In Defense of Covering Catholic Churches With All Sorts of Gold

“While Jesus was in Bethany, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

The man great in popularity — like Mr. Obama — receives from us a mild shower of praise. The man great in humility — like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Mother Theresa — receives a thunderstorm of the stuff.

This is paradoxical. After all, the exaltation of the humble is a thing the humble — by their nature — are uninterested in. Martin Luther King would be the last to want every other street christened “Martin Luther King Boulevard” — yet so every other street is christened. Mother Theresa would surely have us spend less on posters of her wrinkled face, and more on the poor — but that won’t dissuade the world from extolling her in libraries, churches and schools, or from building statues, painting murals, and buying her image.

 It seems that the Rabbi’s upside-down claim that “the humble shall be exalted” rings true not merely in the sense of the future exaltation of Heaven, but within the human heart. We naturally exalt the humble.

Consider a marriage proposal. A man is most exalted precisely when he is most humble — when he bends down on one knee and begs the object of his love to concede to call him husband. Consider the child. It is not the king a mother gazes on and exalts, but the baby born to her — a naked, helpless, humble creature — whom she crowns her jewel, her love, and her all. Consider a death. It is the ultimate humility — the absolute, inevitable humility of human mortality — that we exalt with ritual. Of all men the dead man least desires exaltation, yet we will pile upon him flowers, poetry, praise and prayer — music, memory and a holy piece of earth. We lift up the lowly.

Now if the exaltation of the humble is a thing the humble — by their nature — are uninterested in, why the exaltation? I suppose a man could argue that there is no use, and that we are fools for extolling those who have escaped the desire to be extolled. But the denial of natural, human response always springs from a silly elitism. A real answer then: The exaltation of the humble is not for the sake of the humble, but for the sake of the exaltant. It is good to praise.

For praise is the joyful bow of a free man. If Mother Theresa had gone about her work pridefully, demanding that we follow her, then praise of her would always be praise demanded. But Mother Theresa went about her work in all humility. Thus enthroning her in praise — whether in statues, books, or sainthood — is joyful. We bow to her greatness, but we bow willfully and of our own accord, in love and sincerity. We are thus ennobled.

Why? Because this contradicts our world, who demands we consider ourselves the summit of existence. We are to be proud of ourselves, happy with who we are, full of self-esteem, bowing to no one — which is all well and good as long as one avoids the sneaking suspicion that he’s an imperfect wreck of a man, a feat which — as far as I can tell — has only ever been achieved by Ayn Rand.

The humble allow us to bow — and bow happily! — and in doing so avoid the death that is self-obsession.  We admit — in the view of men like Ghandi — that there are those whose virtue we have yet to attain, whose life we hope to emulate. Praise of those great in humility is natural and easy: It frees us from the endless panic and disappointment that is a life lived under the assumption that we are the greatest. Exalting the humble, in this sense, is a minor salvation, for it allows us to freely admit that we can improve, that we can become what we are not, and that we can escape the misery of selfishness and pride.

For praise is rarely separated from the desire to be like the object of praise. This is not always in itself good, as when we praise the merely rich, the evil, or the shallow. But when it is a praise of greatness in humility, the very act of praise is simultaneously an inspiration for ourselves to share in that humble greatness, as the exaltation of Mother Theresa is simultaneously an inspiration to be like Mother Theresa. The exaltation of the humble always leads us to desire communion with the humble.

And so, as travelers at a journey’s end, we arrive at God. God’s humility is so great, His desire for us so strong, that He — the Transcendent First Cause of All Nature — became flesh and blood and guts and bone. The Fullness of Beauty became Man to teach us how to live. The Fullness of Truth took on our fallen nature and died in atonement for our sins, granting to us what our moaning, yearning, Mumford-and-Sons-loving hearts cry for: Communion with our Maker.

God did this in the utmost of humility, coming not as a king, but as a baby, living not as a Lord, but as a carpenter, dying not as hero, but as a criminal, remaining not as a conqueror, but as bread and wine, fruit of the earth and fruit of the vine. Does this not make sense? In this very humility we are given the opportunity to exalt our God. He does not need our praise. The humble — by their nature — are uninterested in exaltation. The exaltation of the humble is not for the sake of the humble, but for the sake of the exaltant. His humility is a gift to us. We are fulfilled in exalting him, for precisely the same reasons we are ennobled in our earthly lifting of the lowly: We may bow before the manger and the cross willfully and in perfect freedom, desiring — as is natural — to be in communion with Him, our ultimate object of our praise. Because of His humility we may bow, always experiencing this gift of praise as salvation, for by it we admit that we are fallen, and that through Him we can become what we are not — children of God once more, children whose restless hearts are stilled.

