The Way of Beauty
7, 14 and 21 September 2023
In September 2023, the CCCB Office for Evangelization and Catechesis hosted a webinar series, titled “The Way of Beauty”, inviting leaders of catechesis and evangelization to participate in a national discussion on the privileged way of beauty in the context of catechesis and evangelization today.
The three sessions of “The Way of Beauty” webinar series were:
- “Beauty and Catechesis” — Dr. Jem Sullivan
- “Beauty and Evangelization” — Mr. David Dayler
- “Beauty and Liturgy” — Fr. Paul Massel
The webinars were recorded and are now available for viewing by individuals or groups, either in person or online. To facilitate reflection or discussion around the webinars, the Office for Evangelization and Catechesis has prepared a Guide for viewers.
It may be helpful to have the following materials at hand:
- A Catholic Bible;
- The video recordings of each webinar (if not viewing the videos as a group);
- Additional materials and resources provided by each keynote presenter (optional).
Guidelines for Discussions
- All participants may be invited to contribute to the discussions. However, some may choose not to speak and this should be respected.
- One person speaks at a time.
- Participants, if they choose, may respond to the speaker with humility and charity.
Session 1: Beauty and Catechesis
Speaker: Dr. Jem Sullivan
- Dr. Sullivan tells us that “Beauty is a path to encounter God.” She elaborated that experiencing the beauty of nature is “a unique experiential path by which we encounter God in a personal way.”
How have I encountered God in the beauty of nature? How can I encourage others to encounter God in the beauty of Creation?
- “Catechesis … is the communication of the living mystery of God.” (Pope John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, 7)
Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the “way of beauty” (via pulchritudinis) because proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 167)
How do I incorporate the way of beauty in my sharing of the faith? How can I intentionally emphasize experiences of beauty as a powerful moment of the preparation of the heart and mind to encounter Jesus?
- Dr. Sullivan said that “beauty is the visible or audible form of truth and goodness” and that beauty reaches into the imagination and engages the whole person. Further, Dr. Sullivan said,
When we integrate the arts in catechesis we engage the whole person: first through the senses … as the person sees or hears something that is beautiful—that draws and holds their attention. Then the experience of beauty opens his or her religious imagination to contemplate some truth or mystery of faith, and then from delighting in the beautiful he or she is led from contemplation of the mysteries of faith to adoration, to praise, to worship of God in the liturgy.
What are some works of art, old or new, that have led me from an experience of seeing or hearing beauty to contemplation of the mysteries of the faith, to worship of God in the liturgy? How can I share this experiential catechesis with others?
- What art adorns my places of worship (i.e., my prayer area at home, my parish or chapel, my cathedral)? In what ways are these works of art catechetical? What do they teach me? How can I share my experience with others?
- Dr. Sullivan reminds us that catechesis today unfolds in a social context of a culture of images, a digital culture, a media-saturated culture. Further, the Directory for Catechesis tells us,
Digital forms of communication … offer greater possibilities, in that they are open to interaction. This is why, along with technological knowledge, it is necessary to learn effective approaches to communication and to guarantee a presence on the internet that bears witness to evangelical values (214).
How do I engage this generation which is immersed in a ‘digital culture’? How can I do so more effectively, so that I am intentionally open to the two-way communication encouraged by the Directory for Catechesis?
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that
Truth is beautiful in itself … but truth can also find complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God … art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill to give form to the truth of reality in a language that is accessible to sight or hearing. (CCC 2500–2501)
The process of evangelization by the way of beauty begins with seeing or hearing. Then, the subject moves from seeing or hearing to contemplation; then, from contemplation to adoration and worship of God. How can I engage in my ministry in a way that engages, as Dr. Sullivan puts it, “the whole person, not just the mind, the emotions, or the will, but the senses—the body, the whole person in the responsive life of faith”? How, in my ministry, can I, where appropriate, incorporate the way of beauty in the process of evangelization?
- Through the evangelizing power of the beauty of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the evangelization of then-Nueva España took leaps and bounds because of how the image spoke to those who lived there.
Are there images or works of art like this today? Are there works of art that speak to the character of globalized peoples immersed in a digital culture?
For more information on Digital Language and Tools in the context of catechesis, please see the Directory for Catechesis (2020), paragraphs 213–217.
Session 2: Beauty and Evangelization
Speaker: Mr. David Dayler
- “The beautiful and the good, ultimately the beautiful and God, coincide,” said then-Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) in The Spirit of the Liturgy.
Reflecting on the last two weeks, when in my experience have the beautiful and God coincided?
- Mr. Dayler reflected with some of Pope Benedict XVI’s writing on our ‘culture of images’:
Artists in every age have offered the principal facts of the mystery of salvation to the contemplation and wonder of believers by presenting them in the splendour of colour and in the perfection of beauty. It is an indication of how today more than ever, in a culture of images, a sacred image can express much more than what can be said in words, and be an extremely effective and dynamic way of communicating the Gospel message. (Pope Benedict, Motu Proprio for the approval and publication of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 28 June 2005, Introduction, para. 5).
Reflecting on my ministry, what are some instances of my engagement with the culture of images through sacred images? What were the results? What do these experiences teach me in my ministry about communicating the Gospel?
- Mr. Dayler said, “Beauty calls us to commitment…. Beauty leads to love.”
How do the works of art in my parish church lead me to commitment and love of Jesus and the Church?
- Mr. Dayler interprets Pope Paul VI’s words on evangelization in Evangelii Nuntiandi, rephrasing them to tell us that “Evangelizing means bringing the good news of Jesus in every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the beauty of the Gospel itself.” Mr. Dayler continues, “Evangelization must always be directly connected to Christ “There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.” (Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 22).
In my ministry, how can art and beauty lead to Jesus those to whom I minister?
- Mr. Dayler explains a process Bishop Robert Barron talks and writes on:
- The best evangelical strategy is one that moves from the beautiful (“How wonderful!”)
- To the good (“I want to participate!”) and,
- Finally, to the true (“Now, I understand!”).
What are some concrete ways I can incorporate this process of movement from delight, to desire, to understanding into my efforts in evangelization and catechesis?
- Mr. Dayler quotes Pope Francis, “Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and follow him is not only something right and true but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendour and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 167).
Do I have experiences of meeting life’s challenges as a follower of Christ in a beautiful way? How might facing difficulties with Christian joy evangelize myself and others? What are some examples of this in art and media?
For more information on Beauty in the context of evangelization and catechesis, please see the Directory for Catechesis (2020), paragraphs 106–109.
Session 3: Beauty and Liturgy
Speaker: Fr. Paul Massel
- Fr. Massel explained that he thinks that art leads us into a liminal space, a place in between vastly different realms: Chronos (human time) and Kairos (the eternal now). He elaborated that when the two meet we experience God.
When have I had experiences of liminal spaces?
- Fr. Massel connects liminality with incarnation. The Eucharist, Fr. Massel continues, is that in which “all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 236). In the Incarnation, Jesus enters time and Creation. In the Eucharist at Mass we find this same Jesus who is “the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life” (Ibid.).
Do I recognize this reality of the Holy Eucharist? How might I better prepare myself for the Eucharist at Mass to honour this reality? How might I share with others the Good News of the beauty of the Eucharist and the Incarnation?
- In the context of my ministry, how can I make the best use of music, lighting, sound, multi-media, art work, architecture, and, if applicable, sacred vessels and vestments?
- Find a painting. What is it about this painting that accomplishes beauty?