Dear friends in Christ:
In a just a few weeks on Saturday, March 25 at 10:00 a.m. we will have the Mass of Dedication of our new altar with Cardinal DiNardo. Our special guest for that weekend will be the current Curé (pastor) of Ars, Pére Patrice Antoine Chocholski, the successor of or our patron saint, Jean Marie Vianney. Obviously, not all of the renovations will be completed as we had originally hoped and planned. As we all know and have heard, “construction is construction!” A friend of mine recently laughed when I told him we are behind on our project. He told me a recent project for his company was twelve months behind schedule and way over budget. Ours is far less than that, although it doesn’t seem like it. Happily, we have been able to hold to the budget (after some initial adjustments). We will continue to work until the job is done and all is complete. While the schedule is important, quality is far more important and on that we should not compromise. For the Mass of Dedication the statuary and the new tabernacle will be installed. The statues are on site and the tabernacle is scheduled to arrive a few days prior to the dedication. These pieces of sacred art are just that “sacred” and “art”. As art, they are intended to be beautiful, touching our imaginations and emotions, engaging our minds and souls and be pleasing to the senses. As sacred, they remind us of the holy, increase our devotion and help us deepen our love for God. They are aids to help us focus on the goodness and love that God and the saints have for us. These works of sacred art instruct us in truth, inspire our hope and strengthen our faith. Each piece has a story and is part of the greater narrative of the church building itself.
One of the great and foundational teachings of our Catholic Faith is the doctrine of the Incarnation. As Catholics, we believe that “in the beginning” when God created the world and everything in it, “He looked at everything He had made and He found it very good!” (Gn 1:31) Then in the fullness of time, He sent his only begotten Son into the world and creation received divinity as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1.14). All creation proclaims the glory of God and shares in His goodness. As Catholics, we do not despise creation and the material world. We see it as good. We do not reject the world of matter as evil. The created world is a gift and made good by God and has been redeemed in Christ. Through the incarnation, creation has been “touched” and elevated by the Divine Word. Jesus during his earthly life and ministry repeatedly used material objects as instruments and means of bestowing grace and favor. He changed water into wine, he multiplied the loaves and fish, he raised dead bodies back to life, he gave himself to the apostles under the form of bread and wine at the Last Super and he gave his Body and Blood to the Father in the Sacrifice of the Cross on Calvary.
As Catholics, we use not just words and gestures, but like Jesus and at his command, we use water, oil, bread and wine in the sacraments. In that same vein, we also use art, painting, sculpture, music, architecture, poetry, literature, stone, glass, wood, metal, wax, flowers and so many other materials and products of human effort to offer our praise to God and to express our love of Him. We use both natural and man-made objects in our worship of God and in tribute to Him. We build our churches as temples to His glory, not ours. Our church buildings are more than functional, they are devotional and theological statements. They silently give witness and preach the gospel in their matter and form. We fill them with beautiful materials and art because God is Beauty and the source of all beauty. Our sacred art, is not mere decoration, like a pretty picture on a wall.
Sacred art reflects God’s presence, power and love through the image portrayed; a saint, an angel, Our Blessed Mother or Our Lord. Our religious symbols are not mere ornamentation, but rather proclaim a truth of the One who is Truth and the source of all Truth.
All of our efforts and works should be directed to God. We should strive for excellence each day and in all circumstances, out of love for God because He loves us so much and has blessed us so marvelously. As St. Ignatius of Loyola taught us Ad Majorem Dei Gloria – To the Greater Glory of God or as the Church has said through the centuries, D.O.M. Deo Optimo et Maximo – To God, the Best and Greatest. More to come!
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately