Sunday, April 30, 2006

Insight and Courage

. . . not a single person responded. . . . I fear that we Americans have become in many ways a society of wraiths.
—Caryl Johnston, April 29, 2006

If the national conscience is willing to ignore the shame of Guantanamo, it'll ignore anything, as it very well has.
— Pierre Tristam, November 6, 2002

Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
—Luke 16:29–31

People miss things. The Roman Empire took only enough notice of Jesus to kill him.
– Notes, August 31, 2004

A civilization greater than ours crucified Christ. We have many intelligent men and women today, but their awarenes tends to be confined to specialties professional and avocational. Any truth truly told is comprehended by only a few persons. Even these few soon find their minds distracted by the next emergency.

The demotic culture in decadence did not suffer from inertia. It was active in proportion to its predicaments; paralysis in one domain — and incompetence in many — excited lively efforts to overcome them. Many shrewd minds, accurately noting the condition of stasis, urged plausible remedies; nobody pretended that apart from science and techne advance was taking place. But some hesitation was shown about applying the word Decadence to the whole West and the whole era, as our distance from it now [A.D. 2300?] enables us to do without tremor.

That reluctance was natural but — again — it did not preclude insight and courage.

— Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, 2000, p. 798.

If it has been given to you to see, see and take heart.

Making Mass Better

The easiest and quickest way to improve the Mass is to remove microphones. It would do more good than ten thousand blogs about the liturgy.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Choir Belongs in the Choir Loft

312. The choir should be positioned with respect to the design of each church so as to make clearly evident its character as a part of the gathered community of the faithful fulfilling a specific function. The location should also assist the choir to exercise its function more easily and conveniently allow each choir member full, sacramental participation in the Mass.
General Instruction of the Roman Missal

Throughout almost the entire history of Christendom, lay choirs have sung the praises of God and aided their congregations from a position of humility and service rather than in full view. The chancel location is a stumbling block to choir member and congregant alike. To the chorister, it both builds the ego to be seen as one "performs," and it literally separates one from the congregation one should be supporting. It visually distracts from the preaching of the Word, and it tempts the congregants to critique the appearance of the choir and especially any extra musicians that have been shoehorned [in] for special occasions. . . .

. . . The choir speaks with the congregation rather than at them. This relationship is more apparent when the choir speaks on behalf of the people, such as when offering an anthem of praise to God, rather than to an audience. Further, the director has the freedom to lead the singers without distracting the congregation, the seating can be movable to accommodate special needs, and the choir is afforded the same view of the pastor's face as the other worshipers are. Acoustically the rear position is preferable. . . . Any good organ builder will prefer a gallery position, and voices resonate best from this position, hence most effectively aiding the corporate singing and praises. The maintenance on an organ in chambers in the front will be higher than one enclosed in casework in the rear due to temperature and humidity differences, plus the fact that a roof leak on pipework and windchests can go undetected until much expensive damage has been incurred.

— Rich Mays, Consider the Choir (alternative link)

“Having ‘left Geneva,’ I am solidly on the ‘road to Durham,’ happily in the folds of the evangelical (but traditional worship, as in 1928 BCP) Anglicanism.” — Rich Mays, e-mail 29 April 2006.

St Mary's, Greenville SC

Historical Progression







St. Mary's Catholic Church, Greenville, SC
Father Jay Scott Newman, Pastor

Father Jay Scott Newman, Worshipping the Lord in the Spirit of Holiness

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pierre Tristam Jane Jacobs

Read Jane Jacobs, Prophet, in Candide’s Notebooks

“She was feisty, but she actually observed what people do, and thought about that. A rare trait among social scientists. . . .”
Jerry Pournelle

Jane Jacobs (1916–2006) died on April 25, 2006.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Speaking as Active Participation in Mass

We participate in Mass by: standing, kneeling, bowing, genuflecting, sitting, listening, looking, reading, speaking, being silent, singing, signing, greeting, offering, eating, drinking, smelling. This blog is about speaking. The priest speaks to God and to the people. The people speak to God, to the priest, to the people, and to Mary and all the angels and saints. God speaks to the priest and the people. The stage of every Mass is heaven and earth, and the players are the priest, the people, all the angels and saints, and God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


People to God.

Liturgical Greeting
Priest: “In the name of the Father, . . .”
People: “Amen.”
Priest to people.
People to priest.

Penitential Rite
Priest to people.
Priest and people to God, to people, to Mary, and all the angels and saints.

Priest and people to Christ.

Priest and people to God.

Priest: "Let us pray."
People: "Amen."
Priest to God.


First Reading
God to priest and people.
Priest and people to God.

Second Reading
God to priest and people.
Priest and people to God.

People to God.

Priest to people.
People to priest.
God to people.
People to God.
Christ to people.
People to Christ.

Priest to people.

Priest and people to God and people.

Prayers of the Faithful
Priest to people
Lector to God and people.
Priest and people to God.


People to God.
Priest to God.
People to priest and God.
Priest to people.
People to God in the third person and priest in the second.

Priest to people (3X).
People to priest (3X).

Holy, Holy, Holy (joining the angels and saints)
Priest and people to God.

Epiclesis, Consecration, etc.
Priest to the Father.

Memorial Acclamation
Priest to people.
People (A) to people? (B,C,D) to Christ.

Prayer concluding with the Great Amen
Priest to the Father.
People: “Amen.”


Lord’s Prayer
Priest and people to the Father.

Exchange of Peace
Priest to people
People to priest and each other.

Agnus Dei
Priest and people to Christ.

“This is the Lamb of God”
Priest to people.
Priest and people to Christ.

Reception of Communion
Minister to communicant.
Communicant to minister.

After Communion
Priest to people.
Priest to God.
People: "Amen."


Priest to people.
People to priest.
Priest blesses people.
People: “Amen.”
Priest to people.
People: “Thanks be to God.”

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

On Consulting the Laity

Mr Sean O’Connor was an elected member of the Briefing Committee formed in the fall of 1998 by John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne, to “to consider how best [St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh] can be arranged for liturgical use with regard to the norms of Vatican 2 and to note carefully the limits which consideration for the architectural heritage of the building will impose on any change which is being considered”. According to Mr O”sConnor, committe had “15 members: 3 were elected by the people of Cobh and 12 were nominated by Bishop Magee and the religious”. The following, like “There are no plans”: A Public Meeting in Cobh (June 1998), is from Mr O”Connor’s Observer submission to the Oral Hearing of An Bord Pleanala regarding St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh Co. Cork:

I will now quote the bishops final paragraph in his brief to the Briefing Committee (no. 6 above):

A Listening Process.

Members, I look forward to hearing your considered recommendations. They will be a great help to me in arriving at a decision which will be put to the people of Cobh before any alterations are undertaken. I pray that you may be enlightened by the spirit as you undertake this most important task.

It makes for lovely reading, if only it was sincere.

I suggest that the following statement,

My decision will be put to the people of Cobh before any alterations are undertaken.

lacked sincerity and what eventually transpired was,

When I have already submitted the plans to Cobh Town Council I will announce the consultation process at all masses the following weekend.

This turned out to be a total contradiction of his original statement [about holding another public meeting before making a decision on plans].

