November 27, 2009

Catholic College Identity

I finally got around to reading my October 2009 issue of Scan the alumnae magazine for St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. The magazine is sent to all alumnae and I am one.

For an alum magazine, it's done very well. I'm sure the intent is threefold; keep us informed of what's going on with the campus and the school, keep us informed of our classmates and inspire us to donate money or time to the school.

I appreciate the school for the self-confidence it gave me and several of the academic programs are solid. However, regarding the defense of, admiration of and propagation of the Roman Catholic faith, the university falls flat on its face most of the time.

I'm in a different place now than I was back in the late 1980s-early 1990s when I was an undergrad at St. Catherine University. My Catholic Faith, I like to think, has evolved and deepened. In many ways, despite the best efforts of the university. My definition of authentic Catholicism is probably different from most of the faculty of the university. Even when I attended the university (it was a college back then), I was down right conservative compared to most. I attended Mass in the Our Lady of Victory Chapel almost daily. I was waffling on abortion. Most of my classmates were pro-choice. I wasn't sure that I was. While not fully pro-life, I can already see that I was 'getting there'.

Most of my profs were Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. The Sisters are still around but most of the faculty are not religious (have fun with that!) of the Order-or any Order for that matter. In fact,I doubt most of the faculty are Catholic. I don't think all faculty at a Catholic school MUST be Catholic. However, I believe strongly that they should at the very least respect the Faith that sponsors their institution and, arguably, pays their salary.

But, I digress.

Getting back to Our Lady of Victory Chapel.

St. Catherine University has one of the most beautiful campuses that you will find anywhere. The Chapel is a beautiful building. Unlike many instititutions, it is very much a freestanding and full-sized church. I've been in other colleges where the Chapel is only a room in a campus building. Not so at St. Kate's.

In this issue of Scan there is an article about the origins of the Chapel. I heard much of this back when I was a student, but I read it with interest because I love the Chapel.

I remember a lot of bad liturgy in that Chapel. In fact, I have a photo of a "mass" that if I posted it would cause huge howls but I'm holding off. Not sure why. That was then. This is now. Maybe.

But, the buiding is lovely.

However, I found this quote by Kathy Daniels, art director of Catherine G. Murphy Galleries in the Art Building on campus, interesting.

"The Chapel doesn't have Catholic paintings, a prominent Catholic-style crucifix or ranks of statues. It's a place where our Protestant students and our Jewish, Muslim and Hindu students don't feel excluded. And its simplicity helps create a mood of peacefulness that's very conducive to its mission as a chapel, a place for meditation as well as celebration. I love ornate churches, but sometimes they can be distracting when I am trying to pray"

Did the non-Catholic students neglect to read the part of the University's Mission statement where it talks about "education in the CATHOLIC tradition"? I wonder at what point, ecumenisists will quite believing that ecumenism means denying and watering down your own faith so as not to "offend" anyone? At what point, does anyone care if God is offended?

Does the Chapel on a CATHOLIC campus HAVE to define "welcoming" and "inclusivity" as pretending it's not Catholic? If I go into a Yoga meditation center am I allowed to be upset that there is no statue of the Virgin inside? Of course not. It's not part of that faith practice.

In fairness, there are some Catholic clues around the building but I found her comment interesting. Also, I know Methodist, Lutheran and Jewish schools have had some of their faith identity removed over time as well.

What really bothers me is her comment about the architecture. ARCHITECTURE can be distracting to pray? Especially ornate architecture? I don't know about you but what I find most distracting during prayer are the presence of other people rustling around, talking, walking by, laughing, in church while I'm trying to pray.

Isn't Church architecture, when done well, supposed to lead us to prayer and devotion? If the architecture does "distract" you, how can you be distracted by prayer? If you are gazing upon a mural of the Ascension behind the altar, isn't that gaze a form of prayer? How can it NOT be? Even a blank wall can lead one to prayer. A blind person can pray. Real prayer is interior anyway. However, I found her comments interesting.

/end ramble


Blogger Shirley said...

