“Looking like a Catholic church”: Liturgy, Architecture, Form, and Function

Recently on Crux, Fr. Dwight Longenecker published a piece entitled, “Why a Catholic church should look like a Catholic church.” While there is much that is commendable contained therein, both the title and the piece itself engage in question begging with regard to what it means to “look like a Catholic Church.” I don’t know anyone who would defend the proposition “a Catholic church should not look like a Catholic church” (except maybe a Catholic in a situation where the Church is outlawed). What is at issue is not whether a Catholic church should look like a Catholic church, but rather what this means.

It is at first glance commendable to appeal, as Fr. Longenecker does, to the common sense of ordinary people to settle the question of what it means to look like a Catholic Church. The sum total of things that might go into “looking like a Catholic church” is vast and varied and the ability of people to perceive amidst that vast variety the Gestalt that says “Catholic church” is not to be ignored. As Justice Potter Stewart said regarding pornography, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.” So when Fr. Longnecker says, “a Catholic church should look like a Catholic church” what he is really saying must be something like “a Catholic church should look like what your average Catholic thinks a Catholic church should look like.” This of course raises the issue of who counts as an “average Catholic” (apart from the third-grader mentioned in the opening paragraph), but at least the statement is not question-begging.

Yet there might be other ways of addressing the question of what it means to “look like a Catholic Church.” One way would be to follow the architectural principle that “form follows function.” This does not mean, as some modernist ideologues and those opposed to them seemed to think, that a building should be nakedly functionalist, stripped of anything that is not functional in the most pedestrian sense. But it does mean that the form a building takes should facilitate its purpose.

Now part of the purpose of a Catholic church is to foster a certain devotional affectivity by providing space for personal prayer that can feed on the rich Catholic tradition of using space and image to convey a sense of the interplay of divine transcendence and immanence. This is why a Catholic church cannot be functionalist in the sense of being stripped of all ornamentation; one of the functions of a Catholic church is to let its beauty speak of God to all who pass through its doors.

But fostering devotional affectivity, while important, is not the main function of a Catholic church. Providing a place for the celebration of the liturgy—whether the Eucharistic liturgy, the Liturgy of the Hours, or the other Rites of the Church—is its main function. So “looking like a Catholic Church” should mean, primarily but not exclusively, “looking like a place in which the Church’s liturgy can be well celebrated.”

Fr. Longenecker alludes to this when he writes:

although our new church is built in a Romanesque style, it is not simply a throwback to a pre-Vatican II age. The seating is planned around a central altar with good acoustics and sight lines to aid full participation of the laity in worship.

This is all to the good. However, though I do not know if the images and plans I have found for the church online represent its intended final form, I do wonder if in some cases a disjunction between what the average person means by “looking like a Catholic church” and what the liturgy requires has not led to some unfortunate choices. For example, the sketches of the baptismal area seems to show a font that looks like what the average Catholic who grew up in a church built before 1970 would expect, but which seems incapable of accommodating the practice of full immersion, which seems to be the preferred form in the baptismal rite (an example of the ressourcement to which Fr. Longenecker appeals) and should at the very least be possible for those who desire it.

Likewise, the plans seem to show both an ambo and a pulpit, but no obvious place for the presider’s chair: plans

As far as I can tell, the liturgy does not call for a separate pulpit for preaching, and given the way that the homily is integrated into the liturgy of the word one might well argue that the word should be preached from the same place it has been proclaimed. Likewise, the liturgy seems to presume that the chair from which the celebrant presides over the liturgy of the word should be integral to the design of the building, not tucked away somewhere as an afterthought. Also, the plans seem to show little thought being given to such things as providing a place for rites such as scrutinies of celebrations of the Hours, with only a small area in front of the altar where these might take place (one weakness of the “average Catholic” understanding of “looking like a Catholic church” is that it is focused almost entirely on the celebration of Mass and pays little attention of other liturgies).

