The Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty


2a/ Promote the Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty
The fine arts, but above all sacred art, of their nature are directed toward expressing in some way the infinite beauty of God in works made by human hands. Their dedication to the increase of God's praise and of his glory is more complete, the more exclusively they are devoted to turning men's minds devoutly towards God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2513).
Beauty should mark all our educational programs, especially through the promotion of the fine arts. The four transcendentals, the four great paths by which we ascend to God, are unity, truth, beauty, and goodness. The shattering of Christian culture has frequently resulted in their opposites, fragmentation, lies, ugliness, and evil — all hallmarks of the secularism of the present age. The restoration of Christendom will thus require not only Truth proclaimed, but also virtue lived and beauty celebrated. Jesus Christ, Beauty Incarnate Himself, the all-good Truth who is our life and our way, leads us through the visible — by creation and the sacred liturgy — to the invisible, to the beauty of holiness, indeed to Beauty Himself, the all-Holy One.
This spiritual beauty of God is reflected in the most holy Virgin Mother of God, the angels and saints. Genuine sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer and to the love of God, Creator and Savior, the Holy One and Sanctifier. For this reason, bishops (personally or through delegates), should see to the promotion of sacred art, old and new, in all its forms and, with the same religious care, remove from the liturgy and from places of worship everything which is not in conformity with the truth of faith and the authentic beauty of sacred art (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2502-3).

It is recommended therefore that we:
  • Emphasize and excel in teaching an appreciation of culture, fine arts, and music (both secular and sacred, but especially liturgical) in our Catholic schools.

  • Ensure that art work used in our parish and educational environments is authentically beautiful and thereby serves the teaching of truth.

2b/ Promote authentic expressions of sacred music in liturgy
The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1156).

Song and music fulfill their function as signs in a manner all the more significant when they are "more closely connected…with the liturgical action," according to three principal criteria: beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly at the designated moments, and the solemn character of the celebration. In this way they participate in the purpose of the liturgical words and actions: glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1157).
Music echoes the praise of Christ and is a most powerful element in catechesis. An integral part of liturgy, music is more than something which "assists" worship — it is worship. More than a help to prayer — it is prayer. As St. Pius X often said, "People should not sing at Mass, they should sing the Mass." The music chosen for sacred liturgy, therefore, must embody those characteristics proper to its sacred function; its end must be that of raising the mind and heart to God. Unfortunately popular culture seems to have invaded the liturgy in recent years, leading some to lament the triumph of bad taste in Catholic culture.

It is recommended therefore that:
  • Ensure that music used in Catholic institutions be of the highest quality, distinguished by its recognizable sacred character.



These recommendations are taken from the "Synod Study Paper on Teaching the Faith", prepared for the Vancouver Archdiocesan Synod in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. This document was the working paper and formed the basis for one of the final documents of the Synod, "Teaching the Faith".

Next: A School of Virtues

Subscribe to CERC's Weekly E-Letter



Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.