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.