With regard to any consultation concerning Professor O'Neill's specific plans for the cathedral, McCutcheon Mulcahy's report p.20, item 4.7 (b)states that the “diocesan authorities carried out an extensive programme of public consultation on the proposed reordering involving a series of meetings in all five deaneries of the diocese as well as with the clergy and religious of the diocese. The proposed design was presented in the context of the liturgical requirements of the H[istorical] C[hurch] A[dvisory] C[ommission]. All participants were invited to submit written comments and of 159 who expressed an opinion, 109 were in favour, 42 against, mainly on liturgical grounds, and 8 had mixed views”.

It should be noted that this consultation took place after the submission of plans to Cobh Town Council. The meetings were held in Cobh on July 18 and 19; Middleton 19 July; Fermoy 20 July; Kanturk 21 July; Macroom 22 July.

No opinion expressed could have influenced the evolution of the plans at that stage.

Concerning the number of written replies left after these consultations, the diocesan clerical magazine Linkup [Vol. 7, issue 4, September 2005] published the following figures: 103 written replies were left of which 66 were positive, 37 against, and 6 mixed views. A correction in the subsequent issue stated that “number [of written replies] was in fact 109”. While difficult to reconcile these figures, it is clear that the general public for the most part did not regard these sessions as in any sense a genuine process of consultation and ignored them.


“There are no plans”: A Public Meeting in Cobh (June 1998)

A public meeting was called for the 28th of June 1998 in the Commodore Hotel, Cobh. The town’s people were under the impression that the meeting was to reflect on progress to date of the restoration plan and that information and consultation would take place on the next stage. Mr Tom Cavanagh of Fermoy was chairman. Also in attendance were Bishop Magee, the cathedral chapter, the trustees, the full steering committee, clergy and relgious and a few hundred people from the parish.

A number of speakers, from the top table, outlined the work that had been done [on the first phases of the restoration] and complimented all those who played a part — and deservedly so.

As no mention of re-ordering [renovation] was made, I asked the chairman if each parishioner could receive a copy of the plans submitted to the Heritage Council. Canon Reidy stood up and asked me to withdraw my remarks and said,

“There are no plans”. Bishop Magee stood up, put his hand on his heart, and said, “There are no plans”. People got very angry and a number of people asked Bishop Magee about plans for the rails, the tabernacle, the pulpit and many other issues. They were not happy with the response and wanted guarantees. The bishop agreed to retain the tabernacle in its present position. At this stage the meeting was totally out of order and in an effort to deflate the situation Bishop Magee said he would set up a committee [see On Consulting the Laity] including a number of parishioners to help him come to a decision, and before he would make a decision he would come back to another public meeting in four months.

Bishop Magee gave that solemn promise almost eight years ago in front of the trustees, the cathedral chapter, the steering committee and a few hundred parishioners. We are still waiting for him to honour his promise.

12 months later Mr Cavanagh commented that it was one of the most traumatic experiences of his life.

— Sean O’Connor, Councillor with Cobh Town Council, Observer submission to the Oral Hearing of An Bord Pleanala regarding St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh Co. Cork

See also On Consulting the Laity.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sufficient unto the Day

As persons wholly dependent for salvation on the work of Christ, we have to think and speak dialectically, being addressed by Paul, “what do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? (1 Cor 4:7). But once our dependence is thought through and made clear, we should not shy away from pondering the richness of the gift, where another thought-form can well be introduced, that of participation.

I am reminded of the remark of an astute Thomist of the Reformation era, when he responded to the Protestant denial of the meritorious and satisfactory value of human graced good works. The opponents felt constrained to make this denial, lest they call in question the full and perfect sufficiency of the merit and satisfaction of Christ’s death for us and for our salvation. The affirmation of Christ had to be guarded by a denial of a creaturely role. But the Thomist, Tommaso de Vio, Cardinal Cajetan, answered that ascribing meritorious value to the works of the justified does not come from holding an insufficiency on the side of Christ, but it is done instead precisely because of the singular richness of Christ’s merit (propter affluentiam). For Christ gives his members a share in his merit, albeit in their order of dependent causes and in their partial and imperfect degree.[17] The key is not to think that a Yes to Christ means simply and solely a No to his members, dialectically, but to admit as well that Christ’s influence extends to give others a mode of participation, on their level, in what he is and does.

Thus, Mary’s intercession on behalf of the world is dependent on the unique and all-perfect mediation of her Son. It does not serve to supplement Christ’s intercession, as if that needed completion. It is rather a manifestation of, or even a testimonial to, the supreme role of Christ that he incorporates others, preeminently his mother, into his ongoing intercession for the graces of his Spirit for us and for our salvation.

— Jared Wicks, S.J., A Commentary on Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission - 2005

Worms have eaten them, but not for love. How many have died, how many have killed, how many have suffered, how many have persecuted, because a few misread Paul? Why did Catholics and Protestants in the 16th century agree that such terms as “sufficiency” and “insufficiency”, “mediator” and “intercessor”, were fighting words? Why were grace and works a riddle? Why did it take 500 years for Catholics and Anglicans, Catholics and Lutherans, to reach common understandings that the wars of religion were “just” misunderstandings?

Do not boast, because it is a gift. Is the Giver then forbidden to say, “Well done, good and faithful servants”?

But some do boast: “ Lord, Lord, we kill in thy name.”

It Didn’t Happen in Guelph

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Brompton Oratory

Liturgical Renewal

Some people think that liturgical renewal means the removal of kneelers from church pews, the knocking down of altar rails or the positioning of the altar in the middle of the sitting area of the people. The Church has never said any such thing.
— Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Address to the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (2003)

Unfortunately the Church never said anything to prevent the removal of kneelers from church pews, the knocking down of altar rails or the positioning of the altar in the middle of the sitting area of the people. The Counter-Reformation had ended.

“All right,” replied Fr. Benedetto, “we will do everything as you have said. Starting tomorrow, we will celebrate the Mass and the entire Office in Italian.”

Then we went from words to actions. One monk suddenly discovered he was a poet, another a translator; all of us became matchless connoisseurs of songs and musical scores.

Fr. Benedetto, for his part, wanted to show everyone a great sign of his courage by permitting the altar to be removed and another constructed, facing the people. The die had been cast.

— Guido Innocenzo Gargano, That Night, at San Gregorio. . .


St. Colman

There are several or perhaps several thousand St. Colmans. I am interested in two churches by that name:

St. Colman’s Cathedral interior

St. Colman's Cathedral, Cobh, Ireland, whose patron saint is Saint Colman Mac Leinin and where there is a controversy about its proposed renovation.

St. Colman, Ardmore, PA, which may have been named after St. Colman of Elo and where the writer Caryl Johnston is a communicant.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

And Gladly Suffer

There is a secret in this that I do not well understand.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

At the Cathedral of All Saints, attended a talk, with slides, on The History of Marian Devotion given by Father J. Robert Wright of the General Theological Seminary. Tomorrow at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception the Reverend Wright and Sr. Sara Butler, MSBT, will talk about Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, the joint statement of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Liturgical Requirements

If I had the wealth of Croesus himself, I would not build a cathedral because liturgy and architecture at the moment are in such confusion that anything that would be built at this stage would be rejected in a very short time.
— Desmond Cardinal Connell, March 2001.

See also Acuin Read, Submission in Favour of the Friends of St. Colman’s Cathedral

Evil like God?