Which is all to say that while the new church for Fr. Longenecker’s parish “looks like a Catholic church” in the sense of what your average Catholic expects a church to look like (and this is a genuine and important sense), it is not clear to me that it entirely succeeds in looking like a Catholic church in another (and I would argue more important) sense: that of having a form adapted to the demands of the liturgy. I personally don’t think these two senses of looking like a Catholic Church need to be at odds with each other. But, from a distance at least, it seems that Fr. Longenecker’s new church has opted for the first sense of “looking Catholic” over the second.







36 responses to ““Looking like a Catholic church”: Liturgy, Architecture, Form, and Function”

  1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    I will add my usual bleat on this topic: the aural dimension of a church is as important as the visual. It’s just a heckuva lot easier to dilate on visual design than it is on acoustical design; unfortunately, that reality has a terrible effect on modern church design, because the natural acoustical properties of a church are too often treated as something incidental and that can be remedied with a sound system (the answer to that assumption is No – a sound system will not truly remedy a flawed natural acoustical design).

    A Roman church needs to be designed for the musical norms of the Roman rite.

    1. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

      @Karl Liam Saur:
      To his credit, Fr. Longenecker does mention acoustics, but of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        @Fritz Bauerschmidt:
        Indeed he did but it was in passing, as it were. And you are correct.

        While good acoustics can be had in many ways, it may surprise people how many common visual design desiderata can militate against good acoustics as presumed by the musical norms of the Roman rite.

        Btw, it’s *not* a matter that Old Style=Best Style. The inaudible prayers and lections of the Middle Ages meant that recited texts didn’t need to be clearly heard – what needed to be heard was a unison chant line. In the early Modern era, polyphony and sermons needed to be heard, and the acoustical needs modulated accordingly. Now congregations need to be able to hear and recite in dialogue, and ideally sing in dialogue, too, and the treasury of Church music still needs to be able to be offered. That calls for good – but not excessive – natural resonance. A delicate balance. No gigantism, and no big domes raised on high drums for that matter. But also not theatrical or convention center acoustics where there’s an “audience” that just has to enjoy the show. Et cet. The visuals are so easy to think about. Not the sounds. (PS: good reference points would be Roman basilicas from the First Millennium – aside from S Peter’s and S Paul’s and the Lateran – perhaps something more like S Mary Major for cathedrals and S Sabina for large parishes, for example…)

  2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    Interesting. The way many pastors and not a few bishops have interpreted this is not just in visual architecture and acoustics, but also in people. Quite often in the past fifty years have schools been built first, because, as we all know, churches look like communities with children, moms, and dads. And bake sales, sports, graduations, flagpoles, twice-daily traffic jams, and such. And if an auditorium or gymnasium can “fake” a church look, and if the faith community finds itself in great debt or fatigued from building a nice campus, maybe that is enough for some Catholic tastes.

    I’ve worked for four parishes with school buildings. All were founded by pre-conciliar pastors. One built a church in 1945 and added a school soon after. The others first built their schools in the 60s. Two of those added a church in the 80s. My current one also built a school in the 60s. After construction was completed, they then were told by the bishop that a school wasn’t needed after all. So we have a gym as a place of worship, a gym that never saw a single ball swish through a hoop, no rubber ball dodged, or any group dances accompanied by scratchy record-players.

    The Church looks like pragmatic decisions, and sometimes made in errors, or to cut corners, or try to save money. By the way, Fr L doesn’t look like a Catholic priest to some people because of his wife and children. Is there anything to that? I don’t think so.

    I would submit the notion that *being* a Catholic Church is more important than good looks. If liturgy can be well-celebrated in a gym or auditorium, and if the prescriptions of Luke 4:16ff and Matthew 25:31ff are met, then maybe it doesn’t look like a traditional American Roman Catholic church building. But it might look very much like a Catholic Church.

  3. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    The primary reason parochial schools were built before churches in the USA, at least before roughly 1966, was the precepts of the Council of Baltimore that put a presumptive obligation on Catholic parents to send their kids to parochial instead of public schools. I was my parents’ 5th out of 6th children, and my parents were very very delighted when the local bishop gave pastors a lot more freedom to dispense parents from this requirement after Vatican II – we had *excellent* public schools, and not-so-great parochial schools, so I was the first one in my family to go entirely through public school.

