"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sacred Architecture: Encountering the Beauty and Mystery of God

by Cardinal Justin Rigali

Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, presented this keynote address on April 30, 2010, to “A Living Presence: Extending and Transforming the Tradition of Catholic Sacred Architecture”, a symposium held at the Catholic University of America. Cardinal Rigali, who was archbishop of St. Louis 1994-2003, is a member of the Holy See’s Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, (CDW) and of the Vox Clara committee on translation. He is also a member of the US bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship (BCDW) and of the Sub-committee on Translation of Scripture Texts.

Cardinal Rigali’s address appears here with his kind permission.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in the 2010 symposium, “A Living Presence: Extending and Transforming the Tradition of Catholic Sacred Architecture”, sponsored by the Partnership for Catholic Sacred Architecture, which is an impressive collaborative effort between the Schools of Architecture of the Catholic University of America and the University of Notre Dame. I deeply appreciate the gracious invitation to explore with you the esteemed heritage and promising direction of Sacred Architecture.

How fitting that as we do so we gather here, at the distinguished School of Architecture and Planning on the campus of The Catholic University of America. I wish to thank the Very Reverend David O’Connell, CM, President of The Catholic University of America, and Dean Randall Ott, the Dean of the School of Architecture, for their support and encouragement of these proceedings.

The mystery which we gather to reflect upon today is at once timely and timeless. Timely, because as Aimé-Georges Martimort has noted, “In our day the faithful have greater difficulty in achieving prayerful recollection and a sense of God’s presence”.1 At the roots of this difficulty is a crisis, a contemporary crisis that surrounds the sacred.

Our topic is also timeless, because God never ceases to call man to Himself. As God intervenes in human history, He both conceals and reveals Himself. He veils and unveils the signs of His presence,2 that we might respond and offer pure worship to His greater glory.3

In the revelation of the divine economy of salvation, God never neglects time and space. As the eternal, invisible and infinite God, whose dwelling place is in Heaven,4 reveals Himself, He allows and encourages mortal, visible and finite human beings to call upon His name.5 As He makes known the hidden purpose of His will,6 He summons us to a sacred space in an acceptable time.7

There are three practical and grounded guiding principles I would like to reflect upon concerning the vocation and mission of the architect and artist in the life of the Church.

First, from the very beginning, Sacred Scripture testifies that architecture and art are linked to the very nature of the plan of God. We can therefore never reduce the service of architects and artists to a mere function. Their important work is not simply an added enhancement to our relationship with God, but it actually serves to express our response to God. From the opening pages of Sacred Scripture, the gift and skill of the architect and artist occupy a recurrent and climactic place in the plan of God.

Second, we are reminded by the Second Vatican Council and the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI that the work of architecture and art takes place in and through dialogue with the Church.

Third, the mission of the architect and artist, which is based in Sacred Scripture, and conducted in dialogue with the Church, authentically develops only along the path of true beauty.


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