Here was a letter to the Editor complaining about Michael Rose’s new architecture site dellachiesa.com.
Why would you send a flyer condemning what you (your group) feel is ugly? If the exterior of a building is not "traditionally" attractive, yet its interior inspires and uplifts people to be moved toward a closer relationship with God, why the condemnation?
Jesus used a simple upper room for the Last Supper. He used knolls and the desert as his pulpit. Your flyer and your website appear to be very arrogant and judgmental. To assume "traditional" architecture is the best for our churches reflects a lack of depth of understanding how the heart can be moved by God. Ultimately, its the people who gather who uplift and proclaim God’s greatness. The church is not simply a monument, but a tool to help people become community who gather not only for the sacred, but to proclaim with joy thanksgiving for the gifts God gives us.
There is no need to "restore" beauty to our churches. Rather, the need seems to be for you to restore your relationship with God, without the "crutch" of architecture. When the community becomes as high or a higher priority than the building, you will then have your priorities in order. You don’t seem to understand the theology that acknowledges the value of the community. That is the good and genuine theology expressed in Vatican II.
This is really funny since usually architects and liturgist use the excuse for their Church designs as ways of enhancing community. That the church in the round concepts reinforce the church as community. Now this priest wants to say that the church architecture doesn’t matter at all and we only need to restore our relationship with God. While there is a partial truth in this it forgets the fact that we are body and soul and that the church needs to reflect these aspects also. But at the same time he was saying that this modern architecture can uplift people. Isn’t he trying to have it both ways here?
Visual beauty can reinforce spiritual truth. I have heard and read many conversion stories where people who first found themselves attracted to the beauty of a Church later found the beauty in the truth of the Church. Have you ever heard a similar conversion story that started out with an attraction to a cement box style building? Most of use are not like the desert fathers who can find God easily in a stark dry environment. If beautiful architecture is only a crutch then it is a crutch that is needed to help us stand upright in worship of God. If is rather difficult to read the Old Testament and to come to the conclusion that God expressed no preference in liturgical architecture whether it be a tent or a temple. King David was rebuked not for wanting to build a temple for God, but because he was not the person to do it and it was passed down to his Son to do. If it was only a matter of a spiritual relationship with God then no building would have been erected and no details such as the Ark of the Convenent would have been given. Instead we had explicit details as far as the wood used, how it was to be covered and gold and that statues of angels were to be placed above it.
Thank you for letting me make a comment on your "mission." It appears you choose to cast judgement, rather than allow all people to find the path to God that is most fulfilling.
I hope God will bless you and guide you to a more enlightened form of ministry.
Fr. Steven O’Brien
Modern architects are generaly a nuisance. I find their “products” very depressing. Are new church sponsorised by pharmaceuticals industries? it is like the songs during the holy mass. I feel always on the verge of crying, not because they are beautiful, but because they are a trial for the faith.
To all : Joyeux No�l!
Fr. O’Brien writes:
“There is no need to ‘restore’ beauty to our churches. Rather, the need seems to be for you to restore your relationship with God, without the ‘crutch’ of architecture. When the community becomes as high or a higher priority than the building, you will then have your priorities in order. You don’t seem to understand the theology that acknowledges the value of the community. That is the good and genuine theology expressed in Vatican II.”
By writing this, Fr. O’Brien has put the cart before the horse. Yes, community is more important than the building, but the community only exists because of what happens in the building. There is no true community, no true Ecclesia, without the sacraments. Since the church building is the place where the sacraments are celebrated, and since all sacraments, especially the Eucharist, are a participation right now of the Kingdom which will come more perfectly in the future, and because the Kingdom will be material (hence, the rusurrection of the body), the church must glorify God physically. Unless one is mindful of the sacraments, any community one tries to create by ugly architecture will not last. It is a mere temporal gathering, and edifice built on sand, and will pass away with the world. A true community exists because one becomes a brother or sister of another because both have become members of God through Baptism and the Eucharist.
The beauty of the church building is not merely a tool or a crutch, it is a sacramental. The beauty of God’s house is a theological statement that we believe that the Kingdom actually dwells within us. Ugly architecture only makes sense if God is distant, aloof and irrlevant. But God is not so. We experience God noetically only through the medium of matter. God knows this, and God intended this, which is why He took on human flesh, why he transfigured Himself on Mt. Tabor, and why He rose from the dead and ascended bodily to glory. By His Incarnation, life, Resurrection and Ascention, God has given matter a wonderful dignity, and contempt for this is contempt for God. A beautiful church is a statement that we believe in the Incarnatiion. Since any true spirituality must be founded upon Truth, a stripped church–a church that is deliberatly deisigned to mitigate the “distractions” or “crutches” of craeation will not lead to a deeper spirituality and a deeper relationship with God, but one that is more shallow that it otherwise would have been.
It is odd and unfortunate how often people want to assert that what is sacred is only a matter of personal taste. “Sacred,” however, means “set apart for the service of God;” and sacred things should move people to contemplate God. Since, however, God is not produced by anyone, does not exist primarily to amuse us, and does not change, it seems fitting that sacred art, music, and architecture should have standards apart from the taste of any individual, might not be what people find most entertaining (although it should be sublime and beautiful), and should form some perduring tradition.
If beautiful architecture is only a crutch then it is a crutch that is needed to help us stand upright in worship of God.
That’s a great way of putting.
Some of us are wounded, fallen creatures who need that crutch.
It’s funny how often I agree exactly with a commenter and then find that I’m married to him. I’m with Cacc: I’d have thought it was a parody.
If there is a cheaper rhetorical ploy than the mock-charitable – mournfully hoping that God would turn the opponent’s heart and guide him into the True Path – I have yet to encounter it. Save it, pal.