A Filipino Comboni Missionary, Father Raul Tabaranza is developing his painting skills and is engaging in social media platforms to announce God’s love for humanity.
I worked as a missionary priest in Zambia for almost nine years, and the sceneries in the mission captivated me; especially the Luangwa National Park, where I had very personal and close encounters with animals. Most of my paintings subsequently included animals. In 2017-2018, I did my Sabbatical in Rome; I was already 50 years old then.
One day, I didn’t know why, I started doodling, taking my left hand as the outline. I made different strokes and designs and I found them so beautiful. I decided to buy a bigger sketchpad and I started doodling in my free time, not even realizing that at the end of my sabbatical, I already had three albums.
What is a doodle? Doodles are simple drawings that can have concrete representational meaning or composed of random and abstract lines, generally without ever lifting the drawing device from the paper, in which case, it is usually called a scribble. Is doodling a real art? Doodling is underrated as an art form. It’s a fun way of expressing oneself, but also of experimenting and learning to draw. Doodles give a unique insight into your artistic style, conveying parts of your personality not shown through other mediums of art.
When I finished the course in Rome, I went home for holidays in the Philippines. I carried with me sketch pads and at home I produced more doodles. I also started painting different images, mostly abstract on illustration boards, canvas etc. Imagine at my age, exploring arts in this way, experimenting and blending colours, trying out many designs, liquid painting, taped painting, making collages from photos, dried leaves and branches, papers, pictures and magazines. I found so much joy in this hobby, and quietly, I put my thoughts and sometimes my prayers into art.
Nobody knew of my hidden talent, and I was ashamed to share it with others because I felt they were the works of a child.
I doodled some more, about Church feasts, Stations of the Cross and mysteries of the rosary. I use these artworks to express my own faith and my life as a missionary, abstract as they may be. Later I started posting my paintings and doodles on Instagram and Facebook. It was then that I realized that my artworks created a special impact on my friends.
Art communicates a message about our faith, customs and traditions or even virtues and values. When I doodle or paint, I often feel like praying deeply. It creates in me some form of discipline and calmness. It develops patience and in-depth reflection on reality.
Art conveys the intangible stories of our faith; therefore, it is a very effective means of teaching and enhancing devotions and prayers. When there are special occasions in the Church, I find myself asking how I can make a meaningful image of the feast.
Doodling is a very time-consuming artistic activity and the details speak of its beauty. When you put the details in your work, communication is elaborated upon. A piece of my artwork speaks of something within me. My painting, doodling and collaging is a very special gift for me; a spiritual gift that leads me to a deeper communication and communion with God. A spiritual piece of art links one to Him; gives some connections of one’s life, past, present and future. Artists have a vision, and bring it to life by painting or doodling, as they are always participants in their work.
Art is a very healthy hobby, it keeps you grounded, able to analyse things, visualize thoughts and convey desires. Since it is a passion, one’s creation and creativity can also transform into a way of life, in personal or communitarian aspects.
Art is very influential and I may have to consume a bushel of salt in order to reach that level, whereby my artworks would speak to the world and go beyond boundaries. I know that a good artist has a very deep level of introspection. He can connect his work to a higher motivation and stir the unconscious part of a person. I am trying to reach that. I pray that it will come. Reflecting on the words of my Tik Tok friend, art and any form of social media can powerfully connect together in the evangelizing work of the Church.
Being a missionary, I think art is a very challenging gift to impart, as many of our missionaries are more into buildings and infrastructures, churches and refugees. Artists are sometimes isolated. As a Comboni Missionary, I experienced life in the mission as being more about relationships with people and pastoral commitments than artistic expression.
However, mission needs some creativity to capture the attention of our people. We need creative and quality communication techniques, to show to the people in the mission the love of God through arts. To have a creative team for this unique mission is a very big challenge. If you are very attentive to social media, there is an increasing number of aspiring artists. Today’s generation relates more to the arts than to lengthy talks.
I take this as a personal challenge now; to use my God-given gifts for a special ministry. When I post my humble works on Instagram, I accompany them with my own voice, explaining the work created, the events, the historical and biblical backgrounds as my way of imparting our faith. This is my little personal contribution to God.