Appreciating the Blessed Sacrament


Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to make a pilgrimage to Rome with one of our parishes. The trip struck me in many different ways, two that I’ll blog about here.

The first was the awe-inspiring beauty of the churches there. The picture to the right is just one of the many pictures I took in Rome…my picture-taking slowed after the first three days because there was just too much beauty to take it!

Additional, after a while many of the churches seemed more like museums. About half the churches did not have the Blessed Sacrament present, most buzzed with tourists doing their best to keep quiet, and amid the gilded enormity of the spaces, it was hard to find an intimate space in which to pray.

Obviously I don’t say this to criticize these artistic masterpieces or their preservation in any way. I just think that I was expecting to be struck in a more reverent, spiritual way by these buildings.

Surprisingly this “disappointment” made me appreciate our little chapel here at the Central Pastoral Administration building of the Archdiocese. Anyone who has heard me talk about this chapel knows how little I care for its design. Picture a big empty box, plain brick walls, angular color-block stained-glass windows, spotty lighting, grayish carpet, and our lovely 70s-era avocado-green leather kneelers.

But ya know what? Even in that artless room, I feel closer to Him than I did standing in the exquisite St. Paul Outside the Wall. Why? Because Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament! And in the afternoons when I go to pray, I know He is there for me…regardless of how ugly the kneelers are.

My Lord and my God, I firmly believe that you are here, that you see me, that you hear me.
I adore you with profound reverence; I ask you for pardon of my sins and grace to make this time of prayer fruitful.
My Mother Immaculate, Saint Joseph my father and lord, my Guardian Angel intercede for me.

-Handbook of Prayers

By Their Buldings You Will Know Them

In the Middle Ages the Cathedral was the true skyscraper of most ancient cities. It could be seen for miles and dominated not only the skyline but occupied the central square of the town. As the Renaissance set in, Palaces and government buildings began to dominate the central square and even the skyline  as the Churches shrunk in stature and moved to the side streets. Today, our great cities such as New York and Chicago have skylines dominated by great buildings of commerce and industry. The Cathedrals of these great cities would be hard to find by most visitors. What does all this say about our culture? How are we known by our buildings? What are the priorities and central focus of our time?

Fr. Barron, in this video makes an interesting observation in the recent renaming of the Sears Tower to the Willis Building. It now appears that the three tallest buildings in Chicago are all named for and owned by Insurance companies! What does this say? It seems to say that the more affluent we become the more anxious we become. With all our stuff we have much to protect, much to insure, much to be anxious about. And in whom do we trust to bring us this protection? Surely God, you will say! But look again, by our buildings you will know the answer! Jesus saves, but man insures. There is nothing evil about insurance but our buildings tell us we are quite anxious about many things and that we must insure to ensure looms large in our culture.  

Ugliest Church Art Contest

Well OK, Let’s admit it, the modern age hasn’t exactly been known as the golden age of Church architecture. The following website has collected some of the more “unusual” Church art of the past decades.

Ugliest Church Art Contest

Enjoy, and submit your own entries! By the way, I don’t agree that all the sites listed here are ugly. This is just for fun. It is well to remember the old Latin admonition: De gustibus non diputandem – In matters of taste let there be no disputes. According TO ME some of these entries are authentically ugly, even scary, but some aren’t so bad. You be the judge. And remember it’s just for fun. No polemical ugliness intended here.

And are some more really awful Church exteriors:

Really Ugly Church Buildings

On a more positive note, here is a video I recently put together on some of what I CONSIDER to be some beautiful Church interiors.

Everything Old is New Again

Here is a quick but thorough tour of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The Church looks old but it is brand new, just opened a couple of months back! I’ll bet that in the years to come they may paint the ceilings in a renaissance fashion. Enjoy this video:

Even More Beautiful Churches

I put this video together, this time focusing on exteriors. The music is Nisi Dominus sung by the Majorstua Kammerkor. The Text of the psalm is rather long to produce in full here but the opening text, translated from the Latin, goes as thus:

Unless the Lord build the house, those that labor to build it do so in vain. In vain is your earlier rising and your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat. For God pours gifts on his beloved when they slumber!

Enjoy the Video