Monday, January 31, 2011

Out of the Mud

The role of Catholic culture is to lift people out of the mire of this world and help them to see the light of eternity. In the words of Anthony Esolen:

Yes, I do know that people of past ages were sinners, too. That is not my point. I mean to assert that while those people often failed to live up to some genuinely beautiful ideals, at least they had those ideals to which to aspire, while we have next to none. A friend of mine, a convert who is fascinated by the unraveling of social groups, notes that the word "professional" has largely replaced the word "honorable," and he has the linguistic graphs to prove it. Our words manhood and womanhood have been eviscerated. Our popular art, which is nine-tenths mass-marketed junk, is snide, sleazy, crude, coarse, not terribly artistic, and not genuinely of the people. Anyone who supposes that such crudity is but what the common people have always lived with does not know the difference between the merry, the earthy -- even the bawdy -- and the heartless and joyless sneering peddled to all classes by what is tellingly called the entertainment industry. If the testimony of the old Canadian author Louis Hemon is to be trusted, and even if he forgave the faults of his beloved countrymen, there was more courtliness, more beauty of language and gesture, more hospitality and celebration in a peasant home of old Quebec than in our neighborhoods now with all their material wealth and spiritual isolation.

What the Church must do for such a people is not to meet them in the mud, or in the glass and steel cubicles of the modern bureaucratic state, but to invite them to climb up out of that mud, or take an elevator ride back down to a world of grass and trees and dogs and children. We must preach the beauty of Jesus Christ, that beauty so often difficult for man to see, because he is also the suffering servant, the dying savior on the cross, the man laid to rest in the tomb. But He is our beauty; for we have beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of God. And of His glory have the saints partaken, so that we look up in wonder at the beauty of the athletic Pier Giorgio Frassati, ministering to the plague-ridden of Turin, or the seraphic eyes of Thérèse of Lisieux, suffering and in love with Jesus.

When a lost soul wanders into the silence of one of our churches, it should not feel to him as if he had walked into a doctor's waiting room, or the department of motor vehicles, but into a new world, mysterious and true. And, sinners though we are, something of the glory of Jesus should shine through our persons, as light through the colors of a stained glass window, so that those who meet us on our pilgrimage may say to themselves, "I want to go on that journey, too." Let us pray that Jesus will conform us to His beauty, so that in all we do we may be a decorous testimony to Him.



Brian Miles said...

Dear Mrs. Vidal:

Oh what a wonderful find!

I especially loved this line:

"When a lost soul wanders into the silence of one of our churches, it should not feel to him as if he had walked into a doctor's waiting room, or the department of motor vehicles, but into a new world, mysterious and true."

Yes! There is a reason why the doors of our churches were once called portals, and were adorned in such a way as to signify the passage of the soul out of the temporal/profane and into the sacred/eternal. I asked my fifth and sixth grade CCD students if any of them ever wished that they could find a magical wardrobe that would lead them into Narnia? They all admitted to having wished for that at one time or another. We then went on to discuss that this image--of passing through a mystical portal into a world of beauty and enchantment--is precisely the image we should carry in our hearts whenever we enter a Catholic church. It is a sad thing that so few of our doorways still lend assistance to the imagination, and that so many of them even militate against it.

P.S. I finished Trianon over the weekend, and to draw from our discussion here, I found it to be a truly sublime portal into that most sacred of chambers--the Heart of Jesus. Thank you!

elena maria vidal said...

Great reflections, Brian! I am delighted that you enjoyed TRIANON! May God be praised!