    But that parish worshipped in the dreary school auditorium until the mid-1980s. The experience was sometimes soul-deadening (that can also happen in “churchier” looking buildings too, of course).
    I was dee-lighted, once I was in high school, to be able to walk or bike to our family’s older parish, which had a wonderful if small Romanesque church building a liturgical praxis formed by decades of Benedictine fathers (who had just left after the diocese decided to gobble back up a relative gem of a parish).

  4. Shannon O'Donnell Avatar
    Shannon O’Donnell

    I hold a great fondness for San Stefano Rotundo in Rome, even if the art on the walls is grisly, to say the least.

    I’m with Todd, “being” church takes precedence.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Shannon O’Donnell:
      To be sure, looking and being are not mutually exclusive. But a self-congratulatory vector on either is unseemly, I think.

      1. James Hundt Avatar

        @Todd Flowerday:
        What a pleasant surprise to see your name here! I appreciate your contribution to the conversation, just as I very much appreciated your article “Evolving Church Architecture and EACW” in the May 2000 issue of E&A Letter. (Who else still remembers the E&A Letter?) i went on the make an architectural response to that article that you can see here: http://jameshundt.com/wp/gothic-revival/. You will see that we used a different approach to some of the things that Fr. L. is trying to achieve in his new church. I think this approach separated what was nostalgic and meaningful to the Catholics in the parish from what the new worship space needed to provide in terms of an appropriate worship environment. Their pastor also wanted something different but wanted more than a recreation of a style from the past. The seating in that church is also “planned around a central altar with good acoustics and sight lines to aid full participation of the laity in worship” but does so in a way that keeps every worshiper within a distance where eye contact with the celebrant can be maintained.

        When I saw the plan of the new Our Lady of the Rosary Church, I thought to myself, “Hmmm, where have I seen that plan before?” or, more to the point, “Where haven’t I seen this plan before?” If you want to know my feelings about this type of seating arrangement, see my recent blog post, http://jameshundt.com/wp/worship-space-seating-where-do-you-stand/.

        I wish I knew more about the architects for this project. Although a company name is mentioned on the parish website, I could not find them online. I am curious as to how this project fits with the rest of the project portfolio.

        Many good points have been made in these comments but I must confess that the one that rings truest to me are those from your first post: that *being* a Catholic Church is more important than good looks. Amen to that!

  5. Michael Silhavy Avatar
    Michael Silhavy

    Fritz Bauerschmidt : @Karl Liam Saur: To his credit, Fr. Longenecker does mention acoustics, but of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

    @Fritz Bauerschmidt:
    Can’t help but play off the comment that when it comes to acoustics in church, “the proof of the pudding is in the seating.”
    No more of those sound absorbing seat cushions. please

    1. Robert Addington Avatar
      Robert Addington

      @Michael Silhavy:

      And no carpet, please!

  6. Msgr. Andy Varga Avatar
    Msgr. Andy Varga

    Thank you Todd (et al)…
    “Looking” like a Catholic Church has far more to do with ALL OF US being a credible presence of BEING the the Living Body of Christ in the world… if we strive for that, it matters much less what our worship SPACE looks like, catacomb, cave, manger, chapel, basilica, whatever…

    1. wineinthewater Avatar

      @Msgr. Andy Varga:

      Very true. But I’d say that the purpose of a good sacred space is precisely to make that happen. The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints. The sacred space helps form us into the sort of disciples who *can* be the Living Body of Christ in the world.

      Having just the right space may not be necessary, but it does serve a purpose.

