Mourning a Church Building

Shrine of Christ the King - Chicago, IL, United States
Sanctuary. The 300 year old statue of the Infant King survived with minimal smoke damage, even though the heat bent the cross below it and the burning ceiling collapsed all around. The tabernacle and the reserved Hosts were undamaged.

A couple weeks ago, a fire destroyed a beautiful historic church in Chicago:

An extra-alarm fire ravaged a nearly century-old landmark church in Chicago on Wednesday, causing the roof to collapse, and sending gray water streaming out the front door hours after firefighters began dousing the heavy flames.

The Fire Department first responded to the fire at Shrine of Christ The King Sovereign Priest shortly before 6 a.m., when smoke alarms went off in the neighboring priory, reports CBS Chicago. Fire officials said the fire might have burned all night, after floor varnishing work was done in the choir loft.

The priests of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (follow this link if you want to help financially) celebrate the Mass in the ordinary form in Latin as well as English, and the extraordinary form in Latin, and have chant and polyphony choirs. They serve the parish of St. Margaret Mary in nearby Oakland, where we attend mass occasionally. The liturgies are consistently beautiful and holy, and the congregation has a high percentage of families with lots of kids. Plus, they offer confession before, during and after all masses – and there are a lot of masses. I love the place.

It’s very sad the church of their US headquarters burned. The article linked above quotes parishioner Nicole Raciunas, a mother of eight, who was in tears after seeing the devastation:

“It’s worse than I imagined. I was hoping it would just have been something small,” she said. “It’s just a building, but it’s our home; but ultimately, yeah, the church is the people, not the building, so something better will come out of it, I’m sure. God wouldn’t have allowed it, right?”

She’s right, of course, and she said this in shock and with tears, so I in no way am criticizing her reaction. It is, however, OK for Catholics to mourn the loss of one of out church buildings, because they are not just buildings, but have become sacred and incarnational by the presence of the Eucharist in them. God is uniquely in our churches, just as He was uniquely present as Jesus. Mrs. Raciunas is right and meet to cry that such a thing is no more.

We should go ahead and mourn when a Catholic church is destroyed. It is OK to be sad for a season. Then we buck up and build a new one.  We should not bow to the tendency, most evident at funerals now days, to try to cheer people up before they have had a chance to be sad. we can ‘celebrate his life’ later – first, we must mourn his passing. Same goes for church buildings.

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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