Sacred Architecture

The Manchester Bomber: Martyr or Murderer?

The most radical part of President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia was not the moment when he referred to “Islamic extremism” and “Islamic terror,” but the next moment when he said, “Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear… If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, [...]

The Wisdom Of Saint Mary Of Bethany

Six days before the Passover, one day before Palm Sunday, and not long before Holy Week, Jesus came to Bethany to where Lazarus was with his siblings, Martha and Mary (John 12:1-8). Parallel accounts in Matthew (26:6-13) and Mark (14:3-9) tell us that they were at the house of Simon the leper. While Martha served [...]

When An Opera Is Like a Vatican II Liturgy

Years (and years) ago I went to an opera in Graz, Austria—I guess the American equivalent to this is going to see the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway Park (if you are a huge baseball fan) or Ricky Skaggs play the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, if you are a big country-western aficionado. Anyway, [...]

The Church Needs Artists

“The Church has need especially of those who can do this [communicate the message] on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ Himself made extensive use of images in His preaching, fully in keeping with His willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the [...]

A Parish School Turns Failure into Success

A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
      ∼  John Keats, the opening to Endymion In 1923 Polish immigrants, living in Grand Rapids and earning [...]

The Problem with Pews

The queen consort of George V was consistent in her sense of duty and unswerving in how she expressed it. Crowned with dignity and corseted with confidence, at five feet six inches, Mary of Teck was the same height as the king, but they were called George the Fifth and Mary the Four-fifths. Of her [...]

Does Iconoclasm Further the New Evangelization?

“You will know them by their fruit.” Thus says Our Lord, in a guarantee as concise and direct as it is sobering. Catholics today, it seems, hear fairly constant talk of the new evangelization. The word “new” can sometimes be a source of confusion, but it really isn’t so much something new and different, as [...]

The Resurrection of Sacred Architecture

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome is one of the oldest churches in the city and in the world. Originally constructed in 340 by Pope Julius I, it replaced an earlier house church that had been established on the site by Pope St. Callixtus I in 220. As one of the original [...]

A “Liturgy Snob” Answers Her Critics

Last week I wrote a piece here on Crisis about good liturgy and its effect on the minds of children. It provoked a number of strong reactions, with some positive and others very critical. This is unsurprising. All liturgy-lovers have heard these critiques before, because they arise as a matter of course whenever liturgical practice [...]

Wrecking Churches: Iconoclasm or Continuity?

There are few better illustrations of the clash between conservative values and progressive ideologies than the church architecture wars of the last fifty years. Although traditional architecture was dismissed by most Christian denominations, the conflict comes into focus most clearly within the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s ushered in the most [...]

Let the Church Be a House of Wonder

Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam. I shall go in to the altar of God. To God, the joy of my youth. A few days ago I entered for the first time what some people in the area call the Sistine Chapel of America. There's reason for that. Saint Anne's Church, [...]

Designing a Church for the Poor

[Saint] Peter teaches us to look to the poor through the eyes of faith and to give them that which is most precious: the power of the name of Jesus. This is what he did with the paralytic; he gave him what he had, which was Jesus.  ∼ Pope Francis, Angelus June 29, 2014, Solemnity [...]

How Lovely (Again) is Thy Dwelling Place

In a recent Crisis essay, I indicated that the recovery of tradition, reverence and symbolism in sacred architecture is not limited only to newly built churches, but that it has also been on the increase in existing church renovations in recent years. Some of the most jarring evidence of internal unsettledness in the Church over [...]

A New Direction in Church Design

One day fifteen years ago, I happened to be channel surfing past the Eternal Word Television Network when I was greeted by a momentary flash of heavenly beauty across the screen. Quickly flipping back, I realized that it was a Mass being celebrated in an unusually majestic church with an extensively gilded and marbled interior. [...]

A Church Renovation Worth Celebrating

Several years ago, the best thing that could have happened to my boyhood church in Pennsylvania did in fact happen. One evening the pastor entered the church, turned on the light switch, heard the pop of a short circuit, and peered into an impenetrable cloud of smoke. He ran out of the church and called [...]

Beauty is for the Poor, Too

“How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your [...]

Saving Catholic Culture from Destruction

What kind of mindset built all the immigrant Catholic parishes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the Americas? Was it a way of thinking predicated on practical limitations; on being “realistic” in the mundane sense of the word? This can hardly be so. Something deeply potent—and even slightly irrational to the modern mind—had to [...]

Invest in Catholic Youth: Build Beautiful School Chapels

  Intellege ut credas; crede ut intellegas  (In order to believe you must understand. In order to understand you must believe.)  —St. Augustine A priest once told me that the best place to teach students the faith is in a church. For it is in a church that they can see a physical expression of [...]

The Real Scandal in Germany

One might think we were living back in the days of the Renaissance. Tremendously high expenses for “luxurious” buildings by the Bishop of Limburg have brought him into the headlines as the “Protz-Bischof” (“the showy Bishop”). Scandal has rocked the diocese and Rome decided therefore in October 2013 that bishop Tebartz-van Elst was to take [...]

Benedict XVI and the Way of Beauty

 Something unusual is revealed here as well: the house of God is the true house of humans.  It becomes the house of humans even more the less it tries to be this and the more it is simply put up for him.  — Pope Benedict XVI In modern memory, has there been a Pope who [...]

Modern Ambiguity Amid Baroque Splendor

We are all familiar with the truism that a picture is worth a thousand words, and there are likely few places in the world where its use is more appropriate than the Eternal City. Rome is a city of messages. To walk in centro—that is, through the historic city center—is to move figuratively through three [...]

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