“THE POWER OF BEAUTY” | POSTCARDS FROM ROME 2018
Top highlights of the week (6/23-6/29):
1) Staying overnight in Assisi and contemplating the beauty and goodness of the Lord in His creation.
2) Mass with Pope Francis for the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul. How beautiful to see our Holy Father!
3) Doing the Seven Stations pilgrimage: 7 churches, 20 miles, lots of graces.
4) Mass for the Feast of St. Josemaria Escriva: rediscovering the joy of knowing ourselves as beloved children of God.
5) Gelato cup. Running to win a cup full of gelato. We are embodied creatures!
The other night we watched the movie The Mission, which I think was very fitting for our program on many levels. Perhaps the most evident connection to our lives is that it is a movie about the priesthood, about bringing Christ to the people and being Christ for others to heroic lengths, as has been done by the countless saints with whom we’ve become more acquainted through The Rome Experience. I would like to focus this brief reflection, however, on a different connection that The Mission has with our summer program: that of portraying Beauty as a catalyst for opening our hearts to God.
The movie opens with a priest being killed by the Guarani natives after he tries to proclaim the Gospel to them. Sadly, this is an accurate image of what may happen when we try to preach the Gospel: if the other person does not think this Good News is any Good, they may close themselves off from it and even aggressively oppose it. How, then, can we help their closed hearts to be more open to the Truth? The movie (and Catholic tradition) propose Beauty as one of the possible answers.
The character of Fr. Gabriel exemplifies such an approach. He approaches the natives not with words of wisdom but with the beautiful tunes of an oboe. While the natives are initially aggressive, little by little they are disarmed by the beauty of the song coming from Fr. Gabriel’s soul through this instrument; or, rather, coming to their souls through the instrument that is Fr. Gabriel. This, then, is an example of how something can truly be disarmingly beautiful, disarming us not only from our external resistance to the truly new but also from the hardness of our hearts that tends to close us off from God’s grace.
Through The Rome Experience, we have been blessed to get a taste of the power of beauty as found in the richness of the Universal Church. We have seen it in the wonderful churches we have visited, in the breathtaking museums, in the loving words of the Holy Father, and in the rich poverty of people like St. John Vianney and St. Francis.
Padre Pio says that in order to be a saint, all we need is to really desire sanctity. Perhaps Beauty can help us with this!
The Rome Experience Class of 2018
Diocese of Austin
St. Mary’s Seminary