Three Good Reasons to Do Two Things on Sundays in the Fall (Instead of One)

Three Good Reasons to Do Two Things on Sundays in the Fall (Instead of One).


Three Good Reasons to Do Two Things on Sundays in the Fall (Instead of One)

My wife often jokes to our friends, “We do 2 things on Sundays in the fall: Go to Mass and watch the Broncos game.”

As a lifelong fan of the Orange and Blue, the fall Sunday ritual has been a mainstay for as long as I can remember. For most of my life, I lived and died from August through January on Terrell Davis touchdowns, Jake Plummer bootlegs, Al Wilson sacks, Tim Tebow (yes, Tim Tebow) scrambles, and the Mile High Salute. Whether Denver won or lost usually determined the mood I was in for the rest of that day, and sometimes that week. It was heartbreak when they lost (a lot of heartbreak particularly in 2009 & 2010), and heaven when they won.

This is still my favorite Super Bowl win (unfortunately...)
Still my favorite Super Bowl win (unfortunately…)

Throughout that time, I still went to Mass and watched the Broncos game on Sundays, but for the most part I might as well have only been doing one. I understood fully why I was watching Broncos games, but I didn’t fully understand the importance of Mass. I was faithful to both, but I wasn’t sure why I was faithful to the latter.

About two years ago, that started to change. I still loved the Broncos as much as ever, but I began to seek out and understand more fully why it was important to love Mass as well. This is what I’ve learned:

1. NFL players are no different that you and I.

Well, at least on the level of our souls and worth as human beings we’re no different. As I began to learn more about the faith, particularly my Catholic faith and the idea that God created everyone in his image, I started to place it in the context of my love for watching football. I realized quickly that glorifying a sport or a team like I had been doing automatically included the glorification of some (if not many) of the players playing the game. They were made out to be gods by the media, fans, and companies, and I bought into it.

Buying into that glorification always involved thinking highly of that player when he did well, but denigrating him and calling his worth into question when he stunk it up. It was a rude awakening when I realized how gross of an offense it was against not only his dignity, but my own dignity as well. I was basing a fellow human’s worth off their performance in a game, and I was hurting my own soul in the process.

2. There’s a difference between pleasure and joy.

It’s nearly impossible to describe with human words the burst of emotion that happens when Peyton Manning connects with Demaryius Thomas on a 50 yard bomb for the score, or when a receiver running across the middle gets lit up by a roving middle linebacker. It’s also hard to describe the disbelief, say, when the center snaps the ball over your quarterback’s head on the first play of the Super Bowl (but we don’t need to bring that up…)

That euphoria is a good thing. Make no mistake, God created pleasure. Pleasure is, by it’s very nature, a good thing. BUT, pleasure, like anything, used in the wrong context or elevated to an unsustainable level is no longer good. Pleasure is good as a means, but not as an end.

Joy, on the other hand, is an end that should be sought instead of pleasure, and, quite honestly, the distinction is very difficult to wrestle with. It came natural to me to put all my stock in a game that exacted such a visceral and enjoyable reaction each week, but the high, inevitably, was followed by a crash. Every time. Without fail. It felt, likewise, very unnatural (and often uncomfortable) to go into a quiet place and quiet myself for an hour.

The problem, I began to notice, was that hedging my happiness on the next game not only was unsustainable, but it was, more importantly, unproductive in terms of my overall well being. I was self-focused and seeking my own fulfillment, instead of looking outward and offering my life to Christ through helping others and being attentive and intentional at Mass. Trying to see what people and things could do for me were shallow waters. I learned that it was through the action of self-giving, on the other hand, that a person ultimately attains joy within their own life.

3. It’s okay to love football…

…but not more than your relationship with the Lord. Sports have a place in living a virtuous life, without a doubt. Pope Francis himself is a huge fan. The training of one’s body to compete at a high level, the dedication to doing so for the good of the team, and the parallels sports offer to essential lessons in life all come straight from Scripture. After all, it was St. Paul who said in 1 Corinthians, “Run so as to win.”