This is my defense of the gold that adorns Catholic Churches. For Catholics believe the words of Christ, that He becomes bread for us, and that by this we really, truly eat His body, taking within us the divine life. Could we fathom the depth of humility it would take for a man to offer those who wrong him his flesh to eat and blood to drink? Can we fathom becoming food for our enemies, that they may live? Then we should tremble at even the consideration of God’s humble descent into food for us.

But he told us it was so, and thus, infinitely more than we respond to earthly instances of greatness in humility, we respond to this. Infinitely more than we exalt the humble man, we exalt the Humble God. We come bearing gifts to enthrone the throneless King, we come to Bethlehem — which only means House of Bread — as Magi seeking to praise he who has made himself vulnerable to our praises. We give him our rarest, for it is our salvation to praise God, to recognize Him as infinitely greater than ourselves and thus able to save. We build for him a tabernacle of gold, and chalices of silver, pillars of marble and windows of fiery glass. He does not disdain these treasures any more than he disdained the Wise Men’s or the woman at Bethany’s, for our praise is his gift to us, the poor, who by it are granted the desire for communion with him.

That we, the poor, should give more. That we, the poor, should scandalize the world by the wealth we strip from ourselves and form around the Body and Blood of Christ. By his humility Christ in the Eucharist has given us the opportunity to exalt him beyond anything the world has ever seen. We will do so.

Part 1

  • Cal-J

    Start one argument, see a need, start a second argument. Here we go again.

    • musiciangirl591

      *cracks knuckles* bring it on :P

  • musiciangirl591

    “Lord, You are more precious than silver, Lord, You are more costly than gold, Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds, and nothing i desire compares with You”

  • Mary

    “The fullness of beauty became man to teach us how to live”
    I thank God..”Transcendent First Cause of all Nature” that he humbled Himself, and still does in the gift of His body and blood to continue to nurture us and restore us…
    Awesome post…God bless!

  • AttentionDeficitCatholic

    Okay, I actually started tearing up reading the first half of this. That does not happen to me easily. Well played.

  • Gail Finke

    That picture of the monstrance says it all. The gold is there to glorify the Host, because we don’t have anything as glorious as the Host, but we want to give the most glorious thing we have. That’s human nature.

  • Elizabeth

    This is fantastic.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/IXLZRHDFEO4GJTIE6VJJXJKX2U Mary Liz

    Beautiful! Simply Beautiful and so well put! Sharing this with my facebook world. God Bless you Bad Catholic.

  • Joe Cool
  • TRS

    What you wrote about humility reminds me of my conviction that Mother Theresa in her humility, may have had her prayers answered to die within a week of Princess Diana of Wales, so that she might be lost in the fervor, and be able to leave this earth as humbly as she arrived.
    At the time I was disappointed that she missed the dramatic departure she might have gotten if she hadn’t left this world so close to the death of such a celebrated woman.

  • Alejandro Rodríguez

    Useless ornamentation that costs alot. Do you really think that Christ is happy with that? Even in Catholic art you never see Jesus with gold or any other precious metal. The Roman Church is too materialist and too egotistical. All that money spent in building nice churches and making gold ornaments could easily go to the Third World, this is just vanity taken to the extreme, and you still defend this? Just another proof trads are not Christian at all. They only care about sex and abortion, specifically same sex marriage, things that are not even in the Bible. Jesus never spoke about them, what He spoke about was to help the poor, in fact, everything He did was basically that, but today the helping the poor has been relegated to a second plane and now sexual immorality and abortion even when women are about to die are the worst evils you do. Not taking advantage of the weak and the forgotten. Seriously, for these reasons is why Christianity is no longer taken seriously.

    • Francisca

      You’re ignoring the fact that the Catholic Church is the single largest charitable organization in the world. We do both: glorify God by building beautiful churches and serve Him through the poor here on earth. Your error is just the same as the disciples in the gospel! Our intent is to glorify God, whether through architecture and gold ornaments, living and witnessing to a moral life or by good works.

      Also, Jesus did speak about sex and divorce, and elsewhere in the new testament the inspired word speaks against abortion and sam sex marriage; these are part of living out the Christian life as much as feeding the hungry. Jesus also said “the poor you will always have with you”.

