All my life, traveling all over the world, in times of agnosticism and great faith in the Catholic Church, I have always felt something comforting and orderly in the old (traditional) Catholic churches.
When I ran the St. Francis Catholic Kitchen for the homeless in Santa Cruz California, I was invited to speak at a lot of protestant churches. Immediately you could tell the difference as soon as you walked in. No altar, just a “remembrance table”, no kneelers, just pews and a pulpit. No statues, but maybe a stain glass window of Jesus.
But the greatest absence was an altar with a tabernacle and the little red vigil Lamp reminding us that God was always present on that altar in the tabernacle. What warmth that small little lamp spread to every part of that church. I would love to go into these old Catholic churches all over the world, away from the clamor of the busy city streets, just outside those church walls, all alone, and to be embraced by their warmth and beauty.
These old beautiful Catholic churches were built for the Holy Latin Mass. That is why they are so beautiful. The high altar, the magnificent tabernacle, candle sticks, paintings, the stations of the cross, the statues and burning votive candles.
New Catholic churches have been built for the New Mass that uses a protestant table for an “altar”, have no altar rails, many times no kneelers and the tabernacle is hidden away somewhere hard to be found. They are built in the round so everyone can see everyone. Most of the beautiful statues were sold or thrown out. The more they copy protestant churches, the colder these new churches have become.
Enter any protestant church when it is empty, it is cold. There is no presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament. So, in order to warm it up, they need people. That could be where this emphasis on “people oriented services” comes from. If Jesus is not in the tabernacle, then you need to have people in a church for it to have any purpose, and thus it becomes a man centered religion without even knowing it.
“When we enter ornate and clean. When we enter ornate and clean Basilicas, adorned with crosses, sacred images, altars and burning lamps, we most easily conceive devotion. But on the other hand, when we enter the temples of the heretics, where there is nothing except a chair for preaching and a table for making a meal, we feel ourselves to be entering a profane hall and not the House of God.“
Saint Robert Bellarmine , Doctor of the Catholic Church.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.