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Barron on evangelization: `Lead with beauty`
Thursday, February 4, 2016

PASIG City, Metro Manila, Jan. 24, 2016 – Having just arrived in the Philippines for the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Cebu City, the popular California Auxiliary Bishop startled the crowd of hundreds in the SPACE Building of St. Paul College Pasig with a refreshing encouragement: “Lead with the beauty of the Catholic faith” when evangelizing. 


Via Pulchritudinis
“Remember [that] in Pope Francis’ great statement on Evangelii Gaudium, the ‘Joy of the Gospel,’ he says: ‘try the via pulchritudinis,’ Latin for ‘the way of beauty,’” said Bishop Robert Barron of Word on Fire Ministries, whom Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle requested to give a talk during his short stay in Manila.


The prelate’s talk was centered on  his “7 Recommendations” for the New Evangelization. These recommendations, according to Barron, were borne of “practical experiences” from the past 10 years of evangelizing with Word on Fire. His “Recommendation Number 1” was to “lead with the Beautiful. Lead with the beauty of the Catholic faith.” 


Barron made reference to what philosophers had termed the “3 Transcendentals”: the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. 


“Beginning with the True and the Good could be non-starters. So I would suggest, begin with the third Transcendental: the Beautiful,” Barron stressed, nothing that in today's postmodern culture, “it’s difficult to begin with the True or the Good.”


He explained: “People are skeptical and say ‘who are you to tell me what to believe?’ or worse, ‘who are you to tell me how to live?’ You begin with the Truth, and what do people say today? Well they’ll say ‘yeah that’s your truth, but who are you to impose it on me?’ or ‘yeah that’s good for you but don’t impose it on me.’”


According to Barron, who has become a poster boy for New Evangelization, said the Catholicism series, was very much inspired by talking about the Beautiful first. 


Catholicism, produced by Word on Fire Ministries, is a 10-part documentary filmed in 16 countries in which Barron explains the core teachings of the Catholic faith.


'The Beautiful is less threatening'
“Just look at Chartres Cathedral. I’m not going to tell you what to think or how to behave (yet), but begin with just the beauty of Chartres. Begin with the beauty of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I’m not telling you what to think or how to behave, [but] just look at it,” he said, noting that pointing to beauty disarms people. 


“Or just look at the lives and the work of Mother Teresa’s sisters in Calcutta. The wager is that the Beautiful is less threatening. It’s a more winsome approach.”


Barron emphasized, however, that “the Beautiful will lead you to the True and the Good. You know why? Because people will see the beauty of Chartres Cathedral and they’ll say ‘who were the people that built it? What inspired them? Where did that come from?’”


He added: “The Beautiful leads to the True and the Good. Look at Mother Teresa’s sisters. Once you take in the beauty of it, you’re going to say ‘what made that possible? What are their beliefs? What is the Good that has so grasped their heart that they’re willing to live this way?’ Begin with the beauty of the Catholic faith.”


The veteran evangelizer assured his audience: “Now we’ll get to the True and the Good. We’ll reach the point where you say ‘here’s how you should live.’ But start with the beauty.”


Like a baseball game
The former rector of Chicago’s Mundelein Seminary then compared learning about the Catholic faith with his experience of learning how to play baseball. “I remember to this day, vividly, my dad taking me and my brother to a Detroit Tigers baseball game. I took in with my seven-year old eyes the beauty of these professional players playing. What that did is [that] immediately it led me to say to my father, ‘I wanna play!’” 


Following this context, Barron went on to explain that the Catholic faith first captivates the heart before it spreads to a person's intellect or modes of behaving, acting, and thinking. 


“Then once I had played the game for many years, I began to understand its rules, its regulations, but from the inside. They weren’t imposed upon me. I appreciated them once I had played the game,” he explained. 


“It’s similar in religion. It’s first the beauty of Catholicism that draws us in. And then that beauty leads me to say ‘I want to play that game, I want to be part of that world.’ And then once I’m in that world, I understand its rules, I understand its regulations, I understand its yes’s and no's. But now from the inside.” (Leo Francis Abot)




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