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Beauty in Catholic Spirituality

Catholics are at times told by their non-Catholic neighbors, friends and co-workers that money should never be used for building large churches or for obtaining works of art to be placed in the sanctuary. That money, some critics of the Church argue, should instead be allocated entirely to those experiencing poverty.

Objections to Cathedrals and Art

These objections raise various questions of great importance surrounding the relationship between money, art and beauty. Should Catholics ever invest any money in making their worship spaces more beautiful? What is the purpose of beauty in buildings or artwork in the Church? What is the balance between the allocation of money for worship spaces and the care of the poor?  

These are questions that Catholics frequently face from others who do not share their faith commitments. But they are important to ask because they invite those discussing these matters to think more deeply about the purpose of the Church as a whole and the purpose of beauty in Catholic spirituality in particular.

The Purpose of Beauty

In this episode we discuss the purpose of beauty in Catholic spirituality and especially in the worship service. The primary purpose of the Catholic services is to worship God. One of the best ways for people to connect to God is through the path of beauty. God is beautiful and is even Beauty Itself. Beauty is one of the most powerful ways to foster a deeper spirituality.

Beauty and the Needs of the Body

Catholics also believe that human beings are made up of body and soul. Human beings first experience the world through their bodies, through the human senses. Human beings experience the world through the sense of sight, taste touch and smell. Through these senses, human beings can come to a deeper understanding of the world around them. The senses are an excellent vehicle through which human beings can learn something not only about the world around them but also about God. God has left in creation traces of his own self. Traces of God’s power, majesty and beauty remain in the creation. Through the senses, human beings can access those traces of God’s presence and through them, their minds can be lifted to God.

On the basis of these core convictions, Catholics believe that the members of the Church can indeed use beauty as a means to worship God. For this reason, Catholics have used such things as music, massive cathedrals, sacred images and other tangible entities that elevate the soul in the worship of God.

Precedents for Using Beauty

Catholics are not new in adopting material entities in the worship of God. The precedent for using created matter is none other than the Old Testament. Therein, the people of Israel used material entities such as a temple, psalms and even sacred oils were used as a means to honor and worship God. From the days of the patriarchs to the present, beauty has served as one of the primary means for bringing people into a stronger connection with God.

Join us this week as we discuss the various benefits that beauty can offer in the fostering of a deeper Catholic spirituality.

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