But sports, the NFL in particular, have stopped occupying merely a place in life and have become its center for so many people in our country and around the world. And, in many cases, who can blame them? Often, sports is the only stable thing in a kid’s life. Other times people have little in life to look forward to other than rooting for their favorite teams. Still, for these cases especially, it’s important for every athlete, coach, and fan to recognize that sports must remain just a way of learning to live life well, rather than becoming the end-all be-all of life itself.

After instructing the people of Corinth to “Run so as to win,” Paul said this:

Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.
No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:25-27; emphasis added)

As much as I loved them, I realized that the Broncos, the NFL, sports in general, only offer perishable crowns. They still have value for my life, but they aren’t the value. A “relationship” with or a devotion to sport could never, ever measure up to the relationship and devotion I began to experience at Mass and in my growing relationship with God, the Creator of the imperishable crown.

The devotion you hold most dear is sometimes obvious, but more often, as it was in my case, it’s hidden and harder to see. So I challenge you, as another football season begins, to take a hard look this fall and ask yourself one question:

Which crown am I seeking?

Mother Teresa’s Little Way

Mother Teresa’s Little Way.

Mother Teresa’s Little Way

Karl Stern, the Catholic psychoanalyst, credited St. Thérèse of Lisieux with discovering what he called the Law of the Conserva­tion of Charity.

This law, he explained in his great essay on the saint, states that “nothing which is directed either toward or away from God can ever be lost.” Further, he said, “in the economy of the universe,” there is an “inestimable preciousness . . . [in] every hidden movement of every soul.”

In laymen’s terms: God has so made the world that everything we do or don’t do has cosmic significance. With each new moment, we are presented with a fundamental option — to direct our acts and intentions either toward God or away from him. To love or not to love. And our little decisions in these matters have spiritual consequences we can scarcely imagine. When we are mean, we increase the sum total of meanness in the world. When we are indifferent, the world’s indifference to love spreads. But when we love, even in the littlest things, we fill the world that much more with the radiant fragrance of God.

This was the law of the universe that Mother Teresa was sent to explain. But hers was no new doctrine. It was as old as the Bible, which, along with the prayers of the Mass, seemed to be her sole font of inspiration and wisdom. She was only saying what St. Paul said: that we should pray without ceasing, that whatever we do, even if we’re just eating or drinking, we should do it for the glory of God. Mother Teresa said only what Jesus had said: that unless we love like little children, we won’t see the kingdom of God.

Mother Teresa wasn’t a theologian or a Bible scholar. As is so often the case with the saints, however, she shined a new light on the Gospel, helping us see passages we had overlooked and con­nections we couldn’t see before. Reading Scripture in her little light, we see how God always works through the lowly and the least likely — making his covenant with Abraham, a seventy-five-year-old herdsman; founding his kingdom on the shoulders of a shepherd boy named David; redeeming the world through a quiet virgin from Nazareth; building his Church on a team of ex–tax collectors and fishermen.

“God is truly humble,” Mother Teresa marveled. “He comes down and uses instruments as weak and imperfect as we are. He deigns to work through us . . . to use you and me for his great work.” She taught us to see what she called “the humility of God” — how he stoops down to our level, speaks to us in words we can understand, even goes so far as to become an infant in the womb, all to show us his love and to share his life with us.

She helped us to see the patterns of humility and littleness in the life of Christ, who, until his last three years, lived the same worka­day life most of us live. “How strange that he should spend thirty years just doing nothing, wasting his time . . . he, a carpenter’s son, doing just the humble work in a carpenter’s shop for thirty years!”

Mother Teresa saw in the Eucharist a daily reminder and con­tinuation of the Bible’s story of God’s humility, a living memorial of his example of love and self-sacrifice.

When Jesus came into the world, he loved it so much that he gave his life for it. He wanted to satisfy our hunger for God. And what did he do? He made himself the Bread of Life. He became small, fragile, and defenseless for us. A bit of bread can be so small that even a baby can chew it, even a dying person can eat it.

