“Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love of beauty is the beauty of the soul”
You will either find these words in the works of St. Augustine, directly, or—something I recently discovered—you’ll also find them in a book titled “The Little Book of Bathroom Philosophy”. A quaint publication chock full of brainy little quotes by notable philosophers. In case you’re wondering, the quote actually originates in one of Augustine’s homilies on the first letter of John.
It actually doesn’t surprise me that quotes like this one would be found in a casual book of so-called bathroom philosophy. People like to receive wisdom, but receiving wisdom takes time that people often don’t have, so they prefer instead to receive wisdom that’s been reduced to delightful talking points that are ultimately meaningless, but they at least help us write wedding toasts. What you’ll never find in such a book are quotes like this:
“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works”
I mean we certainly don’t want to hear that there is such a thing as evil works, and that we ourselves sometimes do them. We want to hear that we shold be nicer to people. We want to hear St. Augustine talk about love. We don’t want to hear him talking about accountability for wrongdoing, and we certainly don’t want to hear about how he was nearly destroyed by his own guilt for own evil acts which we today consider trivial, and even celebrate
And that is where it seems we find ourselves in the Church today. We deny people the fullness of Christ: We speak of the Jesus who loves us, but deny them the Jesus also will judge us. We speak of the Jesus who gives us mercy, but deny the Jesus who gives justice. We practically lie to people—even if only by omission—and bring them not to Jesus Christ, but to a man named Jesus of Nazareth. In the interests of their comfort, we deny them challenge. In the interests of their fickle happiness, we deny them joy. In practical—even if not intentional—disregard for their salvation, we deny them the fullness of Truth by denying them the fullness of the Lord Jesus, and the fullness of the Gospel
We in the Church are so bound and gagged by political correctness that we’ve grown disabled by a sense of prudence crafted more by politics than by truth, more by the faithless than by the faith, and more by the demands of the godless than by the example of the saints.
We are afraid to challenge people, as if we regard the truth as an obstacle to a bridge we’re trying to build between the Church and people, failing to see that when the truth is not present, or when the truth is ill-represented, we’re actually building a bridge to nowhere.
The world does not want the truth. The world wants beauty. The world wants comfort. The world wants to be put at ease. But the world does not want Truth.
What the modern world wants are things the Church cannot rightly offer. because the world’s understanding of things like beauty, comfort, and ease, comes to them from the father of lies. How the Church understands those things comes from Our Heavenly Father.
So rather than give God’s people what they need, we give them what they ask for. And everything they ask for is distorted. What the Church offers is perfect. It’s a mistake, then, to the diminish what we do offer in a way that meets the demands of those who are looking for the wrong thing. When people come to us looking for something false, we must instead give them something true.
When Satan tells them them that comfort means feeling comfortable, the Church must tell them comfort is found only in full communion with God. And that means we must change our lives. When satan tells them that beauty is received by the eyes, and is intended to serve our desires, the Church must tell them that beauty is seen first with the mind, and the heart, because true beauty bears the signature of a God who is seen first with the mind and then by the heart, and beauty serves God by showing us something of his character. Beauty does not serve man because God does not serve man. When Satan tells them that living life means a living a life of ease, the Church must tell them that it is suffering, not ease which brings us closer to God.
The world wants the simple, not the complex. The world wants easy, not hard. The world wants soundbites, not wisdom. As Catholics—priest, religious or laypeople—we have to remember to give the world what it needs. Not what it asks for.