Most Catholics are unaware of how our traditional church buildings are based on designs given by God himself. Designs that stretch all the way back to Mount Sinai when God set forth the design for the sanctuary in the desert and the tent of meeting. Many of the fundamental aspects of our church layouts still follow that plan and the stone version of it that became the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Our traditional church buildings also have numerous references to the Book of Revelation and the Book of Hebrews, both of which describe the heavenly liturgy and heaven itself.

There is not time to develop these roots at length in this post today, though I hope to do so in a series of future posts.

Sadly in recent decades there was a casting off of these biblical roots in favor of a “meeting house” approach to church design. No longer was the thinking that our churches should reflect heavenly realities, teach the faith,  and follow biblical plans. Rather the thinking was that the Church simply provided a space for the people to meet and conduct various liturgies.

In some cases the liturgical space came to be considered “fungible” in that it could be reconfigured to suit various needs: Mass today, concert tomorrow, spaghetti dinner on Wednesday. This thinking began to be set forth as early as the 1950s. Pews were often replaced by chairs which could be moved to suit various functions. And even in parishes which did not go so far as to allow spaghetti dinners in the nave, (mine did in the 1970s), the notion of a church as essentially a meeting space prevailed.

Thus churches looked less and less like churches and more like meeting halls. Bare essentials such as an altar, pews or chairs, a pulpit and very minimal statuary were used, but the main point was simply to provide a place for people to come together. There was very little sense that the structure was to reflect heaven or even remind us of it.

That is beginning to change as newer architects are returning more and more to sacred and biblical principles in church design. Further, many Catholics are becoming more educated on the meaning of church art as something beyond what is merely “pretty,” and coming to understand the rich symbolism or art and architecture as revealing the faith and expressing heavenly realities.

Take stained glass for instance. Stained glass is more than just pretty colors, pictures and symbols. Stained glass was used for centuries to teach the faith through picture and symbol. Until the past 200 years most people, even among the upper classes, could not read well, or at all. How does the Church teach the faith in such a setting? Preaching, art, passion plays, statues, and stained glass.

Stained glass depicted biblical stories, saints, sacraments, and glimpses into heaven. Over the centuries a rich shorthand of symbols also developed: crossed keys = St. Peter, a sword = St. Paul, a large boat = the Church, shell = baptism, and so forth. And so the church taught the faith through the exquisite art of stained glass.

But stained glass also served another purpose, that of imaging the foundational walls of heaven. For, recall that traditional church architecture saw the church as an image of heaven. Hence it’s design was based on the descriptions of heaven found in the Scriptures. Now among other things, heaven is described in the Book of Revelation as having high walls with rows of jewels embedded in the foundations of those walls:

One of the seven angels…showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates….The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.... (Revelation 21:varia)

Thus, because heaven had great high walls, older churches almost always had a lot of verticality. The lower foundational walls gave way to the higher clerestory, and above the clerestory the vaults of the ceiling rise even higher. And in the lower sections of the walls, extending even as high as the clerestory, the jewel-like stained glass recalls the precious jeweled gemstones described in the lower walls of heaven, according to Revelation 21.

The compelling effect of a traditional church is to say to the believer, you are in heaven now. In my own parish church, the floors are a green jasper color, and the clerestory walls, red jasper. On the clerestory are painted the saints gathered before the throne-like altar in heaven (Heb 12:1; Rev. 7:9) . In the apse is the throne like altar, with Jesus at the center (Rev 5:6), the seven lamp stands are surrounding him in seven candles (Rev 4:5). In the stained glass of the transept are 12 apostles, joined with the 12 patriarchs  symbolized by 12 wooden pillars. Together they form the 24 elders who surround the throne in heaven (Rev 4:4). Above the high altar in the clerestory windows are the four living creatures also said to surround the throne (Rev 4:6-7).

