Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

From Protestant to Catholic

July 20th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

Saint Paul's Church in Webster, New york, current (left) and proposed (right)

There was a post on this site (here) in which we readers were invited to comment on what was wrong with the liturgical arrangement at St. Paul’s Church in Webster. I made a critique at that time which you might care to read again or for the first time. I won’t repeat the points I made, then, in this post. Later, I edited the photo in a way that I thought would make the “worship space”  more “Catholic”, re-introducing relatively essential elements of our liturgical tradition. I didn’t change very much as I was trying to keep it an inexpensive adjustment. (Click on the picture for a larger image.)

The large crucifix in my proposal (or something like it) could probably be found among the storage in one of the other parishes of the diocese. The tabernacle could be commissioned from a local professional artist and might be made of quality wood and gilded or partially covered in gold leaf. Traditional iconic imagery on the wings of the tabernacle could be of Sts. Peter and Paul or of Mary and John the Baptist, or an Annunciation scene –angel on the left wing and Mary on the right one. The altar could stay as it is even though the round or eight sided form is not traditional for an altar. Kneelers would be an expensive addition at this point. A sanctuary lamp of traditional design could be suspended from above as in the edited picture.

This is just one idea. It doesn’t address all concerns we might have. There are numerous ways this church could be made more Catholic. Using Photoshop/Photoshop Elements you could try other variations just by replacing the crucifix with a painting of one. Perhaps add an icon or painting of Saint Paul and then place a crucifix on the altar in the Benedictine fashion.

Note: no charge for the design proposal. Glad to help.

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11 Responses to “From Protestant to Catholic”

  1. Dr. K says:

    See here for the actual plans:

    It looks like they may finally place a crucifix in the sanctuary, but it could just as easily end up being a bare cross or a cross with a risen Christ.

  2. ProLifer says:

    If St. Paul in Webster needs a new tabernacle, why not get one from the churches that are going to be closed in the Northeast part of Rochester and in Irondequoit? Or, check with the merged parishes such as Our Lady of the Americas or St. Monica’s. For example, where are the tabernacles from the churches that closed in the city, e.g., St. Augustine, St. Peter and Paul, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Francis, St. Bridget, St. George? Maybe one of those beautiful tabernacles could find a new home at St. Paul.

  3. Bernie says:

    Yes, Dr. K, I think it’s a step in the right direction. A cross wouldn’t cut it though, as you point out. I don’t have a big objection to a resurrection cross as it is somewhat in line, conceptually, with the non-suffering Christ iconic crosses in Byzantine art.

    I hate to keep harping on it but the inspiration for Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox) liturgical decoration is the Incarnation. We simply must have images in the chancel as well as the rest of the church. They must have a significant presence and they must be “human” in appearance, stylized yes but not abstract to the point of extreme distortion.

    A chancel devoid of images is heresy. There, I said it.

    The octagonal altar placed off center has no tradition (who the heck came up with that idea?)and so I’m glad to see they plan on a retangular one, placed on the central axis. (There is some evidence of round altars and half round altars from the 4th century which are only intresting exceptions.) The octagonal shape should be reserved for baptismal fonts, whether pools or on a pedestal.

    The symmetrical positioning of the priest’s chair is the oldest traditional placement although a side placement at a right angle to the congregation is equally traditional even if not the oldest. So, their plan is an improvement in my view.

    There really isn’t any reason for reserving the Sacrament anywhere but in the chancel. That is where the earliest Christians reserved it as soon as it was safe to do so. St. Paul’s in Webster is not going to be visited by hordes of tourists that could (unintentionally) cause disrespect to the reserved Eucharist. A separate chapel is totally unnessary.

    I wonder if they plan to include kneelers?

    As you say, Dr. K, it’s (possibly) a little better but not by much. Thank you for the link to the plans.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It’s really scarry how these religious leaders, under the approval of the bishop, are trying to protestantize our church. That’s wht the Tabernaccle is shoved back into the nebulosphere.

    How many protestants have come into the church because Catholics sang Protestant hymns? Nada. Protestants come into the Church under the influence of the Holy Spirit, after being shown the deficiencies of their particular faith.

    Our religious leaders are trying to remove differences between faiths, but at the terrible cost of gutting our faith.

  5. Bernie says:

    You never hear any discussion of the pictorial decoration in renovations or new construction. It’s always about bricks. Now, those are important issues, of course, but liturgical/doctrinal imagery is always an after thought. How strange that such an important part of our tradition is marginalized. I went back and listened to the St. Paul’s planning presentation on its website. Even though the church could pass for a friends meeting house there was absolutely no reference to adding meaningful imagery.

    Anyway, there is not likely to be any renovations at St. Paul’s until after 2014. Until then, they might try to do some simple inexpensive things to re-establish the Catholic identity of the chancel.

  6. John F. Kennedy says:

    There is no need for kneelers. Those are a luxury!. No doubt the leadership of the parish would want any money that would be needed for kneelers to be spent helping the poor, so they MUST kneel at the time of Consecration. If fact the harder the floor the better. It will make them more worthy.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Why kneel. Instead let’s build an altar to ourselves and celebrate

  8. Christina says:

    It looks like if you raised the crucifix up a bit you could place the tabernacle inline with the altar (and the wood beams would give a nice burst effect).

    I don’t think kneelers strictly necessary (actually – I’ve come to prefer concrete since the kneelers put my knees to sleep). As long as there is enough room to kneel there shouldn’t be a problem. If people have bad knees they can sit forward or bring a pillow.

    However, once the money is there to buy them they appear to be a welcome addition for others.

  9. jetscubs86 says:

    Fr. Stan is such a great guy, but very liberal. I went to a few Masses where he was the celebrant, and not one time did he give the homily. Every time I went, there was a lay woman doing the preaching. Why keep going you ask? I was hoping I’d catch at least one. He used to preach at St. John’s (Greece) when he served there, so I don’t know what happened. The church definitely looks and feels very Protestant.

  10. John F. Kennedy says:

    When these “Protestant” Catholic churches close, the parishioners see no reason to go to other, further away, “Catholic” parishes. The years of acting Protestant and having been told that there isn’t much difference (in both word and deed) has convinced many that there is no real difference, so they simply go to a more conveniently located Protestant church or stop all together.

  11. A Rochester Catholic says:

    Back in 1970’s when I was still in elementary school, my family moved to Webster. My parents’ first attempt at finding a parish was St. Paul’s. Even back then, they had folding chairs. That was enough to make my parents search a little more and they found Holy Trinity. That was when Holy Trinity had Fr. William Hart, Phd., as pastor and Fr. Cuddy in residence. I’ll always remember how reverent it was back then at Holy Trinity and how Fr. Cuddy used to end his Masses with the “O Sacrament Most Holy,…” prayer and how the priests reminded us to honor Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament by leaving the Church quietly. I don’t think the same thing went on at St. Paul’s back then and who knows what goes on there now.

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