Beautiful buildings, etc

RCIA class got into a discussion yesterday, the gist of which was “why did the church waste all that money on the elaborate beautiful cathedrals, art, etc – that money could have been spent on the poor”. This seems fundamentally wrong to me, and explains why new churches look like empty boxes, but I found it difficult to refute their complaints. I noted that we are sacramental people, we are drawn to God by what we see, smell, feel, hear, etc, but all I got back was “anybody who has to see a big manmade building to feel God is…”.

I’m almost sure there is a good Chesterton quote that addresses this attitude but haven’t found it yet.

Any advice how to answer this?

Rob

[quote=callbr549]RCIA class got into a discussion yesterday, the gist of which was “why did the church waste all that money on the elaborate beautiful cathedrals, art, etc – that money could have been spent on the poor”. This seems fundamentally wrong to me, and explains why new churches look like empty boxes, but I found it difficult to refute their complaints. I noted that we are sacramental people, we are drawn to God by what we see, smell, feel, hear, etc, but all I got back was “anybody who has to see a big manmade building to feel God is…”.

I’m almost sure there is a good Chesterton quote that addresses this attitude but haven’t found it yet.

Any advice how to answer this?

Rob
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When the disciples criticized the woman who poured precious oil in adoration of Christ instead of sellign the oil for money for the poor, Christ said the poor will always be with you. The grandeur of our worship space is a feeble but noble attempt to express the majesty and awe we have for our Lord and Saviour.

[quote=Orionthehunter]When the disciples criticized the woman who poured precious oil in adoration of Christ instead of sellign the oil for money for the poor, Christ said the poor will always be with you. The grandeur of our worship space is a feeble but noble attempt to express the majesty and awe we have for our Lord and Saviour.
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Amen !

Besides it might give the poor jobs.

exactly, plus God gave the plans for the first temple that housed
the tabernacle… check it out in Exodus 25 and 26… talk about fancy… lol

:slight_smile:

Often the poor themselves willingly and joyfully sacrifice to build those beautiful buildings. Beautiful buildings nourish the heart and soul and can be enjoyed for a long, long time. The quality of life of one poor family would likely not be improved by handing them the cash equivalent of what goes into their church, but every Sunday, year after year, they can enjoy their church. If they have contributed to the building, they know that even in their poverty they have left something behind for future generations: a witness to the Gospel that may stand through the ages.

Well all know that St. Francis was a deep love and dedication to the poor. When Francis would have a new church built he would use wood instead of the more common marble at the time. Most people today think that it was to save money, however, at that time in Italy wood was more expensive than marble. Francis felt that only the finest was to be used for the actions of Divine Worship and no expense was to be spared.

I think that when this question comes up it is always good to have them meditate on why St. Francis, the champion of the poor, felt that it was essential to have a lavish church.

There is enough money to have beautiful art and architecture in our churches, and also to help the poor.

Those who criticize the beautiful buildings of our churches should examine the many ways they are over-indulging in material things, and decide to share more with the poor.

Peace,

Dorothy

[quote=Dorothy]There is enough money to have beautiful art and architecture in our churches, and also to help the poor.

Those who criticize the beautiful buildings of our churches should examine the many ways they are over-indulging in material things, and decide to share more with the poor.

Peace,

Dorothy
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Bingo! . . . AND over-indulging in food! mercygate’s math: 60% of the population of the US is 20% (or more) overweight. If just those who are 20% overweight cut back their intake to what would support them at their MAXIMUM healthy weight, the amount of foot left over would feed 33.6 million people. Can you imagine how many people we could feed if all of those who are >205 overweight cut back to basics, and if we simultaneously learned to manage our outrageous waste? It would probably add up to enough to feed every one of the 45 million babies that have been legally aborted since Roe v. Wade.

The most noble use of the finest materials of the earth is for the service of God. I would rather see the finest diamonds on a chalice than on a woman’s ear. Besides that, everyone can use the chalice and share the goods, same with all of the art and cathedrals…where else can a peasant enjoy these things? But in a cathedral, it is as much his and God’s.

Lastly, say we go ahead and sell everything including the vatican, all of that will go into private collections that will never be viewed as publicly. Then we give the money to the poor. Then what? In a few months later, we will have the poor still needing money.

in XT.

I have heard that in many poor countries (i.e. Mexico) the local churches are elaborate while the local people are starving because many of the faithful would rather glorify God than eat.

[quote=forthright]I have heard that in many poor countries (i.e. Mexico) the local churches are elaborate while the local people are starving because many of the faithful would rather glorify God than eat.
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Not just in poor countries but also here in the US.

When I was living in Connecticut the adjoining town was Middletown and it had a parish called St. John’s which was originally an ethinicly Irish parish. This parish was beautiful and built of brown stone with magnificent woodwork and marvelous Stained Glass windows. As the story goes when the Irish came in they needed a parish and a church and so they built this with dollar drives etc and the watch word was “We may not have beautiful homes, but God will.”

Traditionally the faithful have sacrificed much so that the church in which they worship is fitting for the sacrifice being offered because they themselves desired it to be as such.

Thank you all for your answers! When (not if) this comes up again, I am much better prepared to answer.

Rob

Keep in mind also that much of the art “owned” by the Church is actually on lend by the artists who wanted to pay tribute to Christ’s church. It still belongs to them, but the church is safe-guarding it and allowing it to be on display for the faithful. In addition, a great amount of it was donated. It would be wrong for the church to sell some great work of art to earn money for the poor if that work of art had been a gift with the intention of spiritually nourishing. This, of course, doesn’t apply to all the art and lavishness to which you refer, but I think its a nice complement to what others have already written.