Yes, amazing. I stand in my church and realize its message: you are in heaven when you enter here and celebrate the sacred mysteries: sursum corda! (hearts aloft)!

Photo above: San Chapelle, Paris France

Here’s a video I put together on stained glass. Enjoy these jewels of light that recall the lower walls of heaven as the choir sings Christe Lux mundi (O Christ you are the Light of the world).

The Sources of many of the photos in this video are:

http://www.romeofthewest.com
http://viewfrombackpew.blogspot.com/


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Also if you are interested, here is a video I did some time back featuring some of the architectural details of my own parish.
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28 Responses

  1. David says:

    Monsignor,
    What a great message. I hope you are right that the trend is reversing.

    “Domus Dei et Porta Coeli” must return as a principle of Church architecture!

  2. Rolando Rodriguez, SFO says:

    I am a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Port Orford, OR, a mission church of Holy Trinity in Bandon, OR in the Archdiocese of Portland, OR. Our parish is preparing to commit to building a new House for our God in Bandon, and our mission is considering the installation of stained glass windows. Ours is a pioneer and frontier community. Endeavors like these are our witness to faith, hope and communal love, catholic participation and continued support.

  3. Rolando Rodriguez, SFO says:

    Oops! I meant to include this presentation and explanation of why and how our mission church might afford and install treasured memorials. Here it is:

    You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High:
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
    (Canticle of Zechariah, Benedictus. Luke 1:68-79)

    Dear sisters and brothers of our mission community
    of St. John the Baptist, Port Orford, Oregon,

    Here are some thoughts about our patron, John the Baptist, and about stained glass windows. First and foremost, about our patron, John the Baptist. Our mother parish, Holy Trinity in Bandon, is under the patronage of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. What more could one hope for?
    Jesus, the only Son of God from whom proceeds the Holy Spirit, said of his cousin: 28”I tell you, among those born of woman, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7) This is our patron, John the Baptist, the greatest and the least in the kingdom of God, the last prophet of the First Covenant and the first prophet of the New and Everlasting Covenant. Our patron is honored by all of the children of Abraham, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. John the Baptist also has an honored place among the Bahai, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Free Masons and others. John the Baptist is the bridge from the old to the new. He is the prophet of Jesus who is the bridge from the divine to our human family.
    It is in the Gospel according to Luke that we hear the “infancy narratives.” Here are the answers to “Where did these two infants come from? …and why?” Both conceptions were announced by the archangel Gabriel. The first conception we hear about in the New Testament is that of John.
    Zechariah was serving as the high priest at the Temple., He was old and so was his wife, Elizabeth. And they were childless. 8Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, 9according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. 10 Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, 11the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. 12Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, 16and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people for for the Lord.”
    To be told that they were to have a child at their advanced age was unbelievable. (As well as embarrassing, to say the least. Were they still trying to conceive? …at their age) Zechariah asked for proof. “18Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years?” Gabriel was perturbed and probably a little miffed. 19And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. 20But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
    After an unusually long time in the sanctuary, Zechariah came out, unable to speak. The people 21realized that he had seen a vision… 23Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home. 24After this his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, 25”So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.” Thus, the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan for mankind’s salvation was revealed.
    During Elizabeth’s sixth month, Mary, now pregnant with the Son of God, visited her. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant in her womb leaped, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, 42cried out in a loud voice, “43And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled. Thus, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit before his birth.
    57When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her and they rejoiced with her. 56When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, 60but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” The name “John,” Yochanan in Hebrew, means “Y-hw-h is gracious.” The practice at the time was to name the child after his grandfather or father. 62So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. 63He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. 64Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. The naming of the child “John,” and Zechariah’s recovery from his loss of speech were the fulfillment of Gabriel’s announcement to Zechariah. Y-hw-h truly is gracious.
    67Then Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying, “68Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people… 76You, my child will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
    This is the first of three canticles that Luke records. All three canticles express praise and thanksgiving for our redemption. The Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1:67-80) is proclaimed daily in the official prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, as we begin our day with Morning Prayer. Zechariah’s “prophecy” is not a foretelling of the future. Zechariah sees in the birth of his son, John, God’s remembrance of his covenant promise to David (2 Samuel 7:8-16), and the definitive salvation for all people. The covenant promise to David is the basis for the Jewish expectation of a messiah, son of David, which John announced and Jesus Christ fulfilled.
    80The child grew and became strong in spirit and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel. (Luke 1) Before we hear about the birth of Jesus, we learn that John grew from infancy to manhood, taking his place in the desert. He will be there until his next appearance thirty years later.
    Luke begins his account of the preparation for Jesus’ public ministry in chapter 4 by telling us of John the Baptist’s 80manifestation to Israel. Luke describes the fulfillment of Zechariah’s Canticle: 76You, my child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77to give people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us 79to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1)
    John the Baptist is the last prophet of the First Covenant. He prepared the way of the Lord that led from Egypt to Israel and now through Jesus leads to the messianic kingdom. John’s preaching urged the people to reform in view of the coming wrath. 3He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. (Luke 3)
    John was approached by two groups whose professions were considered questionable by the Pharisees: tax collectors who customarily made handsome profits by overcharging their compatriots, and the Jewish soldiers who belonged to the Roman “peace keeping force.” John offered them standards for reforming social conduct. To the tax collectors he said, “13Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” To the soldiers, he said, “14Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” John didn’t tell them to quit their jobs, but to perform them fairly and honestly.
    The people began to ask whether John might be the Messiah. But John humbly proclaimed, “16one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Only a non-Jewish slave could be required to loosen his master’s sandals. John declared than he would not even venture that. He then explained why. “16I am baptizing you with water… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
    John was a faithful “Christian preacher.” He preached precisely the same things Jesus would preach: conversion of heart, the coming of God’s kingdom and bearing good fruit in good deeds. (Luke 3:1-20) Matthew tells us that John’s preaching is summarized in the same words that summarize the preaching of Jesus:
    1In those days, John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of
    Judea, 2[and] saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at
    hand!”