There is a vague sophisticated belief that the greatest sinner is closest to God. I say sophisticated because a person must have advanced degrees to hold it. So Judas is the disciple closest to Jesus, and Satan is the true hero of Paradise Lost. And indeed in the whole Bible, to whom does God speak familiarly, almost as between equals? Only the same Satan.

If the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), yet the Pope must assure the flock that “Evil does not have the last word,” does not the prince of this world contend mightily with the kingdom of heaven — a worthy protagonist in the divine drama, Waiting for God?

What is wrong with this play? After Holy Week we know that the prince of this world has nothing in Jesus (John 14:30), is judged (16:11), and shall be “cast out” (12:30). God took the stage and said: In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (16:33).

We shall have tribulation. False Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22). Do not be deceived.

Google Group on the Restoration of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Albany

I have started a Google Group on this subject:

Restoration: Immaculate Conception in Albany

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Catholics: A Fable (1973)

Saw in our home with Ted Adams a videotape of Catholics (DVD: The Conflict), a 1973 movie starring Trevor Howard and Martin Sheen. Ted, a lifelong athiest, was sent the tape by his brother, with whom he corresponds daily and thought he knew everything about but who Ted has now learned has given up Catholicism after ten years of going to a Catholic church without Ted’s being aware of it. The movie also starred Raf Vallone, who does not appear in our version, from which the first 10 minutes were apparently cut. There is a sentimental, or perhaps actor’s, ending in which the secretly unbelieving abbot easily puts over on his supposedly orthodox monks an all-too-human meaning of miracle, kneels down to pray the Our Father with them in hopes of the miracle, and alone in his anguish finds he cannot continue saying the prayer.

Then Entered Satan

It was not only Judas whom Satan entered (Luke 22:23, John 13:27). Satan entered Simon Peter (Matthew 16:23, Mark 9:2), and Satan enters (to bring home the point) “them who say they are Christians but are the church of Satan” (Revelation 2:9, 3:9).

Now Satan is “a liar” (John 8:44), and very effective. He convinces by telling the misleading truth (Genesis 3:1–6) and quoting Church documents (Matthew 4:6). Adam and Eve fell, and even Jesus was tempted.

I don’t know if the subtle priest who says he believes “that places for worship become sacred when the celebrations of life-cycle events occur there” is lying or mistakes his God, who said He will come while the community is “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matthew 24:38); the difference is important to him and his confessor because speaking against the Spirit of truth (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13, 1 John 4:6) is the one sin that is not forgiven (Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:29, Luke 12:10; perhaps also Acts 5:1–10). I do know that by not seeking first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) and by not making arks (Genesis 6:14, Exodus 25:8–27:21) he savours not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men as he goes to and fro in the earth, and walks up and down in it (Job 1:7).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

“Not in My Cathedral”

Cathedral of Saint Augustine, Bridgeport, CT
Photo by John Glover
Henry Hardinge Menzies, Architect

Bishop Lori . . . requested that we follow the latest liturgical guide-lines, revitalize veneration for the Holy Eucharist by giving prominence to the altar and the tabernacle and provide space in the Sanctuary for the special Cathedral ceremonies, especially the Rite of Ordination.
— Henry H. Menzies, Architect’s Comments on the Renovation of the Cathedral of St. Augustine


Active Participation at the First Eurcharist

Jesus’ disciples prepared the Seder:

And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.
— Matthew 26:19

And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover
—Mark 14:16

And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.
—Luke 22:13

They reclined with Jesus:

And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.
— Mark 14:17

And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
— Luke 22:14

They talked among themselves:

And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
— Luke 22:23–24

Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith.
— John 16:17–18

They looked at each other:

Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.
— John 13:22

They asked Jesus questions:

Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
— John

And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
— Matthew 26:22

And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?
—Mark 14:19

Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
John 13:23–25

Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I?
— Matthew 26:25

Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou?
— John 13:36

Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now?
— John 13:37

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
— John 14:5

Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
— John 14:8

Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
—John 14:22

They answered Jesus (and had their feet washed):

Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
—John 13:8–9

And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords.
— Luke 22:38

I will lay down my life for they sake.
— John 13:37

His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.
—John 16:29–30

One left early:

He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
— John 13:30

At the end they sang a psalm:

And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
—Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26

Mostly they ate and drank:

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
— Matthew 26:26

And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.
— Mark 14:18

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
Mark 14:22

And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.
Mark 14:23

And were told what they did not want to hear. It wasn’t their idea of a community celebration.

An Aside on the Tabernacle

"The Church teaches that the tabernacle is ideally in a side chapel, distinct from the main body of the church."
Father Richard S. Vosko

274. If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is present in the sanctuary, the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself.
General Instruction of the Roman Missal

310. The chair of the priest celebrant must signify his office of presiding over the gathering and of directing the prayer. Thus the best place for the chair is in a position facing the people at the head of the sanctuary, unless the design of the building or other circumstances impede this: for example, if the great distance would interfere with communication between the priest and the gathered assembly, or if the tabernacle is in the center behind the altar.
General Instruction of the Roman Missal

315. It is more in keeping with the meaning of the sign that the tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved not be on an altar on which Mass is celebrated. Consequently, it is preferable that the tabernacle be located, according to the judgment of the Diocesan Bishop,
a. Either in the sanctuary, apart from the altar of celebration, in a form and place more appropriate, not excluding on an old altar no longer used for celebration (cf. above, no.303);
b. Or even in some chapel suitable for the faithful's private adoration and prayer and which is organically connected to the church and readily visible to the Christian
General Instruction of the Roman Missal

The Location of the Tabernacle:
§ 74 § There is [sic] a number of possible spaces suitable for eucharistic reservation. The revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that it is more appropriate that the tabernacle in which the “Blessed Sacrament is reserved not be on the altar on which Mass is celebrated.” The bishop is to determine where the tabernacle will be placed and to give further direction. The bishop may decide that the tabernacle be placed in the sanctuary apart from the altar of celebration or in a separate chapel suitable for adoration and for the private prayer of the faithful. In making his determination, the bishop will consider the importance of the assembly's ability to focus on the eucharistic action, the piety of the people, and the custom of the area. The location also should allow for easy access by people in wheelchairs and by those who have other disabilities.

§ 75 § In exercising his responsibility for the liturgical life of the diocese, the diocesan bishop may issue further directives regarding the reservation of the Eucharist. Before parishes and their liturgical consultants begin the educational component and the discussion process, it will be important for all those involved to know what specific directives or guidelines the diocesan bishop has issued. Good communication at the first stage of the process will help to avoid confusion or conflict between the parish's expectations, the consultant's experience, and diocesan directives.

§ 76 § The pastor, the parish pastoral council, and the building committee will want to examine the principles that underlie each of the options, consider the liturgical advantages of each possibility, and reflect upon the customs and piety of the parishioners. Many diocesan worship offices assist parishes by facilitating the study and discussion process with the parish. This is also an area where liturgical consultants can be of great assistance to the parish.

The Chapel of Reservation
§ 77 § The diocesan bishop may direct the parish to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in a chapel separate from the nave and sanctuary but “integrally connected with the church” and “conspicuous to the faithful.” The placement and design of the chapel can foster reverence and can provide the quiet and focus needed for personal prayer, and it should provide kneelers and chairs for those who come to pray.

