Searching for the ‘thing’ called beauty

By Pierre Eau Claire, 14 May 2024
Image: Henry Be/Unsplash


All my life I have been searching for the “thing” called beauty. Were it not for poets and philosophers, prophets and artists, various faith traditions, I would come up empty. But along the way, beauty keeps surfacing and manifests itself in all kinds of ways. My journal is filled with these random notes, sans a method.

Simone Weil asserts that “to love beauty is the trap God most frequently uses,” a way to capture our soul. I’ve experienced beauty in the roundness of an apple and the full moon, in the compassion of hospice workers, in Michelangelo’s “Pietà.” G.K. Chesterton suggests that “one branch of the beautiful is the ugly” — how so, I do not know.

Then we hear St. Augustine’s anguished cry: that he loved God, whom he called beauty, so late in his life. Me too, so late in realizing that God is beauty, as well as love and mercy. Look into the mirror. Do you see beauty? Malcolm Muggeridge called Mother Teresa of Kolkata “something beautiful for God” though physically, she would not have qualified for the Miss India beauty contest.

Robert McAfee Brown challenges all of us to enjoy beauty when it is present, to unveil beauty where it is hidden, to restore beauty where it is defaced, to create beauty where it is absent. Is it true that beauty can lead us to the truth? Is beauty magnetic, drawing us into God?

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With thanks to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Pierre Eau Claire, where this article originally appeared.


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