Monday, July 21, 2014

For our friend Stratford Caldecott, a man of soft voice, great books, belles lettres, and fierce intellect.

Man rises to fall: he tends to dissolution from the moment he begins to be; he lives on, indeed, in his children, he lives on in his name, he lives not on in his own person. He is, as regards the manifestations of his nature here below, as a bubble that breaks, and as water poured out upon the earth. He was young, he is old, he is never young again. This is the lament over him, poured forth in verse and in prose, by Christians and by heathen. The greatest work of God's hands under the sun, he, in all the manifestations of his complex being, is born only to die.
 
His bodily frame first begins to feel the power of this constraining law, though it is the last to succumb to it. We look at the bloom of youth with interest, yet with pity; and the more graceful and sweet it is, with pity so much the more; for, whatever be its excellence and its glory, soon it begins to be deformed and dishonoured by the very force of its living on. It grows into exhaustion and collapse, till at length it crumbles into that dust out of which it was originally taken.
I met Stratford about 25 years ago, when he encouraged me to pursue my work in church architecture. I had recently finished my master's work at Bath, and was living in London working as an architect. We met through the encouragement of our mutual friends, Richard and Carol Downer and John Saward, and had occasional lunches in the city talking about the faith, Newman and the Second Spring, Chesterton, art and architecture.

Strat took great interest in my recently completed thesis which critiqued modern Catholic architecture and sought to propose a new direction for the recovery of the deep, sacramental traditions of church design. Stratford understood what I was trying to say, he advocated for me without reserve, and he helped me find my voice.  He tried (unsuccessfully) to get the book ‘Architecture in Communion’ published through Harper Collins, but when I returned to the States we kept in touch and he asked me to write an essay for his journal Second Spring, which was then published through Catholic World Report.

From that article, priests started asking me to design churches, Ignatius Press determined to pick up the book, I was then invited to pursue the doctorate at the Graduate Theological Union, specializing in liturgy and architecture, and I now work primarily in Catholic church architecture. Looking back over the decades, I can see how Strat was instrumental in God's providence for my life as my career finally became my vocation.

We kept in touch over the years, and Strat asked me continue writing, encouraging me to write booklets on church architecture for Catholic Truth Society. Through fits and starts, missed deadlines, and grappling with how to take such a broad topic down to the level of a booklet, he regularly cajoled me to keep on task. For that is what Strat himself did: in 2011 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Throughout his sickness and treatment he continued to soldier on, doing what he was called to do, neither losing heart nor changing course because of the illness. He kept advocating me to his publisher, kept encouraging me to finish the manuscripts, and he shepherded them to completion. The first, Catholic Architecture, was published in May 2013 and the second, Understanding a Church, was published in May this year.





I dedicate both of those books to you, dear friend.

By May 2014, it was clear that his prognosis was fatal, and he told me that the doctors anticipated he would not make it through the summer. At the time I wrote to him, grateful that I could let him know in part the impact he had on my life:

‘You have been such a blessing to me — and I can honestly say that I am now working full time serving the Church in architecture mostly because you have advocated me and my ideas. That is a strange and wondrous bit of providence — probably not too significant in the grand scheme of things, and you have done so very much for so many in to help light their path in service to Christ — but for me it has been determinative. You have very much been part of the way our Lord has shaped the trajectory of my life. I simply want you to know that, and to let you know how grateful I am to you for your friendship and support.’
Stratford died this past week, leaving behind his loving wife Leonie with his beloved daughters and a profound legacy of friendships, writings, and scholarly initiatives. He was a reader of the great books and a writer of belles-lettres, he spoke quietly, in soft tones, always measured in his thought and words. Yet that gentle manner hid a fierce intellect and a leonine spirit (how apt that his beloved life's companion was so named), intent on serving the Lord and his Church.

The funeral mass will be held at the Oxford Oratory on July 31, at 10 a.m., and he will be laid to rest in the Wolvercote Cemetery, near the grave of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Please lift an Ave for the repose of the soul of our dear friend, and for the consolation of his family.



