Walking the Way of Beauty: Speak lord, your servant listens

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In this period I have recalled several times the need for every Christian, in the midst of the many occupations that fill our days, to find time for God and for prayer. The Lord himself gives us many opportunities to remember him. Today I would like to reflect briefly on one of these channels that can lead to God and can also be of help in the encounter with him. It is the way of artistic expression, part of that “via pulchritudinis” — the “way of beauty”, of which I have spoken several times and whose deepest meaning must be recovered by men and women today.” – Pope Benedict XVI (31, Aug. 2011)

Usually I change my blog design in the Spring, something new, fresh, etc. This time, I took it a step further and changed the name and design of my blog completely. Those who know me will tell you that I love beautiful things. I love art, music, architecture, liturgy, woodworking, flowers, etc. For me, beauty has always been a lens through which I am able to see God in my life. Whether it be through the beauty of human achievement and the powers of the mind and intellect or a walk through nature smelling the scent of fresh lawn clippings or feeling the warmth of the sun on my neck through my window as I drive down the road I always find myself smiling and saying: “Thanks, God!”

Beauty is a very prevalent part of what I would define as my spirituality, how I experience God in my life. As I continue through seminary I am constantly amazed at the ways in which God works through our lives. His plan which covers everything down to the most minute detail leaves me speechless at times. In the first reading from 1 Samuel we hear at Mass today of the way in which our Lord called Samuel and the somewhat lengthy way it took for him to finally realize who it was who was speaking to him. In Seminary we listen to his call, we try to interpret it, with the aid of our Spiritual directors, formators, brother seminarians, Bishops, etc. For me, beauty is a way in which I hear Christ speak and call me. It’s no mystery that one of the major factors that drew me to consider a vocation to the priesthood was my involvement with beautiful liturgies growing up. To take something created by God, sometimes imperfect-ed by our human hands, and offer it back up to him in thanksgiving, love, and worship has such a powerful influence on me.

Pope Benedict continuing his address discussing the “via pulchritudinis”  explains how “A work of art is a product of the creative capacity of the human being who in questioning visible reality, seeks to discover its deep meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, colour and sound. Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible, it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite.”

He goes on: “May the visits to places filled with art, then, not only be opportunities for cultural enrichment — that too — but may they become above all moments of grace, incentives to strengthen our bond and our dialogue with the Lord so that — in switching from simple external reality to the more profound reality it expresses — we may pause to contemplate the ray of beauty that strikes us to the quick, that almost “wounds” us, and that invites us to rise toward God.

I end with a prayer from a Psalm, Psalm 27[26]: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and contemplate his temple” (v. 4).

Let us hope that the Lord will help us to contemplate his beauty, both in nature and in works of art, so that we, moved by the light that shines from his face, may be a light for our neighbor.”

At the end of the Gospel today we hear: “Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” May we be able to listen to our Lord’s call in our own lives, may we who discern his call to whatever vocation he asks respond with Mary’s humble “yes.” And may we who contemplate his temple see the beauty that exists in our world and walk this path, this way of beauty which leads us to him, to God, May the beauty that we create and experience always lead us closer to him, the source of beauty.

So this is the new design for my blog and hopefully more of the path in which I hope to take it. Let me know what you think. Pray for me and I will pray for you as we walk the way of beauty together.

Check out the above video for an excellent organ-based musical piece, from one of my favorite movies.

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