From Catholic World Report:
“Osamu Giovanni Micico had never read the Bible, knew nothing of the stories of Christ in the gospels, and had never heard of the apostles, when his experience studying sacred art in Italy brought him to the Catholic faith.
“When I came to Italy, painting was the only street for me as far as my profession goes. Thank God, that is also where God gave me my spiritual rebirth,” Micico told CNA.
Catholicism “transformed my life. The way I relate to others, the way I view the world. And the direction I’m taking in my life. The meaning of suffering. It all changed. My conversion gave life to death.”
“After his conversion, Micico learned more about the history of Christian persecution in Japan. Christianity was outlawed starting around 1600 until 1873. In the late 16th century, military ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi expelled the missionaries who had brought the faith to Japan, had religious objects and Bibles destroyed. There were thousands of martyrs.
The few Catholic lay people who survived preserved the faith orally and through baptism, the only sacrament they had, for hundreds of years. During this period, they created their own sacred art, Micico said.Some pieces were visibly religious, such as “Ecce Homo” style images of Christ. In many others, however, the Christian symbolism, for safety, was hidden in a Buddhist or Shinto style. For example, they would paint a traditional Buddhist female figure, but add a baby to her arms to create an image of the Madonna and Christ child.
“This clandestine art is so beautiful to see, as their devotion took form in this visible form,” Micico said.
“When I think of myself in that situation, I think, why would someone risk their life by painting sacred pictures? I mean, it would have been easier for them to survive without painting those pictures, but they wanted to manifest their love for the Lord.”
I wonder how much of my faith I owe to my encounters with God through the Beautiful? And how much I have been scandalized by my encounters with the devil through Christians whose obsession with the merely aesthetic has resulted in some of ugliest moral examples it has ever been my misfortune to witness.
More than that, of course, I wonder how often I have shown attracted and repelled others seeking Jesus and finding only me.