This was the good news she brought to a world hungry for God and hungry for love. We have to walk the path that Jesus walked, a path that begins in giving ourselves away. She told us that love begins where the self leaves off.

“You must first forget yourself, so that you can dedicate yourself to God and your neighbor.” That’s what she told Subshasini Das, who came to her in 1949 during the first days of Mother Teresa’s ministry on the streets of Calcutta. A privileged Bengali girl, she presented herself to Mother Teresa decked out in jewels and a fine dress and saying she wanted to give her life to the poor.

Sent away with those cutting words, she returned after weeks of soul-searching shorn of her fineries and clad in a plain white robe. Subshasini went on to become the first nun in Mother Teresa’s new religious order, the Missionaries of Charity.

You must first forget yourself. That was Mother Teresa’s message for a narcissistic generation, to people self-occupied yet still strangers to themselves.

She watched patiently as wave after wave of young women and men shucked off their parents’ Christianity and turned their hearts East, following some star they thought was rising, some new wisdom they thought would save them from the phoniness and soullessness of their consumer-material world. “People come to India,” she would say, “because they believe that in India we have a lot of spirituality, and this they want to find . . . Many of them are completely lost.”

Her idea of selflessness was the opposite of that preached by others in what Orwell called our “yogi-ridden age.” The gurus and sages of the East preached liberation through negation, through a progressive detachment from all desires and passions until the person arrives at a spiritual state of egolessness, free from and indif­ferent to the cares of the world.

For Mother Teresa, detachment and self-denial were not the end goals of our striving. She said that we deny ourselves, struggle against our selfishness and fancies, in order to purify our vision, to give ourselves totally to God, and be joined to him in the most intimate embrace of love. We do not empty ourselves in order to be nothing, free of desire and need, but in order to be filled with divine life, to see and live with Jesus.

“Once we take our eyes away from ourselves — from our interests, from our own rights, privileges, ambitions — then we will become clear to see Jesus around us,” she promised. One of those lost seekers who crossed her path was Morris “Mo” Siegel. In 1969, the summer of Woodstock, he launched an herbal tea company, Celestial Sea­sonings, Inc., that caught the first wave of the all-natural, organic health craze and rode it all the way to the bank. By 1985, he had sold his company for $40 million and was desperately seeking meaning, his midlife crisis manifesting itself in outfits with names such as Earth Wise and the Jesusonian Foundation.

He wound up, as so many of his generation did, in Calcutta, trying to find himself as a volunteer at Mother Teresa’s home for the destitute dying. She poked him in the chest and sent him home with these words: “Grow where you’re planted.”

Mother Teresa knew it was easy to be selfless for strangers, to love people we don’t know. So easy that it was no love at all. When it comes to love, she knew we are all big-picture people. We like love in the abstract — the poor, the sick, the handicapped — but we’re afraid of close-ups, the flesh-and-blood poor people and sick people, the family members and friends whom God plants in our midst.

“It is easy to love the people far away,” she would say. “It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home, for this is where our love for each other must start.”

She sent us all home to learn how to love again. Long before anybody else had begun warning about the disintegration of the traditional family, Mother Teresa was telling us that our families were dying:

The world today is upside down, and is suffering so much, because there is so very little love in the homes and in family life. We have not time for our children, we have not time for each other; there is not time to enjoy each other.

That was her diagnosis — God’s diagnosis, if we believe she was a special rider carrying a message to our day and age. Mother Teresa judged the health of our civilization by our ability to smile or hold our tongues; by whether parents had time for their children, husbands for their wives, the young to listen to the stories of the old; by whether we knew how to laugh and play, to be tender, to be still, and to know that God lives in every person.