      Everything He did was for our salvation, to bring us to the Father and teach us to be not of this world but the next. Certainly He spoke about serving the poor, but that wasn’t “everything He basically did”. If you were to sum up His purpose on earth, look to the Cross, not the parables and miracles.

    • sara

      Lol, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2012/09/why-this-catholic-girl-is-praying-for-a-schism-part-1.html
      “The poor are not some abstraction that just need food, shelter, and cash (though we of course should laud anyone who provides their fellow man with these). The poor are people. People yearn for the Truth. Poverty does not eradicate this yearning. True hate — or at the very least true contempt — would be for the Church to only meet the physical needs of the poor through the work of her nuns, ignoring their moral and spiritual needs. True contempt would be a message from the Vatican to the LCWR saying, “We’re worried about you misleading the souls of the poor, but because you are feeding them, we’re not going to look into it.”

    • darrel

      Someone’s reading comprehension needs some work:

      “While Jesus was in Bethany, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

    • ColdStanding

      The reason it is no longer taken seriously by those that should, is because those that should be serious are hysterical instead. Which really means: you are simply being hysterical. Which means: we shall not make the mistake of confusing your hysteronics for actual reasoned discourse. All of which is why your screed is dismissed out of hand. Next.

    • Alejandro Rodríguez

      @darrel: That passage doesn’t justify excessive decorations and church expenditures.
      @sara: No, they are not some abstraction, I completley agree, which has nothing to do with excessive church expenditures that could easily go to the poor.
      @Fransisca: Here’s a problem with building beautiful churches: it unnecessary spends resources and money. Also, want to provide a link for the Church being the largest charitable organization? A Catholic group=/= the Church itself. The Vatican has an innumerable amount of money in its bank accounts and the Vatileaks scandal has revealed that there’s corruption there. Heck, its not the first time. Remember Banco Ambrosiano?
      @Coldstanding: You’re saying that I’m not being serious by suggesting the Church has to let go its vanity and greed?

      • Dolce

        Beautiful churches are NOT unnecessary. They are works of art, examples of classic architecture, and were often made possible by the laity of the church, who donated their own money for the building of the churches and the creation of frescoes, stained glass windows, stations of the cross, statues, etc … Sometimes, pieces of art are donated by the artist or by a group of people who simply want to give back to a church in a visible way that all the laity can enjoy and appreciate. Many of these artifacts have become so important in the creative world that selling them would never produce a sum that is equal to their actual worth.

        That is not to say that Catholics, including Bishops, priests, and the laity etc have never been greedy, have never succumbed to the sin of selfishness, and have never failed in their calling to give to the poor and help those in need. One of the teachings of Catholicism is that we are all sinners and that we will all fail in our efforts to be true Christians! But giving to the poor does not make it automatically impossible to display nice things. Beautiful art, buildings (and of course, music!) are visible ways in which we glorify God. If you want to berate the Church for funding and / or owning such things, you should also berate the artisans who waste their time creating such vanity. Try telling Michelangelo that painting the Sistine Chapel was a waste of time, or Bach (though he was Lutheran) that composing religious music was a useless job – instead they should have focused all their efforts wasted in mastering their crafts towards solving poverty!

        • Alejandro Rodríguez

          Yes they are. Other than looking pretty and working as worship centers, they don’t anything else. The most churches do is recollect money. That’s it. Wasting money on pretty churches that could have easily go to hospitals or orphanages or whatever else that can help humanity is simply something immoral, is vain and foolish. Also, I’m pretty sure you’d be decrying the thousands of dollars that atheists spend in their conventions that don’t do nothing else than bash Christianity and only helps the spread of intolerance. So, don’t defend the use of money just for vain purposes. Again, all that money should go to the people that need it. People around the world are literally dying, the less we need is pretty churches.

          • musiciangirl591

            have you ever heard of the hospital system the Catholic Church has set up? or the universities and colleges?

          • Alejandro Rodríguez

            Yes I have. That still doesn’t give the church the right to cover their churches in precious metals when most of the world is in poverty. And again, that doesn’t change the fact that the Vatican is absurdly rich. Many of that money is not used, and as I said, the vatileaks scandas is proof of corruption there. It’s not the first time of course. In the middle ages, the spiritual franciscans were persecuted just because they said the church’s riches were inmense and not apt for a church of Christ.

          • ColdStanding

            I thought you were just cheep. But no, you are down right stingy. Which Protestant denomination do you attend?

