Before and after: how to renovate a Catholic church — UPDATED

I stumbled upon this today: pictures of a beautifully executed renovation at Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, a church that offers frequent celebration of the Latin Mass.  (Indeed, here’s one curiosity: in the renovation, it doesn’t appear that the priest is able to face the congregation.)

The first picture is the church from 2004.  The second, from 2009.  You can read more about it here.

UPDATE: The pastor has kindly sent along a more recent shot of the sanctuary, which shows the new pulpit:

The discussion here is straying pretty far from the idea of church architecture and renovation. They’re also taking a hostile turn.  Comments are now closed.


  1. Now that is a beautiful Church! The before pic is better than a lot of Churches I have seen but the after is even better.

  2. I won’t go back.

  3. G0RGEOUS!!!

  4. Now this is what a Catholic Church should look like, not the sad modern architectural monstrosities that look like barns or weird art museums, outside and in!

  5. This is how you make good better.

  6. Mixed feelings; both views look nice, and if it’s the Latin Mass site I can see why they went back to the Communion rail and “ad orientem”. However I hope that’s not coming to our parish; been there and done that.

  7. So, Melody, one should just abandon the constant orientation of Christian prayer existent from time immemorial, consistent across authentic Christian traditions, and even assumed by the Novus Ordo rubrics, simply because you’ve “been there and done that?”

  8. Actually, “been there and done that” would be the reason for ad orientem. We are Catholic, after all, and should appreciate the unbroken tradition of worshiping toward liturgical East.

  9. Wow. That is gorgeous. I’m so jealous. Beautiful!

  10. I wonder how many churches are really oriented (sic) toward the east.

  11. Whoever was responsible for the design and execution of previous work done on this church – hiding such beautiful details as windows – should never have been designing and executing to begin with! While there is much beauty in the renovated space, I’m not sure that “frequent celebration of the Latin Mass” should result in or requires a sanctuary that is exclusively ad orientem. The pulpit, which is accessible from the nave, suggesting that the NO is celebrated, strikes me as remarkably insignificant in relation to the altar/reredos. Certainly no sense of the tables of Word and Sacrifice. I think my overall impression of the renovation is that the space is “confused.”

  12. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    I had the same thoughts about the pulpit, until I visited the “virtual tour” of the church on the website. Since 2009, the pulpit has been replaced by an impressive marble-looking one much more in keeping with the style of the church. But I am puzzled by the altar, which seems to not allow the priest to face the congregation. I wonder if the altar slides out to create a proper altar for the NO…?? That would certainly be novel.

    Dcn. G.

  13. It’s not that I mind either ad orientem or Communion rails. It’s just that these things tend to be a package deal with other things. And attitudes. Back when I was in grade school, there wasn’t an agenda attached, it’s just how Mass was. But there has been a lot of water under the bridge. Zealous liturgy and architecture reformers from the 60′s and 70′s are very similar to the ones now, in that it’s their way or the highway. The people in the pews are just there to pay the bills.

  14. You won’t go back to what, Diana? Beauty? Inspired visual Biblical reference and tradition, the Saints and Martyrs? I feel really bad for anyone who rejects the return to Beauty, clinging to the hideous blunders of the 60′s and 70′s; they were truly a catastrophe though I’m well aware that the devil was pleased enough.
    But this is only the restoration/renovation of a ‘church building’. To restore the Church will require a very serious increase in Mass attendance, Confession and a return to Sacramental life in general among the members of the Church, as the Church is not a building; it is the people who make up the Body of Christ. Will you return to that Diana? If not, you might consider becoming an Episcopalian, as they like the modern look too, and from what I’ve read they have plenty of empty seats.

  15. grateful convert says:

    An altar “proper” for the NO is the same as the EF altar! V2 never intended the NO to routinely be said with the priest facing the people. (please refer to the missal … yes, the one we use now … and you will see when the priest should face the people in the NO)

  16. Actually those innovations of the 60’s and 70’s are the problem. These were innovation. Any return to tradition is not an innovation, as it only seeks to remain what it was to begin with, while the innovation seeks to become something other than what it was. The innovations of the 60’s and 70’s deliberately broke from Tradition in a conscious effort to become something different from what it had been for many centuries. It was an effort to become ‘modern’, and in so doing become more in tune with secularism. You might consider that the Church is in three parts a ‘trinity’ so to speak. These parts are the Church Militant, the Church Suffering and the Church Victorious. We are not obliged to innovate our way into something that leaves the Church Suffering or the Church Victorious behind. We are obliged to remain faithfully in communion with them. The real trouble is that the Faith makes people uncomfortable, because it is suppose to be a contrast to the secular realm. Most people want their cake and eat it too, they want to be Christian, but they really don’t expect that to bother them or contrast them to the modern world. If one is serious about being Christian they know that it an expensive choice: it will cost you your worldly life, in exchange for Eternal Life. The innovations of the 60’s and 70’s did achieve one good thing, however, it put the Church Militant much closer to the Church Suffering, as we here still in this world have suffered greatly at the hands of these modern innovators for half a century now, and have not lost the Faith.

