Philip Kosloski graduated from the University of Saint Thomas in Minnesota with a Bachelor’s in Philosophy and Catholic Studies and completed his Master of Arts degree in Theology with the Augustine Institute. He is a writer and author of In the Footsteps of a Saint: John Paul II’s Visit to Wisconsin. He blogs at philipkosloski.com and writes to help all Catholics master the art of prayer by conquering the practical obstacles that prevent a fruitful relationship with Christ.
While truth is very powerful and can change the hearts of many, modern man is very skeptical of the truth and are even more skeptical of those who preach the truth and do not live it out. On the other hand, those who live wedded to the Truth and clearly show it in their actions are much more persuasive. The modern world simply will not listen to moralizing hypocrites, but they will listen to Christians who practice what they preach.
Take for example the life of Mother Teresa, who will be canonized in September. She won the Nobel Peace Prize and no one (honestly) could argue with her and say that she did not practice what she preached. Mother Teresa went out each day and cared for the poorest of the poor, feeding them, caring for them, bathing them and being with them during their last hours.
And she did this no matter what religion the person professed or what color skin they had. She knew in her heart that Christian charity extended to all people and she never ceased helping those in need.
Her name is still present in popular culture (appearing in TV shows and movies) and invoked as someone who should be admired and imitated.
What her example shows is that the beauty of a Christian witness is invaluable and most necessary in the world we live in. Above all things, it is a reflection of the beauty of God:
The Virgin Mary and the saints are the luminous reflection and attractive witness of the singular beauty of Christ, beauty of infinite love of God who gives Himself and makes Himself known to men. These reflect, each according to their manner, as prisms of a crystal, faces of a diamond, contours of a rainbow, the light and original beauty of the God of Love; man’s holiness is a participation in the holiness of God and by it His beauty. When this is fully welcomed into the heart and spirit, it illuminates and guides the lives of men and women in their daily actions. (The Via Pulchritudinis, §III.3, emphasis added)
By drawing closer to God, our lives reflect a particular beauty, which has the capacity to attract others to the beauty of God. In seeing the beauty of God in our lives, others see that being a Christian is not something oppressive or burdensome, but is actually liberating and beautiful.
The beauty of Christian witness expresses the beauty of Christianity and provides for its future. How can we be credible in announcing the “good news” if our lives are unable to manifest the “beauty” of this life? From the meeting of faith with Christ, springs forth, in an interior dynamic action supported by Grace, the holiness of the disciples and their capacity to make “beautiful and good” their common life and that of their neighbours. It is not exterior beauty and superficiality, a façade, but an interior beauty that is painted under the action of the Holy Spirit. It shines before men: nothing can hide that which is an essential part of its being. (The Via Pulchritudinis, §III.3, emphasis added)
The world around us will not listen to our Gospel message, unless we live a life of Christian beauty. If we boldly proclaim the truth, but fail to live a life a holiness, our message is empty and has no weight. It does not affect the people we meet and they dismiss it without giving it a second thought.
We cannot simply teach the truth boldly and expect that everyone will flock to the Church. We must live it out first and foremost before we can be believable and change the hearts of those seduced by the world.
Pope Paul VI put it most eloquently:
‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.’ St. Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the word. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus — the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity. (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41, emphasis added)
This is most important now more than ever.
The modern world will not listen to us if we do not first live a beautiful life of Christian holiness.
[T]he Christian life is called to become, in the force of Grace given by Christ resurrected, an event of susceptible beauty to arouse admiration and reflection and incite conversion. The meeting with Christ and His disciples, in particular Mary His Mother and His witnesses the saints, must always and everywhere have the potential to become an event of beauty, a moment of joy in the discovery of a new dimension of existence, an invitation to put oneself on the road to the Father of Heaven to enjoy the vision of the Complete Truth, the beauty of the Love of God: Beauty is the splendour of the truth and the flowering of Love. (The Via Pulchritudinis, §III.3, emphasis added)
Will beauty save the world? Yes it will, but it must be a Beauty united to Truth and Goodness, and a beauty that encompasses all aspects of life. The Gospel we preach to the Modern World will not found effective if it does not recognize the importance of beauty, especially the beauty of Christian witness.