That is the essential mission of the American Academy of the Sacred Arts, and its founder, Sr. Mary Paula Beierschmitt, wrote a beautiful letter published in this month’s issue of New Oxford Review.

An excerpt.

“Words and images convey the thoughts and sentiments of their author. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we also express our thoughts and sentiments in words and images. Lucy E. Carroll addresses the alteration of an author’s thoughts and sentiments. Authors fall into various categories. Writers, musicians, poets, painters, sculptors, and architects have accomplishments that deserve protection from unscrupulous intrusion.

“Consider the authors of the Divine Office. This continual unbroken prayer of praise is sung or recited in cadenced phrases composed with poetic imagery. Unauthorized changes seriously impair not only the poetic beauty and metered rhyme but reflect disunity in the very prayer that is supposed to be said with one voice. Even the transcendental element of mystery can be denied by pragmatists.

“Visual artists are also vulnerable to alterations and misrepresentations. Michelangelo, for example, found it necessary to sign the Pietà when he learned that another sculptor was credited with the masterpiece. His work on the Sistine Chapel was also altered over the years until Pope John Paul II had it restored to its original state. Integrity is needed for the preservation of an author’s work.

“Visual images in a worship space are essential for creating the proper environment for prayer. Dr. Carroll recalls her joy as a child in watching the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa appear when the curtain covering it was drawn before Mass. Her experience reminds me of a visit I made to Our Lady of Guada­lupe National Shrine in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2005. An excellent reproduction of St. Juan Diego’s tilma had been exposed to sunlight from nearby windows, and its delicate colors were fading. Had the image been protected with a drawn curtain, this unfortunate damage could have been avoided.”