Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Michael Terheyden

5/10/2011 (4 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Blessed John Paul II taught me that beauty and love are the path to God

While this great man is many things to many people, I will always remember Blessed John Paul II as the one who inspired me to seek heavenly things, and he did it through the beauty of his ideas. Although he has touched each of us in a unique and special way, I believe that his beatification reminds all of us to look for beauty. It can inspire us to seek heavenly things.


By Michael Terheyden

Catholic Online (

5/10/2011 (4 years ago)

Published in Christian Saints & Heroes

Keywords: Pope, Blessed, John Paul II, Beatification, Michael Terheyden

KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - I never met him, but, like so many others, he deeply touched me. He touched me in many ways, but what stands out most for me is how he touched me through his writing. It was through his books that I best came to know this great man whom we now call Blessed John Paul II. I suppose it was in college that I first realized how beautiful ideas could be. But the demands of a career almost erased this memory from my mind. Then I found his writings, and I felt the fire stir within me once again. There may be more important things that I could say about Blessed John Paul II, but I believe the best tribute that I can give him is to introduce others to the beauty that he rekindled in me.

Describing this beauty is not so easy. In fact, the study of beauty is a specialized branch of philosophy called aesthetics. Consequently, all I care to say about beauty is that based on my understanding and experience, I associate certain qualities with beauty such as order, symmetry, proportion, consistency, unity, harmony, elegance, truth, goodness, and God. In other words, when I find something to be beautiful, whether it is an idea or a work of art or anything at all, I believe that I am experiencing these qualities (and possibly others), though God is much more than a quality; He is the absolute fullness of reality. Moreover, our experience of beauty is important. In part, this is because there seems to be a relationship between beauty and the meaning of things, especially as it pertains to ideas and human existence.

Blessed John Paul II not only rekindled the beauty of ideas in me, but he also showed me where to find this beauty. He showed me to look at the connections between things. Even when we think something is beautiful in itself, we are seeing the connections within it that make it beautiful. Much of what I hear and read leads me to believe that little importance is placed on these connections today, the ravages of subjectivism and relativism, I suspect. For this reason, I will concentrate on these connections throughout the remainder of this article. I will approach them from two perspectives--the ideas of Blessed John Paul II and art. Blessed John Paul II often began with basic human experiences. Then he would examine the connections between them and Divine Revelation. We can see this for ourselves in his writings.

Some of the most beautiful and inspiring insights into human existence that I have ever encountered can be found in Part One of The Theology of the Body under the heading, "Original Unity of Man and Woman." Blessed John Paul II says, as I understand it, that one of the most fundamental realities of human existence is that the theology of the body (in its masculinity and femininity) is bound up with the creation of man in the image of God. As such, it is in and through our bodies that we image the Trinity, which he speculates may be the deepest theological truth of human existence. Perhaps you will be able to appreciate the beauty of these insights if we look at some of the connections Blessed John Paul II makes between the experiences of original solitude and original unity mentioned in the first two chapters of Genesis.

In Genesis 2:20, we read that man names all the animals. Through this process, which he participates in as a body, he learns that he is alone in the visible world. This leads to the experience of original solitude. From this experience man achieves self-awareness and the knowledge of his humanity and that he is a person. This experience also enables him to recognize the humanity of another person, as when Adam first sees Eve and exclaims, "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Gn 2:23). Thus, at the sight of each other, Adam and Eve are able to recognize an original unity which leads to relationship and the expectation of a communion of persons and overcomes their experience of solitude.

In this way, we also learn what it means to be created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says, "God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them." Blessed John Paul II reasons that an image reflects its model, its prototype; therefore, we image God not so much in the humanity we experience in our solitude, but in our experience of communion. This means that we are the image of the divine communion of persons, the Trinity, and we come to know this beautiful insight by examining the connections between Sacred Scripture and our experience as beings with physical bodies.

As an aside, about four hundred years ago, a philosopher by the name of René Descartes theorized that the mind (or soul) and the body were separate, a sort of mind-body dualism. Consequently, we began to think about ourselves as a composite of two separate entities, and this has had a profound influence on our modern ideas about human nature, morality and society. Blessed John Paul II helped heal the divide by reasserting the Christian vision, reuniting the soul and the body in his theology on the body. In time, this reunification will dramatically change our ideas about ourselves and the world. I cannot imagine what such ideas will be like, but I expect they will be breathtaking and that the Church will be at the forefront of their development.

Art offers us a another perspective of the connections between things. In this case, the various points between objects within the work of art. For those who are visually oriented, the video included above should be helpful. It is an art-instruction video and an advertisement for a particular art school. I am not endorsing the school. I am using the video because I think it is delightful and an excellent example of how beauty is related to the connections between things. The video is divided into two parts: the first part talks about substance and three dimensionality in art, and it sets the stage for part two. In the second part, the instructor analyzes what appears to be a childlike drawing of apples, and he shows us how the apples are connected to each other. What we learn is that this is a true work of art and a sophisticated design, despite having the appearance of a simplistic line drawing.

