- Tour of the Church
- A Meditation
The Common Gathering Area and The Baptismal Font
Our entry through the doors tells us we are in God's house. "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord," the psalmist said. Life giving, refreshing, cleansing and healing are the thoughts perceived as we enter the Church through the Common Gathering Area. The light filled, airy space focuses our attention to the centrally located Baptismal font, which recalls for us our own Baptism into the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit. A cascading upright font pours itself into a large pool before a colorful stained glass window that depicts the Holy Spirit above the River Jordan. Reverently, people may place their fingertips in the flowing water and bless themselves. This beautiful font allows for Baptism by immersion as was the tradition in the early Church.
The entire Baptismal area is illuminated from above through a magnificent octagonal skylight. Through the clear glass overhead, one can see the Universal Cruciform (an ancient Greek cross) hovering above and distinguishable from all directions. It is held aloft by four supporting beams symbolizing the four gospels of the New Testament. Symbols and signs through the centuries have helped us to identify and recall our Christian heritage. They enlighten our thoughts, words and Christ-like actions.
The Worship Space
Traditionally the place of worship provides an environment of warmth and hospitality. Remodeling our original site of worship provided an opportunity to enhance and improve this atmosphere. Thoughtful consideration was given in the application of design techniques together with existing features to allow for appropriate artistic use of contemporary materials. As we come from the tiled floor of the entry area, a soft brown tweed carpeting throughout the interior floor will cushion our steps giving quiescence to our reverence. The large open nave of the former ceiling is also cushioned with a space from overhead like a cloud of incense. Scripture provides many thoughtful references to God's appearance and disappearance by means of a symbolic cloud. The awe, wonder and mystery of God is symbolized in the geodesic space frame hovering over the assembly area. It is composed of many interlocking triangles exemplifying the total involvement of the Holy Trinity in God's Church - the Mystical Body of Christ. Surrounding the gathering space, the interior walls are covered with natural fir paneling that will develop a golden luster of warmth as it ages. Careful use of structural glass block provides an added gentle glow of light to the enclosure. Our minds and hearts are reverently brought together. Quietly we sense the strength of our unity as God's people. We are one with God.
The Sanctuary: Altar, Ambo, Crucifix and Chair
The entrance procession begins at the Baptismal Font in the "Common Area." The priest (Presider) and altar servers proceed down the new center aisle to the Sanctuary on the south side of the assembly space. Seating (with kneelers) closely surrounds the Sanctuary on three sides and no farther than 35 feet away. A large plain canopy protrudes over the entire area. Its corners are angled to match the floor of the Sanctuary. Two low steps provide entry into this sacred area from its three sides. The wall behind this Sanctuary (the Reredos) is simply marked by three large raised symbolic trees of life all in white from floor to ceiling.
A large CRUCIFIX (with corpus) stands at the floor level on the left side slightly away from the wall. Clean lines and simplicity convey openness to the space. The ALTAR is the common table of the assembly and a symbol of Christ. It is made beautifully of oak, almost square (measuring 4 feet by 4 feet) and located near the center of the Sanctuary. The Altar is holy and sacred. The AMBO is an upright desk designed for use in reading and preaching. The Ambo represents the uniqueness of the Word of God and of reflection upon the Word. It is made of oak and located slightly forward and left of the altar. The CHAIR is the symbol of the one who presides in the liturgical celebration. Fashioned from oak, it matches the other furnishings and is located forward and right of the altar. After entering the Sanctuary, the priest kisses the Altar, then turns toward the assembled believers. Solemnly the liturgy begins with the magnificent blessing, a hallmark of all Catholics: The Sign of the Cross.
The Presider, The Sacristy, Spiritual Activities Room
A priest is one who has been ordained by a bishop and has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. He is called to offer Sacrifice and has the threefold power of teaching, ministering and governing. He and he alone can complete the building up of the Body of Christ in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. As the PRESIDER he acts in the person of Christ and proclaiming His mystery, he joins the offering of the assembled faithful to the sacrifice of Christ to Our Father in Heaven. Before Mass begins, the priest must prepare himself, not only by vesting in the symbolic garments of the early Church, but also mentally and spiritually. For this purpose he first enters the SACRISTY. The former Sacristy located in the Northeast corner has been refurbished and a partition now divides the room to provide the priest with greater privacy. Though well intended, any interruption in the Sacristy causes distraction. Understandably, it is essential for the priest to seclude himself so that he may be undisturbed as he prayerfully meditates in preparation to be the presider at Holy Mass. This courtesy will benefit everyone at this special time. The need for seclusion applies also to those candidates of the Catechumenate (The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). These Catholic Catechumens leave Mass, after the Homily, to meet and share scripture and discuss Catholic teachings. For this purpose the former crying room is now a SPIRITUAL ACTIVITIES ROOM. Because of this rooms close to proximity to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel it will only be available for the adult groups conducting reflective activity. Surely it is fitting that we too are called at this time to reconstruct and renew our own spiritual attitude so that we ourselves will symbolize a true love of God and concern for one another. Let us pray to accept the Lord's challenge to build His kingdom.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel
Our beautiful Church now remodeled adapts the early customs to the needs of the present and the future. First century Christians eagerly looked forward to their weekly assembly for worship. They gathered together in a large room or hall for the Sacred Ritual. After the reading of Scripture and the breaking of the bread for Communion, the Holy Eucharist was removed from the Assembly Room. The Blessed Sacrament was lovingly placed in a separate location especially reserved, thus giving it the greater significance it deserved. There, Christians could go for private adoration and devotion or for purposes of taking Communion to the sick. This ancient custom is beautifully incorporated in our new Blessed Sacrament Chapel located in the former Sanctuary. It is marvelously redesigned for this purpose. This reserved location gives greater attention to Our Lord in the Eucharist and the increased reverence He deserves. The new and larger Tabernacle is mounted in approximately the same place as previously, but somewhat lower and surrounded on both sides by a series of recessed wood panels. A shelf of the same wood is mounted below it for candles and flowers. An artistically designed partition of glass enclosed arches will screen the Chapel yet permit its view from the main worship space. The thoughtfulness of this early concept from our forefathers in Christ fills our hearts with a deep appreciation of our Catholic heritage.
