Catholicism: Out of Beige and into Beauty

By María Morera Johnson

[Editor's Note:  This blogpost is part of a roundtable conversation on the new book Catholicism, hosted at the Patheos Book Club here.]

I’m a pretty avid reader and zip through books quickly. Not so with Father Robert Barron’s work of art, Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith. I lingered over the pictures and reread many passages — not because they were difficult to digest, but because they are beautifully descriptive and rich with detail.

Barron’s style instructs without being pedantic. There is an underlying joy in what he shares, and it is contagious.

In his introduction, Father Barron explains that “Catholicism is a celebration, in words and imagery, of the God who takes infinite delight in bringing human beings to fullness of life.” It is indeed a celebration, and it has left me on fire for my faith (pardon the play on words, I’ve been following his Word on Fire ministry, too).

As a cradle Catholic, I admit to having taken much about my faith for granted. I grew up in an era probably best defined as The Beige Period. Everything was bland; my house was beige (we called them earth tones), my clothes were beige (we called them warm tones), and my faith, sadly, was diluted and . . . beige (we called it Catholic).

The move from the city to the suburbs took me away from a gothic cathedral with gorgeous stained glass windows and vibrant mosaics to wood paneling and safety glass, tinted, so it didn’t even let in the sun.

Two extended periods of residency in Europe got me back to rediscovering the beauty of our faith. I’ve been in recovery ever since.

While Barron goes into great detail about the physical beauty of the architecture, paintings, sculptures, and music, he speaks to the greater Truth that is expressed in these vehicles. He shares that “Catholicism is a matter of the body and the senses as much as it is a matter of the mind and the soul, precisely because the Word became flesh.”

In other words, the physical beauty that is found in our faith and the splendor of our tradition lead us to Christ. All this beauty that we encounter points to heaven; it is God speaking to us.

I am grateful for this book. It’s as if Father Barron shows us a little ante-room full of magnificent works of art, and right when we are overwhelmed with the beauty before us, he pulls back a curtain and says, “But wait, there’s more.”

The more, of course, is the heart of our faith, Jesus Christ.

María Morera Johnson teaches composition and literature at a technical college in Georgia, and consults and writes about trends in post-secondary education. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Star Quest Production Network (sqpn.com) and co-hosts Catholic Weekend, a weekly current events podcast.


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