few months of renting time at the studio, Three Dimensional Visions offered me an internship which turned into a part time position as an assistant Gaffer (glass blower). With this opportunity I was able to start my own Glass Crafting business. I blow glass because I love the danger of it all and the beauty that results.

Gathering glass at 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, stretching, shaping, blowing, to form something that compliments the light so well is like nothing else. The way the glass feels, how it moves, and the limitless applications are all very exciting. Glass Blowing and coaching are my passions, I am blessed to be able to do both.
— Charles Collins

To me this is the sign of a true artist and artisan: his passion and excitement for what he does. He talks about glass blowing the way I talk about pulled pork, but that’s a separate issue. As someone who’s been interested in glass blowing for a while, I found it fascinating to hear about the art form from an insider, someone who actually does it for a living. After reading his introduction I spent more time than I’d like to admit to watching glass blowing videos on YouTube. Don’t start down that path; you’ve been warned.

Here are a few samples of his work.

I think Charles’ example is remarkable because he has discovered his main passions in life, and what’s more has put in the hard work that it takes to master them and make a living doing them. As a collegiate athlete, a coach, and an Artist and craftsman, his dedication to what he does is an invitation to all of us to find what we love, and then master what we find. Maybe our achievements won’t happen at 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, but that same effort and determination are invaluable assets in the pursuit of our art, and of our dreams.

Feel free to contact Charles, or hire him for customized glass creations.


 
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by Nik Sternhagen

Marketing Specialist at Catholic Support Services

Creation of the Week - Nicholas DeRose and Ascension's "Confession is a Place of Victory"

A few weeks ago the Catholic Community buzzed with the launch of a video called “Confession is a Place of Victory”, part of Ascension Press’ awesome new series called The 99. Featuring the unforgettable Fr. Mike Schmitz, and the beautiful animation work of the legendary Todd Bright, the video is a stellar accomplishment from many perspectives: cinematography, animation, storytelling, and evangelization, to name a few. Here it is, if you haven’t seen it yet:

Confession is not an easy topic, in any circle, and it is probably one of the most widely misunderstood and most heavily under-appreciated means of sanctification that the Church offers. Taking full advantage of Fr. Mike’s uncanny ability to explain things in a way that is refreshingly engaging, memorable, and relatable, the Ascension team has presented the sacrament in a way that anyone can connect with.

Artistically, the project is a masterpiece. The look and feel that the crew was able to achieve, with the help of some huge lights and expert color grading, is stunning. It blends perfectly with the beautiful animations to create a work of art in the truest sense, that simultaneously enlightens, uplifts, and teaches the viewer.

While this video is obviously the accomplishment of many people, we wanted to focus in a little bit on the man who directed it, Nicholas DeRose. After working for years with Ascension Press, Nicholas has recently struck out on his own.

Anyone who has made the jump into freelancing or starting their own business, especially if they are supporting a young family, can attest to the daunting nature of that decision. It takes guts to leave the security of a steady paycheck and a regular schedule, and expand into unknown horizons to make it on your own. But the possibilities that open up in front of you when you take a step like that often prove to be beyond your wildest dreams.

I reached out to Nicholas for a bit of an intro:

I am the Founder and Director of Visual Rose Productions.

I grew up loving movies and how they were made. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Lost left huge impressions on me. My mom homeschooled my siblings and I growing up and that’s where I fell in love with Catholicism.

It’ll be eight years this September that I will have been married to my beautiful wife. Being a father of three has really changed my perspective of beauty. Before kids I thought of beauty in terms of music, lighting, art, video and I still think that’s all true but what’s even more beautiful are the small moments, the memories, the interactions I experience with my wife and children.

I love being a father to them like God is a father to me. Being a husband and father is and will always be the most thrilling adventure of my life. It’s in the home with family and God that beauty is found.

I worked ten years for Ascension and have recently jumped into doing my business full-time. I learned a lot from my time there and it’s been an adjustment for me and my family over the past few months but we are beginning to settle in to the new role / schedule. Having more autonomy over my work and spending more time with family has been huge. I love what I do and I am excited for this journey that God has me on.

I think that’s a pretty remarkable approach, and one that anyone can benefit from imitating. To me it seems evident that Nicholas is a man of God, a man for his family, and a master of his craft, and that’s a combination that is not easy to find. Oh and his demo reel is pretty fantastic, if you haven’t seen it.

If fear is keeping you from taking a leap, or even a step, in your life or career, look to examples of people like Nicholas DeRose. They are living proof that although it’s not easy, it’s worth it, and that when you expand beyond the horizon of what you know, you begin to understand the extent of your potential.

Feel free to contact Nicholas, or hire him for any of your film needs.


 
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by Nik Sternhagen

Marketing Specialist at Catholic Support Services

Creation of the Week - Chris Alles' St. Charles Borromeo

In this day and age, it sometimes seems like practically anything can be called art, and no questions are asked. So when we come across a true masterpiece, the breathtaking result of decades of the painstakingly determined mastery of a centuries-old craft, it is a stunning accomplishment.  This is exactly what Chris Alles has achieved.  

This week we’re featuring Chris for his bronze-cast statue of St. Charles Borromeo that he created for the church of St. Charles Borromeo in Montgomery Township, NJ. A brief visit to his website portfolio reveals that his talents go far beyond his bronzework, but that’s the focus of today’s post. Check out Chris’ freelancer profile or portfolio.

Chris is a sculptor currently residing in New York.  He began drawing at the age of two, but it was not until sixteen years later that he began to take art seriously. His passion for art ultimately led him to Florence, Italy, where he apprenticed for six months under sculptor Dony MacManus. 

There, he discovered the beauty and power of the Italian Renaissance masters, and in the presence of the raw energy of their work, he encountered the need to become a sculptor.

After his time in Italy, Christopher returned to his hometown of Portland, Oregon and continued his studies with Polish sculptor Tomasz Misztal. Under Misztal’s guidance, he discovered how to link the influence of the past with that of the present. 

Consequently, his work often references and quotes artists ranging from the Renaissance to the early to mid-twentieth century. The primary process behind the creation of his art consists of a study from the past and its development to now, then responding to the contemporary world in light of this study.

Christopher has been commissioned for projects throughout the US, from church restoration projects to religious statuary, including most recently a set of reliquaries for the St. Joseph Dominican Province.

In 2018, Monsignor Gregory Malovetz, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Montgomery Township, NJ, commissioned Christopher Alles to sculpt an image of the saint. The pastor and artist decided together to depict a typical scene from the Saint’s life: St. Charles serving the poor. Christopher decided to focus on the penitential aspect of this relationship, showing Borromeo receiving the poor man’s confession. Here one can clearly see quotes from Rembrandt’s famous Prodigal Son painting.

We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: ‘I will pray, and then I will understand.’ This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work. In meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in others.
— St. Charles Borromeo
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If I have learned anything from Chris, it’s to never give up in the pursuit of mastery.  We are all given gifts and talents that it is our task to develop, perfect, and ultimately put at the service of God and others.  It’s precisely in the often unrewarding daily drudgery, the small steps towards perfection, that from our own clay we will one day find our own masterpiece taking shape.

Feel free to contact Chris, or hire him if you’re in the market for timeless bronze masterpieces.


 
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by Nik Sternhagen

Marketing Specialist at Catholic Support Services

Creation of the Week - Laura Allen's Bulletin Design

This week we’re featuring Laura Allen.  Laura is a writer and director, who shoots and edits event videography and habitually works on film projects which raise awareness for schools, charities, and nonprofits, all endeavors she is passionate about.  She lives and works in New Jersey, and is a charming, creative and talented individual. Check out her freelancer profile and portfolio

Laura stirred things up a few weeks ago for what might seem to be a side project; her beautiful bulletin design for the People of Hope community.  “Beautiful” is not usually the first word that comes to most people’s minds when they think about most Church bulletins, but the work that Laura has done here truly breaks that stereotype.  Her use of balanced fonts, discrete, gentle color combinations, and a pleasant and engaging layout all combine into what has to be one of the prettiest bulletin designs I’ve ever seen.  