Thursday, June 12, 2014

Priests attacked in Phoenix

Please pray for the repose of the soul of the priest killed tonight in a shooting at Mater Misericordiae Mission in the Diocese of Phoenix.  Another priest was seriously wounded, and is in the hospital.  The victims are still unnamed; the parish is staffed by Frs. Joseph Terra, FSSP,  and Kenneth Walker, FSSP.

BREAKING NEWS

The parish is being served by priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), a society of apostolic life dedicated to the new evangelization, the formation of clergy, and the restoration of the Church's liturgical life through the promotion of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the "Latin" Mass).  The FSSP and her priests have been wonderful examples of holiness, devotion, and prayer in the Diocese of Phoenix, and have worked diligently with Bishop Olmsted in the recovery of the liturgy and the promotion of beauty in sacred art and architecture in the service of the liturgy.


Please remember the deceased in your prayers, as well as the wounded and those who committed these crimes.

UPDATE:

The victim has been identified as Fr. Kenneth Walker FSSP, age 28, who was mortally wounded in the attack. Please pray for the repose of his soul and the consolation of his family.

The late Fr. Kenneth Walker FSSP blessing Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz

Fr. Joseph Terra FSSP was serious injured and has been hospitalized.
Fr. Joseph Terra FSSP

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; 
in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, 
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. 
Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, 
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere 
æternam habeas requiem.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Understanding the Theology of the Baptistery

The baptismal font at Sts. Anne and Joachim Catholic Church, Fargo, ND.  Building design and liturgical furnishings by Liturgical Environs PC.  Architect of Record: Zerr-Berg Architects, Fargo ND.

When we enter a Church, we reach for the holy water stoup to bless ourselves: a symbolic renewal of our baptismal vows in a small and compressed way. This act is part of our entering into Mass, which itself is a compression of the yearly liturgical cycle, which finds its fullest expression in the liturgy of the Paschal Triduum at which adult catechumens are normally baptized. But the yearly cycle, and the Triduum, are themselves compressed expressions of all of salvation history, which begins when “God created heaven and earth, the earth was still an empty waste, darkness hung over the deep, but the Spirit of God hovered over the waters” (Gn 1:1-2) and end with the manifestation of, “the new Jerusalem being sent down by God from heaven, all clothed in readiness, like a bride who has adorned herself to meet her husband” (Rev 21:2). As we shall see, the baptistery, the font, and the rite of baptism are called upon to express and manifest a huge and interwoven body of scriptural, liturgical, and sacramental thought, which frankly is a massively difficult task today.

"In the Genesis account of creation and the Garden, there were no doors or portals or gates or walls. The gates of paradise could only be said to be closed after the expulsion; before that all of creation was the domain of man as part of the “garden of delight” into which God placed Adam and Eve."

We might start by understanding that the holy water stoup receives its symbolic imagery from the baptismal font, but the font receives its imagery from creation itself. In the Genesis account of creation and the Garden, there were no doors or portals or gates or walls. The gates of paradise could only be said to be closed after the expulsion; before that all of creation was the domain of man as part of the “garden of delight” into which God placed Adam and Eve. Doors, gates, portals, and such (along with all the symbolism of dwelling apart from nature: the cave, the tent, the house, the temple) are consequences of alienation from God. It is thus fitting that by Jesus’ example, the order of creation is restored through the waters of baptism where we are no longer alienated from God or each other, but rather enter into a new and restored relationship in Christ through this first sacrament. This alienation will only finally and completely be eradicated in the heavenly Jerusalem. Significantly, the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem will never be shut (Rev 21:25). Unlike the ancient Roman portal, or city gate, that was unconsecrated so that unclean things could be carried across the threshold, the gate is Christ himself who calls all nations to himself (Rev 21:26). Nothing unclean or corrupt or mendacious will ever pass the gates for “there is no entrance but for those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev 21:27). This passage shows the restoration, even the reversal, of the Fall: now the garden is restored with the life giving waters that flow from the throne of the Lamb (Rev 22:1), the waters nourishing the tree of life that bears fruit all twelve months of the year, the fruit of which brings health to all the nations (Rev 22:2). Recalling the passage in Ezekiel 47, the water flows from the right side of the temple eastward, that is from the side of the crucified body of the Lord. The throne of the Lamb in Revelation 22 can thus be understood to be the cross, for when one of the soldiers pierced the side of the Lord, blood and water flowed out (Jn 19:34).

