This is such a rich post from Rod Dreher’s blog at American Conservative.
Part one is the article in First Things. In Part two of the blog, Rod shares a reflection by Catholic Bishop James Conley. While a student at the University of Kansas, the Bishop came into the Catholic Church deeply influenced by teacher John Senior. As Rod writes, “The Bishop reflects on how being introduced to beauty opened his mind and his soul, and transformed them both.”
After reading the blog and links I reflected on my recent post on Pope Francis and how this relates to how others encounter Christ, how we evangelize in this dynamic, complex, at times corrupt and ever changing world we live in. Bishop Conley’s reflection struck me as saying something very similar to what Pope Francis has been communicating concerning how we encounter those that are in desperate need of the compassion, love and truth of Christ and His Church:
My godfather loved beauty—not for its own sake, but for the sake of Jesus Christ, the creator and redeemer of beauty. Senior saw the beauty of this world in the light of eternity, and he helped others to acquire the same transcendent vision.
The Bishop reveals that in the contemporary culture which shapes our youth, you often cannot engage them with lofty theological concepts or doctrine before engaging them on a deeper personal level with the source of these religious truths:
Our lives had largely been shaped by the crass appeals of the mass media, and the passing fads of popular culture. There was a lack of truth in our lives, certainly; but there was also a profound lack of beauty. Our souls were starving for both, and we did not even know it. (my emphasis)…students had to encounter beauty, and have their hearts and imaginations captured first by beauty, before they could pursue truth and goodness in a serious and worthy manner.
Perhaps this is what the Pope is saying on an interpersonal and pastoral level. When we encounter the woman or man after abortion, the person struggling with same-sex-attraction, the traumatized veteran, our first encounter is not one where we dispense moral and theological truth…as indispensable as they will be for an ongoing conversion and recovery.
But it is essential that they experience in our eyes, in our words, in our spirit something of this Eternal Beauty. It is really a challenge to open ourselves up in a more radical way to the beauty, power and truth of the God’s Word, the Sacraments, and through them to an intimate encounter with Christ. It is in this ongoing transformation by the Way, the Truth and the Life (which by necessity will at times be painful,) that we can become the most effective instruments of the new evangelization.
When you encounter someone like John Senior in your life, there is something special that is beyond words that engages you. Our gifts are different, so the Lord will transform you in a unique way, and you will evangelize this beauty and truth in your own time, place and station in life.
As the Bishop Conley writes, believers need the Church and it’s leaders to understand the primacy of preserving and in many cases restoring the beauty found in the Mass as an integral part of transforming each of us and in turn our culture:
To renew Catholic culture, and evangelize our contemporaries, we must restore beauty to the sacred liturgy. If we cannot restore beauty and holiness to our sanctuaries, we will not be able to restore it anywhere else.
Read the Bishops full reflection and feast on this rich post at Rod Dreher’s blog (and others like it found there.)
(I will be blogging soon about St Maximillian Kolbe and how his love for the Immaculata transformed his entire being, and touched everyone he encountered.)