If a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim and an atheist all gather in a field to watch a sunrise, they will likely share a similar experience.
“If they have any sort of life in them, they’re going to experience the beauty of that sunrise—the sky changing color and probably look at the sun as it comes over the horizon,” said Joseph Pearce, a prolific Catholic writer in residence at Aquinas College in Tennessee. “And they’ll be uplifted and edified by the experience. They will feel that they’ve experienced something good.”
They have something common—an appreciation for beauty, he said.
Beauty is considered one of three universal supernatural experiences called transcendentals—including truth and goodness—that Pearce said is key to leading an anti-Christian world to God.
In the first of a series of talks for the 2015-2016 Archbishop’s Lecture Series, Pearce will share how great works of literature and fine art can depict a beauty that transcends divisions and attracts a world resistant to reason.
“We live in an age of relativism. It makes it difficult to actually engage people on level of reason because they’re out of the habit of reasoning. It’s all about opinion and feelings,” he told the Denver Catholic. “Evangelizing through the power of beauty is a powerful way of reaching people. People can still be touched by the beauty of nature, the beauty of art … as the great poets and artists have shown.”
On Sept. 1, Pearce will kick-off the lecture series in the Archdiocese of Denver centered on the theme “Truth, Goodness and Beauty: Avenues for the New Evangelization.”
“Archbishop Samuel Aquila chose the theme for the lecture series because he wants Catholics in northern Colorado to think about how they can live and present the Gospel in new ways,” said David Uebbing, chancellor for the archdiocese. “Being a part of the new evangelization means creatively seeking ways to bring the Gospel into our families, friendships and workplaces. That’s not an easy task, so this year’s lecture series is designed to help give people the intellectual and practical background to do that, and do it with joy.”
This year’s series provides the faith community with a social and intellectual forum featuring well-known Catholic leaders lecturing on current topics. The events begin at 7 p.m. in the St. John Vianney Seminary refectory, 1300 S. Steele St., with a half hour of socializing with drinks and appetizers before an hour lecture and Q-and-A with the speaker.
Uebbing said each speaker will also spend time with Augustine Institute graduate students for an informal discussion about the night’s topic.
Pearce’s talk will offer unique insights into a powerful way of evangelizing, he said.
“I think that Joseph Pearce’s insights into the role of art and literature in creating a culture that is more receptive to the Gospel will be very uplifting and enlightening,” Uebbing said.
Pearce, a native of England who directs Aquinas College’s Center for Faith and Culture and is executive director of Catholic Courses, has written extensively on Christian literary figures and lectured on the Catholic underpinnings of bestselling books like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
“We need to recognize here that in the list of top 10 bestselling books of all time, The Lord of the Rings is normally listed as second or third and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is always in the top 10, too, and the Hobbit is hovering just outside,” he said.
These are books read by people of all backgrounds and faiths, he said. Together with art such as Michelangelo’s Pietà or St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, beauty can serve as a tool to draw people to Christ.
“The point is that the beauty of art, the beauty of literature, the beauty of music, the beauty of nature is a very, very powerful evangelical weapon of apologetics in our relativistic age,” Pearce said.
Once an agnostic and political rebel, Pearce said the works of G.K. Chesterton led him down a path of conversion and eventual entry into the Church in 1989.
But the beauty of literature is not all that’s needed for conversion. Beauty with truth and goodness are connected and together lead to Christ.
“So ultimately when you understand them on a deeper level they are inseparable,” he said. “Anything beautiful always leads to the truth and goodness of God.”
While the best method of evangelization is for each person to become a virtuous person, Pearce said literature and art is a great way to start.
“Certainly, the great classic works of civilization all bring us closer to the truth,” he said.
Archbishop’s Lecture Series
7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Sept. 1
Joseph Pearce on “Evangelizing through literature and fine art”
St. John Vianney Seminary refectory, 1300 S. Steele St., Denver
Begins with reception followed by lecture
RSVP: 303-715-3207 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Nov. 3—Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development
Feb. 23—Mother Agnes Donovan, S.V., the first superior general of the Sisters of Life
May 9—Scott Hahn, Catholic theologian, author and professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville
Lecture series a new social and intellectual experience
Attendees at the Archbishop’s Lecture Series will enjoy a new experience at talks this year.
The lecture series, a tradition started by former Archbishop Charles Chaput and continued with Archbishop Samuel Aquila, is designed as an event featuring intellectually-stimulating talks and time for building community, said David Uebbing, chancellor for the archdiocese.
Starting with the first lecture Sept. 1, attendees will arrive at the new venue inside the refectory of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, located on the St. John Paul II Campus for the New Evangelization. Faithful may enjoy wine and appetizers while socializing with others before the lecture begins. Thirty minutes after the event begins at 7 p.m., the speaker will start his lecture on the topic of the new evangelization.
Well-known Catholic intellectuals and leaders in the faith community will be featured in the 2015-2016 series. Attendees will have the opportunity to listen and ask questions during the event.
Also, each speaker will spend an afternoon with Augustine Institute graduate students to have an informal discussion on the topic of their lecture.
The archdiocese recommends making a reservation to the free events to secure a seat. Contact 303-715-3207 or email@example.com by Aug. 25 for the Sept. 1 lecture.