St. Maximillian Kolbe
I concluded Trajectory saying that we are being prepared for a new evangelization. This is what we must pre-occupy ourselves with—not building bunkers and storing food. There is a “restoration” coming. Our Lady speaks of it, as well as the popes (see The Popes, and the Dawning Era). So do not dwell on the labour pains, but the birth to come. The purification of the world is but a small part of the masterplan unfolding, even if it is to emerge from the blood of martyrs…
IT is the hour of the Counter-Revolution to begin. The hour when each of us, according to the graces, faith, and gifts accorded us by the Holy Spirit are being called forth into this present darkness as flames of love and light. For, as Pope Benedict once said:
We cannot calmly accept the rest of humanity falling back again into paganism. —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), The New Evangelization, Building the Civilization of Love; Address to Catechists and Religion Teachers, December 12, 2000
…you shall not stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake. (cf. Lev 19:16)
It is the hour when we must strike our courage and do our part to bring about the restoration of all things in Christ.
The Church is always called upon to do what God asked of Abraham, which is to see to it that there are enough righteous men to repress evil and destruction… my words [are] a prayer that the energies of the good might regain their vigor. So you could say the triumph of God, the triumph of Mary, are quiet, they are real nonetheless. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Light of the World, p. 166, A Conversation With Peter Seewald
It is the hour when, more than anything else, the beauty of our faith must shine again…
THE DARK CLOAK
This present darkness can aptly be described as an ugliness. It is an ugliness that has covered everything like a sullied black cloak, from art and literature, to music and theatre, to how we speak to one another on forums, in debates, on television and social media. Art has become abstract and bizarre; best-selling books are obsessed with crime and the occult; movies are transfixed on lust, violence, and apocalyptic gloom; television on meaningless, shallow “reality” shows; our communication has become impertinent and demeaning; and popular music is often harsh and heavy, electronic and edgy, idolizing the flesh. So pervasive is this ugliness that even the Liturgy has been sullied with a loss of the sense of wonder and transcendence once encapsulated in the signs and symbols and music that in many places have been all but destroyed. Last, it is an ugliness that seeks to even deform nature itself—the natural color of vegetables and fruits, the shape and features of animals, the function of plants and soil, and yes—to even mutilate the image of God in which we are created, male and female.cf. Human Sexuality and Freedom
BEAUTY AND HOPE
It is this pervasive ugliness into which we are called to restore beauty, and thus restore hope. Pope Benedict spoke of “the profound bond between beauty and hope”. POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to Artists, November 22nd, 2009; ZENIT.org In a prophetic speech to artists, Paul VI said:
This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart, and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration. —December 8th, 1965; ZENIT.org
Russian philosopher Fyodor Dostoevsky once said, “beauty will save the world.”from the novel The Idiot How? By stirring in mankind again the longing and desire for Him who is Beauty itself. Perhaps we believe that it will be refined apologetics, orthodox speeches, and bold discourses that will halt the erosion of moral values and peace in our times. Necessary as they are, we must ask the question: who is listening anymore? What is needed again is the refulgence of beauty that speaks without words.see The Silent Answer
A friend of mine shared how, after his father passed away, no words could comfort him in all the turmoil of emotions that consumed him. But one day, he bought a bouquet of flowers, set it before him, and beheld its beauty. That beauty, he said, began to heal him.
A friend of mine, not really a practicing Catholic, walked into Notre Dame in Paris, France a few years ago. He said that when he observed the beauty of this cathedral, all he could think was, “Something was going on here…” He encountered God, or at least, a refraction of the light of God through the rays of beauty… a ray of hope that there is something, or rather, Someone greater than ourselves.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
What the world presents to us today is often a false beauty. We are asked in our baptismal vows, “Do you reject the glamour of evil?” Evil today is glamorous, but rarely is it beautiful.
Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy…. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to Artists, November 22nd, 2009; ZENIT.org
Beauty wounds. What does this mean? When we encounter true beauty, it is always something of God. And because we were created for Him, it touches us in the core of our being, which for the time being, is separated by the veil of time from Him-Who-Created-Me. Thus, beauty is its own language, transcending all cultures, peoples, and even religions. It is essentially why mankind from ancient times has always tended toward religion: he has perceived in the beauty of creation the Creator, which has provoked the desire to worship Him, if not creation itself.Pantheism is the heresy of equating God with creation, which leads to the worship of creation. And this in turn has inspired man to participate in the creativity of God.
The Vatican’s museums are a treasury for the world because they very often contain the expression of beauty, the refulgence of God that danced upon the soul of an artist from every corner of the earth. The Vatican does not guard this art the way Hitler hoarded and confiscated. Rather, she protects this human treasury as a celebration of the human spirit, which is why Pope Francis said it could never be sold.
This is an easy question. They are not the treasures of the Church, (but) the treasures of humanity. —POPE FRANCIS, Interview, Nov. 6th, 2015; Catholic News Agency
Authentic beauty is able to point us back to the Origin of all cultures and peoples the more it intersects with truth and goodness. As Pope Benedict said, “The way of beauty leads us, then, to grasp the Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in the finite, God in the history of humanity.” Address to Artists, November 22nd, 2009; ZENIT.org
But today, the beauty of art has been lost to the beast of the abstract; the beauty in architecture to the beast of budgets; the beauty of the body to the beast of lust; the beauty of liturgy to the beast of modernity; the beauty of music to the beast of idolatry; the beauty of nature to the beast of greed; the beauty of performing arts to the beast of narcissism and vainglory.
The world in which we live runs the risk of being altered beyond recognition because of unwise human actions which, instead of cultivating its beauty, unscrupulously exploit its resources for the advantage of a few and not infrequently disfigure the marvels of nature… ‘Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live…’ (quoting Dostoevsky from the novel, Demons). —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to Artists, November 22nd, 2009; ZENIT.org
…what the Church needs is not critics but artists… When poetry is in full crisis, the important thing is not to point the finger at bad poets but oneself to write beautiful poems, thus unstopping the sacred springs. —Georges Bernanos, French author; Bernanos: An Ecclesial Existence, Ignatius Press; cited in Magnificat, October 2018, p. 71
God wants to restore not only His Bride, the Church, to a state of beauty and holiness, but all of creation. Each of us has a part to play in these times in the “restoration of all things in Christ”, as much as each spectrum of light makes up the rainbow: your role is unique and therefore indispensable.
What is needed is the recovery of beauty, not so much in what we say—though truth is intrinsically tied to beauty—but how we say it. It is the recovery of beauty in not only how we dress but how we carry ourselves; not only in what we sell but in how we display our wares; not only in what we sing, but how we sing it. It is the rebirthing of beauty in art, music, and literature that transcends the medium itself. It is the renewal of beauty in sex, yes, in the wonderful gift of our sexuality that has been covered once again in the fig leaves of shame, perversion, and lust. Virtue is essentially the outward beauty of a pure soul.
All of this speaks to a truth that itself is animated by beauty. For “from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.” cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 41
Even before revealing himself to man in words of truth, God reveals himself to him through the universal language of creation, the work of his Word, of his wisdom: the order and harmony of the cosmos—which both the child and the scientist discover—”from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator,” “for the author of beauty created them.” —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2500
Beauty is non-denominational. That is, all creation is intrinsically “good.”cf. Gen 1:31 But our fallen natures and the consequences of sin have obscured and distorted that goodness. Becoming a Christian is more than simply “being saved.” It means becoming the fullness of who you are created to be; it means becoming a mirror of truth, beauty, and goodness. For ‘God created the world to show forth and communicate his glory. That his creatures should share in his truth, goodness and beauty—this is the glory for which God created them.'Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 319
The practice of goodness is accompanied by spontaneous spiritual joy and moral beauty. Likewise, truth carries with it the joy and splendor of spiritual beauty… But truth can also find other complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God. —Ibid.
