Painted Prayers - Fr. Peter Mihalic


The Painting Priest

Our Christian tradition has a long history of appreciation for artistic expression and imaginative creativity.

Our sacraments take material creation seriously because God works through water and oil, bread and wine, pictures and vestments, stone and wood. Every culture has its own way to express the mysteries of faith with artistic calligraphy, stained glass, carvings, statues, and brilliant colors.

Our spiritual heritage has passed on the truth that our souls generate as does God.

We are born to give birth, not just in a physical sense, but spiritually. Art generates beauty, love, and truth. 

As Christians everything we say and do, even the most basic, ordinary and everyday activities can have an artistically spiritual dimension and effect: gardening, sewing, housekeeping, crocheting, cooking, baking—you name it.

There are two examples that come to mind. 

1. Baking a birthday cake takes physical effort and an act of creative imagination, but is also a spiritually powerful act of love in the context of family, a community’s celebration of life and the dignity of an individual person. It is a sharing in the community of God’s creativity and love.

2. The work of an Altar Decorating Committee engages in an act of creative design in a consecrated space to celebrate a designated season. It involves creating a context for the encounter of the divine and human, producing an atmosphere of prayer and worship.

Vincent Van Gogh once said, “In a picture I want to say something comforting.” It was something he himself desperately needed. And in that need had a sense of what he could do for others. It was ministry and prayer.

I have been pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fairport Harbor, Ohio for the last 26 years. I taught seminary classes for 30 years and have been ordained for 44 years. I am nearing retirement. But after starting a ministry of “Painted Prayers” several years ago, I have come to know a wonderful context for prayer and creativity. I have found a context to “say something comforting” to people drawing from my prayerful conversations with and times of listening to God in my daily spiritual routine. I have felt most especially alive in this ministry, more aware of God in creation and more response in gratitude, awe and appreciation of God and all God has fashioned into being. The effort of my prayers and paintings will not stop in my retirement, but will be enhanced by my involvement in the Green Shepherdess Store and its ongoing connection to the people of Fairport whom I so love.