Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on LinkedIn

Ugly Churches and Modern Day Iconoclasm

March 26, AD2017

cathedralRecently, my wife and I had to attend Mass at a different church outside of our diocese. Now I’ve walked into some ugly Catholic churches before, but this one stood out in its preeminent blandness. The church was basically a holdover from the proponents of a neo-iconoclasm, something which had been originally condemned as heretical over a millennium ago. Why was I seeing such a naked church in the 21st century?

Of course, the church was built around 30 years ago, so the somewhat clandestine revival of iconoclasm was obviously a thing in the years and decades following the Second Vatican Council. But let’s not forget that the Council never called for such ugly and white washed houses of worship to be constructed.

The first thing I noticed was that the tabernacle was not located behind the small, wooden desk-like altar. In fact, I never did figure out where the tabernacle was. I also noticed there were no images whatsoever in the church proper, except some technicolor banners above the altar showing random people looking up at what appeared to be the Lamb of God. But there were no statues anywhere, no stained glass windows, and no images or pictures for veneration unless they were tucked away in some corner. The church looked more like an auditorium or a lodge than a house of worship where God was truly present. The plain and sprawling lackluster brick wall that encompassed the entire interior of the building did nothing to direct our thoughts to that of heavenly things.

Worst of all, there was not a single image to be found of our Lord’s Passion in either the nave or the sanctuary. In addition, there were no visible Stations of the Cross in the nave. Oftentimes, I’ll at least see a little crucifix sitting on the altar. Not at this parish. There was a giant cross, sans corpus, hanging suspended from the ceiling, about five rows into where the congregation was seated. The crucifix that was used to process into the church wasn’t even a crucifix at all, but one of those ridiculous “resurrfixes”, where our resurrected Lord has His hands outstretched with the cross behind Him. At no time during the Sacrifice of the Mass could one even focus on an image of Jesus’ Passion, the singular most important moment in human history.

Now, through the progression of this Mass, I soon realized a couple things. First, as a parent, I in good conscience, could never submit to willingly bringing my children to this parish for regular worship. If I was a three or four years old and had walked into this building, I would have no way to differentiate it between a lodge or hall. If a church is supposed to house the Holy of Holies, should we not give our best for Christ instead of some banal brick wall featuring no references to the rich traditions, or holy men and women, which came before us in our Catholic faith? It would be hard for anyone who had not yet embraced Catholic Christianity, walking into a church such as this, to declare what St. Vladimir of Kiev’s men said )after entering a church in Greece:

“…they took us where they worship their God, and we do not know whether we were in heaven or upon earth, for there is not upon earth such sight or beauty. We were perplexed, but this much we know that there God lives among men…”

Sacred art is a fundamental factor in instructing the faithful in their knowledge of revelation, revitalizing and cultivating their faith. Pope St. John Paul II, agrees in his 1999 letter to artists :

“Believers above all have gained from [the occasions the biblical word has become image] in their experience of prayer and Christian living. Indeed for many of them, in times when few could read or write, representations of the Bible were a concrete mode of catechesis.”

As a parent, I try to teach my children about the Catholic faith, and as they cannot read yet, their instruction and catechesis come in large part through these images. This type of catechesis will continue for a few more years still, as I describe in detail the images they are seeing. I often point out to them the images adorned throughout the parishes we regularly attend. “There is your Mother”, I tell my son when I point to a statue depicting the Virgin Mary. “Here’s your Lord Jesus, your friend. Why don’t you give Him a kiss?” I say to my son, when at a Byzantine Catholic parish. I then show him how to venerate an image of our Lord. But at the parish in question, there would be no way I could do this. The Gospel was not told in pictures anywhere; most assuredly, this is a disservice to any young or illiterate Catholic that attends this parish. That also goes for those who are on a journey of conversion. Nowhere can they see images of the life of Christ. Instead, they are subjected to a white-washed, sterile, and desolate landscape where one could hardly tell that Jesus Christ is worshiped there.

