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Katie van Schaijik

The evangelical power of beauty

Feb. 14 at 10:35am

This morning at Mass, our good priest gave an impassioned homily about the momentousness of what we as a Church are experiencing this Lent.  It seemed to me he had been reading George Weigel on the subject.  

He said that the Church is in a period of transition.  Under the leadership of this Pope and his predecessor, we are moving away from being "a maintenance Church" to being "an evangelical Church."  

Yes!  I agree!  I see it too!

But then he added a point that sent up a little red flag for me—not because it's wrong, but because it can be taken wrongly.  

He said, in so many words, "We're not about maintaining buildings; we're about winning souls for Christ."  

The words jumped out at me, because just the other night, at a Mardi Gras gathering of friends at our house, the main topic of conversation had been about the terrible loss of so many incredibly beautiful churches in our diocese.  They are being closed, sold, sometimes demolished, in the name of fiscal responsibility.  Our friend, Mike, who is a passionate lover of cutlural splendor, is in agony over it.  

Why?  Is he an aesthete?  Does he not see that "people are more important than things"?  Does he want us to be "a maintenance Church" rather than "an evangelical Church"?

No.  It is rather exactly because of his love for souls that he is in agony over the loss of these treasures.  He loves those buildings for themselves and also for their evangelical power.  He understands, as most don't, how they bespeak the glory of God.  They lift us out of the mundane and remind us of our vocation to transcendence.  They help loose the deadly grip of the utilitarian monster threatening to devour us and our society. They woo, win, soften, enoble, and irrigate our parched hearts...  

Maybe I can persuade him to write us a post on the subject.  With pictures.


 

Mike Wallacavage

For now, I will post some quote from Pope Benedict XVI but work up something more later.  From his dedication of the magnificent Sagrada Famila church in Barcelona!  “Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth.  Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness.”                                      –Pope Benedict at Sagrada Familia.

#1 - Feb. 14 at 11:48am | quote

 

Mike Wallacavage

My favorite Ratzinger quote from The Ratzinger Report: “The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb.  Better witness is borne to the Lord by the splendor of holiness and art which have arisen in the community of believers than by the clever excuses which apologetics has come up with to justify the dark sides which, sadly, are so frequent in the Church’s human history. …Christians must not be too easily satisfied. They must make their Church into a place where beauty – and hence truth – is at home.  Without this the world will become the first circle of hell.”  -Cardinal Ratzinger, (Pope Benedict XVI)

#2 - Feb. 14 at 11:49am | quote

 

Mike Wallacavage

"A work of art is a product of the creative capacity of the human being who in questioning visible reality, seeks to discover its deep meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, colour and sound. Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible, it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite.   Some artistic expressions are real highways to God, the supreme Beauty; indeed, they help us to grow in our relationship with him, in prayer. These are works that were born from faith and express faith. We can see an example of this when we visit a Gothic cathedral: we are enraptured by the vertical lines that soar skywards and uplift our gaze and our spirit, while at the same time we feel small yet long for fullness... Or when we enter a Romanesque church we are spontaneously prompted to meditate and to pray. We perceive that these splendid buildings contain, as it were, the faith of generations. Or when we listen to a piece of sacred music that plucks at our heartstrings, our mind, as it were, expands and turns naturally to God."  Way of Beauty

#3 - Feb. 14 at 11:55am | quote

 

Mike Wallacavage

The previous quote is from the Pontifical Council for Cultures reflection on the role of art, archtecture and beauty in evangeliation called "The Way of Beauty"

#4 - Feb. 14 at 11:57am | quote

 

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