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bettinelli-tabernacle-photo-20090924.jpgThe tabernacle at St. Theresa of Avila Church, West Roxbury (Boston), MA.

(Photograph by Domenico Bettinelli.)

Boston City Hall has been rated the "ugliest building on the planet" in a survey on a travel web site:

A national travel Web site is telling the world what many Bostonians already know - City Hall is ugly. put City Hall atop its list of the ugliest buildings on the planet, based on a poll of the site's editors and readers.

The California site offered a sharp-tongued assessment of the Hub's center of power.

"While it was hip for it's time, this concrete structure now gets routinely criticized for its dreary facade and incongruity with the rest of the city's more genteel architecture. Luckily, it's very close to more aesthetically pleasing attractions."

What can you expect when the architectural style is called Brutalism? That sounds like something invented in Mordor.


Really, I'm not sure that City Hall deserved the title. I bet the people conducting the survey didn't even know about this competitor, an airplane hangar -- I mean, UFO -- I mean, parish church -- in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Update: Eric Ewanco reminds me of another very strong candidate, St. Malachy Church in Burlington, MA. StMalachyBurlington.jpg He writes:

"At least Sacred Heart is ensconced in glass, instead of this cheap white concrete you see them construct amusement park rides from. Nor does it look like some segment of a gross body part. (SH does kinda look like an eye though.) And it doesn't have the little polyps in front (is the foyer a time machine, transporting us back to the foot of the cross?) or the space antenna in back.

"No, this place should be the ugliest building in the world. I retch just looking at it as I type."

Just for the record, the roof at Sacred Heart looks like aluminum rather than glass. St. Malachy's deserves extra points for its interior: the sloping walls of the exterior paraboloid shape have the same slope within the church, giving sensitive parishioners the impression that the whole building might collapse on them at any time. If that doesn't draw hearts and minds to God, what does?

New cathedral in Oakland


Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, CA; photo credit: Rev. Jeffrey Keyes, CPPSThe new Cathedral in Oakland was dedicated in September, so here are some links to photos, videos, and articles about the church.

Design by the Bay blog (photos, diagrams, explanations of design)

Contra Costa Times newspaper (video, slideshow)

World Architecture News (photos)

NikiOmahe architecture and design news (photos, diagrams)

Inhabitat (photos) (video)

At his Rifugio San Gaspare blog, Fr. Jeff Keyes gives a first-hand appreciation for the new mother church of the diocese, and even scolds the scoffers who disrespected it in their comments on various blogs.

I really can't be a whole-hearted fan of a church that departs so radically from the traditions of the genre, but there are certainly some beautiful things about the new cathedral, so I urge you to give the photos a chance to impress you.

Every once in a while the local secular media asks me to write a story on the practice of religion within our community. Yesterday's assignment was one of my favorites; I was asked to do a photo-essay of the Ukrainian Catholic church's Feast of Jordan (Epiphany). Our local Ukrainian Catholic parish is the only Eastern church - Catholic or Orthodox - in the city.

Here's a pic of Fr. Jaroslaw blessing the water:

Here's a link to the story, complete with photo-gallery:

Ukrainians gather for blessing and borsch (photos)

Photo_120406_001.jpgDropped in at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes parish in Newton for the Monday evening Perpetual Help novena, followed by Benediction. Here's how the sanctuary looks (click the picture for a full-size version).

There are some aspects that could be improved, of course. It would need a sanctuary rail for the distribution of Holy Communion; and, yes, the ambo on the left looks cheap and blockish compared to the dignity of the altar and the reredos. Still, in general this is a decently well-preserved parish church.


All Basilicas Great and Small

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Just think of the great basilicas of our continent: in Mexico City, Washington, Montreal, St. Paul, Webster.


Yeah, Webster. Some basilicas are not huge churches in great cities. One is in Webster, Mass., so I went to see it.

