Cleansing Fire

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What’s playing at the Roxy?

August 10th, 2011, Promulgated by Abaccio

Thanks to a reader for the tip on this story.

You may recall this post about the egregious misuse of the Sanctuary at St. Ambrose Church each Lent.  Well, congratulations are in order for St Christopher in Chili and their Pastor, Fr. Bob Gaudio, for decidedly topping this abuse!  Apparently, Fr. Gaudio has not only allowed, but advertised in his bulletin, and sold tickets at Masses to a performance of the secular musical “Guys and Dolls,” a show about gangsters.  Now, while this would probably be an inappropriate thing to advertise and sell tickets to in general for a Catholic parish, this is certainly not blog-worthy.  What’s more disconcerting is that this is clearly happening in the Church, with Our Lord present in the Tabernacle.

You can clearly see the sanctuary lamp burning in the picture, and the tabernacle behind the cast.  Can anyone objectively say that this is an appropriate fundraiser to hold in the Church Proper, ESPECIALLY with Jesus in the Tabernacle?!  While there is a disordered, unreasonable, but at least somewhat valid conception of the passion mime as a prayer, I cannot imagine a scenario in which this can be construed as such.  This is not portraying anything Christian.  The score from Guys and Dolls is not sacred in its character, nor is it conducive to meditative prayer.  It fails to bring anyone closer to Christ (except, perhaps, as part of the age-old prayer “Oh my God, make it stop!”), and it fails to uphold the character of a Catholic Church.

Why do these dissenting priests (recall: Fr Gaudio signed the infamous 2004 letter suggesting that the Church change its approach to homosexuality…read: pretend it’s not sinful.) continue to use their Churches for inappropriate performances?  In my humble opinion, it fits clearly with the rest of their agenda: turn the Church into a social club, whose only moral directives focus upon the poor and the environment, and some flim-flam about “being Christian,” while never explaining that “being pleasant” is hardly an indicator of Holiness (after all, St. Jerome was something of a curmudgeon!)

If this is not their motive, why not hold this performance in a parish hall, gymnasium, or basement?  When I attended a talk sponsored by The Station of the Cross by Dr. Ray Guarendi at St Salome, Our Lord was reserved elsewhere so as to not be disrespectful…and that was a Catholic talk by a Catholic speaker, rather than a performance of a well-known secular show.

As long as the Church is treated like some performance hall, Catholics will fail to see it as a place set apart, the domus Dei, and they will keep showing up to Mass immodestly and improperly dressed like ragamuffins and floozies, chewing gum and generally acting as though they are at a high school play.  One needs only to look at Our Lady of Victory downtown to see the difference from their parish churches full of old women bustling through the sanctuary with guitars and tambourines.  If the parishioners fail to see the Church as the House of God, they will fail to act accordingly, fail to believe accordingly, and disappear to some “more exciting pastures.”  After all, services at The Father’s House sure are a more entertaining performance…just ask the hundreds of lapsed Catholics who attend.

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17 Responses to “What’s playing at the Roxy?”

  1. avatar christian says:

    The sanctuary is certainly not the appropriate place to hold a musical. While there is nothing wrong with that musical or holding that music at a Catholic Parish, it should be held in a Parish Hall, Gymnasium, or Basement. Orthodox Churches and Eastern Catholic Churches wouldn’t even contemplate musicals being held in their sanctuary. Additionally, most mainline Protestant Churches wouldn’t contemplate a musical being held in their sanctuary as they would consider it irreverent to hold such an event in the space they use for worship. (I would think the same is true for Jewish temples).
    When I think of sanctuary, I think of the lines from Psalm 63: “O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water. Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory, For your kindness is a greater good than life; my lips shall glorify you.”
    The Majesty, Glory, and Power of God in the sanctuary are so aptly depicted in those lines. “Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory.” Think of all the things that have taken place in the sanctuary which do not show reverence and awe for God present in the sanctuary. Fr. Gaudio at St. Christopher, as well as other adults involved with that musical, are responsible for the misuse of the sanctuary and the faux pas in church etiquette and education taught to those young people. Definitely, I want young people involved with their church and I think it is commendable that young people give so much of their time, effort, and talent to put on such a production, but teach them the proper place to put on such a fine show! What message is being taught when there is no place set apart as sacred for God?

  2. avatar Ink says:

    Artistic point: There is practically no set or scenery available in a church. Just saying. Sacrilege acknowledged and set aside for the moment, from a practical standpoint that makes exactly zero sense. Even if it’s a musical like Godspell (here I cringe) where the set is portable, it’s still terribly inconvenient to have to work around all the things in a church like the altar stairs and so on. Parish halls are much better suited for that sort of thing. More chairs to move around.

