A reader sent in photos of an altar renovation, before and after, from Houston, Texas.
The reader opined that it was rather “awful” before, but wryly commented that he guesses that the rail in the renovated version will make the priest “feel safer up there.”
These two comments pretty well sum up my evaluation of the renovation. The previous version is a bit tacky and gimmicky, though with some beautiful materials and certainly not the worst post-conciliar sanctuary I’ve seen. The renovated version has a beautiful balance and inviting warmth to it, but an unfortunate retro ideology – why an altar rail, when the posture for receiving Communion in the U.S. is standing?
And so it goes in our communal, ecclesial journey: we take two steps forward and one step backward. Maybe someday we’ll reach a better synthesis of the best of old and new, artistically and theologically. Maybe someday we’ll renovate with less imposition of an ideology that is tied to the agendas of one generation and thus bound to be undone by the next.
The pastor wrote this in the parish bulletin about the nearly-completed renovation:
The painting to the left of the crucifix will depict the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. The one on the right will contain images of Venerable Antonio Margil, a Franciscan friar who helped to evangelize Texas and who founded Mission San Jose in San Antonio, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, our parish patroness. Taken together, the two paintings will represent the vocations of marriage, the religious life, and the ordained priesthood.