GIRM 290-292: More on Churches

290. All churches should be dedicated or at least blessed. Cathedrals and parish churches, however, are to be dedicated with a solemn rite.

Perhaps we should look at the dedication rites when we’re done with the GIRM. Part of the importance of this dedication is knowing when it’s celebrated in your parish. Do you know the date?

291. For the proper construction, restoration, and arrangement of sacred buildings, all those involved should consult the diocesan commission for the Sacred Liturgy and sacred art. Moreover, the Diocesan Bishop should employ the counsel and help of this commission whenever it comes to laying down norms on this matter, approving plans for new buildings, and making decisions on the more important matters.[Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 126; Inter Oecumenici 91]

Utilizing experts in liturgy and art is vital to a good effort. The badmouthing of liturgical consultants has lessened somewhat in the past ten years, but there’s still the American (and sometimes Roman) aversion to expertise floating around there and there.

292. The ornamentation of a church should contribute toward its noble simplicity rather than to ostentation. Moreover, in the choice of elements attention should be paid to authenticity and there should be the intention of fostering the instruction of the faithful and the dignity of the entire sacred place.

There are difficult judgments in operation on GIRM 292. Noble simplicity is a liturgical virtue, often interpreted as iconoclasm. Where to draw the line? One possible discussion point is on the principle of “authenticity.” Authentic art is original, organic, and fosters a relationship with those who encounter it. By this I would exclude reproductions, which present to the believers a sort of fiction. “I am the Pieta,” we see. And yet, we know it is not. It is a copy. It’s one of the reasons why many church musicians cringe at the thought of recorded music. Reproductions and recordings are often of high quality, especially when we invest money in sound systems and big-ticket catalogue items. But are they authentic? While they may well present the highest ideals of sacred art, on another level, they present a wink to the believer as they tell us, “I may not be real, but I’m sure pretty, ain’t I?”

Whew! That’s enough for the GIRM today. Your comments?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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