          • http://wasteyourtime.mtgames.org/ Scaevola

            “Looking pretty”? Dude, they’re beautiful because they are honoring Beauty Himself. Their “pretty looks”, or rather beautiful, elevating and well-ordered architecture, are to draw our minds up to the contemplation of God. They are a reflection of Heaven, the true house of God, on earth.

            In this regard, beautiful churches are sacramental in character. God gives us grace through the physical, material signs of the sacraments. One of the most important mysteries of our faith is that of God becoming material, taking on the nature of man and becoming one of us. You can’t get rid of the material any more than you could stop being human.

            Further, the Church as the eternal Bride of Christ deserves to be dressed in rich clothes befitting her intimate relationship with her God and her lover. By your logic husbands should be castigated for buying their wives beautiful wedding rings and other jewelry to show them how much they love them. But that’s ridiculous. Right?
            The employment of material things is not the same as materialism. One’s the proper use, the other is the abuse.

            Finally, it’s more important that we save a person’s soul than his body. Beautiful churches lead to this end, showing the reasonable man the kind of honor the Creator and Savior of the world deserves. Please realize that the Church with all her finery has done and will continue to do more good for the poor than any other institution ever.

      • ColdStanding

        Yes, Alejandro, I am saying you are not being serious. You might really believe that your suggestion is a the best course of action, but that does not make it a serious idea. Intensity of feeling is not a substitute for seriousness.

        • Alejandro Rodríguez

          So you’re saying that is okay to make pretty churches which don’t do anything other than being an exercise in vanity? Again, do you think that Christ would be okay with this?

          • ColdStanding

            A rich man, M-A-N, not the Church. If you could stop being hysterical for a second and think, top quality is always the most frugal way to go over the long term. Who thinks longer term than the Roman Catholic Church? Chartres Cathedral is over 750 years old and still function as built. That is money well spent.

            And how many Churches are actually covered in gold? ‘Cause you make it sound like every RCC is covered, c-o-v-e-r-e-d, in gold. Some gold leaf, sure, but I can’t think of one that I’d call covered in gold. Can you post a link to one, even? Do you have any idea how thin gold leaf really is? Mr., thin is too thick a word.

            You so totally are not serious. Just out for some good o’le Rome is the devil and cause of all ills Catholic bashing. Sheesh.

          • Alejandro Rodríguez

            “A
            rich man, M-A-N, not the Church. If you could stop being hysterical
            for a second and think, top quality is always the most frugal way to go
            over the long term. Who thinks longer term than the Roman Catholic
            Church? Chartres Cathedral is over 750 years old and still function as
            built. That is money well spent.”
            I’m not being hysterical, I’m just using common sense and following what Jesus has said. So, just because he told that to a single man, the church somehow doesn’t have to do it? That is just ridiculous. Besides, if you want a more general teaching, Jesus said that you can’t worship both God and Mammon. How’s that?
            “And how many Churches are actually covered in gold? ‘Cause you make
            it sound like every RCC is covered, c-o-v-e-r-e-d, in gold. Some gold
            leaf, sure, but I can’t think of one that I’d call covered in gold. Can
            you post a link to one, even? Do you have any idea how thin gold leaf
            really is? Mr., thin is too thick a word”

            And when did I say the majority of churches were covered in gold? What I’m saying is that building nice churches is unchristian and just an exercise in vanity, it could be by covering them in gold, have many ornaments and decorations made of precious stones, have works of art that literally cost thousands, etc. Again, how happy do you think Christ would be if He saw sculptures and works of art with him that cost lots of money, if he saw statues of Mary with precious gold, if he saw huge Churches that costed thousands to make? How well do you think Jesus would feel to see the Sagrada Familia church?

          • ColdStanding

            You can’t worship God and mammon? Dude, the Church buildings are for the worship of God. I’ve never attended any liturgical celebrations where I was called upon to say prayers to or worship Mammon. Are you even Roman Catholic?

            As to how happy He’d be about a nicely decorated church? I’d wager He is a whole lot happier with humans directing their energies to projects with Him firmly in mind than many of the other activities humans seem to occupy themselves with. Meh, it’s a start.

            I finally looked up Sagrada Familia church. Wow! That’s an impressive building. Love it! I remember visiting it in the late 1980′s. It has come along way. I’m not offended by that at all. Gaudi’s work has filled Barcelona’s coffers for over 100 years now and will continue to ring cash registers for the foreseeable future. Stunning! Amazing! Can’t thank the Holy Mother Church enough for inspiring such jaw dropping beauty in a world filled with penny pinching sons of Protestant merchants.

