Nov 30 2008

Why the Latin Mass? #2: Beautiful Churches

(This is the second in a series of posts called Why the Latin Mass? I’ve been asked by several people why I like the Latin Mass—why people will drive a hundred miles to get to one, or spend a lot of time and money bringing it to their area. I’ll try to answer that in this series.)

This one isn’t an absolute, of course. There are plenty of new-style Masses being said in beautiful, ornate churches like St. Francis in Quincy. There have also been many Masses of both rites said in basements, barns, or outdoors, when the circumstances demanded it, as in missionary locations or when a church is being rebuilt. That’s all good.

St. Rose

But when people get a chance to build a new church of their choice, then we start to see a difference. Latin Mass devotees, today or pre-1960s, tend to build churches like the first one on the right. People attending the Novus Ordo Mass over the few decades of its use have tended to wander to other concepts, like the two below that.

Call me an old fogey if you like (won’t be the first time), but I want a church to look like churches have for centuries. Styles change, but some things are common to what we’d all instantly recognize as a church. I don’t want to feel like I’m walking into an office building or branch library; nor do I want to feel like I might bump into Klingons while I’m there. If you go to a Latin Mass, you can be pretty sure the church will direct the focus to Christ’s presence in the tabernacle and at the altar during Mass. The first priority of the building won’t be comfort or efficiency or community spirit, but worship and glory to God.

What really awes me about older churches is that most of them were built when construction was much harder than it is now. I’ve done some bricklaying and other construction, and I know how much work it is. Even today, with all our power tools and hydraulic lifts and laser levels, building a church like St. Rose would be a huge and expensive project. When it was built nearly a century ago, it would have involved far more sweat and heavy lifting. They didn’t have to build huge domes and towers way up in the sky, and adorn it inside and out with complicated brickwork and vast windows and paintings. They wanted their church to inspire people to worship and direct their gaze to God. In my opinion, it paid off.

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2 Comments

  • Looking at the pictures, I’m struck with the change in emphasis from the Priest being the center of the celebration to the tabernacle and altar being the center. The massive altar and centrally-placed tabernacle leave little doubt as to the purpose of the mass, to honor and worship God and thank Him for His sacrifice.

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  • Paul K. Geers says:

    In 1912, the current church building of St. Rose of Lima was built for $50,000. In 1992 it was valued at over 2.5 million dollars.
    This is now a city landmark since 2000. Its a historic landmark where the building can not be changed on the outside or the windows taken out, it must stay in the original condition, the interior can be changed. Today, the stain glass windows have been valued at over one million dollars, they were made in Munich Germany and installed by the famous glass maker Emil Frei of St. Louis, Mo.

    The original interior in 1912 was the same until 1939, the first renovation done by Msgr. Patrick J. Fox pastor 1934-1967. Also in 1951 the church the interior was repainted and new floor (current tile floor) was installed.The interior was painted again in 1961 for the 50th anniverary of Msgr. Fox’s priesthood.
    In 1974, the current pastor, Father Donohoe, un-decorated the church (as he would say re-decorated) taking out the main high altar and Blessed Virgins altar, taken out the marble communion rail with hammers, and carpted the marble floor of the the santuary and floor of the church.

    In 2005 the church was closed and the money 2.5 million was taken for St. John’s church (closed) in 2007 and sold 2008 to a non catholic group.

    In 2008 St. Rose of Lima was reopened for the Traditional Latin Mass, the only Catholic church in the Springfield Diocese disignated for the Latin Mass and is staffed by the priests of Priestly Fraternity of St.Peter

    more History to come, maybe some original pics too.
    Thanks, Aaron,

    Paul K. Geers
    President of the Latin Mass Society of Quincy

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