Evangelizing through art

METHUEN — Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky once said, “Beauty will save the world.”

If that is so, then Father Antoine Rizk, BSO is certainly lending his hand to the work of salvation.

Father Rizk, 35, is director of formation at St. Basil Seminary in Methuen, and founder of the St. Basil Art Studio, a ministry of St. Basil’s Melkite-Catholic seminary in Methuen.

With his artistic skill and his ability to teach, Father Rizk is teaching others the art of iconography, mosaics, and oil paintings.

“I have always had the talent to paint, ever since I was a small child,” he explained. “When I came to St. Basil’s, I told my superiors that I would like to share this skill with others, to reach out to people through art.”

According to Father Rizk, his superiors at St. Basil Seminary agreed to the establishment of the art studio. One year later, Father Rizk devotes much of his time passing his love of art on to others.

“It is part of my mission. It involves not only the painting itself, but it also involves evangelization,” he said, noting that “through the Byzantine icons, I can explain the traditions of the Church, as well as talk about the Bible.”

“Also, whenever you paint icons, there is a peace ambiance that lends itself to prayer,” he added.

Most of Father Rizk’s art students are beginners.

“I have people of all ages,” he smiled. “It does not matter the skill level, but that the people are interested in painting Byzantine icons.”

Father Rizk was born in Haouch Hala, Lebanon, where his love of art began early on. “For as long as I can remember — ever since I was a little child, I have loved color and drawing.”

While studying for the priesthood in Rome, where he was ordained in 1996, Father Rizk also pursued his love of painting, often taking night classes in area universities.

Once ordained, he studied iconography at the Center for Russian Studies in Paris under Father Igor Sendler, SJ, a master of Russian iconography.

In addition to his iconography classes, Father Rizk also offers a mosaic class, as well as several painting classes — from oil painting to watercolors — which are open to the public.

“Most of my students are lay people, some are not even Catholic,” he stated, stressing that his objective is not to force people “to become Melkite rite.”

“Not at all,” he said. “I wish to share my knowledge, to communicate with others and to have communion with those around me.”