Beauty as a Transcendental

Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savor life and to dream of the future.

Pope St. John Paul II’s Letter to Artists

During one day of SEEK 2019, a FOCUS conference in Indianapolis, I attended a talk about beauty. I learned so much about beauty as a transcendental and why beauty is important. It all made so much sense to me, so I learned more about beauty and I looked for ways to incorporate beauty into my daily life and evangelize through beauty. I displayed more Catholic art in my room, I filled my laptop with Catholic stickers, and I wear bracelets with Miraculous medals and Benedictine medals almost every day. For a quartet that I choreographed my senior year, I chose Angus Dei by Samuel Barber as its score. When someone says “I like your rosary!” I tell them about where it’s from and how I love to pray the rosary. When someone asks me why I veil, I tell them about the beautiful reasons why veiling helps me grow in holiness.

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In the Fall 2019 semester, I gave a talk at a Rock Catholic meeting about beauty as a transcendental. I shared what it means to find the Lord in things that are beautiful and to surround yourself with beauty that reminds you of God. I found that people learned a lot and were able to reflect deeply on my talk because beauty is so relatable. Everyone appreciates beauty and we’re always drawn to beautiful things. It only makes sense that the Lord reaches us through beauty and we use beauty to glorify God.

If you don’t know what a transcendental is, it’s something that fulfills the desires of mankind while lifting our mentality from secular to non-secular things. They help us to think of God instead of the material world. Think of what it means to transcend, to move from one place to another. The three transcendentals, beauty, goodness, and truth, come in the form of earthly things to help us encounter God.

If you consult a dictionary, you might find beauty described as a combination of qualities that are aesthetically pleasing to the senses, like sight or sound. A theologian might add that beauty is a sign of God’s goodness and presence in the world. I’ve heard that beauty is the last remaining transcendental of our time, and as I observe our world, I realize that this is true. People neglect goodness out of selfishness. People reject truth out of ignorance. Interestingly, beauty is still widely appreciated, but our standards are way too low.

Beauty brings joy to the human heart. When stripped of beautiful things, we fall into despair because we’re deprived of things that are good and true. We especially need to surround ourselves with beautiful things that help us encounter God because this is the beauty that our souls thirst for. Appreciating this kind of beauty allows for contemplative beholding. We can grow closer to God by admiring his creativity.

In St. Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists, he quotes the poet Norwid and claims that beauty can change the world. This might sound superficial or impossible, but after contemplating on it you’ll realize how beauty can save the world. Knowing that beauty is something that all hearts long for, we can use beauty to evangelize. It isn’t hard to find the Lord in sacred art, hymns, or the Miraculous Medal. He softens our hearts so we can recognize his presence in beauty. When we share authentic, Godly beauty with others, they witness God’s glory, grow closer to him, and fall deeper in love with him. I do believe that beauty can save the world because it leads us to experience the goodness and truth that we desire, which is found only in our Heavenly Father. How can you share beauty and save the world?

Stay radiant!

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Published by madeline_mckissick

Originally from Western Pennsylvania, Madeline spent a year of service in Washington DC before settling on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She and her husband, Nathan strive for holiness and Sainthood by living simply and intentionally with their eyes fixed on God. You can find Madeline wearing cardigans, enjoying a charcuterie board and a glass of wine, playing board games, spending time with her loved ones, and sometimes doing all four at once. Check out and @radiantwjoy on Instagram!

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