Architecture as a Moral Force

Unless you happen to be an architecture buff, you may not know the name Pugin, though you’ve certainly seen some of his work. The Houses of Parliament and St. Stephen’s clock tower (known colloquially as “Big Ben,” which is actually the name of the bell inside) in London are two of the 19th century architect’s most famous contributions. But they’re not his most important contribution.

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin was born in 1842 and died a mere 40 years later. During his short life, his work inspired an architectural movement that changed the British landscape and gave us many of the structures that today we so readily identify as British.

Pugin had a powerful moral vision for Britain, which was at that time experiencing the disruption of the industrial revolution and the decadence of the Georgian monarchy. A convert to the Catholic faith at a time when being Catholic was still a risky career move, he believed that architecture was the key to bringing about a renewed Christian society. For him, this Christian architecture was Gothic. The Gothic style represented a pure, medieval Christian faith and morality: precisely what the country had lost after the Protestant revolution. His Gothic revival churches in particular, such as St. Giles in Cheadle, Staffordshire, are testaments to his Catholic faith and medievalist vision.

Why is Pugin important for us today? We’ve talked a lot at St. Mark about the concept of lex orandi, lex credendi. That is, the way we worship both influences, and is influenced by, what we believe. There’s a similar idea in Pugin’s thought. For him, “bad” architecture is a sign of a spiritually sick society. But he also proposed that creating better, spiritually uplifting architecture would help cure society’s ills. He believed in the power of beauty to change souls. 

Take an hour sometime to watch the video linked below. Not only is it a superb presentation, but it tells the deeply moving story of the young man whose heart burned to restore a more moral, a more Catholic, Britain. 

Make Mass Great Again

It’s not just us! 

More parishes are discovering Mass the way it was meant to be celebrated, returning to the authentic teaching of Vatican II. Take some time to watch this episode of The Catholic Talk Show, where they discuss “5 Ways to Improve the Novus Ordo Mass.” 

How many of their suggestions do you see here at St. Mark every Sunday? Did they miss anything?

Renovating the Renovations

One of the curious things about late-20th century church “renovations” is the sheer amount of work that went into hiding or eliminating many of the beautiful elements which marked these older buildings. These modernizations have not aged well, and a lot of time and money is now being spent to undo the changes and restore these buildings to something resembling their former dignity. For another example of this, look at the before-and-after shots in this article from the Liturgical Arts Journal

As we consider the future of our own church building at St. Mark, let’s try to think beyond contemporary trends and imagine how what we do will be received by future generations. 

What’s a “Catholic” Education?

But is a Catholic school really just an excellent public school? Is that all Catholic education now amounts to—secular success?

Paul Krause

As St. Mark parishioners know, we have for some time been pondering the future direction of the parish, and one possibility that has come to the fore is to build a school on our campus. And not just a Catholic school, but a classical Catholic school.

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Music Spotlight: Paul Jernberg

In order for sacred music to reach its full stature, composers and musicians need to exercise true artistry, in which knowledge, inspiration, and skill all play a vital role in creating works of dignity and beauty.

Paul Jernberg

You may not have noticed, but the past 30 years have seen the beginnings of a kind of renaissance in Catholic sacred music. It has been very slow and has largely gone unnoticed at the parish level, but it’s real and it’s bearing fruit.

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Music Spotlight: “Ave Maria” by Michael John Trotta

Today, our music spotlight comes courtesy of our excellent music director, Diana Corliss:

This weekend, we will be singing two beautiful pieces on Mother’s Day in honor of our Blessed Mother.

At the 10:00 am Mass, the choir will be singing a setting of the “Ave Maria” by Michael John Trotta.  It has a soaring and tender soprano solo that reminds me of the Blessed Mother hearing our prayers and interceding for us with her motherly love. 

We will also be singing the “Salve Regina” at the end of every Mass this weekend. 

Links to recorded versions of these pieces are included below. Better yet, come to the 10:00 Mass this weekend and hear our superb choir!

“Form Follows Function”: How We Got to Where We Are

What is clear… is that forcing modernist principles of building design upon unwilling church congregations and passing them off as if they were principles of the Council simply must stop.

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about what church architecture ought to be; that there is a “theology of architecture” developed and passed down over centuries that should inform how our church buildings are designed.

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A Deep Dive Into Liturgical Reform

The Church’s existence lives from proper celebration of the liturgy, and the Church is in danger when the primacy of God no longer appears in the liturgy nor consequently in life.

Pope Benedict XVI

If you would like more insight into the reform of the liturgy, both before and after the Second Vatican Council, this article from Adoremus is worth your time. In it, the author traces liturgical developments in the 20th century through the eyes of Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI. 

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