ORLANDO | Whether through colorful stained-glass windows or towering cathedrals, life-like sculptures or vast frescoes, artists have been communicating the beauty and splendor of God through their creations for centuries. So important is this work to the life of the Church, that in his Letter to Artists, Saint John Paul II wrote that artists have received a special vocation to beauty from the Creator. Echoing these words, Pope Francis recently shared, “The gifts you have received are for each one of you a responsibility and a mission.” In the Diocese of Orlando, local artists are continuing this rich legacy and fulfilling their God-given mission by creating inspiring artwork that invites an encounter with God.
“Each piece of art I have ever done that was spiritual, I have felt the hand of God with each pen or brush or hammer and chisel stroke,” said Deacon Frank Falotico. “I somehow think that it is not my art that people feel but God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and also Mary.”
No matter where life took him, including a career in the United States Marine Corps, Falotico always found time to create, painting landscapes, wildlife. He even created a special emblem for a branch of the Third Marine Division. But when he felt a call to enter the diaconate forty years ago, his art took on new meaning.
“I asked God in prayer, ‘Can I use my art in the role of a deacon?’ The answer I felt was, “Yes, that is why I called you!’”, said Falotico.
As a deacon, Falotico has designed for Jostens ring company, including a deacon’s ring and a ring for the new millennium. His deacon’s ring was even presented to Pope John Paul II and he received an Apostolic Blessing for his creation. Wood sculptures of the Holy Family and St. John the Baptist can be seen at his parish, Our Lady of Grace in Palm Bay. Falotico has also created drawings of each of the Mysteries of the Rosary and each of the Stations of the Cross. He dreams of having these pieces engraved in granite to create prayerful spaces for the faithful to reflect on the life of Jesus.
Father Val Maciag, pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Bushnell, has also found his artistic talents to be a gift to his religious vocation. Initially planning to train as an artist, God had different plans for him that would combine his two passions.
“I was admitted to the Art University, but my vocation to the priesthood was stronger,” explained Father Maciag. “Besides, a priest with a hobby of creating art and music sounded very good to me, an extra medium to evangelize and make it more attractive, colorful and exciting.”
Parishioners see the fruit of Father Maciag’s gifts every time they enter the church and see the Stations of the Cross he painted. Over the years he has presented exhibitions of his artwork, Sacred Illuminations and Sacred Faces. He is currently working on another exhibition, Sacred Wings, which will be dedicated to pregnant mothers, mothers who have suffered miscarriages, and all children, born and unborn.
“As an artist I can tell you that an amazing, visual piece of art always helped me to find a deeper understanding of the Truth, another way to communicate with God or just left me mesmerized and speechless,” said Father Maciag, who added that every person’s experience of art is unique and personal. “A simple case of goosebumps, a little tear in the eye, a little smile, a little story shared… any of it makes it worth it to create art, in my case.”
For Mike Brick, a woodworker and parishioner of Annunciation Parish in Altamonte Springs, he hopes that when people look at one of his creations, they are reminded of the sacrifice of Jesus. A retired police officer, Brick has turned his longtime woodworking hobby into a second career of sorts. It all started in 2005 when Brick met with Father Stephen Parkes, who at the time was overseeing the building of a new parish, Most Precious Blood in Oviedo.
“Our new parish needed a set of its own liturgical furniture that had to be portable. Fr. Parkes was distressed while looking at catalogs and seeing the prices for such items was more than $3,000,” remembered Brick. “I asked him to let me build what we needed. Before long I made a portable altar, tabernacle, ambo, credence table, candle stands and a number of small side tables. It was a joy for me to be needed again for something important that I could do.”
Since that first set of furniture, Brick has created the large twenty foot crucifix for Most Precious Blood, another set of liturgical furniture for Corpus Christi Parish in Celebration, assisted with the furniture for the Catholic Campus Ministry at UCF and built a chapel altar and tabernacle for the rectory at St. Clare Parish in Deltona. Each piece is prayed over as it is built and he says he considers his work a service to God.
“Working with any material to make something beautiful and useful is just like our developing life of faith. You start with the basics and continue to build on that to get better and better in your faith and your craft,” said Brick. “I am honored almost every day to see those simple wooden items used for the Eucharistic Celebrations at Most Precious Blood. It is pleasing to know that Mass has been celebrated many thousands of times already, and hopefully will continue to be celebrated over that altar long after I have left this earth.”
Falotico, Father Maciag and Brick know they have been given gifts to share in order to raise hearts and minds to God. Their mission, and the mission of all artists and craftsmen, is to make God’s beauty known to the world. As Pope Francis said in his audience with artists, “The Church relies on you to make the ineffable Beauty of God’s love perceptible and to enable every person to discover the beauty of being loved by God, to be filled with His love, to live on it and to bear witness to it in attention to others.”
By Elizabeth Wilson