Picture“Too late have I loved Thee, O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new!” St. Augustine was in his forties by the time he penned this personal lament. As readers of the Confessions know (and the Confessions has been a universal must-read for 1600 years), Augustine wasted himself for 30 years before he finally embraced the Lord in the greatest conversion story ever told. Throughout his retrospective, he refers to beauty, the need for beauty, the search for beauty. His wanderings away from the faith of his mother were intimately bound up with a search for beauty. He did not find beauty in his catechesis, nor in his early education, so he sought it in the wild passions of love and friendship. Eventually, Augustine found the Lord by realizing in very painful ways that other beauties disappointed when they were mistaken for real Beauty.

In his praise of the Lord, St. Augustine connects love and Beauty, for they are correlatives. Love is aroused by what is beautiful, beauty inspires love. We need to be inspired by what is truly beautiful, to be passionate about what is lovely. And to enjoy in the objects of natural affection a suggestion, a reflection of the Beauty that never passes.

Our nation’s Puritanical past might lead us to think that to be religious is to deny ourselves what is beautiful, but the opposite is true. The Danish movie,Babette’s Feast, provides a parable about a small fishing village that has driven out all that is beautiful in life in its misguided following of Christianity.

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