Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

April 27, 2009


It is "Body Image Awareness Week" at the high school where I teach, which is perfect timing after my experience at the ENDOW conference.  I wanted to write just a little bit about beauty. 

Dr. Helen Alvare, the amazing scholar, wonderful mother, and witty lawyer (with degrees in theology AND law) gave the keynote address at lunch.  She was comparing and contrasting the two most recent pontiffs' takes on women.  One subject she touched on was beauty, and how both popes share a passionate love for the world - for music and art...for beauty.  They both recognize that beautiful things are sacramental because they put us in touch with the divine.  Beauty is subjective in that it affects the one experiencing it, and objective in that it IS a reality.  So, in my own words, it is not relative (or relativistic).  

But we no longer think of beauty in this way, right?  When I hear that word, I think of what this week at my high school is trying to dispel - a very limited idea of female physical "perfection." Beauty has now become something to achieve or to obtain.  It has become a commodity...something to be bought, something to be marketed, and something to be sold.  Beauty is thought of as what it is not...relative to the context in which it finds itself, instead of something that is universal and transcendent.  No wonder men and women have trouble finding joy and hope in their lives.  If we pursue things that are ugly (television, music, etc.) because we believe these things are attractive (when they really are not), how are we ever going to be able to recognize and experience the good or the true?  How are we, as young women engaged with the world, to help ourselves and others recognize what is truly beautiful again? 

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