Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Call for Communion Rails

I don't know much about Catholic Church architecture, but I do know that most of our post-1950s churches are horrendously hideous in the aesthetic sense. Basic pews, basic sanctuary, basic sclupture, basic stained glass. My first church, Holy Rosary in Milton, Ontarion, was designed to represent a massive tent. If that weren't strange enough, the sanctuary was a maze of curved dry wall, resembling the turning sea rather than, well, a wall. I can't even remember if there was a crucifix in the whole building.

What I began to understand as I came back to my faith, was that during this period of artificial artistic and architectural denegration, the faithful of the West experienced a massive crisis of faith. Most of this 'crisis' has been linked to dissenting theologians, poor pastoral leadership and even worse catechesis, but I do wonder if some of it can be attributed to the debasement of church architecture and liturgical.

As most capital 'C' Catholics know, the church itself is a liturgical expression. By that I mean the whole building must, in a certain way, direct the congregation toward Christ and His sacrifice, so that they may worship and pray in a sincere and authentic manner. One of course is reminded of the stories about previous Catholics who could provide a brief theological lesson by simply explaining the eschatological meaning of yellow stained glass. When Catholic churches began to resemble their iconoclast Protestant neighbour's, the church ceased being a partner in the liturgy and simply four walls and roof people just happened to visit once a week. I don't think its a coincidence that during this time, Catholicism also became something people just happened to 'do' once a week as well.

I've often thought that there are a few small steps every diocese could take toward 'reliturgizing' its churches. Bring back the Communion Rail. Besides the Tabernacle, Altar and Crucifix, I think this is one of the most vital parts of the Catholic liturgical architecture/building structure. Other than the aforementioned three, there really isn't another structure which would so drastically affect the way people prayed at Mass. Receiving Christ on the knees, whether it be by hand or tongue, is maybe the most humbling act most of us Catholics perform each week. It forces us, even if it is simply posture, to more fully understand what we are doing when we receive the Body and the Blood of our Lord. It is such a wonderful teaching moment for us, and all it takes is some wood and padding.

I think I'm going to mention this to my pastor and the other parish youfs.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd be curious to see which parish in Victoria would be into that. OL Victory had them back in the '80s. Never could figure out how our beloved Fr. McNamara managed that, being only minutes from the main offices of our former Bishop...or how he got away with offering Mass on the high altar, with no table altar in front.

OL Rosary parish in Langford had a removable communion kneeler til Fr. O'Brien retired in the '80s.

I did seem to see some promising changes the last time I was in Victoria (a year ago). For now, well I am next door to the former Diocese of Archbishop Collins--and we have just had our communion kneelers removed at the request of our Bishop (by word of mouth and not through our priest--we don't seem to ever get anything officially). I feel like this Alberta Diocese is where Victoria was 20 years ago, and only descending further. No Tridentine Mass either, surprise surprise.

Forgive my wordiness.

An embattled Catholic

The Poodle said...

Dear Embattled,

Who is your Bishop?

In these days, I think we need to spread the word. We could probably concert our efforts to spread this news around the blogosphere and start some discussions. Who knows? Maybe a few discussions will then get back to your bishop, or even above him.

Whatever the case, we certainly don't need another bishop 'modernizing' our religion.

Anonymous said...

Hi again,

My bishop is His Excellency Jean Luc Bouchard. He was ordained and installed here 5 years ago.

2 or 3 priests have been asked to resign in this diocese, who from all appearances were very strong in the Faith--ie: were leaders in their parishes, which certain parish council members do not seem to like. A 3rd priest left as he did not feel comfortable under the bishop (also solid). And I believe a 4th that is willing to serve (also a very good priest), has not been invited to serve after his last parish. He is definitely not retirement age, but I don't know the full story.

Now perhaps we don't know the whole story of any of these--but my family and I knew one of these priests quite well, and were impressed with his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He replaced the tabernacle back in the middle of our Church's sanctuary, donated the communion kneelers, and gave solid homilies. Not to mention choosing to have only altar boys, and insisting patens be used when distributing Holy Communion. He encouraged kneeling and receiving on the tongue, and kneeling for the consecration (a BIG bone of contention around this Diocese). Nor would he be bossed around by the Parish Council members, which I think was his downfall. Any priest in this diocese who crosses a Parish Council knows his days are numbered.

It *appears* that our priests do not have the trust or support of the bishop.

To the layman's eyes, it appears as if the Bishop has a group of women in the chancery office who go out and do his commands, rather than speaking through the parish priest(s) or in writing. At least 2 of the women there have been formed at the deadly Newman Theological College. Most likely that Emmaus program. Terrible stuff.

What makes it worse is that they are prayerful women, obviously in love with the Lord, probably had a conversion experience late in life (they are all grandmother age or close to it), wanted to learn more about their Faith, so hey, there is Newman college, where else would you go to learn about your Faith. It's their sincerity that is most damaging. But it's the same old 70's liberal ideology being spouted.

Those in Alberta who know their Faith, know to steer a wide birth from both this program and the college. 2 or 3 priests that I know of also "dislike" the college, to put it mildly.

Another worrying example: our current priest is considered the "Assistant" pastor of us and 2 other parishes. No one knows who the actual pastor is--probably a ghost. We have a (female) "Pastoral Coordinator" (from another parish)who jointly looks after the 3 parishes with our priest, and along with a Deacon--now retiring. For all intents and purposes, this "coordinator" seems to be over our priest, and he has no say in matters (such as having our statues removed, tabernacle moved, candles changed, etc). A perversion of right order, if you ask me.

On a happier note, all our statues were returned, and replaced back in the Sanctuary, and we have managed to stave off having the tabernacle moved from centre so far. However, the (female) Diocesan Liturgical Director told us the Bishop wants the Communion kneelers removed due to "liability" concerns, and because they "constrain people to kneel" to receive.

While a few liturgical abuses have been stopped in our local Cathedral, it has not had scheduled confessions since 1998 that I know of--except the usual Advent and Lenten Reconciliation services. At least the Bishop has started up annual Corpus Christi processions as of 2 years ago.

I have seen one written directive from His Excellency, mandating that all Catholics must use Born of the Spirit series as catechism, whether homeschooled, public or Catholic schooled. A big problem for me, as this series has not been sent to Rome for approval. I would love to obey, but cannot in conscience.

So, after all this information, I feel that much prayer is needed. 9/10 of our parish do not know the Faith, so follow blindly anyone with a degree (well, excepting the priest of course!!!)

I can tell you, Victoria is looking mighty good right now, and especially Queen of Peace (sorry, in my last post I said OL Victory, I meant QoP). Any priest who's a fan of EWTN is okay in my book! We hope to move back in the next few years. Climate for family is great up here, but the Church is terrible. We set up in the wrong AB Diocese!!!

God Bless,

Embattled:)

Anonymous said...

I'm old enough to remember the old Church as a child, and the sense of the sacred which communion rails provided. Like the Iconostasis in the Orthodox Church, it set the altar apart, and, when one approached the rail for Communion, it was like approaching Heaven, full of awe and wonder.

Here's hoping with the Universal Indult on it's way, church architecture can be restored to it's former glory. If not for me, for my young daughters.

Anonymous said...

I'm old enough to remember the old Church as a child, and the sense of the sacred which communion rails provided. Like the Iconostasis in the Orthodox Church, it set the altar apart, and, when one approached the rail for Communion, it was like approaching Heaven, full of awe and wonder.

Here's hoping with the Universal Indult on it's way, church architecture can be restored to it's former glory. If not for me, for my young daughters.