§ 78 § Some parishes have inaugurated the practice of continuous adoration of the Eucharist. If, for some good reason, perpetual exposition must take place in a parish church, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has directed that this take place in a separate chapel that is “distinct from the body of the church so as not to interfere with the normal activities of the parish or its daily liturgical celebration.”

The Tabernacle in the Sanctuary
§ 79 § A special area can be designed within the sanctuary. Careful planning is needed so that the placement chosen does not draw the attention of the faithful away from the eucharistic celebration and its components. In addition, the placement must allow for a focus on the tabernacle for those periods of quiet prayer outside the celebration of the Eucharist.

§ 80 § Ordinarily, it is helpful to have a sufficient distance to separate the tabernacle and the altar. When a tabernacle is located directly behind the altar, consideration should be given to using distance, lighting, or some other architectural device that separates the tabernacle and reservation area during Mass, but that allows the tabernacle to be fully visible to the entire worship area when the eucharistic liturgy is not being celebrated.

The Space for the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament
§ 247 § In an earlier chapter, the issue of the location of the tabernacle was covered. The structure of the existing building will determine some of the options the parish is able to consider. In exercising his responsibility for the liturgical life of the diocese, the diocesan bishop may issue specific directives regarding the reservation of the Eucharist and the placement of the tabernacle. Again, the pastor, the parish pastoral council, and the building committee will need to review all existing diocesan norms and then carefully examine the principles that underlie each of the options, weigh the liturgical advantages of each possibility, and reflect upon the customs and piety of the parishioners before making a recommendation on the placement of the tabernacle. The location also should allow for easy access by people in wheelchairs and by those who have other disabilities. Diocesan worship offices can assist parishes by facilitating the study and discussion process regarding the placement of the tabernacle and other significant issues involved in the renovation of a church. This is an area where liturgical consultants also can be of great assistance to the parish.

§ 248 § In most churches built before 1969, the tabernacle was situated on the main altar. At the close of the Second Vatican Council, when parishes were able to celebrate the liturgy facing the congregation, many pastors installed movable altars somewhere in front of the existing altar, and they used the former altar as the place for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.

§ 249 § In renovating a church designed in another time period, a parish has an opportunity to consider other locations for the tabernacle. Care must be taken to ensure that the area set aside for the reservation of the Eucharist is worthy and distinguished. The place for eucharistic reservation and its furnishings should never be temporary, makeshift, or difficult to find.

§ 250 § In some renovated churches it is possible to remove older altars and tabernacles. When there are good reasons for not removing the altar, an alternate site for the tabernacle may still be considered. In some churches an area that previously housed a side altar or some devotional space might be an appropriate space for reservation, assuming that it meets the other requirements set forth in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. In other situations, the only appropriate place for reservation will be in the sanctuary itself and on the former main altar. In these instances, a balance must be sought so that the placement of the tabernacle does not draw the attention of the faithful away from the eucharistic celebration and its components.204 On the other hand, the location must provide for a focus on the tabernacle during those periods of quiet prayer outside the celebration of the Eucharist.

§ 251 § Ordinarily, there should be a sufficient distance to separate the tabernacle and the altar. When a tabernacle is located directly behind the altar, consideration should be given to using distance, lighting, or some other architectural device that separates the tabernacle and reservation area during Mass but that allows the tabernacle to be fully visible to the entire worship area when the eucharistic liturgy is not being celebrated.

§ 252 § When a place is chosen for the tabernacle and the former tabernacle can be removed from an existing altar without damaging the altar or the setting, this will be beneficial and will help to prevent confusion among the faithful.

Built of Living Stones

With respect to the placement of the tabernacle, the instruction Inter oecumenici (26.9.1964) par 95, which implemented the decisions of Sacrosanctum concilium, states quite clearly that the Blessed Sacrament be reserved on the high altar, a possibility envisaged also by Eucharisticum mysterium (25.5.67) par 54.
— Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 12 June 1996

Speaking only for himself on an issue that has created much controversy over the last 30 years, Cardinal Schoenborn said he believes the tabernacle — “this marvelous place where Jesus is present” — should be placed “in the center of the church. I come from a country where baroque is very widespread. A baroque church is entirely oriented to the altar and the tabernacle, and the reality of his presence on the altar and in the tabernacle is inseparable.”
Eucharist ‘deepest mystery of our faith’

The tabernacle of the Most Blessed Sacrament [should be] located in a central or at least prominent place in our churches. It is the centre of our attention and prayer. The October 2005 Synod of Bishops emphasised this point (cf Prop., 6, 28, 34). In some of our churches some misguided person has relegated the tabernacle to an obscure section of the church. Sometimes it is even so difficult for a visitor to locate where the tabernacle is, that the visitor can say with truth with St Mary Magdalene: “They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they laid him” (Jn 20:13).
--Cardinal Francis Arinze, April 2006

A Chorus of Bishops:

Cardinal James Hickey (Washington, DC): “I would like to second the position of those who favour the centrality of the tabernacle in the sanctuary. I think this is for several very important reasons. First of all, it makes it possible for us to reinforce our belief in the Holy Eucharist and the Real Presence by the way in which the Blessed Sacrament is greeted as the people come in, make a genuflection; as they keep a prayerful silence before the Mass begins ...

“I think we should return to a position of the tabernacle that will make it possible for the people to pray before the Blessed Sacrament before Mass, and also for them to keep that sense of prayer when they realise they are in the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord ... I hope we will not be the captives of architects, who may or may not share our Catholic faith, and who may or may not accept the fullness of our Eucharistic teaching”.

Cardinal Francis George (Chicago): “There has been no issue, I think, that has caused us so much pastoral concern - in the renovation of old churches particularly - as where the tabernacle is to be placed in the rite”.

Archbishop Theodore McCarrick (Newark): “I have always had this concern about the placement of the tabernacle ... It seems to me that ninety percent of our people come into church only on Sunday mornings. And if the Blessed Sacrament is nowhere to be seen in the body of the church, they will be missing something very, very important in their spirituality and in the theology. So I would hope that when the revisions are made, and this document is developed, that we would find once again opportunity to underline what the Code [of Canon Law] of 1983 asks us: that the place be prominent and conspicuous. In the Archdiocese of Newark, no new church is allowed to be completed without the Blessed Sacrament being visible to the vast majority of the congregation . . . .”

Bishop Sean O'Malley (Fall River): “If we review what has happened in the last thirty years, the changes have come fast and furious. The Communion rail has been taken away, the Eucharistic fast from midnight, the frequent Confession as a preparation for Communion, the genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament. Changing all of these signs is changing the meaning in people's minds, and I think so much of what has been said about the centrality of the tabernacle indicates the great worry among the bishops about people's faith in the Eucharist ... Even what we have done with the Holy Days, in changing them in, I think, a very arbitrary way, has been very damaging to the faith of our people.”

Archbishop James Keleher (Kansas City): “In the archdiocese where I am fortunate to be the archbishop, we never build a church where the tabernacle is not placed visibly in the front ... And if you recall ... when we built the beautiful chapel at the conference centre, in the beginning the tabernacle was, may I say, hidden behind a very decorative wall. But rising resentment in the episcopal body forced it to be taken down, and I think that was a very wonderful move.”

