Sunday, 24 June 2012

Songs of Praise on Pugin, Newman and Chesterton

An almost Catholic edition of Songs of Praise tonight, centring on the great 19th Century Gothic architect Pugin, and also featuring Bl Cardinal Newman and G.K. Chesterton. Probably because it was free of "official" Catholic hierarchy and so many of our roller-disco churches, it lifted one's soul to what might have been had not "the Spirit of Vatican 2" let the smoke of Satan into the church.

Medievalism in architecture, like Medievalism in liturgy, can strengthen Catholicism as it reflects the buildings, the altars, the Mass, the Sacraments that so many Saints fought and died for; from the wonderful Welsh and English recusants (known and unknown) who suffered so much, to the European heroes of the Counter-Reformation.

Right: Pugin, like Cobbett, Chesterton and others compared the post-Reformation Capitalist treatment of the poor (as cogs in wheels to be used and discarded) with the pre-Reformation Catholic treatment of the poor (as made in the image of God, to receive Catholic Charity).

Compare the churches of Pugin, with their beautiful carvings, statues, altars, windows -- all things that make one think of heaven, and make you focus on Heaven -- to the 1960s breeze-block, soulless, kum-by-ya 'churches' with office block windows, a plain table, and the feel of a new-town council waiting room.

I'm sorry but there is no comparison. One is of Heaven; one is of the world. One is beautiful; one is ugly. One raises one's mind and spirit to God; one lowers one spirit and morale. One is a place of prayer, sacrifice and edification; one is a meeting place to chat, gossip, clap and hug.

What I most want to ask is: "why."

Why was a church which attracted and kept great men like Pugin, Newman and Chesterton changed beyond measure? Why were hundreds and hundreds of years of fine-tuning liturgy, architecture and faith jettisoned for an experiment which, within just a few years saw tabernacles, altars, altar rails, pews, statues and more ripped out of churches?

Now the Pope seems to want to reverse the decline, yet all one seems to read is that there are forces opposing him - opposing even his slight changes to the English-language liturgy (as in the case of a few hundred Irish priests) to get it a bit closer to the original Latin text, especially in the words of Our Lord when the Blessed Sacrament is Consecrated. And one dreads to think of the battles the Pope is fighting within Rome...

Oh well, I suppose all we can do is pray and take comfort from the beauty of Catholic (and ex-Catholic) buildings, hymns, statues and liturgy. I think I'll put some Gregorian Plainchant on tonight. It is wonderfully calming and a joy to drift off to sleep listening to it.

Better than a kum-by-ya tambourine shaking cacophony anyway.


  1. Replies
    1. Gosh you are touchy.

      I read your comment on my mobile device (BBC terminology) which allowed me to correct my Freudian headline, but not publish comments).

      really, not everyone is "out to get you".

      unless they are of course - but then why would you worry about a blog?

      Thanks for the heads-up anyway.

      Oh, and if Putin did convert I think he would make for a very interesting Catholic! Might take America to task for being the home of millions of abortions... Now there's a thought!

      If you are a Catholic (?) you might know of course that the Conversion of Russia is one of the signs that big things are about to happen (Our Lady of Fatima etc...)

      Toodle pip.

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