Saturday, March 15, 2014

BISHOP GREGORY HARTMAYER SIGNS THE CONTRACT FOR THE RESTORATION OF THE ALTAR RAILING AT SAINT JOSEPH CHURCH, MACON, GEORGIA!


In 2004 during the restoration and renovation of the church and sanctuary of St. Joseph Church, it was decided that the original altar railing would be removed because the sanctuary was being enlarged by being extended several feet into the nave. In addition, that historic railing had been severely damaged over the years. In fact a large central portion of it was knocked over one Sunday when a communicant pushed against it rising from a kneeling position at the railing.

In addition to that, a portion of the central railing was removed to accommodate a pulpit. 

The position of the railing and gates truncated the size of the altar area especially when the first of two ugly free-standing altars (ironing board types) were placed in front of the magnificent old high altar and reredos.

In the 1970's all the gates were removed except for one side gate and discarded. No one knows where these gates went but we believe antique dealers may have gotten and sold them.

In 2004 it made sense to remove this railing and since this was prior to Pope Benedict and his emphasis of "reform of the reform in continuity" it was thought that altar railings were useless.

But today with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass allowed as a legitimate and sacred option for worship and the recovery of popular devotions and kneeling for prayer and also the legitimate option of kneeling for Holy Communion without shame or ridicule, the altar railing is no longer looked upon as a barrier but as an extension of the altar and a touchable, accessible icon of it. 

So about two years ago a discussion was begun with the Pastoral Council and a complete and unanimous consensus was reached that the altar railing should be restored.

The unanimous consensus was conveyed to Bishop Hartmayer and he approved of the decision. Then a small fund raiser was carried out and as if God Himself endorsed our plan, out of the blue a large, large bequest was given to us in a Last Will and Testament of a wonderful parishioner who requested her bequest be used for sanctuary improvements only!

All this took place within a year! And yesterday, March 14th, 2014, almost ten years after the decision was made to remove the altar railing, Bishop Hartmayer signed the contract to have the construction begin.

The extension of the floor should start in about a couple of weeks. The marble and brass gates will take longer to fabricate but I pray it will be installed in the next six months. But the floor will be ready to receive it when it arrives.

Previously, the altar railing was on the third step up from the nave. The restored altar railing and gates will be on the first step from the congregation. With the first step extended to accommodate the railing and allow for kneeling on one side and amble room for movement on the other side, the sanctuary itself will be enlarged (and visually appear to be much larger and more balanced) and allow for better flow and arrangements for weddings, RCIA rituals and other blessings during Mass.

The late 1950's early 60's:

Through the generosity of a handful of generous benefactors and a substantial bequest from a last will and testament, St. Joseph Church will proceed with the restoration of its altar railing. The new one will look as the old one except for its placement. It will be placed on the first step leading to the altar from the nave. This entails extending this step into the congregation to accommodate it. The gates will look similar to what was original. We only have one gate from the original which we were able to locate and it is pictured below as well:

This is the look of the Church as it is today:
 This is the look of the Church as it was with the altar railing in the early 1900's:
This is the only remaining gate from the altar railing above, which will be duplicated to serve the new railing, two main gates in the middle and one gate at each side altar: (it is on the table up side down but rotated to have the proper right side up view here):
This is a part of the original altar railing currently in our adoration chapel. The new altar railing will be fabricated to duplicate this look:
These renderings show how the first step will be extended and  the left side shows how the pews currently are and on the right side shows how the railing will be placed on the extended step and how one pew (completely across the Church) will be removed to allow for the half pew and handicapped access space:






21 comments:

Gene said...

"..legitimate option of being able to kneel for Holy Communion without shame or ridicule…" The very fact that such a statement can appear in a discussion of Catholic worship indicates how far the Church has sunk and how terribly both Liturgy and Catholic identity have suffered.

JBS said...

Fr. McDonald,

I just want to say, "well done"!

rcg said...

So you think the rail will be complete but for the gates in six months? It will be interesting to hear how this affects the congregation when they can receive kneeling.

JBS said...

Fr. McDonald,

I would also like to commend you for your patience in guiding several frightened souls posting comments here. I was well aware of the liturgical reputation of Pope Francis back when he was elected, and I remain saddened that the liturgical renewal promised by Pope Emeritus Benedict would have to wait. However, Pope Francis is clearly not leaving his sheep unfed, but is instead urging us to introduce, or reintroduce, all our friends and neighbors to Christ and His Holy Church. He is a very Catholic pope, and you are a very Catholic priest. If only the sheep will follow the shepherds, instead of trembling in the gaze of the wolves!

Henry said...

Congratulations, Fr. McDonald, on you (literally exemplary) pastoral leadership seeing this fine accomplishment through. And what a wonderful allusion (which I've never previously seen):

"the altar railing . . . as an extension of the altar and a touchable, accessible icon of it."

quicumquevult said...

I love stories like this! God bless you and your parish, Fr. McDonald.

