Scholar Urges ‘Continuous Exposure to Beauty’ in Catholic Education

From Catholic Education Daily, my emphasis:

Scholar Urges ‘Continuous Exposure to Beauty’ in Catholic Education
June 11, 2015, at 4:01 PM  |  By Kimberly Scharfenberger

It is critical for Catholic schools to expose students to beauty in the classroom, in liturgy and throughout the campus, as beauty has the unique ability to open students to God’s divine love, said Dr. Margaret Hughes, assistant professor of philosophy at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, N.Y., in an interview with The Cardinal Newman Society.

Dr. Hughes, one of the presenters at the Sacra Liturgia USA 2015 conference last week in New York City, discussed the role of beauty and liturgy in a talk titled, “The Ease of Beauty: Liturgy, Evangelization, and Catechesis.” The topic of beauty was a consistent theme in this year’s Sacra Liturgia, as its connection to reverent liturgy as well as education is immutable.

“A continuous exposure to beauty throughout an education allows a person to continue to develop throughout his life the habits of attentiveness to and receptivity of the good of existence, so that he is able to delight in that good,” Hughes told the Newman Society after the conference. This receptivity and delight in beauty is “the goal of any appropriate human formation, since humans are ultimately fulfilled in the joy of the Beatific Vision.”

Beauty, as manifested in genuinely beautiful art and music, “appeals to the senses, so that the receptive activity of the senses intensifies and engages the intellect,” Hughes said. This “helps to cultivate an openness to reality, and it is this openness that is necessary for receiving the reality of Christ.”

“The experience of beauty is the experience of seeing reality as good, and good for its own sake,” said Hughes. “So often, young people see reality as something to construct or overcome, rather than to accept joyfully as something good.”

Because of this temptation to circumvent truth and reality, students must be given opportunities to appreciate beauty, which will in turn nourish their spiritual life through “the experience of seeing reality as good, and good for its own sake,” Hughes explained.

At the Sacra Liturgia conference, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco praised efforts to help young people appreciate beauty. “There’s a great openness among young people for truth and beauty,” he noted in his talk on liturgical leadership. He urged educators to give young people opportunities to “experience beauty, see it with their eyes, hear it with their ears and create a capacity to appreciate that beauty.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke similarly discussed the redemptive power of beauty as the center of holiness in his keynote address at the conference. “Beauty is at the heart of the worship of God and therefore leads us to ever greater holiness in life,” he stated.

“The experience of beauty is a foreshadowing, a promise, of what it is to be fully formed and so to gaze on the beauty of God,” Hughes said to the Newman Society. “When we experience beauty in this life, it is delightful, but also painful, because, while that experience is one of satisfaction and of reaching an end, it also makes us aware that it is not fully satisfying and that we have not reached our final end.”

Vox Wrote:
That's precisely it, yes! Looking on something truly Beautiful does have an element of pain because it all points to God -- but we're yet to see Him fully. We're always striving for communion with Him, and the pain of that striving is what, I think, is at the root of a lot of addictions, sexually acting out, etc. And there's an element of awe in it, too. Here's a video of a group of young students who'd never seen the Grand Canyon before, They're led to a lookout point blindfolded, and then it's revealed to them. Listen for "Kris is crying!..."

And then think of that moment during the Easter Vigil when the statues are unveiled, the lights brought up, and the bells start ringing -- the most sublime moment of the traditional liturgy. Sheer Beauty -- and it all points straight to God, bypassing the intellect and aiming right at the heart.

However, a proper appreciation of beauty should be fostered in students organically and not excessively pushed, Hughes warned. She advised against “talk[ing] about beauty too early and too much,” which would “rob it of its mystery and make it seem as though beauty, and so the goodness of reality, can be reduced to words and propositions.”

Instead, Hughes noted that the example of a virtuous teacher “lov[ing] what is genuinely good, because it is good” can have an enormous impact on students, as their example “opens their students to receiving the love of God.”

“One of the best things that Catholic educators can do to encourage the appreciation of beauty is to actually and genuinely delight in it themselves, so that they incorporate beauty into lessons and into surroundings with no agenda other than that it is good and that they want to share what is good with their students,” said Hughes.

Vox Wrote:You guys would've LOVED my Dad. Such a good man! He used to tell me this story of a teacher, likely a nun, since he went to Catholic schools, who'd play bits of opera and burst into tears at the beauty of it all. My Dad, being Italian, was emotional, too, so he undoubtedly cried along with her LOL  But that memory stuck with him all his life -- a person being so touched by the Beautiful that it had to pour from her eyes.

Hughes also shared practical tips for emphasizing beauty on campuses and in classrooms. “Buildings that are appealing to the senses, and, if that is not possible, at least landscaping or classroom decorations and books and materials that are beautiful convey to the student both the value of the student as a person, and the importance of what takes place in these surroundings,” said Hughes.

“When care is taken so that even everyday objects and surroundings are appealing to the senses, the students will learn to see and love natural goods.”

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

More on the topic of Beauty:

Pope Benedict XVI’s Theology of Beauty and the New Evangelization

Contemplation of Beauty-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: "The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty"

Pope Benedict Sees Beauty at the Service of Truth


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