Wow! What a transformation this parish made to their sanctuary! Very inspiring!


#1

ipadre.net/2013/01/my-experience-of-the-altar-rail/

What an inspiration that a plain Jane "modern" sanctuary can be transformed into a truly beautiful space! I think they did a lovely job.

~Liza


#2

There are some architects who are very good at "retrofitting" ugly modernistic chapels, sanctuaries and churches. For some additional sacred "eye candy", google Duncan Stroik and Henry Menzies.

What's neat about them is that they don't exactly copy historic models. They use modern materials and new uses of traditional themes to get an even more inspiring effect.
hmenzies.com/
stroik.com/portfolio/


#3

I dunno - I think neither the before or after shots are very beautiful.:shrug:

It’s just darker wood with more curly bits in the “after” shots.

Yes there’s an altar rail - but that doesn’t necessarily make the sanctuary look more beautiful.

There are some conversion in other threads, however, that do make a big difference.


#4

When I first walked into my current parish, I was turned off by its style. It clearly was built in the 50's-60's, and was meant to be modernistic during that period. As a result, it appears dated, very open, and... dated. I know I already said dated, but really. Have I mentioned it appears dated?

But I have to say, my parish is one of the greatest I have ever been a part of. We are collectively an active parish, alive and vibrant with traditional worship. I agree that the traditional look is a beautiful thing, but I have been reminded that it isn't as important as we make it out to be. The architects of my church had an ugly plan. The current parishioners and pastor of my church have a beautiful plan: Catholicism, pure and simple, and heartfelt solemn worship. I love my parish, even if it isn't the prettiest to look at.


#5

I have attended adoration at this Church and it is truly beautiful! I admit to loving the older, ornate style.


#6

I much prefer a church styled after monastic abbey Churches where there is no altar rail, and not just for subjectively aesthetic reasons.

The liturgy being primarily the action of Christ, in such a church there is no seperation between cleric and non-cleric. All are family. All are brothers. All are in Christ. There is still a clear demarkation between the sanctuary and nave of the Church, just no rail and hence no seperation between Jesus and those he died for.

People on this forum are fond of saying that the Liturgy is not about us, and I agree. It is about Christ. We complain about Evangelical Christianity which confuses strong emotion with the presence of the Holy Spirit but we ourselves have to be on guard against thinking that piety and reverence are a replacement for true holines and growth in the virtues. To the extent that altar rails simply make us experience specific emotions or feelings, they are a distraction.

Personally, I think the secular Church could benefit greatly from an infusion of monastic spirituality which emphasizes ongoing inner conversion and deemphasizes external piety. The growth in monasic oblates and lay associations is certainly evidence that there is a hunger for it.

Anyway, I prefer simple designs. :shrug: Too much stuff looks cluttered and makes me nervous.

-Tim-


#7

[quote="Blaising_Sheep, post:5, topic:311561"]
I have attended adoration at this Church and it is truly beautiful! I admit to loving the older, ornate style.

[/quote]

I hope I can effectively express what I want to say here.

If you look at some of the work of the "retrofitters" like Stroik or Menzies (mentioned above) you notice right away that they aren't imitating some previous style. They aren't copying, for example, the German 19th century gothic style, for example. Nor are they really using the materials of old.

So, why do their works look "traditional" to us even though they aren't, really? In my opinion, it's because in every culture and subculture, there are "impressions" that one might refer to as "ancestral memories". Did the way my grandmother arrange her kitchen or living room impress certain design and color features on my mother, whose arrangements then impressed them on me? And if so, when they designed churches (or created art of any kind) long ago, did they deliberately hit those "impressions" that fit the "hot buttons" of the culture in which they were created? I think so, and I think so for what I consider very good reason. (too long a story for here, though)

(Ever notice that old German churches' interiors are "woods like" with dark wood and overarching features that look like branches, when most old Polish churches' interiors are "fields like" with sky colors and flower colors? Does one remember that "Polanie" means "people of the fields"?)

Now, when we look at the modern retrofitters, we can ask whether they are deliberately touching on themes that have long, longstanding reverberations within our consciousness. I think they are, and I have VERY good reason to believe it.

