There is a well-known Dostoevsky trope that says, “beauty will save the world.” The famous Russian is usually taken to mean the beauty found in the material arts. Music, architecture, and sculpture are rightfully being plumbed for their world-saving abilities, particularly how they lead a soul back to God. But there is one stone that has yet to be unturned when considering the role beauty plays in saving the world: women.
The desire to be beautiful is deeply embedded in a woman’s soul. Each year, American women spend roughly $11 billion on cosmetic surgery, $24 billion on skin care, $18 billion on makeup, $38 billion on hair care, $15 billion on perfume, and somewhere between $20-45 billion on weight loss. The average woman spends 17 years of her life on a diet. While we can scoff at all of this with Qoheleth and say, “Vanity of vanities!” (Ecc 1:2), perhaps there is something to this that goes deeper than vanity. What if God has put that desire into our hearts for a reason? For even the smallest girl will tell you she wants to be as beautiful as a princess. This isn’t just cultural conditioning, but something universal that sits squarely in the feminine heart.
While researching my book The Marian Option (due out in May), in every apparition of Mary that I encountered the person who reported seeing Mary said she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Initially, I found this detail rather mundane — of course, Our Lady is beautiful — but then the greater importance behind her beauty finally hit me. Yes, the beauty of Mary is important because it is the outward expression of her complete perfection, but Mary’s beauty points to the beauty all women were meant to have. She wasn’t the only woman made to be beautiful.
While this may sound trite – that women are called to be like Mary — the meaning behind it is rich, expansive, and relevant to the life of every woman. Mary has been called by the saints the “neck” or the “ladder” linking heaven and earth. And every woman is called to be a bridge between her family and heaven. Women are called to spark the flame of the divine in the souls of the men and children they love. Women are called to reveal the best of God’s love and give those around them the means to find that love. Christianity is full of saintly women, such as St. Monica, St. Helen, St. Cecilia, and countless and nameless others, that led their husbands, sons and daughters to embrace the faith — even in the face of martyrdom.
Pick up any women’s magazine today and one might get the distinct impression that beauty is meant solely for the superficial: to allure men, impress your friends, or hide the ravages of age. The notion that the beautiful should point beyond itself to the source of all beauty – the Creator – is far, far away. This hollowed out beauty makes women like “whited sepulchers, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones, and of all filthiness”(Matt 23:27). We can fixate 17 years of our lives on a diet for the external, but how much time to we spend on the internal, firming up the soul? Are we asking the question, “Do I have a beautiful soul?” or even, “What is a beautiful soul?”
This article continues at [NC Register] The Beauty of Women Will Save the World