Neil said...

Praise be to God! Thanks Fr. McDonald, we hope to one day return from AK to visit. Let me take this opportunity to reiterate our invitation to you and Fr. Kwiatkowsky to visit us in Anchorage….it will probably be more enticing this summer!

Wendell said...

Great news!

Peace be with you, Father, and with your parishioners for helping us all reclaim the sense of the sacred.

Benedicamus Domino!

Anonymous said...

Deo gratias, and what a beautiful church all together! Jan

Anonymous said...

Waste of money. The next pastor could be a lib and he will rip them out again. One of the many side effects of the Vatican II church.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The next pastor could close down the Church too! But yes, someone from my generation and older could well do that, but would younger clergy, like those ordained in the 1990's?

But apart from the so-called potential of an iconoclastic priest coming in and not only once again removing the altar railing, but also removing all the old altars and leaving only the most lovely free-standing altar, the waste of money is really not an institutional concern when it is the actual lay person who has decided where that money will go or won't give it if it isn't used for that purpose.

Thus, all the money given for the altar railing is given as "dedicating giving" and to be used only for the purpose for which it is given. In terms of the Last Will and Testament bequest, it is in writing and thus the Church must use the money for which it is designated or return the money to the estate and allow the lawyers to figure out what they will do with it.

So can a bishop, priest or finance council control what a lay person designates for his money for particular projects. No! The only recourse is to either return the money or reject it outright and allow the lay person to waste it on something else of their own choosing.

Gene said...

Anonymous, I often ponder which was the greatest disaster for the Church, the Reformation or Vatican II.
Right now, in my estimation, it is a toss-up. This topic might make an interesting theme for a grad school thesis for someone...

Gene said...

Doesn't the Bishop have to approve radical alterations in a Church?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, the Bishop must approve of any major change in a parish especially to the church building, thus he had to approve our restoration of the altar railing, approve of the amount of the expenditure and actually be the one to sign the contract for construction. Thus,this would prevent some future pastor from taking away the altar railing, especially given the cost of it which is $205,000! All of this from dedicated money from donors who gave and can only be used for this purpose. In other words it is not from the general fund at all.

JBS said...

Gene,

Sacrosanctum Concilium states clearly that, "Ordinaries must be very careful to see that sacred furnishings and works of value are not disposed of or dispersed; for they are the ornaments of the house of God".

"Very careful", "not disposed of or dispersed", "ornaments of the house of God": clear language.

Gene said...

JBS, Yes, but Vat II did away with all that…at least, de facto.

Anonymous said...

Sacrosanctum Concilium states clearly that, "Ordinaries must be very careful to see that sacred furnishings and works of value are not disposed of or dispersed; for they are the ornaments of the house of God".

It also says that no one, not even a priest can add, remove or change anything in the liturgy on his own accord. So what's your point? Are we pretending that all is well in the Church and that priests are actually obeying the rules? Are we still living in that fantasy land? We just had a cardinal applaud open sodomy and you really think that these bishops care what happens to a church building? Really. Do you really believe that these bishops care about anything other than destroying the Faith? It's all gone. Things are changing for the worse, it's not going to get better. To not realize and accept that is not living rationally.

Henry said...

Gene,

JBS illustrates just a single way in which it was not Vatican II itself that did the damage, but rather the way in which the recommendations of the Council were blocked and bypassed in the decades that followed it.

However, it seems arguable that these decades saw greater damage to Church and Faith--more and wider spread apostasy and heresy--than did the Reformation.

Gene said...

Henry, I believe you are correct. The Reformation did not threaten the identities of Catholics who remained in the Church; the split was well-defined and it was a total break. The issues were theological and doctrinal.
Plus, the Counter-Reformation followed, which could be seen as a re-affirmation of Catholic identity and doctrine. Vat II was far more subtle and it was based upon a council making recommendations from within which were sufficiently (deliberately) vague and suggestive as to bring about radical changes in practice which, because of the "broad brush" approach, were not challenged or questioned.

George said...


The problems that came about had more to do with interpretation and implementation of the what came out of the Council. With Martin Luther and his followers, there was more of a clean break due to differences over theology and certain dogma. After Vatican II, there were more subtle (and in some cases not so subtle) differences from diocese to diocese according to who happened to be bishop in charge and then also at the local level you had differences from parish to parish. Could there have been more precise directives emanating from the Vatican which would bring about a consistent (Church-wide) interpretation and implementation of the Council documents? It would seem so. Add to that the changes in morals that
were going on in society and you had a recipe for what has transpired over the last forty-five years.


Anonymous said...

In regards to the comment about future removal...You have to rely on the faithful to protect the new Railing. I would suggest that people who fund the construction of a Church or a project like this have some legal claim to its structural integrity. Were there legal challenges to Church "remodelings" in the 70s-present? My father effectively postponed the removal of the Railing in my hometown parish by merely suggesting legal action.