October 20, 2009

No Hometown Excuses

We want our homes to have cathedral ceilings but our churches to have the basement rec room ceilings. What gives?

Seriously, I walk into some houses of worships and my immediate thought is: who can I challenge to air hockey in here?

Architecture in church matters. Well, to me, it matters. Maybe no one else cares but this is my blog so there!

I openly admit I favor the more vertical architecture of soaring ceilings. I want my eyes to be led up to God.

Most of our modern churches have the horizontal architecture. I'm not a big fan of this. Fortunately, I'm short enough not to bang my head on the ceiling. This architecture forces our eyes out. To me, the emphasis is more on the congregation with this type of design.

(begin cranky digression)Let's speak a minute about the Roman Forum design of some sanctuaries (think about it). You know; the sloping aisles down to the big bowl altar set up. I think the intent here was to force the eye toward the altar (hopefully the Tabernacle is there too). Also, the lack of stairs are, I think, supposed to help those with lack of mobility approach for Communion. However, do we really need a 60 degree angle for these aisles? Talk about the faithful flowing down like rivers toward the altar; more like falling down and stumbling (which I've actually seen happen). I head back to my pew after receiving Communion and I find myself looking for the tow rope or the lift chair. Great lower leg stretch though!(end cranky digression)

Maybe we need diversity in church design? Maybe we should have it?

I do know one thing. Whether the Mass is in the gym, the community center down the street, a hut, a tent, or the Iraqi desert, it should be as solid of a Mass as we can make it. It should confirm to the liturgical rules as much as possible. By possible, I mean I give a lot of leeway (like anyone's asking me) to Father out in the desert making due with what he has as choppers fly over head. Or, a parish in Africa that is lucky to even have a non-leaking roof. Or a group of Catholics in China hiding out in a farm field to celebrate Mass. Is the homily solid? Are the teachings in conformity with the Church? If the answers are 'yes' than I'm willing to overlook some stuff that I may not, personally, prefer. However, most parishes that I know of here in Twin Cities, Minnesota, United States are not doing without to such an extent that they can't follow the GIRM at every Mass.


Blogger Angela M. said...


October 20, 2009 3:27 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 20, 2009 4:02 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

Ok - that was so mangled I had to poopcan it and start over...

When our former pastor first tried to start a Liturgical Committee (now defunct), he admitted to having not read the GIRM. Say what???

October 20, 2009 4:04 PM  
Blogger ArchAngel's Advocate said...

Adrienne, that reminds me of a tail told about one of my classmates in college. She wrote a theology paper and was told be the prof (a "new age" Jebbie") that it "wasn't Vatican II". My friend said "Father it's directly out of Vat II [and Vat II's sources but she didn't tell him that]. Have you read the Vat II documents?" "Eh, no" he admitted."

I think the best liturgical space I've ever coveted was a Jewish synagogue in San Francisco. I could do without the padded sofa-chairs (replace them with some good ol' Irish-American oak pews!) but the sanctuary area was gorgeous. (This image doesn't do it justice). It was an elevated platform where the reading table for the scrolls was dead center so all could see (I'd place the Altar here). I'd add ambo's on both sides (according to the Extraordinary Form architecture). They had placed the Ark for the Torah on the Highest part of the back of the platform with 2 curved ramps leading up to it (I'd put You Know Who there!), and there was large red Sanctuary Lamp just over the Ark. I think I'd flank the Ark/Tabernacle with Ikonostases and Statue Alcoves (like Gothic Churches) with burning votive candles. The Tabernacle would have a flat roof so that a monster sized Monstrance could be placed there for Eucharistic Adoration.

October 20, 2009 5:21 PM  
Blogger nazareth priest said...

You go, girl!
Cathy, you are so on target.
Until we can have sacred places that lift the mind and heart to God we will be in the desert.
A "mall design" will never be the appropriate place to offer the holy Sacrifice.
Okay, maybe in very special circumstances, like in persecution, we have to offer the Holy Mass in places that are available. But otherwise? Forget about it!
And as for following the rubrics of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal? Always and everywhere.