“Love starts at home and lasts at home . . . the home is each one’s first field of loving, devotion, and service,” she said. And from the bosom of the world’s poorest families, she brought us tender stories of heroic love. She told us of the sacrifices made by leper parents, who must give up their newborns immediately upon birth or risk infecting them for life with the disease. She told us the story of one couple saying good-bye to their three-day-old baby:

Each one looked at the little one, their hands going close to the child and then withdrawing, trying, wanting to kiss the child, and again falling back. I cannot forget the deep love of that father and mother for their little child. I took the child, and I could see the father and mother as I was walking. I held the child toward them, and they kept on looking until I disappeared from their eyes. The agony and pain it caused! . . . But because they loved the child more than they loved themselves, they gave it up.

She told us of the little girl she met in one of her schools in Calcutta. The girl had been hiding the free bread that the nuns gave students each day, and Mother Teresa wanted to know why. The girl told her that her mother was sick and there was nothing to eat in the house, so she was bringing the bread home to her. “That is real love,” Mother Teresa said.

Real love is what she came to show us. The love of the little. A love that cracks the shell of all our self-delusion and flings open the doors of our hearts to Jesus. A love that takes as marching orders the words of John the Baptist: “I must decrease so that Jesus might increase.”

Mother Teresa told us that we could be — in every moment of our lives — God’s answer to somebody’s prayers. We could be Jesus. If only we would let ourselves.

This is why we know so little about her, why she seems to have come to us with no childhood, no past — and why her biography seems to begin and end when she gives her life to Jesus. She wasn’t trying to throw us off the trail or cover anything up. She was giving good directions to the lost.

We wanted her to talk about herself. But she was just trying to be a reflection. That’s why whenever we asked about her, she pointed us to Jesus.

She knew that she wasn’t the one we were looking for.

Editor’s note: This article has been adapted from a chapter in Mr. Scott’s The Love That Made Mother Teresa and is available from Sophia Institute Press. 

Diaconate formation

About seven years ago, my diocese put out the call for men interested in diaconate formation.  I was interested at the time, but told that I had to be Catholic for at least five years.  It was recommended that I continue education in the Catholic faith through a diocesan program, and as a result, I began this blog.  It start out as a place I could do my writing assignments, then became a place for homiletic thoughts, and a place to store news about the Catholic world.

Today I got an email from the diocese calling for men interested in diaconate formation, beginning in January, and I still feel called, and so I will begin the journey, a few years later.  I look forward to the challenges and all that God can throw at me.  I ask for prayers from anyone who’s reading this.

As things develop, I will post how things are going, and continue to do all that I have been doing.

God bless.

It requires practice

You ever notice that doctors, lawyers, and musicians practice?  In fact, many professions practice.  Itzak Perlman, one of the World’s best violinists, practices 8 hours a day.  He performs about 70 dates a year.  I don’t know how often he records, but I think you get the picture.  He says that, if he stopped practicing for a week, maybe 2 people in a full auditorium might notice.  If he stopped practicing for a month, maybe 10 would notice.  But you can see, practice is his real work.  Performance is the result of the hard work.

Football players, professionals, practice 5 days a week to get ready for one 3-hour game.

In my profession, I spend hours and hours learning and training for the few minutes of ‘firefighting’.  In a recent planned event, we rehearsed many, many times over a four month period just to make sure we could service our customers without them noticing any degradation of service.  And whenever I plan to do something to a production system, I always practice it several times first, so that when it comes crunch time, the job gets done.

In the parable of the talents, Jesus tells us about the master who gave one servant 10 talents, another five, and another one, and when he came back, both the first and second had multiplied those talents, while the last one hid it under a bushel and protected it, giving it back, as is, when demanded.

What talents has God given you?  Some people will say they have no talents.  I used to be one of those.  I don’t have any really special skills.  I can write a little.  I can manage and maintain some computer systems.  I do a fair job proclaiming God’s Word, and now would like to further that talent.  God, though, gives every one of us talents.  It may not appear evident.  But it’s there.  You have an Intellect, you have a Will, and you have Memory.

