A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Prayerful Churches

Fr Bernard Carney sm

Fr Bernard Carney sm

In recent months the Marist Messenger’s Liturgy Column has centred on the city church of Nelson. Last month saw the beginning of a series of articles on churches in Europe. There is a world of difference between the weatherboard New Zealand church and the more grand stone and marble buildings of communities who have held the faith for centuries. Not only that, in many cases, they have exported that same faith by supplying laity, religious and priests as missionaries to the ends of the earth.
What makes a church? Well firstly it must be the faith of a community of people.

What makes a church?

In Irish penal times the church was sometimes gathered around a ‘mass rock.’ The people worshipped with the priest, then dispersed and moved on. Much more ideal was a permanent building and here we have a combination of the faith and wealth of the community reflected in the type of building that results. It could be as simple as a roof and four walls or as grand as Notre Dame in Paris or St Peter’s in Rome.
More importantly, What makes a church prayerful?

Wells Cathedral
Surely the aim of any church is to put a person in touch with God. Here we are in the realm of subjective choice. While a particular church has meaning for one person, it may not have the same appeal for another. The appeal of a simple altar with a statue of Mary on one side and Joseph on the other is in contrast to an ornate city church with stained glass windows, a fine organ and is stylishly proportioned inside and out.
The age of the church is going to have some bearing on the matter. A church that has been built, enhanced and supported by a community over generations is going to have an appeal that a chapel at a university or a hospital will not have. A place where parents, grandparents and children have worshipped and marked life’s milestones of baptisms weddings and funerals is going to have a significance for many on an emotional as well as a practical level.
Then we have the demise of churches. Sometimes communities move on and the shell of the building is left for some other use. More dramatically, the Christchurch earthquake has seen a number of churches destroyed. The key thing is the faith the people take with them. The Church is there to help them in their journey to heaven.

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