Built of Living Stones 1-3: A Formative Document

Following up on our series on the Rite of Dedication of a Church and Altar, let’s begin a long look at the USCCB document, Built of Living Stones. The Preface covers numbered sections 1 through 11. Today, a positive start, encouraging parishes to embrace a church building project with their intellects, religious and spiritual heritage, personal taste in art and piety, and with an eye to revitalizing their faith community.

§ 1 § One of the most significant and formative experiences in the life of a parish community is the process of building or renovating a church. As part of that process, parish members are called upon to study the Church’s teaching and liturgical theology and to reflect upon their personal pieties, their individual tastes, and the parish history. By bringing together these personal and ecclesial elements in faith and in charity, parishioners help to build a new structure and to renew their parish community.

Note: I don’t find the inclusion of “individual tastes” to be a problem here. I would assume such tastes are balanced by other serious considerations.

§ 2 § The decision-making process and the parish education component that are part of the building experience can assist the parish and its individual members to deepen their sense of Catholic identity. This identity is shaped by the history of the particular parish, by its relationship to other parishes in the local Church known as the diocese, and by its relationship within the communion of local Churches known as the Roman Catholic Church.

§ 3 § Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture, and Worship is presented to assist the faithful involved in the building or renovation of churches, chapels, and oratories of the Latin Church in the United States. In addition, the document is intended for use by architects, liturgical consultants and artists, contractors, and other professionals engaged in the design and/or construction of these places of worship. The text also may be helpful to those who wish to understand the Catholic Church’s tradition regarding church buildings, the arts, and architecture. While the suggestions and guidelines within the document have been carefully prepared, they are not exhaustive of the subject matter. They are intended to serve as the basis for decision making at the local level and also can become the foundation for the development of diocesan guidelines and legislation governing liturgical art and architecture. (SC 45-46)

Commentary:

As we read in the RDCA, a building project isn’t just a means to the end of a spiffy new church building. It is also an opportunity to deepen knowledge and faith. Section 2 cites that even the decision-making process is an opportunity for growth, for the community to “deepen (its) sense of Catholic identity.” The pastor is responsible for far more than just signing off on documents, and making the call on particulars. He is charged with a serious task at a very key moment in time, to lead and guide the people he serves into a deeper experience of the faith.

Section 3 outlines for whom this document was written. It is intended to be absorbed by professionals. But there’s no doubt that ordinary Catholics will benefit from probing more deeply into the Church’s tradition of art, liturgy, and theology.

The US bishops tell us this document is not “exhaustive,” for these professionals and lay people, but a starting point from which we delve deeper into Church teaching, and hopefully in the local community, into the very real bonds of grace we have with our living God.

Comments of your own?

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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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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