Sounds like this University needs a lot of prayer support to return to the roots of it's faith. Hmmm, let me see, Catholic, wasn't it?

November 27, 2009 2:40 PM  
Blogger Tom in Vegas said...

"It's a place where our Protestant students and our Jewish, Muslim and Hindu students don't feel excluded."

Thanks for lighting my fuse, Cathy, with the above excerpt.

I simply cannot believe that a Catholic institution would protitute itself for the sake of being politically correct. Oh, wait yes I can: Notre Dame.

November 27, 2009 4:28 PM  
Blogger Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

You are right on, Cathy.
The very architecture, images, placement of what is important (the altar and the tabernacle) speak of the Catholic Faith.
Real prayer IS interior. But the senses (according to St. Thomas Aquinas and the perennial practice of the Church) are the means by which we internalize the faith.
Keep praying, dear sister.
The women religious of this country are in real need of prayer and penance.
I won't get into the visitation of the apostolic women religious can read about that on the NCR webpage or others.
All I have to say is: Jesus, mercy!

November 27, 2009 5:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nice post, Cath!

I've attended Mass a couple of times in Our Lady of Victory Chapel. It is absolutely a very beautiful structure and very conducive to meditation.

The first time I was there, maybe four or five years ago, I sat near some elderly women. When I automatically said during the recitation of the Creed, "for us men and for our salvation", I thought that one of them was going to punch me. And her glare could have killed had it lasted a bit longer.

"The Chapel doesn't have Catholic paintings, a prominent Catholic-style crucifix or ranks of statues.

I doubt that that sentence was written about the chapel anytime prior to the Second Vatican Council.

November 27, 2009 5:57 PM  
Blogger Nan said...

Ray, I had the same reaction on the feastday of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica; I was at the Cathedral, near people who said "for us and our salvation" had issues with "him;" they said "God." If I recall correctly, he became human.

There were a lot of liturgical tourist out that day...easy to tell because they don't stand when they see the priest, sit before he sits, use inappropriate hand gestures, etc.

November 27, 2009 7:05 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

I know you think I'm self-centered and all - but couldn't Ray acknowledge me once in awhile - he always comments on your blog. I'm tired of carrying him.

BTW - It was so warm, I swam Lake Como today in my Speedo.

I know! This is off topic.

November 27, 2009 8:42 PM  
Blogger Adoro said...

Hmmm....maybe the woman, if she is "distracted" by architecture and devotions, has a more Cistercian spirituality?

Maybe Trappist?

There's nothing wrong, innately, with being drawn to simplicity, but of course, even in the most austere practices, Jesus Christ is front and center, and His Mother is also prominent. It might be "stripped" but the communication with the Communion of Saints continues, and...does not deny to others those devotions.

Austerity is a calling for a few...and shouldn't be the norm for the majority. Not in art and architecture.

Kick the people to the curb at St. Kate's who are trying to make Catholicism into their own image. If I want an idol, I'll go to the new age store on the corner, thanks.

November 27, 2009 10:17 PM  
Blogger Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

Terry; A speedo??? You polar-bear, was damned cold even here in Wisconsin today!! Our Jack Russell terrier was shivering all day and even I put on a sweater in the house.
Adoro: You go, girl!Enough with these false idols...we have enough of this crap in the Diocese of Lacrosse with Reiki, yoga (in our retreat centers in convents) and whatever the hell else goes wonder we have the problems we do in our little monastery!!

November 27, 2009 11:52 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ah, if I only had been there with my camera and its 10 power lens! Terry in a speedo!

I'd be rich! He'd probably be on the cover of the Enquirer showing off those goosebumps!

One of the reasons that I don't comment much over at Abbey Roads is that you are too inspirational.

I need what Cathy provides, rants, cranky comments, expose's and gossip. I am in the news business, you know.

November 28, 2009 11:22 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ter: I hope you were able to get all the mud and leeches off! You better check! *psyche* Nice going, now you got Father all riled up and Ray checking his blood pressure! :-)

November 28, 2009 1:43 PM  

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