Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Open! St. Philomena

St. Philomena at 1921 N. Kevdale in Chicago was open for visitors and Eucharistic Adoration on a visit this afternoon. Thanks to Fr. O'Meara for a splendid tour.

Fr. O'Meara explained an unfortunate fire which destroyed the old high altar, leaving the church with a modern altar area, which he charitably relateded as "some have described as not contemporary with the rest of the church" An understatement indeed.

The Eucharistic Adoration Chapel is conveniently open to anyone using a Jewel (Grocery) coupon card, while the Parish School is a matching beauty with the splendid exterior of St. Philomena's Parish.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Stop a Church Closing - Help Save St. Vincent's!

The historic New York parish of St. Vincent de Paul down in Chelsea (116 West 24th Street) is facing closure. A recent article in The New York Times focused on the parish's small but vibrant Francophone congregants, but there's a lot more to the story than the church's monthly French Mass.

What the story doesn't say is there is a determined group of laymen who hope to save the parish by bringing a new focus to the parish's mission. While not forgetting the church's special mission to French, Haitian and Francophone African emigrants in Manhattan, these men and women hope to emulate the examples of other parishes such as the Tridentine revival of Chicago's St. John Cantius and St. Gelasius, Opus Dei's work at St. Mary of the Angels, and the work of a number of other urban religious orders in places such as Wilmington. They have thus an interest in inviting to take over the care of the parish either an order not unlike the Institute of Christ the King; like the historically French Vincentians--who have no presence in New York yet; or Opus Dei, already close by at Murray Hill but lacking a parish as such.

The logic of the archdiocese in ordering the parish closed, possibly as early as the end of the month, is dwindling attendance. However, a revitalized St. Vincent's has the potential to be a witness to gentrifying urban professionals and Bohemian artists in a neighborhood increasingly influenced by sex, secularism, and a new age mentality verging on the pagan.

Given the cultural ministry offered by Tridentine orders, or the popularity of Opus Dei among youth looking for structure in a structureless world, such a parish could be a true beacon to the neighborhood and the island as a whole. (Mass would presumably continue in French, though that is part of a much larger picture, even now.) Of course, taking on a parish is a major undertaking for any order, whether small or large. It seems to me that perhaps the parish could be closed for a time, with the potential to be re-opened soon, while funding is undertaken. That being said, unlike St. Mary of the Angels or St. John Cantius, St. Vincent's is still in good working order, a noble structure not unlike La Madeleine in Paris. One hopes that it might become as glorious a beacon as the example of its equally Parisian namesake, the great St. Vincent.

How can you help? At this point, just spread the word. One of the most important things (especially in the case of a Tridentine or otherwise traditionally-oriented parish) is to show that there is a constituency in New York for such things. Chicago has shown that two full-blown Tridentine congregations are capable of existing within the same city. New York does not even have one full-time parish--only the Sunday mass at St. Agnes, and no Latin masses during the week.

The issue, however, is not just Tridentine. The witness of Opus Dei or some other tradition-minded order could prove just as vital to the parish's survival and as a witness for orthodoxy in the neighborhood. St. Vincent's, under the care of any good religious order, would continue to be a presence in a neighborhood with great potential; after all, that the decline of the great urban parishes certainly has done much to change the religious face of the inner city, and will continue to as suburbanites return to the urban core, and find shuttered churches there.

Please write to Mr. Richard Sawicki at rmsawicki@hotmail.com, or to me, if you have anything to say about these plans. I'm not asking for much, just an expression of interest in such a project, or that you might avail yourself of such a parish's services and programs, which have the potential to be virtually unique among New York's numerous parish churches.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Open! The Vaults at St. Stans

You might ask why were some churches included in Heavenly City and others were not. The answers are complex, not fixed on any one criteria, and sometimes, it was too far to drive to a Church at the end of the day and make it to the photo lab to see the proofs for the next morning.

St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr on Chicago's far west side (Near Grand and Central, at 5352 W. Belden Ave), is a whale of a drive, and makes a good case for a second book of Chicago Churches. The ceiling is terrific, with a low slung barrell vault, unique in Chicago Churches (though looking a bit like the Palmer House). Dramatic statues, excellent condition, vivid colors (violet no less) and most importantly, an Open Door when I rang at the rectory, with a helpful parish worker named Ida who guided me through the Church.

Still holding Polish Language Mass, since 1893, this St. Stans (as well as the older one on the near Northwest side) is going strong, and very active per its bulletin. Air conditioning is being installed in the Church, if you have the ability to send a donation to cool the parishoners.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

New Shrine Going Up or Why You Should Hire a Trained Classicist

Driving south in Indiana from Hammond to Evansville on Route 41 I ran across this little stone temple being built very close to a shrine of Our Lady. The inscription reads "Innocens ego sum a sanguine justi huius," the words of Pilate: "I am innocent of the blood of this just man." My first thought was that it was a memorial to those killed my abortion, but it seemed like an odd inscription. Does anyone know what this little building will be?

