Cannot unsee the beauty of Catholicism

We Cannot Unsee the Beauty, writes Brian Williams in an article about the beauty of traditional Catholic mass and all its trappings. "Thanks to Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum , more faithful attend the traditional Latin Mass than at any other time since 1970:, he writes. But the article is about the aesthtics of the Catholic experience and the inspiration that can be drawn there.
Is it time to do something about our drab churches and opt for the beautiful?

I can already hear the protests: 'oh, but it is all superficial" and “the apostles worshipped in caves”, etc. This may be true, but is this any reason to reject the beauty of Catholicism?


beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. I’ve attended many beautiful OF Masses. And I remember many ugly EF Masses.

this article doesn’t really make any serious claims or present any arguments. All it does is make a statement.


Really? Have a look -

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all of these are of only one art form. Beautiful art comes in many styles and forms and for some people this form is ugly. So I stand by my statement that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve seen some stunning mid century modern churches too.

I actually became bored with it when I was in Italy. After a while all the churches looked alike and you no longer saw the ‘beauty’.

But I do appreciate all art styles except Jackson Pollack… never could see the value in Pollack’s work.


:popcorn: :beer:

Here we go again.

I attend an OF Mass at a monastery twice a week. It is in full Gregorian chant (Latin Propers and Latin/Greek ordinary), with everything else except the homily sung in French plainchant, in the monastic tradition. Lauds and Vespers are also in Latin Gregorian chant except for the intercessory prayers which are in French plainchant. Again, Ordinary Form. I defy anyone to say that this Mass, with full pageantry and pipe organ on appropriate days, isn’t beautiful in the Catholic tradition.

And I agree with @vsedriver: beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve been to Santa Maria Maggiore (and most of the major basilicas in Rome). Again, here, I am fond of the monastic tradition of plain, understated churches. Anything else, I find a distraction. And I’m not alone: 1500 years of monastic tradition agrees with me. I wouldn’t call Santa Maria Maggiore “beautiful”. I will call it “ornate”. But too much ornamentation grates on my Benedictine sensibilities.


(Tre Fontane abbey church, Rome)



(abbey church, Solesmes)


(Saint-Benoît-du-Lac abbey church, the abbey of which I am an oblate)


I think I would trady any of the churches I saw in Italy for the modern drab in my neighborhood.

Thanks to the internet, social media, and Catholic bloggers, more of the faithful are seeing what Catholic liturgy looks like when offered in continuity with our tradition.

Since I have not seen pictures of your church, I can’t possibly comment. I can say that in the eye of this beholder, I prefer plainer monastic churches to overly ornate churches.

Which is exactly what the Mass at our abbey is; as is the Mass at Solesmes, and any number of Benedictine abbeys that still use Gregorian chant, and also the OF Masses at which our Gregorian schola provides the chant. And any number of Gregorian scholas in Canada, the US and Europe.

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which proves my point that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


I can only envy you access to a neighbourhood abby. Unfortunately, I don’t have one handy. Your arguments, however, do not in any way detract from the original intent of the article I have quoted. One of my first encounters with the Romanesque church was in England some years back. The tiny building was stunning it its simplicity and harmony. Sadly, it no longer served its original purpose. I was there to attend a concert. A few days later I was overwhelmed at the York Minster which predates the Italian renaissance by a few hundred years. The style is stark and majectic. Overwhelming in fact. The romanesque, the gothic and the renaissance churches follow a certain logic and tradition. One can not mistake them for anything other than an RC church.

You win. You have proven your point.

I’m going to give my standard reply to those who moan about the liturgy: do something about it.

I did; 17 years ago, I joined a Gregorian schola whose mission is to revive chant at the parish level, and make it more widely known to the generation that never experienced it, and to bring back fond memories to those who had but lamented its demise.

It won’t fall from the sky. People need to get involved if they want chant. If you can’t sing, learn. If you can’t learn, join the parish liturgy committee and be the voice of orthodoxy there. Be prepared though, to shake the sand from your sandals.

Moaning on CAF won’t do a thing to improve liturgy.

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All very good points, except that a distinction should be made between discussion and “moaning”. If we can’t bring up certain issues, than there can be no dialogue.

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Who is rejecting the beauty of Catholicism?
Praising and glorifying God through prayer and song. That is the main thing. God never said that praise and glorification had to be delivered in one way or another.
Let us praise and glorify God, and not spend so much time debating about the traditional Catholic Mass and all its trappings.

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Exactly! Diversity is beautiful.

sometimes I think it is the fault of our education system because it tends to focus only on Western Civilization which includes the Arts.

Good design is good design. Is this not a beautiful Catholic Church?

Wouldn’t dialogue be better though, if instead complaining we started off with « how can we capture Catholic tradition while adapting the liturgy to our times? ». Or « how can we ensure Sacrosanctum Concilium is implemented in a thoughtful way respecting Catholic Tradition while realizing the Church is now truly universal and global by sensitivity to the cultures of all people? »

Respecting the Council is Catholic Tradition. Disregarding it by looking backwards isn’t. I’m sure Trent cursed as much angst among peoples who saw their liturgical traditions crushed in favour of a very standardized and homogenized approach. But it was a response to the challenges of the times.

We can’t ignore that these times have brought on new challenges by burying our heads in the liturgical sand.

Or architectural sand. To build something like one of the major Roman basilicas today would be cost prohibitive.

Oh. I get it. How foolish of me. I didn’t realize that this was a fight. We did start by talking about the beauty of Catholicism and its many forms. (eye of the beholder, etc.)
Now I understand. So, the Catholic Church, universal by nature and definition as it always has been, did not become 'truly universal", as you put it, until it became sensitve to other cultures, about 60 years ago?

The old cathedral style churches were beautiful, but not practical, especially in today’s world.

Wheelchair bound people still can’t get into the church at my old parish, because the elevator is constantly out of order, or there isn’t anyone around who has the key to unlock it.

The parish in my new town, didn’t have an elevator or ramp, so because my son has cerebral palsy, we joined the parish in the abutting town, as it had a ramp. That was over 35 years ago. The parish finally built a ramp, but it was expensive and really doesn’t look good outside of the church.

Also, heating the old cathedral style churches took enough oil to heat a neighborhood of houses. So much for cutting on fossil fuel, and the electricity bills were horrendous.

I’ve visited new churches built in the last 25 years and they are beautiful, practical and comfortable.


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