A nationwide movement is taking shape to restore the worship trappings and architecture that were removed in Catholic churches after the modernizing influence of Vatican II.
The Baltimore Sun (May 21) reports that the Vatican II-inspired renewal effort to update worship and simplify church architecture, with reformers putting in carpeting over terrazzo flooring and removing tabernacles from sanctuaries, is gradually being reversed. Starting in more rarefied circles, such as Notre Dame University’s Architecture Department (under such scholars as Duncun Stroik), the drive to restore pre-Vatican worship structures has found strong support among churchgoers, many of whom were initially opposed to or ambivalent about the changes.
Some of the restorations are in prominent public structures. The chapel at Emmanuel college in Boston restored its high altar after it was removed over three decades ago. And not all of the supporters of restoration were around for Vatican II. At St. Mary’s Church in Baltimore, once the leading example of Vatican II architecture, the retrieval of the church’s past, such as reclaiming an old baptismal fount, was enthusiastically backed by younger parishioners in their 20s and 30s who have moved into the Federal Hill neighborhood. “This is exciting to the young people because they’re looking for content in their lives, something that isn’t disposable,” says one priest.
The placement of the tabernacle in Catholic churches has been a particular point of conflict. Many tabernacles were placed in the corner of the sanctuary in order to emphasize the participation of the laity in the Mass. But a study done by Michael McCallionof the Archdiocese of Detroit finds that parishioners miss the sense of the sacred represented by the tabernacle, which holds the hosts, after it was moved away from a central location at the altar.
As cited in the CARA Report (Winter), the study finds that liturgists still maintain that Vatican II shifted the focus from prayer and meditation on the consecrated hosts to the action at the altar where the Mass is celebrated.
(CARA Report, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20007-4105)