The baptismal font at Our Savior Catholic Church, University of Southern California, Los Angeles CA.The raised infant font trickles into the lower immersion font for adults.   Liturgical design by Steven J Schloeder AIA, Liturgical Environs PC.  Design Architect: Elkus Manfredi, Boston MA. Architect of Record: Perkowitz + Ruth, Los Angeles CA.


Thus, baptism not only commences our journey in Christ, it also both causes us to participate in his passion, death, and resurrection, and is a foretaste and promise of our destination in Christ. The intended message of baptism is primal—primal both as “of first importance” and as “originary” both to creation and to our lives as Christians—and this importance was expressed in the early Church by a clear separation between the font and the altar, between the unbaptized catechumens and those who were admitted to the “mysteries” through the disciplina arcani. As St. Justin Martyr tells us of the primitive Christian practice, the catechumens are first brought to a place where there is water to be baptized, and after the new Christian has been washed, is then brought to the places of the Eucharistic assembly. 1 Not until the neophyte (literally, “new growth” as part of the vine and branches imagery) was received into the Church, and taught the fuller mysteries of the Faith, would he or she be admitted to the Eucharist.

it makes no difference whether a man be washed in a sea or a pool, a stream or a fount, a lake or a trough; nor is there any distinction between those whom John baptized in the Jordan and those whom Peter baptized in the Tiber…” (Tertullian). Shown is The Baptism of Priscilla, by John H DeRosen, c. 1951-1953.  St John's Episcopal Church, Memphis TN.

The place of baptism in the primitive Church could be any place with water: a public bath, a town well, a spring or river or lake or sea. Christ was baptized in the River Jordan; St. Phillip baptized the Ethiopian official at some non-descript place of water (quamdam aquam); St. Paul found some water to baptize his jailer, and the man’s household. Tertullian, writing in the second century, comments: “it makes no difference whether a man be washed in a sea or a pool, a stream or a fount, a lake or a trough; nor is there any distinction between those whom John baptized in the Jordan and those whom Peter baptized in the Tiber…2 The context of this passage gives us insight into the Church’s understanding of the sacraments themselves.

For the North-African theologian, Tertullian, as for the ancients in virtually every culture, water itself was a sacred and life-giving thing, but also a dangerous and deadly thing. Tertullian points out that water is used by all cults as means of purification—the followers of Isis and Mithras, the Zoroastrian, Apollinarian and Eleusinian rituals, the Egyptians, Jews, and Romans, all used water for purification and illumination. Justin Martyr had earlier commented that the healing properties of water were perverted by the demons, such that the false religions also had rituals of washing and sprinkling before entering the temples for their idolatrous practices. 3 Water was, therefore, universally understood to nourish and sustain life, but also was associated with both death by drowning, as well as various maladies of madness such as “nympholepsy”, “hydrophobia,” and “lymphatic” illness. Sacred springs were places of healing, such as the Pool of Siloam (Jn 9:7ff), or at Bethsaida that was stirred by the angel for healing (Jn 5:2-4), as well as for the pagans at Sulis Minerva, which is now the City of Bath. Conversely, swamps and putrid waters were places of contagion and evil, inhabited by evil spirits. Because of the primal and cosmological nature of water—that “the Spirit of God hovered over the waters”—water itself is “in a manner endued with medicinal virtues.” The Spirit of God continues to hover over all water, which is the cause of its holiness, and becomes the apt sacramental symbol for new life, cleansing, and sanctifying: “Thus the nature of the waters, sanctified by the Holy One, itself conceived, therefore, the power of sanctifying.” 4

Tertullian thus considered water as the apt symbol of baptism—not merely by some general sign-value that we are washed in water, or that we are born and nourished in water, or that it can express death in Christ—but because the Spirit of God continues to linger over the waters and, so by divine fiat, water is itself a source of sanctification. It is a proper sacramental sign since by revelation we know it is an outward sign of an inward grace in the operation of the Holy Spirit, much as by the words of institution by Christ, the bread and wine used as Mass are, indeed, the Body and Blood.

continue reading on Homiletics and Pastoral Review

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife


The recent discovery of the ancient Coptic manuscript purporting to Jesus speaking of his wife has rocked the world of both archeology and gynotheology. A team of scientists has concluded that the fragment, a mere 1 1/2" x 3 3/4" containing 33 words, is not a modern forgery.

