Beauty is the most universal form of communication for Truth. Not only is beauty totally giving, never asking for anything in return, beauty never needs translation.
Like many people, I find God to be very visible in His creation of nature. I’ve had many powerful encounters of prayer in beautiful outdoor settings, and always find myself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually renewed after long encounters with nature. Everywhere between the high mountains, hill country, deserts, oceans, and everything in between, I have sat in awe of the magnitude of beauty that our God created.
As an artist, I find landscapes to be some of the most boring pieces of art. While I’ve seen many works that highlight parts of the wonder of nature, art is still found lacking in comparison to the reality. There is still some value to that art, but I have found it more memorable to see the scenes in person.
I have been blessed with many opportunities to travel, and one of my favorite things about being Catholic is that our churches covers the globe. In every culture and language, man has built a home for God to dwell.
My travels often appear overly Catholic to many people. This is because when I’ve traveled to many places in different countries, I always find the cathedrals, basilicas and other beautiful Catholic churches of the area. They’re always more than just an afterthought, they’re always the priority in my plans.
This raises some questions with my Catholic and even non-Catholic friends.
Why visit a church when there is nothing happening?
While there may not be a mass happening, there is still the amazing blessing of the Eucharist in all the tabernacles of the world. That’s always enough for me.
Plus, visiting churches outside their busy times also provides opportunities to better explore, pray, and reflect on the sacred art.
If you’ve seen one church, haven’t you seen them all?
Churches are where people use their best materials, resources, and art. We believe that God’s true presence in every tabernacle deserves a space that reminds us that the building takes us spiritually beyond this earth.
Even though our Holy Mother Church is very systematic and uniform in her approach, it allows a lot of freedom for each parish and diocese to construct and design a church building in ways it sees best communicates to the local church and culture.
Unlike museums that feature old things that are no longer used, churches are more alive and feature things still used today.
Can you just go into any church without an invitation?
Churches are almost always free to enter, but unfortunately there are some circumstances that force the church to keep its doors closed at certain times for safety or other practical reasons. If the church is open, then there is no requirement or qualifications necessary to enter a church, but it is important to always give respect to the sacred space, regardless of your personal creed.
Is it ok not to like a style of church?
Everyone has their personal preferences of art styles. There is something about a Gothic style arch that points my thoughts straight to heaven, but Spanish-colonial architecture and sacred art speaks to my heart in a way that no other style can. This sometimes means I find it harder to appreciate other styles, but it’s all personal opinion and preference at the point.
The church does have much to say many of the details. That’s why Catholics often find a sense of comfort in familiar elements of uniformity like Holy Water fonts and red candles to direct our genuflections. Outside of particular rules, I’m continuously amazed at the variations of styles. It’s a testament to the power of the Gospel preached through the Catholic Church.
On a personal level, they are also the locations where we encounter Christ’s presence through the sacraments. From our baptism to our funerals, churches host the most important events of our lives.
As Catholics, if we truly believe that our God dwells in these sacred spaces, why wouldn’t we seek them out at every opportunity? Each church building is the work of a local people, and they were built with the purpose of elevating our hearts and minds to a sublime beauty that transcends our earthly experience.
Our God hides in the beauty of creation, but He waits quietly and patiently in all the churches of the world for us to visit Him.