Empty Churches

OK, so, as you know I usually start out each post with a picture that relates to the topic at hand.  At the moment I’m still not really sure what I’m going to write about so this will be interesting for both you and I.

First things first, today was pretty uneventful.  So uneventful, in fact, that I’m not even going to talk about it beyond saying that I drove into a nearby town and then stopped at a few antique stores on the way back but, alas, came out empty handed.  The picture at the top of this post is of the sanctuary of a church not too far away.  Normally when I’m driving through a town or city and have time to kill I’ll stop in at churches that look interesting.  This one was very promising when I pulled into the parking lot.  It’s good sized, built of stone in a traditional style.  Therefore, I got excited as to what wonders I would behold once I got inside.  Well…  To be fair it had impressive stained glass windows, and a lovely Blessed Sacrament chapel, as well as other things conducive to prayer.  But it had something that really kind of shocked me.  The back wall was blank.

Now, many modern churches are, let’s face it, not very beautiful.  This is not how it’s supposed to be, of course, and there are growing numbers of people in the Latin Church that desire to bring back a sense of continuity both to the liturgy and to church art.  This means no more Sputnik looking buildings full of concrete slabs, bizarrely shaped altars in the center of the church, burlap banners, rainbow vestments, Extraordinary Ministers, bad mass settings, liturgical dance, giant puppets, etc.  Unfortunately, this hasn’t really taken off yet.

When you walk in the front door of the cathedral the picture at the top of this post is what you see.  There is no central focus to the sanctuary.  When you look down the aisle towards where the high altar should be you are greeted with a whitewashed wall.  Needless to say, it is distracting.  The “people’s altar” is lost in the vast white space behind it.  If they were to, say, put a high altar back there, or cover it with a (good) mural or stenciling, something that introduces color and “verticality” into the space it would be improved dramatically and the liturgy at the cathedral would be improved as well.

When church becomes mundane, when you don’t feel like you are someplace different and special when you worship, then churches empty.  While some denominations try to be “relevant,” they distract.  Eventually people stop going.  Very sad.

One thought on “Empty Churches

  1. I’m sure that wall was once covered by the reredos of a majestic altar and/or a very fine painting. What you see there now (nothing!) is the result of the triumph of iconoclasm that occurred in the wake of Vatican II. Though the Council, of course, never mandated this kind of wholesale vandalism, the bishops and clergy in the U.S. went mad. One of the most heart-breaking acts of iconoclasm occurred in the R.C. Cathedral of Milwaukee. It is scandalous that those who were suppose to be “stewards of the mysteries” striped the churches of all their ornaments which added to the solemnity, majesty, and mystery of the Sacred Liturgy. They destroyed churches in the name of renewal. They were utterly insensitive to what came before, the disrupted centuries of continuity, and they trampled upon the memories of those faithful who made great sacrifices to adorn the House of God. Let us hope that a new generation of shepherds will restore what was lost. It will take many years to undo the damage. The past forty years will go down in history as a dark time in the Church– a time of decline, decadence, and destruction when bad taste triumphed over catholic substance and sensibility.

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