Like most Americans, when the COVID lockdown hit in 2020, Margaret Peppiatt found herself with a bit of extra time on her hands and decided to take on a project.
In her case, the Franciscan University of Steubenville student and devout Catholic began writing a book, and three years later her labor of love was complete: the self-published “The Gospel with Sacred Art” was released in June.
The book features passages from the four gospels chronologically relating the life of Christ. Each spread contains an excerpt with a corresponding painting that illustrates the scene.
The paintings largely come from collections in the U.S. and Europe spanning six centuries and featuring artists from over a dozen countries.
“The book is the first part of [my] larger ‘Seek What is Above’ effort,” Peppiatt, 21, told The College Fix. “I am hoping to release future products and books that support the same mission of spreading beauty, truth and goodness as a path to God.”
Peppiatt, who also writes for The College Fix, said the start of her book-producing journey included a crash course in learning about image copyrights and how to use software for designing page layouts; the last steps were registering as a business and finding a printer.
Eventually, she said, everything came together as she combined artists including famous names like van Gogh, Rembrandt and da Vinci, as well as lesser known painters “who nevertheless made significant contributions during their time.”
“The variety of paintings attests to the timelessness of the gospel, which has inspired artists throughout the centuries to create beautiful artwork based on the life of Christ,” said Peppiatt (pictured).
The hardcover book, which can be purchased from the Seek What is Above website, can be considered a coffeetable-type book due to its larger size and simple format, she said.
“I was limited in selecting paintings by resolution and public domain standards, but the sheer amount of Christian artwork available made it possible to find over 100 paintings that corresponded to gospel passages,” she told The Fix, adding the book contains an index with information about the paintings that includes the title, artist, date and location.
As for her “Seek What Is Above” project, of which the book is part one, Peppiatt said it is based on Colossians 3:1-2: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”
“My mission is to encourage people to lift their minds and hearts to God through exposure to truth, beauty and goodness,” she said. “…The plan is to particularly emphasize sacred art and the natural world as two sources that do just that. I hope to incorporate these two elements with the Catholic faith in later releases.”
Peppiatt said she is particularly inspired by Karol Wojtyla, also known as Pope John Paul II.
“He is the patron saint of my endeavor,” she said. “What people may not know is that Wojtyla had a great appreciation for the arts and nature during his youth in Poland that extended into his time as pope.”
Wojtyla wrote poetry and plays, and he acted in an underground theater during the Nazi occupation of Poland, she said, adding he also loved hiking, skiing, and spending time outdoors.
“As the patron saint of my business, this simply means that I look to Wojtyla’s insights on the arts, creation and beauty as a guide for my work,” she said. “I also ask for his intercession to glorify God with all that I do, since Catholics believe that the saints are our friends in heaven who intercede for us before God.”
The stated goal of her overall effort is to “establish more exposure to things that truly benefit the soul, reminding people of their final destination.”
“We need this reminder today because people have forgotten that they are made for more than just this earth. Our culture focuses on materialism and individual pleasure far too much, sacrificing a greater reality—that the human person is eternal,” she said.
“If people believed they were made for heaven and knew they needed salvation, how much different would our world be?”
Asked how she became a devout Catholic at such a young age, Peppiatt credited Franciscan University of Steubenville as playing “a huge role in my faith journey.”
“The presence of Christ on campus is truly noticeable, and it has been through encountering him in the Eucharist, in my friends, and in my classes that has drawn me deeper into the Catholic faith,” she said.
“My experience is definitely unique compared to the majority of college students across the country,” she added, “but I believe that I have found what they are looking for – the freedom and identity that comes through knowing and loving Christ.”
“I am grateful to have discovered this truth at a young age by the grace of God.”