  7. Peter Kwasniewski Avatar
    Peter Kwasniewski

    You are making some very good points (esp. the point about remembering that the liturgy goes beyond the Mass and includes the Divine Office, which is a point I’ve often argued strongly for).
    However, I worry that you are straining at gnats and swallowing the camel.
    The drawings and diagrams show a church that is, with an overwhelming obviousness, a sacred place, a temple of God, focused on the apse, the altar, the Christ. This is, with equally overwhelming obviousness, the most important thing a church building should be.
    Yes, it ought to be well designed with a view to the liturgy, but it would not be difficult to adapt this plan to all the functions you mention, whereas it is nearly impossible to take a St. Mary Maytag-type church (think Los Angeles or San Francisco) and ever make it a suitable icon of Christ and His Church — which are not disembodied Platonic ideas but are incarnational in the history and tradition of the Church.
    What this design has, in spades, is that incarnational, historical, traditional language and identity. That is what establishes the context and the proper seriousness and reverence for the functions that take place within.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      @Peter Kwasniewski:
      Nah, this defense doesn’t work. The postconciliar documents lay out what a Catholic Church should look like – ie, how it should function. It is abundantly clear that this means the space has to work for the reformed rites. You seem to be arguing “but it looks so Catholic and sacred to me, and that trumps any concerns about postconciliar liturgy.” In effect you’re privileging your spiritual hankerings and personal tastes over the teachings of the Church since Vatican II.


      1. Michael Chandler Avatar
        Michael Chandler

        @Anthony Ruff, OSB:
        Thank you Fr. Ruff…my thoughts exactly!

      2. Erik Bootsma Avatar

        @Anthony Ruff, OSB:

        What post conciliar documents are you referring to here?
        As far as I know only one major post-conciliar document to touch on architecture is Inter Oecoeminici. That only has Chapter V, and I’m having a hard time seeing how it should function in a such a significant way to require a radical departure from the traditional forms.
        If they intended everything to be changed so much, why then after laying out the principle in the first paragraph, that of active participation, do the specifics afterwards end up so slim?
        Certainly the requirement for the freestanding altar to allow for versus populum, and for the baptismal font to be designed to “ensure that it clearly expresses the dignity of the sacrament of baptism and that it is a place well suited to communal celebrations “, are met here are they not?

  8. Dale O'Brien Avatar
    Dale O’Brien

    The plan as it is laid out in this article certainly looks like a Catholic Church, with the altar in front and assembly seating in rows like a theater. And you can bet that some of the die-hard old school Catholics will love it – because they can sit in the back.

  9. Shaughn Casey Avatar
    Shaughn Casey

    These conversations get at the heart of what I’ve been musing over in other threads: can external things — clothes, posture, architecture, music — influence internal disposition? I think they can, do, should. Ideally, they balance otherwordliness and tangibility. Stone, wood, and real candles do that well for me, in ways that synthetic materials, oil lamps meant to look like candles, and other fakery do not. Clearly one does with what one has, but when one has the means to choose, the other worldly quality of Fr Longenecker’s designs inspire me.

    Of course, my favorite Catholic parish in all the world, aesthetically, is Stella Maris near Charleston. So, there you go.

  10. Allen Corrigan Avatar
    Allen Corrigan

    How “Catholic” is it to have a “Divine Mercy Columbarium” in the church?

  11. Linda Daily Avatar
    Linda Daily

    This article is better titled, “What a convert to Catholicism believes typifies a Catholic church.”

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      @Linda Daily:
      Well, the spirit of welcome and inclusion . . . .

      1. Linda Daily Avatar
        Linda Daily

        @Karl Liam Saur:
        My comment was not made in a spirit of exclusion, but as an observation. I’m not a professional Catholic, so my experience is limited to parish ministry. Often, when accompanying an especially strident candidate, our RCIA team works to discern the degree to which this individual is being drawn into Catholicism vs. feeling driven from a former faith tradition for doing this or that in the wrong way (often if not always a combination). The person more driven than drawn requires a different type of mentoring into the Church to avoid the sense that one is simply joining the “right” religion and establishing divisions based on opinion. Some who seek a monolithic church and are surprised by our diversity, set about advocating monolithism (sometimes on Easter Monday). Our “virtual” Catholic web-church is overwhelmed with these strident voices. And we enter into their reality rather than naming it as opinion.