  17. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    Be that as it may, in my 52 years as a Catholic, I’ve never experienced the Novus Ordo mass celebrated with the priest having his back to the people.

    Dcn. G.

  18. Folks let’s not mix apples + oranges. There is no legal reason whatsoever that an OF be celebrated versus populum (or in the vernacular for that matter). In fact, an ad orientem Mass with more Latin is probably where the two forms of thr Roman rite will end up reconverging in the future, along with more EF rubrics.
    I am in Shanghai and attended a beautiful OF yesterday – versus populum and mostly in Chinese with some Latin (the choir even sang Credo III but with Chinese words). A nice mix – it felt like a Catholic Mass.
    I am a revert and grew up with the dreadful mistake of the 1970′s and 1980′s. I came back thanks to Summorum Pontifum and disagree it’s a package deal. We don’t know the ‘old’ attitudes + you won’t find them at a typical EF.
    But if more churches were like in this photo with celebrations to match (you know, that they actually believed it all!), I don’t think the EF movement would have appealed to so many.
    Personally, I just fled the dictatorship of the liturgical + architectural innovators. I want tradition. The parish in the photographs seems to also.

  19. Paul L.
    I love to be surrounded with Beauty (which of course, is in the eye of the beholder) but we part company when you go into this territory about Church architecture,

    “I’m well aware that the devil was pleased enough.”

    I have attended mass in Nigeria where the church had dirt floors, windows open to the sky, reverent dancing up the aisle at the Offertory Procession and have felt the presence of God as much as at I have at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC.

  20. Both look nice. I like the backdrop on the new version. I might be tempted to keep the old altar and add the new backdrop.

  21. it is true that the reforms of Vat2 did not mandate which way the priest should face at the altar, but it did call for the altar to be free standing. the free standing altar has always been the tradition in the east and west. a good example the altar at St Peter’s in Rome!

  22. Of course, tradition is a powerful thing and the Church honors the traditions of specific people’s and integrates these things where it is appropriate. But alienating the congregation by a force march into sterile secularism is to alienate and insult those who have been and are still here. Architecture isn’t the issue. If a new building is constructed and meets liturgical parameters that’s fine; it hasn’t been profaned. But when they intentionally ‘neutralize’ an existing building for the express purpose of making it ‘modern’. That is a violation of Tradition and is profane. Build new structures as new structures, but please stop the violations against Tradition and basic common sense by making the old buildings something they were never intended to be. It’s like seeing an older person with gray hair and dressed appropriately, then seeing an older person wearing gangster cloths, purple hair and sporting several new tatoos. It’s nauseating and down-right weird. BTW, there are basic ratios (harmonics) to that species of visual aesthetics called ‘beauty’, and they are far less subjective than that silly old saying indicates. Beauty has very solid Universal criterion. Just because a subjective point of view is warped or ignorant does not change these well-established criterion for Objective/Universal beauty. That saying is for those who believe truth is relative, as it as much says, ‘your truth isn’t my truth’. The Church does NOT view Truth or Beauty as relative or subjective. In fact the Church views Beauty and Truth as inseparable codependent Universal Principles. This truth was once an important part of Church architecture and reflected in Her art in general. How far we have fallen, indeed.

  23. Vatican Council 2, was not a dogmatic council but rather a pastoral council and had no authority to change what Christ and His Church handed down to us nor mandate that an altar be free-standing. Saint Peter’s in Rome is a good example of a BASILICA with a baldacchino. That an altar be freestanding is irrelevant. That it be appropriate for the King of Kings is critical. I recommend the book “In Tiers of Glory” by Michael S. Rose or for a little historical context.

  24. naturgesetz says:

    I have heard that the altar in the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in Cincinnati was made free-standing on orders of Archbishop Karl Alter long before Vatican II, because he had learned that it was correct for the Roman Rite. (BTW, when Missa versus populum was introduced, he opposed it.) So if devotees of the EF want to preserve the tradition of the Church, they will insist on free-standing altars.

  25. michael huffman says:

    The alter table pulls out for the NO mass and is pushed back for the EF mass. My good priest would also point out that one does not have his back to the ppl but is facing God.

  26. It’s compelling to think that how to renovate a Catholic Church, physically and perhaps metaphysically speaking, would be attached to the Latin Tridentine Mass.

  27. this is from the general instruction of the roman missal (3rd edition):

    299. The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. Moreover, the altar should occupy a place where it is truly the center toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns.[115] The altar should usually be fixed and dedicated.

  28. Josue Pedraza says:

    it doesn’t matter in which direction they are oriented so long as the crucifix is up it’s “east” liturgical “east” hahaha :)

  29. Josue Pedraza says:

    I can’t wait till all churches become what they once were.

    Once the SSPX is regularized we’ll have the traditional latin mass galore everywhere!

  30. Paul L:
    I support your affirmation of the ideals of The Good, The Beautiful and The True.

    My main issue was your bringing the devil’s pleasure into the issue.

    Nevertheless, I am wondering: If you had lived in 15th-16h century Italy during the Renaissance, when there was a rebirth of interest in the Graeco-Roman ideal in art, maybe you would have called those Cathedrals built in 12th-14th century France, GOTHIC, aka BARBARIC.

