Why “A Beautiful Mess”?


Each summer Catholic Heart Workcamp chooses a theme. One year it was “Live to Give.” This year it was “A Beautiful Mess.”

My first reaction to this year’s theme was incomprehension. What does that mean? “Live to Give” was clear, punchy, and memorable; “A Beautiful Mess” seemed to be none of these.

Reflecting on the phrase over the week helped me to understand how much truth about us, our world, and God is packed into that phrase.

The first hint came from CHWC itself. This is how CHWC explained it:

The world is as messy as it is beautiful and as beautiful as it is messy.

We are surrounded by God’s beauty in creation, and life’s blessings, yet there is so much pain, injustice and poverty that exists simultaneously. Likewise, as human beings we were designed and created in God’s image for goodness yet we recognize we all have our own messes in our lives. The beauty lies in the truth that God’s love is constant despite any mess.

Service to others requires us to get messy not just physically, with dirty hands, cement splashed shoes and paint stained clothes. Service is also about listening to the stories of others, being emotionally involved and then, without judgement, loving and caring as Christ.

It is. We Are. A Beautiful Mess.

Team 18 certainly experienced this messiness as further posts will describe. And God certainly pulled good out of it. That was one level of reflection. But there is much more to pull out.

The world and all in it was created beautiful:

“My name is known: God and King. I am most in majesty, In whom no beginning may be and no end. Highest in potency I am, And have been ever. I have made stars and planets in their courses to go. I have made a moon for the night and a sun to light the day also. I have made earth where trees and grasses spring, Beasts and fowl, both great and small, all thrive and have my liking. I have made all of nothing for man’s sustenation And of this pleasant garden that I have mostly goodly planted I will make him gardener for his own recreation. [source: Godspell Prologue, found here]”

Let that sink in. God chose to create us. He chose to create the world and all in it as a place of beauty and greatness to please us, to make us happy. He infused all He created with something of His beauty, that is, of Himself because He is beauty itself. He did not need to do this; God did it because He wanted to.

But mankind ripped it to shreds. We pollute. We use more resources than we need for our sustentation. We turn God’s freely given gift into a mess. That is, of course, original sin. It mars our souls just as it mars the physical environment. We’ve made a mess of things.

But that is not the end of the story.

God’s beauty remains; no matter how attenuated it may be. We see it through the mess, a still small voice whispering to us through the cacophony. God renews and refreshes so that the cacophony itself becomes beautiful.

How does He do this? Grace.

On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the priest pointed to the altar saying, “this is real.” Not merely getting close to some famous person’s life. Not basking in reflected glory. Not shaking hands with the President and talking about it for years. No, through the Body and Precious Blood of Christ, we really participate, are incorporated, into Christ’s life, the very life of God.

Our souls are messes due to original sin. Grace restores that beauty.

Our world is a beautiful mess, physically and spiritually. When our work proceeds from grace – from the very life of God – we restore some of that original beauty; we become agents of grace.

“A Beautiful Mess” was indeed the perfect theme.

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