Friday, April 12, 2019


So far the subject of what is Beauty and the question of whether beauty is necessary for something to be called art has been avoided.  What we have done is clarified that some people have a broader interpretation of art than others.  Some will include almost anything and the other extreme (where I find myself) would say that, while not denying that many things may still be of great interest, the actual category of “art” is comparatively small.  The matter of beauty being in an object compared to how a person receives beauty has been explored.  Differenting world views have been acknowledged.  Great talent vs great art was bandied about.  These distinctions can help a person see why one person is enamored with a piece of art while another thinks he is an unsophisticated idiot with more money than brains.  Is one wrong and one right?  Well, that depends.  What are the rules for engagement?

If you are going to judge Icons, for example, and someone paints one with Western sensibilities and ideas of beauty, will you let it into the competition or by the rules of the contest, is it clearly not a true icon?  It depends.  It can beautiful in itself.  It can be perceived by some as beautiful.  But is it beautiful as an icon?  Is it a failed icon?  Is it a failed Western painting?  How much is in the receiver and how much is in the object?  Am I too narrow minded or too broadminded?  Maybe it is art but just the wrong kind of art - or maybe it just isn't really that good in the first place and we are waisting our time debating it.

So what is beauty?  I have a lot riding on this question in my priesthood.  As a priest I am afforded, under certain restrictions, to have a non-hereditary coat of arms so OF COURSE I had mine made up.  (I mean, who wouldn’t?  Really?)  - actually, plenty of people - but I think it’s cool so there’s that - ANYWAY, my motto is “Tandum Pulchritudine Salvabit Nos” which means roughly, “Ultimately Beauty Will Save Us.”  This formulation of this idea I received from the late, great Fr. Benedict Groeschel while on retreat with him at the Trinity Retreat House.  There is more to beauty than feelings or ideas of balance in that these things are not what make something beautiful but are characteristics of that which is beautiful.

Okay - as we get the heart of the matter - do you notice I am getting wordier?  It is like walking a path in the woods at night.  You know the path and feel when you are on it and when you are off of it but instead of just pointing at the trail and saying, “There!” you must describe how to tell when you are on the trail and when you are not.  So . . . as I have been long promising, next week we will look more closely at beauty (not necessarily if it is connected art yet.)


Anonymous said...

Would you please tell us what everything on your coat of arms means or what it means to you?

Timothy said...

You can't go far wrong quoting Fr. Groeschel. He is one of my Spiritual Fathers! His series Psychological Growth and Spiritual Development is a great help in recognizing what is from God and what is from our own untrustworthy natures - or from somewhere even worse!

It doesn't take an Idiot to see we need far more beauty in a culture that is awash in deconstructionist disfigurement.

Thanks for your insights and efforts to educate and inform. Those pretty much are the defining characteristics of a good bishop!

The need for mitigating the suffering in the world would dramatically decrease if we spent as much of our resources on spreading orthodox teaching and factual information as we do in empowering the social welfare bureaucracy.

Have a great Holy Week!

Anonymous said...

I have noticed a trend recently that modern iconographers and other artists are adding halos to those who have not been canonized (such as Fr. Mychal Judge, who died in the 9/11 attack on the WTC, or Dorothy Day, whose cause is being investigated but who has not been canonized). I am sure you know far more than I about it, but I understand classical iconography has certain rules (such as very small mouths and large eyes, which signifies listening and seeing the Will of God, and that nothing is too true to life, since we are all flawed by sin). When I see this kind of art on Catholic blogs and question it, I am scolded for being judgmental and narrow-minded, that these individuals are obviously holy and in heaven. Personally, no matter how beautiful the art may be, I think it is wrong to designate an individual a saint in artwork when the Church has not followed through. Many people who were once thought of as saintly, such as Fr. Maciel Marciel of the Legionaries of Christ, Che Guevara, and others, have been discovered to be anything but worthy of veneration. Am I wrong about this? Warmest Franciscan blessings to all here - Sue, OFS

Fr. V said...

Anon - Yes i will. Thank you for asking.

Timothy - Thanks!

Sue - Here's a story - I forget which (now declared) saint it was and which pope it was - but there is the story that the woman died and the pope, for her funeral, started vesting in white robes. Someone asked him why he was dressing in white (this is pre-Vatican II and so the appropriate color would have been black.) He responded that of course she was holy and is in heaven - he was counseled that this was presumptuous of him, that he didn't know what was going on in her mind or heart, and he may well be depriving her the prayers she needed for heaven. He saw the wisdom and relented and offered her the typical requiem Mass.

I understand why people may want to thus honor people that they greatly respect. And there are saints that were not officially vetted but who we none-the-less consider saints - not the least of whom is St. Sebastian - but it is a dangerous venture - AND THERE ARE OTHER HALOS in our catalogue of symbols that can be used that denote great reverence for a person without assuming that they are saint and are not in need of your prayers.

Thanks of asking.