I just came back from vacation with the family in Los Angeles, and I must say that one of the highlights of my trip was the Easter Mass I attended at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Orange County’s Dana Point.
It was an expansive white structure with tight, white wings jutting from the church’s center like a dove in flight. The back wall was constructed entirely of glass, allowing worshipers to gaze across the majestic bluffs and onto the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean below us.
The rays of the sun were no match for the high-watt uplifting message of the sun-kissed priest, who used big screens and slide presentations to guide the worshippers through sermons and songs. I was completely bought into this new multimedia expression of faith!
When I got home from vacation, there was an appeal from my parish waiting for me in the mail pile.
They were pointing to the crumbling state of our church and asking parishioners for assistance to spruce the House of God up a bit.
Left to their own devices, the stodgy old pastor and his blue-haired committee will probably use the cash to once again varnish over the cracked lacquered finish of the dark wood pews and reupholster the worn fabric on the kneelers.
Please! That look is so Spanish Inquisition! If only the Property Brothers were on our parish council!
They are HGTV stud-siblings that help couples find, buy and transform extreme fixer-uppers into the ultimate dream home, using state-of-the-art CGI animation to reveal their vision of the future. They usually take only charity cases on the show, which is perfect for the church because we’ve doled out so much money to sex abuse victims that we now need a special collection to fix up the ol’ place! I’m sure the brothers would take pity on our poor parish and the Vatican as a whole!
Where would the Property Brothers begin? I’d say the first thing to go are these drab Stations of the Cross replicas that line the wall.
I usually sit in the same pew each week, right next to the station that has Jesus falling for the third time. The poor guy looks like he’s having a terrible time of it, agonizingly crumbling under the weight of the cross and looking up into his Heavenly Father as if to say, “Really, Dad? REALLY?
You want me to drag this thing all the way up WHAT hill?”
There’s images of His swimmer’s physique battered and laid on the wooden cross, like Godspell if it was imagined by the creators of True Blood.
After a week of drudgery in the workplace, do you really need all these reminders of torture every place the ol’ eye lands on our day of rest?
Maybe we can have HGTV’s David Bromstad, the pan-Asian colorful host of Color Splash, paint some abstract cross-that-passes-as-tattoo art thingie that honors the suffering of Christ on the cross while simultaneously bringing the room together?
And while we’re at it, how about a little unfiltered sunshine instead of the gothic imagery of the stained glass? Natural light was invented when? Sixth century?
Listen, I love the intricacies of the art form as much as the next man, but some of the stained glass artwork I’ve encountered is downright creepy.
On one particular church from my childhood, there were images of sweet cherubs fluttering around the image of Jesus. They had adorable toddler faces, wings at the neck, and no body.
If the decapitation of children wasn’t chilling enough, the blue eyes and milky complexion would transform them into inky minions of Beelzebub when darkness descended on the windows.
I remember seeing an irritated bull with wings and an eagle with bloodless eyes and a halo representing the gospel of Saints Luke and John in some of the windows. Old McSatan had a farm, eee eye, eee eye, NO!
Wouldn’t some cozy pastel panes with depictions of sunrises, fish and flower-encrusted crosses add a more soothing vibe to those badly needed conversations with our Maker?
You may think the whole premise is nonsense, but the Vatican has done some remodeling of its own during the last 12 months.
Back in November, the church tweaked some of the words in our Liturgy and asked us all to embrace a new translation of the Mass that more faithfully tracks the original Latin.
The Nicene Creed, the central profession of faith, now starts with “I believe in one God” instead of
“We believe in one God.” Communion now begins with the words, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” instead of “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.”
They abandoned the modern (Vatican II) in favor of retro, like a Canon Law rewrite of Mad Men. I’m down with that, though my stomach turns when I think of how many millions they must have spent reprinting our missals instead of putting the cash to work in the missions around the world.
Of course, the real cleaning house that needs to happen in our church is as likely as finding a Pottery Barn catalog in the Jets locker room. We still have out of touch, white haired pale men stifling modernity where it is needed most.
Just last week came the news that the Vatican came down hard on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for having the nerve to challenge outdated church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, tarring and feathering the nuns for “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
The Vatican’s purported intolerance in the area of pedophile priests seems hollow when you consider how since 2004 they’ve housed in its marble skirts the likes of Cardinal Bernard Law, the man who presided over decades of rampant abuse in New England.
The Property Brothers may be good at what they do, but the house is crumbling around us and they are not miracle workers.
Still, is it too much to ask for a cushy accent pillow in that hard wooden pew for next Sunday’s Mass?
(Mike Farragher’s collection of essays is available online. Check out www.thisisyourbrainonshamrocks.com)