Beauty and Evangelization | Reflections from Rome 2022
While in St. Peter’s Basilica, I was stopped by an American couple. They were not Christian, but were visiting Rome and wanted to ask me what the difference between Catholics and Christians was. In the course of this conversation, I was able to explain a little about the life of Jesus and our belief in the Eucharist, among other things. They were amazingly eager to learn, and our conversation was very life-giving.
Many of the churches in Rome are filled with people like this. It is easy to dismiss them as “tourists” who don’t understand what is really going on inside these sacred spaces. However, if that is the attitude we take, we are missing a huge opportunity to reach out to them.
Even non-religious people are paradoxically drawn into churches by their beauty and grandeur. These magnificent structures that serve as the meeting point of heaven and earth have been the labor of love of a multitude of the faithful. They were willing to invest their time, talent, and treasure into buildings that stand as a witness for future generations.
Beauty is a key inroad for evangelization today. God is pure truth, goodness, and beauty. As Bishop Robert Barron has pointed out, today’s culture has largely relativized truth and goodness, but beauty is ever attractive and does not threaten. It is a foreshadowing of the beatific vision. We would do well to learn from the lengths Christians from ages past went to in order to build sublime houses for the Lord. This both gives proper glory to God and draws more sheep into the fold. Cultivating an appreciation of and caring for the artistic treasures of our Church can and will make us more effective evangelizers.
Archdiocese of Cincinnati