Friday, October 04, 2013

Bishop Conley on Beauty, Tradition, Liturgy, and Evangelization

Excerpts from an article by Catholic News Agency:

Beauty must play a central role in our efforts for evangelization and cultural renewal, because it is a gift from God to lead us to him, Bishop James D. Conley said in an address at a recent apologetics conference.

“Our New Evangelization must work to make truth beautiful. By means both ancient and new, we must make use of beauty – to infuse Western culture, once more, with the spirit of the Gospel,” the Bishop of Lincoln said Sept. 28 in his keynote address at the Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference in San Diego.

“By means of earthly beauty, we can help our contemporaries discover the truth of the Gospel. Then, they may come to know the eternal beauty of God.”

Bishop Conley told CNA on Oct. 1 that his decision to focus on beauty and culture at an apologetics conference was well-received, and that Catholic Answer's development director, Christopher Check, “thought it was a real sort of game-changer,” because apologetics efforts can often be rejected by those with a relativistic mindset, who are not even open to entering into a standard apologetics discussion.

But to lead with beauty “opens (others) up to consider the argument” in a way they might not otherwise, the bishop reflected.


Bishop Conley said that “clearly, beauty has a major role to play in the New Evangelization” and enumerated three ways in which this can be done: through liturgy; appreciation of historic Christian culture; and openness to beauty in all its forms.
He called beauty in liturgy the “most essential” point, noting that “worship … is the basis of Christian culture” and pointing to examples of great converts who were struck by the solemn rites and extraordinary chants of the Catholic Church.

The bishop’s second recommendation was to become familiar with the beauty of historic Christian culture, such as Gregorian chant, in order to help others who appreciate it to understand the Christian beauty that inspired it.

Finally, he invited Catholics to “open our own minds to beauty, in all its manifestations” in both nature and culture, which will help us to understand beauty as “an earthly reflection of God's glory.”

Concluding, Bishop Conley quoted famous Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who wrote in “The Idiot” that “beauty will save the world.”

“It will,” the bishop added. “When it points to God’s enduring love.”

“There are many souls to rescue, and a vast cultural wasteland to restore. Both tasks will require fluency in God’s language of beauty,” he said.

“To speak this language, we must first begin to listen. And to listen, we must have silence in our lives. I pray that God will open our eyes and ears to beauty, and help us use it in the service of the Truth.”

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