  3. avatar christian says:

    When I told my sister about this article about the young people performing “Guys and Dolls” in the church sanctuary over the telephone, she said in regard to sanctuary she thought of the words “The Lord is in His Holy Temple: let all the earth be silent before Him.” – Habakkuk 2:20

  4. avatar Nerina says:

    Ah, “Guys and Dolls.” I played in the pit orchestra for my high school production of this musical. I’m with christian’s first post. I’d have no problem were this performed in the parish hall (compared to the pop culture offerings of today, this musical is mild), but it is completely inappropriate in the church proper (even if the Blessed Sacrament had been removed).

    Props to Abaccio for using the words “flim-flam,” “ragamuffins,” and “floozies!”

  5. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    I looked carefully at the picture. Are you sure this is not some new form of liturgy???

  6. avatar Ludwig says:

    I attended mass there once, before I was fully brought into the church.

    It was more Protestant-styled than any Protestant church I’d been to in the 25 years prior. Guitars and bongos absolutely rocking-out DURING communion. Plenty of “praise music.” No kneelers.

    I was completely new to the concept of Catholicism at the time, and even I knew it was all completely wrong.

  7. avatar The BigPapi says:

    I am a member of the parish, and a former member of the parish council at St. Christopher’s in North Chili, NY. The Holy Eucharist was removed from the Tabernacle for the performance of Guys and Dolls. Unfortunately the Red Candle was left in place indicating that the Holy Eucharist was present; when it had been moved after our Saturday evening Mass.
    We are blessed to have a talented music director at our parish who uses performances like this to engage our youth in discovering and displaying their own talents. The problem is the parish’s gathering area is not large enough to enable this activity, thus the decision was made to use the Sanctuary.
    We are also blessed to have a great shepherd like Father Bob Gaudio to serve our parish and its neighbors. He came to our parish in 2004 when the parish was in a bad place emotionally. He has tended to our needs as a community, and built up our Spirit. He has also helped members of our parish family through their own personal problems.He was an answer to prayers to send us a Pastor who could help lead us back to an unquestioning Faith in God.
    I am proud to have the chance to defend this priest, pastor, and friend. I invite anyone to attend our Community’s celebration of Mass any weekend. If you want to learn who Father Bob is as a person of Faith attend our weekday Mass at 9:00. Then make an unfounded attack against him, you won’t be able to, because he truly is an excellent Shepherd of the Faith. He is the best Pastor I have known in my 56 years as a Catholic.

  8. avatar annonymouse says:

    Perhaps Father Gaudio skipped his canon law class the day they were to learn the following:

    Can. 1210 “Only those things which serve the exercise or promotion of worship, piety, or religion are permitted in a sacred place; anything not consonant with the holiness of the place is forbidden. In an individual case, however, the ordinary can permit other uses which are not contrary to the holiness of the place.”

    A consecrated church is a sacred place according to Church law.

    Or perhaps, he asked for and obtained Bishop Clark’s permission to hold Guys and Dolls in his sanctuary, although I somehow doubt it. Or perhaps he thinks Guys and Dolls is “consonant with the holiness of the place” but I don’t see how.

    BigPapi, with all due respect, this is about more than whether Jesus was present in the tabernacle. This is about respect for (knowledge of?) our Church’s canon law, which demands respect for our consecrated, sacred spaces.

  9. avatar Scott W. says:

    BigPapi, with all due respect, this is about more than whether Jesus was present in the tabernacle. This is about respect for (knowledge of?) our Church’s canon law, which demands respect for our consecrated, sacred spaces.

    Exactly. First off, while we can be thankful that there is enough residual awe of the Sacred to think to remove the host, I would think warning bells would go off when one contemplates displacing Our Lord for Something Else. Even with the host removed, it is still sacred space and ought to be a sanctuary from pedestrian uses. I’m perfectly willing to grant that Fr. Bob does wonderful things. But as always, one does not get to pile a bunch of good works on one end of the scale and use it as a license to fudge elsewhere. It’s a gross error. Errors are always forgiveable, rarely excuseable, but NEVER acceptable.

  10. avatar Scott W. says:

    P.S.

    I played Big Jule in our HS production of Guys and Dolls. Fun musical. Doesn’t belong in the church proper.

  11. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    This was nowhere as prevelent at the time when a certain individual became shephard of the DOR 30 years ago. It just shows you how someone can corrupt the priesthood.

  12. avatar christian says:

    I looked on St. Christopher Church’s Website. They are part of a cluster called “Five Saints West.”-St. Christopher-St. Mary of the Assumption, St. Columban-St. Patrick, and St. Vincent de Paul. If the parish’s gathering area was not big enough to accomodate the event of a musical, why not use the parish hall or gymnasium of one of the other churches in the cluster? There are also organizations with the appropriate stage/theatre space who would loan their space to a worthy event such as a Catholic Church’s Musical with young people if they were given advance notice. Even a local public high school would probably be willing to loan out their stage/theatre space for a musical for a Catholic Church, with young people performing, if they were given advance notice.