    I rest my case and this will be my last post on this issue.

  31. David J. White says:

    Be that as it may, in my 52 years as a Catholic, I’ve never experienced the Novus Ordo mass celebrated with the priest having his back to the people

    The former pastor of a local parish where I live routinely celebrated the Novus Ordo Mass ad orientem for many years. And it’s not “the priest having his back to the people”; the priest and the people are facing and praying in the same direction.

    [Thanks for the information, David. As to which direction the priest is facing: I refer you to anthony's comment earlier, quoting from the GIRM. Dcn. G.]

  32. As has been pointed out, the altar table is pulled out for the Ordinary Form (OF) of the Mass, and remains against the reredos for the Extraordinary Form (EF). The same was true for the “before” sanctuary, as well.

    Additionally, the “renovation” of 2009 was actually a restoration: the sanctuary looks much more as it did in the years before Vatican II: windows that had been plastered over were opened (giving much more light to the whole building), the altar was restored (note that the previous altar was from a Gothic church, which the architectural style of the building is Romanesque), and the altar rail was replaced. The church also originally had murals on the sanctuary walls, which were also restored (although in a different style). Overall, IMHO, the overall effect of the restoration is quite striking.

  33. Leo Ladenson says:

    Rev. Father Deacon:

    You don’t know what you’re missing then! I’ve seen NO ad orientem for at least 20 years now. And many dioceses are returning to tradition, Arlington being a prominent example. Ad orientem is the only posture that makes any sense. The priest should face east when addressing God and he should turn to face the people when addressing them. So, for example, the priest ought to turn to face the people for the Sursum corda, but as the anaphora proceeds he should return to facing the Father.

  34. naturgesetz says:

    The axis of the nave of my parish church runs nearly southeast to northwest, with the sanctuary at the northwest end. Therefore, the priest faces ad orientem (as nearly as possible without turning at an angle to the nave) when he faces the people. The same is true of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains, which runs east-west. The priest (or archbishop) cannot face east without facing the people as well.

  35. For the record I think it is a beautiful church – and the after renovation photo is stunning.
    May it be an inspiration for the faithful who worship at that site.

    But I do have a few questions no one has answered so far.

    When I was in Europe and visited the great churches, nearly every one of them had a side altar for the tabernacle. Did these churches move the tabernacle after the pinko- liberal, satanic, “only pastoral” church council in the 1960′s? Those side altars look REALLY old-not modern. But seriously – pre VCII- in those churches did people and priest face an altar and wall? Did they face the side altar? Did the 13th century churches really not follow the ” tradition” ?

    I know this is considered hearsay in some circles, and I am a lowly layperson and not a church expert, but isn’t the point of the priest and people of god facing each other instead of a wall because it reinforces the collective and communal celebration of the mass. Several here say that when we face individually towards the altar we are facing God instead. Really? As beautiful and breathtaking as the altars I have seen in person, none compare to looking into the eyes and faces of the beautiful, broken and blessed people of God gathered in the celebration of the mass and becoming ( and being) the Body of Christ.

    When we face each other in the mass are we facing the Body of Christ?

  36. There is no denying that the renovations were well down and the church looks beautiful in its way. Still it is not a church I feel comfortable going to. It is designed for an ecclesiology that is pre-Vatican II, not one that the Council Fathers put forward. It brings back memories of the laity just being observers of the Eucharistic Liturgy, not active participants, with their own uniques roles. By virtue of our Baptism into the Body of Christ, the laity have a share in Christ’s priestly role. To me that means that we have a right to view the sacred action of the Eucharist, including the consecration; to join with the priest in expressing our worship of God through our prayerful responses in the liturgy. And it means that the laity should not be separated from the altar and the sancutary by a railing. I grew up during the pre-Vatican II times, it is a past I do not wish to return to.

    I have seen many beautiful churches, both newly constructed and renovated addressing the requirements of the liturgical renewal. Some incorporated traditional styles, others broke new church architectural ground. All them I experienced as sacred space.

  37. Blake Helgoth says:

    Um, the Novus Ordo can be celebrated ad orientem, in fact the council father assumed that it would be. Can we please have more NO ad orientem?

  38. I have had the opportunity to assist at several Novus Ordo Masses celebrated ad orientem. Let me say first of all that I am not at all a promoter or even a “fan” of the Extraordinary Form Latin Mass. With that in mind I have to say that the Novus Ordo ad orientem was and has been fantastic from my point of view. First of all the Liturgy of the Word was as at any Ordinary Form (N.O.) Mass. However, I found that my focus and attention for the Liturgy of the Eucharist was very different. It was easier, more “natural” to have the focus be the altar and the ritual of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and assisting the celebrant in this act. Secondly, I did nto find myself “distracted” by looking out towards the congregation where “things” are always going on, at a time when the prayers call us to be thinking of the Divine. In the dialogue parts of the Mass the celebrant turn to face the people. When praying directly to the Father he is facing the altar/tabernacle and so am I. I have been truly moved by this format and would not mind one bit if it became the norm. Oh BTW the N.O. Masses were all in English but not all were for large Sunday congrgeations; and all were celebrated by young priests who were ordained anywhere from 1-3 years ago. it was their request in each case for the use of ad orientem.

