Did the Statues Go?
Whose idea was it to remove all the statues from churches?
When pastors and congregations began to implement the decrees of Vatican II, they often
experienced a need to remodel and adapt their churches and worship spaces.
With the advent of concelebrated Masses and fewer side-altar celebrations, the need
for side altars became less. With the emphasis on participation in the liturgy, proximity
to the altar and visibility of the celebrant and ministers became important. When pastors,
architects and designers looked to the conciliar documents and decrees of implementation
for direction and guidelines, they found statements on art and environment in worship
and worship spaces. In the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy they were told to
seek noble beauty rather than sumptuous display.
The Constitution told them, The practice of placing sacred images in churches
so that they may be venerated by the faithful is to be maintained. Nevertheless, their
number should be moderate and their relative positions should reflect right order. For
otherwise the Christian people may find them incongruous and they may foster devotion
of doubtful orthodoxy.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal picks up on the Constitution in saying
that, from the very earliest days of the Church, there has been a tradition of displaying
images of our Lord, his holy mother and the saints in our churches for veneration. But
it then adds, But there should not be too many such images, lest they distract
the peoples attention from the ceremonies, and those which are there ought to conform
to a correct order of prominence. There should not be more than one image of any particular
In Environment and Art in Catholic Worship the U.S. bishops Committee on
the Liturgy urges that images in painting or sculpture, tapestries, cloth hangings, banners
and other decorations be introduced into the liturgical space upon consultation with
an art consultant. But the bishops statement reminds us that the art must serve
and aid the action rather than threaten or compete with it. The statement then says, In
a period of Church and liturgical renewal, the attempt to recover a solid grasp of Church
and faith and rites involves the rejection of certain embellishments which have in the
course of history become hindrances. In many areas of religious practice, this means
a simplifying and a refocusing on primary symbols. In building, this has resulted in
more austere interiors, with fewer objects on the walls and in the corners.
The Third Instruction on the Correct Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred
Liturgy, issued by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in 1970, made it
clear that the Constitution was not just an academic or abstract statement.
The congregation called for temporary arrangements to be given final form. It called
for the review of temporary arrangements and the study of new building projects so
that churches be given a definitive form.
The point I am trying to make is that in renovating churches and sanctuaries pastors
were not acting in arbitrary fashion. They were carrying out the mandate of the Church.
And if they were faithful to the demand of the Church, they did so with consultation
from liturgists, artists and architects.
I realize that what is beautiful in art and architecture is often a matter of taste
and opinion. That is why the wise pastor gathers input from experts. But he also takes
into account the feelings and sentiments of his parishioners. He respects the traditions
and history of devotion in the parish.
For an explanation of the parish church, readers may send me 50 cents and a self-addressed
stamped business envelope asking for Catholic Update C0391, A Tour of a
Catholic Church, by Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.
of St. Michael the Numbers Dont Add Up
In reading about St. Francis I have come upon his observance of the Forty Days
Fast of Saint Michael the Archangel.
It is said to begin on Our Lady's assumption (August 15) and conclude, I presume, on
the Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, on September 29.
But that would be 46 days, wouldn't it? And could you tell me what exactly such a fast
would entail in the way of eating and/or drinking? Also, would it come to an end on the
day of September 29, or not until the following day? What spiritual benefits could one
expect to derive from such a fast? (It sounds like a good way to lose weight, in any
Both Thomas of Celano and St. Bonaventure mention St. Francis fast from the Feast
of the Assumption to the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel. They speak of it as a fast
of 40 days.
You are right: If you count off the days on the calendar, that is a period of more than
40 daysno matter on what day you begin or end the count. I tried to check if the
Feast of Michael might have been moved since the 13th century. But the footnote of Celano
clearly says the Feast of Michael was September 29. So much for that theory! Omitting
the Sundays from the count wouldnt make the days come out to 40 either.
All I can surmise is that the authors (and St. Francis himself) meant the expression a
fast of 40 days to be taken in the moral sense of about 40 days. The feasts were
more important as the starting and ending times than the exact number of days. And I
cannot personally believe Francis would have advocated fasting on the feasts themselves.
Bishop Hilarin Felder, O.F.M.Cap., author of The Ideals of St. Francis of
Assisi (Benziger Bros., 1925), in his chapter The Piety of St. Francis spends
some paragraphs speaking of Francis devotion to the angels as our guardians and
St. Michael in particular. The angels were, in Francis eyes, our champions in
the struggle against the powers of darkness. He saw the angels unceasingly singing
hymns of praise before the Blessed Sacrament and urged that his brothers sing their
office in union with the heavenly spirits.
