Lindsey Weishar: Healing our hearts this Lent through rediscovered beauty
My Vocation is Love / Lindsey Weishar
In preparation for the start of Lent, Father David Yallaly of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius came to St. Matthew Parish in Champaign on Feb. 14 to preach a mission and to celebrate a Latin Low Mass. Noting Pope Paul VI’s address to artists at the end of the Second Vatican Council in which the pope said, “The world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair,” Father Yallaly’s homily offered an invitation: “This Lent I urge you to rediscover beauty.”
When I think about rediscovering beauty, I think about taking walks in nature, a Mass celebrated in a breathtaking church, a painting or a poem. I do not often think of my fellow men and women.
I’ve often been caught by the last couple lines in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”: “for Christ plays in ten thousand places, / Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his / To the Father through the features of men’s faces.” As I walk through this Lent and into the Easter season, I want to be reconverted to the beauty of the other.
REORIENTING OUR EYES
But in an age fissured by division, punctuated with the noise of many disparate voices, how do I tend to my fellow human beings? How do I see the beauty of their personhood before their politics, their beliefs, and even their faults? It seems to me that with our deposit of faith we as Catholics are in a special position to be menders. Though our nation often beats to the pulse of “us” vs. “them,” the very definition of Catholic (“universal”) offers us another option: love.
Though the call to love may sound cliché at best and an acceptance of a “you do you” mentality at worst, this love actually has to begin within. It begins with reorienting our eyes to beauty — in ourselves, in our own relationship with God.
In an age fissured by division, punctuated with the noise of many disparate voices, how do I tend to my fellow human beings? How do I see the beauty of their personhood before their politics, their beliefs, and even their faults?
In her spiritual classic, “Poustinia,” writer and mystic Catherine Doherty recommends the cultivation of our relationship with God through the practice of poustinia, a Russian word for “desert.” Poustinia, defined by Doherty as “a place where you are going to meet Christ in joyful solitude,” can be taken at a retreat center, in a quiet room in one’s home, and even in one’s own heart. Doherty proposes that we bring only the Bible, bread, and water (coffee and tea are OK too) into the poustinia, to “fold the wings of your intellect” in order to be simple before God, and to take “the whole of humanity” with us into this time of prayer and penance.
I am struck by the hospitality involved in bringing the world into our poustinia, our prayer in the desert with Christ. As Doherty says, “Truly the desert will strip you.” In entering into my interior space of solitude with God, I may find mirrored in myself strongholds of division in society. Yet, it is he, the origin of all beauty, who meets me here, and gently tends to the places I still need growth. This gentleness I can then take to my family, my coworkers, my neighbors, my friends, and the complete stranger. The more aware I am of Christ’s residence in myself, the more readily I’ll be able to recognize him in those around me, the more eagerly will I seek the face of Christ in others, Christians and non-Christians alike.
LIVING FACES OF CHRIST
Though I’ve often located beauty more solely in places, like a quiet hiking trail or cathedral, and things, like music, literature, and the first flowers of spring, I’m beginning to think beauty is much broader. In order not to sink into despair, it is so good to drink from the wells of beauty found in nature, art, and material things.
And yet, there is abundant beauty to be found in the crown of creation — humanity — and in each individual the opportunity to discover living water, an oasis. For it is in my fellow men and women that Christ is living; it is with them that I am navigating this life; it is from them that I can learn another face of Christ. This discernment of beauty begins within; this is the beauty that heals.
LINDSEY WEISHAR is a poet, freelance writer, and member of St. Matthew Parish in Champaign. She has a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.