To me this hits the heart of what the New Evangelization is all about: presenting the eternal truths of the faith in a new and engaging way.  While I wouldn’t call Church bulletin design an eternal truth, the current system does feel pretty eternal, and this new approach is a breath of fresh air that any Church or organization could benefit from imitation. Here’s a snippet from her profile

“I am a little pencil in the hand of God. Whatever he writes is beautiful”

-St Teresa of Calcutta

It’s funny. I am a writer and filmmaker who has had a long, hard, struggle to accept that I am a writer and filmmaker. That I’m a creator and a creative. Growing up, these seemed like very silly, even self-centered pursuits.

I’ve always loved the Lord and wanted to serve him, but for some reason, for the longest time, I thought that had to look a certain way. That it had to be heroic.  That I had to be a missionary, or be serving the poor in a foreign land, or a campus minister, or a nun and that any other form of service was somehow a waste. But Christ, in his patience and tenderness has slowly been teaching me that to serve him is to simply be a little pencil in his hand.  And, for me, I’m learning, that means creating. Creating is my way of loving others. 

It’s a walk of trust to believe that making meaningful things can change hearts. That Christ can move and grow, if we’re humble enough to be simple sowers of seeds. And that’s how I see what I do: to make little films is a simple sowing of seeds. How beautiful it is that we artists have the opportunity to evangelize simply, in smallness, and then to watch in faith as God does the rest.”

Laura’s example is a great reminder to all of us, living out our faith in the creative field, to not hinder or hide the God-given gifts and talents that we have been blessed with, to seek and find Him in the beauty that is all around us, and where there doesn’t seem to be much beauty, like perhaps in some Church bulletins, to put it there, and watch how He is able to work through it. 

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Feel free to contact Laura or hire her for design or video work! 


 
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by Nik Sternhagen

Marketing Specialist at Catholic Support Services

Creation of the Week - Brandstanding

Brandstanding

One of the things that I love the most is watching collaborations develop through the Community. I think it was about a year ago that Tony Vasinda and Mark Guiney invited my brother and I to test out their new board game. It was fun and quirky and very up the CC ally, but I didn’t think much of it again until Sunday morning of the CC Summit last September. While people were trickling out and our team was tearing down our decorations, a small group of unlikely people were uproariously laughing around a table together playing the Brandstanding demo. A week later I’d heard from Ryan Boh and Chris Pesigan, two that they’d decided to fund Brandstanding’s first round.

This game is very much up our ally. At the Summit we love to ask crazy, playful questions to get things kicked off in the mornings like: “Write the Church’s official response to the Zombie Apocalypse” or come up with a “No holds barred R rated parish announcement about NFP.” Tackling ridiculous questions like that actually teaches us that play and creativity go hand in hand. Brandstanding is an awesome game to play for that reason and I hope everyone in the community gets the chance to play it at least once.

Their kickstarter launched this week and I’d love to see them continue to get the liftoff that they need to succeed. Next one could be us!

I asked Ryan to write up their story for anyone who’s interested. I think it’s an awesome case study in what the CC community really is now and potentially could be for us as we grow.

Catholic Creative Case Study: BrandStanding

After launching our Kickstarter we wanted to share how the Catholic Creatives Community influenced the establishment of our team and many milestones made over the past six months.

Investment & Partnership

After playing the game at the Summit, Chris and Ryan asked Tony about his intentions with it and his go-to market strategy. Tony vulnerably conveyed fiscal and organizational constraints that led Chris and Ryan to offer funding and consultative expertise in business, finance and operations. Following extensive discussion and collaborative sessions, there was unanimous consensus that Chris and Ryan offered unique skill sets that would drive growth.

Healing & Harnessing Creative Culture

One of the major realizations for Tony and the creative team was how much deep-seated distrust that creatives often times harbor towards administrative or executive personalities. When you work in and with parishes and diocesan offices there is often open animosity between vision keepers, direct ministers, and administrative staff. The BrandStanding project has been a place of healing and growth for all members of the team in learning how to use best business practices to harness a creative vision and move it intentionally towards success. It’s a place where team members are able to trust each other, speak openly, ask questions, and grow. Our hope is that this mindset and experience is something that could become commonplace in the Catholic Creatives community in order to move closer toward the vision of creating a new renaissance in the Church.

Inspiring Corporate Guys

Through the discussions about partnering and understanding Tony, Mark and Michael’s creative motivations, Ryan and Chris became captivated by the idea of providing financial security so they could focus on their art. In this case the Art was BrandStanding which is an entrepreneurial pitching and investing game. Chris and Ryan share the belief that Creatives deserve a fair income for their creative work and talents. They believe that by investing in BrandStanding it will enable Tony to spend more of his time creating and testing games (which happens to be something he loves).

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Next Steps

Our team is proud of the fact that we are able to support the Catholic Creative circuit and beyond. Our passion for paying creatives to do amazing work is driving our fiscal and cultural goals with BrandStanding. From a community perspective, we appreciate how our flagship product brings people together to laugh and enjoy each other’s company. From an application perspective, we’re excited to watch BrandStanding become a catalyst to “break” traditional education with our goal to drive skill sets required for entrepreneurial culture within high schools and universities. More than anything we are thankful for the Catholic Creative community that helped facilitate a partnership aiming to change the world. If you appreciate what we are doing and want to get involved, then please support our Kickstarter, tell all your friends, and the Catholic Creative group will have a chance to create a set of cards that go in the core game, and create an 18 card expansion that we will make available exclusively to the CC community.

Other Blogs We Think You’ll Like:




How To Create Beautiful Community

How To Create Beautiful Community

At that first Summit, I felt in my heart a spring of water push up out of the dry desert clay and begin making a garden of the wilderness inside me just as those mission trips did so long ago. The thirst in my soul is for the Church to look like family again, and when I look around at the men and women who’ve heard the call in Catholic Creatives and answered it, I don’t just see temporary friends, I see brothers and sisters.

Better Together

Better Together

We’re not sure how or when it happens, exactly. Is it when two creatives sit next to each other and laugh at the same joke from a Summit speaker? Does it start as mutual admiration on a Show-Off Tuesday post? Is it even smaller, like a podcast downloaded, a product purchased, a video watched? Whenever it happens and however it develops, we know one thing for sure: Catholic Creatives is a hub for connection.

Back to the Beginning

Back to the Beginning

I worked in ministry, but couldn’t coax myself to join any Catholic young adult communities. I didn’t want to have to hide the fact that I did yoga in the mornings or listened to NPR. Deep down, I honestly had lost my dream for the utopic Catholic community I saw at that Steubenville conference. I kept my distance, instead making friends in the Dallas start-up circles. That is, until I found Edmund Mitchell’s Facebook profile.  

New Renaissance Digital Festival

If we haven't had the pleasure of meeting IRL or online, I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Cat from Kansas and have been part of the Catholic Creatives community online since almost the beginning. I've gotten to be at two Dallas meetups and both of the Summits, and I am loving getting to bring forth this growing community.  

Yesterday I walked outside my door in the morning and was caught between a giggle and a cry. After months of frigidly cold weather, it was WARM. Warm enough to stand on my front porch and drink my coffee. Mentally I'd giving up hope on ever seeing spring arrive. I knew it would come, but the day in, day out experience of static electricity, bulky cumbersome layers, and painful extremities made some days seem like endless waiting. 

I know that there will be other cold days before warm weather is completely settled in, but it's those little moments that remind me that something greater is coming, if I just hold on a biiiiiiiiiit longer. 

It can feel that way with so many things in life. We just need some sparks of joy to get us through the cold and monotonous. 

Even the Catholic Creative community needs that. 

That's why I'm super excited to announce:

This year we are launching the

New Renaissance Digital Festival!

The festival will be an online gathering held March 25-29, on the anniversary of our very first Summit.

Our goal is to reinvigorate the wider community and relaunch who we are for those who have been with us from the beginning but have become disconnected, and those who have just recently joined who aren’t totally keyed in to all the opportunities available to them. There is a palpable energy that has been born from CC thus far, but we have to keep asking, “What could be?”

So we’re going to remind the collective where we’ve come from, show off what we’re doing, and point ahead to where we’re going. That direction comes from everyone. We’ll ask both, “How has the community changed your life?” and also “What is YOUR dream for the community?”