Second, as I tried to focus more on the Mass, a thought kept popping into my head: iconoclasm was condemned as heresy for good reason. It was denounced at the Second Council of Nicaea, the Seventh Ecumenical Council, in 787. Among the canons that were issued  during this council:

“We define that the holy icons, whether in color, mosaic, or some other material, should be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on the sacred vessels and liturgical vestments, on the walls, furnishings, and in houses and along the roads, namely the icons of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, that of our Lady the Theotokos, those of the venerable angels and those of all saintly people. The more frequently they are seen in representational art, the more are those who see them drawn to remember and long for those who serve as models, and to pay these images the tribute of salutation and respectful veneration (dulia). Certainly, this is not the full adoration [or real worship] (latria) in accordance with our faith, which is properly paid only to the divine nature… Further, people are drawn to honor these images with the offering of incense and lights, as was piously established by ancient custom. Indeed, the honor paid to the image is in effect transmitted to the prototype; he who venerates the image, venerates the person represented in that image.

“Therefore all those who dare to think or teach anything different, or who follow the accursed heretics in rejecting ecclesiastical traditions, or who devise innovations, or who spurn anything entrusted to the church (whether it be the Gospel or the figure of the cross or any example of representational art or any martyr’s holy relic), or who fabricate perverted and evil prejudices against cherishing any of the lawful traditions of the Catholic Church, or who secularize the sacred objects and saintly monasteries, we order that they be suspended if they are bishops or clerics, and excommunicated if they are monks or lay people.”

Some strong words for those that would wish to sweep this pious custom and tradition under the rug, but necessary words nonetheless. Now before anyone tries to claim that the canons from that council are irrelevant as it was held over 1000 years ago, let me give a reminder that the Church is a living Body. Doctrine develops. Our understanding of Sacred Tradition and smaller traditions develop as well. While referring more specifically to the Ordinary Form of the Mass in relation to the Extraordinary Form, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s words in his Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum (Of the Supreme Pontiffs), regarding the Church’s Tradition are apt in this matter as well:

“What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.  It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”

Pope Benedict also comments more directly on the great effect sacred imagery has on the soul, in his presentation of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2005:

“Works of art always ‘speak’, at least implicitly, of the divine, of the infinite beauty of God, reflected in the Icon par excellence: Christ the Lord, the Image of the invisible God.

“Sacred images, with their beauty, are also a Gospel proclamation and express the splendor of the Catholic truth, illustrating the supreme harmony between the good and the beautiful… While they witness to the age-old and fruitful tradition of Christian art, they urge one and all, believers and non-believers alike, to discover and contemplate the inexhaustible fascination of the mystery of Redemption, giving an ever new impulse to the lively process of its inculturation in time.”

Images are a part of our tradition. There are those in the past 50 years who have hijacked what the Council Fathers had intended, with a false “Spirit of Vatican II”. We cannot all of a sudden discard our venerable traditions, especially ones that aid in our prayer, worship, and catechesis.
Who decided that there should be no illustration presenting the harmony between the ultimate Good and the beautiful? Hopefully, we have not completely forgotten that humans are a visual people.

In an essay entitled The Beauty of Holiness: Sacred Art and the New Evangelization, written by author Dr. Jem Sullivan,  we can see just exactly what being a “visual people” means, especially in the 21st-century world we live in:

“The diminishing role and place of Christian art in liturgy, catechesis, and evangelization has occurred precisely at the moment when popular media culture, in content and medium, has become increasingly sensory and visual. Everyday life is infused with images, words and sounds aimed at engaging the mind, will, senses and emotions, while the daily or weekly experience of liturgy, catechesis, and evangelization is often bereft of beauty. While the surrounding culture appeals constantly to visual and sensory experiences, the place and role of sensory expressions of faith within the Christian community have decreased significantly. 

“This sensory dissonance offers one among many challenges for the new evangelization. For clearly the sensory dissonance between the immersive experience of a visual culture on the one hand, and the Church’s life of faith on the other, touches the very heart of the Church’s mission to evangelize the culture.” 

We know how much millennials like to look at their iPhone, tablets, and other devices. They are inundated with images. That is what such people are used to; a bombardment of images and graphics that they interact with every day. Why have them stop once they come inside a modern parish?

