Built of Living Stones 191-192: Priorities and Stewardship of Resources

Are the bishops overly optimistic about this?

§ 191 § Since the building of a place of worship has serious financial implications, wise stewardship of resources demands that the parish establish liturgical, spiritual, artistic, and social priorities upon which financial decisions rest. However, the cost of an item is not the only consideration in planning for construction and renovation. Every faith community, even the financially poorest, is called to use all the powers of human ingenuity at its disposal to provide beautiful, uplifting, and enriching places of worship that also serve basic human needs.

Honestly, I do not think so. My sense is that many parishes pour a degree of extravagance into their buildings. Seomtimes this is an artistic gesture that bears the weight of faith. Sometimes, perhaps, it is more outward display. I think the Church is wise to emphasize the quality of material and honesty of the craft of architecture and art. Lavish display is not the target:

§ 192 § Building a beautiful church is itself an act of worship because beauty is a reflection of God and “a call to transcendence.”(Letter to Artists 16) All church buildings and their contents should mirror divine beauty, which is not to be confused with lavish display. Whatever the style of architecture adopted, extravagant expenditures on the construction of a church should be avoided in light of the obligation to share the resources of the earth in an equitable manner. However, compromises in cost should not compromise the durability, stability, and structural soundness of the building. Balancing the social needs of the local faith community with their duty to worship God through beauty affects the equation of design and execution. Beauty also can be found in simplicity of shape; in humble, honest materials; in the creative use of light, water, and sound; in elegant design; and in worthy religious art.

Can you think of any examples from your own experience?

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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