In addition, there are two very dangerous fallacies with the argument initially proposed. The first is that, while many parishes are hurting for revenue now (and might not be able to do the charitable work they might desire), most of these “lavish” cathedrals and such were built long enough back that this wasn’t the issue, and as an earlier poster mentioned, there was enough money for both. So the fallacy is in trying to judge past actions by the social conditions of today (when, in fact, as another poster mentioned, the church is NOT spending as lavishly).

The second fallacy here is the “this-or-that” mentality that the church shouldn’t be spending money on appearance when there are those who need to be fed. Remember the ending in Schindler’s List, where Schindler is obsessed with the idea that he could have “done more”. There will always be poor, so why did I just by a new couch when I could have donated that money to charity? Why did I renew my cell-phone contract - that money would have fed X children. Why did I buy that new shirt - that money would have helped to build low-income housing. Why did that Baptist church just buy new large screen projectors when people are dying of AIDS? The church does an immeasurable amount to help the poor and we should be careful not to judgementally try to portray it as a heartless greed-machine.

Just my three-cents.

Bishop Sheen used to tell a story about a young priest who made a similar criticism about the Church’s wealth being squandered on elaborate art and architecture in cathedrals etc. rather than being given to the poor. The good bishop took the young man aside after such a rant and asked him “how much did you steal?” turns out he had been skimming the collections.

The bishop’s point was that very often when people make a vehement criticism of the Church’s teaching or practice in one area, using care and concern or “pastoral sensitivity” for some class of persons as a reason, it is as a camaflouge or distraction from some guilt of their own in that area. For instance, many of those priests urging “pastoral sensitivity” towards those in sexual sin, such as homosexual lifestyles, no Church-approved marriage etc., are really covering up the guilt they feel about their own sexual sins.

[quote=asquared]Bishop Sheen used to tell a story about a young priest who made a similar criticism about the Church’s wealth being squandered on elaborate art and architecture in cathedrals etc. rather than being given to the poor. The good bishop took the young man aside after such a rant and asked him “how much did you steal?” turns out he had been skimming the collections.

The bishop’s point was that very often when people make a vehement criticism of the Church’s teaching or practice in one area, using care and concern or “pastoral sensitivity” for some class of persons as a reason, it is as a camaflouge or distraction from some guilt of their own in that area. For instance, many of those priests urging “pastoral sensitivity” towards those in sexual sin, such as homosexual lifestyles, no Church-approved marriage etc., are really covering up the guilt they feel about their own sexual sins.
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What I bolded is either a cheap shot or you have wisdom into people’s souls that is exclusively God’s. Are you God? If the answer is no, it is a cheap shot.

Besides that, everyone can use the chalice and share the goods, same with all of the art and cathedrals…where else can a peasant enjoy these things? But in a cathedral, it is as much his and God’s.

That is exactly how I feel. I grew up in a small town, none of us were really “rich”. My family seemed to have a little more than most (as to cultured things, antiques, nice stuff but still didn’t make ya rich things), but no one really had much of any beauty or refinement-except for the local Catholic churches (one in town and one an ethnic Polish parish in the country). Krakow (the country Polish church) still has the High Alter and ornate side altars and I always thought it was such a pretty church. The church in town has some of the nicest stained glass windows I’ve ever seen in a small time church. All the Apostles, Sts. Francis and Anthony, the patronesses of the Archdiocese and parish on the side windows and a magnificent portrayal of the Crucifixion in the choir loft.

To make the “pilgrimage” to Omaha to see the Cathedral (and the Henry Doorly Zoo plus do some shopping :thumbsup: )was always fun and always awe-inspiring. I never thought, “Gee, if I only had all that money that they spent on renovating this thing…”

The Church provides culture, preserves art, and provides beautiful settings for the adoration and worship of God at the Sacrifice of Holy Mass and other prayer times. This is what makes me sad about the “modern” churches-they look cheap and uninspired.

When the protestants took over parts of Europe they often broke our images of Jesus along with Mary and the Saints, whitewashed the churches and made everything uninspiringly plain. Now we do it to our own churches, castrate the sacred ornateness that was often a hallmark of a Catholic church and make them often unrecognizable from a protestant "church’. :mad:

Andre:

I’m sure you’ve heard or read this from GKC(paraphrased):

Servile labor does not build up cathedrals, pyramids and the Eifel Tower are the products of that.

Jesus said that stones would cry out. They became the Cathedrals of Europe.

in XT.

[quote=Orionthehunter]What I bolded is either a cheap shot or you have wisdom into people’s souls that is exclusively God’s. Are you God? If the answer is no, it is a cheap shot.
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I was actually citing from memory another writer who used the Sheen story to make this analogy, when I get back home I will try to find the source for you.

The three transcendentals of truth, beauty and grace/goodness are often overlooked these days. Beauty in art and architecture have become almost lost to us.

On Jan. 10, 1963, Congressman Albert S. Herlong Jr. of Florida read a list of 45 Communist goals into the Congressional Record. The list was derived from researcher Cleon Skousen’s book “The Naked Communist.”

Goals 22 & 23 are:
22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all form of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings,” substituting shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.

  1. Control art critics and directors of art museums. " Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art."

Does this sound creditable to you?

Source:kmj580.com/articles/communist.shtml

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