Sunday, 12 June 2011

What Makes a Catholic Church Catholic?

I was chatting to a friend the other day and we started discussing films and TV series, and we got onto those with Catholic themes: typically redemption, wages of sin, forgiveness and so on.

Of course there are some great Catholic films out there. And some less well known. Some of my favourites, for different reasons, are The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Mission, and Braveheart. Others are famous for carrying Catholic messages such as The Exorcist and Clockwork Orange.

One thing that strikes me about films and TV series is that when they want to put across a truly spiritual feeling, whether it is someone needing a place of prayer and sanctuary, whether it is an exorcism, or whether it is a family funeral -- more often than not they will use "old school" Catholicism. You know - "smells and bells."

There will be statues of Our Lord, Our Lady and the Saints. There will be stained-glass windows. There will be lots of lit candles. There will be a high altar. If a priest is present he will have traditional vestments, or be all in black with dog collar.

Yesterday I watched a Spanish film called 'Rec 2' and it featured images of Our Lady, First Communions  etc. - all thoroughly traditional. And today I watched Stuart Little 2 and in it the eponymous hero flies a plane into a group of nuns - all in the "full regalia" with rosaries.


I have come to one conclusion and that is that producers, writers, directors and various execs are no fools. They know what sells and they know what carries an audience.

"Fr Bobby" in a Marks n Spencer's pullover singing Kum-by-ya in a hollowed-out Roller Disco with a modern art cross and a table with a chair behind it, does not convey religion, spirituality, grace and faith.

These people are not idiots. They may not be Catholics. They may even be vaguely or overtly anti-Catholic. But they know that when a film calls for a spiritual presence, for the power, presence and strength of 2000 years of Christ's Faith -- you cannot beat the feel, look, presence and ambiance of a traditional Catholic Church.

It's very look screams out faith, forgiveness, prayer, sacrifice.

We all know it. We all feel it. That is why film-makers use it to convey that inner feeling. If they used a roller-disco 'church' they would have to work harder elsewhere to make it feel 'spiritual' and even then could fail miserably.

So why, given this is self-evident and obvious, does the Church not recognise this?

Over 1,950 years the Church perfected its Churches. The altars. The statues. The windows. The very feel of a Church would immediately raise your mind and soul to Heaven. The feel of a roller-disco 'church' makes your mind wonder "is it fish fingers for tea?"

Why do you think the Protestants went out of their way to replace the altars, whitewash the murals, pull down the statues? They knew this was the way to undermine the Catholic Faith of the (ex-)faithful.

We are frail and failing humans -- even the very best of us (i.e. the Saints). That is why we need all the help we can get. The Church knew this. That is why they perfected their Churches. They helped us focus on the Sacrificial nature of the Mass, the Real Presence of Our Lord, the history of the Church, the Militant, Suffering and Triumphant parts of the Mystical Body of Christ, and so on.

Is it coincidence that so many people have fallen away from the Church since Altars were replaced by tables? No I don't mean at the 16th Century "Reformation" - I mean in the 1970s. And the Altar Rails removed? And roller-discos erected? And the Liturgy and Vestments changed? I don't think so.

Why is the Catholic hierarchy so slow to recognise what even Hollywood directors (and look at the circles they move in!) know to be true?

The "Spirit of Renewal" has emptied the pews and wrecked many churches.

How long before this lesson is learnt?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post Webmaster Gareth.
    I guess there is something in all of us that longs for the security of the traditional. We want church to be like church, smell like church. Well worn tiles, pews that creak. Old statues, brass, candles, altar linen and vestments that came from another age. It is the tangible that touches us deeply and draws us in to feel at home in His house.
    It is the sense of age and tradition that makes us secure in the knowledge that we are in His presence, following in the footsteps of our forefathers who worshiped there before us. We need that continuity.

    Hope you are keeping well,
    Blessings and prayers,