    12When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to
    Galilee… 17From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (John 3)
    In his Gospel, John the evangelist tells us that when asked who he was, John the Baptist answered with the words of the prophet Isaiah, “23I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” (Isaiah 40:3) The three synoptic Gospels record the same words. John the evangelist then tells us that 29the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” We hear these words at our Eucharistic Liturgy in preparation to receive Holy Communion, reminding us that happy are those who are called to his supper.
    Having pointed out the Lamb of God, John was hesitant to baptize Jesus: 13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” 15Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3)
    Mark makes it very clear that it is God himself who blesses Jesus. It is God who rends the heavens, sends his Spirit upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and says, “11You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1) Luke points out that John’s baptism is only in water, an outward sign of what the person must express inwardly. The baptism of Jesus is definitive. It is an act of God bringing salvation – the Holy Spirit – and judgement – fire.
    John the evangelist offers us a little more explanation. 29The next day [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. 30He [Jesus] is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me. 31I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” 32John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. 33I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.
    All four evangelists point out and highlight the divine and wondrous significance of the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan. This underscores and emphasizes the significance of our baptism. This is what John the Baptist, our patron, the greatest and the least in the kingdom of heaven, the last prophet of the First Covenant and the first prophet of the New and Everlasting Covenant, proclaimed, declared and testified to. This is our patron!
    John the Baptist not only prepared the way of the Lord, he also became the example of what the baptized sisters and brothers of Jesus can expect. John’s first words to the people were from the First Covenant: 8You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6) John’s final witness is of the New and Everlasting Covenant: “27No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. 28You yourselves can testify that I said [that] I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. 29The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. 30He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3)
    There are two well-known accounts about John the Baptist that explain why he was killed, and reveal the deeper truth of John’s word’s, “30He must increase; I must decrease.” The account our Christian family is most familiar with is Mark 6:14-29. There is also the account of Flavius Josephus (37-100), a Roman-Jewish historian who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st Century AD and the First Jewish-Roman War which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In his manuscript Jewish Antiquities (book 18, chapter 5,2), he writes,
    Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came
    from God, and that very justly, as punishment of what he did against John,
    that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness
    towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use
    of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only],
    but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was
    thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when many others
    came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased]
    by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had
    over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a
    rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise,)
    thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might
    cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might
    make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent
    a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I
    before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an
    opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon
    Herod, and a mark of God displeasure to him.
    19Now it was Herod the tetrarch, who had been censured by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil deeds Herod had committed, 20added still another to these by [also] putting John in prison. (Luke 3) Josephus tells us that Herod “feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion,” Mark 6:17-29 gives us the most detailed account of John’s death. The last verse foreshadows the death of Jesus, 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
    Jesus concludes his testimony to John (Luke 7:24-35) saying, “31Then to what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’ 33For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, “He is possessed by a demon’ 34The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. 35But wisdom is vindicated by all her children. The wisdom of God’s Salvation Plan that John the Baptist prophesied and Jesus fulfilled is proved by the lives of those who embrace it today. John the Baptist preached words which Jesus reenforced, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (John 3:1-2, 12,17) 31Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him [and he says to us], “If you remain in my words you will truly be my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8)

    Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
    If you made it this far, thanks and congrats. The life of our patron St. John the Baptist is worth knowing and re-telling. Please share the story with all those you care about and love.

    Now, a little bit about church building… On November 16, 2000, the Committee on Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued guidelines for building churches, Built of Living Stones. In chapter 1, paragraph 16, they teach us that:
    Just as the term Church refers to the living temple, God’s people, the term
    church also has been used to describe “the building in which the Christian
    community gathers to hear the word of God, to pray together, to receive
    the sacraments, and celebrate the eucharist.” The building is both the
    house of God on earth (domus Dei) and a house fit for the prayers of the
    saints (domus ecclesiae). Such a house of prayer must be expressive of
    the presence of God and suited for the celebration of the sacrifice of
    Christ, as well as reflective of the community that celebrates there.
    Our church, St. John the Baptist here in Port Orford, is a domus Dei and a domus ecclesiae with an enduring history and continuing story. This is an amazing achievement of a community blessed with so great and humble a patron as John the Baptist who prepared the way of our Lord.
    We are a mission Church of our parish Holy Trinity in Bandon. Our Catholic community in the Cape Blanco/Port Orford area has always been a mission Church. Still, out here in mission territory, our community built and maintained Mary Star of the Sea, the first Catholic church at Cape Blanco, and then built and maintains St. John the Baptist Catholic church in Port Orford. (A suggestion: gather information, dates, names, etc. about the history and activity of our Catholic community around this westernmost continually settled city of our state.)
    “Such a house of prayer must be expressive of the presence of God and suited
    for the celebration of the sacrifice of Christ, as well as reflective of the community
    that celebrates there.”
    Our church here in Port Orford is built on the foundation of the time, talent and treasure of our elder sisters and brothers with the guidance and assistance of our pastors. We have a strong and enduring foundation. For our Catholic family and community, the domus Dei et ecclesiae, St. John the Baptist Catholic church here in Port Orford, is what we see and where we gather. It is what we offer to our children and their friends, and to all strangers. Most certainly, the life of our patron St. John the Baptist is “expressive of the presence of God and suited for the celebration of the sacrifice of Christ,” and St. John the Baptist church is “reflective of the community that celebrates there.”
    Our brother, Dusty Harrington-Collins has suggested that we use stained glass windows as a catechetical way to tell the story of John the Baptist visually, and to enhance the beauty of the House of God and his saints in Port Orford.
    In this House of God and his saints, our sisters and brothers have shared their love of family and sense of grief through various memorials, such as the Altar, the Baptismal Font, the Stations of the Cross, sacred vessels, and yes, the stained glass windows on either side of the sanctuary.
    Stained glass, as an art form, reached its height in the Middle Ages when it became a major pictorial form and was used to illustrate the narratives of the Bible to a largely illiterate populace. Even though we have learned to read, a picture is still worth a thousand words. And memorials are not just of love and grief. The memorial hope is fulfilled in resurrection. That is what stained glass windows provide for our church: the light of Christ through the Word of God that leads us to everlasting life. One picture is not just worth a thousand words; it is the Word.

