Beauty: A gift of the Catholic Church to the world (Part II)
IN my last column, I wrote about how, by inspiring art, the Catholic Church gives the world the precious gift of beauty. I concluded stressing that the Catholic Church should continue doing so.
The question arises: how? Catholics—both priests and laity—can do many things.
The following are just a few:
- Educate ourselves to appreciate art. We cannot help the cause of beauty if we cannot recognize beauty when we see it. Fortunately, art appreciation can be learned, and there are many resources available, such as books and websites. For example, I highly recommend the book “How Catholic Art Saved the Faith” by Elizabeth Lev. She teaches readers, in a beginner-friendly way, how to look at Counter-Reformation paintings.
There are many experts on visual arts, music, literature, and other arts eager to share their knowledge. Organizations such as youth groups can, for example, invite these experts to give talks as part of a cultural enrichment program for members.
By “art” I refer to both sacred art and clean secular art. For as St. Paul wrote, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”. (Philippians 4:6).
- Keep churches beautiful. This must be kept in mind in building new churches and in maintaining existing ones. Churches are repositories of art and must be kept that way.
Parish priests have a big responsibility for this, but they cannot carry out this responsibility without the laity’s help. Building and maintaining a beautiful church needs the laity’s expertise, manpower, funds, and other similar contributions. The great cathedrals of Europe were community projects: the clergy oversaw the construction as architects; the moneyed nobles contributed their wealth; the artisans such as stonecutters, carpenters, masons, quarrymen, glass makers, painters, and sculptors contributed their work.
- Reach out to artists. Not all artists fit the stereotype of a regular churchgoer. Caravaggio, for example, committed murder. Michelangelo had issues with sexuality. These did not stop both men from producing great sacred art. Artists, just like all other human beings, yearn for God deep inside them. They need spiritual fathers and mothers to nurture their souls and guide them along the right path. Catholics – both clergy and laity – must reach out to artists and open to them new avenues in their search for inspiration. We must show them that God gave them their talents because they have a special mission in the Church and in the world.
These are just a few ways by which Catholics can help the Church offer the world more beauty. The Church has done it in the past, and there is no reason the Church cannot do it again today. There is no reason why it is impossible for another Notre Dame cathedral to be built.