Friday, September 28, 2012

In Praise of Beauty

“Beauty will save the world.” Thus wrote the famed Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky.

This is a quote that haunts my mind with hope and wonder. It comes to me even when cultural
and political obstacles to faith seem insurmountable; when, looking around me at Sunday Mass, I
seem to see fewer and fewer people in the pews.

But what does it mean that beauty saves the world? Is it not Christ who saves the world?

Of course it is Christ – He who is Beauty Incarnate. It is Christ full of the Splendor of Truth and
Love and Self-Gift. It is the Beauty of Christ that shines through his Body the Church even in its
darkest and most challenging hours.

That beauty shines especially in his saints. Totally undeserving, I have seen it. I have looked
into the beaming eyes of Blessed John Paul II as he firmly gripped my hand at a small youth
gathering in Rome in the 1980’s. I have glimpsed that beauty in the gnarled hands and lovely
wrinkled face of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta as she graciously signed my prayer book
and chatted for a few moments. I have seen it in others, young and old, alive today, living out a
witness to Christ that is breathtaking.

I see it in the Splendor of the Gospels, and of the Faith we have been blessed to receive. The
Word of God and the words of Faith are not mere factual truth, cold and bare – they are Truth on
fire with poetry for the soul.

If I write books for group reflection and “study,” it is with the desire that in some way the Beauty
of Christ may be better seen and known and loved. His Beauty, whether reflected in the witness
of human lives transformed by grace, or in the written witness of the Gospel or the Catechism,
must reach the heart. It must stir contemplation, awe and joy, and a desire to be different and
better people – more loving – from the moment we experience it. To be disciples. To share this
in community with one another, and thus to change the world.