Practice is what you do to keep your talents on the true path.  When you don’t practice, your talents begin to fail.  You get rusty, and rust corrodes.  Faith is the same way.  You have to practice it daily.  If you don’t, it rusts.  Things like world events, earthly desires, materialism, relativism, etc. creep in.  Watch out, though.  When you allow those things to creep in, they invade your memory.  I’ve heard it said that viewing a pornographic image stays in your memory 10 years.  I’d believe a lifetime.  I used to be a consumer of porn, and every so often, it flowers again.  I have ways, through God, to suppress it.  But it does re-enter my mind, here and now.

So what can we take from this? Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  And practice some more.  Strive to be near our Lord.  Trust His Wisdom.  Pray, go to Mass, Pray, study your faith, pray, and pray some more.  Act like being near to the Lord is the only place you ever want to be.  Make an appointment to spend time with Him, and be vigilant, as our friend Itzhak is vigilant with his violin practice.

Michael Jordan, at one time, could not make his high school basketball team.  He asked the coach why he was cut, and was told that the coach wanted someone with a better free-throw percentage.  So Michael Jordan set out to be the best free-throw shooter he could be by making 500 free-throws a day.  Not 500 attempts.  500 good free-throws.  Michael Jordan worked on his game, and worked, and worked, and worked some more, in order to be the best-version-of-himself.  Keep on practicing.  The best gift God has given you is perseverance.

What you owe your wife, by Jason Craig

What You Owe Your Wife

Mr. Jason Craig

  • August 31, 2014

Married love is a potent teacher of truth. The family, as the Church points out, is the “school of love”.  And as a father, I’m learning more and more how vital the love I have and live towards my family has consequences beyond my home.  It’s a school of love, but I am probably not the best headmaster.  But, this headmastership is not an appointment but a vocation, a calling, and God has promised and proven that He sustains and directs those that he calls.  God be with this fool, and if I am a fool may I be one for you.

And for us as fathers and husbands, there is a foundational reality that we must accept: we owe our wives, the mothers of our children, a terrible and awful (as in full-of-awe) debt.  They have born our children in an experience that is unique to them, paradoxically joyful, painful, triumphant, humbling, bloody, and life giving, what St. John Paul II called a “unique experience of joy and travail.”  Outside of childbirth, only the cross can claim such an achievement.

Outside of the womb mothers nurture in a way that men cannot.  People call my family old-fashioned because my wife stays at home, and some hint at a repressive attitude – we’re “patriarchal” and such (to which I say thank you and you’re welcome).  My wife is not at home because she is unable to do the work that men do, she’s at home because men can’t do the work that she does.  No one can – no expert, state, or man.  Her body literally sustains the children, and that is merely a symbol for the daily nourishment she provides this home in body and soul.   And I’ve now been working from a home office for nearly 3 years and I’ve learned something: the mother’s work is actually harder physically, emotionally, and mentally.  I’ve had a good variety of experiences in the office, on the jobsite and farm, and in the ditch, but none of it compared to the struggles of a mother with young children.  It’s hard work.

The mother’s work is the care of immortal souls, and a variety of care that is close and intimate– a beautiful mystery. There is a time when the kids grow and stretch forth from her side more into the world of the “other”, of the father.  But the bond of mother and child is practically of the same flesh.  Children don’t tell their mothers “thank you” because it would be like telling themselves “thank you” – they know deeply their existence and hers is like one thing.  The father’s offering of his “seed” is more distant than the fleshly union of a mother and child.  You can even sense the desire for that flesh to be reunited when apart in Mary’s Assumption – its almost as if Jesus was in a hurry for that specific bodily resurrection, simply because of her motherhood.  It’s a special communion. In short: the mother’s work has more value than your temporal work.

We forget that.  We feel entitled.  Those of us that are the primary support of the family often think that because our work is essential (because providing food and shelter is essential), that it has the greatest value.  It doesn’t.

You see the attacks on the family.  This most basic and obvious of human realities is getting distorted.  And I’m not talking about the perverse pseudo-family makeups out there, but the distortions right in our homes – the chaos and error being force fed into our sanctuaries – the screens that steal hours from us; the advertisements that snatch happiness from the heavens and jam it into plastic toys and gadgets, creating false ideals that drive us to be shallow consumers and eventually drive us insane.