      2. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        @Linda Daily:
        Understood, but it manifests as terribly sniffy – or worse, it partakes partly of the complaint of the workers who labored in the vineyard the entire day against the equal treatment of those who only worked the last hour – who the heck are these people to expect to be treated the same as me?

        I share the concern about “converts” (even “reverts”) whose journey seems ruddered more by negatives than positives, but even a negative path against sin is welcomed by the Lord as a good start. Not everyone starts from the same place or with the same character. In other words, that diversity very much includes “those” folks, too.

      3. Linda Daily Avatar
        Linda Daily

        @Karl Liam Saur:Off topic but in response: Many of the folks who have been received into full communion during my time in parish ministry have labored in the field longer and more fruitfully than I have, so I don’t see the two as related. The vinyard is bigger than the Catholic Church.

        Also, in my experience, many people who leave one Christian tradition for another view it as stepping into greater fullness, but not that their former path was sinful. The most healthy are able to hold their former communities in love and respect, even while moving into what comes next. The strident and overly negative need special attention but certainly are part of the whole.

  12. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
    Jordan Zarembo

    This is a photograph of Fr. Emil Kapaun celebrating a Jeep Mass during the Korean War [public domain, Wikimedia Commons].

    All of the solemn Masses with dalmatics of french-cut silk sleeves, the most ornate evangeliarii, or the most complex organs, cannot challenge the stupendous blessed austerity of this Mass. When Fr. Kapaun recited the Sanctus, were not the dominions of angels choir enough to grace this simple liturgy?

    The traditionalist movement in particular, but all Roman Catholics in general, must turn its gaze from the temptation of glitzy liturgy towards the transfigured Lord. It is as if most of us (including myself) are viri galilaei, staring at that which is pleasing to the senses only ephemerally. The Lord in his radiant glory resides more prominently at the heart of Mass when everything which distracts the senses towards the fleeting and irrelevant is removed.

    The reformation of Mass and simplification of rites are of diminished strength, in my view, if they are not accompanied by an intense focus of the heart on the most simple Masses. Per Wir pflügen, God will, indeed he must, feed us if only we ask humbly. No transient delight in ornamentation will give us this supernatural satiety.

  13. Juliana Boerio-Goates Avatar
    Juliana Boerio-Goates

    It’s hard to tell from the plan given here, but I don’t see any signs of ramps that would make the sanctuary accessible to ministers in wheelchairs, or aging priests who can’t do stairs. I agree with Fritz that the sanctuary space seems small for the range of liturgical celebrations that take place during the year – concelebrated Masses, foot washings, weddings, etc. I also agree with Todd and Msgr Andy. The space and its aesthetics or lack of aesthetics ought not to be the defining factor in what makes a Catholic church. I’ve spent at least 1/3 of my life going to Masses in cafeterias and gyms but the celebrant and the worshiping community made them some of the most spiritual experiences I’ve had.

  14. Bill deHaas Avatar
    Bill deHaas

    Interesting post and so soon after the post about Fr. Roscia and his comments about internet usage. Some of us would put Longnecker in the category of those who abuse the internet.

    From the EWTN publication about this project quoting Longnecker:

    He noticed that in the Midwest lots of pastors are restoring the churches that were devastated when beautiful reredos, marble rails and altar rails were torn out. “With the great approval of the people, priests restoring and putting back the reredos, the altars, the statues,” he said. When the word went out that we’re “going to put everything back again,” the people said they “knew that would happen eventually.” And they showed the priest what they were able to salvage and store for this time.

    What about the placement of the tabernacle in terms of the VII liturgy – a new church so why not a eucharistic chapel?

    Finally, no one has commented that this project is for a parish of barely 500 families – is this the wisest use of this money – projected at $5 mil? It will be located in a disadvanted and low income area – yes, it will be a sign and folks deserve beautiful art, churches, etc. But, again, suggest that this money could be used for more practical purposes? As Deacon Fritz says – guess it is who is deciding on what a catholic church looks like – is it a community making a difference in their faith journey or is it a group erecting a monument to past glories?