The Festival activities will include:

  • A rebrand/relaunch of meetups and announcing some dates

  • An online makers market

  • Live Podcast

  • State of Communion

  • Raffle for prize packages from a choice selection of some of our favorite creations

  • And more, of course!

But you don't have to wait to start the festivities!

If you are a part of the Facebook group or CC Slack, March 15-22 we will be posting a poll to vote for a LIVE podcast airing! We pulled the numbers from our most download episodes and asked if those guests would want to jump on live for you all. 

Voting will only last a week, though, so jump on your platform of choice and get your vote in!

And, to not leave you with too much of a tease, the next Summit date will be announced at the end of the Festival week. We’ve got a lot to look forward to!

See you in the festivities!

Huzzah,
Catherine Seiwert
Mischief Manager

Title photo by Patrick Thomas

Creation of the Week 54 - Novum Collective

With the revolutionary advancements of the technology, transportation, Internet, social media, etc., collaboration is no longer as difficult as it once was, and yet in the Catholic world it is still often times a source of power left untapped. That’s why I was so pumped when I saw the Novum crew’s newest collaboration, the Novum Collective Christmas Album. It’s not because their site is amazing or because I absolutely love every piece of art on there. I think it’s all great, but the fact that they are teaming up to put their collective energy and effort behind a common cause together, that’s what gets me pumped.

I remember three years ago feeling totally alone and like I was the only one who thought the way I think about creativity in the Church. Now I’m friends with a couple thousand new like minded people, some of whom I feel like I’ve been to war and back with. 40% of our clients at Sherwood Fellows have come from the CC community, 100% of our team members and freelancers have been brought together through the community, I’ve been mentored, I’ve been challenged, I’ve been stretched to my limit and beyond it, and literally everything in my life is better for it.

Sometimes I feel like a crazy person when I tell people that CC is one of the most powerful forces for transformation in the Church today. When I say that, I don’t mean the organization behind Catholic Creatives, because (shhh don’t tell anyone) there isn’t some big organization behind Catholic Creatives. I mean the decentralized network that’s powering crazy things like this wacked out crowdfunding campaign from Novum Co.

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Here’s the reality: Most of us musicians, artisans, makers, and artists are really in the beginning stages of our careers and the odds are mostly stacked against us. We have might have 1-5k followers on our social media platforms and we’ve fought hard for each and every one of them. We’re not that connected, and though we’re talented, we don’t have access to the kind of force multiplier following that let Audrey Assad jump ship from her label and go solo. We don’t have big names, there’s not a connected economy for what we do that’s supported like it is in the protestant world, we don’t have a lot of mentors or infrastructures that exist to help us. That’s how I felt 3 years ago, and CC has totally changed that for me. Now I’m getting to see that happening for others as well.

As the Catholic Creatives movement picks up momentum,a great side effect has been a new awareness of other creative communities around the country (and globe).  With this greater connectivity comes greater potential. Will Hickle, Eric Wilkes, and all the other people involved in Novum saw the distributed network of CC and saw it for the force multiplier it is. What was once Novum (just Eric and Will doing their thing) they’ve expanded into a collective of Catholic creatives musicians who are putting out a super sweet Christmas Album together. They are crowdfunding it not simply by preselling the album, but by teaming up with a whole bunch of other Catholic Creative artists to sell unique Christmas gifts.

I asked Will why the move towards collaboration, and he told me that it started with the music:

“in my experience musical collaborations yield amazing results when compared to trying to do it on my own.” YES WILL. PREACH. He talked about how they leaned on each other’s talents and gifts to make the music amazing, but looked to leverage each other’s following by opening it up to one another. By collaborating instead of going it alone, “we build awareness of every artist that’s a part of the project. Every artist gets exposure to every other artists’ following.”

Everyone reading this, be like Will. Will was smart. He saw that his following might not be that big, but if he joined with 12 artists who all also have small followings, those numbers turn into a force to be reckoned with. 12x5,000=60,000. That’s a tide that can raise all ships.

Collaboration is smart, but it’s also what’s best for our souls. Will was really emphatic about that point when I asked him about how this project got rolling. He told me that as a part of the process all the musicians cleared their schedules to go on a writers retreat together. “I personally have never experienced such a wave of inspiration that came from being around so many creative people. Many of us had never been so productive or so excited to write music. Sadly I've observed that many circles of creatives work in isolation - a lot of people work alone because of schedules, location, or lack of community.  This is where CC offers hope, and if you're reading this I encourage you to reach out to someone you've seen on the group that you have thought "I would love to work with them"!

Listen to Will. Find a team. Also, go buy some Christmas gifts on their site and support them. Their crowdfunding ends on Friday, so go show ‘em some love.

By Marcellino D’Ambrosio
Cofounder of Catholic Creatives
Creative Director of Sherwood Fellows

The Missing Ingredient

I’ll admit that when I saw the words “New Renaissance” the first time I went to the Catholic Creatives website, I thought it was, at best, harmlessly quixotic; at worst, prideful and unattainable.

To me, the word “Renaissance” evokes thoughts of a time long-passed, when society and creators and the Church held similar ideals. Institutions actually valued artists—I’m pretty sure Michelangelo didn’t win a design contest to paint the Sistine Chapel for “exposure.” Everyone moved towards the same goal: beauty and renewal.

I picture musicians and scientists and philosophers attending Mass and having breakthroughs each day. I picture well-dressed commoners spending their time in lofty conversation between shifts of idyllic farm work. I picture city squares where people gather, constantly brimming with new ideas. Not exactly the monotonous-40-hour-work-week-then-Netflix-binge model we have. Not the isolation and echo chambers. And definitely not the political infighting, the struggle for arts funding, the shallow values in media, the never-ending timeline scroll that consumes us.

hmmm.... interesting... another picture of my neighbor playing with his dog... am I missing something?

hmmm.... interesting... another picture of my neighbor playing with his dog... am I missing something?

It seemed silly—even arrogant—to claim we are the harbingers of a New Renaissance when the world looks anything but ripe for renewal.

How would we gain momentum to shift a society and even Church members that are continually opposed to the upward call of beauty and creativity? Don’t get me wrong: I know we’re onto something important here; I just didn’t see it expanding to that same level of historical magnitude, because it seems like there are so many obstacles around and within us.

So when I was tasked with reflecting on Matt Meeks’ talk from the 2017 Summit, “The New Renaissance,” I was somewhat skeptical. He began by pointing to moments in history where renaissances took place (it wasn’t just Italy in the 1500s, btw) and examining the “ingredients” for that level of artistic, intellectual, and cultural renewal to happen.

It made sense on a rational level. Each historical renaissance checked the boxes: systems in need of renewal; a specific space; a new level of societal connectivity; the union of people; fervent prayer and faith. And when he arrived at the New Renaissance that’s supposed to be taking place now, he showed the fertile soil we currently have. We exist in a new space that connects us like never before—the digital sphere—and are in desperate need of both systematic and personal revitalization. If we capitalize on this connectivity and hunger for newness, it could be historic.

But we aren’t seeing a renaissance, at least not yet, because we lack essential ingredients. It’s not because we’re facing newer, tougher obstacles or because we’ve lost our talents as a species or even because technology has rendered us less capable of creativity. It's that we are lacking the union of God’s people. 

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Yeah, no shit Sherlock, you might be thinking. Of course we need people to be united. That’s like, the whole point of having a “common goal.” And that’s what I was thinking when I neared the end of the talk, until Matt mentioned John 17:21, when Jesus prays “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you.”

That verse has been nagging at me since a silent retreat back in March. I’d always seen unity as a bit “kumbaya.” I thought the word “fellowship” was a cute excuse for a lack of substance; community-building seemed so shallow compared to the moral and theological formation people clearly needed. I definitely wanted to treat others with respect and kindness, but I cared more about getting close to God. I just didn’t see the point of emphasizing relationships beyond what human virtue requires.

But one of Jesus’ last prayers was for unity, and not just a hold-hands-around-a-campfire unity. He prays for Trinitarian unity among us, His disciples. “That they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you.”

I took John 17 into my Holy Hour on the last day of that silent retreat and could not get over this verse. What are you saying, Jesus?! Why does it matter that we are one with each other? Isn’t our goal oneness with You? And of course, that is the goal—to be one with God. The Lord assured me that the aim of life is to be united to Him in everything, and that He wants to be united to me. Divine love desires union.