  39. “Should” is a suggestive word, don’t you think? I stand with my case that a free standing altar is not important, but what IS important is the modification of the Roman Missal, such as the third edition that you so kindly quoted at me; a total disregard for Church Tradition and her laws and ordinances. Please refer to Saint Pius V’s Quo Primum:

    I think Pius V shows a little more conviction in his encyclical:
    “We specifically command each and every patriarch, administrator, and all other persons or whatever ecclesiastical dignity they may be, be they even cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, or possessed of any other rank or pre-eminence, and We order them in virtue of holy obedience to chant or to read the Mass according to the rite and manner and norm herewith laid down by Us…”

    The New Roman Missal, the 1946 printing, put together by Father Lasance that conforms to Pius V’s DECREE, simply specifies that the altar be made of stone, or if it be of wood that it have an altar stone set in, etc… I suggest getting a copy of this missal. It is rich in history and significance of the rubrics and elements used in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  40. if this was 1946 i would accept the current missal and its instructions of the that time. The Roman missal has been revised by a number of Pope’s these past 60 years. as a roman catholic i pray with the church, which means i accept the currrent missal issued by Pope John Paul 2 and it laws and rubrics. if not then we open the door for everyone to become “cafeteria catholics”.

  41. qwertyuiop says:

    As has been noted, the “table” pulls out from the main altar for the OF. The EF is at 9:30 and the OF at noon. Both are packed every Sunday. The beauty of this arrangement is that neither form is the stepchild of the other. Meanwhile, the good people of the parish have reopened the long-closed parish school and the children attend daily mass in both forms. This parish should be a model.

    FYI, Holy Rosary was built in 1909 to serve a growing Italian community. According to one account I read, there was a bit of a rush to establish this parish because Methodists were making inroads among Italian immigrants at the time.

  42. Deacon Greg and anthony, with all due respect, that section of the GIRM does NOT indicate a preference for Mass celebrated facing the people. Rather, the “which is desirable wherever possible” refers to the construction of a freestanding altar. Wherever possible, the altar should be freestanding. This question has been dealt with in a dubium to the Congregation for Divine Worship a number of years ago, and the Congregation clarified that the section is referring to construction, not the orientation of the celebrant.

    The rubrics of the Roman Missal (Ordinary Form) presume that the priest is not facing the people. At several points, they instruct him to turn to the people (e.g., “Pray, brethren,” “The Lord be with you” at the beginning of the Preface dialogue, etc.” If the priest is facing the people to begin with, why would the missal have to instruct him to turn toward them?

  43. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Stephen, Fr. Z undertook an interesting dissection of the translation of the Latin GIRM several years ago.

    Read it here.

    And people wonder why there’s so much hand-wringing and fist-shaking over the new translation of the Roman Missal. It’s stuff like this.

    Dcn. G.

  44. naturgesetz says:

    Even if Fr. Z is spot on in his interpretation of #299, there is clearly nothing to discourage Mass facing the people. Indeed making Mass facing the people possible is considered a benefit of a free-standing altar.

  45. Hello, Folks,

    I don’t spend much time on blogs and such, so I never knew about this site. There are also too many interesting comments for me to read in the limited time I have. Paul L., I’m grateful not only for your kind words specifically about my church pictured above (the before and after), but also for your fine instruction on architecture, and, in effect, the “philosophy of beauty.” I’m glad you were able to elicit some responses by folks who don’t subscribe to what you say, specifically, HMS and Diana. I guarantee that I won’t engage them or anyone else in any kind of debate, since, as I said, I lack the time to devote to internet blogs and other sites. However, what they and countless others out there have to realize is that beauty is really NOT a matter of taste or, as Diana says, in the eye of the beholder. It is something that is NOT subjective. It is objective, apart and distinct from us. Now, as HMS sort of alluded to, one can love the Romanesque style and not like the
    Gothic. That is a question of subjective taste, but does not alter the fact that each, particularly compared to bland, beige, locker room, bank-resembling-eyesores that pass for churches today, is beautiful — as beautiful (IN ITS WAY) as the simple, linoleum floored patchwork-furnished-chapel in which I celebrate Mass for the Missionaries of Charity. What we all have to realize, and those who like the stark, carpeted monotony in which priests clad in 1970s “disco” or “leisure suit” like vestments (which drown them in a sea of polyester double-knit) emote and improvise the Mass for “pastoral” reasons – with “inclusive language” of course – must realize as well is that everything “comes into” us, i.e., into our intellect, through the senses. Beauty, clarity, symmetry, unity, along with the best that the Roman Catholic liturgy can offer, particularly chant, stimulate the senses, elevate and propel the faithful toward the One who IS Beauty Himself.

