By Deacon John Degano
I stumbled across a listing for my old college ceramics instructor the other day while surfing the Internet for an obituary I wanted to make reference to during the graveside service I would be celebrating at Riverside National Cemetery.
My teacher had not died (I am happy to report) but was alive and well and following his muse around the world and here in the Los Angeles basin.
And his sense of humor continued to warm the hearts of fans and befuddle critics alike. Just as it had done those many years before.
It was in one of his ceramics classes that I first verbalized what would become a standard and somewhat prophetic mantra of mine:
“It’s not ruined. It’s Art!”
These words, meant to comfort a fellow student whose heart had sunk as the pot she had just finished spun off the kick wheel and into the cement floor below, were greeted by a huge smile from this teacher as he recognized I had achieved what we, in churchese, sometimes call an ‘Aha! Moment.’
Beauty, like art, is in the eye of the beholder.
There is no right or wrong in art ... unless, my teacher would say, you are making wind chimes or ashtrays (do people still make those in beginning ceramics?).
I scraped the deformed pot off the floor, got permission from the budding artist to keep it, and put it in to be fired in the kiln. To this day I still have it in my possession.
It serves as a precious memory and concrete example of how God’s inspiration can overcome our perspiration and make something wonderful out of what seems like a crushing defeat.
Jesus and the cross.
No one thought that was a good match (except maybe the executioners), and yet, with each Easter dawn, comes the opportunity to experience resurrection.
Each of us must learn to see with eyes of faith. To see beyond the present situation and trust that the promises of God and Christ will be fulfilled.
We need to be people of hope who, like the men on the journey to Emmaus, became so excited that they ran all the way back to the Upper Room where they reported having seen the Lord!
Then our hearts, too, will burn for God and for his righteousness. We will be filled with grace to do the will of the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.
And we will experience his joy. The same joy that God experienced at the dawn of Creation when he took clay from the earth, fashioned it into a new creation, breathed life into it and declared it to be ‘very good!’
We are that creation. Deformed, cracked, chipped but, certainly, unique.
Yet God in his love sees beyond our warts and blemishes and cherishes each of us individually as a precious and priceless work of art and blesses us with the ability and inspiration to become co-creators with him.
May we, as teachers and spiritual role models, do likewise for others.
John DeGano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.