Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

The Beauty Of Catholicism

By Maria Sermersheim

I recently realized that many people do not see the beauty of the Catholic faith. The social stigmas concerning Catholicism blind people, asserting that faith and reason cannot coexist, or that the basis of faith is weak or flawed. Catholicism seems inflexible, dull or dry in its tradition. Some friends once told me they “didn’t feel connected” to the Catholic faith, but they never attempted to seek the truth; they lived passively.

Of course, I see otherwise. The Catholic faith is a gem that must be discovered, but to find a gem one must go mining; and in mining, one must get dirty. Catholicism is paradoxically complex and simple, and it requires more than passing knowledge of its face value to truly appreciate it. For example, many people could stroll by a Picasso, Miró, or Rothko and think nothing of it. They would not recognize the art for its prestige until someone showed it to them; and even then, any reasonable person would require an explanation for why such a strange work of art might possess such worth.

Catholicism is beautiful because it is not a feeling, but it is the Truth. I do not believe as strongly as I do on a foundation of probability and speculation. I believe because I have investigated the facts, and I have drawn logical conclusions. Faith and reason are entirely compatible, and St. Pope John Paul II wrote the encyclical “Fides et Ratio” (“Faith and Reason”) expounding on the harmony between the two.

Catholicism is also beautiful for its constancy. During difficult times, I remember that life is good, and God loves me. These facts will never change, and they are the pillars of my joy. The Church is not fickle, which is good; I would not trust any authority that changed its position whenever it suited the majority.

Again, Catholicism is beautiful for its tradition. There are so many resources that compose our rich deposit of faith, so many perspectives and so much wisdom; those who seek the truth are passionate about the faith because it is refreshingly alive and relevant.

When I was in Washington, D.C., for the March for Life, I had the opportunity to go to the National Gallery of Art. I studied art history my sophomore year, and to date it is one of my favorite subjects. My favorite description of art comes, of course, from the Catechism, paragraphs 2500-2501: “…truth can also find other 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 freely given superabundance of the human being’s inner riches.” I saw works I studied by Rembrandt, Renoir, Degas, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, da Vinci, Botticelli, Frans Hals, Cézanne, Turner, Jacques-Louis David and so many more. I was entranced. Ask anyone in my group, and they would attest to the fact that I was nearly hyperventilating from sheer, overwhelming joy at the sight of each new painting. Even after we left, I remained in awe.

This is the same exhilaration I feel for the Catholic faith. Pure beauty brings me to my knees, whether it be in the sky, a painting or Catholicism. From my art history class, I learned how to appreciate art; I learned the nuances of color, form and texture. Just so, to appreciate the Catholic faith, we must study the details and understand the various mediums through which God communicates his love for us.