    By the way, my wonderful parishioner who wrote above, ‘michael huffman’ writes about how our “mensa” can be moved out from the reredos so the celebrant can stand behind it and celebrate Mass “ad populum” and then be pushed back into the reredos for Mass “ad orientem.” This is very true. Happily, though not as often as I’d like, sometimes I celebrate the Ordinary Form “ad orientem” as well. I gave a big chunk of catechesis on this from the pulpit yesterday, and hope to celebrate “ad orientem” more and more in future. BTW, there’s a better picture of the sanctuary I’d be happy to give the webmaster of this site. If he/she is interested, I invite him/her to contact me (we have to provide our email addresses to post here) and I’ll email it along.

    If any of you live or visit Indianapolis, please come to Holy Rosary for Sunday Mass in either form. You’ll be very glad you did. God bless you all.

    Fr. Magiera

  46. stephen,
    if you read my post, i did not state any preference for which way a priest faces at the altar. i stated and gave a quote from the “girm”
    that altars should be free standing.

    again i am not stating a personal preference, but if you are questioning the legitimacy of the priest facing the people at the OF ?
    then it is impossible to have a discussion, it should be obvious it is an approved option for those who celebrate using the current roman missal.

  47. Deacon Greg gave a link to St Francis Church on the confession post, they renovated their church a few years ago and i think have a good example of a permanent free standing altar that is mentioned in the GIRM.

    here is a link to the pictures:

  48. “Back to the people” is propaganda foisted on the faithful following V2. The priest was always seen as leading the faithful on the pilgrimage to Heaven represented by the sanctuary and the tabernacle.

    The “back to the people” was used to disparage this aspect of liturgy in favor of the entertainer MC that we see far too much of today.

  49. Absolutely beautiful!!!!!

  50. Father Magiera:
    I did not intend to respond to this post on church architecture any more. However, since you have weighed in on the topic and mentioned my comment, I would like to set the record straight.

    I have taught a course in Church History for fifteen years to lay members of our Church, who are part of a Formation Program in our diocese. I have always integrated into the course our rich tradition in art, architecture and also music (e.g., Gregorian and Ambrosian chant and, when time permitted, the music of Palestrina). So you see, I am probably on the same page as you with respect to what constitutes Beauty objectively.

    What I did take issue with and perhaps I did not convey this well, is the comment of Paul L.:

    “I’m well aware that the devil was pleased enough.”

    I do not think that it is necessary or appropriate to bring an assumption about what pleases the devil into a discussion on Church architecture.

  51. What the church has now is entirely “proper” for the NO. Facing liturgical east remains the norm for all forms of the Latin rite. The priest has the possibility of facing the people when the missal so directs.

  52. Deacon Greg,
    Years ago for a time the Mass broadcast on EWTN was celebrated “ad orientem”, and this was in the Ordinary Form, until I believe their bishop at the time requested “versus populum”. Also, like someone else mentioned, the rubrics of the Mass presume that the priest faces “ad orientem” at several points, and this can be done on a free standing altar as easily as on one against the wall (as long as the free-standing altar isn’t along the edge of the sanctuary steps!).

  53. Not a fan of the altar rail; no need to keep the people separated by this wall from Christ (present on the altar) like that. Also, unless I’m mistaken, it seems as though the “terraces” in the sanctuary would not be accessible for anyone with a mobility problem — including, for instance, a priest in a wheelchair.
    Some aspects of the renovated church are indeed beautiful — yet if you work hard at it, you can make a space welcoming, accessible, and beautiful. Wish they had achieved a better balance in this renovation.

  54. “Not a fan of the altar rail; no need to keep the people separated by this wall from Christ (present on the altar) like that”

    Steve, unfortunately, thanks to the misapplication and misinterpretation of Vatican II (a.k.a the “Spirit of Vatican II”), that is the interpretation of the altar rail that has stuck in people’s heads over the last several years, leading to a huge proportion of them being dismantled/destroyed in churches. This is a negative way to think of altar rails. You should consider two more positive interpretations of the altar rail separating the Sanctuary and the body of the church: One symbolic, and one historical.

    Historical: If one recalls the Temple in Jerusalem, there was multiple sections, with one being for the Jewish people, and an inner sanctum, with an even smaller innermost sanctum referred to as the “Holy of Holies” containing the Ark of the Covenant. Only once a year could the chief priests enter into that room, and many a time in the Bible, if anyone opened the Ark or touched it, they’d die.

    Symbolical: Think of the body of the Church as Earth, our present mortal life. Think of the Sanctuary as Heaven, the afterlife where our Lord Jesus resides in the Tabernacle (a thorne of sorts if you like). When it is time to hand out communion to you in the Extraordinary form (or even the Novus Ordo as it’s never give on the Altar) by the priest who acts “in alter christi” and consecrates the bread and blood into the Body of Christ, one kneels at the altar rail (or stands and receives CITH) and is given Christ in the Presence of the Eucharist. For the time that Christ is given to us from “Heaven,” and He is refered to as “Bread from Heaven” when you go to a First Friday Benediction and Adoration devotion, you are being given a taste of Heaven, a pre-experience and preparation for what one will experience when, (providing they are in the state of grace and not separated from Him by mortal sin) you die and your soul has left your mortal flesh and blood.

