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One Artist Answers Call to Spread Divine Mercy

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"Who will paint You as beautiful as You are?"
— Saint Faustina to Jesus, Diary of St. Faustina (313)


By Tommy Canning

I was born to John and Mary Canning on Christmas day in 1969, the youngest of five sons. I grew up in Scotland, south of the city of Glasgow. I was just four years old when my father died of a heart attack, which was a tremendous loss to me and my brothers and mother.

Living in a very industrialized area with heavy pollution, I was regularly laid low by terrible fits of bronchitis. At times it got frightening for my family as they tried to care for their little boy who, on many occasions, appeared to be dying. But with time, I grew out of that. Moving to a different area in the country helped my health.

All told, as a young boy, my life was a happy one, full of activity in a house with five boys. We were raised Catholic and were influenced by the example and goodness and fidelity of our parents. Only with the benefit of hindsight do I appreciate how fortunate we were with the kind of formation and upbringing we had, even with only one parent for a large part of that time.

As I moved into my teenage years I wanted to develop my artistic talents and have a career in art. I was immersed in the world of comic books, fantasy, and science fiction. This, I decided, was the area I wished to pursue.

However, things ended up much differently than what I had expected. At a crucial time in my development at school, my family's business underwent a difficult period, and eventually we had to close it down. All of a sudden survival itself became the main priority. I never did complete my education as I had wished. I applied for, and received, a government grant to help me establish myself as a freelance illustrator so that I could begin to earn money.

I managed to achieve some success, even before I had reached the age of 19. At the same time, I began to reflect a lot more about the kind of person I was. I began to ask myself the big questions of life.

I realized that I was falling far short of what is expected of me as a Catholic. I had never lapsed from attending church, but church was not the center of my life. When I was 19, I visited Rome with my family — a trip that changed my outlook and had a profound impact on me as a Catholic and as an artist. I was simply blown away. I suddenly had the desire to delve deeper into the Faith. I also had a desire to emulate the beauty and craft that was depicted in the art and architecture of the churches in Rome.

Soon after the trip, I became acquainted with the message and devotion to the Divine Mercy, as revealed to St. Faustina in the 1930s. It was through a simple leaflet. What I read affected me profoundly. I was so touched by the depths of Christ's mercy and forgiveness — not just for the whole world, but also for me, personally.

Being an artist, I was also intrigued by Jesus' request of Sr. Faustina in 1931 to have an image of Him painted according to the way He had appeared to her. She saw Jesus clothed in a white garment with His right hand raised in blessing. His left hand was touching His garment in the area of the Heart, from where two large rays came forth, one red and the other pale. She gazed intently at the Lord in silence, her soul filled with awe, but also with great joy.

Jesus said to her: "Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish" (Diary of St. Faustina, 47).

For me, this became like a call to use my artistic gifts that God gave me to help make known this message of Divine Mercy.

Some time later, I painted my first serious religious work of art, and it was the painting of Jesus appearing to St. Faustina in the apparition of Feb. 22, 1931. I did not realize it then, but it was to be my first of many paintings and drawings relating to Divine Mercy. My paintings and illustrations over the past 10 years have included a number of subjects relating to the mystical visions of St. Faustina.

It has been a very humbling experience for me to see the reaction and effect these paintings have had on people. I've watched in wonder as some people have even wept when viewing some of the artwork. It is a great mystery how God can move and work in souls through a created work of art.

As one priest said to me, "With a single painting or drawing, you can speak a more eloquent sermon than hundreds of homilies put together." And yet, as an artist, I recognize that I can never do justice to Christ by painting or drawing Him. In my efforts to paint Him in all His beauty and love, I always feel a bit inadequate or unworthy.

The words of St. Faustina to Jesus are always before me: "Who will paint You as beautiful as you are?" (Diary, 313). But because He is so merciful, He can use even someone as lowly as me to reach the hearts of souls. His reply to St. Faustina was: "Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace."

This serves as a reminder to me that He is the one who inspires. No artist can paint Him as beautiful as He truly is, but we do the best to help souls imagine the possibilities of His likeness. As Michelangelo described, every true work of art is "a shadow of the divine perfection." And obviously Christ Himself has placed great weight on images, otherwise He would not have come to a poorly educated and humble nun in Poland to ask her to have an image of His Divine Mercy painted and venerated throughout the world.

So I take my efforts seriously. Through my art, I hope to help bring the rays of His mercy to a hurting world.

In some respects my own feeling of unworthiness and lack of artistic qualification of any professional status maybe is just as pleasing in the eyes of Our Lord. Sister Faustina had very little education and no place of importance within her religious community. And yet she was chosen for this task to make known the message of Divine Mercy. No small thing.

He sees our hearts and chooses the weakest and least important in the eyes of the world to do the most extraordinary of things. Please pray for great artists and pray for me, that we may continue to open these windows into His Divine Mercy.