Archbishop Michael Sheehan (Santa Fe): “I think we've all experienced in our Church in the last thirty years a lessening of devotion to the Eucharist in many places, a loss of the sense of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; and the sense of the sacred has suffered. And I can't help but believe that placing the Eucharist in a separate chapel, that often is practically hidden, and sometimes very small, has not been a part of why we have a crisis with regard to belief in the Real Presence of Christ. I think that when we take the Eucharist away from the place where the people come for Sunday Mass we tend to lessen their belief. And I think that 'out of sight, out of mind' is truly what is happening often ...

“I hope that the document that we are dealing with, in the area especially regarding the location of the tabernacle, will be even more open towards having the Eucharist placed prominently, so that people experience in their prayer life the presence of the Eucharist.

“I think, too, that the documents that have been mentioned by the other bishops - the documents from Rome - seem to be less and less interested in that separate chapel . . . .”

Archbishop Justin Rigali (St Louis): “The Blessed Sacrament so often, without regard for the structure of the church or for local custom, has been relegated to places that are neither prominent nor worthy nor beautifully decorated . . . .”

Archbishop Elden Curtiss (Omaha): “I think the basic problem with the document [under discussion -- Domus Dei] is this liturgical development that has taken us towards emphasis on the assembly and away from the Eucharistic species.”

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua (Philadelphia): “If I took a survey of the people in Philadelphia, it would be overwhelming that when they walk into a church, they want to see the tabernacle immediately.”

See also Henry Hardinge Menzies, God in a box

Fiat voluntas howardi.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in New York City is a 19th-century neo-Gothic church built in the shape of a cross. At present the sanctuary is in the chancel, and the nave and transepts are filled with pews all facing in the same direction. The choir sings from the rear of the chancel, in front of a rectangular box that houses the speakers of the electronic organ. If, as is proper, the celebrant and the people symbolically faced east (in our cathedral, this would actually be west), they would be praying (not preaching) to the choir. The high altar, like the communion rails, was removed decades ago; parts of old high altar now make up the present altar, which stands in the chancel near the sanctuary steps. The tabernacle is, unsatisfactorily for worship, at the farther side altar in the north transept. The baptismal font is in the south transept. The high pulpit, used in “extraordinary” times is to the right (looking from the nave) of the sanctuary. A large speaker box looms high on the left.

When Bishop Howard Hubbard gets his way (as under Canon Law he will), the sanctuary will be extended into the nave, the altar placed at the crossing, the choir and the organ made more prominent in the chancel, pews or chairs in the transepts turned to face the altar, pews or chairs in the nave placed from near the foot of the new sanctuary to perhaps halfway or farther down the nave, and an immersion baptismal font positioned in the center of the nave, perhaps halfway between the sanctuary and the front doors. If there are no permanent pews or chairs going back to the choir loft, the sometimes empty floor (possibly a place for a labyrinth), might have different arrangements of chairs, tables, etc., depending on the occasion. I don't remember from the drawings I saw where (or if) the high pulpit might be. The large speaker box high on the left side will be gone. The tabernacle will have its own separate chapel. The church will be more comfortable, brighter, safer, more energy-efficient, more accessible to people of recognized disabilities than it is now. Attendance, and with it, collections will rise. There will also be more frequent concerts and other preformances. The new sanctuary will make a good stage, provided the altar is movable or not too large. The renovated cathedral will be a great success.

If one considers the cathedral church layout as a cross on which lies the body of the church, the present configurattion has the sanctuary as the head, the nave and transepts as the body (undifferentiated because the pews all face the same way), and the choir occupying the area of the hair, the organ box being a kind of cap. The choir loft would be part of the body and would afford a glorious view of the interior, except that it is no longer used by choir or congregation, since access is difficult and, besides, the pipe organ no longer speaks. (Perhaps the only more glorious interior view would have been that afforded to the celebrant raising the host or cup to God at the former high altar and looking at the figure of the Holy Spirit high above him.)

In the new configuration, the altar will be at the heart, the choir and organ at the head, the congregation at the left and right arms and trunk, the baptismal font in the center of the pelvis. The area of the legs will be part of the body or not, according to the occasion. I don't know if the choir loft will be part of the body. The organ committee, of which I am a member, will probably recommend a large gallery organ and a smaller chancel organ. The bishop may well nix the larger (if not both) of the organs as being unaffordable. Certainly, if, as seems likely, the floor will be “multipurpose” towards the back of the the church, the choir loft will often seem separated from the body. It may be a case of commencing with bad theology and finishing with bad anatomy. But a temporarily legless church, with a temporarily altar'd heart, and a temporarily piped or electronic head will still be alive, ready to hear, Talitha cumi, when this generation is dead and buried.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Seeing the Choir during Easter

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal does not have much specific to say about where the choir should be during a Mass:

The Arrangement and Furnishing of Churches for
the Celebration of the Eucharist

I. General Principles

. . .

294. The People of God, gathered for Mass, has a coherent and hierarchical structure, which finds its expression in the variety of ministries and the variety of actions according to the different parts of the celebration. The general ordering of the sacred building must be such that in some way it conveys the image of the gathered assembly and allows the appropriate ordering of all the participants, as well as facilitating each in the proper carrying out of his function.

The faithful and the choir should have a place that facilitates their active participation.

The priest celebrant, the deacon, and the other ministers have places in the sanctuary. Seats for concelebrants should also be prepared there. If, however, their number is great, seats should be arranged in another part of the church, but near the altar.

All these elements, even though they must express the hierarchical structure and the diversity of ministries, should nevertheless bring about a close and coherent unity that is clearly expressive of the unity of the entire holy people. Indeed, the character and beauty of the place and all its furnishings should foster devotion and show forth the holiness of the mysteries celebrated there.

. . .

The Place for the Choir and the Musical Instruments

312. The choir should be positioned with respect to the design of each church so as to make clearly evident its character as a part of the gathered community of the faithful fulfilling a specific function. The location should also assist the choir to exercise its function more easily and conveniently allow each choir member full, sacramental participation in the Mass.

313. The organ and other lawfully approved musical instruments are to be placed in an appropriate place so that they can sustain the singing of both the choir and the congregation and be heard with ease by all if they are played alone. It is appropriate that, before being put into liturgical use, the organ be blessed according to the rite described in the Roman Ritual.

What is clear is the the celebrant and the other ministers have places in the sanctuary or at least near the altar, while the choir is a part of the gathered community of faithful. An exception would be the cantor, who like the lector and the acolyte assists the celebrant and who in performing his function faces the people “from the ambo or from some other suitable place” (GIRM, 138).

Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture and Worship adds details affirming that apart from the “cantors and song leaders&rdquo, the choir and other ministers of music “are most appropriately located in a place where they can be part of the assembly”, and only if “occasions or physical situations . . . necessitate” should the choir “be placed in or near the sancuary” and “in such circumstances, placement of the choir should never crowd or overshadow the other ministers in the sanctuary nor should it distract from the liturgical action”:

The Place for the Pastoral Musicians

§ 88 § Music is integral to the liturgy. It unifies those gathered to worship, supports the song of the congregation, highlights significant parts of the liturgical action, and helps to set the tone for each celebration.108

§ 89 § It is important to recognize that the building must support the music and song of the entire worshiping assembly. In addition, "some members of the community [have] special gifts [for] leading the [assembly in] musical praise and thanksgiving."109 The skills and talents of these pastoral musicians, choirs, and instrumentalists are especially valued by the Church. Because the roles of the choirs and cantors are exercised within the liturgical community, the space chosen for the musicians should clearly express that they are part of the assembly of worshipers.110 In addition, cantors and song leaders need visual contact with the music director while they themselves are visible to the rest of the congregation.111 Apart from the singing of the Responsorial Psalm, which normally occurs at the ambo, the stand for the cantor or song leader is distinct from the ambo, which is reserved for the proclamation of the word of God.