But here’s where I think Jesus was heading: divine love desires union, so we participate in and incarnate the love of God when we establish real, dynamic, boundary-destroying union. When we come together while retaining our individuality, we become more and more an image of the Trinity, which is simply and mysteriously a perfect union of distinct persons. That sort of human community leads people to the ultimate community of the Trinity. Just as the Father, Son, and Spirit are one, so too does Jesus want us to remove divisions and become one in order to return to Oneness Itself.

God urged me to lean into this truth during and after that Holy Hour, but it stayed tucked away in my journal, a lovely spiritual moment that I had no idea how to enact in my life—until the verse resurfaced in a talk I had almost written off. I went back to the beginning and listened again, and I realized I’d been doubly wrong in the best way. Renaissance was not far-off, and unity was not shallow. In fact, it has been my own unbelief in both that has prevented this fertile ground for the New Renaissance from being tilled, planted, and harvested abundantly.

I have been fighting for my own success for far too long, not realizing that sowing into real community with fellow creatives would bring the momentum I was looking for all along.

My internalized biases and stereotypes about who others are or should be don’t just prevent me from seeing the image of God in them; I can’t become the image of the Triune God without them. When I mask my fear that I’ll never become the writer I want to be and pretend I have it all together, I take myself further from the union Jesus prayed for. Not honestly addressing my shortcomings (most notably, procrastination and paralyzing self-doubt) or judging others for theirs allows division to enter into my heart: my community won’t see me as I really am, and I won’t see others in their full dignity. I also fall short when I turn away from the Trinity, when I rely on myself to “be productive” instead of relying on God to bear fruit.

The New Renaissance will come out of the community of distinct persons that mirrors the Trinity—each person different and whole, yet united in purpose and love, creating as the Triune Creator does. When I let cynicism destroy my faith in God to initiate renewal, my trust in others, or my own vocation to bring beauty into the world, the renaissance stalls. I am recommitting to authentic relationships, fostered by honesty and the grace to love beyond myself, because I believe it is how we will create what the world desperately needs. Oneness is the upward call and challenge; it is the only way to continue forward.

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Blog by Courtney Kiolbassa

Poet, prose painter, crafter of words.

A NEW LIGHT - Seeing Your Work One More Time

We don’t always know the impact we’re having.

Liv Nino made bold choices in organizing last year’s Friday night CC Summit liturgy. We prayed solemn Vespers with a lucinarium, in which participants chant while holding individual candles, and prayed with iconography. It was outside most people’s experiences, and she knew it. She knew it would encourage people to face unfamiliarity, to take a risk, and find a deeper sense of unity beyond the liturgy battles we’re so used to fighting. She knew this community—which had barely even spent time in-person together, much less prayed together—would have to leave their comfort at the door in order to encounter the divine.

Like most of us when we’ve poured ourselves into our creations, she picked it apart, knew all of the problems, and wasn’t able to appreciate her own work.

Throughout the liturgy, she was a little preoccupied with the priest who got confused and the music minister who came in later than she’d wanted. She hoped everyone was experiencing God in a new way but had no idea how to tell if they were. Even as she held the icon so Catholic Creatives could approach the altar in prayer, her “sacristan eyes” blurred the beauty in the church, in the soft candlelight, in the faces of her fellow artists.

It wasn’t until the Summit had ended and she was back home that she truly saw herself, the liturgy, and the CC community…through the eyes (or rather, lens) of photographer Elissa Voss. The photographs struck her, giving her a new view of the church architecture, the unity of the attendees, and the depth of their prayer. Everything came back to her in a totally new light. 

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In the photos, she saw a unified community—people who used to be profile pictures on a computer screen were now faces illuminated by candles and singing as one. She saw others encountering God through her creation. It took another artist to give Liv a view of the beauty people were experiencing, and in so many ways that beauty confirmed God’s anointing and His delight in her. It was as if He was speaking to her, “Look, my daughter, your work is special, and it matters. Keep going.” In Liv’s words, the photos “gave flight to a reality that is at once startlingly honest and an upward call to who we can be.” 

We are sometimes unaware of the goodness we bring into the world and the goodness of God’s call in our life. All it takes is another artist to reframe our perspective, revealing the truth and urging us to become what we are.

This week, we’d love to hear from you: how has the Catholic Creatives community provoked you to see something—yourself, God, beauty, others—in a new light?
 

 

 

How to not fix people (Even when you really really want to).

I came out of college in pieces and had no idea how to put myself back together.

I had helped start a household that had collapsed in on its own rigidity, climbed the ladder of campus leadership only to plummet like a chicken from a tall building. I left ready to try my hand at a career and instead landed a part time youth ministry job that had me living with my parents, carpooling with my brother, and working in a packaging warehouse to make it work. I was really broken when I met Mike.

I had been pursuing this beautiful Palestinian girl who happened to play in the worship band at Mike’s church. I showed up ready to disregard these foolish protestants and instead found myself sobbing on the floor after the first worship set. I wiped myself off the floor and promptly crashed into someone’s car in the parking lot, because sometimes when God decides to walk in the room you're motor skills stop working.

God must have really touched that driver's life just now

God must have really touched that driver's life just now

I knew it wasn’t a fluke when I went back the next week, committed to finally making my move and asking out that girl after the service. Again I had to mop myself up after melting into a pool of tears in front of these silly heretics. I never did end up asking that girl out, but I did keep making the hour drive from the suburbs into east Dallas despite my family’s protests. There I experienced a level of care and hospitality I’d never encountered in the Catholic Church before in my life. The second week I was there, I was invited out for coffee by the pastor. The third week I was there, I was invited to a lifegroup, which I joined, and the fourth week, I went up to the pastor for prayer at the end of the service and he told me that he felt that the Lord was calling me to be “discipled.”

"Discipleship" before it was a thing.

This was before Sheryll Waddell’s book on discipleship came out, so it was not plastered on the cover of every new Catholic book or added to every new parish mission statement. I had no idea what that word meant. Jordan, the pastor of that little church, did not seem phased, and simply began pointing out random guys in the congregation. The first dude looked a bit too wild, the second man was too much of a salteen craker. The third dude was bald, tall, and reminded of me of a Franciscan brother without a beard, so I said “sure” and I let Jordan introduce us. That was how I met Mike. He was just some random dude picked out of a crowded little non denominational church in east Dallas.

How about that guy with the beard and the blank stare?

How about that guy with the beard and the blank stare?

We met up for dinner at his place the following day. He was paleo, so dinner was more or less fermented nuts and flax seeds. We shared our stories with each other over this strange meal when we were done Mike asked me what I was doing at 5am the following day. Needless to say I was a little taken aback. I told him I was a youth minister so I shouldn’t be expected to get up before 11am. He said he wanted me to come and do his morning prayer time with him. I made the 45 minute drive.

No one had ever done that before. I’ve been in the thick of it. I went to one of the best youth groups in the great country of Texas, I went to seminary, I lived at Ave Maria, and no one had ever asked me to do anything like that before.

Part of it was just the sheer audacity of the dude to ask me to drive 45 minutes to his house and pray with him at 5am, but the rest of it was the fact that I’d never been invited into another man’s most intimate prayer space before. I went, and what I saw totally transformed my prayer life. I learned more about prayer in that one hour than I had at all four years going to Catholic college, and all he did was let me into his life to see it from the inside.

And that was just how Mike always did things. For the next two years, I met with Mike and my friend Jarrad every Monday night while my soul was slowly eviscerated. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was leading us through a 12 step program for the emotionally broken. During that season, I was known and seen by Mike and Jarrad like I’d never been known or seen before. My junk was out on the table, and they could sort through it and point it out to me in total honesty and love. I realized that I had never been so wrong about so much in my whole life. I saw for the first time my own selfishness and pride and my wounds and how they colored every intention and action and experience I’d ever had. It was unbelievably freeing.

Mike's Rules for intimacy

When we met every week, we started with two guidelines that made it safe for us to be that open. The first rule was that we would never share anything that was said in the group to anyone outside of it without permission. That one is sort of an obvious one that a lot of small groups try to employ to make intimacy possible. The second rule was much more rare. The second rule was this: No giving advice unless it’s asked for.