What is the best way to fight back?  Love your wife!  How can you restore the family?  Restore your marriage!  We cannot properly love our kids or champion the full and holy vision of the family without properly loving our wives.  That debt I said you owe – pay it.  Pay it in kindness, service, verbally expressed gratitude.  Write a note, a letter, a poem.  You’re tired when you get home?  So is she – splash some cold water on your face and get in there!  And men, let’s stop acting like the world revolves around us because we bring home a paycheck. If the economy collapsed tomorrow, what value would be left in that check then?  Let’s remember what real worth is.  St. Joseph had to quit jobs and start new ones in new places to protect the holy mother in his care, don’t let the holy mother in your home have to suffer for your job.  (I am not speaking to those that suffer because of economic necessity, but those whose praiseworthy professional drive leads them to an unhealthy excess or an undisciplined ambition.)

“The way to restore the family,” recommends John Senior, “is to bring to incandescent exercise the latent fruits of love in husbands and wives, which they have received as supernatural habits in the sacrament of marriage.”  Senior says that a husband and wife should long to be united, that like the notes of Gregorian chant which strain away from a central note always come back to that note – being separate is necessary but hard.  Let her know that it’s hard.  Remind yourself of that!  Examine yourself constantly knowing that you must take a break from loving your wife in order to go to work, not that you must take a break from work to sleep and eat at home where your wife lives.  When you return home, to the center of your life, set your mind and heart to the task of a lifetime, because that’s your true commitment in life, your vow.

I love you Katie.  Thank you.

A New Direction in Church Design – Crisis Magazine

A New Direction in Church Design – Crisis Magazine.

A New Direction in Church Design

Blessed Sacrament Shrine

One day fifteen years ago, I happened to be channel surfing past the Eternal Word Television Network when I was greeted by a momentary flash of heavenly beauty across the screen. Quickly flipping back, I realized that it was a Mass being celebrated in an unusually majestic church with an extensively gilded and marbled interior.

Having never seen this church before, I distinctly remember asking myself why today’s churches can’t still be built to glorify God the way this beautiful “old” work of art had been. Within minutes, however, I felt as though a joke too good to be true had been played on me—what I was witnessing was in fact the Mass of Consecration for this magnificent and brand new church.

That church is the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, which was commissioned by Mother Angelica and is now a longstanding familiar sight to viewers of EWTN. That day back in 1999 marked a turning point in my understanding of the direction of Catholic sacred architecture in the post-conciliar period.

Up to then, I had been conditioned to believe that such blatantly Catholic forms and furnishings were but a stale hangover from the Church’s distant “triumphalist” past, and that my attraction to them was some sort of perverse personal weakness that indicated an obstinate, unenlightened resistance to “the spirit” unleashed in the 1960s. Yet, as I slowly took in what was there before me on the television screen, at the threshold of the new millennium, I felt an unexpected sense of both joy and vindication. To my young mind at least, it was as though I was witnessing a visual clarion call challenging the prevailing mentality of modernism that had successfully held sway in the Church for some thirty years.

Now, let us fast forward to 2014. Relatively speaking, it is still somewhat of a rarity to see a new ecclesiastical project of such delicate care and quality. However, it is not nearly as rare as it was at the turn of the century, and considering various ongoing deterrents both within and outside of the Church, that alone is significant.

It is true that a certain indiscriminate preference for the contemporary remains firmly ensconced in the average American parish. Yet there has also quietly developed a parallel phenomenon: a deliberate and measured return to tradition, born of a deep desire to reestablish continuity and stability in Catholic life. Given the wide appeal it enjoys among younger priests and committed laity—the Church of tomorrow—I dare say it has gained a life of its own. A brief survey of just some of the many projects from the past several years serves to illustrate this point, and is a feast for the eyes and soul in the process.