§ 90 § The directives concerning music found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the guidance offered by Music in Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music Today112 can assist the parish in planning appropriate space for musicians. The placement and prayerful decorum of the choir members can help the rest of the community to focus on the liturgical action taking place at the ambo, the altar, and the chair. The ministers of music are most appropriately located in a place where they can be part of the assembly and have the ability to be heard. Occasions or physical situations may necessitate that the choir be placed in or near the sanctuary. In such circumstances, the placement of the choir should never crowd or overshadow the other ministers in the sanctuary nor should it distract from the liturgical action.

During Easter Triduum celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the choir was placed near the far end of the sanctuary by necessity, since the cathedral's only organ, an electronic Rogers, is there, along with its console, where sat the organist / music director.

I observed the following:

1. The choir seemed much more placed with the ministers than placed with the congregation, being even farther from the congregation than the ministers, wearing robes like the ministers, and like the concelebrants seeing the back of the celebrant, who faced the people. The choir also received Communion apart from the congregation. This was in contrast with the lectors, who were dressed in regular clothes and were placed in the pews except for the one lector who was currently reading.

2. The choir outnumbered the ministers, were very visible during the whole of each of the liturgies, and though very well behaved, were noticeable by their turning of pages, wiping of noses, etc.

3. The organist / music director was conspicuous by the waving of his hands to lead the choir’s singing. This, however, did not distract from the liturgical action except at those moments when the congregation was not singing, and no significant liturgical action was occuring in the sanctuary.

A word about choir lofts and balconies: they apparently do not separate their occupants from the rest of the congregation. Indeed, some of the congregation prefer to be there. On Easter Sunday, we went to visit Dot at the St. Joseph Provincial House in Latham. The Easter Vigil and the Easter Sunday Mass there are very popular—too popular in the eyes of the sisters. One thing they did this year was to post signs asking the attendees not to go up to the choir loft (no longer used by the choir) like the year before, where they took up places that many of the sisters are used to having. The preference of some church goers for balconies is confirmed in our experience at other churches with balconies. And I came across this in a piece about the 1963 tracker organ in the Memorial Chapel at Harvard University:

For a while it seemed the best place [for the new organ] would be the gallery but the idea was vetoed. “The services were so well attended, that the gallery was often full. Placing the organ there meant the loss of seats.” Instead, the difficult decision was made to place it in front of the Palladian window at the east end of Appleton Chapel.
A Manual Labor of Love

It may be doubted that everyone in the gallery was there because they could not find a place below.


Where we worship shapes our prayer and how we pray shapes the way in which we live. Using metaphorical equations to design the worship arena my hope in any project is that the congregation will be transfigured by the very space it is helping to create or transform. I believe that places for worship become sacred when the celebrations of life-cycle events occur there. In this sense the building is designed primarily to house the assembly and its worship of God. It is not an object of devotion by itself nor is it a temple to honor the deity. The fundamental blueprint for the building is found in the memories and hopes of the community. This is why participation of the congregation in the building or renovation journey is extremely important.

The time honored ingredients of a worthy place for worship include stories of faith, pilgrimage pathways, transforming thresholds, intimate settings for personal prayer, art work that prompts works of justice and seating plans that engage the community in the public rituals. To evoke a sense of the sacred the building must be designed with attention to detail, scale, proportion, materials, color, illumination and acoustics. All art and furnishings must be of the highest caliber afforded by the community. Sensitivity to ecological and economical factors cannot be overlooked.

Memory and imagination are the main tools in any worship space project.

— Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Philosphy

If the Liturgy appears first of all as the workshop for our activity, then what is essential is being forgotten: God. For the liturgy is not about us, but about God. Forgetting about God is the most imminent danger of our age. As against this, the liturgy should be setting up a sign of God's presence.

Yet what is happening, if the habit of forgetting about God makes itself at home in the liturgy itself, and if in the liturgy we are only thinking of ourselves? In any and every liturgical reform, and every liturgical celebration, the primacy of God should be kept in view first and foremost.

— Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Liturgy should be God-centred

The believer who takes part in liturgical worship will do so all the more correctly and single-mindedly the more sincerely he is able to detach himself from his own personal desires. In personal prayer he may obey the promptings of his heart. In liturgical worship, however, he must open himself to a different kind of impulse which comes from a more powerful source: namely the heart of the Church which beats through the ages. Here it does not matter what his personal tastes are, what wants he may have, or what particular cares occupy his mind. All this he must leave behind and enter into the powerful rhythm of liturgical rites. It is precisely by this abandonment that he experiences the most important effect of the Liturgy — the detachment and liberation from the narrow self.
— Romano Guardini, The Art of Praying (Sophia Institute Press, 1994 [1957: Prayer in Practice]. Guardini distinguished three interrelated kinds of prayer: liturgical prayer, personal prayer, and popular devotion.

. . . no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community. Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy.
—Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1125


Theatre Ideas

A World Poor in Spirit

The Western world is at present poor in spirit. Romano Guardini wrote in The Art of Praying:

Sunday. . . is the day of God and, for this reason, the day of man. Its meaning has been largely forgotten. . . .

In former days people regularly read the family Bible. Through its pages the great events and figures of the redemption entered into their personal lives. Nowadays that intimate relationship has largely disappeared. . . .

In earlier days, the very layout of the living space of the community was an important factor in creating a well-ordered religious life. Indeed it may be said that the faith dictated the spatial order of the life of the community. . . . This order has largely disappeared.

The normal routine and events of everyday life themselves provide proper opportunities for religious observance. In former ages these daily events were imbued with religious significance which found appropriate expression. Little of this still remains. . . .

The church building itself is no longer (in Guardini’s words) “the house of the Father in which we are at home” but “only . . . the place of communal worship,” where (in my words) the worshipers are better accommodated than the worshiped—at least in theory, for in reality the worshipers desire to worship is scorned: as in the history of Communism, when the dictatorship of the proletariat turned out to be rule by apparatchiks, so in the Church the mystical body of Christ is manhandled in the name of the people by idealogues, originally and probably still well-meaning but now and certainly followers of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, except that in the Catholic Church, the Pope, who truly worships the Father, is much less influential than the Party Chairman was, and the Church itself, unlike the militant Muslim and the heedless consumer, little threatens the wider world.

In short, as Dom Armand Veilleux said, “Christendom”—“Whether we like it or not, whether we are nostalgic or not, that phase of history is finished and every effort to restore it is bound to be a pathetic failure.” This is not necessarily bad news, if it is news at all. If Western Culture is, as Jacques Barzun wrote, in a period of decadence, then it is not surprising that the Western Church experiences that decadence. It is our cup. It leaves plenty for Christians to do, including suffer, for the greater glory of God.