Seems simple, but try it out. I’ve been trying to follow it for 6 years now and still can’t do it.

HOLD UP. Someone on the facebook group just posted a logo contest. MOVE ASIDE PEOPLE, I'LL HANDLE THIS

HOLD UP. Someone on the facebook group just posted a logo contest. MOVE ASIDE PEOPLE, I'LL HANDLE THIS

I asked Mike why that rule, and this is what he told me: “We’re not here to fix each other. That’s God’s job. We’re here to work through our own junk, and to do that we have to deflate our need and desire to place ourselves above each other. Our pride being crushed is more important .” I feel like that principle is one that we need to do a better job of applying with each other. Often time in forums or discussions, when a person surfaces an idea or a belief, our first reaction is to try to fix what’s broken. The problem is we’re not the fixers.

I was a punk ass kid all my life with a tape that played in my head all day every day “no one understands you, you just don’t fit, no one gets it.” Over and over again those thoughts would run through my mind until one day Mike finally told me “Bro, you can be understood if you go deep and commit.” He was right. He created a space for me where I wasn’t judged, where my experiences and emotions and opinions were accepted and heard. Once that happened, my heart softened and God did most of the work of transforming me in the secret place of payer. All Mike had to do was listen and share from his own experiences vulnerably.

We need to believe that our God is big enough to work on ourselves and each other. We don’t have to fix each other, we don’t have to fix ourselves, we don’t have to fix the Church. God will move through us if we are faithful to letting him move in us first.

I want to offer this as a principle that I’m going to try to follow in our dialogues with each other. I promise not to try and fix you. I promise not try to educate you. I promise not to give you advice that you didn’t ask for. I’m going to listen to you and just ask that you do the same for me.

Once Upon a CC Summit

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For Daniela Madriz, what made the Catholic Creatives Summit in March 2017 so different from other “networking” events was how beautifully people’s lives aligned beyond just sharing a career or interest. She described the personality of a Catholic creative—the entrepreneurial spirit, the depth of character, the curiosity to discover God in beauty—and how unique it was to be around people who clicked with her, who “got” her.

Unbeknownst to Daniela, one of those people aligned so well that she’d get engaged to him less than a year later.

One for the Storybooks

The story of that Summit-initiated relationship has become a Catholic Creatives staple. Ringmaster Marcellino D’Ambrosio chatted with Daniela and her fiancé Alex Quintana about how their relationship unfolded. Over and over, they mentioned the serendipity of it all, the alignments and connections that seemed pre-ordained, and we thought you’d enjoy swooning over their story with us. If you want to watch the interview yourself, check it out rough and unedited below.

 

Reservations

Alex, ironically, wasn’t totally sold on going to the Summit at first. He was making a film in Austin, focused on his projects, and only had a few small connections with other Catholic Creatives in the Facebook group. Likewise, native Guatemalan Daniela was in the U.S. for about a month to develop her marketing and design work and visit her then-boyfriend, and though she loved being part of Catholic Creatives, she didn’t know if getting to the Summit was worth the hassle.

They both finally decided to go—Daniela, at the encouragement of said then-boyfriend, and Alex, mostly because he wanted to get more involved in the faith-art intersection. And it didn’t hurt that he had noticed (read: Facebook stalked) a cute girl from Guatemala who was going to the Summit as well.

I don't wanna do long distanceee *cough*.... Guatemala's not THAT far

I don't wanna do long distanceee *cough*.... Guatemala's not THAT far

The Summit began properly, at a bar, and Alex found one of Daniela’s mutual friends to see if talking to her would mean he’d eventually get to talk to Daniela. Things didn’t go exactly as planned: Daniela saw her friend Corina talking to Alex and decided not to interrupt Corina’s conversation with a handsome Catholic guy. She even told Corina to date Alex, but Corina was on a dating fast at the time. In Daniela’s words, that was a “perfect misalignment.”

Alex took some more initiative and, throughout the conference, kept “winding up” in conversations with Daniela, where he learned that she was dating someone else and decided to simply foster their friendship. Their shared faith was a great jumping-off point; they admired each others’ talent and passion. At the end of the Summit, Daniela left to Tennessee to spend time with her boyfriend. Alex was somewhat disappointed that there couldn’t have been more, but figured whatever was supposed to happen would happen.

Unforseen Endings and Unexpected Beginnings

It took another misalignment before Alex and Daniela’s stories started to intertwine again. After only a few days of being together, Daniela and her boyfriend mutually and cordially ended their relationship, which left her with two weeks in the U.S. and nothing to do over Easter weekend. She posted on Facebook to see if anyone wanted to meet up while she was in the States, and after some short comments and messages from other friends, nothing was working out.

With true Catholic Creatives flair, Alex went out on a limb: he commented a long paragraph with a detailed itinerary for sightseeing in Austin (somewhere Daniela had always wanted to go), a visit to Schoenstatt shrine, hangouts with others who had been at the Summit, and plans for Triduum in Dallas—which is where Daniela would be flying out of at the end of her trip. Some quick messages back and forth, and she was off to hang out with Alex and his family and friends. Everything was aligning.

Said Alex, “She just arrived on my doorstep. It was kind of a miracle.” His family shamelessly initiated the conversation to see if she was still dating her previous boyfriend, and Alex took a leap of faith in revealing his feelings for her early on. Daniela found her feelings grow for him, too. He checked all the big boxes, of course—the shared worldview, the passion and spontaneity of a freelance life—and the little alignments delighted her all the more: his family’s enthusiasm, the fun they had together exploring Texas, and, admittedly, “his Latin last name.”

Daniela flew home with butterflies and, though worried her whirlwind trip would cause “a PR fiasco back home,” she knew that things had clicked in a way they never had before.

She was right. In February of 2018, Alex proposed to Daniela, surrounded by mountains and rose petals. They’ll be married in January, and are incredibly grateful for the way the Summit impacted their lives in multiple ways. Catholic Creatives has been instrumental for Daniela’s career in freelance design work. Being able to collaborate, learning from Creatives’ initiatives, getting to see people really invest in quality design: it’s motivated and encouraged her. Alex sees Catholic Creatives as “a sign of hope, of reaching people who need to be reached,” and credits a lot of his personal and professional growth to the relationships he built at the Summit.

 

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Obviously, this relationship is one for the books. We are thrilled for more serendipitous alignments and connections to emerge from the CC Summit on September 13-16, 2018!

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By Courtney Kiolbassa

Poet, Writer, and Love Story Aficionado. 

How Not To Social Media, Circa 2002

So I decided to give Anthony a break from pouring out his deepest darkest stories and inspiring the crap out of us all to try my hand at being way too vulnerable for people I barely know online. Just kidding you’re all better friends to me than my real life friends cause #2018SocialLife amirite?

 

Recently we had an admin get-together to talk about how we welcome people to the group, how we approve or deny posts, and various other Facebook admining tasks, but strangely enough, as I’ve grown to expect with the D’Ambros, we didn’t start there at all. We talked about moments. Moments when the community was at its best and touched us most deeply… moments when we felt a spiritual tribe… moments we felt alive and fully ourselves. At the time, I told a story about when I took the bull by the horns and decided to lead the DFW Meetup… as a way to sort of strong-arm my way into bribing people to learn the kinds of skills an Aerospace Engineer might bring to a bunch of artists and videographers and apparently even hairdressers. In the moment that I felt that tinge of insecurity that I was trying to fit my square peg into the triangular hole, the community responded, showed up, enjoyed themselves, and spent the wee hours of the morning drinking on my back porch asking way too personal of questions and bonding in ways people who just met IRL for the first time mere hours ago shouldn’t normally bond. People drove from all directions and some even flew across the country to find their place in this tribe. Every room in my house was completely full of new friends crashing overnight so they could drive the 5, 6, 7 hours home or catch their flight the next day. DANG. Even if I knew that it wasn’t me or my Lockheed tour offer or my engineering design methodology powerpoint that made them come, I was a part of something so much bigger than I realized… and I wanted to keep trying to facilitate and support and play my role in this movement… this renaissance… however I possibly could.

