Sunday, December 17, 2006

she had a bad prayer day

A small controversy has developed at our parish. While it has one of the largest congregations of any church in the area, there are those who don't like the place. The local Catholic newspaper printed a column very critical of the way All Saints Church is designed and decorated. Many missed the original column but did see a letter to the editor in the following issue that defended All Saints.

In the original piece, a columnist wrote that she found it difficult to concentrate in a church without lots of iconography. For example, she prefers to see a crucifix when she prays. The processional cross at All Saints had been carried to the back of the building in the minutes before the Mass she attended began. She writes that she was "searching fruitlessly for some tiny reminder of Christ to direct my gaze toward while praying."

I'm no theologian. All I know is what I learned in Catholic school. We were told to look for Christ in the faces of those around us, which is hard to do. We were also taught to pray anywhere and everywhere. Is the columnist limited to praying only in rooms with a crucifix or other religious icon? Some of my best praying happens with my eyes closed. Am I wrong to do that? Should I be staring at a statue instead?

The columnist also finds fault with the simple wooden chalices at All Saints. Do you think she would have been one of the unfortunate souls who had "chosen poorly" when trying to select the Holy Grail in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"?

Fortunately, the newspaper columnist has plenty of places to go besides All Saints. Immaculate Conception Church has been around since 1855 and has lots of statues for her to look at. It's a beautiful old parish, as is Holy Ghost Church with all its religious art. But not every parish needs to be full of Italian marble. I remember that shortly before we moved away from Burbank, a gorgeous new wooden ambo was installed at St. Finbar Church. It rivaled the beauty of the adjacent marble altar. The wooden furniture at All Saints makes me think about the time and effort a carpenter spent building it. As a matter of fact, I thought our religion was particularly fond of carpenters.

It's a shame that the columnist had such a bad experience at my parish. Whenever I visit another parish, I enjoy the differences yet am always impressed by the things that remain the same. If All Saints is too modern for the columnist from "The East Tennessee Catholic," she could always turn back the clock about 40 or 50 years to attend Mass in Latin. If the photos I've seen are any indication, she'll have no problem finding a seat.

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Blogger D.O.M. Dan said...

In my opinion, prayer is a very personal thing. I understand the columnist’s opinion of finding it difficult to concentrate without iconography, but I don’t share it. I don’t need to see a crucifix in order to pray. I wonder if her fruitless search included from within.

Anyway, I clicked on some of the links you provided and I think All Saints looks beautiful. It looks very different from the church I attend. I too enjoy the differences of other churches. I believe they are as diverse as the people who attend them, and that’s a good thing.


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