beauty

The Humility of Science, the Arrogance of Scientists

According to Aristotle, the nature of investigation and the proofs we assert depend upon the object.  That is, we do not look for mathematical demonstration when the object of our study is not a mathematical object.  It is even a reduction to dissolve a simple inanimate thing, like a quartz crystal, into a mathematical model, [...]

Cosmic Onions? How Still Lifes Point to the Liturgy

It is said that all the great art movements begin on the altar. So, for example, the gothic style began as the style for gothic churches and cathedrals in harmony with the liturgy. However, very quickly the architecture of mundane buildings of the period reflected that form too, adapted as appropriate to the purpose of [...]

What Makes Norman Rockwell Possible?

I must confess to an intellectual sin. I delight in the paintings of Norman Rockwell. I know I’m not supposed to do this. As a college professor, I have a duty to pretend to others that I derive real satisfaction from poems whose sentences cannot be parsed, from sculptures that look like green blobs from [...]

To Follow the “Way of Beauty”

In 1999, Pope John Paul II wrote a Letter to Artists. In this he called for a “new epiphany of beauty” and for a “renewed relationship between Church and culture” in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. A “new epiphany” will not just happen by itself.  This article aims to set out a basis [...]

Converts and the Symphony of Truth

Why do adults become Catholics? There are as many reasons for “converting” as there are converts. Evelyn Waugh became a Catholic with, by his own admission, “little emotion but clear conviction”: this was the truth; one ought to adhere to it.  Cardinal Avery Dulles wrote that his journey into the Catholic Church began when, as [...]

Three Wise Men and Three Stooges

Epiphany--in my opinion--has always had the edge on Christmas. Sure, I like the Christ child and the manger and the ox and ass and St Joseph, and the Blessed Virgin, and the angels and shepherds and, “Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.” But I think I like the [...]

The Heavens Proclaim the Glory of the Lord

Many people that I have come across say that they believe in God, and might even acknowledge the need to conform to a moral code (quite how they discern it is another matter) but see no reason for ‘organised religion’, which they see as arbitrary creation of mankind. I think that the beauty of the [...]

Songs of the Saved and the Bland

This is the third article in a series by Prof. Esolen on the mutilation of hymn lyrics. The edition of "Worship III" referred to throughout is the Canadian one.   To complete my holiday autopsy of the musical corpus left to us after forty years of tinkering, I'll highlight how recent hymnal editors have botched [...]

The Human Face: Image of God

Why is it that we often feel disturbed in a modern art museum? Surrounded by artifacts of our own culture, we should feel right at home. But many of these unrecognizable and fragmented images fail to communicate the true meaning of the human person. If, as Chesterton put it, "Art is the signature of man," [...]

Why It’s Great to Be a Young Catholic

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the young Catholic was obliged to begin any defense of the Church with the phrase, "I know the world thinks Catholicism is old-fashioned, legalistic, and otherwise an oppressive force upon the youthful, budding mind, but in actual fact..." Only then could he move into his apologia, having [...]

Tokens of Love

Four-year-old Daniel recently gave me a picture he drew of me. In the pencil and crayon drawing, I stand smiling, arms outstretched, surrounded by hearts and flowers. I was struck by the fact that it is an especially loving and adoring image. A shrine, perhaps, to Mama. My own mom, a mother of nine children [...]

Stephen Hawking’s Fairy-Tale Heaven

  The Daily Telegraph reports that prominent English cosmologist Stephen Hawking has suggested that "heaven is a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark." As I am both a lover of fairy tales and a believer in heaven, I am not sure whether this is an insult or a compliment. Although I [...]

Divine Mercy, a Pope, and a Wedding

We gathered as a family to watch the royal wedding on TV -- champagne, sandwiches, a great glow of patriotic pride at the sight of that glorious Abbey, the sound of that glorious music, and a nation celebrating with a sense of confidence in the future. We needed this -- there has been a sort [...]

The Children of the Ordinariate

The evening was hot and sultry, the first really warm day of the year. The church was an ugly modern one, with fans whirling in the ceiling in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the heat at bay. But nothing could spoil the sense of being at a moment of history. There are occasions when you [...]

Feeling your age

The UK's Daily Mail reports on a recent study that shows that women consider themselves old at 29, whereas men don't consider themselves old until about 58. Apparently, women's perceptions of their own age relate to their appearance, but for men it's about sexual performance.  It is thought that this gulf between the sexes is [...]

The Papal Pencil

With online availability of education, business, government, and church communications, we wonder what we have begotten. Unprecedented information is available to us at all times, day and night. Every possible cultural, philosophical, religious, or economic source is there. We live in a neighborhood, but we buy our clothing and tickets on the internet. We read [...]

Finding the Way In

Every once in a while I pull out of its shelf my worn copy of Milton's poetical works. What can one say? To embark on any given line of Milton is to find oneself in a thunderous domain where language becomes the very avatar of bliss. Paradise Lost is, of course, Milton's crowning achievement, with [...]

What Rough Beast

  The great Orthodox theologian Sergius Bulgakov writes that the world about us was made for us to exalt, to spiritualize, not because matter is in itself evil, but because the good that it possesses was meant to be united by man with the God whom man serves. That is the meaning of our being [...]

When Drab Is a Favorite Color

In his autobiographical account of his youth and his conversion to the faith, Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis relates the almost inexplicable mingling of joy and sorrow he felt when he first read of the Norse myth of Balder, the handsome and large-hearted god who was slain by a trick practiced upon him by [...]

What If Herod Wins?

To be honest, I forgot about yesterday's feast. I had celebrated Christmas at the splendid little Gothic Church of the Holy Innocents in Manhattan -- and a rousingly festive solemn Latin Mass it was, complete with lovingly sung polyphony. That parish has a shrine to the unborn, complete with a book where bereaved or penitent [...]

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