On The Beauty And Splendour Of Catholic Churches.
Whenever I am in Rome, I get inebriated at the richness of our Catholic heritage, which is not only the Vatican Museums and the glorious palaces linked to the Church's history but, largely, churches.
These churches can be entered by everyone – provided he is dressed, and behaves, decently – without any expense. This is a very nice contrast to England, where the oh so inclusive so-called CoE asks you a variable but never symbolic amount if you want to see any decent Cathedral, topped by the – if memory serves – 15 pounds for Canterbury Cathedral, one of the many buildings they, by the way, stole from us.
If you enter any one of those beautiful Roman churches, you will often find people praying there alone or in little groups (saying the Rosing, for example). You will easily see these people are largely popolani, the Roman word for “working class”. Simple people of faith, caring for their salvation like Samantha Cameron would never even believe, and accumulating treasuries in heaven whilst she cocktails and fundraises herself to hell.
Traditionally, this has been the “audience” of a church: the popolani who made the vast part of the population, and of those attending Mass and the other functions and devotions.
It is, of course, true that the extreme richness of many Roman churches is lavished ad majorem Dei gloriam, but it is also undeniable the main earthly beneficiaries of such magnificence are the vast number of simple people frequenting the churches.
As every properly instructed Catholic will tell a Protestant, a Catholic church is meant to transport those who enter it into another world. The thick walls will keep the hustle and bustle of daily cares outside; the silence or the practising organist will immerse them in an atmosphere of deep spirituality, and the utter magnificence of what they see around them will immediately remind them of the unimaginable treasures waiting for them, one day, after their earthly toil.
It is impossible for a Catholic to conceive that a poor pewsitter could resent, or even question this splendour. Poor may he be, but he will never dare to think “if this Madonna were sold, some of the proceed may help my family”. It would be like stealing from the hand of Christ Himself.
This, every poor man or woman understands without difficulties, and not even the Communists have ever tried to promote laws allowing the sale of the inestimable treasures contained in churches all over the Country (belonging, many of them, to the State, which pays for their upkeep). Such a thinking would be not even the mark of the Philistine, but rather of the Barbarian.
As so often in our life, though, it is the champagne-sipping, gay-marrying, hell bound upper middle class who pose as the protectors of the poor, feeling very holy as they do so. Their stupidity is so vast – or their disingenuousness so false – that they do not think how actually cheap all this beauty is. Firstly, it was largely paid either by the rich (the initial expense) or the ordinary taxpayer, and therefore emphatically not the poor (the upkeep). Secondly, it has nourished with beauty and spirituality a vast number of people; so vast in fact, that if you wanted to distribute the proceeds among the fifteen or twenty generations of pewsitters since construction – not to mention the many ones, God willing, to come – you would discover that the proceeds wouldn't change the life of everyone, but the loss of such beauty would make everybody miserable. Unless, of course, you were to allow one generation to appropriate for themselves the beauty rightly enjoyed by all the future ones, thus proving once again that socialism is never more than two inches away from robbery.
Whenever possible, Catholic churches must be splendid. Let Catholic shows how much they love Christ without any shame and fake “social” prejudices.
Let the Calvinists congregate in squalid barns. We Catholics will continue to delight in our wonderful churches; not only because of the symbolic spiritual value of all the wealth, but because where Christ is present in the Eucharist, no splendour can be too much.