The Personalist Project

One of the earliest lessons I learned from Alice von Hildebrand came from a talk she gave in Steubenville in my undergrad days.

"You are not responsible for the face you were born with. You are responsible for the face you die with."

Often in the years since I have heard her speak of "holy cosmetics": the beauty the human face acquires over time, by living in right accord with "the hierarchy of values."

It's the opposite trajectory to the horrible one depicted so vividly in Oscar Wilde's insightful novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. A life of evil and indulgence over time renders a person ugly, even if he was originally endowed with great physical beauty. The body displays the debauched soul. The face becomes sour, nasty, contorted.

Likewise, even a plain face can be transfigured by the moral radiance of a beautiful expression. An expression of sweetness, tenderness, pity, kindness, purity, humility, noble sorrow (the kind that only a virtuous person can have) gives a human face an attractive power that far outglories the beauty of fine physical features and proportions.

I thought of this again yesterday watching this 20/20 interview with Dolores Hart, the Hollywood actress who abandoned stardom to enter a Benedictine convent at age 24. A documentary about her life has been nominated for an Oscar, bringing her back into the public spotlight.

I was particularly touched by two things: the striking beauty of her face now, in contrast to the heavily made-up, plastic-surgery distorted faces of her Hollywood peers who stayed in the world, and the admirable fidelity of her former fiancé, in contrast with the broken marriages littering "the entertainment world".

She was engaged to be married when she was impelled by God to enter the convent. Her fiancé was devasted, but accepting. Not only did he never marry, but he has traveled to her convent to visit her every Easter and Christmas since. He considers his life as much bound up with hers as if they had married. What love! What beautiful devotion! How many Hollywood actresses have anything to compare with it?

Dolores Hart has chosen the better part.

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Comments (8)

Michael Healy

#1, Feb 26, 2012 5:51pm

Great post, Katie!  I love the idea of "holy cosmetic" (as Alice von Hildbrand expresses it), the comparison with Dorian Gray, and the real-life faithful love of the fiance!

Laurence

#2, Feb 27, 2012 12:36pm

That's a lovely post. Thanks for sharing.

Joan Drennen

#3, Feb 29, 2012 10:32am

Thank you, Katie. What grace, beauty, suffering. I was struck by her peacefulness and honesty in her answers and disposition. By the beauty and realness of her face, as you note, and the collectedness of her self. In her youth, she followed a call that she explains as part of Mystery, a call that cost her everything and which ended up forging her true self. She doesn't claim to understand the discrepancy and tension between her call to be a public figure and a cloistered one. Her lines (paraphrased) - once someone agrees to be a public figure, part of them is owned by the public- seem to me very personalist. The power of the person in the form of a public figure goes out into the world and is partly owned by the world. The public person has such an effect on the world, simply because they have shared their self in a way that can be known by many.  

I was also touched by her relaying the privilege of knowing and understanding Elvis Presley, and in her description of their relationship as a "fine" one. Another aspect of her life experience I appreciate is the fact that she struggled so keenly when splitting up with acting cohorts. She didn't stifle this, but listened to its significance.

Rose van Schaijik

#4, Feb 29, 2012 2:37pm

Coincidently I watched this video a few days ago because Dolores Hart is coming to here to Franciscan University to give a talk in a couple days! 

I was also immediately struck by her loveliness and also the beauty of her voice. Being a theatre major here at Franciscan I was also very encouraged and inspired by her dedication to the faith even when she was in Hollywood. 

I am very excited to see her and hear her speak when she comes.  

Katie van Schaijik

#5, Feb 29, 2012 2:41pm

Be sure to report back on the experience, Rosie!

Jules van Schaijik

#6, Feb 29, 2012 3:57pm

Rose van Schaijik, Feb. 29 at 2:37pm

Dolores Hart is coming to here to Franciscan University to give a talk in a couple days! 

 You lucky one.  Oh... to be a student again!

Sebastian Moryń

#7, Mar 1, 2012 3:15pm

It`s grat post.

In Poland we have big problem with understand "holy cosmetic". We have blessed Pope JPII but we don`t crative soul.

Thank you for this website. It`s very amazing idea.

Pax bonum

Katie van Schaijik

#8, Mar 1, 2012 4:45pm

 

Sebastian Moryń, Mar. 1 at 3:15pm

It`s grat post.

In Poland we have big problem with understand "holy cosmetic". We have blessed Pope JPII but we don`t crative soul.

Thank you for this website. It`s very amazing idea.

Pax bonum

Sebastian, thanks for joining in.  I hope to visit Poland some day. There were several Polish students studying with us at the Academy in Liechtenstein.

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