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Faith Conversations: 'Beauty will save the world,' he said; I agree

Roxane Salonen, columnist

Last Saturday, I spent the day with over 600 other ladies for the Fargo Diocese's Redeemed Women's conference.

The event centered on the reality that our identity as women comes not from what we do, but in who we are: beloved daughters of the Father.

The two opening speakers gave moving testimonies that spoke to the heart of our "feminine genius," the innate, life-giving capacities of women in both earthly and spiritual motherhood.

First up was Sister Mary Elizabeth of the Sisters of Life religious order, which ministers to women in need — including those in unplanned pregnancies — on the streets of New York.

Journalist, wife and mother Colleen Carroll Campbell followed, sharing how women saints throughout the ages still have so much to teach us about ourselves today.

I was deeply touched by these speakers' stories, which prompted unexpected tears as I reflected on their words of truth.

But what happened next left me breathless.

Right after lunch, four musicians joined us for a performance that held the room in a holy trance.

The composer and group leader, Eric Genuis, and his three accompanying musicians seemed to unlock a space in our hearts that had been forgotten.

Before playing his piece "Serenade," he shared how he'd written it just hours after his infant son died shortly after birth, and after witnessing his wife singing to her dying child while holding her wee one tenderly to her cheek.

"It was beautiful," he said. "Sad, yes, but beautiful."

Our hearts were gripped again as he talked of his daughter with Down syndrome and how she exhibits love toward others in a way that teaches and humbles him daily.

"I believe that beauty will save the world," Genuis said, adding that a world bereft of music is one lacking the life-giving, loving reality of God.

I believe this, too.

Genuis brings his music into facilities of incarceration — the group performed at the Cass County Jail the day prior.

He shared how one time, a prisoner, admitting he hadn't shed a tear over the deaths of his family members, wept uncontrollably after hearing Genuis and his musicians.

Another prisoner stood up after a performance and said, "I'd forgotten what hope feels like."

"Music is a language that speaks to the heart, mind and soul in a way words cannot," Genuis explained.

He also visits schools — Fargo North High School was among his stops locally — and said when young people are not exposed to beautiful music, a great deprivation of the soul occurs.

"True art uplifts the listener and elevates their humanity," he said.

Due to the overwhelmingly positive responses here, Genuis will return in September, and perform for an even wider audience. Meanwhile, find his works online. And have tissues ready.