Wednesday, June 11, 2008


At the parish we have only two candle stands by the altar. They are original to and designed for the building and supposedly there are none others like it. There used to be six of them, but when they were pulled out of storage in more recent years and repaired for use once again at mass, only two could be found. Somehow, somewhere, someone sold, gave away, or took the other four. It is a shame.

Unfortunately this is not an unusual event. Many parishes “used to have” something that was put away during a time when a particular person or groups of persons did not see the value in them and years later, when other persons with renewed interest asks, “Didn’t we used to have one of those here?” those objects are mysteriously missing. Then you either do without or invest parish resources once again.

The parish patrimony is something that should be jealously and vigorously protected. It can take a parish 100 years to build up to something and one person to dissipate it in a week. The danger is that in the midst of ridding the parish of unwanted “old stuff”, one may be in the middle of a fad that may pass. And even if that is not the case, there are items that are archive worthy and will someday have historical significance to the grandchildren of the last generation.

Now, there is patrimony and then there is patrimony. Even I have bias and someday a person may look upon me as being careless with Church treasures. I do not think I would be inclined to hold on to burlap and felt banners. But then again, these are usually not items of deep craftsmanship, worthy materials, or of irreplaceable sentiment.

In a more difficult situation is the saving of significant pieces from the closing of church buildings. In the Diocese of Cleveland approximately four score churches will close or merge in the next couple of years. (The pictures accompanying this post are some from my hometown already closed or are closing.) Fortunately I believe that we are better equipped more recently to handle making sure that pieces which may have been an object of devotion or that have enhanced prayer do not end up as décor in bars and or coffee houses. Hopefully we have learned our lesson and will not let these things slip from our hands into profane use.

In the meantime we must do our best not to be so quick to look to the dumpster or yard sale to rid ourselves of that which the current ten minutes declares passé. It is one thing to have a church reflect current personalities and sensitivities; it is another to work hard at making sure that it never reflects anyone else’s; past or future.


Anonymous said...

What!? You mean I can't put up the gargoyls in the corners of my livingroom and the communion rail in front of the tv or the fireplace and then decorate it every Christmas with garland?

Ok, seriously, though, we recently ran into this problem in my parish. Commissioned artwork was found in the the artist himself who just happened to have to park in that area that day. We're missing some very LARGE marble statues, and "no one" knows where they went or who has responsibility for moving them or placing them. They're just GONE.

And there are a lot of people upset about this. Understandably so. (I'm one of them)

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Father: Coming from a parish where we could write a similar lament, I can relate. Oh, and I agree about those felt banners...