As Catholics, we must reconquer the battle ground known as “beauty.” I currently live in Italy, and I am continually impressed by the fascination for beauty that seeps forth from the walls of almost of every Church and in many Museums. Each time has its imperfections (the Medieval and Renaissance included), yet too many legends and partial textbooks have led to a complete ignorance of the Catholic’s healthy fascination for beauty.
The main difference between the Catholic view and the current secular view is quite simple: beauty is a gift, a gift from God, not an object to be used for our selfish pleasure. Beauty is to be praised, contemplated, protected, respected. Pure beauty is a path that leads us to Beauty Himself. Nowadays, however, appreciating beauty usually means eye-goggling and self-exposure.
In fact, many times appreciation has little to do with it; it is all about taking and using. What was originally intended to open not only eyes but our hearts as well, is reduced to external stimulation, a meaningless moment of delight that blinds both our eyes and our hearts.
Still, before continuing my anti-culture rant, I must be careful. Modesty and pure beauty may go out of style on a mainstream level, but they never go out of style on an anthropological one. The desire for attention, for being known, for being looked at, are all echoes of a deeper desire for love and recognition. The jagged walls of fear, egoism, lust and insecurity can distort these echoes and lead us not only to throw pearls to the dogs but also forget what a pearl even looks like or what to do with one if we find it. Still, the desire to live modestly, to have a healthy understanding and attitude towards beauty is something that resides in each human heart and continues to find ways of expressing itself.
What I found most outstanding in Jessica Rey’s approach is the fact that she did something about the situation. She went beyond the criticism and made a concrete step toward changing the culture. St. Augustine encouraged the idea that where one falls, it is from there that one has to stand up. Responding to today’s pseudo-vision of beauty requires that a new and authentic version be inserted. This takes place, in the first place, thanks to prayer on a personal level. Christ offers us a new heart and new eyes: eyes that see according to the heart. Eyes that know when to look and when not to look. Eyes that obey beauty rather than mock it. This inner conversion must then lead us to bring about a true cultural and social conversion. The vision of Christ must become the vision of our families, our friends, and our nations. We must be creative in our apostolate. Finding new ways to break the old paradigms and surround others with signs that point them to God, to the God Christ Jesus, not to their false god of egoism and self-indulgence.
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