Learn more about Tommy Canning by visiting his website at art-of-divinemercy.co.uk.

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Bryan Thatcher - Jan 2, 2007

Tommy's artwork is exemplary and driven by the Holy Spirit. May God bless his mother and all of his faith-filled family; this is truly anointed work.

Rose - Jan 2, 2007

I've always believed that sacred art can serve as effective evangelization tools. Tommy Canning's artwork is just the right tool to proclaim God's good news of Love and Mercy. We've often heard that a picture says a thousand words and Tommy's artwork powerfully conveys the message of the Gospel. From the creation, to redemption and sanctification, Tommy successfully communicates the unspoken messages of God the Father's gift for humanity. Starting with the Father's creation of the universe and the first human beings, Tommy's painting of the 'Creatio Ex Nihilio' majestically captures the essence of the beginning of the Book of Genesis. The great news that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" is magnificently portrayed in the many paintings and sketches that Tommy has created which depicts the passion and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When one carefully gazes at the image of the Suffering Christ, at the Lord's pain and agony detailed in the artwork, one could not avoid experiencing the deep, tender love and mercy that God has for all of us. And then there is the Mother of Christ. Represented as the Mother of Tenderness, Tommy amazingly is able to reflect the gentle affection that radiates from the beautiful and loving face of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Tommy's artwork is a refreshing relief that counteracts the destructive effects of the materialistic and worldly images placed before us by the secular media. As a good friend of Tommy, I have supported him in spreading the messages of Mercy through the powerful medium of art. I think all Catholics should support quality Catholic artists like Tommy. God bless you, Tommy Canning, for using your God-given talents to glorify God's Mercy. You have a very unique and exceptional way of illustrating the majesty and splendor of God's awesome Love and Mercy. Aloha from your good friend from Hawaii - Rose

Marta from Poland - Jan 2, 2007

Wow!!!It's an amazing article, great paintings and a wonderful personality. Tommy I hope you'll come to Poland soon. I love your Art.

Sandra Maola - Jan 2, 2007

I too was struck by Tommy's work when I met him at a Catholic Marketing Network Conference. I truly felt after meeting him, his brother, and his dear mother that this was indeed a special faith-filled family and it shows in Tommy's art.

Sandra Maola - Jan 2, 2007

I too was struck by Tommy's work when I met him at a Catholic Marketing Network Conference. I truly felt after meeting him, his brother, and his dear mother that this was indeed a special faith-filled family and it shows in Tommy's art.

Anne-Marie - Jan 2, 2007

Tommy, you are such an inspiration to many of us, and I thank God for you. God has gifted you to reach out to people through your paintings, to let them know about His Divine Mercy. You have heard and answered His call. May you you be blessed. Anne-Marie

P.C. England - Jan 3, 2007

As a teacher of Religious Education and Theologian, I am often asked what is the meaning of suffering? Why does a so called loving God, allow people to suffer?
You only have to look at the art-work of such a remarkable artist as Tommy Canning to realise that through his suffering Tommy has been brought closer to God and has been inspired to use his God given talent to inspire others. Through his work, Tommy is giving us a glimpse into Heaven and eternity, his work is like a window into Heaven, which is filled with beauty and eternal happiness. In a small way Tommy is bringing a little piece of Heaven to us right now, making God present with us as we gaze upon the lovingly created images. Tommy is helping to put Sacred Art back into its rightfull place as he co-operates with the grace from the Holy Spirit as he paints and sketches for God. I look forward in eager anticipation to the many great works of art to come from this talented artist. May God continue to bless all of his work.

Bonita and Clydito - Jan 3, 2007

Apparently many people have not had the same experience we have had with Tommy and his brother. We drove down to Mexico with them one time when they stayed with us in California. It was the worst car trip of our lives! Once the two of them got to singing on this long deserted highway, one wishes one were deaf! And those Scottish accents! Who could understand the words? If that weren't bad enough, they weren't always sure which side of the road they should be driving on. We were grateful to God that we got home safe, especially since we were in a convertible and our hair was constantly being mussed up (and there was no mirror in the back of their rental car so we could comb it properly). Nothing was more frightening than when the two of them decided to change places driving. Tommy, we love your artwork; please keep a brush in your hands and your hands off the wheel of American muscle cars! And yes, Mexico is south of the border; not north as you drove! And remember what the border guards told you: there is NO ferry that takes you to England from California! Blessings as always to you and may Agnus Dei and His Mother continue to inspire you and Alan in all your endeavors!

Annie Karto, singer-songwriter - Jan 3, 2007

Tommy is a dear friend and a wonderful inspiration! His artwork captures the message of Divine Mercy, moving the heart closer to the Merciful Heart of Jesus.I have been blessed to have his artwork on several of my CD's and people are always amazed at the magnituted of his talent. I thank God for Tommy and his wonderful gifts of art..gifts to the Catholic Church for this age!