As can plainly be seen, the tradition of beautiful art in the Church, whether it’s imagery, architecture, or even music, provides an excellent way to give glory to God and to bring others closer to Him. In closing, let’s reflect on the valuable insight given by Pope Benedict in his Introduction to the Compendium of the Catechism:

“The centuries-old conciliar tradition teaches us that images are also a preaching of the Gospel.  Artists in every age have offered the principal facts of the mystery of salvation to the contemplation and wonder of believers by presenting them in the splendor of color and in the perfection of beauty. It is an indication of how today more than ever, in a culture of images, a sacred image can express much more than what can be said in words, and be an extremely effective and dynamic way of communicating the Gospel message.”

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Nicholas is 20-something cradle Catholic who wears many hats, (husband, father, tradesman, religious education catechist, liberal arts college graduate, et al.) and hopes to give a unique perspective on life in the Church as a millennial. His favorite saints include his patron St. Nicholas, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Mary Vianney and St. Athanasius of Alexandria. He currently writes for the Diocese of Joliet's monthly magazine, "Christ Is Our Hope".

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe below to receive a daily digest of all our essays.

Thank you for supporting us!

  • Robert H. Woodman

    Hi, Nicholas,

    Thanks for the article. I really appreciated it. I would like to send it to family who are not often online. Do you have a printer friendly version of it?

    Thanks!

  • Jeanne Stark
    • Nick

      Hi Jeanne. I’m curious to know why you are labeling me as so negative? I wasn’t aware that I had all this negativity. Can you show me where in my article that was reflected? I ask honestly. For being a fellow Catholic, Jeanne, I’m surprised at how quick you are to judge me based on one essay that you have missed the point on. I read the link you posted, and if you’re referring to me as an “ultra-Catholic”, then I ‘ll take that as a compliment. Thank you! Nonetheless, labeling someone as “ultra-something” in one direction or another is misguided. There is either orthodoxy or heterodoxy when we talk about the Jesus’ Church. Have I posted anything unorthodox here in cherishing the lawful tradition of sacred imagery the Catholic Church has presented to us in her parishes and oratories over nearly two millennia? As for being ultra strict, I’m curious how that could apply to me. But before I even get into talking about the link you posted, it’d be nice to have a good conversation between a brother and sister in Christ about what you find negative about me and the essay you read here. for the record, I am not negative. How could I be, when as St. Paul says, we have Christ within us; the hope of glory? Please don’t pigeonhole me in some category and then only leave two short quips and a link.

      My question to you is this: if I’m negative, did you happen to read the several quotations I gave? Is St. John Paul II negative when he noted Biblical images were an important part of ongoing catechesis? Was Dr. Sullivan negative when she lamented the diminishing role and place of Christian art in liturgy? Were our venerable Council Fathers during the 7th Ecumenical Council being “negative” when they decried iconoclasm? Was Pope Benedict XVI “negative” when he mentioned that sacred art is an extremely effective way of communicating the Gospel to others? Or when he said this, which I was unable to post from his intro to the Compendium of the CCC. “The complete absence of images is incompatible with faith in the Incarnation of God. God has acted in history and entered into our sensible world, so that it may become transparent to him. Images of beauty, in which the mystery of the invisible God becomes visible, becomes are an essential part of Christian worship.”

      He says an essential part. If that makes me “ultra-strict” for insisting that my young children have access to an essential part of worship, then I’ll take that part of the post’s title as a compliment, too. I love Christ and I love His Church, and I want my growing children to be able to experience the beauty of God’s love for us that has been represented through sacred art and architecture throughout the centuries.

  • ralph

    It’s a shame that our Bishops and Priest allow Modernism enter the Sanctuary after Vatican II. Communion in the hand, the altar turn around, the prayers changed, rubrics’ changed, the list goes on and on.

    People don’t realize that:

    The greater the Glory you give to God at the Mass the greater the Graces you get.

    This statement is true. All you have to do is look and see where most of new Priests and Nuns are coming from. It’s the Traditional Latin Mass. The Solemn High Mass, High Mass and the Low Mass all give far more glory to God than any new Novus Ordo Mass.

