What lifts peoples’ spirits now is what always has: the arts. The people of the Middle Ages walked through squalid streets and lived in miserable poverty. But they could lift their sights to the spires of Chartres Cathedral or see Bible stories in its luminous stained glass. Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky knew the horrors of prison camp. But he wrote, “the world will be saved by beauty.” Franciscan missions throughout California were built around an inner garden, lavish with bougainvillea and roses, and often a sparkling fountain. These are only three examples of a long history. For over 2000 years, the church has offered beauty at critical times for the human family.
When depression threatens or anger overwhelms, the arts move us outside ourselves and into a realm beyond the economy. They remind us we were born not only for work, but also for joy, praise, appreciation.
If we have spent time appreciating the arts, we have strengthened the imagination. It then suggests new possibilities for a new era, new ways to live and different ways to cope. Jim Wallis says that the problems we face now are as formidable as mountains. It takes faith to change them, and fortunately Christians are in the mountain-moving business. Our times call for heroic responses. This is our moment; “now is the time of salvation.”
Some of this material appeared originally in Everyday Catholic.