Our Great Mosaic
"The Church is the result of centuries of labor and love."
A few years ago, our church hosted an exhibit of contemporary art. Some considered the art beautiful and engaging; others thought it ugly and offensive. Though acceptable for a gallery, contemporary art was deemed unfitting for our historic church. I was told a classical building should be adorned with classical art, not abstract.
I remembered the many churches I’d visited throughout Europe. Most had been built and rebuilt over the course of many centuries, with each century leaving its own distinctive mark. As a result, it isn’t unusual for a church to have a Romanesque nave, Gothic adornments, a Renaissance façade, Baroque side altars, abstract windows, and contemporary appointments such as the altar and ambo. Regardless of their stylistic complexity, they evoke a sense of perfect unity and harmony. Often it takes a guide to remind a visitor that the building is the result of hundreds of years of labor and love.
I have often wished for a similar guide to point out that: Similar to its buildings’ art and architecture, the Church itself is complex and diverse and was not created all at once. But unlike a tour guide who easily elicits repeated oohs and ahs, someone pointing out the diversity in our Church may not experience the same reception. Many of us probably wish for a kind of cookie-cutter Catholic Church. Wouldn’t things be easier if everyone believed and prayed exactly the same and preferred the same art and architecture? In our search for ecclesiastical safety and security, do we readily confuse unity with uniformity and create a false notion of what it means to be a “true” Catholic?