Is it better that they do? Well, I think so. Is there some compelling reason NOT to aid our minds in associating going to church with things that ring a pleasant bell in our minds?

On the other side of it, is there some compelling reason why our minds would make unconscious association of going to church with, say, a cardboard box? Most modern architecture is, in truth, a "conversation" between and among architects. They express abstract concepts within their discipline through their works. It's like Esperanto. It isn't "organic", it's an artificial construct they use in order to communicate with one another and, secondarily, with those who are (or think they are) "in the know".

So, as between the two things, and knowing that church architecture is going to strike largely unconscious notes with us, is there some good reason why we should be faced with "cardboard boxes" in which we need to fight the mental reaction to being in a cardboard box, rather than be faced with decor that might strike very pleasant and perhaps uplifting notes with us?

I realize there are those who like a spartan, monastic style in architecture, in music, and in art. That's fine. But one has to realize that those styles didn't just jump out of nowhere. They were purposeful. The monastic life is not the life of a married man who likes to see flowers in his wife's hair and ribbons braided into his daughter's locks, and who delights in the (yes, often kitchy and overadorned) decor of his home. Is there some really good reason why the latter should be "reminded" of the former, any more that there is any good reason why a monk should be reminded of family, home and hearth?

I recall reading, I think from Alestair Cook, how a person traveling in Germany could instantly tell whether he is in a Catholic church or a Lutheran church. The Lutheran church is patriarchal and functional, whereas the Catholic church is "full of women and babies" in imagery. That, he said, tells a lot about the entire worldview of the various Germans, in religion and otherwise. Indeed, sometimes the Rhineland and Bavaria are referred to as "Mediterranean Germany"...that portion that was once within the Roman sphere of influence. The other is the "Germany of the Teutonic forests".

Well, that's enough for now. Be of good cheer. :)


#8

There is always going to be the struggle between the transcendence of God and the imminence of God. He is both far and near, mysterious and yet intimate. The problem is if we start to get extreme in either view. If God's transcendence is over emphasized, we can forget about the Incarnation and that God chose to come down to Man and redeem him. We can forget that Christ comes to us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to be with us in a most intimate way. IOW, we practically deny the humanity of Christ. If we overemphasize the imminence of God, we run into the problem of oversimplifying God and making Him just like us. We start to veer into an unbecoming, casual familiarity instead of a holy intimacy (warning per Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand). We can start to minimize our sin and forget the fact that we are submissive to our Lord, and not the other way around. With all the hype about the dignity of man, we can start to think that it's all about us, and that God sits in awe of us.

This struggle plays itself out in architecture - most especially with altar rails. A visible divide between the nave and the sanctuary is something that visibly confirms the transcendence of God. By creating a sense of separate spaces, you remind people that they are not yet fully united with Christ. It is a visible symbol of Heaven and Earth being separated by a cloud of mystery. That's ok. It doesn't mean that Christ is any less present to us. It doesn't mean that we are "less" than a priest (we are qualitatively different, but not less of a Christian than a priest).

I think people should err on the side of humility before God - especially when it comes to receiving Him in the Blessed Sacrament. He made so many sacrifices for our redemption, and because of our sins. Is it wrong to be reminded of our unworthiness to receive such a selfless gift from our Creator who died for us while we were yet sinners? Yes, He comes to us in the most intimate way, but don't mistake an altar rail for a barrier to receiving Christ. It's a veil of mystery that enshrines the Real Presence.


#9

[quote="TimothyH, post:6, topic:311561"]
I much prefer a church styled after monastic abbey Churches where there is no altar rail, and not just for subjectively aesthetic reasons.

The liturgy being primarily the action of Christ, in such a church there is no seperation between cleric and non-cleric. All are family. All are brothers. All are in Christ. There is still a clear demarkation between the sanctuary and nave of the Church, just no rail and hence no seperation between Jesus and those he died for.

People on this forum are fond of saying that the Liturgy is not about us, and I agree. It is about Christ. We complain about Evangelical Christianity which confuses strong emotion with the presence of the Holy Spirit but we ourselves have to be on guard against thinking that piety and reverence are a replacement for true holines and growth in the virtues. To the extent that altar rails simply make us experience specific emotions or feelings, they are a distraction.