    I would not want my children performing a musical in a church sanctuary-whether it was a Catholic Church, even if the Holy Eucharist was removed, a Protestant Church, or a Jewish Temple. It’s the concept of conducting something else rather than worship, in a space considered sacred and reserved for God. I would not want those lines blurred. I would want my children to retain the concept of sanctuary.
    Additionally, I would not want my children to be limited to the space and design of the sanctuary (like Ink already mentioned) after all the hard work they had put into a good performance. I would wonder what it says when no bigger, better, and more appropriate space could be located after all the hard work of rehearsing by the young people and their teachers.
    While I commend the music director for undertaking such an endeavor as a musical with young people and Fr. Gaudio for allowing it to happen, someone(s) could have found a more suitable place to put on “Guys and Dolls,” musicals are not put on overnight. Surely, someone(s) could investigate the avenues I mentioned in my first paragraph, to find a more suitable place to hold a musical or play. It looks like more programs are being planned from St. Christopher Church’s Bulletin online; performances appear to be an ongoing occurrence. That would be all the more reason to come up with a suitable stage/theatre for future performances.

  13. avatar Dr. K says:

    St. Christopher does have a large gathering space next to the church that could have been used for the performance.

    They decided to use the church instead.

    Another reason why we need to stop building churches “in the round” with movable chairs for congregants and a mobile altar.

  14. avatar christian says:

    Dr.K: I agree.

    The Big Papi: What is your comment to the large gathering space next to the church stated in Dr. K’s previous post?
    Also, how is it that you did not question if another site was being looked into for hosting the musical other than a church sanctuary?
    I cannot understand, why would a music director would go to the trouble of organizing performances such as musicals if he did not think there was on? Why didn’t he, or someone else, seek out an adequate, appropriate place. If indeed, the church was purposely picked over the large parish gathering space, and no other appropriate, adequate place was sought out, (or is being sought out), it says a lot about your parish.

    ***I find it odd to say that “Unfortunately the Red Candle was left in place indicating the Eucharist was present.” Those words imply that sanctuary lamp was an oversight and should have been removed. The sanctuary lamp in our faith has significance stemming back to our Jewish roots. The sanctuary lamp in Hebrew is “ner tamid” translated as “eternal flame” or “eternal light.” It is seen hanging or standing in front of the ark of every Jewish synagogue,(Greek for “House of Worship”). It is meant to represent the menorah in the Temple of Jerusalem; additionally, the continuous burning fire on the altar of burnt offerings in front of the Temple. The sanctuary light is also a symbol of the presence of God and therefore, is never to be extinguished.
    Christian churches have a sanctuary lamp before the tabernacle for the purpose of worship. It is not merely decoration. In the Roman Catholic Church, Old Catholic Church, and Anglican Church, it is customary to have a sanctuary lamp near the tabernacle fueled by oil or wax, kept lit to indicate and honor the presence of Christ. The Lutherans, (and other denominations), use the sanctuary lamp to represent the presence of God. Eastern Orthodox Churches also use the sanctuary lamp. Christian denominations as a whole, use the sanctuary light to show “the Light of Christ always burns in a sin-darkened world.”

    In my church, certain parishioners have taken special care to never let the sanctuary lamp be extinguished. It is a quiet, behind the scenes, special duty and devotion for them; to keep the sanctuary light burning.

    Conclusion: Something tells me you’re in great trouble if your sanctuary lamp is not burning, and more so, if you chose to remove your sanctuary lamp out of your sanctuary. The sanctuary lamp signifies the presence of God in the sanctuary. It is important to keep it burning. The sanctuary lamp conveys that it is God’s place and He is present in His place.

  15. avatar Abaccio says:

    I believe the rule of thumb is as follows: If the tabernacle is empty, it is supposed to be left open. Now, if the tabernacle is NOT open, and the sanctuary lamp is NOT extinguished, that tells ME that you’re incorrect, and, at the time of the picture, Our Lord WAS present in the tabernacle. I’m not saying you’re a liar, but I am saying you’re likely incorrect.

  16. avatar Ink says:

    Abaccio: I thought the tabernacle was never REALLY empty–isn’t there the small Host inside the metal and glass case which is used to insert into a monstrance during Benediction and/or Exposition?

  17. avatar christian says:

    It looks so out of place with those young people performing a musical dressed in costumes with a tabernacle and sanctuary lamp in the background-a true anachronism. Why doesn’t The Big Papi see how completely inappropriate and strange the setting is?
    The Eucharist should not be removed from the tabernacle in an attempt to make the use of a consecrated sanctuary for worship seem less offensive. The tabernacle should not be removed from the sanctuary. The sanctuary lamp should not be extinguished or removed from the sanctuary. None of the aforementioned should have ever been contemplated.

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