URGENT: Univ. of St. Thomas (MN) CHAPEL WRECKOVATION

I got an e-mail.  I ask those who live in Minnesota to pay attention to this.

This is about a meeting:

12:45 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. Students, faculty and staff are invited to attend.

Dear Fr. Z,

I wanted to make you aware that the University of St. Thomas will again be renovating its main campus chapel.  Unfortunately, it is NOT in a more traditional direction. 

They are having a campus discussion TOMORROW (Thursday 29 November) with the liturgical "designers" (one of whom collaborated on the dreadful "Art and Environment in Catholic Worship") about the proposed renovations.  Essentially, the chapel will become more of a performance space than a "worship" space.  (There is an increasing desire to have orchestras, choirs, and recitals in the chapel). 

See here:

http://www.stthomas.edu/bulletin/news/200748/Wednesday/chapel11_28_07.cfm

I think it would be helpful to notify your many Minnesota readers, especially UST alumni, about the proposed changes, and encourage them to show up and (non-belligerently) ask pointed questions about whether the new "designs" make celebration of the extraordinary form of the Mass possible, or hinder that celebration.  And ask why, as the Church returns more and more toward traditional liturgical architecture, the chapel moves away. 

The "designers" also designed the School of Law’s ugly Chapel of St. Thomas More. 

Thanks and God bless,

Do you remember that recently the Board of UST got rid of the Archbishop of St. Paul?  Here is that entry.  Do you remember what the University assigned for obligatory reading for all freshmen?  Read that here.

On the other hand.

Does this inspire confidence that the chapel work will be well-done?

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34 Responses to URGENT: Univ. of St. Thomas (MN) CHAPEL WRECKOVATION

  1. matthew says:

    I wonder what would happen if one were to give all the “higher-ups” and “designers” a copy of Michael Rose’s book, “Ugly as Sin”?

    In any case, I suggest looking over the book. It could help formulate some very good questions to bring up at the campus discussion.

  2. UST Alumnus says:

    “I wonder what would happen if one were to give all the “higher-ups” and “designers” a copy of Michael Rose’s book, “Ugly as Sin”?”

    Matthew – please do not use Michael Rose as an authority. Rose uses a “Michael Moore” approach to presenting the facts, especially with his Church “Wreckovation” books. If you can find it, read his “Renovation Manipulation”. I was involved in main case he used in that book. It was HIGHLY inaccurate. Too bad he does not do a sequel follow up on that book – it would show how wrong he was.

    My point here is nothing sets people off more than stirring up people about a church renovation. Same thing happened to us – everyone got all upset on just hearsay and without getting any facts. Same words being used here were used with us. Keep the emotions at bay and get the facts first.

  3. peretti says:

    Father, I must say that I am a bit offended by this posting. I happen to be involved in a rather pivotal way in this “wreckovation.” You see, I have directed that a nice plump, cushy pillow be installed in the fifth pew aisle seat for me to use. I would have had it installed in the first pew, but I am such a humble individual. This will help me stretch out and catch 40 winks during those bland homilies. You see, after the renovation, I figure the 30% drop in attendance will allow me to lie down without bothering anybody else. I am very considerate, too. Here in Denver, where our AB seems to be less than friendly to the Traditional Latin Mass, I attend a “bootleg Mass” in the west suburbs of Denver, given by two priests who will remain unknown for fear of retribution, and there is no room to stretch out. Come to think of it, the homilies are so wonderful, and the Mass so beautiful, that I wouldn’t snooze even if there was a cozy cushion..

  4. UST alum says:

    UST Alumnus –

    The “facts” are in the links above. (There is another link to the actual plans for renovation in the story linked above).

    The facts speak for themselves.

  5. Mark says:

    I heard about this some time ago. A friend told me that in some sense it could be made to look like a more conservative move (they will finally be putting in a crucifix, which incidentally they had refused a few years back when a senior class wanted to donate one as a class gift), I was told that the real result will be that it will make the place usable as a concert hall.