  • brbg

    I have seen too many of these “protestantised churches around the US. It is a travesty and sacrilidge. I felt like shaking the dust off my feet when leaving. Tabernacles have been removed, Kneelers are gone too, Loaves of unleavened bread are broken for the Eucharist, spreading crumbs of our Lord everywhere. One wonders where the Bishops are. One bulletin even asked those who wanted to bring the Blessed Sacrament home to loved ones, to stop in the sacristy to pick it up!

  • MrsSpooky

    This article came at a good time, as I’ve been ruminating on the barren churches I’ve seen pictures of, compared with the gorgeous, worship-inspiring cathedrals and older churches. I have Michael S. Rose’s “Ugly As Sin,” which is a good one too that explains the value of sacred art in sacred spaces. Anyone who wonders why the young are turning away from the Church should take a look at the environment that inspires nothing. My parish church is well designed and thankfully, we have what we need to remind ourselves that this IS a sacred space. Still, I see more and more women in my parish veiling, myself being one of them. Any concrete reminder we can have in our environment and clothing that we are in the presence of the Living God should be encouraged.

  • James

    Nobody asked for the mass to be changed, but it was and that was that.
    Nobody asked for the fasting disciplines to be changed, but they were and that was that.

    • brbg

      James, the church isn’t obcessed with sexual ethics. It just happens to be the current moral challenge of our day. Remember, Our Lady said that more souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than any other sin.

    • James

      Is the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics more important than the Mass?

      If not, then why did the Mass change, but not the teachings on sexual ethics?

      People listen to nothing, but watch everything. The clergy practiced a lot of bad catechesis through their actions.

  • John k

    I understand how one could think, God doesn’t need a decorative place to be worshiped while people starve – but here’s the thing, Judas scowled at the woman for pouring expensive nard onto Jesus and anointing him , Judas said that instead of wasting that perfume on Jesus it could be sold and the money given to the poor, yet we know Judas didn’t care for the poor, but Jesus told him off anyhow saying judas did not understand what she was truly doing for him.
    Why don’t you sell everything, phone, bed , tv etc… then give that to the poor and forget having any decent home, and build God a proper Church. .. you wouldn’t dare sell everything but you are willing to give God a dumpy bland building and call it a heavenly house for God.

    God told the Israelites he wanted a temple of gold not a dumpy grange hall.

  • Mark

    In America specifically, we have very plain churches. White, sterile walls. Nothing whatsoever to incite an image of heaven to raise our minds heavenward. I’ve scarcely been in a Catholic Church in the USA that was beautiful with icons and statues and such, where as Europe has beautiful churches.
    I think this is because of the heavy Protestant and Lutheran influence in our nation. I think having a sterile whitewashed Lutheran style isn’t good for Catholics at all.
    Jesus appeared to St. Teresa once and she asked him about Lutherans and their separating off from the Catholic Church , he told her, “Do more and more the opposite of what they do”. (That is Lurthers followers)

  • James

    “Of course, the church was built around 30 years ago, so the somewhat clandestine revival of iconoclasm was obviously a thing in the years and decades following the Second Vatican Council. But let’s not forget that the Council never called for such ugly and white washed houses of worship to be constructed.”

    This is a common belief, but the “ugly church trend” began before Vatican II. It started when Catholics moved out to the suburbs in the 1950s. They usually built the school first (for the baby boomer children) and the church was a functional multi-generation box built with whatever was left over.

  • smk629

    Thank you for the thoughtful article. I fully realize that we can worship God anywhere, no matter what the circumstances. But it makes such a difference to the congregation to have a beautiful church. I understand that Catholic churches were originally decorated in such a manner before literacy became more universal. The statues and paintings told the story of the Gospel and the Church. Even now, with parishes such as mine where not everyone understands and speaks the same language, it must be reassuring to recognize where we are at because of what we see.

    My good St. Francis of Assisi was very austere with himself and his brothers. However, nothing but the very best was fit for Our Lord – linens, ornamentation, vestments, Eucharistic vessels, etc. I agree!!!