Parish Life
In 2003, a small church in Houston, Texas was consecrated for the parish of Our Lady of Walsingham, designed by the very old and established firm of Cram & Ferguson Architects. This unique Marian title, based on the English apparition and pilgrimage site of the same name, is specifically evoked in the building’s neo-Gothic style, which draws heavily on the vernacular architecture found in the village of Walsingham, Norfolk, England. It therefore becomes a strong visual tie to its namesake.

St. Raymond of Peñafort Church, located in Springfield, Virginia, was consecrated in 2006. Designed by Bass Architects, Chartered as the first permanent home for a young parish founded in 1997, its fortress-like Romanesque stone façade and stout brick towers are prominently visible from the bustling Fairfax County Parkway, and therefore seen daily by thousands of passersby. It incorporates intricate stained glass and various antique furnishings.

5Another larger project by Cram & Ferguson is St. John Neumann Church in Farragut, Tennessee, consecrated in 2009. Romanesque through and through, its vaulted interior contains large, newly completed apse and dome murals in a naturalistic style. With the parish having outgrown its previous building after just a couple decades, the size and permanence of this new church guarantees that it will adequately serve and inspire for generations to come.

St. Benedict’s Chapel is located in Chesapeake, Virginia, and was consecrated in 2011. Designed by Franck & Lohsen Architects for a parish operated by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), it is possibly the first parish church in the United States built specifically for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, or Traditional Latin Mass, since before Vatican II. The elegant yet humble design clearly presents itself as a Catholic church, while also incorporating elements of the architecture typical to the local region.

9Franck & Lohsen also designed the stately St. John the Apostle Church a few hours north in Leesburg, Virginia, which was consecrated in 2012. This old parish had long outgrown its small nineteenth-century wooden church, and needed one large enough to accommodate the continuing population boom in Loudoun County. The new design employs various traditional details, with material choices and other elements reflective of the historic town, as well as reminiscent of the old church. The liturgical and devotional furnishings were rescued from a closed church in New Jersey, at which Venerable Fulton Sheen was the homilist for its consecration in 1929.

One of the newest functioning parish churches in the United States is St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, designed by Duncan G. Stroik Architect, LLC, and consecrated in 2013. The heavy brick exterior, evoking the familiarity of earlier American immigrant churches, makes for a commanding and permanent presence from the outside. Inside, one is uplifted by a nobly simple, bright, and spacious classical serenity. The altar is given special prominence by its location under a colorful baldacchino, or altar canopy.

Also consecrated in 2013 is St. Catherine of Siena Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina, designed by O’Brien & Keane Architecture. This large church is reminiscent of the Romanesque architecture found throughout Tuscany, which St. Catherine herself would certainly have known. A boldly contrasted triforium arcade below the clerestory provides an additional element to draw the eye’s focus to the altar and tabernacle. Numerous shrines with larger-than-life wooden polychrome statues, custom made in Italy, line the side aisles.

15Currently under construction is St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken, South Carolina, designed by McCrery Architects. The design is predominantly influenced by Renaissance architecture, and consists of a church that sits back from the street, behind an entry courtyard incorporating formal gardens and flanked by twin ancillary buildings with colonnades. This establishes a peaceful transitional zone between the outside world and the Holy of holies, and gives one a sense of being drawn in toward the façade.

Our Lady of Grace Church in Maricopa, Arizona, designed by Liturgical Environs, PC, has begun construction as well. This Gothic style design, which incorporates shallow pointed arches and a hammer beam ceiling, is the focal point in the development of a large parish campus. The church is intentionally designed with future expansion in mind, which will seamlessly allow for it to triple in size as the parish grows.

Religious Life
Various religious orders are experiencing a rise in vocations and are quite young in their overall composition. As a result, the United States has seen several new monasteries planned, begun, or completed in recent years to accommodate the anticipated continued growth. The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, who care for the aforementioned Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament on the grounds of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Alabama, are no exception.

