Catholic beauty

Beauty was something that made me Catholic. In my old haunts, that kind of statement might be considered to smack of sentimentalism or anti-intellectualism. But I admit that there are many roads to Truth, and beauty is one of them. And this is a particularly difficult topic to broach because, having become Catholic, I find that much of the Church has been on a crusade for the past 40 years, or so, to rid the Church of beauty. Once beautiful sanctuaries have been “updated” in the Spirit of Vatican 2. New churches look like barns. Ancient and glorious hymns have taken a back-seat to camp songs. Chant has disappeared. Candles have been replaced by “candles”. Etc, etc. The list is a pretty long one.

So the question is, how did beauty draw me to the Church, when much of the Church is at war with beauty? I am not sure. Certainly, beauty remains. Not all sanctuaries have been defaced. And so, as mentioned before, St. Matthew’s parish church is gorgeous. Entering that placed filled me with Heaven. The Philadelphia Cathedral is also gorgeous. Let us not forget that I grew up in the south of France, where gorgeous little parish churches (see “L’eglise”; alas, I don’t think I ever went in it) are at the heart of every village. I have always loved statues and icons and hymns and chant and incense and vestments and…

But none of these things were ours. It was all an add-on to the bare bones of Protestantism. Except the hymns. Which Protestant hymns are the only hymns you will ever hear in a Catholic parish. I wanted to be part of such a grand tradition of beauty, without feeling like a cherry-picker. I wanted my senses to be filled with God. And so the reality of current parish life has been somewhat of a mortification. Nevertheless, it is ours and it will be reclaimed. In time.

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~ by Rob on May 23, 2008.

One Response to “Catholic beauty”

  1. That spoke to me. I spent many years before becoming Catholic visiting Catholic churches. One day it all came together for me and I was changed to say the least.

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