    Currently they have a stone altar and Ambo, which all things considered, are rather attractive. These are immovable. I was told that they want to replace at least the altar with a movable one. I am not sure whether they will argue for a stone altar, but I would be surpised to see a movable stone altar.

    Liturgically the case can be made that movable altars and wood altars are inferior. Furthermore it is a kind of desacration to intentionally remodel a sacred space so that it can be more easily available for profane uses. (note that they do already hold concerts there..)

    I am not really sure if bringing up the extraordinary form of mass will accomplish very much…

    Also I can tell you that the chapel at the Law school is hideous…worse than the current UST chapel, though much smaller. In fact if the crucifix they they want to put into the UST chapel is like the one at the Law School, the school would be better off without it.

    I think it is very possible, though, that the renovation would be presented as a conservative move with less than conservative results. I would even speculate that they wouldn’t probably try to introduce a crucifix so hideous as the one at the Law School chapel.

    here is an image of the Law School Chapel: http://www.bergphoto.com/images/stthomasmorechapel.jpg

    The current UST altar and Ambo are somewhat visible here: http://www.stthomas.edu/campusministry/liturgical/default.html
    and also here:
    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/178/453781190_96294f9073_m.jpg

  6. CPT Tom says:

    Interior Shot of St Thomas Aquinas Chapel Here:
    http://flickr.com/photos/timorous/214034831/

    I don’t see why they need to do anything other than add a crucifix…though after seeing what the artist has done in the past for crucifixes I’d think they should look elsewhere (The crucifix at St Thomas More Chapel, St Thomas Law School) http://www.faithnform.com/features/2006winners/images/10-105-tylevich.jpg
    which he won an award for in 2006 from “Faith and Form.”

    I’m Not sure what criteria “Faith and Form” uses, but I think they left Beauty off the list. If you want to see what I mean look at their other winners: http://www.faithnform.com/features/2006winners/

    St Thomas More Chapel From Tylevich’s site
    http://www.tylevich.com/liturgical/st_thomas.html

    The rest of his “creations”
    http://www.tylevich.com/

  7. Patrick Rothwell says:

    Looks like very bad news to me.

  8. Matthew Mattingly says:

    Is this place run by a bunch of radical femminist ultra-progressive nuns? It all sounds like something a bunch of those people would do. After all the same groups have done the same type of thing for 40 years.
    The one good thing about it all is that their Orders are depleted to the point of extinction….so there won’t be any of them around for the next round of renovation/wreckovations.

  9. Will says:

    Having looked at Tylevich’s site, I don’t think he understands what a crucifix is supposed to look like. It is supposed to depict Christ’s torture and death upon the Cross for our sins — not the resurrection.

  10. UST Alumnus says:

    UST Alumnus stated: “The “facts” are in the links above. (There is another link to the actual plans for renovation in the story linked above). The facts speak for themselves.”

    Thank you for pointing that out.

    Here are the facts (from the article)…

    1. An 11-foot-tall crucifix will be suspended above the altar in the domed section of the chapel. The cross will be made with polished bronze and will reflect light from the stained-glass windows. The body of Christ also will be made of bronze but will have a patina.

    2. The marble screen that now stands between the altar and the Gabriel Kney organ will be removed. It will be replaced by a 7-foot-tall, curved, movable screen. At the center of this bronze screen, immediately behind the altar and beneath the crucifix, will stand two taller, bronze features, symbolic of gates or doors. Embedded in the doors will be sculptures in bronze high relief of the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

    3. Bronze text by St. Thomas will be inlaid in the travertine floor surrounding the altar and at the back of the screen.

    4. The existing altar will be removed and donated to an area church. The new altar will be portable and made of bronze and wood, two of Masqueray’s signature materials; also, the existing lecturn will be removed and replaced with a new, portable one.

    5. Other improvements will include handicap access to the sanctuary and a new sound system. Also planned, but not immediately, are central air-conditioning and some water-damage repairs to the chapel’s ceiling and basement.

