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The Philosophy and Apologetics of Beauty

Join this philosophy and theology course for young men and women that explores the beauty in creation, humanity, art, and God’s masterwork in each of us. Learn how the expression of true beauty brings us closer to God.

Total classes: 6

Prerequisite: None

Suggested grade level: 9th to 12th

Suggested credit: 1/2 semester of
 Philosophy or Theology. For a full semester credit, register for another philosophy or theology course.


The last four popes have made explicit reference to the aspect of Beauty as a path leading to God for the modern heart. This course will take up that invitation made most recently by Pope Francis himself who wrote, “Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the ‘way of beauty’… Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus.” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 167) Mr. Donaghy will accompany students in walking this Way of Beauty, proposing the necessity of cultivating a contemplative gaze on the beauty of reality (creation and the human person) as the “arrowhead of evangelization” for moderns today. Through lecture, guided meditation, and instruction on the varied beauty of creation, and human endeavors to capture and convey the Beautiful through a variety of artistic works, we will culminate in the beauty of the human person, God’s masterwork, through the light of St. John Paul II’s theology of the body. 


The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing… to find the place where all the beauty came from…” – C.S. Lewis

· Week 1: The Lost Art of Wonder

An introduction to the art of being human; a creature created for its own sake and invited to “choose the better part”: contemplation of the Divine Beauty of God in the world.

· Week 2: Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord

A lecture on the sacramentality of creation and the nurturing of a sacramental vision of reality.

· Week 3: A Terrible Beauty is Born

A reflection on the attraction and distraction of visible beauty; the challenge of seeing things as icons of the Infinite or idols grasped in the moment. Prudence, wonder, reverence, stewardship.

· Week 4: The “End” of Beauty

A lecture on the power and purpose of eros on the Way of Beauty; integration, sublimation, transformation. Cf. St. John Paul II’s TOB audiences, etc., and Pope Benedict XVI’s works.

· Week 5: The Apologetics of Beauty and the Art of Accompaniment

Entering the Great Conversation. How a heart and head knowledge of great art and literature allows us to tap into the deepest questions of humanity throughout the ages.

· Week 6: The Beauty of Holiness: How Beauty Will Save the World

Reflecting on Beauty and the saints as an “arrowhead of Evangelization.” The Beauty of prayer and the spiritual life, liturgy, and the discernment of vocation.

Materials and Homework

Course Materials: 

1. Leisure Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper. Publisher: St. Augustine’s Press; 1 edition (1707) ASIN: B01182H6WS

2. Letter to Artists, St. John Paul II. https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/letters/1999/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_23041999_artists.html

3. Various other readings (provided free online or as PDF files) from C.S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory, Tolkien’s Silmarillion, Fr. Thomas Dubay, Von Balthasar’s Heart of the World, etc.


1. Assigned readings and short essay assessments will be given

2. Lectio Divina style reflections on assigned poems, video pieces, sacred art, and literature will be given. (The theological substance and philosophical vocabulary of our study of Beauty is expected to be applied)

3. A project “Appreciating a Masterpiece” will be assigned or a comparative creation of a work of Beauty will be assigned, either musical, literary, or visual (painting, sculpture)

Important Dates

Class Dates: Thursdays, Aug 29 to Oct 17, 2024 (No class Sep 5 or Oct 10)

Time: 2:30 PM Eastern (1:30 Central; 12:30 Mountain; 11:30 Pacific)

Duration Per Class: 55 minutes

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