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State Chaplin 2017 - 2018

Picture of Rev Kenney St. Hilaire

Rev Kenney St. Hilaire

March 2018  

I recently read a book co-authored by Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, and the journalist John Allen. The book, To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age, is something of a biography of Bishop Barron and an exposition of his ideas on various topics, especially relating to the New Evangelization.

Did you ever have an idea that you kind of kept to yourself, and then find out later that someone whose judgment and insight you really admire had the same idea? This happened to me while I was reading Bishop Barron’s remarks about the means of attracting people to our Catholic Faith in this day and age. 

My thoughts on the matter began to be formulated many years ago—probably around the time I entered the seminary and started thinking about faith-related issues more deeply. They were most certainly influenced by my experience in the major seminary in Rome and the various travels I was able to enjoy during the years I lived in Europe. The basic thrust of my reflections (and, it turns out, Bishop Barron’s reflections as well) on winning people’s hearts is this: show them the beauty of Catholicism.

Watching people step into St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time, not once did I ever see anyone roll his eyes and say, “Blech! This place does nothing for me! How can anyone pray in here??” Rather, the typical response was speechlessness while his face turned heavenward and his mouth gaped open in sheer awe.

Even when it came to liturgical music—a topic not always agreed upon by all, even the most devout—I saw how the well-prepared selections sung by our 50-voice seminary choir brought a real experience of the sacred to those who heard them. From Gregorian chant to 21st-century compositions, beautiful music touches the soul.

Yes, there may have been a day when converts were won by logical arguments and explanations of the Church’s doctrines, and even though there are still a handful of intellectual folks who will come to Catholicism because it teaches Truth, the sad fact is that appeals to reason are no longer effective in attracting the attention of most people. However, everyone loves beauty. Everyone likes to be in beautiful places. Everyone likes to hear beautiful sounds. Look at how people (even those who don’t swim!) flock to the seashore, or how they venture into the mountains to enjoy the beauty of the panoramic views, or how they pay to hear the symphony play or a choir sing. My parents have a special houseplant, and every time it blooms, my Dad takes pictures of it; beauty captures the heart!

This is the reason Bishop Barron filmed his popular Catholicism series at all kinds of amazing Catholic sites around the world. He knew the beauty of those places would move the hearts of those who saw them.

If our churches and our liturgy lack the kind of beauty that really speaks to the heart of everyone who joins us on Sunday morning for Mass—I mean, jaw-dropping beauty—we will have a hard time overcoming the trend of dwindling numbers in our parishes.

We all ought to do what we can to enhance the beauty of our churches and our liturgy. First, though, we’ve got to live by our Faith in a way that its beauty attracts others every day.

 Vivat Jesus!


Fr. Kenneth St. Hilaire

State Chaplain