The Bride's Room
Since Christ's first miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana, Christian marriage has been viewed as a sanctified union. The Catholic Church places serious proprieties on the preparation for this Holy Sacrament. The vows normally take place in church at a Nuptial Mass. In consideration of the customs related to the wedding and the needs of the bride, our renewed church structure includes THE BRIDE'S ROOM. Located in the Northwest corner, this 9 x 12, well-lighted room is nicely carpeted, beautifully wallpapered and equipped with a private bathroom. A large shelf, clothes rack, few chairs, bridal bench and floor to ceiling mirror on one wall will accommodate the ladies in waiting. This room, as well as the entire worship space, will be comfortably air conditioned. Our renewed center aisle is now a brief walk from the common gathering space to the sanctuary; a step and a glide for the lovely bride.
The new liturgical norms encourage family togetherness in the worship space. Infants and small children will not be relegated to an obscure crying room, but are considered vital members of the assembly. "Let the little children come to me." (Luke 18:16) This arrangement calls us to appreciate each other's needs and to offer mutual respect and concern so that the liturgy may be meaningful to all present.
How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place, O Lord (Ps. 84)
A Meditation on the Sanctuary of St. Hedwig Church
Dedicated to Father Timothy MacCarthy
God speaks to us as we sit before his altar. Lifting our minds and hearts to the Lord we glance heavenward and see the geodesic space frame as a modern symbolic image of the unity of all persons: A communion of saints hovering hand in hand as a heavenly convocation. The historical present gives new meaning to old symbols and our silent mystical journey is illuminated. "Over ancient forms of worship newer rites of grace prevail; Faith will tell us Christ is present, when our human senses fail." (Tantum Ergo). So Isaiah informs us about God's loving pronouncement, "See, I am doing something new." (Is. 43:19)
As the living waters rush forth and splash from the Baptismal Font, God's presence prevails; it is peaceful here all about. Calming every fear O Lord, you banish stress from my daily life. The living waters rushing cleanse my very soul. In the silence of my heart you speak to me O Lord as I contemplate your temple.
Here before me in your holy sanctuary is the altar of the Eucharistic mystery and there the Reredos of symbolic decor stands as the prologue for the moment of promise. The boldly sculpted alabaster wall shows great Trees of Life (Gn. 2:9) in like number to the four gospels of the "good news" that yield forth inspired words of truth and wisdom. Cradled creche-like in the manger of their branches victoriously for all to hear the "Verbum Dei" echoes the glorious Word of God that always was and ever will be.
There beneath the boughs stand the three tents Peter proposed as the Lord's Transfiguration: one for Moses of the law, one for Elijah and all the prophets, and one for the Master, Jesus, the Word became flesh, the truth, the light, and the way; the new covenant of our salvation. The Trees stand like a garden beside a stream, like the cedars planted by the Lord (Nm. 24:6). Now my heart and soul peacefully rest.
No speech, no word, no voice is heard, yet their span extends to all the earth, their words to the utmost bounds of the world. There he has placed a tent for the sun; it comes forth like a bridegroom coming up from his tent, rejoices like a champion to run its course (Ps. 19A).
Now Lord your spirit peacefully caresses me as I gaze upon your loving face here in your dwelling place. Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks; your presence Lord, I seek (Ps. 27:8). So I ask you Lord, who should be admitted to your tent and dwell on your holy mountain? (Ps. 15) Glancing to the side I see the answer. There stands the crucifix with His body given up for us. "Take up your cross," I hear him say; "follow me" comes the refrain.
And so we gather around our priests to offer again the "Great Amen" in our adoration of the Lord of all in this promised gift of His body and blood in the bread and wine upon the altar. All praise and thanksgiving be to Him forever more. Yes, I rejoiced when I heard them say, "Let us go to the house of the Lord. One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate his temple." (Ps. 122) AMEN!
Francis van der Linden 1992
The above writings were taken from the Ministry of Liturgical Information for Re-Entering Our Remodeled Church. Members were Fr. Timothy MacCarthy, Julie Eagle, Barbara Lipana, and Francis van der Linden