Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 29, 2008
WCR highlights a faith that is beautiful
Attractive design an integral part of spreading God's word
By GLEN ARGAN
The Edmonton Archdiocese is now in the beginning stages of its process of evangelization – Nothing More Beautiful.
The very title of this process goes against the grain. We live in a very left-brain, rational era. Our tendency in this time is to think of our faith as true, but not primarily as beautiful.
But Archbishop Richard Smith, in highlighting these words of Pope Benedict, has hit upon something important. Our faith is true. But it is also beautiful. Moreover, the attractiveness of the Christian faith lies primarily in its beauty.
The 19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky famously stated that the world will be saved by beauty. It is beauty more than anything that stirs the human soul. It is beauty that can lift us out of ourselves into a higher realm.
One of my favourite magazines is Sports Illustrated. Week after week, the magazine amazes me. I find myself reading articles about baseball and NFL football – two sports that don’t interest me much – because of the beauty of those articles and the beauty of the photographs that accompany them.
Week after week, Sports Illustrated has photo upon photo that take your breath away. You wonder how they manage to come up with so many outstanding photographs. But mostly, you just wonder. Mostly, you just go Wow!
Imagination more powerful
There is a lesson here. The lesson is that imagination is more powerful than reason. The lesson is that if we want to transform how we do things, we need to be inspired by beauty. New understanding and new ways of acting need to be preceded by a new imagination.
Traditionally, the Church has understood this. This is why great cathedrals have been filled with lavish art. This is why the Byzantine Divine Liturgy in particular is so sensual, so oriented to touching the imagination.
St. Ignatius of Loyola developed a whole method of prayer based on stirring the human imagination through total sensory involvement in scenes from the Gospel. Formed by that method of prayer, the religious order he founded – the Jesuits – went out and reignited the Catholic faith at a time when it was on the ropes.
Ignatius the pioneer
Today, the method of visualization Ignatius pioneered seems to get as much attention from top athletes intent on improving their performance than from Christians seeking to deepen their faith. But it is still as valid as it was 500 years ago.
At the WCR, over the years we have won many awards for our articles, for our photos and design, and for overall excellence. I used to think the awards for words were more important than those for appearance. I am changing my mind on that.
The words are certainly important. It is important that they be true, that they be accurate and that the story be as complete as we can get. But it is also important that those articles stir the imagination.
We have long sought out those stories that portray a person transformed or converted. St. Francis of Assisi’s injunction to preach the Gospel and, if necessary, to use words is a testimony to the power that lies in the witness of another person’s life. We learn more from what people do than from what they say.
Those stories are not often easy to find. But when we do come across them, we try to present them as powerfully as we can. We want to stir the heart as well as the mind.
We also try to make the WCR as visually attractive as possible. The many awards we have won and the comments we receive indicate that we have had some success at that.
The One most beautiful
But we will strive to do better. Over the next month or so, you will see more changes in the visual presentation of the Catholic faith in the WCR. These changes are not mere frills on top of “just the facts.” They are an integral part of our ministry.
The activities and transformations that we chronicle in our articles do not lend themselves to the sort of dramatic photography that you can see in Sports Illustrated. The transformations are internal, the activities rarely physical, let alone athletic.
I doubt that you will ever be able to say there is nothing more beautiful than the WCR. But I do hope that through the combination of words, pictures and design, we will engage your imagination. I also hope that through that engagement we will help to bring you closer to he who is most truly beautiful, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.