Saturday, November 21, 2009

On the Importance of Poetry

One of my youth group kids (and his mother) mentioned the unimportance of poetry. Below is what I emailed him.

....Also, the Fr. Francavilla mentioned in his homily how secularists do not understand the importance of things which are not "useful," such as poetry. I thought of you immediately. :) Just because something is not useful, does not mean it is not useless.

The problem I think, since I too once thought that poetry was pointless, is that there is a lot of bad poetry out there. Plus, people use the art form, not to create something beautiful, which is the point of art, but as a way to "express oneself." Self-expression is not necessarily bad, but it is not the totality of what it means to create art...such as poetry.

Good poetry, like all good art, is beautiful. (See, for example, the book of Psalms in the Bible. That's poetry my friend!)

Do you like music? That's poetry set to music! Do you enjoy Shakespeare? That's poetry.

The most incredible (and Catholic!) men of the modern age understood the importance of poetry: C.S. Lewis (closet Catholic), G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Luigi Giussani, John Paul II...were all poets!

Why am I so passionate about this? Because Catholics, first of all, should understand the importance of truth, beauty, freedom, and justice. Dogs cannot write poetry. Birds cannot write poetry. Rats cannot write poetry.

It is precisely our humanity (made in the image and likeness of God) which allows us to write poetry. Art, poetry, painting, music, anything which expresses beauty and is creative is precisely what makes us like God who is the Ultimate Beauty and the Ultimate Creator (creative...).

This is something some Protestants do not understand. This is why their churches are sparse. This is why their architecture is ugly. Go to Europe. Why is it so beautiful? Because of the (now ancient) Catholic culture that once existed. Gothic architecture lifts our up our eyes, but not only our eyes, but our hearts to God.

Secularists do not understand this because they do not enjoy (JOY!) God. Unless something is useful (productive, makes money, etc.) it is not valuable. (This is why unborn children, the disabled, the elderly, are scoffed at while the Church has protected their intrinsic worth.)

Dostoevsky said, "Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man. "

Poetry (and other art forms) is important because it is through the culture that souls can be saved. Dostoevsky understood this and so does the Church. This is why non-profits like The Foundation for Sacred Arts are so important.

Now I've given you a philosphical understanding of why poetry is important. I'm sure it would have been much better had I written a poem about it. :)

As you get older, you will, I am sure, continue to be a light and salt to the world. Just remember that the Faith is not about moralism, rules, etc etc. It is about encountering a PERSON. And this person, Jesus Christ, was above all, BEAUTIFUL, to the people who met him and continue to meet Him. They didn't understand Him, but He was beautiful, and where there is beauty, there is truth...and so they followed Him.

More people today convert to the Church, not because they understand the metaphysics of the Triune God or have worked out how Christianity is the only logical (and reasonable) system (athiesm is logical but not reasonable) but because they encountered something beautiful: the Gregorian chant, the liturgy (like the kids saw on Sunday...they were so moved!), an icon of Mary, or a person whose life is beautiful, like yours!

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