Monday, March 7, 2016


Below my introduction is an article I wrote for our diocesan newspaper praising Rambusch and Company for their wreckovation of my first assignment's parish church of St. Teresa of Avila in Albany, Georgia in 1981, planning for which began in 1980 (be sure to pronounce it : All-Benny!).

These are not good photos of the before and after, but I hope it gives you the idea:


There are many priests and bishops my age and older, think Chicago, who have degrees in liturgy and liturgical architecture granted them in the late 1970's or early 80's. We were taught, in the most dogmatic way possible, that the horizontal theology of the liturgy is the most important and what Vatican II taught. Of course this isn't true, but those with doctorates in liturgy knew better and who are we to question their wisdom.

Well, we know that Pope Francis questions intellectuals, the doctors of the Church as it were who care less about people and their heritage and promote alien theologies for their own narcissistic goals. to elevate their ideologies into dogmatic mandates.

I fell into this trap too when I was first ordained in 1980 and in my first assignment at St. Teresa Church in Albany, Georgia. My pastor had enlisted the service of Rambusch of New York. They took a typical 1950's A frame church with a pre-Vatican II sanctuary which was very spacious, with a high altar and two side altars and ripped it all out to thrust the altar more forward. Statues were place in areas that didn't "distract" the congregation during the Mass. And a screen to hide the tabernacle was created because devotion to our Lord in the reserved Sacrament is the antithesis of authentic worship and yet again another distraction to that true worship.

As well, this consulting firm wanted to remove and almost life-size  crucifix altogether and simply have a "risen" sign of the glorified Christ. I balked at this even in my progressive mentality. The cross stayed. Thank God!


On Saturday afternoon, October 31, (1981) Bishop Raymond W. Lessard dedicated the newly renovated sanctuary of St. Teresa’s Church in Albany (GA). The rites of the solemn ceremony included the sprinkling with water and anointed with chrism of the new altar as well as its incensation. This ritual corresponds to the rites of initiation of Christians through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. Just as we are initiated by the waters of baptism, and anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit for membership and service in the Assembly of God’s people, so to is the altar sprinkled and anointed for service in the midst of God’s people as we celebrate the presence of the risen Christ among us.

When Saint Teresa’s Church building was first dedicated in 1958 by then Bishop Thomas J. McDonough, its worship space was designed to accommodate an understanding of the church liturgy which was primarily the responsibility of the priest assisted by altar boys. The laity passively participated as spectators to what occurred beyond the barrier of the altar railing between the priest and God.

The universal changes promulgated by the Second Vatican Council touched the local churches throughout the world. Saint Teresa’s in Albany began to experience what this renewal meant as the concrete changes began to touch them in the most dramatic way in the mid 1960’s. As the years progressed, the leadership of St. Teresa’s began to realize the broader implications of the symbolic changes in church liturgy. The 1958 design of the church’s worshiping space neither captured nor symbolized the new role of the laity in the total life of the church and its worship. Under the pastorate of Fr. Herbert J. Wellmeier and the parish council, a committee was chosen in the summer of 1980 to come up with a new plan for St. Teresa’s sanctuary. The architectural firm of Rambusch of New York was hired as design consultants for the renovation committee. They are noted specialists in church renovation.

The design concept of the newly renovated sanctuary incorporates the most recent theological thinking on how best to symbolize the presence of Christ in and with the worshiping assembly. We worship God the Father through the presence of His Son Jesus. His presence calls us to actively participate in His life which should touch every aspect of our lives.

The seating around the altar and ambo (pulpit) is arranged in a manner that draws the assembly into the actions of worship. The assembly becomes aware of Christ in and with the gathered community, “Where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.” (Matthew 18:20) The presence of Christ here must be acknowledged and reverenced. The arrangement of chairs allows faces to be seen rather than just the backs of people’s heads. We do not worship privately, but corporately with others.

The assembly gathers around the one table of God’s Word, the ambo, to be nourished by the presence of Christ in the proclaimed Scriptures. “In the beginning was the Word: The Word was with God and the Word was God…The Word was made Flesh, He lived among us…: (John 1:1-14) The presence of Christ here must be acknowledge and reverenced.

Likewise, the assembly gathers around the one table of the Lord’s Supper—the altar. A multiplicity of altars lessens the significance of the one table which is a sign of Christ who is the source of our unity. As a unified assembly aware of our communion with the entire church, we are nourished by the body and blood of our Lord who is present through the signs and actions of blessing bread and wine, and communally eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper-the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The presence of Christ here must be acknowledged and reverenced.

The altar, ambo and celebrant’s chair are centrally located in the worship space of the Church. These furnishings extend far into the assembly eliciting participation and symbolizing the intimacy of Christ with His people—the Church. Statuary and other art work are placed in locations other than the sanctuary so that at Mass the focus of attention is on the various actions of the celebration not on various devotions.

