Beauty is the answer to the longing of the human heart


They had me at Santca Mariatzine. Although truth be told, that was the icing on the cake, so to speak, of the Mass of the Americas, a gift of the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship. They say their mission is “opening the door of sacred beauty to bring people closer to God.” And Santca Mariatzine is the Ave Maria translated into the language Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to Juan Diego.

“Rejoice, O Holy Mary, you are completely full of divinely beautiful honor and grace. God the ruler is with you. As to being completely and perfectly worthy of praise, you surpass all women. And also completely and perfectly worthy of praise is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. O Holy Mary, you are the beloved mother of God. Pray for us now and at the time of our death. Amen.”

And they also had me at the packed Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., for the Mass of the Americas, a traditional Latin Mass with a unique composition for a beautiful rally for unity in the Eucharist.

They also had me at Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s mention in his homily of Dorothy Day. I sometimes think she is stalking me in the best of ways on city streets of Manhattan. Even recently, passing the decommissioned church where her funeral Mass was held — truly ugly, vacant and covered with graffiti. Here’s how he quoted Day, about protests that the Church would spend money on a beautiful church:

“The Church has an obligation to feed the poor, and we cannot spend all our money on buildings. However, there are many kinds of hunger. There is a hunger for bread, and we must give people food. But there is also a hunger for beauty — and there are very few beautiful places that the poor can get into. Here is a place of transcendent beauty, and it is as accessible to the homeless in the Tenderloin as it is to the mayor of San Francisco.”

And then there is the desire at the heart of the Mass of the Americas: To make Jesus known through the heart of his mother, who is our mother. This is how the archbishop put it:

“This Mass we celebrate today, the Mass of the Americas, speaks profoundly to the power of our Mother to unite her children. She stands there in every generation of the Church, interceding to her Son for her children, actively leading them to him, united as one in him. Actively, she has appeared in every corner of the earth all throughout history, especially in turbulent and threatening moments of history, making herself present to her children to both admonish and console, to exhort and reveal, to call both to prayer and to penance, so that all of her children might be led more deeply into the heart of her Son, that ‘they may be one.'”

We can sometimes be the very opposite of one. Something I love about New York City is that in midtown Manhattan, both the more liberal (for lack of a better descriptor) Franciscan church by Penn Station and more conservative (again, these are impoverished labels) Opus Dei one near Grand Central Station, has many confession hours and Eucharistic adoration every weekday. There is unity in Christ, there is unity in beauty and truth. There is unity in the Eucharist. We can lead here. We can bring people together in the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Benedict XVI Institute points to Joseph Ratzinger: “The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments — namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb.”

The Mass of the Americas seems like Our Lady and Juan Diego calling out to a civilization immersed in self-obsession and, at the same time, to loneliness. We are hyper-connected and yet aching for connection. The beauty is healing, and it makes the reality of God’s presence obvious. The Mass of the Americas may just be the answer to modern-day wails of the human heart.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


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