Radiocarbon tests conducted at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology produced an origination date for the papyrus of 659-859 CE, according to Harvard. MIT also studied the chemical composition of the papyrus and patterns of oxidation.

Dr. Karen King, a Harvard Divinity School historian,  first announced the existence of the fragment in September 2012, at the International Coptic Congress in Rome, where she dubbed it "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife." Prof. King cautioned, that this miniscule fragment does not prove conclusively that Jesus was married.  Mr. Myron Leibermann, a junior account executive at Publicistas who are actively pursuing the branding rights for this product, concurred: "Sure we know that this little scrap proves nothing, but we think "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" is a pretty sexy title for it --- you're only as good as the publicity you can generate. That's what makes coin!"

According to Dr. King, "This gospel fragment provides a reason to reconsider what we thought we knew by asking what the role claims of Jesus's marital status played historically in early Christian controversies over marriage, celibacy, and family," King said.  She did not elaborate on how a fragmentary scrape from over six hundred years after Jesus lived, and well into the late Byzantine age when Christianity was already doctrinally solidified by the Great Ecumenical Councils, could given any reason for calling into question what the Church had long established.

"This papyrus apparently dates circa the Second Council of Nicaea (787 AD), at which point the Church was speaking to more mundane matters like whether Jesus could be depicted on icons, in response to the Iconoclastic Controversy under Emperor Leo III.  There is no evidence that any such debates were occurring among the orthodox catholic churches at the time this fragment dates, nor any time previously, except for bizarre gnostic sects like the Montanists and the author of the spurious Gospel of Philip", said Billy Chandler, a local area high school senior at Our Lady of Critical Thinking Catholic High School, who displayed a better grasp of early Christianity than the Harvard professor. 

Inexplicably, Dr, King opined: "The main topic of the fragment is to affirm that women who are mothers and wives can be disciples of Jesus—a topic that was hotly debated in early Christianity as celibate virginity increasingly became highly valued."

Other scholars point to the many examples of women who followed Jesus, were mothers and wives, served in the Church in caring for widows and orphans, opened their houses for early Christian worship and community, assisted to baptize women at the time when baptisms were in the nude, and even underwent torture and martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel. "Hotly debated?  pfffft.... Hasn't she read the acts of Perpetua and Felicity? Perpetua was a married noblewoman with a suckling baby, and Felicity was pregnant at the time... which raises some questions about the conditions of their respective hymens", stated Dr. Jean Bolland, who holds the Delehaye Chair in Hagiography.

A careful study of the 7th to 9th century Coptic papyrus, read in the context of other ancient papyri troves such as  from Nag Hammadi and Oyxrhynchus, give a decidedly different possible explanation of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife.

Dr. Benjamin Bell, a world renown papyrologist specializing in ancient Jewish humor in the middle Nile region, suggested that, "This is a wonderful rare find, a real treasure for us all.  Little is known about Jewish life in Egypt during the late Classical period apart from a few papryi. The persecutions under the goyim left the Jewish communities impoverished and tight-knit, but at least they retained their sense of humor. Based on the hand writing style this fragment appears to have come from the hills outside of Koptos where there was a thriving Jewish community in the late Byzantine age that specialized in self deprecating jokes".

Dr. Benjamin Bell, world renowned Egyptologist and specialist in ancient Jewish humor

Prof. Bell compared this to other ancient manuscripts, and suggested that this was a script from a precursor to the later Borscht Belt comedians. "The missing parts are contextually reclaimable:  "Jesus said to them, ' [take] my wife, [please]  ... [gevalt!] She will also be my disciple [? I was just looking for a date and a little hanky panky!]" 

Another interesting passage seems to be an early form of the old Semitic joke, "Let the wicked people swell up... [like the armpits infested by the fleas of a thousand camels]".   Dr. Bell suggested that the partial "my moth.." probably refers to another regional schtick, "[Just got back from a pleasure trip: I took] my moth[er-in-law to Cairo]".