    This is a good starting point to consider the “what, why, who and how” questions that must be answered if we are to install six stained glass windows in the church and three stained glass panels in the sanctuary around the image of our Risen Lord.
    1. What would the stained glass windows and panels signify?
    First and foremost, it would be the best house we can offer to our God and his
    saints (that’s us, every now and then; hopefully ever more often) The light that comes
    through stained glass evokes a sense of peace and compassion. It
    encourages one to feel the presence of God. It allows the grace of our
    baptism to remind us that we are the beloved children of God and intimately
    related to each other in, with and through our Brother, Savior and Lord Jesus.
    We remember that we were baptized as temples of the Holy Spirit.

    2. What would be the theme of the windows and panels?
    What better way to let this light in than through the story of the life of our
    patron, John the Baptist? He prepared the way of our Lord from the First
    Covenant to the New and Everlasting Covenant. He is the one who baptized
    the Beloved One of God on whom the Holy Spirit rests. John is the first one
    to say, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
    He is the one who proclaimed, “29this joy of mine has been made
    complete. 30He must increase; I must decrease.
    There are several events in the life of John the Baptist that are focal points of
    our faith. There is the Annunciation of the birth of John, Luke 1:5-25; the
    Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth, Luke 1:57-66; the Nativity of John and the
    Canticle of Zechariah, Luke 1:57-80; the preaching of John the Baptist, Lk. 3:1-20, Mt. 3:1-12, and Mk. 1:2-8; the Baptism of Jesus, Lk. 3:21-22, Mt
    3:13-17, and Mk. 1:9-11; the arrest and death of John the Baptist, Mt. 4:12-17,
    and Mk. 6:17-20; the messengers of John the Baptist and Jesus’ testimony to
    John, Lk. 7:18-35. These passages offer us enough material for our six
    windows. We even have enough for a couple of skylights.
    As to the panels around the Risen Lord in the sanctuary, these should be
    designed to allow the natural light to enhance while not distracting
    from the image of our Risen Lord who reconciled us with our Father and
    sent the Holy Spirit to help us fulfill God’s will .
    3. Who will approve, supervise and oversee this project?
    The members of our congregation will decide what each window will
    represent and the design of the sanctuary panels. Our final choice will be
    submitted to our pastor for approval in accordance with liturgical guidelines.
    We will have a committee, hopefully chaired by our brother Dusty who initiated
    this endeavor. This committee will supervise and oversee the progress,
    installation and completion of the windows and panels.
    4. Why invest in such an expensive undertaking?
    Because it is an “undertaking.” It is a pledge and commitment to add to the
    beauty of the House of God and his saints here in Port Orford. We do this
    because we believe that, God willing, the faith community of St. John the
    Baptist will continue to worship and minister here in Port Orford for years to
    come.
    It is a renewal of the faith and commitment we expressed when we first built
    this church almost 40 years ago. Although it may not always be obvious, our
    faith and our faith community are growing. Our commitment to the spiritual
    and temporal welfare of our faith and social community is strong.
    5. Where will the funds come from?
    We have an estimate of $9,810.00 for six stained glass windows, installed
    with wood trim, and three 14 foot panels, installed with wood trim for
    $11,910.00. That’s a lot of money, and only one estimate. But it gives us an
    idea of the price range of stained glass .
    So, where will the funds come from? Again, remember that our church is here
    to stay “for the praise and honor of God’s name, for our good, and for the
    good of all his Church.” It is because of this that we already have treasured
    memorials from families who wish to remember and honor their loved ones.
    By tradition, many such memorials have been donated by individual families
    and patrons who have designated funds to erect or install memorials in public
    places that have permanence. We will have to actively solicit these families
    and patrons to consider sponsoring the windows and panels. A memorial
    plaque at each window and panel will insure that their loved ones will be
    remembered by a living, growing and loving community.
    We can also start a fund from the nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars we as
    a community can contribute and collect. Perhaps we will be able to collect
    enough to have a window or panel in memorial of our congregation’s
    generous spirit.
    We have a few individuals in our congregation who are experienced and willing to lead the effort to collect funds in the various ways available to us.