  55. Steve, it is not the purpose of an altar rail to separate the people from Christ. Its purpose is to aid in delineating the sanctuary because the sanctuary is that part of a church dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist. It is entirely proper for this to be marked as a holy space set aside for a holy purpose. The faithful are present and participate in various ways (mostly through personal engagement and praying the parts assigned to them), but their presence and participation are secondary to the sacred action at the altar. There is an objective difference to the two spaces, which deserves not to be fudged through countersigns. Speaking of mobility issues, one might add that the altar rail is a valuable aid to many communicants struggling to rise after receiving Holy Communion.

    The altar steps to the predella also are symbolically important as a visual reminder of the ways God has used high places to symbolize his coming to meet man, especially in the context of Sacrifice. Mounts Moriah, Sinai, and especially Calvary come to mind. It’s true that altar steps can be a barrier to seriously infirm priests. MCs or other servers can help priests up and (especially) down steps to if they’re wobbly or otherwise unconfident, but this is not a reason to erect the ADA over the canons of sacred architecture. The priest exists for the sacrifice, not the other way round.

    I would have erected a more prominent crucifix along the major axis, not placed a distractingly large one off-center. As for the orientation of the altar, it seems to me there are actually two altars, one free-standing and one against the back wall. If I am right, this is an unfortunate compromise that will do much to impair the visual impact of the EF.

  56. Hi,Romulus,
    Didn’t expect to be back, but here I am. The crucifix above the pulpit belonged to Monsignor Priori, the founding pastor. But, if you’ll look above the altar, you’ll see a large crucifix in the niche. Years ago, a larger than lif-sized crucifix was on the column behind the priest at the pulpit. We put this smaller one there to commemmorate the tradition of the founder. But, there is a wonderful gold and silver crucifix in the center, where it should be. BTW, when the mensa is “out”for “ad populum,” a crucifix and six candles are placed on the altar to form the presently popular Benedictin arrangement. Yes, Holy Rosary is one of the most beautiful churches on earth – but then, I’m partial. God bless.
    Fr. Magiera

  57. HMS,
    Here is a syllogism just for you:
    Major premise: What displeases God pleases the devil.
    Minor Premise: The destruction of Beauty displeases God.
    Conclusion: The destruction of Beauty pleases the devil.
    The above is a ‘perfect syllogism’ and is a necessary conclusion unless you can refute either premise. But don’t take my word for it, I didn’t invent the syllogism, Aristotle did, so blame him for being so darned logical. Now if you wish to contend further by using some kind of subjective argument about what constitutes Beauty, I’ll heap some more Aristotle on you and I’m telling you, you won’t win. He’s a heavy load and you aren’t going to out think him. So my point was appropriate as you see. In short, it is prudent to honor and preserve Beauty in all things but most of all Liturgical things, including the architecture.

  58. It is gorgeous, I have church envy. I live in the suburbs and the churches in the area that were built in the 1800′s and early 1900′s have all been wreck-o-vated long ago by those who did not take time or did not care to read the Vatican II documents.
    For this church and architecture the renovation is beautiful because it fits. I was not surprised to read the comment that the church now looks similar to they way it looked prior to changes made after Vatican II.
    I have also been fortunate enough to have experienced the OF mass ad orientem and have hopes that it will spread. I want my airline pilot and bus driver to be facing the same direction as I am since they are leading me to a certain destination and that is just to preserve my mortal body.

  59. Ah, dear Paul L:
    In my academic background, I have taken philosophy courses in Aristotle and Logic and, I might add with some humility, earned one of the few A’s in Logic. (Do you want me to show you my transcript?) Thus, I cannot fault your logic.
    But, I can question how readily you seem to know what kind of architecture pleases God. I thought what pleases God is a humble and contrite heart.

  60. The church is pretty, but then I find many styles of churches fine. What is sad is the intolerance shown by some in their comments.

  61. ‘A humble and contrite Heart’, which is a Beautiful thing for sure HMS and surely more precious and pleasing to God than any building! And it surely displeases the devil as we have agreed that the premise is convertible. However, God did give very precise instructions for the building of the Tabernacle and the Temple, and even the vestments worn by Aaron. He did make it pretty clear that ratio and harmony mattered. Reading the instructions given to Moses for this structure and the contents is pretty clear evidence that he cared about such things, He expected us to care and He didn’t allow anyone messing things up either. When Aaron’s sons didn’t bring the sacrifice as Moses instructed they were burned up by ‘holy fire’ and no one could even put them out. (I think that account was Flavius Josephus’ in the ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ Vollume II, Book III). As Fr. Magiera pointed out, the only means of induction we have is through our senses and if these are inadequately provided for the process of deduction is impaired. I agree that Mass can be celebrated in an ugly building as validly as in a magnificent cathedral in the old world. However, the senses are much better provided for in the latter setting, while the former deadens the senses. I believe it is the responsibility of the architect to infuse the structure with elements inspired from the Liturgy, Tradition, the Saints, Dogma and so on. The architecture should elevate and inspire the worship as much as possible. It’s important to be removed from the day-to-day world and enter into what looks and even smells and feels like a Holy Place, not a cheap motel room from 1974. I can tell you this, that it’s a whole lot easier to cultivate the disposition of a ‘humble and contrite heart’, which we both agree is very pleasing to God, and displeasing to the devil, in the appropriate setting of an ancient cathedral that honors and preserves Beauty than a cheap motel room. The former is ‘humbling’, the later is humiliating.

