Today’s art and culture often give people the wrong message as to what feminine beauty should be. Women are objectified rather than celebrated and seen as children of God.
“Mothers want to encourage their daughters to be beautiful in the truest sense of the word, but they almost inevitably find that the only time they can talk about those themes is in the midst of a discussion in front of a clothing rack with their daughter insisting on getting something that Mom won’t accept,” commented Father Mark Haydu, international director of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, an organization founded in 1982 and dedicated to the preservation of the vast collections of art in the Vatican Museums in Rome.
“It is so important for young women to recognize their beauty, talents and potential, especially when so many mixed messages are presented in the media and culture today,” said Father Haydu.
Fortunately, great religious art reflects women’s true dignity.
A special mother-daughter pilgrimage to Rome this December, “Feminine Beauty in the Arts,” will help women of all ages understand that they should be listening to what the Church says when it comes to their appearance.
The eight-day pilgrimage, which is sponsored by the Patrons of the Arts, as well as Ave Maria Radio and Pure Fashion, will take place Dec. 27 to Jan. 3.
Combating Media Messages
The idea for the trip came about last year when Teresa Tomeo, a nationally syndicated talk-show host, best-selling Catholic author and motivational speaker, was in Rome visiting Father Haydu. Tomeo and her husband are members of the Detroit chapter of the Patrons of the Arts.
Tomeo and Father Haydu began discussing the importance of women seeing themselves through the eyes of Christ and the Church.
“Research shows that women are constantly trying to measure up to false or very misleading images and ideals presented through the mass media,” said Tomeo, who herself suffered from an eating disorder as a teen because she wasn’t happy with her appearance.
“Women of all ages, even good Catholic women, can be impacted by these very distorted images in the media,” said Tomeo. “We need to get back to the basics and see ourselves as Christ sees us: as daughters of the King.”
Tomeo added that there are beautiful role models in the saints, Scripture, and, of course, Our Lady.
“There is so much beautiful art depicting the Blessed Mother as well as other women in Scripture, so I am hoping that those who can join us on this pilgrimage will come home feeling renewed, refreshed and beautiful inside and out.”
As Father Haydu notes, “The Vatican Museums are full of images and statues of women who have changed human history and listen to God’s word, beginning with Mary, Mother of Christ.”
The Christmastime pilgrimage is significant. “There is nothing more beautiful than a young mother with her newborn child,” said Father Haydu. “That theme has been a constant recurrence in art history: the Madonna and Child. The Christmas season is a real teaching moment for true beauty.”
While this is billed as a mother/daughter experience, the entire family can participate, as there will be a separate agenda for fathers and sons entitled “Greek and Roman Heroes.”
The pilgrimage will feature talks by Tomeo, Father Haydu, sacred art expert Liz Lev, and Brenda Sharman, national director of Pure Fashion. Pure Fashion is an organization that helps teenage girls recognize their true dignity and beauty. Pure Fashion’s goal is to encourage young women to dress fashionably yet modestly. “It’s just a natural tie-in to what we are hoping to achieve through the pilgrimage,” said Tomeo.
“We want to help women of all ages realize that beauty is not just external and that we need to help women to see and value true beauty from God’s perspective,” said Sharman. “We believe that an effective way to do this is to show beautiful examples of women through treasured art, as well as through sharing the life examples of female saints. The pilgrimage to Rome will accomplish both of these goals.
“We will see the beauty of our Catholic faith expressed through treasured works of art, have the opportunity to hear talks centered on God’s perspective of true beauty and authentic femininity, along with spending a day in Siena meditating on the life of St. Catherine of Siena, who was truly a beautiful saint, role model and example for all women.”
She added that there will be plenty of time for prayer and reflection. Daily Mass and a papal audience are also on the schedule.
The Vatican Museums, which greet more than 4 million visitors each year, are located inside Vatican City. They are universally considered among the greatest museums in the world thanks to their extensive collection of art amassed by the Catholic Church for centuries. The museum was founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th century.
“The tour will examine some of the most famous works through a special lens of feminine beauty,” said Lev. “We’ll see the jewels of Pope Julius’ ancient sculpture collection, ‘Venus Felix’ and ‘Ariadne,’ as well as the ‘muses’ unearthed and treasured by Pope Pius VI, then look at Raphael’s muses in the apartments of Pope Julius II. And of course, we will discuss in depth the challenging vision of female beauty presented by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel and also look at Mary, Mother of God, in Michelangelo’s art as representative of the highest form of female beauty.”
The group will celebrate Mass in the Palace of the Governatorato, which will be followed by a tour of the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms and the Pinacoteca, culminating with a special dinner in the ancient statue gallery of the Vatican Museums. The group will also travel to Nettuno to celebrate Mass at the site of St. Maria Goretti’s martyrdom. Maria Goretti was almost 12 when she was murdered in 1902 by her neighbor because she wouldn’t give in to his advances. Canonized in 1950, she is the patroness of modern youth.
Although the cost of this trip can put a big dent in most household budgets (it’s about $3,000 per person), families considering this trip should view it as a Christmas gift to each other.
“Mothers and daughters just need time to be together away from the pressures of day-to-day family life,” said Father Haydu. “In moments of relaxation and enjoying each other’s company, they can grow together, talking and learning about the truths they both share. What better way to do it than on a beautiful European vacation in the heart of where the roots of beauty began in the West — in Rome!”
Christine A. Smyczynski writes from Getzville, New York.
Go on the Pilgrimage
Corporate Travel Service
23420 Ford Road
Dearborn Heights, MI 48127
Cost: $3,099 per person(You must be a member of Patrons of the Arts to participate in the trip. If you are not already a member, add $1,000 per family to the cost of the trip for patron membership.)