The building also serves as a good lesson why someone who wants to build a classical building should hire someone who knows what they're doing when using the classical vocabulary. Even though the intentions appear to be good, it is evident that the designer had little to no idea how to put columns and entablature together. The seams on the capital (!) line up with seams on the entablature. Also, the columns, which are too thin and spaced incorrectly, are missing their abaci, and its placement inside the edge of the entablautre is not right. The molding profiles are imagined rather than canonical and others are missing. The building is being built of real quarried stone, but its being squandered by an architect who is trying hard, but doesn't know how to do it correctly. If you're doing classical, hire a trained classicist!

La Crosse Pilgrimage

La Crosse, Wisconsin is the site of the new Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe the massive, splendid Marian Shrine adorning a picturesque hillside on the East Bank of the Mississippi River.

This is the one of the largest and most beautiful building projects in Catholic Archtecture. Our great friend, and the leader of the Restoration of The Sacred, Professor Duncan Stroik, is leading the design of the Shrine. Three Cheers!

The visitor center is open, the Chapel to Our Lady of Good Counsel is open, the Meditation Trail is open, the Walking Stations of the Cross are open, the excellent Culina Mariana restaurant is open, the Marygarden will open soon.

Congrats to Bishop Listecki, and thanks to Archbishop Burke, Sister Christa Marie, F.S.G.M, and Chris Carstens from the Diocese of La Crosse for hosting the Society of St. Barbara. A Shrine this grand will be a great center for devotion to Our Lady.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pallazo Barberini becomes Feehan Library

Uno dei più importanti e sontuosi palazzi della nobiltà romana. Iniziato da Carlo Maderno nel 1625 per volontà di papa Barberini, e continuato poi dal Borromini e infine dal Bernini che lo condusse a termine nel 1633, then reconstructed in 1929 as the Feehan Libray at the University of St Mary's of the Lake at Mundelein Seminary, in Mundelein Illinois. The exterior? American Colonial. The interior, Roman Piazza, in the true style of an American Roman Catholic, Cardinal George Mundelein, and his favorite archtiect, Joseph McCarthy. All these shots from a photo-shoot today with Robert McKendrick at the library. And as you will appreciate, McKendrick is a much better photgrapher than I am.

Here is a shot of the rear of the building

And the marvelous ceiling.
With a Palatial Staircase

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Modern Yet Traditional

I recently visited the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, Kentucky, designed in the early 60s by Cincinnati architect Edward Schulte. Schulte is often considered too traditional for the Modernists and too modern for the traditionalists, but his work bridges a period in American church architecture which was often filled with unchurchly design in the name of modernity. As a young man, Schulte was a theater architect, but heard a lecture by church architect Ralph Adams Cram and gave his life to church design. Starting in the 1920s with very traditional Gothic work, Schulte eventually developed his own style, incorporating modernity without giving up theological content. Most of his work is in the Cincinnati and Covington area, but his churches appear in Chicago, Phoenix, Dallas and Iowa. He also designed the cathedrals for LaCrosse, Wisconsin and Salina, Kansas. Schulte insisted on custom designed appointments with theological significance, like the rail of the St. Joseph shrine shown here which combines the lily and the carpenter's square into the design. His materials were always of high quality, and no detail was left undesigned, including the holy water fonts and lights filled the crown imagery relevant to the church's dedication. He was also very conscious to include figural imagery of angels and saints in prominent places, always emphasizing the heavenly beings mystically present at the liturgy. Schulte's work reads today as something os a "period piece," but the quality of the design, craft and appointments is incredibly high. Schulte is an architect who can teach many lessons in carfeul design and craftsmanship to today's architects. He died in the late 60s and left behind an unpublished autobiography called "The Lord Was My Client."

Score 1 for Wilmette

Another walk around Wilmette, and (Trumpets Sound!) a Church was open. St. Francis Xavier had an open front door, dim lights, and bright altars, highlighting Joseph McCarthy's low slung beauty and the built version of the Sacred Liturgy. If you happen to be at 8th and Linden in Wilmette, come in for a visit and don't forget to take a gander at the Parish School next door.

Barry Byrne's Granadan Square structure highlights some awesome brickwork, and a level of attention to detail sadly missing in the modern school next door. I include a few shots of the St. Francis Xavier Parish School, and point you to a fine site about the brilliant Barry Byrne. Note that the School looks quite a bit like St. Patrick's in Racine, Wisconsin, also a Brick Masterpiece.


Monday, June 05, 2006

What city is this?

Pulled this photo from a Magellan's catalog I recently received. Very pleasant looking hillside town, red clay tile roofs, consistent architecture, majestic dome and clocktower combination, but no identifier other than the odd label on the bus.

Do you know what town this is? Looks Italian, but could be pretty much anywhere. Two points if you know where this is.