Beauty: A Necessity, Not a Luxury | Fr. Charles Klamut | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
Just when I am about to succumb to the sadness and living death of nihilism, some piercing ray of beauty breaks open my heart, and the breath of possibility returns.
I recently visited the Botanical Garden in St Louis. Amid the sights and smells, the colors and creatures, the sun, the architecture, and the sheer gratuity of so much botanical diversity, I felt happy to be alive. Drinking it in, I turned to a friend and said, “How could we live without this?” He replied, “We couldn’t.”
I’ve been thinking about this little exchange. Upon reflection, I am becoming certain that they are not just sentimental words, but the truth. And with this conviction, I’m not alone.
Luigi Giussani, the great 20th century priest, educator, and writer (and whose cause for canonization has just begun), insisted throughout his great life on our need for beauty; for beautiful, real things which have the power to awaken our hearts. During Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s homily for Fr Giussani’s funeral in 2005, two months shy of his unsuspected elevation to the papacy, he said that Fr Giussani was “wounded by the desire for beauty.” He noted how much Fr Giussani loved music, and said that, in looking for Beauty itself, he was looking for Christ.
In Giussani, we have an author whose books overflow with quotations from poets, novelists and philosophers; a priest whose ministry to students often took place on hikes through the Alps; a teacher who raised the eyebrows of colleagues by walking into the classroom at Berchet High School, back in his early days of teaching, carrying a phonograph with records of Chopin and Beethoven, in order to provoke his students with the wound of beauty. Jesus said: “You will know them by their fruits.” By sharing his own wound for beauty with his students, the fruit of Giussani has become a movement in the church called: Communion and Liberation, which has moved the hearts of its members in almost 100 countries now.
Giussani is not the only modern day Catholic luminary to champion the cause of beauty.