Travel

Beauty in Philly

“All that is good, all that is true and all that is beautiful brings us to God. Because God is good, God is beauty, God is truth.”

– Pope Francis at the Festival of Families, Sept. 26, 2015

There are so many things, moments, opportunities, in this world that can bring us closer to God because they are good, beautiful, or true–or even all three.

Growing up in a family where creativity and the arts were encouraged and appreciated, beauty has especially resonated with me throughout my life. Seeing Monet’s Water Lilies, the sun setting over the Colorado Rockies each evening, and the beautiful architecture and mosaics of the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica are instances in my life where I saw a glimpse of God.

When I had the opportunity to travel to Philadelphia with over 300 others to the Festival of Families and to see Pope Francis last October, my friend did not need to do much convincing. When I signed up last February, the furthest thing from my mind was Beauty. I simply wanted to see Pope Francis and have fun with a friend.

As the trip progressed, Beauty spoke to me in so many ways. At first, I primarily saw Beauty in the pilgrimage sites we visited on Friday, our first day in Philadelphia. We visited multiple churches and shrines, and even historic monuments, which were built to reflect Truth and Beauty. It was moving to see the architecture, paintings, and statues.

Yet, as the weekend progressed, the encounter with Beauty took on another form. The numerous people who came to the city, of all backgrounds and ages, were each a witness to God. Their faith and trust to leave behind their work and make the pilgrimage to the city spoke volumes to my heart. It was beautiful.

The crowd waiting for Pope Francis and joining Matt Maher in praising God by singing Hold Us Together

When I saw Pope Benedict XVI back in 2008 in Australia, a word struck me to sum up the experience: humility. On Saturday evening, when Pope Francis went past (twice!) in the Popemobile, two words struck me: charity and beauty. Is Pope Francis beautiful by the world’s standards? No. Yet, that smile, his presence, was filled with the beauty of God. As we grow closer to Him, the more we reflect Him. So, in that moment, and the next day when I saw Pope Francis again, I caught another glimpse of the beauty of God, and my understanding of God’s beauty grew all the more.

Pope Francis driving past on Saturday evening of the Festival of the Families.

Yes, Beauty can and should be reflected in all art forms. But Pope Francis, and the crowds at the Festival of Families, showed me that we too, as individuals and a community, should be reflections of God’s beauty as well.

 

In Christ, through Mary.

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