    Peace to all here – Susan, ofs

  • adam aquinas

    The first Mass was a simople gathering around a wooden table with common bread an wine…nothing ostentatious. Christ, the God -man, never spoke of building cathedrals in his honor s places of worship. He said to use resources to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, etc. Remember att 25…..When people no longer starve, no longer sleep in the streets, no longer beg all over the world, then we can discuss monolithic edifices befitting royalty. in Matt 25 we learn the way to be close to God and it has little to do with architecture which is a distraction from sheltering the homeless, the refugees…..

    • Adam, the subject of this essay has clearly gone over your head and you appear to have totally missed the point I was trying to make. I do wonder if you actually read what I wrote, and the various citations I provided, or if you just glossed over it, because your post seems to be nothing more than a reply to the article’s title and the picture that was chosen for it.

      What else did Christ, the God-man, never speak about while He was present on this Earth in the 1st century A.D.? He never spoke about commemorating His birth. He never spoke about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. He never spoke about a lot of things. But you and many others forget that Jesus is the Head of the Church; that He is one with the Church. If the Church speaks, so speaks Jesus Christ.

      The first Mass was simple, obviously, but don’t fall into the error of antiquarianism, Adam. Giving glory to God through images and beauty (which I and many others before us in the faith do NOT see as ostentatious) is part of the divine pedagogy. In the footnote immediately following the selection I provided of St. John Paul’s letter, the late pope says this, quoting another pope:

      “This pedagogical principle [that images and architecture are a concrete mode of catechesis] was given authoritative formulation by Saint Gregory the Great in a letter of 599 to Serenus, Bishop of Marseilles: ‘Painting is employed in churches so that those who cannot read or write may at least read on the walls what they cannot decipher on the page’.”

      I also didn’t get to post this from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Intro to the Compendium of the Catechism because of word count. This pope also makes it clear that sacred art and architecture are pedagogical tools:

      “The complete absence of images is incompatible with faith in the Incarnation of God. God has acted in history and entered into our sensible world, so that it may become transparent to him. Images of beauty, in which the mystery of the invisible God becomes visible, becomes are an essential part of Christian worship.”

      To your next point, perhaps you forget that Jesus also said, “the poor you will always have with you…”(Mark: 14:7). That doesn’t mean we forget about the poor or our duty to serve them. It means that in helping them we need not forget other commands our Lord has given us, such as evangelizing and giving Him His due worship. Sacred art does both of these things. Please stop making false dichotomies, Adam. The Church doesn’t have to EITHER build magnificent cathedrals OR serve the poor; the Church does BOTH/AND. This might be a good starting place for you to learn more about why the Church can both serve the poor and evangelize through sacred art and architecture:

      http://threeminuteapologetics.blogspot.com/2011/08/isnt-church-too-opulent-why-doesnt.html

      http://strangenotions.com/in-defense-of-nice-churches/

      “Faulting the Cathedrals and Basilicas of the world for containing “too much” wealth is an awkward denial of the fact that the cathedrals and basilicas of the world are explicitly for the use of the poor, and to steal from them is to steal, not merely from the Church, but from the poor themselves…”

      Also, I’m pretty sure there were still people starving, sleeping in streets, and people begging during the time of Moses when God commanded that all this be constructed; a construction that, oddly enough, seems to befit royalty:

      “You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide; the altar shall be square, and it shall be three cubits high. You shall make horns for it on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze… You shall also make for it a grating, a network of bronze; and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners.” (Exodus 27: 1-2, 4)

      A bit later, God commands the construction of beautiful and rich vestments for Aaron:

      “Then bring near to you your brother Aaron, and his sons with him, from among the Israelites, to serve me as priests… You shall make sacred vestments for the glorious adornment of your brother Aaron. And you shall speak to all who have ability… that they make Aaron’s vestments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the vestments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban, and a sash. When they make these sacred vestments for your brother Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests, 5 they shall use gold, blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen.” (Exodus 28: 1-5)”

      And those verses don’t even cover the Ark of the Covenant. Check out this article I wrote about a year ago for more on descriptions of “monolithic edifices befitting royalty” straight from Scripture.

      http://www.catholic365.com/article/3576/reclaiming-our-faith-and-our-tradition.html

      A reading of the latter part of 1 Kings 7 would be helpful, too. So as we can see, far from being a distraction, sacred art and architecture helps us to proclaim the Gospel message; it helps us to evangelize.

