Editorial: Mundum Pulchritudo Salvum Faciet

by Duncan G. Stroik, appearing in Volume 35

“Is it true, prince, that you once declared that ‘beauty would save the world’? Great Heaven! The prince says that beauty saves the world! ... What beauty saves the world?”

—Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

Saint Vitus, Rome
Saint Vitus, Rome

The list of artists, architects, and dancers who are canonized saints is not very long. Yet the artists who tried to live saintly lives is. I knew one myself. Catholic artists live to make the world a more beautiful place and to allow Christ to be present in man’s highest creation. That creation is an art which edifies man and glorifies God.

I knew a ballerina who tried to portray joy in all that she did. She knew that it seemed natural to make dance about oneself, about novelty or eroticism. Her goal instead was to sanctify the art form, to reject the worldly and revive the good, the true, and the beautiful. The finest ballets share this with great art and architecture: a profound story is told, the music uplifts, and the performance is a work of excellence.

She was devoted to her craft, spending countless hours practicing and studying the works of great ballerinas. She pushed her body like an athlete to be the best physically and like a musician to be the best technically. Like all classical artists she sought out great teachers both living and dead, and wanted to bring new classical works of choreography to the public.

She was not a prodigy in high school, but pushed herself to improve and each year she gained technique and roles. She disliked mediocrity, especially in herself, and wanted to be perfect as her Heavenly Father is perfect. Her strength, like many Catholic artists, came from daily Mass and its extension, Eucharistic adoration.

Like some of the greatest artists and even saints, she died young, at twenty-three. She is my daughter, Raffaella Maria Adelaide Stroik. This was the prayer she wrote:

God, the Most High, I thank you for this opportunity to use my gifts that you graciously bestowed on me. I praise you and bless you for this expertise. May I use them to help glorify your holy name. May the talent and beauty I possess point to the exquisiteness that you bestow on the world. May all those that see it glorify your loveliness, for all things flow from you. Jesus, the searcher of minds and hearts, I invite you into my heart today. Create a new one within me. Replace my stony heart with one that beats only to love you. I want nothing, if not you. Send forth the Holy Spirit, the Bearer of love, joy, and peace, to rest upon me. Keep me free from harm, pure in heart. Keep me joyful in mistakes, passionate in holy desires. Keep me strong in adversity, confident in fear. Remind me that my soreness and bruises are proof that I loved fiercely. Help me to not let the suffering go to waste, and to offer it up to you as purification for my shortcomings. Saint Vitus and Saint Genesius of Rome, pray for me.