  62. Romulus and Young RC, I get the traditionalist theology associated with altar rails; I just happen to disagree with much of that approach to thinking about our relationship with God. (And above all us, the Church — the collective Church rather than simply a “church” building — IS about our relationship with, our connection to, God. It’s not about legalisms, formal divisions between the people of God and the sacred. Christ instituted the Church to bring God and people together — not to separate them.)

    Romulus, you wrote that “the sanctuary is that part of a church dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist.” That’s a very narrow interpretation of what the purpose of a church building is. The entire assembly — all the people there in good faith to worship and receive God (“the two or three gathered,” or several hundred gathered as the case may be) is dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist. You’ll recall that Christ taught that our bodies are the temple in which the Holy Spirit resides. Yes, follow that through to its logical implication — we are sacred; we are made sacrad. When we gather together in worship of and humble service to God, we are Church. I know, I know, traditionalists decry that as all that “spirit of Vatican II stuff.” Indeed it is. As for me, I’m not willing to go back to a world in which we are led to believe that Christ wants us kept away from the celebration of the Word and of the Eucharist. I’m not willing to say that the people erecting altar rails are the “True Catholics” and that the rest of us just have to go extinct or be ready to accept the whole traditionalist line — Latin, ad orientem (which is in fact, Mass said with the priest’s back to the people God has called into assembly), and altar rails. I’ll leave the Catholic church if the traditionalists (those in the hierarchy or in the laity) see the need to do a victory lap all over the place. I come to church to worship God, not learn that the ordinary laity are unworthy of coming close to the God who created them. That’s not how Jesus operated. Christ Jesus was God incarnate — never asked the apostles to put up a rail around him to keep the populace at bay. Christ is STILL God incarnate. I’m not willing to buy the mere-unworthy-laity-stay-at-bay line of reasoning. No way.

  63. Isn’t this an implicit condemnation of the entire history of liturgy? No text explicitly describes what you are describing. And this includes all of the eastern and oriental rites too.

    Distinction has nothing to do with legalism. Without a distance to be broached where is God super-abundance? Distinction and order pervades all creation, and surely the church is also created. It needn’t take on the position of a clericalism. Indeed, if distinction and symbolical order are to be rejected,why even have an ordained priesthood? Why even a church building? And why, ultimately, even sacraments? If the presence of the gathered community is sufficient in itself, why is there even a need to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord?

    A rail or a screen does not keep us away from the Mysteries. For God dwells in our souls. Indeed, these external sacred structures express outwardly what occurs invisibly.

  64. Steve, chil-lax,. ‘Real Catholics’ follow the lead of their Bishops who hold the Office of Apostle. If the Bishop decides to put up Communion rails, roll with the punches as we who preferred Communion rails did when they ripped them all down and started treating the Body of Christ like Doritos and pop corn. Remember that Christ breathed upon the Apostles and infused them with the Holy Spirit and His Own authority, an authority you must respect or be in violation of and rebellion against Jesus Christ Himself. He gave Peter the Keys and made it VERY clear that what he bound on earth was bound in Heaven. Get it? A little more humility and tolerance for things that violate your sensitive subjective preferences will surely aid in your spiritual development. Consider it a form of fasting like so many of us have for 50 years now. As it is, you’re clearly saying, ‘I’ll receive salvation on my terms or to hell with it and me’. Better rethink what it means to be a Catholic. It’s an Apostolic Church not the ‘church of Steve’. I’ve suffered my way through many years of what I consider very substandard circumstances and procedures with a dreadful ‘sound track’ but I’m still here, and Jesus knows I’m here for Him and I will not be put off if I don’t get my way. My way isn’t ‘The Way’ and neither is yours. It’s strange that so many are very willing to follow the Bishops when they loosen the reigns but run and kick like wild horses when they pull them back again. This is a sign of a bad ‘horse’ destined for the glue factory.

  65. Thanks, Paul, for the prediction about what fate awaits my eternal soul. Glad to know you have me (and other progressive Catholics) as headed to the eternal glue factory.

    For the record, I would never predict that traditionalists Catholics are all headed to hell if they express an opinion on church design or church leadership. In fact, I hope we all end up in heaven together — even if we understand Christ’s essential teachings to mean something very different. Peace to you. (No sarcasm there. I mean that — peace and love and mercy are Christ’s central teachings. An altar rail does not make me your enemy, nor an enemy of Christ. Lots of good people follow God who are not members of the Catholic church. I may just end up being one of those folks. Yes: one can leave the Catholic church and still love God just as fully as any Catholic. But I wish you all good things, God’s peace chief among them.)

  66. I don’t think anybody has to leave the Church. There’s room for both traditionalists and progressives, and those like me who find ourselves somewhere in the middle. We do have to respect one another, and consider that our way of looking at things isn’t the only way.

  67. Could someone please explain to me exactly what is a “progressive Catholic”?

  68. I think a “progressive Catholic” is one who rejects much of the Church’s teaching in whole or in part, who dismisses the hierarchical structure of the Church and its authority and wants the Church to “adapt” its teachings to modern times and “get with it”. They see nothing wrong with same sex marriage, lobbying for female priests and anything else they deem not in tune with their concept of the Church. They are prone to relativism and follow their ill formed consciences instead of official church teaching. A recent example may be Fr Ray Bourgeios of Maryknoll. Anything else?

  69. As another Roman Catholic (I like to call myself a “practicing” Catholic – I am practicing until I get it right), may I remind you of the eighth commandment as explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2477:

    “Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty: …

    - of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.”

  70. HMS I don’t know to whom you were addressing your comment but there was nothing untrue in my comment.

  71. I’ll leave the Catholic church if the traditionalists (those in the hierarchy or in the laity) see the need to do a victory lap all over the place.

    Steve, 40 years ago a great many Catholics who were heartbroken over the liturgical revolution resolved nevertheless to stay within the Church, knowing very well that there’s no place else to go. If you’re a Catholic in response to God’s will, you must not leave. If you’re Catholic in response only to your own will, you must search for a better reason outside yourself.

    One final remark: to describe the priest as having his “back to the people” is to imply that “the people” is the point of reference, relative to which everything is ordered. You may not intend this consciously, but it’s implicit in your choice of words. As with my comment above: is our faith centered on ourselves, or on God? Please understand that traditionalists are making a serious and weighty point when they complain of new styles of worship and belief as humanistic.

  72. Paul L, “progressive” is a term used in opposition to the term that many traditionalist Catholics embrace — “conservative Catholic.” Many of those folks assume that anything and everything deemed conservative is blessed from above (a result, I’d say, of the propaganda spread by Fr. Charles Coughlin in the 1930s and Catholics such as Bill Bennett and Bill Donohue, along with Fox News, in the late 20th/early 21st century…e.g., the idea that EWTN is a godsend because it’s a tool for spreading a conservative version of Catholicism).

    Of course, we’re often told we should not describe various points on the continuum within the church in political terms (e.g., liberal, moderate, conservative), yet many conservative Catholics do in fact embrace all things conservative (including sexist doctrines and writings; ethnocentric, Western-oriented love of all things Latin and an open hostility of contributions from other, non-western cultures — e.g., African dance in liturgies, even when the celebrant was John Paul II; a rejection of the laity’s role in governing the church and participating fully in Mass; etc.). Traditionalists proudly proclaim themselves “good conservative Catholics,” as though no one in his right mind would question anything of a conservative nature. (Never mind that Charles Coughlin was an incredible bigot. He’s okay because he helped spread conservative, Roosevelt-hating propaganda.)

    There are, of course, progressive Catholics out there, and yes, we do often question policies that hierarchy inflict upon the church. And guess what? We love Christ too. We even respect the core mission of the Church — to spread God’s love and mercy and to serve the poor and to embrace the modern-day equivalents of the lepers whom Christ embraced. Some traditionalists would have you believe that a progressive Catholic needs to just conform or get lost; stop questioning or go to hell for daring to ask questions and calling for change. But life isn’t simple, and Christ’s church can stand up just fine when an effort is made to get the church to reject sexism in the church, etc. In fact, the church can end up better in the end, more closely aligned with the mission Christ gave it. (The Holy Spirit is not finished with this church yet. And I’m offering that opinion in a spirit of optimism, not hostility. I’m guessing this church likely has at least a few thousand more years left in its history on earth. Not everything WILL stay frozen throughout the millennia.)

  73. naturgesetz says:

    Steve, to tar present-day Catholics of any stripe with Fr. Coughlin is ridiculous. Produce documentation of which “conservatives” say Fr. Coughlin’s bigotry was okay or withdraw your calumny against all conservatives (and it is against all conservatives, since you made no distinction).

    Also, what do you consider “sexist doctrines and writings”?

  74. Naturgesetz, I’m glad to see you, as a conservative Catholic, denounce Fr. Coughlin.

    I frequently hear Muslims criticized for their failure to jump up and shout, “I hate terrorism!” That expectation is just as ridiculous as a request that every conservative Catholic come out and explicitly denounce Fr. Coughlin, the John Birch Society, White Citizen Councils from the 1950s and 1960s, and Rush Limbaugh’s hateful, dehumanizing rhetoric against President Obama and his parentage. You all do NOT have an obligation to denounce Fr. Coughlin. Nonetheless, he was a very conservative Catholic. My point is that there’s a long tradition of Catholics who buy into the conservative line, both politically and culturally, and then criticize anyone who deviates from that line as an anarchist, or athiest, or secular humanist, or Marxist, or whatever other epithet comes to mind.

    I was asked to justfiy my use of the term “progressive Catholic” — as though there is no room in the church for such a person. The assumption, again, is that anything conservative is good, blessed, and completely in line with Christianity. Clearly, that is not always the case. (As you yourself have implied, Fr. Coughlin, on the extreme right, was at odds with mainstream Christian morality and reasoning. Everything conservative is not automatically the default position for a good Catholic.)


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