Monday, January 08, 2007

I realize I'm going in reverse with the presentation of a completed project back to what the church looked like prior to the project, but it is helpful to show what has been discarded.

I believe the changes in St. Bernard's are examples (almost answering the reactive anti-liturgy movement begun in the sixties) of the strengthening desire of the faithful for beauty. Let me be more specific. In terms of the response of the parishioners. Initially there was some skepticism as to the overall success of restoring a damaged mural. As the project progressed and the parish could see what was taking place before their eyes, daily improvments, people begun to see that this really was artwork which changed the way they experienced the liturgy. This experience of the parish was communicated in many ways. Many folks came into the church and expressed their experiences and love of the artwork. One of the most unusual (for us Catholics) displays of approval happened toward the end of the art restoration phase. Our pastor announced that there would be an opportunity for parishoners to support the project financially, that he and the pastoral council, in addition to the mural project, would be moving the tabernacle to the center of the church on a newly constructed altar of repose. This opportunity came in the form of a 'second collection'. Up to this point, the largest second collection of recent years had brought in about $7k for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The pastor and the two associate priests were guessing what the collection might amount to. The highest they thought it might be was $5000. . .The actual amount came to approx. $14,500!

I do need to mention that this project was initiated by the associate priests, who, after discovering that there was a mural at one time in the church, climbed up a ladder late one night and scraped away the old paint and uncovered the face of Christ. Afterwards they approached the pastor and encouraged him to allow them to begin raising funds to uncover the mural. So, without the initial and continual efforts of these young, faithful priests, and the openness of our pastor we would still be worshiping the lord in an environment stripped of beauty.