Why Beauty Matters

“Very rightly the fine arts are considered to rank among the noblest activities of man’s genius, … especially to its highest achievement, which is sacred art. These arts, by their very nature, are oriented toward the infinite beauty of God, … and directed to the single aim of turning men’s minds devoutly toward God. Holy Mother Church… has ever sought their noble help, with the special aim that all things set apart for use in divine worship should be truly worthy, becoming, and beautiful, signs and symbols of the supernatural world…”

Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium 122

A poor home with a dirt floor and a modest table, the walls decorated only by a cherished crucifix, the family had diligently saved for over the years. Why such devotion to this simple symbol, and why do we not embrace more religious imagery and family heirlooms?

The Church’s rich history of Sacred Art testifies to the beauty of faith, offering visible representations of theological concepts that inspire contemplation of God across generations. Patrons who support the creation and sharing of this beauty not only uphold the faith but also sustain artists and their families in service to God. This noble endeavor enriches our age by inspiring artists to lead hearts devoutly towards God, calling for skilled artisans and supportive patrons to preserve our cultural heritage.

BEAUTY draws, attracts us to God

Beauty excites and attracts us. It helps us to see God. “Beauty is the glow of the true and the good irradiating from every ordered state of being,” as Josef Pieper eloquently states. Pope Saint John Paul II echoed this sentiment, emphasizing how sacred art,ignites a yearning for the divine guides humanity towards its ultimate purpose and sheds light on its path and destiny. “Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny.” Pope Saint John Paul II’s Letter to Artists highlights how beauty in art, including Church architecture, “Creation awaits the revelation of the children of God also through art and in art.”

Art know God in truth teach

Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI furthers this discourse by highlighting sacred art’s unique ability to communicate divine truths. He proclaims, “In the realm of sacred art, truth finds its most eloquent expression, revealing divine mysteries and deepening our understanding of God.”Fyodor Dostoevsky’s profound assertion, “Beauty will save the world,” underscores the transformative power of beauty, guiding us towards redemption and salvation.

sacred art in service to liturgy praise and worship

In the intimate realm of prayer, sacred art deepens our connection with the divine, enhancing our spiritual journey. Pope Benedict XVI stresses the importance of beauty in liturgical practices, reflecting the splendor of God’s glory. He emphasizes, “The communicating capacity of sacred art renders it able to break down barriers, filter prejudices and reach the heart of people from different cultures and religions and let them perceive the universality of the message of Christ and His Gospel. When a work of faith-inspired art is offered to the public within its religious function, it is a “via”, a “pathway of evangelisation and dialogue,” it gives a taste of the faith itself, at the same time as of the living patrimony of Christianity.”

Conclusion examples or story

Saint Francis of Assisi beautifully epitomize the delicate balance between simplicity in personal life and reverence for the beauty of sacred art. St. Francis, known for his profound connection with the beauty of liturgy and the plight of the poor, exemplified this balance in his own life. His biographies recount how he was deeply grieved when encountering a dirty church, personally taking it upon himself to clean it and instructing clergy on the importance of cleanliness in the celebration of Mass. He recognized that the poor, both in spirit and in material wealth, deserved to partake in the richness of the Church’s liturgy. Indeed, in the old days, it was often the poor who sacrificed their time, resources, and devotion to build churches, enriching them with the beauty of their faith.

Josephat Basilica mortgages and building

By neglecting to provide a beautiful liturgy, we risk depriving the poor of the spiritual enrichment that Jesus desires for them through the Church’s liturgical celebrations, ultimately further impoverishing them. Thus, the example of these saints reminds us of the profound impact that beauty has on our worship and spiritual growth, and the responsibility we have to ensure that all, especially the poor, can partake in its richness.