 

Pictured above: Another moment of unimaginable connection captured by the great Catherine Seiwert at the CC DFW Meetup.

Pictured above: Another moment of unimaginable connection captured by the great Catherine Seiwert at the CC DFW Meetup.

 

If you don’t know me, you may not know that I’m the guy who typically learns lessons the hard way once or twice before anything really sticks… and as one of the first generations to begin to grow up with this new internet thing I learned ALL the lessons about internet use the hard way. I even got my account banned in middle school when I thought researching online was as simple as visiting whateveryourewantingtolearnmoreabout.com because disney.com and espn.com and all those things worked! Why wouldn’t blackholes.com work when I was doing my 7th grade science report?! (Spoiler alert: it was much more graphic back then than it is now). So we join the story again in my early days of high school. I had a collection of AOL free trial CDs on my wall and my AIM profile was my key to social interaction as QuinnyJ or CrazyCloudMeteu or who knows whatever other dorky names I made for myself when I needed to start over and redefine my friends every few months.

Pictured above: Yes. High School J.P. had hair. On top of his head. It has since migrated south to the chin.

Pictured above: Yes. High School J.P. had hair. On top of his head. It has since migrated south to the chin.

 

I was in an advanced placement English class learning about poetry and the teacher encouraged us to find a topic that we were passionate about for our poetry writing assignment. I couldn’t think of any words that rhymed with NASA so I decided that I was a high schooler now and I needed to be more of an adult in my faith and write something to share morality. You see, my high school was undergoing this strange phase of suicide-envy. One of the kids in the grade below me committed suicide and it rocked the school pretty bad… people wearing pins and dedicating yearbook pages to memorialize the guy… he was really loved by a lot of people. I didn’t know him very well but it seemed like everyone I knew was friends with him.

 

Not long after, a female student at the school committed suicide, and then about the same amount of time later, another male committed suicide. It was becoming an epidemic and rumor was that there was some sort of secret group that all decided to stick it to the man and kill themselves one by one until none of them were left to graduate. This was incomprehensible to me and it really shook me that kids my age would feel this way about their lives… that they wouldn’t understand their value or see that they were loved enough to want to stick around or who knows why they were doing this… but it was clearly a pattern and I had to do what I could to help stop it! I know my Catholic faith says that life is sacred and I need to use this poetry assignment to make a statement to the class that suicide isn’t the answer. I painted the words into a story of a dystopian society called Suicide City where everyone was killing themselves, of course seeing myself as the next [insert famous poet name here] that was going to use my art to reshape minds.

 

The first half of the poem was pretty hard-truthy and the second half was uplifting. We had peer reviews before the assignment was to be turned in and a friend of mine reviewed my poem and said to me (before it was cool or even a thing, mind you) “Dude… this is really good! You need to share this online so people can see it and spread it!” This was my first lesson in “going viral” and my last attempt at poetry. You see, we didn’t have Facebook or even really Myspace yet… we had AIM profiles. Character limited profiles that didn’t always warn you when what you thought you typed in was what it accepted. So I put it on my profile and only about the first half of the poem posted. Within hours I was magically getting messages from screen names I didn’t recognize with all sorts of death threats and accusations. I was disrespecting their dead friends, I was somehow indirectly telling these grieving people that their perfect deceased friends were in hell and I shouldn’t be talking about suicide in any negative light. I turned off the computer assuming it would just fade away and be forgotten. Of course not, J.P. This is high school. I walked into school with evil glares and print-outs of my poem on the floor with James Quinn attached to it (they had to look up who QuinnyJ could be and the yearbook said James). I was a bit freaked out but there was nothing I could do. Lunch rolls around and a guy comes up behind me with his posse of angry kids, tapping my shoulder asking if I’m James Quinn. I asked him why he wanted to know and he told me something to the effect of, “Because James Quinn is gonna die for what he said about my friend”. I had a teacher friend sitting at the table across the cafeteria who noticed a potential altercation and quickly came to clear it up. I tried to continue eating my lunchable pizza but as soon as it had all gone back to normal, he came back with a bigger group of friends and went on some sort of tirade I’ve since blocked from my nightmares about how he was going to make me pay for what I said about his dead friends. The teacher saw what was happening and decided this time to remove me from the situation to stop the threepeat.

 

I went and sat in the counselor's office while they pulled in each of the people from the posse to investigate why they were upset at me. The counselor put the piece of paper in front of me, with a few fierce lines highlighted asking if this was my work. I told them the story of my english assignment and my AIM profile and they told me that it was safer if I went home for the last 3 days of the semester because these kids were serious. I could come in before school to take my last exams and we’d just hope over the break that people would move on. The principal walked me to my car as some sort of bodyguard and I started driving home. My friend who recommended I post this poetry assignment got on AIM later that night to warn me that he overheard stories that these kids had plans to come burn my house down. I was freaked out so I stayed up all night hiding in the window of our game room watching the front of my house, clutching the key fob of my dad’s Honda CRV thinking if they showed up that I would use the lock or alarm to scare them away. They showed up. I scared them away. We reported it to the police who could do nothing because it was all still very much the wild wild west trying to link AIM profiles to real people, but I spent the rest of my high school days feeling very isolated, paranoid, and silenced. I didn’t know who I could trust, and I continuously got reminders and threats year after year that they hadn’t forgotten what I had done. At one point months later, they chased me through the record store of the mall with a knife. These people were psychos.

Pictured above: This was probably my AIM profile picture. I found it on an old  tripod website  I made that is apparently still up. Yes, I had to use a flashlight because my webcam was no good at taking photos.

Pictured above: This was probably my AIM profile picture. I found it on an old tripod website I made that is apparently still up. Yes, I had to use a flashlight because my webcam was no good at taking photos.

So why do I tell our community (and probably, with my luck, the world since I’ve learned how unpredictable these internet postings can be) this strange story from my teenage years? Anthony’s done a great job of sharing the parts of his past and how its formed his outlook on life, how it’s helped form this amazing online community, and how it’s impacting the direction and desires we’re trying to set for this community’s future. Anthony also went to high school with me and has told me he only vaguely knows of this happening. We weren’t really friends or part of the same friend groups––strange how life weaves paths sometimes, eh? Nevertheless this story has been a large part of who I am and how I interact online. I’ve learned to be meticulous sometimes and I’ve been forced to re-examine every word I put out there to try to be as cognizant of how it might be taken or construed in any possible context as a self-defense mechanism. A big part of that CC DFW meetup was about risk identification and mitigation, which was a big part of my time designing at Harley in my day job before I got to Lockheed where again I seem to latch to process improvements and design changes that prevent unforeseen consequences. I aim to write to be direct and (most of the time, yes even on Facebook) have very intentionally crafted words. It seriously pains me when I see someone write something flippantly and not realize they probably just offended a group of people. I take offense for others when they probably wouldn’t take offense themselves because I want to believe the person writing it didn’t mean to say what they said the way they said it and I want them to see how it could be taken in an effort to somehow prevent what happened to me from  ever happening to anyone again. I’ve looked through comments in some of our more heated anime icon type discussions and just poured over them to find the right words to convince people to act like the community I see this as, instead of playing the typical internet card and shutting out people that are wrong because they need the tough love that, let’s be honest, the internet just is never going to effectively provide. I get so lost trying to figure out how to admin these conversations, how to approve post suggestions that might be controversial… if I delete something am I censoring a valid opinion even if it might offend someone else and be written in poor taste? What standards am I supposed to hold others to if we as an admin group still haven’t been able to agree on expectations for conversation ourselves enough to post some sort of rules or guidelines?

 

Sometimes I wish I could just give up Facebook and social media because it’s so bad at doing what it's meant to do… but I can’t just run away from my fears or from my opportunity to set an example of what this is all supposed to be. If you’re friends with me, you’ll know half of what I post is just funny memes, photos from my ridiculous world travels, or cool science links anyways. At the heart of social media, I see it as a driving force to connect, discuss, and share love. Show people your life, celebrate with them, ask them for help, figure out how to feel about things, keep up with what’s going on in a world where it’s apparently weird to actually talk on the telephone. The core of Catholic Creatives was never meant to live wholly online… we humanize and experience connections in person at meetups and at summits and at random airshows where you run into Jacob Popčak.

Pictured above: Yes. I really met Jacob at an air show in Ohio. He got all the T-50A swag I had.

Pictured above: Yes. I really met Jacob at an air show in Ohio. He got all the T-50A swag I had.

But we can’t neglect or deny the potential for good that can come from Facebook. Despite it being 99% of how we interact, this Facebook group does not define who we are.It is still however an invaluable tool and I’m convinced we can use it to achieve our goals. If there was no Facebook group, I’d have no way to tell the random Canadian radio producer and Canadian priest that I met in Israel that they were both very Catholic and very Creative and needed to join our community. Without Facebook, said priest wouldn’t have been able to join and browse the members within 2 minutes of my invite to realize he knew several people already in the group and feel he might agree with my assessment of his need to join. (#CCCanadaMeetup anyone??)

Pictured above: Fr. Darryl did not endorse my CC Canada Meetup event idea prior to my posting this, despite what his thumbs up photo that I photobombed may suggest. Photo of Canadian producer Josh not shown.

Pictured above: Fr. Darryl did not endorse my CC Canada Meetup event idea prior to my posting this, despite what his thumbs up photo that I photobombed may suggest. Photo of Canadian producer Josh not shown.

So you’ll notice Anthony’s last blog didn’t have the golden solution to anything about our identity as Catholic Creatives and my blog post isn’t going to solve, once and for all, how we’re all supposed to use Facebook to build a genuine tribe of creatives seeking to spread truth and beauty through our random menagerie of gifts. I think we do a lot of things right––sharing our creations and hobbies, connecting with opportunities and needs, sharing our wounds in hopes that our stories can weave themselves into a beautiful expression of living art somehow––and I think we can do a lot of things better, e.g.growing while maintaining personal connections, reminding ourselves to humanize the name we don’t know who just threw down an unpopular opinion, and supporting others even when our business sense or artistic knowledge tells us we could have done it better ourselves.

 

How do we utilize this gift of online connection for the good we seek? How do we unite despite our distance and our inability to actually make friends with everyone who wants to contribute to our mission? If we’re going to solve these things and be the difference on Facebook… we’re going to solve it together. Thanks for being a part of this tribe and giving me and countless others a place to find purpose and belonging. Let’s sharpen this iron together so we may find our crossed paths taking us to the eternal reward we all seek so deeply.

Thank you.

-J.P. "QuinnyJ" "jptheaggie" Quinn

How To Leave Seminary in 4 Years or Less

First... There was AOL Messenger. My handle was dudeisk8214 because I belonged to the subversive tribe of skateboarders who only gave shits about having perfectly sculpted sidebangs and being the first to watch the next DC skate video. I was also a recovering Catholic homeschooler, trying to figure out how to reconcile the savage world of public middle school with Jesus. I would scratch the anarchy symbol on concrete underpasses with my punk friends and then skateboard home after school, wait thirty minutes for my desktop to turn on and connect to the internet… and then log on to AOL and find chat rooms where I could defend the truth of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. (And Republicanism).

I couldn’t sustain the split identity for long. Soon it was the mid 2000s:  Coheed and Cambria, Garden State. It was senior year of high school and I was in a emo band with a local following. The internet had grown with me, hitting its awkward puberty stage with Xanga and then turning 16 with MySpace, and by this time, I was using all these new tools to facilitate hookups with girls or to get people to listen to my band’s demos. The awkward homeschooler was all but exorcised.

Pictured: Anthony and Marcellino Circa 2004 - the coolest they've ever been.  Easter Egg... 

Pictured: Anthony and Marcellino Circa 2004 - the coolest they've ever been. Easter Egg... 

But around that time was invited to a Life Teen retreat at a local church. On Saturday night they had Adoration. It was like the gym was transformed to some dark ancient cave, with 300 youth kneeling on carpet squares in freakish silence around a pyramid of candles. As I kneltin the flickering candle light, the band began to play and a priest with shimmering vestments and a host in golden monstrance processed between us. Music poured over me, and it moved me more deeply than any emo show had ever done. Somehow it opened me to God. I can’t describe what I felt now, I can only say that I experienced Him - not as an abstract ideology  - and it blew my mind. I went to confession and returned to my carpet square with hot tears in my eyes, feeling like a total supernova of beauty was exploding inside of me.

I wanted more of that. So that summer, I left the band. As they loaded up the band van and headed off to play on the Warped Tour, my brother and I went shopping for khaki pants and dress shirts, preparing for seminary. I cut my bleached sidebangs into the typical spartan seminarian hair-cut in anticipation of re-entering the philosophy dojo so that I could have better comebacks for all my liberal and protestant friends. Then, I thought, they would see what I could see.

Pictured Above: First Year Seminarian

Pictured Above: First Year Seminarian

By November the winter had frostbitten everything, and I was in a vertigo of depression. I was constantly afraid of being perceived as gay or effeminate. It seemed that a brother seminarian was always watching, waiting to pounce out and fraternally correct me for being late to holy hour or forgetting to observe our Friday lunch fast or for being seen studying alone with a girl. One night, desperate to connect, I stayed up late with a couple other brothers in a dorm room. In usual fashion, the conversation devolved into a passionate debate about the merits of praise and worship. I remember the pain inside of me was crippling- I had hundreds of “seminarian brothers,” but felt irretrievably alone. I spent my 21st birthday drinking some apple juice with a friend who was on night watch duty for another dorm.

There was such a dichotomy between the "truth" that we were learning and the experiences I was having there that my foundations cracked. On some frozen evening in February, I was doing my homework and I had what I realize now was a panic attack- I felt heavy, even nauseous each time I tried to work on the paper, and found myself watching talks by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, horrified by how convincing I found them.

My solace was the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and fiction by Flannery O’Connor or Evelyn Waugh, and I clung to them like a rope hanging over the edge of a cliff. I was almost ejected from my senior capstone course because I was caught multiple times reading Flannery O’Connor rather than listening to my teacher’s lecture.

The seminary gave me many amazing things that I haven’t highlighted here. But it was also place where truth and beauty were very divorced. With all of our studies we were learning how to argue and to correct, but we weren’t learning how to create experiences of Him for each other.

What we were lacking was Beauty. Beauty is a sensual experience of the truth. Beauty is the truth made tangible. The lights, the candles, the scent of incense, the whispers of the priest giving me absolution, the shimmering swells of music, these were the rungs of the ladder that I could, if but for a moment, ascend to heaven.  Beauty is also a birthday party, with cake and the happy birthday song (and Irish Car Bombs- Thanks Isaac Huss for Introducing me to those) because these reveal abstract truths, and someone has to create them.   

True Beauty

True Beauty

I share this because I think many of us in this group have had similar experiences to different degrees. Catholic culture has been so defensive, so focused on defending its treasure trove of truth that we haven’t done the deep work of learning how to create experiences of that truth for each other or for the world. A defensive culture can’t be a creative culture, and creatives especially struggle to flourish under such conditions.

This, to me, is why I’ve thirsted so much for a different type of community, and what I have found in so many of these friendships with you all. In our most shining moments. I was looking for a space where the Beauty was constantly being created, not for the world but for me. I needed a space in the Church where I could be freed from defensiveness and encouraged, so that I in turn could do the vulnerable work of creating. 

Making the Space

In November Jason and JM from Glass Canvas invited us and some other CCs up to Vancouver to spend a few days digging deep into what Catholic Creatives was called to be. From the airport we drove through the most Hallmark town you could ever see, with historic pastel colored shops bordered with mustard-tinged trees, all overlooked by distant white capped mountains.

Literally the Fairy Tale Town... like it was the set of Once Upon a Time. 

Literally the Fairy Tale Town... like it was the set of Once Upon a Time. 

We found ourselves being served perfectly crafted cappuccinos from the office industrial coffee maker and whiteboarding out all of our core wounds with the Church. During the first day of the “strategy sprint” I saw developing before me an honest dream that I had always wanted but didn’t know how to ask for. My deepest desire wasn’t to raise the level of design in the Church so that we could compete with Hollywood or with Protestants. It was to have a place to belong, a place where I could be free to be myself, where I could have support in the difficult and scary work of creating something new.