Simone Weil wrote: “There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign.”cf. POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to Artists, November 22nd, 2009; ZENIT.org Each of us is called to incarnate God in the warp and woof of our lives, letting the “spontaneous spiritual joy and moral beauty” of God’s goodness well up from our being, from within. Thus, the most authentic beauty comes from contact with He who is Beauty itself. Jesus said,
Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’ (John 7:38)
We become more like Him the more we contemplate Him, more beautiful the more we contemplate Beauty. Prayer, then, specifically contemplative prayer, becomes the means by which we tap the Source of Living Water. And so, during this Advent, I wish to write more about going deeper in prayer so that you and I can be transformed more and more into His likeness as we gaze “with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord.” 2 Cor 3:18
You are being called into this Counter-Revolution against the Global Revolution that seeks to mar beauty—the beauty of true religion, of cultural diversity, of our real and unique differences. But how? I cannot answer that question for you personally. You need to turn to Christ and ask Him how and what. For “unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build.” Psalm 127:1
The Age of Ministries is ending.
I heard those words clearly in my heart in 2011, and I encourage you to read that writing again here. What is ending is not ministry, per se, but many of the means and methods and structures that man has erected that have in turn become idols and supports that no longer serve the Kingdom. God has to purify His Church of her worldliness in order to restore her beauty. It is necessary to discard the old wine skin to prepare for the New Wine that will renew the face of the earth.
And so, ask Jesus and Our Lady to use you to make the world beautiful again. During wartime, it has often been spontaneous music, theater, humour and art that has sustained and given hope to the down-trodden. These gifts will be needed in the times ahead. How sad it is, though, that so many use their gifts to glorify themselves! Use the gifts and talents that the Father has already given you to bring beauty again into the world. For when others are drawn to your beauty, they will also see your goodness, and the door will be opened to the truth.
Authentic beauty… unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to Artists, November 22nd, 2009; ZENIT.org
THE BEAUTY OF LOVE
Last, there is a paradoxical beauty emitted from the one who dies to himself. The Cross is at once a horrible sight… and yet, when one gazes upon its meaning, a certain beauty—the beauty of selfless love—begins to penetrate the soul. Herein lies another mystery into which the Church is being called: her martyrdom and own Passion.
The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by “attraction”: just as Christ “draws all to himself” by the power of his love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfils her mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord. —BENEDICT XVI, Homily for the Opening of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops, May 13th, 2007; vatican.va
God is love. And therefore, love is the crown of beauty. It was precisely this kind of love that illuminated the darkness of Auschwitz in the martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe, that true revolutionary of the Second World War.
In the midst of a brutalization of thought, feeling and words such as had never before been known, man indeed became a ravening wolf in his relations with other men. And into this state of affairs came the heroic self-sacrifice of Father Kolbe. —account from survivor, Jozef Stemler; auschwitz.dk/Kolbe.htm
It was like a powerful shaft of light in the darkness of the camp. —account from survivor, Jerzy Bielecki; Ibid.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, reflection of Beauty, pray for us.
Here is my ode to beauty… a song I wrote for the love of my life, Lea. Performed with the Nashville String Machine.
Album available at markmallett.com
First published December 2nd, 2015.
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|↑1||cf. Human Sexuality and Freedom|
|↑2||POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to Artists, November 22nd, 2009; ZENIT.org|
|↑3||from the novel The Idiot|
|↑4||see The Silent Answer|
|↑5||Pantheism is the heresy of equating God with creation, which leads to the worship of creation.|
|↑6||Address to Artists, November 22nd, 2009; ZENIT.org|
|↑7||cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 41|
|↑8||cf. Gen 1:31|
|↑9||Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 319|
|↑10||cf. POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to Artists, November 22nd, 2009; ZENIT.org|
|↑11||2 Cor 3:18|