The present world is poor in spirit. The present answer is not, I think, “Get rich!” Dom Armand says, “We should not try to invent new symbols with the hope that they will speak to today’s men and women.” He even thinks that the entire sacral world of ritual activity is lost forever, gradually being replaced by a recognition of:

the symbolic value of everything we do in our daily life and of everything around us. . . . Many authentic Christians nowadays are very attentive to practice the Gospel values in their daily life — in their family life as well as in their professional life — but are not interested any longer in what we call “religious practice”, like going to Mass on Sunday.

This is perhaps more pie in the sky than the kingdom of heaven. But Dom Armand is right in saying that “Good practices are not created or invented. They are born from life.” That is (in what is only verbal contradiction), they are true creations and inventions, because their mother is life.

Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Active Participation

Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy

Here “looking together” means priest and congregation looking together.

See also Guardini: Looking as a Liturgical Act.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Wings


Easter Wings

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With thee
Oh let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With thee
Let me combine
And feel this day thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

—George Herbert


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Circles for an Easter Vigil

Welcoming Caryl Johnston into the Catholic Church

“It was a beautiful Easter Vigil service last night — my sponsor, a life-long Catholic, said she had never experienced anything so beautiful. The historian John Lukacs attended, with his wife — he brought me a dozen red roses. I was deeply touched. Some friends came over to my apartment afterwards and we had a real celebration — it was great! Wine, food, wit, and conversation!”


Friday, April 14, 2006

Circles for Good Friday


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Circles for Holy Thursday


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Opposition is Futile

The Altar
The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I was asked why I did not object that only the options presented by Father Richard S. Vosko are being considered for the reordering (which the Rector keeps on saying is the restoration) of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany. One reason—not the only one, but sufficient— is that objection is futile. In a diocese the Bishop is Boss. The former archbishop of Milwaukee put it well:

In a June 30 [2001] letter, [Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments] said aspects of a planned $4.5 million renovation of the Milwaukee cathedral violated church and liturgical law and asked the archbishop to revise the project.

In his message read at churches July 15, Weakland said, “Many of the concerns raised are merely a matter of personal preference, not matters of church law.”

In the interview [with the Milwaukee Archdiocese Catholic Herald], he noted that he also had to take into account that the archdiocese had signed all of the cathedral renovation contracts in April. The potential financial cost of changing contracts makes it “almost impossible for me to redo the plans at this point,” he said.

He said renovation opponents sought recourse too late. “If they had done it months before, we could have taken it into consideration,” he said.

“In church law, the renovation of church buildings is one of those areas where the local bishop is to make the decision. To take that away from a bishop would be really contrary to the way the law is stated,” Weakland said.

Archbishop Weakland Says He’s Not Disobeying the Pope

See also Philip F. Lawler, Murder of the Cathedral

If asked why I do not object to the plans now, before it is “too late,” the answer is that we have been told again and again that “There are no plans”—the interior committee is still studying and has not made any decisions. The detailed drawings by Father Vosko that the Rector “leaked” to us, every one of which had the altar at the crossing and seating in the transepts, are not plans, because (didn’t you hear) “there are no plans.” True, Bishop Howard Hubbard did take the mic to say that he was amazed that the parishoners haven’t known for thirty years that the altar would be moved to the crossing. This put at end to discussion, since the Boss had spoken, though “there are no plans.”

There will apparently be no more parish meetings before the bishop receives the committee’s report.

See also The Provincial Emails.



Seder at Jeff and Sandy’s tonight. Jeff’s parents Phil and Norma were also there. They may move up here from Long Island.

Romano Guardini, Holy Week at Monreale. See also Was Guardini “Looking” in the Palermo or the Monreale Cathedral?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Riverway Storytelling Festival

An Taisce on Cobh’s Cathedral

An Taisce is the National Trust for Ireland. These are excerpts from An Taisce’s submission to an oral hearing on the proposed reordering of St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh. Submissions for and against the reordering can be found at Friends of St. Colman’s Cathedral. FOSCC have also published a book.

The planning process was academic as the outcome had to be the same. . . . Through the choreography used, the Bishop, I feel has not won the hearts and minds of the people. . . . Should the Applicant [the Bishop, et al.] be successful I fear it will be a hollow victory with the consequence of hollow collection plates for the continued restoration of this fine Cathedral.
—Noel O’Driscoll, Secretary, An Taisce Corcaigh, Closing Statement From An Taisce

The architects of St. Colman's set out to produce a Victorian building, not a mediaeval one, contrary to the claims made in the proposal for “re-ordering”. They borrowed the vocabulary of mediaeval gothic, but the church was carefully planned to conform precisely to the post-Tridentine liturgy in use in the nineteenth century. Unlike mediaeval churches, which are boxed off into compartments, Cobh has a clear visual sweep from the narthex to the elaborately decorated apse, riveting the viewer's attention on the altar, which is of the Benedictine style pioneered by E.W. Pugin. From the west, the effect is of looking down a tunnel to the light at the end, and this is cleverly emphasised by the fact that the transepts are almost invisible because of the nave, triforium and clerestory arcades running across their entrances without a break. This too is a characteristic of the architecture of Pugin and Ashlin, as is the shallow and almost rudimentary nature of the transepts themselves. This emphatic and extremely deliberate emphasis on the long axis of the church means that the proposed changes will completely destroy the architectural coherence of the building, resulting in visual chaos. Pugin and Ashlin created no architectural focus at the crossing (unlike, for instance, William Burges in St Fin Barre's in Cork), and attempting to establish one by extending the sanctuary floor, removing the altar rails and introducing furniture, will result in a visual conflict with the existing layout .
—Noel O’Driscoll, Submission to an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanala into the decision of Cobh Town Council to grant Planning Permission to the Trustees of St. Colman’s Cathedral Cobh for extensive alterations to the interior of the Cathedral.

2. Cobh Cathedral was designed very specifically for the liturgical requirements of the time – long tunnel-like interior structure, transepts whose entrances are obscured by columns, and a great emphasis on a dramatic east end focussed on the high altar. It has been argued quite correctly in the applicant’s respone to appeals that this format was not the only interpretation of the liturgical requirements of the 19th century church, and Cardinal Newman’s very different approach has been cited [the University Church in Dublin and Brompton Oratory], which resulted in more centrally-planned, classically inspired buildings, which, like the classical churches in Italy, would be more easily converted to the style of interior now desired by the applicant. It is worth noting, however, that in the nineteenth century, as now, there was more than one interpretation of ‘liturgical requirements’, and, as now, more than one ‘correct’ type of building to satisfy them. It is also worth noting that the liturgical requirements of the time are not the same as those today [as also emphasised by the applicant], and that one thing we can be absolutely sure of is that, sooner or later, the liturgical requirements of the future will be completely different from those of today. In the meantime, if this proposal goes ahead, a valuable piece of Irish history will have been partly destroyed – in order to comply with a temporary fashion. ‘Liturgical requirements’ are being presented by the applicant as both timeless and non-subjective, and clearly they are neither.
—Statement by Ann Wilson, BDes, Mlitt


Passion Sunday, 2002, St. Ignatius of Loyola, NYC

Interior View
Church of St. Ignatius Loyola
980 Park Avenue (at 84th Street), New York, NY
Rev. Gerald Blaszczak, S.J., Pastor (since Ocober 2005)

