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Why True Beauty Attracts And Converts Youth


By Plinio Maria Solimeo, American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property

A recent study by a youth organization linked to England’s Anglican Church states that “church buildings are very influential in the conversion of youth to Christianity.” Analyzing this study, the Daily Telegraph of London quotes that “around 13 percent of teenagers said that they decided to become a Christian after a visit to a church or cathedral,” and that “the influence of a church building was more significant than attending a youth group, going to a wedding, or speaking to other Christians about their faith.” The Telegraph adds that “the study suggests that Church-employed methods such as youth groups, are less effective to attract teenagers than prayer or visit to a church.”

What attracts these English youth to churches and cathedrals, many of them jewels from the Middle Ages stolen from Catholic worship during the apostasy and schism of the lurid King Henry VIII?

The answer is that young people are attracted by the beauty of the architecture, the colorful stained glass windows, and the slender towers and domes that defy the ages. They seek out all that is missing in the new soulless and lifeless churches built according to the rules of so-called modern architecture.

Youth’s attraction to beauty gives rise to philosophical questions: what is beauty? Is it subjective or objective?

Since ancient times, philosophers, especially Aristotle, have studied beauty and tried to explain it adequately. Following in the footsteps of the Greek philosopher, Saint Thomas Aquinas masterfully addressed this issue.

He explains that ultimately, beauty is one of the most enchanting divine perfections that brings us back to the Creator and leads us to love Him.

In his Summa Theologica, Saint Thomas says that as images and likenesses of God, all created beings participate and reflect this divine beauty in some way.

However, our inquiry is limited to the effect of the beauty of Christian architecture produces on today’s youth.

We have to resort to earlier times since almost everything in the Church has suffered from a “modern” influence due to the Second Vatican Council’s “opening of the Church to the world.” From the liturgy to hardly sacred, secularized Church music to dreadful architecture, all aspects of religious life today have sacrificed beauty and succumbed to a dominating ugliness and bad taste associated with modernity.

Interest in the beauty of religious architecture among young people is surprising and universal.

The story of the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a noteworthy example. When increasing numbers of the university’s 25,000 students started to attend mass, the old chapel became so small that a new one had to be built.

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