October 20, 2009 6:08 PM  
Blogger LarryD said...

Dude, you had me at "air hockey".

October 20, 2009 8:16 PM  
Blogger Nan said...

Cathy, have you seen the stadium seating at St. Stephen's? Yikes!

Archangels Advocate, um, you know that iconostases go in front of the sanctuary, right? Make more sense to have icons on either side of the Tabernacle.

October 20, 2009 10:26 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

As Nan and AA design their own sacred space....LOL!

AA: beautiful image.

Father: fugedaboutit! LOL! Yes, I agree.

Auntie: "poopcan it" LOL!

Hi Angel Baby.

Larry: It's on.

October 21, 2009 11:46 AM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

What got into you? Great post.

October 21, 2009 12:36 PM  
Blogger ArchAngel's Advocate said...

Nan: I was thinking that the iconostases could move so that they could act as their own "Sacred Doors" for Eastern Rite Liturgies but move to the sides for Western (maybe act as screens so the choirs could heard and not seen (I've seen too many choir directors (both contemporary and classical) acting as prima-donnas as more choirs move into the Sanctuary). I'd like to bring back the imagery of the Communion of Saints many older (Gothic) churches evoke.
I think the "housing development" architecture of most newer (after 1940) churches is due to $$$. A good example of this St. Dominic's in San Francisco. Built in the 1920's in the Neo-Gothic style for a couple million dollars, it has been undergoing restoration since 1989's "World Series" earthquake, While the fundamental retrofit was completed for $6 million, at least another $2 million has been spent repairing the stain glass & the building exteriors, while the 100+ year old organ still waits a $1 million restoration. I've heard that to rebuild the church would cost on the order of $100 million And that's for a modest sized church. Most parishes couldn't afford, much less commit to, building anything on that scale today. Also, when St. Dom's was built, one could count on local tradesmen to be able to commit to the building project, whereas today you'd be lucky to find the tradespeople within a reasonable distance who could do a decent job. So I suspect we won't be seeing any edifices of the order our parents or grandparent were familiar with. We'll have to work to maintain the ones that still remain.

October 21, 2009 12:49 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ter: I have to keep to do something since you keep threatening to quit!

October 21, 2009 3:16 PM  
Blogger Nan said...

AA, you mean you want to commission an iconographer, then take the chance to damage the icons while moving them? When there's no real need for it?

The Royal Doors are the only part that need to move.

Not all Eastern Rites use iconostases.

Cathy, I'm sure we'd do better than some people who design sacred space! Because weee aren't church! And breathing is an activity.

October 22, 2009 9:34 PM  
Blogger Laura The Crazy Mama said...

St. Joseph's in Menomonie, WI (went there for the first time this weekend while visiting my sis who lives there) has the craziest roof shape. I kept getting dizzy from the sloping and swooping with the wood beams in a square pattern all the way up to the altar. Oh, and the priest did the weirdest thing I've EVER see a priest do! Right before consecration, he stood there, with a big dopey smile on his face and took at least 4 minutes, looking from one side of the church...his eyes following something (invisible? ghosts? did someone strange walk in the back of church? are we supposed to do something...did I miss something?) all around the church, starting from his right all the way to his left. I asked my sis what I missed and she laughed and said, "Oh, yeah...that's his 'thing'" She had a theory that he was just scanning the congregation, praying for everyone before communion? Whatever it was, it was weird....especially weird because I was already feeling a little twilight zone with the weird ceilings. Also, he held the cup up with one hand and kind of shoved it forward (as though to say, "hey, this here's for YOU!" like a toast, or something. Okay, one more thing...the choir was shoved on the smallish altar, looking very squished and FRONT AND CENTER...when there was a perfectly HUGE choir loft, right behind us! The sick thing is, they had a beautiful sound for so few people but had a horrible song selection (of course). Oh well, it's the closest church for my sister so she tries to see the good.

October 26, 2009 8:08 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Crazy Mama: As always you put your unmistakable spin on it! LOL!

Nice to "see" you!

October 27, 2009 9:03 AM  

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