What is beauty? Is beauty undefinable and entirely relativistic? Or is beauty an objective reality, backed by reason and understanding? How do Catholics define beauty, and how has Catholic Church evangelized through beauty over the centuries? In this episode of the Word On Fire Show, Bishop Barron answers these questions and more about the transcendental nature of beauty. The listener question comes from Argentina and wonders how art might be used in evangelization?

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Topics Discussed

  • 0:05  – Intro, a Cardinal visits and the sun eclipses
  • 4:00 – Why has Bishop Barron considered beauty the privileged route of evangelization?
  • 8:25 – What is beauty?
  • 10:55 – What three things combine to make something beautiful?
  • 15:55 – Why do some people disagree about a masterpiece being beautiful?
  • 19:20 – How can someone be transformed by beauty?
  • 24:14 – What was a profound moment of beauty in Bishop Barron’s life?
  • 25:43 – Question from listener: How can the arts aid in evangelization?

Bonus Resources 

 

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3 comments on “WOF 090: Beauty in the Catholic Tradition

  1. Camila Aug 29, 2017

    I recently listened to this episode and would like to share some objections that I commonly face when sharing the Catholic faith while appealing to “the beautiful”. A reoccurring issue arises from the observation that most Catholic art and literature seem to come from Western European cultures, which often leads to other expressions of beauty in the faith not being as enthusiastically embraced as “beautiful”. For example, I have personally encountered priests who strongly oppose the use of musical some instruments in the Mass, such as drums, because these are not “appropriate instruments”. What is inappropriate about beautiful music from other (mostly non-European) cultures?

    Often when I share beautiful images of Christ or Mary, I hear things like “White Jesus” is not the Jesus I worship. Or, how the vast majority of depictions of Jesus, Mary, and other Saints, mistakenly portray them as European people which are not true to their actual geographical origin. I am constantly reminded on how this can be linked to historical episodes of evil (e.g. slavery) where racial superiority was misguidedly related to Biblical values. We have recently experienced the horror of such evil. Some in this movement are quoted referencing that Jesus was White, and that it is simply the superior race. I get that this wrong because it comes from a fundamental misunderstanding, and many in the Church have spoken loudly against it. But, hasn’t the vast majority of artistic Catholic tradition added to their argument?

    To be honest, I see these points too. I struggle to reconcile an objective definition of beauty with the observation that most examples exclusively point to Western European culture.

    I assume you have encountered these objections before. How do you usually respond? I want to learn to address these issues in a loving and sympathetic way.

    Thank you!

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