A reader asks about Beauty

A reader asks about Beauty August 7, 2015

She writes:

I am a fellow Catholic and lover of Beauty and the arts! I am writing to you because I was doing some online research for a paper I am writing about the power of beauty, specifically music, to evangelize. While I was online, an article you wrote for the Register came up, and I loved it! I am using Via Pulchritudinis as a main source, but I wanted to ask if you have any ideas of good sources on this theme. I have to write 50 pages, and I’m just getting started!!! Thank you so much for your time.

I don’t know that I’m much use here, but I would recommend Dorothy L. Sayers The Mind of the Maker and Robert Farrar Capon’s beautiful and effervescent book The Supper of the Lamb. Also, Tolkien’s ideas on subcreation in his essay “On Fairy Stories” () and his great poem “Mythopoeia“.

Speaking of music, it is interesting that, for Tolkien, music is the primal language of creation. Eru (aka Iluvatar aka God) sings creation into being and language is seen as a kind of declension or falling away from the primal goodness of music. The rebellion of Morgoth is a dissonance. Good characters participate in the Song. Tom Bombadil, even in his everyday conversation, speaks in a meter. Bad characters turn the song to dissonance and ugliness. Good ones love song, even if it not the exalted music of the elves and is only simple rhymes of a Sam Gamgee.

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  • Ron Phillips

    Being shown pictures of others being loved and cared for reduces the brain’s response to threat. They’re looking at using it for PTSD, and this is something I will be working into my paintings. HTH!


  • Dan13

    St. Augustine’s Confessions might be helpful. As would Ignatius of Loyola for “finding God in all thing.”

    50 pages seems to be a lot for this argument, but I do agree with Pope Benedict’s old statement that the church’s best arguments are the lives of the saints and the beauty she has created.

  • Tweck

    Interesting that you should post this today, as I was just reading this morning in the catechism about truth, beauty and sacred art. (which applies to music as well!) And I very much appreciate Tolkein’s outlook too!

    Here’s the passage that really struck me:

    2501 Created “in the image of God,”294 man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works. Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creatures, art is a freely given superabundance of the human being’s inner riches. Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man’s own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill,295 to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God’s activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man.296

  • CharOster

    Pope Benedict’s A New Song for the Lord