Catholicism needs more emphasis on beauty
The Synod on the New Evangelisation has now reached its conclusion. It has published a message that can be read in full here, elsewhere on the Catholic Herald website.
The following passage struck a chord with me:
We must form welcoming communities in which all outcasts find a home, concrete experiences of communion which attract the disenchanted glance of contemporary humanity with the ardent force of love – “See how they love one another!” (Tertullian, Apology, 39, 7). The beauty of faith must particularly shine in the actions of the sacred Liturgy, above all in the Sunday Eucharist. It is precisely in liturgical celebrations that the Church reveals herself as God’s work and renders the meaning of the Gospel visible in word and gesture.
What it is saying is that the parish is going to tbe the primary place of evangelisation, and that the Holy Mass is going to be the place where the individual encounters not just the Church but Christ as well. As I have said before now, it is thus imperative that our parishes offer the best possible of everything, particularly liturgy and preaching: after all it is Christ who is celebrated and Christ who is preached. And the key word in all this is “beauty”: the beauty of faith must be allowed to shine out and it must never be obscured.
The document also mentions Scripture:
The frequent reading of the Sacred Scriptures – illuminated by the Tradition of the Church who hands them over to us and is their authentic interpreter – is not only necessary for knowing the very content of the Gospel, which is the person of Jesus in the context of salvation history. Reading the Scriptures also helps us to discover opportunities to encounter Jesus, truly evangelical approaches rooted in the fundamental dimensions of human life: the family, work, friendship, various forms of poverty and the trials of life, etc.
It is not quite clear what this means in practice but it is undoubtedly true that there can be no true proclamation of the Good News without a scriptural basis. So, we need to do much more to promote the understanding and appreciation of the Bible.
The document also contains this insight:
We also want to thank men and women involved in another expression of the human genius, art in its various forms, from the most ancient to the most recent. We recognize in works of art a particularly meaningful way of expressing spirituality inasmuch as they strive to embody humanity’s attraction to beauty. We are grateful when artists through their beautiful creations bring out the beauty of God’s face and that of his creatures. The way of beauty is a particularly effective path of the new evangelization.
Again, the accent is on beauty, and here too the emphasis is surely correct. More people have been won over to Christ by, for example, Bernini’s Saint Teresa in Ecstasy, than any tome on apologetics. Catholicism is a religion of the visual. We need to explore new avenues of beauty that lead to the truth of God in all the arts to try to reach our contemporaries. Faith is caught, not taught, and art is an effective way of catching souls – so the history of the Counter-Reformation shows.