St. Joseph Basilica: official site

my photos from today

Up in Manchester, New Hampshire, the closing of one church made it possible for an Eastern Catholic congregation to buy it and move in from their overcrowded former church a few blocks away. So far they're making a good start with it. Nicely enough, their iconostasis from the old church fit perfectly in the sanctuary of the new one! Here are a few quick photos from my visit there today.

Update: I modified the link to work around a limitation in the MSIE browser.

dresdnere_frauenkirche.jpg For 44 years after World War II, the Communist authorities of East Germany forbade the rebuilding of Dresden's Church of our Lady, destroyed by Allied bombers. In 1989, though, the boot was lifted from that country, and the people and the Church in Dresden knew what they wanted to accomplish: a restored Frauenkirche.

Art as "a concrete catechesis"

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Jem Sullivan spoke with OSV last year about the catechetical effect of art and how we need to recover its role in the Church:

One of the ironies of the past 40 years is this: As American culture becomes increasingly focused on the visual image through television, the Internet, and advertising, our churches are being stripped of images.
Here's the interview.

mobile_basilica.jpg I'm in Mobile, Alabama for a few days, where most of my mother's family lives, so I attended Mass Saturday afternoon at the stately Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

The congregation was under 50 people, as the downtown area was practically empty on a steamy Saturday afternoon. (You know it's humid when you step out of an air-conditioned store into the parking lot and your glasses fog instantly!)

An enjoyable aspect to the Mass was that the priest and servers took the time to make the processions move calmly and slowly, giving us time to sing three or even four verses of the hymns. (Efficiency of motion is not the goal, men!) The hurried clergy up North need to learn something from these guys. The choices of music were OK: the hymns were "Be Thou My Vision" and "O God our Help in Ages Past", and the Mass Ordinary music was from the Mass in honor of Pope Paul VI and the Danish Amen Mass.

Mobile's definitely a Baptist town, but the Church was here first when the city was settled by the Spanish and French, and I'm glad to see her continuing growth here.

[Some pictures of the Basilica's very nice windows are on-line at]

The Annunciation

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(The Annunciation was observed on April 4 this year.)

(photo by Steve Schultz)

more photos

A couple of weeks ago I posted a exterior photo of the Ukrainian church in Silver Spring: here are a couple of interior pictures, thanks to eje...
showing the Holy Table and the parish's magnificent tabernacle. (Click through to see the photos in a larger format.)
Also, here's a photograph from CL co-founder Steve Schultz, showing the tabernacle and baldachino at the Mary Immaculate Center in Northampton, PA, where he is living and studying this year. Thanks, Steve!

Snow? What snow?


After Eric Ewanco and I arrived in DC for the March for Life, we, as experienced New Englanders, ignored the public officials' warnings about the weather and headed into town anyway to visit the Holy Places. We started with the Basilica but, since Eric's Ukrainian, we also made a pilgrimageHoly Trinity Ukrainian Church, Silver Spring to the Icon and Book Service on Quincy Street, a treasure trove of all things Orthodox and Eastern Catholic. We also took a tour of the Franciscan Holy Land shrine, dropped in late for Melkite vespers in McLean, and met some friends for burgers.

The next day we attended Divine Liturgy at my favorite church in the Washington area, the striking and rustic Ukrainian parish in Silver Spring. The sign out front reads "Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Particular Church", so it's known around town as "the Particular Church". In spite of the quirky sign, it's an impressive place built in the late '90s in the style of Carpathia's Hutzul mountains. Now this is a church!

I'll check with Eric to find out when his pictures of the interior will be on-line.

Help a brother out here. I'm looking for an Encyclopedia of Catholic Symbols in general and information about dominican symbols specificially: the Dominican Shield, the habit, and the Dominican Cross.

Please help me out in the comments or over email! Thanks a million!