Prof. Bell also pointed out  that other parts of the fragment appear to include the partial phrase: "I'll be [here all week, try the veal]" and "D[on't forget to tip your waite]r."  He indicated that a lot of Byzantine-era standup comics often stole material from each other, as evinced by the 5th century text from Schlomo the Pseudo-Goniff.  "But its all comedy gold," asserted Dr. Bell, "GOLD!".

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Christ Child Shrine: A Call for Artists

We've been working on wonderful project to design a shrine dedicated to the Christ Child at the Mount Claret Retreat Center. The shrine itself will be an outdoor, open air shrine, intended to create an enclosed garden space for contemplation as part of a much larger campus plan.


The shrine sits in a larger garden area as a separate place for prayer,  meditation, and quiet conversation for the retreat guests.
The heavy rubble masonry continues the same texture and mass found through out the existing site, and is respectful of the indigenous desert architecture of the ancient first people in the American Southwest. The rich blue interior is intended to create a cool and refreshing interior, in a subtle way alluding to the cloak of Our Lady in which we find consolation and intimacy with her Son. 
 The Shrine is also intended to be a sort of oasis in the desert, a place of refuge from the sun, with a canopy of trees and the element of water to create a microclimate despite the heat of the day.



The themes of the Christ Child shrine are related to life and the fundamental religious intuition: the oval shape recalling the womb and the egg, water and fire, the Tree of Life, the stone forms arising from the earth,as well as the encompassing womb like shrines of the earliest known sacred architecture such as at Göbekli Tepe and the hypogea at Malta.


Shrine is the first phase of a larger landscape and master planning project for Mount Claret, which will eventually include a desert garden for the Stations of the Cross as well.


The focal point of the shrine will be a sculptural image of the Christ Child, probably a bronze or stone carving, three dimensional, depicting Jesus in some appropriate posture and gesture, with the age and artistic details to be determined, but probably more of a pre-adolescent or adolescent rather than an infant or toddler.


The artistic details will be worked out with the selected artist.  The figure will be approximately 4' tall, on a 6" to 8" plinth.


Interested artists are encouraged to submit a portfolio and a proposal to us at:

Steven Schloeder AIA
Liturgical Environs PC
9402 South 47th Place
Phoenix AZ 85044

t. 480.783.8787
e. steve@liturgicalenvirons.com

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Those Irish take penance at Lent a bit too seriously....

Parishioner scorched by ashes on Ash Wednesday...

A priest was forced to abandon an Ash Wednesday mass yesterday – after 30 of his parishioners had their foreheads burned by the blessed ashes.

Fr Eugene Baker had given out the ashes to everyone in the congregation when they started to complain about a burning sensation.
He was forced to stop the mass in St Joseph’s Church in Newtownshandrum in north Cork and advise the congregation to go into the church sacristy and wash the ashes off.
Fr Baker told independent.ie that he is surprised by the anomaly and he apologised to his parishioners.
He has sent the ashes to the public health laboratory in St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork for testing.

My only Lenten accident was a few years ago when the old fellow giving ashes need more practice at the target range...


Monday, January 6, 2014

University of Mary course in Catholic Church Architecture!!!

This coming semester I will be teaching a 3 credit course at University of Mary, Tempe AZ extension campus, on "Catholic Church Architecture: History Theory Criticism".

The course is open to all U Mary students, and all Arizona State University students with full cross registration credit.  Especially welcome are interested students from the Architecture program and from the Religious Studies department at Arizona State University.  

Note: This course is not listed in the ASU catalog, so interested students are encouraged to contact:

Registrar at the University of Mary
 t. 480.290.7047, arizona@umary.edu

Non-students may also register to audit the course at reduced tuition, please contact the Registrar.

Course Description: 
CATHOLIC CHURCH ARCHITECTURE (CTH 325) will examine the theological, liturgical, symbolic, historical, canonical, and cultural aspects of Catholic church architecture. 
The class will approach the architectural patrimony of the Church primarily as “signs and symbols of the heavenly realities” to understand how this vision has been interpreted through the ages, with particular references to the 20th century changes in Catholic architecture, the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the architectural implementation of the Council’s vision, and the contemporary liturgical and architectural discussions.

Tuesdays and Thursdays: 4 - 5:15 pm
215 E. 7th Street 
Tempe Arizona