Wednesday 2 March 2016


I spoke in my last post about attitude and was reminded of the effect this can have when I was in the USA recently. I was fortunate to visit the Carmel of the Infant of Prague, Traverse City, Michigan. There are only five Sisters there - of varying ages - but they are not planning for inevitable decline and finding ways to manage for eventual closure. Quite the contrary, trusting in God's providence, they seem to have renewed their efforts to live the full Carmelite life. As their web site puts it:

"We maintain:
Full Habit
Papal Enclosure
Gregorian Chant in Latin
1990 Constitutions
Ordinary and Extraordinary Form Masses."


Perhaps what is most telling of their sense of confidence in the Holy Spirit is the renewal of their liturgical life through  the remodelling of their church and sanctuary. This went form what you see above to what you see below.  Quite a stunning change, designed by architect Duncan Stroik. The Sisters put it rather well on their web-site - they wanted to "free the sanctuary of its dated look". They are still planning for the future. Great attitude!

While it probably is necessary to close some parishes here in the UK, there is a sense that we have no confidence that things will ever improve, that the message of God in all its richness will find a home among our fellow citizens ever again. The loss of confidence that we are only managing our eventual annihilation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps we hardly believe in the supernatural any more, so how can we hope to inspire others to do so? Nowhere is this more reflected than in the physical environment of our churches and liturgy. There seems to be a great desire to domesticate the liturgical space: it is to be carpeted like our sitting rooms, focus on altars the size of tables, contain a children's play area, chairs and no kneelers, devoid of any statues, everything on the sanctuary is to be accessible, touchable, approachable, not set aside.  In domesticating the space and the liturgy we domesticate God; the supernatural becomes merely human and robbed of all its power to inspire and to speak of the world we cannot see, the world of eternity. The Faith is tamed and who wants to go and see a toothless tiger? Jesus had "attitude" and so should we.



David O'Neill said...

What a great example to us all. The situation in the Church now reminds me of the recusant days when there were (as now) fewer priests, less places to worship (church closures) but still an abiding belief in the future. That is what we need now - an abiding belief in the future which the sisters demonstrate to an extent to shame us. Whilst a great lover of the traditional Mass, i still regularly attend the Novus Ordo but - & this saddens me greatly - it depends on which priest celebrates as to how much I get from the Mass. I say this because there are now so many options in the celebration of the Mass & many priests mix & match which, to an extent, can make the Mass unrecognisable.

Unknown said...

Know your history! Back in the 16th century the great divide between Catholicism and Lutherism was our belief in faith and good works and their belief in faith alone. Even more extreme was the Calvinist doctrine of the chosen few born to be saved, every one else doomed to hell everafter.

What worries me about this website is it's failure to say anything about the role that good works can do in helping when we get to the day of reckoning.

Anonymous said...

What struck me most about the "before" picture of the church was how much it looked like the interior of a boat that had been capsized, and what a perfect metaphor that is for the Catholic experience of the 1970s; the decade that inspired this interior.

David O'Neill said...

If I might comment to colin fnolan; there were surely many other matters & beliefs to distinguish between Catholicism & Lutheranism & most other protestant sects. The main difference seems to have been their lack of belief in the Real Presence & their belief that, regardless of your behaviour, you could gain salvation by faith alone regardless of sin as they seemed not to have a belief in the Sacrament of Penance & (even if they did believe in it) no-one who could forgive sin with the authority of God.

May I finally point out that Fr Simon Henry (the author) is a chaplain of the Military & Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem ( a Christian ecumenical order) noted for its good works for the poor & those in need worldwide.