Thanks to Barbara Nicolosi at Church of the Masses for posting this great quote by Dietrich von Hildebrand. I've never read him but am now inclined to seek out his writing:
"...let me affirm unambiguously that beauty does in fact have an ennobling effect. Contact with an environment permeated by beauty not only offers a real protection against every kind of impurity and baseness, brutality, and untruthfulness; it also has the positive effect of elevating us in an ethical sense. It does not draw us into a self-centered pleasure where we only wish to indulge ourselves. On the contrary, it opens our hearts, inviting us to transcendence and leading us before the face of God...(Beauty) frees us from captivity in our egoistic interests and undoes the fetters of our hearts, releasing us (even if only for a short time) from the wild passions that constrain them."
Along those same lines here's a quote by horror author Dean Koontz (courtesy of Happy Catholic):
"I can walk in the rose garden, watch the joyful capering of my dog, and see the indisputable work of God. The key is beauty. If the world is merely a complex and efficient machine, beauty is not required. Beauty is in fact superfluous. Therefore beauty is a gift to us. If we were soulless machines of meat, the survival instinct would be all we needed to motivate us. The pleasures of the senses - such as taste and smell - are superfluous to machines in a godless world. Therefore, they are gifts to us, and evidence of divine grace. The older I’ve gotten, the more beauty, wonder and mystery I see in the world."