To the left of the ambo and altar is the large baptismal pool. Baptism incorporates the Christian into the assembly of believers. It initiates the Christian into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The baptismal pool with its life-giving water is a powerful symbol of our Christian dignity and responsibility as a priestly people.

To the right of the ambo and altar is the organ and place for the choir. The choir as part of the gathered worshiping assembly does not entertain, but leads the community in singing and actively participating in the worship of the heavenly Father. The move from the choir loft to the side of the sanctuary highlights the ministry of leadership of the choir.

To the rear of the altar and ambo is a beautifully crafted decorative screen. Behind this screen is a devotional area which accommodates eight to ten people. This is where the Holy Eucharist is reserved in the tabernacle for those who are sick and shut-in and for private prayer and meditation. A hanging sanctuary lamp above the screen signifies the presence of the Eucharist I the tabernacle.

The total perspective of the renovated sanctuary immediately encourages the gathered worshipers to focus in upon the faith realities of the presence of Christ in His community, in His Word and in His Supper. St. Teresa’s sanctuary is a model of what other churches in the diocese can do with their pre-Vatican II sanctuary designs.


James said...

Those clumsy concrete altars that look like they've been assembled from bits of stonehenge, or Fred Flintstone's kitchen table, always give me the creeps. They remind me of a stone altar I once saw in a dilapidated old church in Umbria (might have been in Orvieto) where the altar was a recycled Etruscan altar that had once been used for animal and possibly human sacrifices. Grim.

Victor said...

I wonder how much money went into the new and the original altars, for which I can envision poor folks giving their last hard earned pennies and, in the case of the new sanctuary, for the gratification of the intellectuals. Yes, V2 was about the experts, those intellectuals who were less concerned about the ordinary people than about their novel ideas, or should I say, novel idols. The liturgical movement was about knowledge, a gnosis of the liturgy, which drawn to its logical conclusion meant that the liturgy needed to be changed so that ordinary people could understand it. This and the following explains more why people just left the Church:
"devotion to our Lord in the reserved Sacrament is the antithesis of authentic worship" -> Does authentic worship mean becoming simpletons? Stop judging the people.
"The laity passively participated as spectators to what occurred beyond the barrier of the altar railing" -> intellectuals judging the hearts of the people.
"The assembly becomes aware of Christ in and with the gathered community" -> coming to church is not needed for that. Who says people were not aware of Christ in te church and in them? Stop judging them: maybe a reform was not needed on this one.
"A multiplicity of altars lessens the significance of the one table which is a sign of Christ who is the source of our unity." -> When all the other altars were being used at the same time, that showed a greater unity under the presence of Christ everywhere.
"The move from the choir loft to the side of the sanctuary highlights the ministry of leadership of the choir." -> And in doing so these performers became the centre of attraction using secular based sing-along-songs. Their leadership was about secularising the Mass.
"His presence calls us to actively participate in His life which should touch every aspect of our lives." -> help get me out of here! That is obvious, and I do not need to go to church for that. What I ultimately want to do in church is witness the mystery of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the altar and participate particularly with my own sincere prayers in this Holy Sacrifice, even partake of Communion. Stop telling me what to do and how to think in church. Why is your way better than mine? You cannot judge my intentions in or out of church. What arrogance.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I can't say that the 1950's altars were that great. In fact the four marble legs came from the three altars. The side altars were supported by a middle leg and marble top and the main altar had two legs and a marble top. In the late 60's the main altar which was a solid piece against the wall was pulled forward to the edge of the third step and the priest's chair place behind it dead center and the tabernacle moved to the side. When the altar was pulled forward, part of the marble that made it solid looking was removed to make it more table like. The new altar pictured took the four legs and place a very large solid marble top on it. It is clearly dated now, but at the time I liked that we had reused the legs and the solid new top was massive and quite something at the time.

Michael said...

Father, judging from your comments here over time, it seems as though you loved the TLM as a child and were moved by its reverence and beauty. Now, you love it once again - but what happened in the 70's and 80's that made you "drink the Kool Aid," if you don't mind my asking?

George said...

