My mom had six kids; the neighbor had six kids. Between the two houses we had enough players for any game! So when our parents traded babysitting, we played sports at the neighbor’s house; but at our house, all twelve kids sat at a table and learned about drawing. Thus began my journey… and I learned the power of creativity.

Many years later, I went into the field of Art as Therapy, rather than trying to live the identity of artist. I learned that working with art materials lowers blood pressure. It can be a way to channel stress from inside the body out onto paper or canvas. Doodling has a calming effect–that’s why anxious students draw around the edges of their papers. This practice comes naturally.

But I think there is more to it than the physiological response. We have a deep longing for silence. And we have a deep longing to connect with the Source of all creativity and beauty. Wrapped up in the creative experience is that restless desire for God.

The Healing Power of Creativitycostello - drawing

It was about nine months ago that I began to take a new look at the drawings I have handed out to my Sunday School students. I drew images of Jesus, Mary and the saints so the 8-year-olds could color. At our church’s Fall Family Fun day, I hang them up with short descriptions and ask people to identify the figures. But I have noticed that parents would look longingly at them. When these line drawings are neatly filled in and accented with doodles and designs, they can become something very special. They become something which is personal and meaningful.

So now I have assembled my drawings into a Coloring Book for grownups! My idea is not that people will simply fill in between the lines: I have left white space so that basic design ideas can be added.

My creative side used to rebel against “staying inside the lines”…I would always encourage people to express their inner selves by making their own unique mark on the page. However, faced with a blank piece of paper, many grownups feel anxious about getting started. With coloring pages there is a beginning–no need to be the first to make a mark! Once that initial anxiety is gone, it is time to add something that is a personal response to the image.

St. Augustine said that singing is “praying twice,” but I am now realizing that coloring can be an opportunity for praying “three times.” When we focus on holy images, using our eyes and hands in a creative way and interacting with the image by adding designs, we are glorifying God!

Mirroring the Creator

In designs we see the beauty of God all around us. In the patterns of flowers and the graceful curves of a horse, we see God’s love for beauty and pattern. Lines, spirals, curves and scallops form pleasing patterns which can be used during coloring.

When Pope Saint John Paul II wrote a Letter to Artists, he said, “The human craftsman mirrors the image of God as Creator.” The Creator calls us to give back to Him by really looking and then reflecting back some of the beauty He has given us.

In 1943 a Carmelite priest named Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen wrote about the power of using the imagination. He says the purpose of having a sacred image to look at is “to facilitate the work of reflection…it is much easier to think of the Scourging with a picture of it before us. The picture has the advantage of holding the fantasy in check.” The concrete image helps focus the attention. And from there we begin to converse with the One who Loves.

St. Ignatius of Loyola taught his followers to form mental images of the life of Christ and meditate as if they were there in that scene. But for some, this is difficult to do. In fact, St. Teresa of Avila said she could not imagine anything when she tried to pursue this practice. So she took a holy image with her in contemplative prayer: to look at and then to imagine being there.

The next time you want to pray in a new way, consider coloring holy images! It can be therapeutic for your physical health, but it can be so much more! In the silent imagining process, God comes to us.


Costello, Judith, Sacred Images: A Coloring Book for Prayer, 2015, available on Amazon and at

Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, Little Catechism of the Life of Prayer, 9thedition, Translated from Italian by The Carmel of Maria Regina, Oregon, 1982.

Pope John Paul II, Letter to Artists, 1999.

published on Catholic Stand



The Real Truth about Real Fun

By Judith Costello, Unwind Studio

Against the Sky

Against the Sky

Katende Andrew is a seminarian from Uganda who is starting a foundation to help impoverished and neglected children get an education. He’s the “St. Don Bosco” for poor children in his country!  Don Bosco gathered up orphan children off the streets of Italy (1818-1888). He found a way to help them learn and flourish without being a harsh task master. Instead, he made his students laugh even in difficult circumstances and in spite of the meager offerings he could provide for them. They learned to have great fun together.

That “Don Bosco style” is needed for our young people, not only in Uganda, but around the world today! The saint once said, “Enjoy yourselves as much as you like, if only you keep away from sin.” But in today’s world fun seems to equal sin among young people. When Katende posted this quote on Facebook, a young person wrote, “How can you enjoy yourself as much as possible without sinning? Let me say when it comes to lots of food, partying and you can mention the rest (of the things that are ‘fun’)?”

From children in high school to young people in college, the reports of sin/fun are increasingly exponentially to include drinking to “get smashed”, various new drugs, anonymous sex, serial partners and experimentation of many kinds.

Somehow we need to wake people up: This is not fun!!  Such things lead to illness, STDs, severe depression, abortion, and hopelessness. That equates to death and destruction not fun and happiness.

The refreshing beauty of how Don Bosco lived and taught is that he knew what real happiness is all about. There is truth that can be known and the truth is: real happiness and enjoyment only comes from being physically, mentally and spiritually challenged, AND from relating to others in more than a superficial, “selfie/text me” way.

Young people need to learn this. And they need to know that if they’ve been confused and already made really bad choices, they can start now to turn that around. Make better choices. Find out what is real. God is waiting to offer help!

So here’s a short list of Real Fun Things. Let’s keep adding and adding. I’d like to paper a wall with the truth about fun!! How long can the list be?

Play soccer, football, basketball, baseball. The physical body needs a workout!

Read a classic novel. (Avoid the modern, or at least the trashy modern stuff.)

Visit a Church and spend over 20 minutes in prayer! Really once you start the time will fly.

Sit at a coffee shop and talk through the night. Solve the world’s problems. Come up with an end to poverty. Come up with a solution to cancer or homelessness.

Do an art project! Find a photo from your life. Study it. Then paint it!

Do an art project with friends. Bring out a piece of canvas, markers and paint. Ask everyone to add something. Let the laughter begin.

Tell jokes.

Play charades.

Go for a drive just to look at the sky. Find beauty everywhere.

Put your head on a friend’s belly. When they laugh, you’ll laugh!

Watch children. Do what they do.

Watch animals. Do what they do. (Hint: they sleep a lot. But when they’re awake, they are very aware of everything.)

Dress up in fun clothes. Create new clothes. Don’t be afraid….cut that old tee-shirt.

Watch the stars. Count them.

Go to bed alone…enjoy the feel of the sheets. Say prayers of gratitude.

Dance the night away…(just avoid the hyper-sexualized modern dancing.) Try Jewish folk dance or polka or Two-Step.

Play a kazoo!

Enjoy music. Go to a special concert (where the artists don’t cuss.)

Go somewhere new. Smile at everyone. Strike up conversation with strangers.


Have fun. Avoid sin. Find beauty.  Yes…That all goes together.

Now add to the list.

They say that before he died Don Bosco said, Tell the boys I’ll see them all in Paradise.” He was raising saints for the wonders of eternity.

The site by Katende Andrew is