    Longnecker at Crisis Magazine – http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/wrecking-churches-iconoclasm-continuity

    Low lights:

    The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s ushered in the most iconoclastic ideology since the Protestant revolution. Across the Western world, in a spirit of enthusiastic reform, Catholic churches were erected with no reference to the past. A new wave of ideologically driven priests teamed up with modernist architects to create round churches, fan-shaped mass centers, multi purpose worship spaces and utilitarian cement block boxes. In an attempt to imbue some sense of the sacred they plopped ill shaped spires on the roof, created sweeping towers topped with crosses or punched holes in the walls with abstract stained glass.

    Not only did the sincere, but ignorant priests and architects build new churches that looked like teepees, stranded space ships, or ice cream cones that had fallen upside down, they made matters worse by “renovating” existing churches according to their progressive creed. Their iconoclasm was complete. They covered tiled or marble floors with cheap wall-to-wall carpet. They ripped out neo-Gothic altarpieces, removed statues of the saints, painted over murals, dumped relics in the trash, junked the candlesticks, votive candle stands and fine vestments. Everything was to be simple, bare and back to basics. Austerity was in. Posterity was out.
    In parish after parish the pastor simply ripped out the artwork and furniture—destroying the buildings that had served their Catholic community for generations. The wholesale destruction was an act of mindless vandalism that always accompanies progressive ideologies.

    Progressive ideologies can always be spotted because their devotees destroy the past rather than renew it. By definition, revolutionaries revolve, they do not evolve. To create their brave new world they must destroy the old one. Their new age is fueled by rage and the smiling revolutionaries cannot create anything without destroying everything.

    The changes in churches were never loved because they were derived in destruction. Like the Protestant revolution in sixteenth-century England, the innovations which were supposed to benefit the people were imposed on the people by clericalist ideologues who ironically believed they were “of the people.”
    The lessons are clear: Despite its calm demeanor and gentle approach, progressivism is founded on rage. The status quo is the culprit and the established order must be overthrown. The imaginative conservative, on the other hand, seeks to correct what is wrong not by revolution, but renewal. What is beautiful, good, and true from the past is restored to its original reason so that it might do good service in the present and into the future.

    Guess *his past* stops with the Romanesque – the end and be all of how a catholic church looks.

    1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      @Bill deHaas:

      Perhaps you and I are both iconoclasts. Perhaps there are subtle shades of difference: I have no prejudice towards the EF, for example. In fact, I often find it a fruitful rite of worship. My concern is that Catholic liturgies of both forms are sometimes celebrated in a manner which detracts from the eucharistic heart of Catholic liturgy.

      Perhaps this is presumptuous, but I sense that your iconoclasm might stem from an advocacy for the construction of liturgical fixtures which advance the ressourcement project, or the destruction of liturgical fixtures which do not, in your opinion, advance this project. While PTB readers know well my ambivalence towards the ressourcement project, it’s important to distinguish between different iconoclastic strands. My “ideal church” would certainly have altar rails, doors, and a canopy over the altar, however all entirely bereft of any ornamentation and constructed of painted wood rather than marble and gilt.

  15. Jonathan Day Avatar
    Jonathan Day

    (1) David Tracy’s definition of a classic: a person, text, event, melody, or symbol encountered in cultural experience that bears a certain excess of meaning as well as a certain timelessness; it confronts and provokes us in our present horizon with the feeling that something else might be the case. Genuine classics transform one’s horizon. They bring a meaning that is both particular and universal.

    Perhaps this is what Fr Longenecker is getting at when he aspires to create “a building that attracts others with a confident message of beauty, truth and goodness incarnated in ordinary bricks and mortar.”

    (2) Principle of obliquity. Anyone who sets a direct objective to produce such a classic (in writing, architecture, music, etc.) will almost certainly fail, just as any direct attempt to create ‘an encounter with mystery’ in the liturgy will fail to do so. These encounters can never be coerced.

    (3) Rule of Disneyfication. The truth of (2) notwithstanding, any true classic will sooner or later be followed by an imitation, one that attempts to stimulate the feelings attached to the encounter with the genuine classic but that ultimately fails to transform one’s horizon.