Elma Murray - Jan 4, 2007

I found Tommy Cunning through Jesus. It was one of those many moments of our Christian life when we felt alone and confused and then there is a voice speaking in our heart - and you know that it was our Lord. That is how I meet our God's artist, Tommy Cunning. Jesus spoke to me, and He told me to grabbed a magazine off the shelve from St. Bartholomew's chapel here in Katy. I took the magazine home. But it was Tommy Cunning's art work in the magazine that really caught my attention. The Divine Mercy article in that magazine was all I read. That day I found myself reading more about Tommy Cunning in the internet and was consumed by his art. Thanks to that day, my home displays a large print of the Divine Mercy in our prayer room - a room next to the main door where everyone can see it, where I can see it and be reminded everyday of our merciful Jesus. I am inspired to collect more of Tommy's art work for our prayer room, so it will become a room that tells many stories of our savior Jesus Christ.

Bernhard & Marion Grabowiecki - Wellingborough UK - Jan 4, 2007

When one looks into Tommy's paintings we do not only see objects of great beauty and great skill in the brush strokes but we see and experience the love of God in His beauty. Our love for our Lord is simply expressed in our desire to receive Him in Holy Communion and open our hearts and souls to His grace. Pondering over the images of Tommy outstanding works is similar. We can look and feel the grace, love, pain and sorrow in his paintings, which can only lift, up our hearts in prayer. It has been our grace to meet this wonderful young man and the rest of his immediate family where better then in front of St Peter's Rome on the morning of the Canonisation of St Faustina in April 2000 . It was on that day too we became great friends and consider them part of our family. In the words of Mother Angelica " we want to talk about Jesus" for that is what we do and it brings us all great joy and happiness.
God bless them all with prayers and continued grace for this wonderful work.

Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC - Jan 6, 2007

I have been with Tommy at several Conferences and his artwork is truly inspiring. I hope and pray that Tommy's work gets more recognition.

Rev. Fr. Louis Garrido Collantes - Jan 7, 2007

I always pray and thanks God for the Artistic gifts that He gaved to Tommy. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide and protect you, knowing that all of these are given to you not for your own praises but for the Kingdom of God. "Per Regnum Christi ad Gloriam Dei" You will remain a brother and a friend to me.

MARIA-PAZ M. HERRERO - Apr 1, 2007

Your artwork is exemplary. I am so sure you were guided by the Blessed Mother and St. Faustina. I am a devotee of the Divine Mercy and St. Faustina.
More power to you and more works -of-art. God bless you and your family.

tommy canning - Jan 17, 2008

Hi,..........I would like if you could email me,its important to me!!

Angela - Apr 1, 2008

Hi Tommy.The Divine Mercy is a great gift to mankind from God through St.Faustina.I live in Glasgow,yet it was really difficult to discover a church which was celebrating the Divine Mercy.I had to travel to St.Columbas in Viewpark,Uddingston.It was well worth the travel as Father John Brodie gave a lovely sermon on the Divine Mercy.I just hope that the South side of Glasgow will have a chapel to celebrate Divine Mercy next year.We must all try to encourage this devotion by leaving leaflets at the back of our local church

Jettu - Oct 17, 2008

Confidential


Kindly send these requests of mine to St Faustina's Convent/Church where continuous prayers to Divine Mercy is held. Pl. also send me the EMail ID where I can send my requests in future:
Lord pl. give grace to a father to forgive his son for not fulfilling his dream of studies - only you understand the situation that made his son a failure. Lord of Mercy, love and kindness, we all plead you JESUS to give grace to the son to forgive his father, for unloved experience, humiliations, which made him a nervous wreck and even now at the age of 40 he is not reconciled and full of hurts, scared and lonely. Lord Jesus one drop of your blood is enough to work a miracle on both of them, be a loving Lord and God to both of them, heal both of them from all the hurts and painful memories of the past. This prayer we make to in your Holy Name, Amen Lord pl. be merciful thru' the virtues and merits of Your sufferings and passion to JS, Peter, RF bless them with good job, Heal Jude from spinal cord pain. Heal john from severe diabetes. Miraculous sight for 6 people. Good job & divine wisdom to take a decision for FR & NM about their future.

Moderator - Oct 20, 2008

Dear Jetu,

You may contact the Marian's Divine Mercy Prayerline at 1-800-804-3823 or via e-mail at prayerline@marian.org.

MRMR ITALIANO (EGYPT) - May 19, 2009

I`M SO PLEASURE TO WRITE TO ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS ARTIST IN THE WORLD , I`M REALLY LOVE YOUR ART ,I HOPE TO BE LIKE LEONARDO DAVINCI ONE DAY

art fan - Apr 20, 2013

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Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2501 "Created "in the image of God," man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works. Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creatures, art is a freely given superabundance of the human being's inner riches. Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man's own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God's activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man."