Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”— Mk 8:27-38 (NRSV)
At Catholic Roads, we draw caricatures and we tell stories. The ministry, of course, is not really about caricature art. It never is. It’s about evangelization, discipleship, catechesis, and vocation.
Caricature, story telling, and prayer (“caricature as prayer”) are how we reach and teach the world around us.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CARICATURE …
Words are important!
Most words in the English language have a history. Over time and across the languages, the meaning of words slowly change. When you look back at the history of a word, you might discover something amazing.
We did this with the word “caricature.”
The ancient Vulgar Latin included the word “carra.” Carra referred to a two-wheeled vehicle. Specifically, it described a Celtic chariot. The chariot was a fast-moving weapon for battle, not unlike the fighter jets of today.
When you understand that the English word “caricature” is rooted in this Latin word “carra,” you realize there is something ancient and special about caricature art. Caricature has its own spirituality. It has power. And although it is used mostly to entertain these days, its history suggests it was created for spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10-18).
And so, we draw caricatures.
IDENTITY AND VOCATION …
Any discussion about caricature must begin with identity. Any discussion about the spiritual nature of caricature must include vocation.
Caricature is a powerful ministry tool because vocation is essential for the life of the Church. If one is confused about his or her identity, that person will be equally unclear about their vocation.
Like the word caricature, the word vocation has its roots in Latin. It comes from the word “vocare.” Vocare means “to call.”
Vocation is a call by God. God calls. We hear. We respond. And life happens. That’s the plan anyway.
All of this changes, however, when a person doesn’t know his or her identity. A distorted identity prevents the person from hearing God’s call or understanding the gift God offers the individual.
And they might never know how much they are loved by God either. Identity and vocation cannot be separated.
CARICATURE AS ENTERTAINMENT …
Caricature is also great entertainment. As the artist works, people wonder. Who is this? What is the artist seeing? How is the artist doing that? Why is the artist doing that?
And then, suddenly, the artist stops. The picture is finished.
“Wow!” someone says.
“That’s cool,” another person says, “but it really doesn’t look much like her,” he adds.
“Who is that supposed to be?” another person chimes in.
“No,” another person says. “You’re crazy! I see it! That is amazing!”
It happens that way because the caricature is a distorted image. The caricaturist has exaggerated some features to make you study the picture. While the purpose of the exaggeration in most caricatures is for humor, there can be other reasons for this exaggeration.
Caricature art can have a spiritual side too!
THE SPIRITUALITY OF CARICATURE …
The Bible tells us about a special conversation Jesus had with His disciples ( Mk 8:27-38). Our Lord focused on identity. Identity seemed to be a pretty big deal to Jesus.
“Who do the people say I am?” He asked the disciples.
Depending upon whom they had been hanging around with, they had various answers.
“John the Baptist,” said one.
“Elijah,” another said.
“One of the prophets,” yet another chimed in.
And then Jesus really sharpened the conversation. As if to say He really didn’t care who those other people thought He was, He asked who the disciples thought He was.
Typical for Peter, he took the lead. Peter replied, “You are the Christ.”
Peter would soon be ready to receive the keys to the Kingdom of God and assume the role of prime minister when the Lord returned to heaven (Mt 16:14-19).
CARICATURE AS MINISTRY …
Caricature can bring us face-to-face with our own distorted perceptions of ourselves and others around us.
It’s amazing how different our self-concept is from what Jesus sees when He looks at us. It’s startling how different others see us from the way we think they see us.
Caricature invites us to reconsider who we are in society and in the Kingdom of God. It also helps us think about who the Christ is to us.
From a ministry perspective, caricature gives us a “license” to look at people without offending them or making them too uncomfortable. And yes, the eyes truly are a window to the soul (Prov 30:17).
We use caricature art to see and better understand the humanity of the one in front of us. That leads us to prayer.
Every person we draw is prayed for as we draw them. Our caricatures are visual representations of those prayers (even when the caricatures don’t always come out as perfectly as we might have hoped)!
Caricature art let’s us tell people that Jesus loves them, and we love them too. It let’s us encourage them to think about who they really are and how they present themselves to others.
Caricature art puts us on a spiritual battlefield, not with the person we’re drawing, but with the “rulers … authorities … cosmic powers of this present darkness … spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12) who seek to rob that person’s identity and steal their soul.
Of course, our place in all of this is loving the people, drawing them to Christ, and praying for them. We leave it to St. Michael, the saints, and the angels to do the heavy fighting against the evil spirits.
OUR STORY …
By the way, caricature has taught us that God loves a good story. He tells a good story in the Bible. And every person He ever created has a story too.
God loves each of us, and He loves the story that is our life! He wants to be in our story, and He wants us to be in His story. His story truly is the greatest story ever told!
We will never intentionally do harm with our caricature!
That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it!