I have tried to show you the beauty that Blessed John Paul II rekindled in me by using examples from his writings and from art. While this great man is many things to many people, I will always remember Blessed John Paul II as the one who inspired me to seek heavenly things, and he did it through the beauty of his ideas. Although he has touched each of us in a unique and special way, I believe that his beatification reminds all of us that our experience of beauty is important and to look for beauty in the connections between things, especially ideas. In this way, perhaps beauty can help us evaluate the ideas that confront us today, help us find richer meaning in our lives and inspire us to seek heavenly things.


Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Christian Saints & Heroes

Jennifer Hartline: Trying to Learn Humility From St. Therese Watch

Image of St. Therese of Lisieux

By Jennifer Hartline

St. Therese helps me understand: "the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy.if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the ... continue reading

Saints and Heroes of the Faith: Fr Dwight Longenecker On The Day I Met St Therese Watch

Image of St. Therese

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

I was an Anglican priest the summer I met St Therese of Lisieux. I was living in England and had three months free between jobs, so I decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I was going to hitch hike and stay in monasteries and religious houses on the way. ... continue reading

Vocation to Love. Memorial of Saint Theresa of The Child Jesus, Virgin

Image of St. Theresa died on September 30, 1897. As a result of her sanctity and the many miracles which were accounted to her intercession, the cause for her canonization was introduced only seventeen years later.

By F. K. Bartels

The Little Flower of Jesus sacrificed her life for love of souls. She saw the magnitude of her Beloved's love for them. She offered herself for the building up of the Church, the People of God and the Mystical Body of Christ. That is truly a ... continue reading

A Promise to God: St. Michael the Archangel, Defend Us in Battle Watch

Image of Michael is also represented in icons as standing on a horizontal body and with his left arm held high, holding a small image of a

By Youngsun Jun

Though I am not strong enough to hold the suffering souls in my arms and carry them home, I can do one thing: I can pray for the deliverance of the souls who are in the darkness. I can request help from the angels for them. I can make a 911 call for them. So again, I ... continue reading

Prayer to St. Junipero Serra: 'Help me deliver the light of Christ...'

Image of Saint Junipero Serra, pray for us!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Saint Junipero Serra, pray for us! Saint Junipero Serra, your missionary zeal brought the light of Christ to millions. You endured so many hardships, and labored so much that your work resonates today in the hearts of hundreds of millions of Catholics. Saint Serra, I ... continue reading

The Life of Ignatius of Loyola Challenges All of Us to Become Saints Watch

Image of On July 31st we remember the founder of the Company or Society of Jesus (Jesuits), Ignatius of Loyola. He is the patron saint of soldiers and of retreatants. There is a connection. He was a soldier and the Spiritual Exercise which he left us have been used for hundreds of years to help men and women like us encounter Jesus Christ, on retreats, and in our daily lives. The disciplines they promote can help us to grow in holiness of life, no matter what our state in life, and equip us for service in the Army of the King, Jesus Christ.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Over the centuries, the Jesuits have been relied upon by Popes as trustworthy, heroic soldiers for Jesus Christ and His Church. Yes, there have been times when the company seemed to lose its fervor. However, Jesus Christ the King has always sent His Spirit to ... continue reading

St. Bonaventure Points us to St Francis and the Lord Jesus Christ Watch

Image of Bonaventure was a friend and a disciple of Francis. When he looked at Francis he saw Jesus Christ. Bonaventure, like his friend Francis, was also a mystic. To him the Spirit of Francis is the Spirit of Jesus and

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

On July 15th in the Liturgical Calendar of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we commemorate the life, holiness, work and death of a great Bishop and Doctor named Bonaventure. He was born in 1218, became a Franciscan Friar in 1243, and died in 1274. A friend ... continue reading

A Patron Saint for California Watch

Image of Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the heroic 'Apostle of California.' in September 2015.

By Justin Soutar

During his visit to the United States this coming September, Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the heroic 'Apostle of California.' Once that happens, the Golden State will have its own patron saint and the Church will have another great missionary role ... continue reading

Lessons From Saint Joseph The Carpenter

Image of Author Alex Basile serves as the Religion Department Chairman at Kellenberg Memorial High School and has written nine books for Saint Pauls Alba House.(

By Alex Basile

Every carpenter must practice patience. We can learn important lessons from the wood shop in Nazareth from the humble Saint Joseph. I have always been a "do it yourself" type of guy thanks to my father. My dad is always a steady presence during my home-improvement ... continue reading

Learning from St Irenaeus How to Know God Watch

Image of Irenaeus of Lyon wrote these words - The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason, God-who cannot be grasped, comprehended, or seen-allows Himself to be seen, comprehended, and grasped by men, that He may give life to those who see and receive Him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy His goodness.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

This great defender of the faith insisted on the central claim of Christianity: God can be known and loved-indeed, that is why He came into our midst in the person of His Son; so that through a  relationship with Jesus Christ, man could participate in the ... continue reading

All Christian Saints & Heroes News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Malachi 3:13-20
13 'You have said harsh things about me, says Yahweh. ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
1 How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:5-13
5 He also said to them, 'Suppose one of you has a ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 8th, 2015 Image

St. Pelagia
October 8: Pelagia, more often called Margaret, on account of the ... Read More