Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are the triumvirate that surrounds the throne of God. None can glimpse His eternal glory without the aid of one of these timeless powers. While each has independent capacity, the three are mysteriously related and cooperate in their divinely ordained duty to reveal to us the majesty of God. If we are blessed to encounter one, we will eventually be blessed to know all three for each resonates with the same shared vibrancy of grace. However, in order for Truth and Goodness to succeed in their calling, we whom they are charged to inspire must first open ourselves to their revelation. Not so with Beauty. Beauty is different.
In any particular time or culture, one of these powers may play a dominant role in this lofty endeavor. For instance, in the past when poverty was widespread and an unbalanced distribution of material wealth resulted in societies where the few had more than adequate and the many had less than necessary, we opened our hearts to Goodness. Prompted by our initiative, she then guided us to the presence of God.
Or, the pangs of ignorance may be what spurred our minds into action. Hungry for understanding we searched for the satisfaction of learning. Then our aroused intellects, rising on the twin wings of faith and reason, tasted the unity of knowledge and sought even greater awareness of the personhood of God. Truth was there to instruct us.
But, today – especially in what is called the developed western world – Goodness and Truth seem unwelcomed. Perhaps this is because we see Goodness as unnecessary. Materialism and “safety nets” have lulled us into a false sense of universal well being. Unstirred by compassion our hearts do not respond to the overture of Goodness. Like an elderly great aunt who lavished us with generosity when we were children, Goodness is now a diminished and barely remembered presence in our habituated lives.
We also ignore the beckoning of Truth. Having allowed the wings of faith and reason to be severed we now regard them as inimical. Worse, we no longer recognize Truth as an immutable power outside ourselves. Rather, it is something we believe we can fashion, adopt and abandon according to our own utilitarianism. Education – that search for the unity of knowledge – has been replaced by apprenticeships in training for skills, as important as these may be. Like the retired high school Latin teacher we once revered in our youth, venerable Truth no longer relates to our day-to-day affairs.
Because we have ignored Goodness and Truth we now face a fate of uninspired existence. Only Beauty, the third force of the triumvirate, can rescue us. Fortunately, no initiative is required on our part. Why? Because we do not grasp Beauty. Beauty grasps us.
Whether forcefully as in the explosion of a spectacular sunset or gently as in the cooing of a morning dove, Beauty seizes us and awakens in us an appreciation of reality outside of ourselves. In doing so she draws us closer to God. Of late, one can imagine God in a conversation with Himself saying: “First I sent Goodness, but men closed their hearts to her invitation. Then I sent Truth. But men shut their minds to her treasures. Now, now I will call on Beauty. Even if men do not deserve her, Beauty will win them over for only the most obdurate of souls can withstand her force.”
On July 3rd of this year, Beauty will strike in Washington, D.C. The next international Congress of Pueri Cantores, the 38th in its history and the first in the United States, will be a four-day celebration attended by an estimated 1,500 singers representing 50 youth choirs from dozens of countries, and it will be a glorious manifestation of the power of Beauty.
Readers can learn more about Pueri Cantores by visiting its site at www.pcchoirs.org. Rooted in Europe in the early part of the last century and now recognized as an official organization of youth within the Catholic Church, the International Federation Pueri Cantores comprises 40,000 singers in 37 countries. Its affiliate, the American Federation Pueri Cantores, includes 3,500 singers in more than 200 choirs from parishes and schools around the country.
Performing pre-selected repertoires in regional, national and international settings with singers from other dioceses and countries, these fortunate young choristers learn not only the great liturgical music, past and present, of the Church, but also they develop a deeper understanding of their faith and establish friendships with others from different countries and cultures.
Addressing the International Federation Pope John Paul II insisted: “The world needs your singing for the language of beauty moves hearts and contributes to the encounter with God.”
Ah, Beauty! In a cultural milieu where the path to God is obscured by distraction and distortion, and where popular opinions of Goodness and Truth border on cynicism and rejection, it is a great blessing indeed that God sends the third member of this celestial triumvirate.
As has been written elsewhere, Beauty will save the world.