      Before I progress any further in dialogue, you have me at a disadvantage, Adam, so I’d like to ask you one question. You know that I am a Catholic Christian and a father. Are you yourself a Catholic Christian? This will help moving forward.

    • Adam, the subject of this essay has clearly gone over your head and you appear to have totally missed the point I was trying to make.

      What else did Christ, the God-man, never speak about while He was present on this Earth in the 1st century A.D.? He never spoke about commemorating His birth. He never spoke about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. He never spoke about a lot of things. But you and many others forget that Jesus is the Head of the Church; that He is one with the Church. If the Church speaks, so speaks Jesus Christ.

      The first Mass was simple, obviously, but don’t fall into the error of antiquarianism, Adam. Giving glory to God through images and beauty (which I and many others before us in the faith do NOT see as ostentatious) is part of the divine pedagogy. In the footnote immediately following the selection I provided of St. John Paul’s letter, the late pope says this, quoting another pope:

      “This pedagogical principle [that images and architecture are a concrete mode of catechesis] was given authoritative formulation by Saint Gregory the Great in a letter of 599 to Serenus, Bishop of Marseilles: ‘Painting is employed in churches so that those who cannot read or write may at least read on the walls what they cannot decipher on the page’.”
      I also didn’t get to post this from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Intro to the Compendium of the Catechism because of word count. This pope also makes it clear that sacred art and architecture are pedagogical tools:

      “The complete absence of images is incompatible with faith in the Incarnation of God. God has acted in history and entered into our sensible world, so that it may become transparent to him. Images of beauty, in which the mystery of the invisible God becomes visible, becomes are an essential part of Christian worship.”

      To your next point, perhaps you forget that Jesus also said, “the poor you will always have with you…”(Mark: 14:7). That doesn’t mean we forget about the poor or our duty to serve them. It means that in helping them we need not forget other commands our Lord has given us, such as evangelizing and giving Him His due worship. Sacred art does both of these things. Please stop making false dichotomies, Adam. The Church doesn’t have to EITHER build magnificent cathedrals OR serve the poor; the Church does BOTH/AND. This might be a good starting place for you to learn more about why the Church can both serve the poor and evangelize through sacred art and architecture. Since Disqus sees links as spam, here’s the titles to look for:

      Search “Isn’t the Church Too Opulent?” from 3 Minute Apologetics
      Search “In Defense of Nice Churches” from Strange Notions

      “Faulting the Cathedrals and Basilicas of the world for containing “too much” wealth is an awkward denial of the fact that the cathedrals and basilicas of the world are explicitly for the use of the poor, and to steal from them is to steal, not merely from the Church, but from the poor themselves…”

      Also, I’m pretty sure there were still people starving, sleeping in streets, and people begging during the time of Moses when God commanded that all this be constructed; a construction that, oddly enough, seems to befit royalty:

      “You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide; the altar shall be square, and it shall be three cubits high. You shall make horns for it on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze… You shall also make for it a grating, a network of bronze; and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners.” (Exodus 27: 1-2, 4)

      A bit later, God commands the construction of beautiful and rich vestments for Aaron:
      “Then bring near to you your brother Aaron, and his sons with him, from among the Israelites, to serve me as priests… You shall make sacred vestments for the glorious adornment of your brother Aaron. And you shall speak to all who have ability… that they make Aaron’s vestments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the vestments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban, and a sash. When they make these sacred vestments for your brother Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests, 5 they shall use gold, blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen.” (Exodus 28: 1-5)”
      And those verses don’t even cover the Ark of the Covenant. Check out an article I wrote about a year ago (“Reclaiming Our Faith and Tradition” from Catholic365) for more on descriptions of “monolithic edifices befitting royalty” straight from Scripture.

      A reading of the latter part of 1 Kings 7 would be helpful, too. So as we can see, far from being a distraction, sacred art and architecture helps us to proclaim the Gospel message; it helps us to evangelize.

      Before I progress any further in dialogue, you have me at a disadvantage, Adam, so I’d like to ask you one question. You know that I am a Catholic Christian and a father. Are you yourself a Catholic Christian? This will help moving forward.

