Vol 44 No 1 March 2014
|Our Cover: The Three Saints||Elich, Tom||Liturgical Inculturation||1, 16|
|Editor: Looking. Seeing. Valuing.||Elich, Tom||Architecture and Environment||2|
|Access Is Not Inclusion: Liturgy and Disability||Moran, Julie||Justice and Liturgy||3-4|
|A Liturgical Spirituality: Praying Together in the Parish||Harrington, Elizabeth||Eucharist / Mass||5-6|
|Praying Morning Prayer With Primary School Children||Hatherell, Kari||Children and Youth||7-8|
|Lift Up Your Hearts. Celebrating 50 Years of Sacrosanctum Concilium: Wollongong, January 2014||Fitzpatrick, Michael, Dyson, Helen, McKenna, Anne, and Pozzebon, Lorrae||Liturgy||9|
|Embracing Change. Celebrating 50 Years of Sacrosanctum Concilium: Wollongong, January 2014||Ingham, Peter||History of Liturgy / Vatican II||10-11|
|Liturgical Books||-||Texts – Liturgical||11|
|Appointments in Ireland and USA||-||People||11|
|Chagall: An Easter Meditation||-||Art||12|
|Discovery in Turkey||-||Architecture and Environment||12|
|Syro-Malabar Diocese||-||Liturgy - Other Churches/Religions||12|
|Bunny or Lamb||-||Easter and Lent||12|
|Catechumenate Conference||-||Christian Initiation||13|
|Domenico Bartolucci||-||In Memoriam||13|
|Miami Gold Coast||-||Australian Images||13|
|Liturgy News is Going Electric||-||Technology||13|
|Church Fan Club||-||Architecture and Environment||13|
|Catholicism- Robert Barron||Schwantes, Clare||Catechesis - liturgical||14|
|Catholic Worship Book II||O'Brien, Jenny||Music||15|
LOOKING. SEEING. VALUING.
Imagining a modest parish church, I place myself at the entry, the baptismal font on my left. I ignore the clutter of lost property and look at the stained glass window behind the font. A conventional image, the baptism of Christ, with a made-up gothic canopy in the background. Perhaps this is heaven, because it covers the hovering dove of the Holy Spirit. Jesus stands in a puddle, while John the Baptist tips water on his haloed head from a shell. I look. How do I see? What do I value?
A little brass plate on the window sill identifies “The Baptism of the Lord” by William Bustard (1894-1973). Bustard, I know, lived his adult life in Brisbane, painting watercolour landscapes and making a local reputation for himself in designing stained glass. Let’s say the window dates from the late 1930s, perhaps a decade or more after the church was built. It is quite a disappointing window. Yes, merely conventional. The figures of Christ and the Baptist are static. Curiously, about this time Bustard resigned from the Queensland Art Gallery’s art advisory committee because he resented its conservatism. Yet this window shows none of the art-deco strength and creativity of Daphne Mayo, his contemporary in Brisbane. This is a local artist working for a local church, but in vain does one search for any element which would localise the scene. The foliage on the bank is stylised, with no hint of Australian flora.
Perhaps when the priest and parish considered a baptism window for the church, Bustard was the obvious choice. The Catholic and Anglican cathedrals and a number of other churches around the city were commissioning him to design windows for them. Who made the decision? Perhaps the parish archives will have an answer. We do know that the Murphy family were involved, at least in paying for it. An inscription at the bottom of the window reads: In Memory of William Murphy (1876-1935). Erected by his loving wife and children. After 80 years, perhaps no one in the parish remembers them anymore. And yet it is tantalising and very moving. Here is a family who worshipped in this place Sunday after Sunday. They were familiar with the smell of the place and knew its furnishings and fittings. They are our ancestors in faith. They helped make us who we are today. We owe them. Perhaps like generations of Catholics the Murphy children were baptised in this very font. Parishioners may remember the baptism of their own children at this place, the washing, the clothing, perhaps the infant tears; they think of their photo albums – baby in white, godparents and candle alight – with the window in the background.
The window, of course, also tells the big public story. You are my Son, the Beloved, says the Gospel. The waters of the Jordan, made holy by the one who was baptised, become a sign of the water of the font. The image in the window speaks to us of the mystery of rebirth which takes place at the font. Here we are reborn as the family of God by water and the Holy Spirit to become brothers and sisters of Christ, beloved of the Father. We gather as the Church in this church to celebrate the liturgy because of our baptism. As we look, we remember the summer feast of the Baptism of the Lord when we hear the Scriptures proclaimed in the context of the season of the Incarnation. We recall with heavy hearts the funeral of grandparents or parents, when the coffin was sprinkled with water from the font as it waited at the church door for the liturgy of resurrection to begin.
The church I am imagining is not on any heritage register. Its stained glass window is no celebrated jewel of artistic endeavour. It is just there. As it has been unobtrusively for decades. And yet it is precious, priceless. This corner establishes for us a network of links that tie us to the city where we live, its citizens and its aspirations; to the families of this place who, like us, have prayed year in and year out Our Father who art in heaven; to the members of our own families who have shared this history; to our own identity as the people of God in the here and now. We can document our history and heritage, but our patrimony is inscribed in our hearts. Patrimony cannot be made redundant or judged surplus to our needs.
Preserving our patrimony does not mean keeping everything the same as always in a stuffy museum case. It does not mean dragging objects and furniture out of storage and pretending we live in the 1930s. It means knowing the story and valuing the symbols of a living tradition. Ignorance means that we will look but not see, see but not value.
Parishes could start by establishing an inventory. Enlist the help of a parishioner who is a librarian, archivist or historian. Photograph and list furniture, vessels and vestments, images and artwork. Record any inscriptions or known information. Gradually collect and keep testimonies and stories, sketching in the historical background where possible. Who made it? How old is it? Who acquired it? How has it been used? Avoid the destructive ‘clean-up’ when things are thrown away recklessly. Old Missals or vestments may no longer be suitable for use, so clean them, wrap them and store them at the back of a sacristy drawer or cupboard. The
context of the parish and the church gives even ordinary objects a spiritual and personal value, affording us glimpses of who we were and who we are. And occasionally we discover a real artistic treasure of national significance!
Churches and chapels become redundant and close. To some extent disposal and dispersal is inevitable. But we need to know what we have and what it means, so that we can treat it with respect and handle with reverence the faith of our fathers and mothers.