Friday, August 10, 2007

Preserving our faith patrimony in stone, glass and wood

Trial of Saint Stephen before the Sanhedrin.Saint Stephen Church, Cleveland, O.

Many dioceses have been consolidating and closing parishes. One can almost hear the Libera me of the requiem sounding. Churches, such as St. Stephen, St.Stanislaus, St. Michael, Our Lady of Lourdes and ... in this city and others, represented the faith of nineteenth century peasants, no matter what nation of origin, who wanted to hold something of the old country to secure a foundation in an often unfriendly new world. They created urban villages and the church was their standard and monument. These parishioners were the church militant and now they are the church triumphant. These churches and parishes are part of their patrimony to us. Their grandeur is witness to the underlying unity of the faith, and that witness should not be dismissed. Sacred space respecting the divine presence is properly procured and established. Come and see. Beauty has its place. Truth, beauty and goodness correspond with each other, let them correspond with you.

In the two decades before the civil war, the beginnings of significant catholic immigration caused a reaction amongst nativist protestants of ugly aggression and provocation. Riots and vandalism were not unusual. Catholic churches were targets. Moving closer to the first world war, the immigration continued and communities coalesced. In this period the nationality churches and neo-gothic architectural revival came to fruition. Territorial parishes were planned by the ordinary, but these nationality churches were the product of these communities and the ordinary has less authentic authority over them. Those who did not build, should be less keen for their demise. These units represented the spirit of the faith and the pride of culture that intertwined with that faith. They marked our arrival and our continuing presence and they surpassed those who did not want us here.

Now they are in danger of marketing decisions as if they were gasoline stations and locations are to be determined by traffic volume and gross receipts. A good shepherd worries and tends all his sheep.

These churches were built before motorized transport or when cars were a novelty and a luxury for the rich alone. Now many of the poor have cars as necessities. Commute from any place in the county and beyond is equivalent, in minutes, to the foot conveyance of people a century ago. People took the time necessary to come to mass and church before, and now current thought is to place the churches to maintain urban sprawl and to have them built in horrendous modern drabness.

The faithful and their administrators would do more service to lead the flocks back to the old folds and pastures. Preservation is sensible, prudent and worthy. Continuity is a mark of catholicism.

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