    These are some of the considerations we must make and resolve if we are to commit our time, talent and treasure to this significant undertaking. Reading and sharing the thoughts expressed in these pages can be a good start. The best guidance will come through thoughtful prayer by individuals and by our community. The final decision will come when after thoughtful consideration and sincere prayer, we all decide whether this is a good work, pleasing to our God and inspiring for our community.
    King David had to consider and pray about building a temple. (2 Samuel 7) The choice and course of action was not easy, but the Lord God did guide David to do the best he could. The last verse in this chapter is our blessed assurance:
    “29Do, then, bless the house of your servant that it may be before you forever;
    for you, Lord God, have promised,
    and by your blessing the house of your servant shall be blessed forever.”

    Remember, the House of God and his saints is built of “living stones.”

    Paz y Bien from one of the pebbles, Rolando, SFO.

  4. Marc Aupiais says:

    I was once in holiday in Margate. The parish is new, looks like a bar, with ugly bar-like images and statues. No stained glass I recall. Mass was about neighbourhood watch, and the gospel about joining it. Half the celebration was singing happy birthday and clapping for a visiting monk. It was 28 or 29 June! They said being a martyr is being a witness, so join the neighbourhood watch. I could see divisions among parishioners. The bishop when I brought it up, said he was proud of that priest. Here that is often the response! In South Africa. I wish sacred would re-enter mass here! Your words always inspire me! We have the Latin Mass at Cathedral of Christ the King, which is venerant but other than Archbishop Burhi in Johannesburg, often mass is unimportant and “community” everything.

    • Yes, we have surely gotten off track in our thinking in recent decades. And many churches are still being built out of the secularized and Protestant notion of “meeting house.” Community has its place, but it is formed by a common faith and reference to God.

  5. Dennis D says:

    A Church of Christ friend took a trip to Charleston, SC earlier this year and visited one of the Catholic Churches–probably the cathedral. Her comment: “I thought I was in heaven!” She got it!

  6. Nick says:

    Baptism begins eternal life, so it makes sense a Church building represents Heaven where eternal life is enjoyed.

  7. John Clem says:

    Thanks for this great posting giving greater meaning to church architecture, scripture, and the history of our faith. There are two books that also have helped me to get a greater understanding of the church’s symbology and traditions:

    1) The Catholic Sourcebook (Rev. Peter Klein) – a great resource of knowledge of our faith and has a listing of all the meaningful symbols in church art and architecture:
    http://www.amazon.com/Catholic-Source-Book-Peter-Klein/dp/0159018838/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314703096&sr=1-1

    2) The Lamb’s Supper (Dr. Scott Hahn) – is a book that shows the relationship between the Book of Revelations and The Mass. Many people have difficulty in interpreting the Book of Revelations, but Dr. Hahn walks one through the history and meanings of the book and shows the close relationship it has to The Eucharist and The Holy Mass.:
    http://www.amazon.com/Lambs-Supper-Mass-Heaven-Earth/dp/0385496591/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314703385&sr=1-1

  8. John Clem says:

    Dear Monsignor,

    Sorry to hear about the fresco damage at Holy Comforter from the recent earthquake. Will they be able to be restored? Keep you and the parish in my prayers.