    (4) Misquote by Scott Hahn, in a video lecture: “Wittgenstein said that reviving a tradition is like trying to repair a spider’s web with your bare hands.” I don’t think Wittgenstein ever said that, though he did use the compelling metaphor of repairing a spider’s web in the Investigations §106. But I agree with the point, whether or not Wittgenstein made it.

    1. Shaughn Casey Avatar
      Shaughn Casey

      @Jonathan Day:

      How do you define failure? The Gothic Revival movement was wildly successful, as any casual study of church architecture for most of the 19th and early 20th century reveals. I won’t lie; I prefer the understated sensibilities of, say, St John the Divine, St Thomas, 5th Ave, or Stella Maris, Charleston to the busy walls of St John the Baptist, Savannah, or most any established Orthodox parish.

      If people cry out for Latin, let them have Latin (even Novus Ordo Latin). If they cry out for the organ (mentioned by name, specifically, in SC), let them have the organ. If they cry out for vaulted ceilings, stained glass, and reredos, let it be so. It reeks of the clericalism so often condemned on this blog to dismiss that desire so out of hand.

      1. Jonathan Day Avatar
        Jonathan Day

        @Shaughn Casey:
        Shaughn, here is a picture of my parish church. Latin Mass (Novus Ordo) every Sunday, with choir and organ.

        This church has been in place since the 19th century. I was going to write that it wasn’t built with a particular reform agenda in mind; but then the Jesuits put it up immediately after the hierarchy was restored in England, and it is generally regarded as an important element in Gothic Revival. So perhaps it was.

        The difference may be that the individual elements in the church fit together; there’s no sense of picking and choosing bits of tradition. The spider’s web hasn’t been broken.

        So not dismissing these things out of hand at all, nor dismissing peoples’ desire for them.

      2. Shaughn Casey Avatar
        Shaughn Casey

        @Jonathan Day:

        Beautiful church. Thank you for the link. I like, in particular, how the photographer used lighting in the picture. I /think/ I see what you’re saying. What Fr Longenecker’s parish has attempted to do is a very post-modern idea of picking and choosing and synthesizing. It reminds me a bit of Adrian Fortescue’s scathing opinion of the Cambridge Movement in Anglicanism — attaching Roman liturgical forms onto Anglican liturgy. I’ll admit, though, that my liturgical sensibilities are deeply informed by that movement, too. 😉

  16. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    One of my favorite local chapels:


    Chapel of the Society of St John The Evangelist (Episcopal), Cambridge, MA

    1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      @Karl Liam Saur:

      Is this the chapel of the “Cowley Fathers”? Or am I thinking of another Episcopal order? This chapel reasonably fits my idea of austerity. The use of marble is restrained and does not provide distraction.

      As I have said earlier, “Friends meetinghouse with an altar” was more my idea. Yet the Friends avidly preach quietism (as well, for some, even a rejection of a Reformed-style Eucharist at any time). So, the Friends meetinghouse cannot be used as a model. The chapel you have depicted is Catholic in visual intent.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        @Jordan Zarembo:
        Yes, the Cowley Fathers. There’s a very active lay community that gathers with them. When I lived in Cambridge for several years, I had neighbors who were among them, and I would attend Tenebrae with them on the evening of Spy Wednesday. Ineffable.

        That’s one of Cram’s finest designs. One exemplar of noble simplicity. Here’s the exterior:


        The JFK presidential library was originally supposed to go next door.

  17. Paul Robertson Avatar

    The best venue I’ve ever been to for Mass was the car park of one of my local schools. We were supposed to having Mass inside the school hall, but the janitor had forgotten to open up for us. As it was, the boot of a car served as altar and we all had to gather in close to hear over the sound of the wind. The rain held off.

    The church, the assembled People of God, was present, the Word was proclaimed and the Body and Blood of Christ became real for us.

    For me, the most Catholic-looking church is one made of real people, with the dirt of their lives still clinging to their shoes, gathered in worship around the Eucharist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *