The Vulnerability of Beauty

The Vulnerability of Beauty November 14, 2014

The Abbey of St Antimo, Tuscany, Italy
The Abbey of St Antimo, Tuscany, Italy

A friend of mine once exclaimed, “Oh, the vulnerability of beauty in a world of useful things!”

What he was observing is the fact that beauty cuts across utilitarian and economic ideals. Of course a thing that is efficient and useful might also be beautiful, but something which seeks to be beautiful first of all will seem vulnerable in the face of those twin monsters efficiency and economy.

This clash is nowhere more apparent in the brutality of church architecture in the last fifty years.

The church committees and architects, for the most part, were driven by a variety of factors which ended up producing ugly modern churches.

The basic bottom line was a shift in understanding about what a church was for. 

Our grandfathers and great grandfathers understood that a Catholic church was primarily a temple or dwelling place for God. As such it was supposed to be beautiful and worthy as a home for God, but it was also supposed to be the threshold of heaven, the gate once closed now opened for the return to Eden. It was to be a glimpse of glory and an echo of eternity. Catholic Churches in the Middle Ages were richly decorated because they were the throne room of the Almighty. The pillars topped with foliage and all the floral imagery in carvings and paintings and stylized artwork was all supposed to evoke Eden–a garden in stone that would last forever.

The church was therefore packed full of amazing symbolism that opened the imagination and brought the worshipper closer to God.

All of this was thrown out in favor of efficiency and economy. After the second Vatican council the church was the “gathering place” only. The tabernacle was shunted to a side chapel and the main questions were, “Does the sound system work? Are the pews comfortable? Can everyone see? Does the heating and air work and are the toilets roomy enough?”

This was because a shift in ecclesiology  took place. Worship became first and foremost about the people of God, and too often became about the worship of the people of God rather than the worship of God by the people.

So the church became people oriented rather than God oriented.

When this happened not only did the church building reflect the shift, thus giving us fan shaped auditoria, but the whole ministry of the church and reason to be Catholic shifted. Now it was not so much about the worship and adoration of God, but it was about us and our mission in the world. As the churches became people centered so did the hymns and worship songs. Now it was about “gathering” and “all are welcome” and “we can make a difference yes we can!”

This is why I am convinced that a traditionally styled church is not just preferable, but necessary.

The shift back to God centered building must create God centered liturgy which must create a God centered Catholicism which must tumble down to everything else we do.

That’s why we are making the effort to build a beautiful Romanesque temple in Greenville, South Carolina.

This will be a Catholic Church to remind us and future generations of the true center of Catholic worship and prayer.

The style will be simple, almost austere. Another inspiration for this church was Gilbert Scott’s church of Our Lady and St Alphege in Bath, England

St Mary and St Alphege, Bath, England
St Mary and St Alphege, Bath, England

We have purchased a beautiful set of stained glass windows in the Romanesque style from St Mary Morning Star church in Pittsfield Massachusetts. By the famed Wilbur Burhnam studios, the windows will be in a class of their own in South Carolina.

We also hope to commission some original artwork–low relief sculptures in the tympani over the doorways, murals of the Vietnamese martyrs and new sculptures of Pope St John Paul II and St Faustina for the Shrine to the Divine Mercy in the lower church. There will be a new sculpture of St Vincent de Paul and a beautiful salvaged St Francis statue.

In the lower church there will also be a beautiful columbarium. The ashes of our loved ones can be reposed there within the shrine of the Divine Mercy where Mass will be said every day.

Will you help us build this church? We are now in our final stage of fund raising. We need $650K by the end of the year to break ground in the Spring.

We are well on the way to meeting that target, but we need you help.

Please go here to make in instant donation. Readers of this blog have already been very generous, but if you have not yet contributed would you consider making a donation?

CLICK HERE TO HELP BUILD THE NEW OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY CHURCH IN GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA

If you would like more information about the naming opportunities in the church drop me a line at dlongenecker1@gmail.com

 


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