But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
I remember the first time I walked into the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, my breath was almost taken away. I had to pause to soak it all in. I thought I was in heaven, it was so beautiful. I have heard people criticize Mother Angelica for the money she spent on the place after she heard God call her to, “build a temple” for him. I don’t understand that criticism, in fact, their criticism reminded me of Judas;
Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’s feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” John 12:3-8
Now sure, people can build and buy beautiful things for the wrong reasons, but that place, it was built for love of God, and you could tell. Just as the penitent Mary loved Jesus so much she anointed his feet with costly oil, her heart was pure, while Judas’ wasn’t. For me, in the place I was in spiritually, it was a soul healing encounter with God. The beauty lifted me up to Him at a time when I really needed Him.
We all know that beauty does come from within, but when our beauty comes from God it is outwardly expressed. The cathedrals of old were a breath taking example of this. They were a respite for both rich and poor alike, a place where anyone could go to worship, all are invited.
My cousin Kathleen, tells me she had the same experience when she walked into Saint John Cantius in Chicago, Il. But the thing about Kathleen is, she is an artist herself, so the fire that was lit inside of her compelled her to contribute to the beauty. Not only did she continue painting sacred Art, she started the Catholic Art Institute. It’s a place where artists can come together to work on what is good, true and beautiful. They are all about restoration of the sacred. They have a conference every year that is spectacular.
While we all know that we can worship anywhere that the Eucharist is, our eyes get lifted higher when the place is beautiful and the music transcends. When you see what beauty human hands can make for God, you know that what God can do inside of you pales in comparison to your own feeble efforts. When we act for God, God acts big.
We must always be careful not to make a god of beauty, for it is not the beauty itself that saves us. Scripture makes it clear that it is what is on the inside of our hearts that counts. But we must also never discount the impact beauty can have on the healing of a soul who needs it.
There is a renewal that can happen in a soul when the soul can worship in a beautiful place or listen to sacred music. We must not give up making beautiful things for God. While God actually needs nothing made for Him because He is perfect, when we make something for love of Him, His perfection is reflected in our work, for us, so that we may grow closer to Him.
I am telling you all this now and asking if you would consider making a donation to the Catholic Art Institute. My cousins work is valuable to all who are impacted by beauty that lifts them towards God. If you feel a call to give, please consider it. If you don’t feel that call, I do ask that you just pray for her and the flourishing of the Institute. I know people ask for money all the time. I actually have consciously tried to never ask. But I believe this is worth the ask, and after all, she is family.
May God Bless you all.