Last week Cosmopolitan magazine hosted the 2009 Cosmopolitan Beauty Awards in London, where awards were presented to the top beauty products in the business. Awards went to the “Best blemish buster,” the “Best body-firming potion” and the “Best age-busting night cream." Reading about these awards made me smile, because I am always amused by the enormous amount of attention given to beauty products, designer jeans, hair salons, and expensive pedicures. The covers of magazines like CosmoGirl sport catchy headlines such as “909 Tips to Look Amazing this Fall” or “50 Ways to Get Sexy Hair.” Our culture puts an incredible emphasis on being beautiful . . . that is, on the outside.
Sadly, not nearly the same attention is given to inner beauty. While the war is raging on the outside to have the perfect body, complete with the perfect clothing and perfect skin, it’s sometimes hard to remember how incredibly important it is to cultivate one’s inner beauty, or focus on developing a beautiful soul. What makes a person beautiful? It’s someone’s dedication to growing in virtue that makes him or her truly beautiful. Every time you take steps to become more courageous or more generous you’re growing into a more beautiful person; every time you go to Mass or spend time learning to pray, you grow more beautiful; every time you come out of yourself and selflessly seek someone else’s good you become more beautiful. The closer you grow to Christ, who is Beauty itself, and the more you become like Him, the more beautiful you become. It’s your character that makes you a beautiful person.
This week we celebrated the feast of another awesome saint: St. Kateri Tekakwitha. This girl had smallpox when she was very young, and so her face was permanently covered in scars. Based on her outward appearance, others probably would have labeled her as “ugly.” This girl, however, truly had a beautiful character. She consecrated her virginity to Christ and dedicated herself to the Virgin Mary. The scars on her face miraculously vanished when she died, revealing a woman of incredible beauty. This quote from a priest always reminds me that true beauty is a matter of the heart and comes with great responsibility: “A girl’s real beauty is still within. It is a thing of her soul . . . It is something by which she makes men aware of the truth and beauty and goodness of God by reflecting that beauty and goodness herself.”
(Fr. Poage, In Garments All Red, 1950).