          • Alejandro Rodríguez

            “You can’t worship God and mammon? Dude, the Church buildings are for
            the worship of God. I’ve never attended any liturgical celebrations
            where I was called upon to say prayers to or worship Mammon. Are you
            even Roman Catholic?”
            You seem to not understand me. Mammon, or Greed, is represented in expensive churches, nice decorations, and expensive clothing. Worshipping God with huge temples or temples with excessive decorations that are representative of the riches of the Church makes as much sense as ritual prostitution or human sacrifices. And yes, I’m Catholic, that’s why I’m opposed to Church Materialism because the Church has taught me that materialism is wrong, which would make her a hypocrite for not following this.

            “As to how happy He’d be about a nicely decorated church? I’d wager
            He is a whole lot happier with humans directing their energies to
            projects with Him firmly in mind than many of the other activities
            humans seem to occupy themselves with. Meh, it’s a start.”He’d be much better with simple churches that focus more on following His word. As for directing their attention to Him, this is the wrong kind of attention. Directing attention to God is fulfilling His Word, which is doing good to others and not filling one’s own ego, which is what nice Churches do.

            “I finally looked up Sagrada Familia church. Wow! That’s an
            impressive building. Love it! I remember visiting it in the late
            1980′s. It has come along way. I’m not offended by that at all.
            Gaudi’s work has filled Barcelona’s coffers for over 100 years now and
            will continue to ring cash registers for the foreseeable future.
            Stunning! Amazing! Can’t thank the Holy Mother Church enough for
            inspiring such jaw dropping beauty in a world filled with penny pinching
            sons of Protestant merchants.”
            And you finally show how you miss the point of all this. Spending thousands on just the aesthetics on the Church is what is so wrong. It may be beautiful, that doesn’t change the fact that thousands in money go to just making the Church look that way, instead of going to the poor. And the fact that you put much more attention to the beauty of the Church rather than the evil of misusing money just goes to prove what Jesus said about not being able to worship both greed and God.

          • ColdStanding

            It is not wrong. You merely strikes you as wrong. That doesn’t make it wrong. Nor is it evil. You merely characterized it as evil because evil is a strong word and you are having to force the point you are trying to make in the face of the obvious animus that motivates your criticism.

            If I have given of the fruits of my blood, sweat, tears (and maybe used money to facilitate the exchange), aka, my wealth to make something of true lasting beauty, the poor (aka everybody that did not have the thing of beauty in their lives prior to others pooling their resources to sponsor the fabrication of the thing of beauty) have been enriched. Not in a way you deem necessary, but since when has your judgement been elevated above all others? Since when was it your way and only your way? Building great churches has greatly enriched (aka made less poor) the commonwealth of Christendom, in a great many ways. Giving to the poor means alleviating dearths of spiritual, mental, cultural, educational, bodily, nourishment, etc., etc. It doesn’t just mean feeding them.

            I object to the thrust of your posts because it strikes me that your view of what constitutes poverty is to limited. One might say that it is poor (or overweighted on one type to the exclusion of all others). I am striving to enrich your definition of poverty so that you will see the great supply of things that are in fact poor and in need of Christian treasure.

    • may

      An answer from CatholicAnswers
      “The Bible doesn’t forbid Christians to construct beautiful churches. In fact, if the Bible is our guide, we should expect Christians to build fine churches to express their faith.In the Old Testament, God commanded the Jews to build a magnificent Temple in Jerusalem (2 Sm 7:13; 1 Kgs 6-7). In the New Testament, Jesus commended the poor widow for contributing to the Temple’s upkeep (Lk 21:2).
      The Lord showed his own love for the Temple by driving out the money changers who were desecrating it (Jn 2:1-17). Remember also that Christ rebuked Judas, who complained about using precious oil in Jesus’ honor instead of selling it and giving the proceeds to the poor (Jn 12:3-5).”
      “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.” – St. Augustine

