On Wednesday 17 April, at St Dominic’s Catholic Church in East Camberwell, a small gathering of Catholic creatives gathered for a ‘soft launch’ of the Benedetto Creatives Collective.

Under the banner of the Truth Goodness Beauty Project, the collective aims to gather creatives of all kinds—painters, photographers, graphic designers, writers, musicians and others—so that they might inspire one another in their vocation as artists. Like the 2023 Benedict Conference, the collective comes under the patronage of the late Pope Benedict XVI, who said that artists had the extraordinary talent of speaking ‘to the heart of humanity’.

Fr Francis Denton, parish priest at Lilydale and Healesville, gave a presentation on the importance of the vocation of the artists. Drawing on Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists, Fr Francis spoke of artists’ ‘own very unique vocation in the mission of the Church’, observing that they ‘have a unique ability to draw out the whole meaning and mystery of the Incarnation’.

‘Christianity is an incarnational faith,’ he said. ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The whole mystery of Christianity is very concrete—that God enters into the world in a flesh and blood reality, and he says to the apostles on Easter Sunday, “I’m not a ghost.”’

For this reason, Christianity has always seen value in the idea of ‘culture’.

‘One of the mysteries of the Old Testament is why God took so long to send Christ into the world. There’s a reason: he was tilling the soil. He was preparing the ground for the sowing of the seed. God had to create a culture that would be able to receive Christ.’

This, Fr Francis said, is one of the unique roles creatives can play in the world: tilling and preparing the cultural soil for Christ. In this way, art has an extraordinary power to ‘evangelise’ and ‘nurture the faith’ of people, bringing ‘real solidity and concreteness to the Christian faith.’

IMG 0989 Large
Fr Francis Denton speaks at the soft launch.

As well as having profound evangelical power and an ability to ‘elevate the soul’, art, above all else, is something that exists ‘to glorify God’.

Fr Francis pointed to the passage in the Book of Exodus where God calls the craftsmen to build the Ark of the Covenant. God says he has ‘singled out’ Bazalel and Oholiab to lead the way, and ‘endowed the hearts of all the skilled men with the skill to make everything I have ordered you’ (Exodus 31:6).

‘It’s interesting,’ Fr Francis said. ‘He uses the language of vocation, the language of calling. It’s a passage that really draws out [the idea] that artistry in craftsmanship is something God actually cares about. God wanted the art to be something beautiful, something that would command respect … that [made] people take them seriously.’

Artists and creatives of all kinds should seek excellence in their crafts, Fr Francis said, for in excellence they glorify God.

‘We have to return to this very basic idea of seeking the glory of God. The relevance of the Church, the whole mission of the Church, is first and foremost to give glory to God.’

Following the presentation, the group engaged in discussion about art, creativity and faith, the pressing needs of today and how to nurture a culture of collaboration among Melbourne’s Catholic creatives.

Fr Dean Mathieson, founder of the Truth Goodness Beauty Project, assured everyone that there would be more to come, and more opportunities for creatives of all kinds to be inspired and get involved.

Those interested in becoming part of the Benedetto Creatives Collective can contact truthgoodnessbeautyproject@gmail.com.