. . .The Cardinal has expressed his approval of the other elements of the renovation plan. Thus we could simply delete the plans calling for renovation of the sanctuary from the project. But I believe this would be fundamentally wrong. First, because we have accepted donations to a very specific proposal that the donors have a right to see respected. Second, the sanctuary redesign is at the heart of what needs to be done. It would be a major compromise of our own integrity as a post-Vatican II community to spend over two million dollars refurbishing a Catholic Church and leave it as if the Council had never happened and the liturgy never reformed. Third, proceeding with a renovation without addressing liturgical needs would expose us to justifiable criticisms and even ridicule. It would be an embarrassment to the Society of Jesus to administer a Parish that had so glaringly turned its back on the liturgical movement inspired by Vatican II. Finally, my conscience simply will not let me “sell” a proposal in which I do not believe. And I do not believe in refurbishing a Church while ignoring the liturgical requirements of the space. . . .
“Restoration and Renovation of Saint Ignatius — Cancelled”, by Father Walter F. Modrys, S.J., Pastor, Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, New York City

St. Ignatius Loyola resounds with glorious music.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Circles of Palms


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Next Saturday

At the Easter Vigil, Caryl Johnston will receive First Communion in St. Colman’s Church, Ardmore, Pennsylvania USA.

The Gospel of Judas

No doubt, I am not the only person receiving e-mails from friends telling me about this text. However, I wouldn’t take the Gospel of Judas as gospel. What is amusing is that some people who doubt the authenticity of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, believe that the Gospel of Judas, though written well after the Familiar Four, tells the intimate truth about what really happened 150 years before. The scholars who call the Gospel of Judas “authentic” use the word in another sense than that of Barzun and Graff:

[Genuine and authentic] may seem synonymous but they are not: that is genuine which is not forged, and that is authentic which truthfully reports on its ostensible subject. Thus an art critic might write an account of an exhibition he had never visited; his manuscript would be genuine but not authentic. Conversely, an authentic report of an event by X might be copied by a forger and passed off as his own work. It would then be authentic but not genuine.
—Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff, The Modern Researcher, 6th Edition, 2004, p. 69n.

At least everyone agrees that the Gospel of Judas was not written by Judas, or any disciple of Judas, except perhaps, in the form of its “dramatic recreation,” the National Geographic Society.

The Anchoress nicely distinguishes “the gospel of” and “the gospel according to”.

Read also This Holy Week in Fausta’s blog.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Lady Window

The Lady Window (1852)
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Albany NY


Things that Be of Men

To bishops who have buildings named after them, it may be said, “Thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:23; see also Mark 8:33).

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Parishioners—Despised Little Ones

It must needs be that the mother church of this diocese suffer the predations that other churches have suffered, and that her parishioners, truly despised little ones, including parish members of the interior committee, including the Rector, suffer, but “whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew  18:6, Luke 17:2, Mark 9:42).

Our peculiar suffering will be that we Albany victims will be forced to face each other while the Universal Church, led by the Pope, begins to turn back to the direction we wish always to face, ad orientem.

Spengler on Tom and Jerry

Allah and the self-revealed god of Judeo-Christian scripture are different entities, contrary to the pulp theology of Karen Armstrong. The Judeo-Christian god is a loving parent who grieves with the weakest of his creatures; Allah is an absolute sovereign who rewards those who execute his orders. YHWH and Jesus offer consolation. Allah can offer nothing but success. That is why many Muslims become secular, but few become Christian. For Muslims, Christianity is not a different expression of the same desires that motivate Islam, but an incompatible set of motivations. Before they can consider an entirely different religion, first they must leave their own.
—Spengler, Cat and mouse with Muslim paranoia


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Voskoization of the Immaculate Conception in Albany

Attended the third “education program” regarding the reordering of our cathedral. In the formal presentation, nothing was said about the reordering—“There is no plan”—but in the discussion afterwards it became clear that decisions have been made (not by the interior committee as a whole but by the diocesan majority, few of whom were present at the parish meetings, at which almost to a person every parishioner brave enough to stand up to speak somehow managed to get in the phrase, “I’m a traditionalist.”), and that nothing will save the cathedral from Voskoization but lack of funds. One can imagine a circle in hell where bishops and liturgists and liturgical design consultants will forever “celebrate the liturgy” in the spaces they built and designed on earth. In the homilies their lies will be preached back to them, and the songs that will be blared to them will all be from the second half of the 20th century.

These meetings are parables, but our Bishop Howard Hubbard, who has attended them, seeing sees not; and hearing hears not, neither does he understand.


This article is quoted by Gerald Augustinius in his The cafeteria is closed article Another Church Ruined? and noted in Mark Shea’s Catholic and Enjoying It.

Flying Jesus Prayer


Crosses Screensaver

Added for Lent.

Preview Crosses (will not work for Macs and some others).

To download all eight screensavers go to

Architecture and Active Participation

An article by Thomas Gordon Smith

See also Thomas Gordon Smith Architects.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Archiseek 2

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ortega Quoted

by Stephen Shields in History repeats itself?, in The American Thinker:

Such a disassociation between standards and their permanent translation into action would never have come about if we had been taught, together with the imperative of objectivity, that of self-consistency, which comprises the whole series of vital imperatives. It is necessary that at all times we should be sure that we do in fact believe what we presume we believe; that the ethical ideal we accept “officially” does in fact interest and stimulate the deeper energies of our personality. If we had been in the habit of so clarifying our inward situation from time to time, we should have automatically exercised due selection in culture and eliminated all such forms of it as are incompatible with life, utopian, and conducive to hypocrisy. On the other hand culture would not have been continually relegated to increasingly remote distances from the vitality which creates it, nor condemned at last, in a ghostly isolation, to petrifaction. So, in one of those phases of the drama of history, in which man needs all his vital resources to preserve himself from catastrophic circumstances and needs most of all those which are nourished and stimulated by faith in transcendental values, that is, in culture, it happens that, in such an hour as that which is passing over Europe, everything fails him. And yet junctures like the present are the experimental test of cultures. Facts have brutally imposed on Europeans, through their own indiscretion, the immediate obligation to be self-consistent, to decide what they authentically believe, and they have discovered that they do not. They have called this discovery the “breakdown of culture.” It is obvious that there is nothing of the sort: something had broken down long before, and that was the self-consistency of Europeans; the breakdown is that of their own vitality.
—José Ortega y Gasset, The Modern Theme (1923).

This struck a chord because I had recently read Eric Bentley’s Preface to his play Wannsee. In the Preface, Bentley talks (it was a talk to the graduating class of Trinity School in New York City circa 1980), about “official optimism” and “unofficial pessimism,” saying that in contrast to the official optimism of politicians, generals, Christianity, advertisers, and educators, “the unofficial philosophy of modern society, possibly of all society so far [seen in the glum subway rider and much modern art], is pessimism.“

But as a bee sting this morning taught me, Life wills life. To quote Jacques Barzun:

The existentialist complaint seems puny. . . . Earlier philosophies used life as the very source of sanity; it was the measure of rightness, not vulneralbe to corruption. The distinction was implicit between Life and our life at the moment; and the new thought, the new art showed what Life demanded. Even the Stoics, who did not dance with joy at the idea of being alive, left life and the cosmos their validity. The Absurd marks a failure of nerve.
—Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence (200).

See also Notes 56.

“A Few Old Quotes”

gather in Caryl Johnston’s Thought Diary, March 31, 2006.