A mountain is that natural physical structure which juts up toward the sky, toward the firmament representing heaven.The mountaintop is experienced as a place of solitude situated well above mundane,weary, hectic and often contentious life below and where one can be in a more amenable place to pray to God.
The mountain at its summit symbolizes the Heavenly reality which is above all that is earthly and worldly. At the Transfiguration Jesus ascended the mountaintop to pray. A transformation of His appearance occurred which revealed the glory of His Divine nature to Peter, James and John who were there in attendance.
The Mass and its liturgical structure can be seen as an ascension by us of a mount up to the summit, at which summit occurs the consecration of the Eucharist, which is to say the transformation of physical matter, which we then partake of. At the liturgical summit, physical matter is transformed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. We experience by faith what is revealed by the light of Christ. This ascension by us, at the summit of which is the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into Christ Himself, and of Whose Divine substance we then partake, to its good end, and to the degree we are in the necessary and proper state, effects our own transformation into becoming and being Christ-like, to becoming a faithful son or daughter of the Divine Father. At the Transfiguration, the apostles where privileged by the gift of God, to see by light what they would eventually come to understand by faith, that this person they knew as Jesus of Nazareth was in fact God. What they did know or understand, but in time would come to realize, is that they themselves would eventually conform to the Divine template embodied in the Son of God.
Just as mountains are produced by the "groaning and labor pains of creation", not only creation, but the apostles themselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, groaned and suffered in trails and travails, "while waiting for adoption, the redemption of their bodies", as we by faith and with hope, in our own time likewise do.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Michael, everyone was saying this was renewal and bring a springtime to the liturgy and the laity. By 1988 I realized that it was a lie leading to a corruption of both but also the clergy.

Anonymous said...

Fr McDonald, you say, "By 1988 I realised that it was a lie leading to a corruption of both but also the clergy". I am going to substitute 2017 for 1988 and suggest that by then you will realise the current lie and the corruption of the clergy.

Servimus Unum Deum said...

Jan how disgusting of you to insult Fr McDonald like that. He isn't a stupid person smoking the marijuana of the False Vatican II anymore and DOES get the state of clergy in the church. YOU know this being a frequent commentator and reader here. Take his statement at face value. You remember that post about those radical fundamentalists that featured Fr Longenecker's 10 signs of a Catholic hate filled machine? YOU Are one of them. This particular one of the ten applies to you right now:

"8. Suspicion and Separation Those who are outside the group are the sinners and suspect ones, but those who seem to be inside the group, but do not share the group think are suspected even more. The only ones who are worse than the sinners outside are the sinners inside the fortress. Therefore everyone inside must conform constantly, and anyone who steps outside the rules or exhibits the wrong attitude will soon be shunned, then excluded."

Fr has repented of his liturgical and theological "sins." But because he isn't a hate machine like you, cause he was "tainted" in your implications, you revile him and don't think he's one of the "good guys." NEWS FLASH people, HE ACTUALLY IS! Now apologise immediately to this alter Christus and moderator of this blog for what you said.

And all of you wonder why there aren't more Latin Masses out there. Cause you vomit hate projectiles on good priests, even the ones already doing the Latin Masses.

Anonymous said...

This church isn't the best example to make your point. It wasn't beautiful before the renovation.

TJM said...

Well at least you grew up. Thank God for that

Rood Screen said...

Had you continued with that line of thinking, would your alter ego have created a blog called "Southern Disorders"?

Anonymous said...

Julian Barkin, your comment is a load of rubbish putting a totally different connotation on what I stated. Your post seems more than a little over the top. Perhaps some smelling salts would help? I am sure Fr McDonald was smart enough to understand what I meant but, just for you, I will spell it out: If father got it wrong once before - and admits it - then it is quite possible that by 2017 he may change his views about this current pope. There was nothing in my post denigrating Fr McDonald at all and if anyone needs to apologise it is you for acting like a silly little boy.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

It isn't a matter of changing my views about a pope, Jan. Catholics have a right to dislike the style of the papacy of any given pope. I did not like the populous thrust of Pope St. John Paul II at all and during his papacy. I thought it made the papacy revolve too much around the charismatic nature of the particular pope and his strong personality. I feel the same way about Pope Francis in this regard. I don't like the amount of exposure we are getting to Pope Francis, talk as His Holiness may, about synodality, the fact that His Holiness is a populace centralizes the papacy in a way that is unhealthy. His off-the-cuff interviews are garbage often times and need to be moderated. But he's the pope, not me and I will acknowledge that time and time again.

I prefer the type of papacy that Pope Benedict had. And while I wished during his papacy that he was more "human" in terms of his teaching style, I prefer when the institution of the papacy with its trappings are exalted and the person of the pope is humbled. Pope Benedict is a humble pope. Pope Francis isn't. If he were, he'd wear the trappings of the papacy, but His Holiness out of pride can't bring himself to so that.

BTW the last talk that Pope Benedict gave to seminarians about the nature of the Church and without notes was splendid.

Anonymous said...

Fr McDonald, I certainly agree with what you say at 5.47. I did think, however, that you tended to believe some of what is said about the Pope being taken out of context, this isn't what he said, etc, which I don't believe is true and that will become clearer in future when everything can be put into context and seen in light of the slow breaking down of Church teaching by innuendo or suggestion of change. Bishop Schneider has some good comments on this and shows that he himself is simply a humble Catholic bishop: