Food’s Beauty

corn-on-the-cob-lgThis weekend I attended Peter Kreeft’s talk in Alexandria, VA entitled “The Power of Beauty in the Sacred Arts”, sponsored by the Foundation for Sacred Arts. Dr. Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and the King’s College and is a prolific writer. The talk was brilliant, and while I’m sure I could blog about more profound things, today I choose food in the hopes that we might think more profoundly about food.

One of the questions asked during the Q&A session had to do with whether or not there was beauty in “fast food”. Dr. Kreeft’s answer was that, it being fast food, it is likely that even if beauty were present we would not stop to contemplate it. (typical Kreeft witticism)

For me, it’s not so much that the food is “fast” but that it’s so processed. One could say we process the hell out of our foods, but I would actually say that we process the Heaven out of our foods. There is something spectacular about the plants, animals, and grains that God has placed on earth to nourish our bodies.

Today (shortly before lunch) I was contemplating the beauty of food. What came to mind as particularly beauitful foods were corn on the cob, a fresh raspberry, and the avocado: the straight plump rows of yellow kernels; the fuzzy red seed pockets; and the bumpy black skin protecting the creamy green fruit. With such beauty, I wonder why our society adulterates it so often and to such a degree.

Now I can’t say all of this without acknowledging that there are people in the world who are not blessed with access to fresh food, or food at all. So my prayer today is that we who have access to fresh food take the time to contemplate its beauty, thank God for the gift our food, and continue to share our food and argicultural technology with the poor and the hungry.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. Matthew 25:35

Ugliest Church Art Contest

Well OK, Let’s admit it, the modern age hasn’t exactly been known as the golden age of Church architecture. The following website has collected some of the more “unusual” Church art of the past decades.

Ugliest Church Art Contest


Enjoy, and submit your own entries! By the way, I don’t agree that all the sites listed here are ugly. This is just for fun. It is well to remember the old Latin admonition: De gustibus non diputandem – In matters of taste let there be no disputes. According TO ME some of these entries are authentically ugly, even scary, but some aren’t so bad. You be the judge. And remember it’s just for fun. No polemical ugliness intended here.

And are some more really awful Church exteriors:

Really Ugly Church Buildings

On a more positive note, here is a video I recently put together on some of what I CONSIDER to be some beautiful Church interiors.

Even More Beautiful Churches

I put this video together, this time focusing on exteriors. The music is Nisi Dominus sung by the Majorstua Kammerkor. The Text of the psalm is rather long to produce in full here but the opening text, translated from the Latin, goes as thus:

Unless the Lord build the house, those that labor to build it do so in vain. In vain is your earlier rising and your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat. For God pours gifts on his beloved when they slumber!

Enjoy the Video

Beautiful Churches

I put together a quick video program with pictures of beautiful Churches and posted it over at Gloria.tv  I hope this will be the first of several I intend to do. We have some very beautiful churches!   The music in this video is Bruckner’s Locus Iste Here is the text and translation:

Locus iste a Deo factus est,
inaestimabile sacramentum;
irreprehensibilis est.

This place was made by God,
a priceless sacrament;
beyond reproach.

What is Beauty?

We live today with very high expectations of many things. Culturally we have very demanding standards for beauty, especially in regard to women. We expect them to have appealing “curves” but be slender etc. Even ordinary weight is considered by many as unattractive. All this obsession with perfection leads to low self esteem among women and men too. Further, these high expectations of zero body fat and perfect shape, hair color, skin tone etc. leads to hypercritical and hurtful remarks. There is an old saying that “expectations are premeditated resentments.” Hence this attitude also may have to do with marriage difficulties as the near perfect bodies of youth give way to the more “settled”  bodies of middle age and beyond (gravity and age do have their effects and even if you weighed what you did in High School it doesn’t look the same!) Plastic surgery is a miracle for those with truly catastrophic injury or deformities but today it is too often the refuge of those who have become obsessed with how they look and how they think others regard them. Oh to be free of such obsessions! The picture to the right depicts a woman but men have the problem too.

Help me Lord to be little more comfortable in my own skin. Help me to accept that you like both tall and short people because you made them both. Both the blond and the brunette are from your hand, wavy hair, straight hair wirey hair are all from you and apparently to your liking. Thin and hefty, black, white and all between are from your artistic hand. Help me to love me as you made me. If I should lose weight for health’s sake help me, but if its only about what others might think of me, free me.

Watch this video and see how a very lovely young woman is not lovely enough. She has to be altered, “perfected.”  And when simple natural enhancements are not enough her image must be furthered altered on a computer. Message: the perfect beauty does not exist in the world of media. She must be invented. Then everyone can pine after and spend large amounts of money and time trying look like someone who doesn’t even exist.

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 36 – The Incarnation

Reason # 36 Catholicism upholds the “incarnational principle,” wherein Jesus became flesh and thus raised flesh and matter to new spiritual heights.

One of the beauties of the Catholic Faith is the way that all creation is summoned to praise God. In the sacraments we use water, bread, wine, and oil. In the Liturgy we use candles and incense. Our bodies are very involved in worship as we stand, sit, kneel, even prostrate at times. Our Churches (at least the traditional ones) make use of beautiful stained glass, wood, marble and stone. Music is rich and varied from the haunting Chant, to joyful polyphony, from the mighty pipe organ to the unaccompanied voice. For us as Catholics we expect to encounter our faith in what is, in the world around us. The liturgy is no mere lecture or just intellectual ideas and values. It is creation in action, the Word become flesh. When Jesus took on flesh God joined with his creation and elevated it. Jesus made frequent use of creation and often spoke of it in his parables.

Obviously some of the things I have mentioned above have diminished in Catholicism in recent decades as many of our older church buildings were stripped and many of our newer buildings are minimalist in their design.  But traditional architecture is making a comeback and some of our older buildings are being tastefully restored.

Why is this a reason to come home? Because faith is not merely an abstraction that exists only in our minds or a televised message. Faith is found in our church buildings, in the people who gather there, in the sacraments and liturgies that are celebrated there. Place and time are important dimensions to faith. Here there is an intersection between the good, the true and the beautiful. It is like the old family home. Our memories are not just stored in our brains but on the worn back stairways of the house, in the pictures on the wall,  little trinkets that have been collected over the years, in the magnets on the refrigerator door, and at the kitchen table. Our churches are like this, the old familiar statues, the altar, the meeting rooms, the smell of candles and incense in the air, the rituals and sacraments that call us home.  Come home. Faith is not merely an idea, it is an old familiar place, it is sacraments and rituals that literally touch you, it is about an incarnation, something tangible, and touchable, something familiar. The Catholic Church does all this well. We may have forgotten some of it for a time, but we never fully lost it. Catholicism upholds the “incarnational principle,” wherein Jesus became flesh and thus raised flesh and matter to new spiritual heights. So come home and reconnect with Jesus, the Word made flesh.