It's time to get back to things Catholic like bashing church art since Vatican II. At first I thought to entitle this post "abstract art" in Latin, but upon consulting a Latin dictionary I found there is no word for "abstract." Abstract art is ars quod nulo sensu percipi notio mente sola concepta or “art removed from the sphere of the senses.” Amazing what Latin tells us about ourselves, isn't it? Abstract art isn't entirely removed from the realm of the senses. Such as it is, it obviously presents something to the senses.

Consider a church that removed a beautiful Crucifix and replaced it with a big, red wall. The Crucifix is a symbol of so many of the treasures of the faith: the mystery of the Incarnation, the price of our redemption, the eternal high priest, the wisdom, power, and humiliy of God. I could go on but you get the point. The big, red wall is a big, red wall. "It's the blood of Christ, Sal." No, it's a big, red wall. And near the big, red wall is a priest who never preaches about the Eucharist. You could say it is anything! It's a sunset, it's a sunrise, it's red, red wine. The point is the meaning isn't evident. Anyone can say it is about anything. They could even say red is blue or green if they wish.

An example are these visages of the Stations of the Cross. Aside from the Roman numerals there is nothing literally symbolic them. Are those the women (all two of them!) of Jerusalem weeping as the head of Jesus passes along the way? I think these stations are wretched. Welcome to that 70's Parish.

stations- big.jpg

This sounds good: a lecture and slide presentation on the Eucharist as represented in art.

Date: Saturday, September 25
Time: 3 - 4:30 pm
Location: Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, Harewood Road, Washington
Presenter: art historian Judy Scott Feldman, Ph.D.

More info at

Parish church under construction


Here's the plan for expanding my parish church in suburban Stoneham: the long rectangle on the left is the current nave, and the square on the right is the addition. The church interior will be reoriented, with the new sanctuary along what is now the left wall.


There are some good things about the design: the tabernacle will be restored to its rightful position on the center axis, whereas it is currently on a side altar. The setting of the organ console and choir in the former sanctuary puts them in an unobtrusive location.

On the downside, the wrap-around seating and the far-forward placement of the altar on its, um, peninsula are a disappointment. The design lacks a visibly distinct and well-defined sanctuary and nave, the classic symbol of divine-human encounter and of earth-to-heaven pilgrimage so suitable for the Holy Mass. The new church will be in some ways a missed opportunity.

Going by a recent parish newsletter, the celebrant's chair will not be on the center axis as this diagram depicts, but will be set to one side. That's a good change.

The craftspersons who still make statues of saints for churches have discovered a remarkable way to keep overhead down. Iconoclasm. No, that was the heresy squashed centuries ago only to be given new life in the name of "progress" as part of post-Vatican II renovations. Some days I wish progress were declared heretical, though it's not as though the Holy Father would actually punish the heretical progressives. He would write an encyclical called "Rigiditatis Splendor" and leave it at that. But I digress!

Statuary and overhead. Think Barbie. Mattel keeps overhead down by just dressing up Barbie in various ways. Barbie has had exactly the same complex-inducing, disproportional body for how many decades? The thing is she has different clothes and accessories. One Barbie has that tool Ken with her, another has sold her soul to the music industry, still another homeschools and does a holy hour when the kids are napping. Homeschool Barbie. Really. She dresses very modestly and her kids do, too. But I digress again - the thing is Barbies just wear different clothes. It's genius.

Finally the statuary makers have caught on. There is a company out there just putting something different in the hands of each male saint. The statues look the same otherwise. Imagine Saint Andrew with a cross and St. Joseph with that thing he's always pictured with, but besides what they have in their hands they look the same.

We're sending the wrong message to our kids. They are going to grow up thinking they have to look exactly like the St. Andrew/St. Joseph clones in order to be saints. I'm afraid some might grow up to be like the angry lesbians who played with Barbie dolls when they were young and not angry lesbians. Perhaps I'm not making sense. Even so, when someone types in "angry lesbians" in google they are going to end up here. Welcome, seekers of angry lesbians. Let Jesus love you! Especially you, Margaret Cho!