    God Bless,
    John

  9. Will says:

    Msgr, I hear ya!

    However, it is hard for churches to build this way or to renovate to look this way when so much money isn’t kept in the church. I grew up in a very, very large Baptist church, massive walls and enormous stained glass. The Catholic church in my town, which I eventually became a parishioner of, was tiny and cramped with bad carpet. The year I graduated college Our Lady of Lourdes finished building a new church and it was awesome. And my wife and I got married in that Church.

    But we moved and we now go to a church where there is no stained glass, the tabernacle isn’t even behind the altar, it’s off to the side and there is no sense of the immensity, enormity and glory of heaven. Nor is there an adequate building for spaghetti dinners, it only holds about 200 (maybe) out of nearly 2000 familes. This is a very common theme in the south.

    The point I’m trying to get to is that it’s hard to see the Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran church down the street grow and grow and grow. And yet the families of these Catholic parishes suffer. My daughter goes to pre-school at a baptist church, and the Vatican is dropping $80 million to restore the Square. There are just so many more examples of missmanaged funds, in particular another one close by would be Most Holy Trinity and Immaculate Conception School in Augusta, GA.

    If I’m wrong, please correct me. Because I do see a difference in priests too. The priest at my confirmation in my old hometown was the one who started and saw to completion the new building of that church and then he was assigned to one of the largest parishes in the state in our capital and in just five years he had it completely renovated.

    • Well, each parish has to set its priorities. The pastor has some obligations in helping them to do this. Little by little, younger priests are stepping into leadership and they have largely set aside the “meeting house” thinking in favor of a notion of sacred space. Parishes can do things in stages too. My own Church was built in 1939 but the frescoes weren’t completed until after the War. A basic structure can be set in place and things like windows and statuary added at a later stage. Further, improvements need not be expensive. In my last parish, built in 1950 (a plain cinderblock, A-Frame building), we added wood wainscoting, stucco above that and a few statues. The results were quite pleasing and not all that expensive (about 40K). The next stage for that parish will be stained glass, but I left that for a future pastor :-)

  10. Claire Solt PhD says:

    This is just a reminder that the great medieval cathedrals with glorious stained glass iconography also served as lodgings for pilgrims. Their doors were high enough to accomodate a man on horseback, the floors were strewn with straw which could be swept out with the litter. Pilgrims sang and celebrated through the night, cooking over fires. There were no permanent pews and still are not. Movable chairs with kneelers on the back are what they have today. By the way, I learned all this when I was doing as PhD in your diocese at CUA.

    • Yes, there is no doubt that these sorts of things occurred. But the more extreme things you described were generally regarded as abuses of the space. A story is told about St Ambrose, who, observing that the basilica was used as a kind of market and that the crossing was used as a shortcut where, as you described people on foot, mules and horses would cut through, and there were people buying and selling etc. He ordered the crossing doors sealed. It is thus true that there were some, often relaxed notions about the Church buildings, there were also folks at that time who objected to this thinking even as today.

  11. Peter Chabot says:

    What is the piece that the choir is singing?

  12. Diane says:

    I belong to St. John Guardian of Our Lady Parish in Clinton, MA. We are blessed to have Eucharistic Adoration 6 days a week. We are also blessed with one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. Stained glass windows, murals, statues adorn the church. I took my 5th grade CCD students on a brief tour and were only able to get the windows done. Each window and mural depicts a story from the bible. Thank God for such beauty. He deserves a beautiful “home”.

  13. [...] and see what they discover about God and contemplation and prayer.Msgr. Charles Pope recently wrote about art, too, specifically the stained glass windows: . . .stained glass also served another purpose, that of [...]

  14. dallas says:

    Thank you; also thank you St. Louisans (Mark, Tina) for the photos!

  15. clown says:

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