So between the whiteboarding sessions and all the crying, we wrote out a why statement.

“We set creatives free so that a New Renaissance can be unleashed in our time.”

We do that through offering experiences of belonging, of hope, of identity, and of unity.

It’s still a work in progress: but this is what we have. What it means to us is this: The New Renaissance is all of us set free.

From isolation, from fear, from our trauma, from shame, and all the shit that keeps us from our Creator and our own creativity. Catholic Creatives doesn’t have to teach the Church to be more beautiful. That will happen on its own, as all of us find a place in it where our identities as creators and our identities children of the Father can converge.  

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Crowd Sourced Community

This vision is not one that I or any other person alone can create or own. It is a place that every one of us must create by giving each other permission to share hard things, to have hope, and to create. 

As creators we have the power to give each other the freedom to be strange, to be different, to make mistakes, to take risks, to show our weaknesses and to let others touch our scars.

What if Catholic Creatives were itself a collaboration, a piece of performance art, where all of us participated in creating experiences for each other of hope, belonging, or unity? What if the network itself was the sum of hundreds of thousands of little creative acts of relationship? What if this was simply an on-going, crowd-sourced, spiritual (AND MAYBE LITERAL?) creative home that we were all building for ourselves and for each other?
 

CC CRIBS YO

CC CRIBS YO

With this vision set out, we would love feedback from all of you to sow into the articulation of this vision. We are very serious about making this an “open source” project, and thus we are working hard to create systems and ways for many more people to participate. As we go, we will be releasing some other blogs and videos that articulate how we see CC growing in the future, and how each platform fits into it. We can say though, that though we started on Facebook, our direction has always been towards fully incarnated human relationships.

Thus, while the Facebook group is going to keep going, our focus as a team is going to be shifting towards facilitating deeper and more direct communication and relationships. We are also grappling with how to overcome the challenges presented by growth, and some new rules of engagement for our Facebook conversations and for our admin team so that we can better live out these values online.

Thanks so much for all the love that you are each showing to each other, and that you have all shown to me. Thanks especially to those of you who have continued to speak into me to tell me that I am not alone, who have also labored beside me to see our community grow. I am especially grateful today for JP Quinn, Kate Hazen, Cory Heimann Marcellino, Christopher Duffel, and Sid O’Neill, who somehow wandered into our Admin Channel in slack and have since found themselves spending many many hours admitting and messaging new members, approving or coaching members on their posts, or messaging hurt or angry members to help facilitate conflict resolution between them.

How to Not Belong

When we began our online relationship 2015, CC and I stumbled into a strangely unintentionally committed relationship with each other. I was (and in so many ways still am) a nobody who just left a youth ministry job and moved back in with his parents in order strike out into the wild west of entrepreneurship. I started a FB group so I could ask my friends advice, and all the sudden thousands of people were in it and I was in charge. 


When we started, I had some very core wounds with the Church and was really launching my business with the hope of escaping the gravitational pull of the institutional Church. When we signed our first clients, a Tex-Mex restaurant and a sports tech startup, I called my brother, completely exuberant at having gotten out of the Catholic bubble in which I had felt so unaccepted and misunderstood. Somehow, sacramentality was core to my artistic inspiration, but in every church organization I always felt squelched, stifled, and shut down. It felt like I was the only one, and now I was happy to be free of the constant reminders of how different I was than the others around me.

Then we had the bulletin meetup, and the Facebook group happened, and I found that there were hundreds, maybe thousands of people who were like me. It was the strangest experience. It felt like I found my people––like they had always existed, and all of a sudden a portal opened in the universe and I could just beam into a conversation with anyone of my heros on any topic of my choice. It was the dream buffet:

“Ahem, yes, I’ll take Cory Heiman and Chuck Kinnane about Art vs. Catholic Propaganda at 2pm, and then jump into a vulnerable conversation with Erica Tigue about yoga and addiction in the evening over tea.”

So naturally, having newly quit my jobs, I basically spent all the time that I should have been looking for clients just doing Google Hangouts with generous strangers from the internet. We recorded some of these conversations and called them podcasts. Every day, I couldn’t wait to go back through that magic portal via Facebook to talk to these people who had, until that moment, just been the faceless people behind the badass life teen posters and the Blessed is She blog, but who were now my friends!   

So we did the CC Summit and invited all these internet friends together and we met at a bar in Dallas and everyone discovered that I am much shorter than my internet personality had led them to believe. In fact, we all discovered that at least 30% of our impressions of each other had been completely unfounded. And we found that we actually liked each other a lot more in person than online. And, that none of us were as intimidating as we thought. (Except for Jared Zimmerer. He is actually as scary as everyone thought.)

We also experienced something that had already been present in the online versions of our conversations, but that we didn’t realize would become so potent. We had real love. Enough to dive into a crazy film collaboration where our money and reputations and beliefs were all on the line and in each other’s hands. We had so much love that JM’s bunkmate, Patrick, moved his family to Canada to join the Glass Canvas team (pretty cool, eh?). Some of us even had so much trust that they just decided to marry each other.

CONGRATS ALEX AND DANIELA! Also. Alex has agreed to do a workshop on how to propose to a woman at the 2018 CC Summit.  Nice move with the mountains and the sunset and the rose petals and the perfectly prepared camera opp bro! 

CONGRATS ALEX AND DANIELA!
Also. Alex has agreed to do a workshop on how to propose to a woman at the 2018 CC Summit. 
Nice move with the mountains and the sunset and the rose petals and the perfectly prepared camera opp bro! 

So that was a nuts weekend. One night after everyone left, while Marcellino and I were crashing, trying to polish off the full keg of Shiner Boc that was leftover from the Summit, we lit a fire in our backyard. As we stared in silence at the burning branches, we both felt a deep sense of omen. I searched to describe the feeling. It was like the sense of vertigo that comes after a date that was too good… one where you realize that you’ve fallen in love far too quickly, before you’ve gotten a chance to really know them, and now you are helplessly all in on something that could just evaporate in a second.

“We are all really friends now. Not like, just-discovering-each-other friends… real life friends.”
“Yeah.”

“Real life friends get in fights.”
...

“What if we get into a fight, and then it all goes away?”
“I don’t know, man.”

Our thoughts faded into the sound of cicadas and the crackling fire, and I went to bed that night with that omen weighing in my chest.

Since then, through some hard lessons and some hard conversations with Jason Jensen and Jm Boyd, I realized that fear of not belonging has been with me for years and years, and has driven my insatiable desire to work on admining the FB group or working on collaborations; I felt like I finally found a place where I could belong after many years of feeling so alone, like such a misfit. This energy has been both the wind in my sails and my Achilles heel. It leads me to overreact online when I feel my own belonging threatened by some unsuspecting girl posting about her logo design contest, or the… well… let’s be real I’ve shit on like every logo design contest post that’s come through the group.

We were in the impossibly white and modern offices of Glass Canvas (imagine officing inside macbook pro packaging) when Jason Jensen said to me, bro, you are dealing with an orphan spirit. You don’t trust God the Father has already accepted you, so you are going online to fight for your acceptance. To which I became very righteously indignant and angry, and horrified that someone from the freaking internet could see about myself more clearly than I could.

I’ve been unpacking that spiritual truth for many months, and I realize how culpable I am of this more every day. And I am not alone in the orphan spirit issue- I see the dynamic present in almost every person in this group. Perhaps it is why we have all been brought together. But for whatever cause, each of us has triggers- topics that we care so much about that as soon as we feel like someone doesn't value the thing that we do, we think, “I am so done with this FB group,” and turn off notifications, or (this is more my cup of tea) “He said what? Hell no. I am going to get out my sword…. Alright bro, get ready for the comment of your life.”

So many of us have experienced the pain of being rejected by the Church or by certain groups in the Church. The natural response is to crave to carve out a place where we can belong. Whether it’s via the discussions about liturgy, or an anime style icon, or a conversation about World Youth Day’s (God awful… see?) Logo, or architecture, or a post about diversity in the Church, we all have moments where we question whether or not we are really going to be accepted in this group, where our most immediate response is to either check out, or to pull out our guns and fight for our belonging.  

Trigger warning 

Trigger warning 

 

In this past post about ra