    • For whatever reason, there are some problems with Disqus which keep causing my comment to you to disappear. Trying something different here before I try posting my original comment again…

      Adam, you’ve clearly missed the point being made in this essay. Before I go farther at this point, I’d like to pose a question. I’m at a disadvantage; you know that I am a Catholic as well as a father. Adam, are you also a Catholic Christian? This will help us both going ahead in any further dialogue.

    • James

      Don’t forget John 12 either.

    • Nick Dom

      We can do both. Both honor & revere God with awesome spiritual places of truth and beauty that reflect His splendor AND also help needy people which reflects His Heart. God will provide; He is the God who is more than enough. All resources, all money, everything belongs to Him. He just needs us to cooperate with His grace. God had Moses and Solomon build Him a fitting tabernacle and temple, which was a type and shadow of the heavenly Throne Room.

    • Penitent

      uh, we do. More than any government or any other “religion”.
      And it is the faithful that build those heaven-on-earth Catholic Cathedrals et al.
      Do a bit of honest history, before you come here with your diatribe, adam non-aquinas.

  • Guy McClung

    Nicholas, Would that ten thousand copies of your article could be printed and given out in every diocese in the USA. So much has been done to try to make us focus on each other, to denigrate the sacrament of Holy Orders and deny that the ordained priest alone is present in persona Christi as head of His mystical body.

    There is cause for rejoicing: think of all these bland empty let-us-worship-ourselves arenas as blank canvases on which a new generation of believers will get to paint the glory of God and His Church someday.

    In future when someone removes a LET EACH OF US BLOOM WHERE WE ARE PLANTED banner with statues of Mary and Joseph, and other saints, no one will complain and protest the banner’s removal. When the empty space is filled with a tabernacle housing/tenting Our Lord, no liturgist will complain to the bishop.

    One reason for no rebellion will be that these “clast” breakers do not replace themselves, many if not most of those who survive the gather-us-in-sing-a-new-church “religious education” are never seen again post-confirmation.

    I carry my own little portable “shrine” for such churches – about 9 holy cards taped together that fold into the shape and space of a single credit card. I take it out and place it on the pew in front of me – Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Anthony, Bernadette, the Holy Souls, Guardian Angels, etc.

    Thank you, Nichiolas. Guy McClung, San Antonio, Texas

  • Mark McCann

    Nicholas, thank you for your article. You’re passionate about your faith and that comes shining through your words. I was wondering…what was the spirit of the church like that day? Did you see Christ in the people there? Was He present in the sacred signs of the Mass? As a youth minister, I’ve worshiped in some of the most beautiful cathedrals and in some of the most austere retreat houses. I love images and am sad when people treat Catholics like idol worshipers for having them in our churches. But I also have seen some real beauty in celebrating Mass with young people in some of the simplest places on earth. All I kept thinking as I read your article is that the most beautiful image I saw was the example of your fatherhood toward your son. I like going into a church and knowing it’s a Catholic church, so it’s a good reminder to us all. But your faith is an even greater reminder of the presence of Christ in His Church. Thank you again for a great article.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Mark. You make some very good and valid points; my own parish is nothing like what was pictured with the article. It’s a simple small parish, but there our images of our Lord and Lady in the front and back of church, as well as very detailed busts of the Stations of the Cross. I’m able to point out several things to my son, especially when he’s doing the pointing and asking!

      As for the spirit in the specific church that day… it was like a typical upper-middle class suburban parish; the music director was trying really hard to get all the people to sing along. Everyone seemed friendly, so there was definitely Christ-like people there. Our Lord was definitely present in the sacred signs of the Mass. However, no one kneeled during the consecration. My wife and I did, and she says she also doesn’t remember seeing anyone else kneel except for us at that time, and afterwards. This of course, was in direct opposition to the norms of the Latin Rite, and the rubrics prescribed by the archdiocese that we were in. As I mentioned, the overall sense I got from the parish felt very sterile, definitely different from what I experience at my own parish. a shame indeed.

      I’ll keep you in my prayers for your continued success with youth ministry!