I suspect everybody has their own favourite style of church building. Personally I like small intimate oratories as they convey a sense of the intimate relationship we can have with God, but I can also appreciate the great cathedrals with the splendour of their artwork, conveying the awesome wonder of God.
These thoughts were prompted by a fascinating series, Extraordinary Faith, on EWTN. Last Wednesday’s episode focused on modern church buildings, designed and constructed in classical style. The programme was partly about architectural concepts but was made accessible to the average or ‘lay’ viewer.
Presenter Alex Begin spoke of a revival in Catholic traditions and classic church design. Among the experts he consulted were Duncan Stroik and Denis McNamara, who had lots of inspiration to convey on church architecture.
Some designers just considered the functional nature of churches, but they recommended taking into consideration a much wider field of meaning, asking what was the ‘essential nature’ of a church building, and speaking in sacramental terms.
Churches should convey joy, radiance, elevation, glory and what Vatican II said about sacred art was quoted in support. It was suggested that much of relevance would be found in the rite of dedication of churches and the theology embedded in it.
Several impressive church buildings in the US were used to illustrate these points – e.g. the Mundeline Seminary in Chicago, Our Lady of the Trinity Chapel in Santa Paula, California and the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Cross, Wisconsin. In all cases the internal artwork was regarded as hugely important – the architect designed the frame and then handed it over to the artists.
At the opposite end of a spectrum I can’t even describe was Brendan O’Connor’s Cutting Edge, a new panel discussion show, also on Wednesday of last week on RTÉ One. I found it hard to work up any enthusiasm for it, and cutting edge it certainly wasn’t.
At one point O’Connor joked that having “four vaguely liberal people” discussing stuff in Dublin 4 was hardly representative. His guests were comedian Pat Shortt, Chris Donoghue of Newstalk’s Breakfast Show and Nora Casey, formerly of Newstalk’s Breakfast Show. I found the formal segmenting rather irritating and unnecessary - we got the silly quiz section, the ‘funny’ review of the week’s news, a trivial discussion under the heading ‘Vital Signs’ on Eurovision and wine bags, a rather pointless segment where taxi drivers were interviewed about the refugee crisis and a ‘Soap Box’ which prompted a discussion of some substance at least.
George Hook was the guest in this segment and he spoke about his belief in God and in Heaven and of hoping to meet his mother again, at which point he became understandably emotional.
Chris Donohue had lost his mother at 14 and hoped it wasn’t just “lights out” at death. At that time and during an illness of his own he had received much comfort from people of faith – a Christian Brother in the first situation and hospital chaplains in the second. He didn’t have faith to the extent that they had but hoped he was wrong, and reckoned you’d always “throw a prayer up there” in times of trouble.
Finally, the abortion debate got another lease of life (or death?) last week with the release of the latest abortion figures for Irish women going to Britain. Fortunately the numbers were down, but there were worrying aspects to it. On Newstalk’s Lunchtime Show, Jonathan Healy interviewed Helen Deely, head of the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme and here’s how she finished up: “Women who make a decision to have an abortion are generally ok with that decision and it’s the right decision for that woman at that time in her life.” Surely this was totally inappropriate for an agent of the State, when the State’s Constitution declares the unborn child to have a right to life?
The interview showed no concern whatsoever for the unborn children or the women traumatised by abortion. In the ‘key messages’ to women re abortion pills sourced online (illegally!) Ms Deely had the following: don’t take them without medical supervision, they don’t suit every woman, the doctor should have the full medical history and they should consult if there were adverse effects. No mention of adverse effects on the baby. No ‘key message’ saying it’s illegal and harmful and don’t do it!
Pick of the Week
EWTN, Monday (night), May 30, 2.30am
Patrick Madrid separates the facts from the myths surrounding Galileo and the official investigation of his scientific work.
Life after death: The Elber Twomey story
TV3, Tuesday, May 31, 10pm
Story of a woman whose husband, infant son and unborn baby were all killed when a suicidal driver hit their car during a holiday in Torquay, England, four years ago.
TG4, Tuesday, May 31, 10.30pm
Documentary about migrant children – both unaccompanied and travelling with their families fleeing to Europe.