      • Alejandro Rodríguez

        Not forbidding building huge churches doesn’t mean that its not wrong. And God ordering the jews to build a huge temple doesn’t justify the Church doing the same when the rest of the world is in poverty. Imagine how bad would african catholics feel to know that their money goes more into building churches than actually helping others like Jesus commanded. Not to mention that was just an specific instance, the same with the Ark of the Covenant, at no point does God say “you can make beautiful temples whenever you want to worship me”. Also, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot by quoting the sacking of the temple, since that only goes to prove what I’m saying. Jesus decried the jews making money in the temples, which shows how greed and making money out of religion is wrong. The example that Bad Catholic show again is not an exhortation to build beautiful churches, since as I’ve been saying they are just a waste of resources and money that can easily go to helping the needy and the poor. And, as I said to coldstanding, the Church teaches that materialism is wrong, yet she is doing exactly this, making her guilty of hypocrisy. The fact is, there are many useless decorations that only waste money. Do Bishops really need those ritual garments? Does the Pope really need that hat stamped with an image of the Virgin? Do Churches really need highly decorated crosses like the one used for the Corpus Christi? Does the Pope really need a gold ring? Decrying materialism while at the same time having all of this is just simply hypocrisy on the part of the Church.

        • Cameron

          0.o

        • Donovan

          Really? If I was poor, (which I hope to be some day) I would like nothing more than my money used to build a magnificent church. I would spend the rest of the week thinking about it. Make a model in the sand. Get inspired, and build a replica out of straw, grass, and mud!

  • Melia

    Yay, a fellow Mumford and Sons fan!

  • Vision_From_Afar

    I’m at a loss how we go from self-humbling and bowing to the Exultant Humble to such ostentatious displays of wealth and decoration. I agree with your points to a degree, but I think some instances of this have gone too far. When people visit Versailles, they’re not remembering how Louis XIV saved the country from bankruptcy, built roads and schools, or created a trade empire. They are simply overwhelmed by the ego and hubris of such a palace.
    When visiting St. Peter’s in Rome (which I admit was a gorgeous building filled with gorgeous works of art and decoration), I had to wonder if the display of exalted humility, of adorning religious icons and art with wealth that no man will ever possess again, hasn’t become a means to it’s own end. Has the message in such a place become muted by the forced humbleness of, “I can never match this level of giving, of ‘piety’ “, shifting the focus from the object of the exaltation to the act of exaltation itself?
    Certainly, in Medieval and Renaissance times, the nobles and rich had many games of religious one-upmanship, and we have fantastic pieces of art to show for it. My question revolves around the fine distinction of the following: Does that reinforce the message of Christ himself, or the message of “worship of Christ” as it’s own thing to be paid homage and coin to?
    Travelling the rest of Europe, I felt a religious presence much more in the humble churches that could seat no more than a hundred, centered around a single well-crafted and adorned stained-glass window, than I ever did in St. Peters’. Maybe it’s just me.

    • ColdStanding

      Perhaps you suffer from a neo-Whiggism of some sort.

      • Vision_From_Afar

        I’m afraid if you expect a coherent response, you’re going to have to be a little less vague. Which “Whiggism” are you referring to?
        The 19th Century American political party, which extolled Congressional authority as higher than Presidential?
        The Modern American Whig Party, which appears to be a stripe of Libertarianism?
        The 17th Century British Whigs, whose main argument was for constitutional monarchism rather than absolute rule?
        The 18th Century British Patriot Whigs, who never did much of anything?

        • ColdStanding

          Whiggism is Whig history, the reading into history of an obvious conclusion when the outcome was far from certain at the time for the participants active in the historical period in question. Please note that I added the qualifier “neo” which means new because instead of reading into history an inevitable rise to the enlightenment as the first Whig historians did, you are reading into history an inevitable decline to incompetence. You are forced into this straight (nautical reference) because you likely hold to a supremacy-of-the-modern-period commonplace, which is an over-emphasis of the current period made by those that doubt the veracity of claims for the eternal existence of the soul and God’s promise of salvation, and that therefore are assume this life is all that there is.

          • Vision_From_Afar

            In lieu of “straight”, “bottle-neck” might work better, as it doesn’t need a qualifier. Just my $0.02.

            On topic:
            It wasn’t my intent to imply incompetence, but rather a mis-alignment of intent. What I see in history, to varying degrees, is a variation of the story of the rich man who dumps a hefty sack in the temple coffers because it’s not much to him. Except instead of a rich merchant dropping a portion of his profits, it’s the temple priest using an excessive portion on beautifying the temple because of tradition, and the natural human tendency of one-upmanship.
            I don’t necessarily hold to a “supremacy”-of-the-present, but certainly a degree of “superiority”-of-the-present. So many societal, literary, artistic, technological, and yes, even spiritual advances have occurred since antiquity that it would be foolish to ignore them in favor of the past. We haven’t always progressed, and we haven’t always improved, and much has been lost along the way, but on the whole, we’re much better off than we were even a century ago.
            That said, I recognize the eternal existence of the soul, and acknowledge there is much more to the Universe than just this life. Careful how much you assume.