16Another notable example is the Monastery at the New Mount Carmel, planned for the Carmelite Monks of Wyoming (producers of Mystic Monk Coffee) and designed by McCrery Architects. This sprawling Gothic Revival complex will include a chapel at its core, hermitages housing up to thirty monks, a refectory, guest and retreat quarters, and other spaces that will enable the monks to live faithfully according to their rule and flourish as a growing and thriving community for generations. The land is situated in a remote and peaceful mountain setting.

Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Abbey, a Benedictine monastery founded in 1999 and situated in the Ozarks of Oklahoma, is a similar scenario. Designed by Thomas Gordon Smith Architects, it blends Romanesque and Renaissance elements, and it continues to be built in phases. The overall program is constructed piece by piece according to the highest priority, and the monks have the happy problem of not being able to build fast enough to keep up with their community’s steady growth.

Campus Life
On college campuses, perhaps in the category of “not your average Newman chapel,” the story continues. The Chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, designed by Duncan G. Stroik and consecrated in 2009, is the focal point of the quadrangle at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California. The design is true to its locale in the mission lands of Southern California, but also clearly tied to a sacred tradition that goes even further back. The result is a stunning edifice that would hold its own alongside the finest European churches.

Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity InteriorAlso in the Golden State is Our Savior Church and USC Caruso Catholic Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects with Perkowitz + Ruth Architects, and liturgical furnishings by Liturgical Environs. Consecrated in 2012, the project consists of a church and adjacent student center in an Italianate Romanesque style. Some defining features are the rusticated travertine exterior, expansive stained glass windows, and open piazza tying the two buildings together.

The Diocesan See
We are even seeing signs that a rediscovery of tradition has begun to filter up to the highest levels. While new cathedral construction is not nearly as common as the other building types discussed, it is especially significant. As the mother church of the diocese, a cathedral is often seen as prototypical; an indication of the general philosophy a bishop would like to see adopted by the parishes under his auspices.

22The Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina has commissioned a new cathedral under the patronage of the Holy Name of Jesus, to replace the current cathedral, which has become inadequate to serve the rapidly growing Catholic population in the region. The design, currently in development by O’Brien & Keane, is of a style similar to that of the aforementioned St. Catherine of Siena in the same diocese, but on a larger and grander scale. Expected to take about two years to complete, renderings show that it will incorporate high vaulted ceilings, arcaded side aisles, and a substantial dome.

Across the globe, the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima in Karaganda, Kazakhstan has arisen from the ashes of the former Soviet Union. Consecrated in 2012, it stands as a brand new witness to the triumph of Christian hope and perseverance over communist oppression. By the use of Gothic Revival, an expression of an earlier style that originated out of a purely Christian religious and social setting—as opposed to something postmodern that would only serve to reinforce the instability and uncertainty introduced by the oppressors—order is restored from chaos, and hope to the future. It is no accident that, in a town that housed concentration camps for people of faith within recent memory, the cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, who implored all of her children to pray daily for the conversion of Russia.

Despite the diversity of hands involved in these works, they are all steeped in timeless Catholic tradition and unmistakably state-of-the-art buildings: a true illustration of a hermeneutic of continuity. And while the focus here has been only on new construction, the increasing prevalence of traditional renovations—or re-renovations, to be more precise—merits its own attention, and will be the subject of a forthcoming essay in Crisis.

Lest delusion set in, the ratio of new traditional churches to posh amphitheater spaces still being built is grossly disproportionate. Nevertheless, after the epic social and liturgical upheavals of the last century, it is a wonder that any sort of traditional resurgence is happening at all, and these projects seem to be only increasing in number and scale with each passing year. Just a decade ago, attempting to write this piece would have proven difficult; twenty years ago, impossible.

This should give cause for optimism to those faithful who yearn for the vitality that flows from firm Catholic identity and its enduring visible expression. After all, as the saying attributed to Chesterton puts it, “Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances we know to be desperate.” Such wisdom is surely not lost on the many pastors, parishes, religious communities, architects and others helping to cultivate this budding sacred renaissance in the midst of a disintegrating culture that is too often hostile to faith.