The good, the true and the beautiful. “Love ye truth and justice.” These phrases are what define the mission of the University of Dallas. Our Core curriculum strives to pursue these themes throughout history, from the earliest thinkers to modern times.
The Rome experience gives students the opportunity to encounter these eternal ideals across different cultures and epochs. The good and the true are visible in the great texts that we study. The beautiful is seen on our Rome campus and throughout the ancient cities of Europe.
Isn’t there something lacking, however, when one returns to the “dirty Irv?” The joke about UD’s presence on the list of ugliest campuses may ring true. The bland brick and the modern glass structures are lacking that inherent beauty one sees while strolling down the cobbled streets of Rome with grand Renaissance and Baroque churches and monuments rising above. If we, as an institution, say we are pursuing these three perfect ideals, where is the beautiful?
I must admit the real beauty of UD is not physical; it is in the people and the relationships formed between them. No matter what the weather, blistering hot or oddly frigid, a meaningful conversation between two friends never disappoints. There is also some natural beauty on campus. Watching the sun set behind the trees or going for a walk in the woods reminds one of the beauty of nature the Romantics told of. We as men, too, have the ability to create beauty through the buildings we build and the art we create. We can, as a way of using our talents to the best of our ability, glorify God.
Admittedly, the academic buildings do not necessarily need a pleasant aesthetic, although that would be nice. The physical beauty would cause students to marvel and be drawn upward in thought, like in Raphael’s “School of Athens.”
Even more so, the place where God dwells in the tabernacle, the chapel, necessarily needs a worthy aesthetic. Catholic churches are constructed on the principle of giving glory to God in their ornateness and creating a space sacred for an encounter between man and God.
Do the psychedelic cross or the gray and pink image behind the baptismal font create a space for man to encounter God? I do not mean to doubt the artist’s intention, just the way in which it is portrayed.
Should not we, as a university pursuing the beautiful, seek out beautiful artwork and statues to adorn the place in which we come to encounter our Creator? Should not we create a space that signifies a direction toward the tabernacle, where He resides, and toward the altar, on which He is made present? Should not we use rich music and traditions, passed down by the holy Catholic Church, in our liturgies to embrace the devotion that the early Church had? Should not we make this orientation toward the beautiful our primary goal?
First, we have to ask ourselves: Is this what we actually want, or are we okay with remaining complacent with what we have now? I, for one, am for change. I have seen these sentiments expressed by many other students on campus. Change will only come when we voice our concerns in unison. It must come from a deep desire for pursuing the beautiful and a deeper desire for encountering our Creator.
We need current students to promote this on campus and alumni to give back to the great institution that UD is, so that it can continue to more deeply pursue the Good, the True and the Beautiful.