In the struggle against evil Francis placed himself under the leadership of the Prince
of Heaven, St. Michael, who, says Felder, has been assigned the office of leading souls
into the kingdom of heaven. Felder writes that Francis' battle cry was: O invincible,
valiant hero, Prince Michael, O guard us through life, O help us in strife, Prince Michael,
Francis did not bind his brother friars to the fast of St. Michael, but urged that each
offer to God a special praise or tribute in honor of so exalted a Prince.
Since this fast was an act of personal devotion on Francis part, I can hardly
tell you exactly how he observed it. I would think that the follower of today wanting
to keep this fast would do so according to the custom and law for fasting in the Church
todaymeat once a day, one full meal and the other two not to equal together another
The spiritual benefits of fasting? The traditional ones urged by the Church whenever
it speaks of penance, fasting and mortification: making reparation for our own sins and
the sins of the world, a lessening of our temporal punishment for sin, learning self-control
and self-discipline in our day-to-day struggle with sin and temptation. Such penance
does offer good example.
Finally, imitating St. Francis, I would start the fast on the day following the Feast
of the Assumption and end it on the Feast of St. Michael.
the Priest Bless the Couple?
Can a Roman Catholic pastor get permission from his
bishop to say prayers at a wedding conducted or witnessed by a justice of the peace?
It is difficult to answer your question because it is so short on detail. Who is getting
married before the justice of the peace? Two Catholics? A Catholic and a person of another
religion? Two non-Catholics? Are both of them free to marry? Why are they being married
in a civil ceremony rather than a Catholic or religious ceremony?
All of those things could be relevant. If it is a case of a mixed marriage, a dispensation
from the Catholic form (before a priest and two witnesses) is possible for sufficient
reason, presuming both parties are free to marry. For example, if one of the parties
is closely related to a minister, a Catholic wedding might cause family alienation. If
there has been a dispensation, a priest could attend the ceremony before a justice of
the peace or minister of another faith and offer a prayer or blessing.
But I suspect you have a different kind of case in mindwhen a Catholic or Catholics
who are not free to marry are involved. Or perhaps for some reason a Catholic is marrying
outside the Church without a dispensation.
In such a case the bishop cannot authorize a priest to offer prayers and blessings.
Im sure you can see the likelihood of grave scandal in such cases.
I have heard of some particular cases where a priest decided that his presence at a
civil ceremony or one in another religion would give no scandalit would not be
taken for approval or indifference. He decided his presence would be taken only as a
sign of friendship and a desire to keep communication open in the future. But I find
it difficult to see how a priest could offer a prayer or blessing without appearing to
approve of what the couple are doing and thus create scandal and dismay for many Catholics.
CreedCan It Be Possible?
In the Nicene Creed we read the words begotten, not made. In other writings
we find the phrase, the only begotten Son of God. Such references to Christ
appear to express an impossibility. Since we believe that Christ is God, he must have
existed for all time. Without a beginning how could he have been begotten?
I wish I could make a simple, lucid explanation of who God is and how he exists so that
you would or could say, Ah! Now I see! Its so plain and obvious. But
that cannot be. We are always limited creatures trying to understand an infinite Goda
being far beyond our comprehension and intelligence.
To understand him as God understands himself would make us God or the equals of God.
In speaking of Jesus we must always remember we are talking about the second person
of the Blessed TrinityGod the Sonbecome incarnate. In Jesus, the Son, are
united two natures: the divine and human. The divine person possesses two natures.
In the divine nature the Son exists from eternity. He always was, is and shall be. There
never was a time when the Son did not exist and never will be a time when he will not
exist. From eternity or in eternity, the Son is begotten of or proceeds from the Father.
To use comparisons that limp, it is as a thought proceeds from or is begotten by the
mind (not made, not created) or as light proceeds from the sun. Just as the Father
is always there, the Son (second person) is always there being begotten by the
In time the second person, the Son, took to himself a human naturehe became
flesh, he became man, Jesus. In his human nature the Son (Jesus) did not exist
forever. It is this event we proclaim in the Angelus prayer and celebrate at ChristmasAnd
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus, in whom are united the divine
and human natures, began to exist in time.
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