Personally, I think the secular Church could benefit greatly from an infusion of monastic spirituality which emphasizes ongoing inner conversion and deemphasizes external piety. The growth in monasic oblates and lay associations is certainly evidence that there is a hunger for it.

Anyway, I prefer simple designs. :shrug: Too much stuff looks cluttered and makes me nervous.

-Tim-

[/quote]

big :thumbsup:


#10

[quote="TimothyH, post:6, topic:311561"]
People on this forum are fond of saying that the Liturgy is not about us, and I agree. It is about Christ. We complain about Evangelical Christianity which confuses strong emotion with the presence of the Holy Spirit but we ourselves have to be on guard against thinking that piety and reverence are a replacement for true holines and growth in the virtues. To the extent that altar rails simply make us experience specific emotions or feelings, they are a distraction.
-Tim-

[/quote]

While I agree that reception of the Sacraments are not a replacement for willful striving for holiness and virtue, I think we should not minimize the need each man has to be elevated above the daily grind and be reminded of his heavenly goal. We are not spirits trapped in bodies. Our bodies and senses are a part of us, and worship of God should employ externals that concretize the reality that we are participating in at Mass. If that causes an emotional charge or an infusion of zeal, then great. If the person is merely getting a high that leaves as soon as they leave the communion rail, then it is vanity. Sacraments empower us to grow in holiness, but they do not guarantee it.

I like to refer to it as "active" or "passive" Grace. I'm sure there are some theological fine points that I will miss, but here it goes: Those who go through the motions and receive the Sacraments are receiving Grace, but they are not letting it impact their daily lives. They may go to Confession and Communion, but they do not live the Christian life. They are receiving a sort of "passive" Grace that doesn't change them. I fear for these people because it comes dangerously close to the Pharisees who look holy and are pious, but whose hearts had grown cold to personal conversion.

"Active" grace would be the same grace, but the disposition of the recipient is such that they let God's Grace work on them and change them. This is the goal of the sacramental life - God acting in us, through us, and with us to grow in holiness in our daily lives. It shouldn't stay at the Rail.

I think we should be careful about pitting the emotional or psychological elevation that people feel while attending Mass in an architecturally splendid Church with their capacity to let the Grace of the Sacrament change them. You can have both. In fact, you *should *have them both because you are a body-soul composite, and you bring both natures to bear in your worship.


#11

[quote="lizaanne, post:1, topic:311561"]
ipadre.net/2013/01/my-experience-of-the-altar-rail/

What an inspiration that a plain Jane "modern" sanctuary can be transformed into a truly beautiful space! I think they did a lovely job.

~Liza

[/quote]

I think they did do a good job with the sanctuary. It was beautifully done. The original sanctuary had a coldness to it, and it wasn't because it was "simple". I love simplicity as well as the ornate within all of the arts. Some of my favorite churches are simple, country parishes I've attended. Simplicity done well and with the intention of inspiring spirituality can outshine the most ornate but that original sanctuary was not done well.

That said, because everything else around the sanctuary didn't appear renovated, it looks as if someone just shoved it into a modern space, trying to make it fit like a square peg in a round hole. There isn't an aesthetic continuity which I think is needed in any design. The wall color choice did help warm the interior surrounding the dark wood sanctuary, but the yellow with the stark white ceiling and modern flood lights make me feel unwieldy. I know it would be extremely pricey to do, but I think a wood panel ceiling in the same style of the sanctuary would help bring the continuity, or maybe they should have used a lighter yellow color to not have such a huge contrast with the ceiling and the walls.

Perhaps it does look different in person, as I am very well aware that pictures aren't always the best in showing the reality. And perhaps further renovations are in the plans as money gets saved up. It think it's a very nice start though.


#12

[quote="Ridgerunner, post:2, topic:311561"]
There are some architects who are very good at "retrofitting" ugly modernistic chapels, sanctuaries and churches. For some additional sacred "eye candy", google Duncan Stroik and Henry Menzies.

What's neat about them is that they don't exactly copy historic models. They use modern materials and new uses of traditional themes to get an even more inspiring effect.
hmenzies.com/
stroik.com/portfolio/

[/quote]

Those architects do beautiful work.


#13

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