A friend sent me some excellent photos of a huge modernist building from 1968. It had all the midcentury flourishes, with cantilevered roofs and curving planes and articulated surfaces. There were skylights and built-ins and chic chandeliers. It was a gem of the genre.
But then I saw that this was a not a terminal on the tarmac, not a museum or the chamber of some country’s parliament, but a church. A nice building, I thought, but not one to pray in.
Perhaps we could all do with a refresher in Christian aesthetics. Never forget it: Western art and architecture were born in church. As Catholics, we should be fluent in the vocabulary of beauty. After all, we invented it.
When we build new churches, we can and should innovate — as Catholics always have. But the inspiration should come from our roots and not from a Howard Johnson’s, no matter how striking.
Here, in a nutshell, are three great traditions, centuries old. Each is totally distinct from the other. And all of them are sacred. I created these videos for a night course for adults in which we looked at the effects of art on prayer.
This treasure is ours. Let’s use it!