          • ColdStanding

            No, bottle neck won’t do. Too constricting. Not enough hidden danger from submerged obstacles. Too much like a production line or freeway. Not enough natural forces. Not enough alone with the world. Nautical straight is much more apt.

            “…foolish to ignore them in favor of the past.” Oh, yes, I’m on the right track with you. You’ve shown me one corner & found the other three! (Confucian reference). If you recognize the existence of the soul, you’d say, “I recognize my immortal existence.” There is no space, no differentiation between soul and self. Not even the body is separate from the soul. (Final Judgement reference) Where as your are arms-lengthing or half-believing that the soul exists, but you doubt you are actually the soul, confirming your supremacy of the modern state of mind.

            The ancients clearly surpass the modern in excellence of exultation. Their lasting quality of materials and workmanship amazes to this day.

          • Vision_From_Afar

            I’ll concede bottle-neck.
            It’s a little annoying that you acknowledge my point about the difference between your assumed supremacy and my stated superiority, then ignore it, but I doubt we’ll achieve any common ground here anyway.
            If you’re going to name-drop the Final Judgement, are you saying that you are Orthodox (those who die go no where, but wait for the 2nd coming)?
            It’s delightful how many words you can put into my mouth with each reply.
            Does the fact that so many of the ancient’s buildings were to deities other than your own? Their quality and workmanship are a product of their culture and level of science and tools. If it took 20 men and a month to move a column into place, you’re only going to let the expert meddle with it and get it just so. Whereas today the demands of time and the availability of tools allows for simplified buildings and a lower level of expertise. Your rosy glasses are colorful, but limiting.
            As I stated above, I doubt we’ll find common ground here, so I’ll leave it be now. It’s been delightful, if frustrating. Cheers.

          • ColdStanding

            Amusing. You think I’m turning you into a marionette and doing a ventriloquist act with your doppelganger. I think I’m catching bugs in your garden, sticking a pin in them and making a collection.

            I made no differentiation, though one exists, (hey, you intuit inference, too) between the pagan temples and Christian Churches in terms of excellence of materials and engineering. As an anecdote, the Christian church has it’s model in the Roman basilica, the public place for doing business, and not the ancient pagan temples.

          • Eric

            “…the natural human tendency of one-upmanship.” -More or less what you have displayed here, am I right? So much for humility.

    • ClariTy

      I think you raise a very valid point concerning the one-upmanship; as soon as self-glorification becomes the reason for the display, it loses its value for the giver (though the results can still serve a wonderful purpose). I don’t think it’s so much a question of “going too far” but of doing it at all for the wrong reason. The thing about Versailles is that it’s an example of a person accumulating that ostentatious display for his own sake and his own glory, and you can’t help but remember that when viewing it. But the wealth and beauty adorning churches is freely given, and while many did so for the wrong reason, many did not. Given a pure intent, it can become an opportunity to give of one’s substance out of sheer wonder at and love of God.

      I agree, humble churches can be an extraordinarily powerful image of devotion in their own right, and I think we’d be missing out if all our churches were grand. That said, it’s not really an either-or situation; both glorify God in their separate ways, making visible different aspects of His infinite beauty.

  • laursaurus

    Maybe that will work?

    • laursaurus

      What did I say that was “abuse?” I wasn’t even replying to anyone.

      • Gerard Neumann

        don’t see the abuse either?

  • Maggie

    Well put sir. I am a Catholic reader, and I knew the answer to the question posed was exaltation, but you put it in such an enlightening way. Thank you for that. Humility is so beautiful. Do you think it’s the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit or is there a single greatest gift? It does seem to carry over into everything. Just thinking out loud here. Thanks again and geaux Bad Catholic!

  • Gerard Neumann

    I cannot think of anything better to do with gold than to adorn the House of God.

    • Laura

      But is Gold what is most precious to us? Dear Catholics… peacefully imagine we went on a random retreat to the woods with a wood carver/sculptor. Prior to the retreat we would have taken Church-sponsored, hopefully free carving classes by this sculptor. At the retreat we would dedicate a day to meditating while carving. The goal? Carve an ornament to be used in the house of God, like your most loved one were supervising you, or better yet, carving with you.

      Why this random idea? My logical & illogical brain halves agree with everyone who has praised the Lord, while responding to this article. Because we thought: yes. Gold is the most precious thing we have, and we should give it to God. But Love is what was most valuable with the woman with the alabaster jar, with the magi, with the stories of the Bible. The Love I would put into carving an ornament for use in Church… for God… that would be “cray”! That is greater than the value of Gold to me. In our secular world, time has become more valuable. I haven’t gone to a retreat since high school (7 years ago) because I haven’t had “time”. Ask me to buy something for God, heck yeah! It takes no time to order something online.

      More food for thought. I agree with your statement. Poor people are the House of God too though. Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me. Right? Let us adorn the house of God in more helpful ways. Let us *focus* on it. Do we really think God would be disappointed in us if we died and went back to Him & said: Jesus, I’m sorry I didn’t give you all my wealth… I spent it on the poor? Don’t you picture a smiling God saying “It’s ok. That was me too!” I feel like that’s what Mother Theresa went through after she died…
      Didn’t he ask the guy from the reading yesterday to sell his riches, give them to the poor then follow him? I’m pretty sure the guy from yesterday would have given Jesus anything he asked for for Himself. The idea of parting with his wealth? Also “cray”. Seriously I’m not doing it myself either, so I understand that. However that _did_ make it harder for the guy to enter the kingdom of God.
      Lastly, anyone watch Desperate Housewives? I have Hulu and sadly enough for me after every video I play somehow Hulu has assumed I would want to watch an episode of desperate housewives. The point is I did once and there is the start of an episode where they show the decline of a marriage. Carlos & Eva’s (whatever her name is in the show). Carlos keeps bringing back necklaces, trinkets, dresses for Eva, but as he gives his gift, he’s on the phone and never has time for her. The decline of a marriage. Gifts of gold, with no heart.
      So as someone who is losing faith and therefore maybe seeing what the rest of the world sees in Catholicism a lot clearer… I urge us to rethink what is most valuable to us and give that to God. We give Gold to God, but our hearts follow God’s teachings passively. Obedience, not sacrifice?

      As someone who has no time, who hasn’t gone to Church 2e in the past month for no reason, who went out clubbing 2 nights ago in a skimpy skirt, who doesn’t remember the last time she attended a volunteering event within the past month (Lord, I was busy?) & for all purposes is thus obviously a hypocrite… Today I pray that God would help us find him better, serve him better, love him better.

  • BenjaminDust

    Praise is greatly for our benefit, but not only. If it was so, and we knew it, then praise could only be a selfish act. But praise is also an expression of love. He who loves the humble exalts him. Therefore, God’s humility is love, since it allows us to exalt Him, which is the greatest fulfillment of our being. But also, therefore, our response of praise is love, not offered primarily our own sake, but offered for the sake of He who desires our love.

  • Fr.jim

    Yes, the article was wonderful in its beginning in describing the exultation of the humble. But it falls flat as a false analogy in its move from offering praise for virtues to people who demonstrate them to offering God a portion of things he already owns to causes he cares little about (or may even oppose).

    To make the analogy a true one we would have to ask, “what would Mother Teresa want us to do with HER money to honor her if we were in charge of it?”. What would be most pleasing to HER in our attempt to honor her? Too often we the church, I fear have answered with the equivalent of “build a five star hotel with her name on it so we can enjoy it and remember her in the style we accustom to . And those sick and homeless folks she cared so much about? We’ll feed them at the back door as long as they don’t get in the way and spoil the decor.”

    Offerings to God are not about how sincere or heartfelt our devotions are in ways that please our sensibilities with our means. Instead, they are about returning as a work of devotion what is already His in an act of stewardship to accomplish Kingdom values. Sincere as they may be or loving as it may be, supporting the values of materialism (gold is better than bronze) as an act of worship is not true worship.

  • Adrian

    In Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, gold and silver were used to make chamber-pots, to show that they are just as valuable as any other material. While this is a valid point, and even that made by a Catholic Saint, I still like walking into my local church and seeing the beauty that is put into it. Then it’s asked: “Why not not have all that money used to serve the poor instead?” Maybe because that’s actually what has been done. A church is a place for everyone to worship God. Everyone both rich and poor. I think that the money put into that creation of beauty in churches by those who have it are gifts not only for God, but also His less fortunate children.

  • Amgine

    I wonder how that hospital in Yamoussoukro is coming along. Now that they’ve got the important job of building a $300million roman catholic non-cathedral out of the way.


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