Another Tale of Two Churches

Went to SoCal over the weekend to see Elder Daughter in a play. (She’s about to graduate from an acting conservatory she’s been in for 2 years now.) So we caught a Saturday morning Mass in Santa Clarita at St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s and a Pentecost Sunday Mass at the Thomas Aquinas College Chapel. Both Masses were of course efficacious and a privilege to attend.

Both churches were built around the same time. St. Kateri:

On Friday, September 4, 2009, Blessed Kateri Church and the Administration Building were blessed and dedicated by Cardinal Mahony. Families began celebrating Masses in the new church on September 26, 2009. The original building became Kateri Faith Center, and the former Worship Area became Slattery Hall.

Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel:

After a dozen years of planning, thousands of contributions from generous benefactors, and more than three years of construction, Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel was dedicated on March 7, 2009.

Both churches show fairly high construction standards, although the TAC chapel’s are higher, with much polished stone and obvious care lavished on detail. St. Kateri is not slapdash by any means, but does show less, how to say? Self awareness.

Arcade View
Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, exterior.
Interior of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel
Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, interior.
Image result for st. kateri church santa clarita ca
St. Kateri, exterior.
Related image
St. Kateri, interior.

Is the difference money? Did TAC simply spend vastly more? I don’t know the numbers for St. Kateri, but I’d bet it’s nothing like an order of magnitude less than the $23M spent to build the TAC chapel. I’d guess somewhere in the $5-10M range, but what do I know about such things? (1) What’s different is the vision of what a church is supposed to be. Duncan Stroik, who designed the TAC Chapel, shared a vision with the College of what a church building is supposed to be. The designers of St. Kateri evidently shared an idea of what a ‘gathering space’ is supposed to be with the designers of game show and talk show sets. Or maybe to be a little more fair, convention halls.

It’s the sheer cluelessness of the place that was most striking. For example, I sure hope that thing with that guy nailed to it doesn’t interfere with the sound system. Would hate for the acoustics to suffer:

speakers and cross
Somebody looked at these massive overstated speaker stacks hanging above the altar, clashing with everything else, dwarfing the Crucifix, and thought – that looks great! Out of the frame is a bandstand complete with a glassed-in drummer’s box. Priorities are clear.

Now, we didn’t get to attend a big Feast Day Mass at St. Kateri’s, but, based on the sound system’s prominence and a band/choir area bigger than the sanctuary, I fear I can guess what it would be like. At TAC, their incredible chant/polyphony choir – or  as much of it is around during Summer break – filled the chapel with angelic, unamplified voices singing beautiful, timeless music. Sadly, the TAC choir could probably not have been heard over a jet engine at 100 paces – something I’m confident the musicians at St. Kateri’s with their array of technology could deal with. But I don’t know, a Saturday morning Mass did not require that particular Kraken to be released.

Both buildings use much nice stone and wood; one is a timeless yet warm church, loved by all; the other doesn’t know what it is, and is only loved by its figurative mothers. If the TAC chapel had been burned down in the late fires, there would have been mass mourning, and funds would have been raised quickly to rebuild it. If, God forbid, St. Kateri’s were lost to fire, some people would be sad, sure, but devastated? Would they insist it get rebuilt just like it was, as a link to their posterity and, indeed, heaven?

I doubt it.

  1. Here’s an article talking about costs to build churches. Based on the numbers they are throwing around, and this being California within commute distance of LA, and St. Kateri’s being a pretty big church, that $10M guess is starting to look tame. Probably safe to say that if one went tile instead of marble and maybe scaled back on the fixtures, toned down the stone capitals and arches a bit, the people of St. Kateri’s could have had something like the TAC chapel for the money they spent on what they got. That this probably never occurred to anyone involved (not that Mahoney wouldn’t have shot it down if it had – see: LA’s new Cathedral he built) is the real problem at this point. Meanwhile, the little old ladies and people who have traveled some and those who take their faith seriously would have probably voted overwhelmingly for something more traditional. But we’ll never know, and they (we) don’t get a vote.
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Author: Joseph Moore

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

2 thoughts on “Another Tale of Two Churches”

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