But getting back to statues, let me leave you with a joke. Saint Joseph says to the Infant of Prague, "I don't care what your mother said, you're not leaving the house dressed like that!"

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Pigeons fluttering through a hole in the ceiling of a Spanish cathedral led an art restoration team to discover a hidden Renaissance fresco of winged angels that had been covered by a false ceiling for more than 300 years.

Monstrance fun


Please, please, beam me up.


The site ( seems to have a laudable reason for being, by the way.

On another page, this photo appears.

Better Monstrance.jpg

Aaaaah, now isn't that better?

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.

-George Herbert

Passion reactions

Cardinal Pell
Steven Greydanus

[I'll add more later.]

Oh: my reaction? It's a sobering, purifying experience that left the audience and me in silence. I went home and read the Stabat Mater.

Previewing The Passion

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If you missed the "Making Of" special on Pax TV Sunday, you'll have another opportunity Tuesday night. My jaw's already dropping at this movie and its lingering, meditative manner.

Sung Vespers in the DC area

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The Washington Capella Antiqua will be performing solemn sung Vespers on the eve of the patronal feast of St. Michael and all Angels, to include Dufay's Ave, regina caelorum and some Cistercian chant, among others.

The service will be held this Sunday, 28 September, at 5:00 PM at St. Michael's Church, 805 Wayne Ave., Silver Spring, MD, three blocks from the Red Line's Silver Spring station.

Not bad at all


This Sunday, St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington celebrates the completion of restoration work with a rededication Mass. The results are, a friend says, "stunning".

"Come, let us be farmers of veal!"

I can't think of a better artistic representation of the Christ's Church on Earth. The storm-tossed vessel with some tending to the oars and sails in perilous sea of the world and others huddled calmly around Our Lord. One thinks the Apostle at the rudder is Peter taking counsel from Jesus. So it is in our time.


This is a photo from the Cathedral of Corpus Christi in Cozumel. The Crucifix behind the altar is built into the window. Click on the thumbnail for a full-size image.

about the renovation at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Alexandria. Word on the street here in Arlington is that the Tabernacle was moved recently into the Sanctuary way ahead of the parish renovations because the roof of the adoration "closet" began to cave in when one of the priests was in there praying. Talk about a sign from God! "Rebuild my Church" indeed! Incredible!

Here's a picture of what it used to look like pre-cataclysm:

Maybe I will do a little recon this week and get a picture of the new placement of the Tabernacle.

The renovation project has been a point of terrible contention for the parish. It has even spawned a website for those who oppose it,, that claims to be "an independent source of news and views about Blessed Sacrament Catholic Community in Alexandria, Virginia." See the Washington Post article from March 2003 for some rather stilted reporting on the debacle.

May we all rise to Heaven with our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to the clip art on the my parish's program this morning, has four digits on his hands and three on his feet, no wounds, and was accompanied by midget crab-angels with claws instead of hands. I think the anatomically incorrect illustration of Christ is standing on cloud, but that could be a puddle or a hairless bear skin rug.

I wish someone out there with some talent would produce better art for liturgical supplements. It doesn't have to be complex or colorful, but make Jesus look like Jesus for goodness sake! This piece looks like Marty Haugen's music sounds. I think they are both published by OCP.

Pardon me if you find the above representation uplifting, thought-provoking, spiritually fulfilling or otherwise excellent. I think it is meritless. Of all the challenges we have in the Church and in ministry today I know this is small beans, but man this stuff really fries my ham and the rest of my luncheon meat.

UPDATE: Gerard Serafin posted a wonderful icon on his site today that is much more appealing than the Catholic throw-away art I posted above.

Another promising new church

Or rather, a new chapel, for a college devoted to the transmission of Western and Christian culture.

Good Heavens: a baldachino!

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

You write, we post
unless you state otherwise.


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