    So Father Z, could you please explain just how this is a “Wreckovation”?

  11. RBrown says:

    Why have handicap access to the sanctuary?

  12. UST Alumnus: Not today.

  13. UST Alumnus says:

    “Why have handicap access to the sanctuary?”

    I knew a priest who was a paraplegic and I currently know several elderly priests who have a hard time navigating steps. Actually, making the whole church handicap accessible makes common sense, it is also only charitable. Not removing barriers would deny their right to their ministry.

  14. RBrown says:

    I knew a priest who was a paraplegic and I currently know several elderly priests who have a hard time navigating steps. Actually, making the whole church handicap accessible makes common sense, it is also only charitable. Not removing barriers would deny their right to their ministry.
    Comment by UST Alumnus

    But what does that have to do with this particular chapel?

  15. Greg Smisek says:

    While I am no fan of multi-purpose sanctuaries, Tylevich correctly points out that the current marble altar, lectern, credence table, and grille sanctuary is definitely not in keeping with the architecture, either in materials or location.

    Prior to the 1978 reform, the chapel had a beautiful, deep sanctuary whose focal point was the high altar in the apse (I believe they had been using a portable “people’s altar” for some time before 1978). In 1978, a new sanctuary was constructed of marble and travertine, trust out into the crossing of the nave, and the transept pews were reoriented toward the new center. In 1987, the massive “organ god” (the otherwise beautiful Gabriel Kney organ) was installed front and center, becoming the new de facto focal point, and steps were installed around it to accommodate tiered seating for the choir (all where the original high altar had been).

    I hope they will at least be restoring the Resurrection and Ascension paintings (now in the sacristy) to their rightful places above the side doors of the nave. As Msgr. Lavin used to point out, they are an integral part of the artistic program. Starting at the main entrance of the church, the stained glass windows recount various episodes of salvation history, but they end with the Crucifixion. The paintings were next in line and completed the Paschal mystery. So you could say that since 1978, the St. Thomas Chapel has had a “post Vatican II”, non-”Easter People” design.

  16. UST Alumnus says:

    Greg – I was at UST in the 1970′s (CST back then) and your post is 100% correct.

    and to RBrown’s comment: “But what does that have to do with this particular chapel?”

    my only response to that is: “Wow, just wow… ” //along with a look of stunned disbelief.

  17. RBrown says:

    and to RBrown’s comment: “But what does that have to do with this particular chapel?”

    my only response to that is: “Wow, just wow… ” //along with a look of stunned disbelief.
    Comment by UST Alumnus

    Which is of course no answer at all.

    I am aware that there are elderly priests and people, and I understand the need to make public places handicap accessible. But a sanctuary is by definition not a public place.

  18. RBrown says:

    And: The key, as noted by Greg Smisek, was jerking the high altar out of the apse.

  19. CPT Tom says:

    UST Alumnus,

    Actually the 1987 renovation sounds like the original wreckovation, as moving the organ to the asp in the front is as far as I’m concerned just wrong, it makes the choir and the organ more important than they should be. The altar should be the focal point of the church as this is where the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ happens. They did this to the cathedral in my Diocese (Rochester) reducing the altar to a 5 ft cube that is lost in the middle of this huge cathedral.

    Now. The reason this current “renovation” is really a wreckovation, after looking at Tylevich’s work on his website, especially the job he did on the St. Thomas More chapel, I can safely say the University has not picked an artist or architect that is in harmony with the architecture of St Thomas Aquinas Chapel. Far from it. If anything, Tylevich is more than likely going to go further away from the beauty that a CATHOLIC place of worship should contain. His work is just plain ugly, poorly rendered, and not in keeping with the symbolic tradition of the Church.

    Of course, if the University of St Thomas really cared about any of that, they would have picked someone who would have given the original architecture it’s due, instead of further subverting the intention of the original architect and the Church’s teachings on worship space. Instead they seem to be going for hip, edgy, and with the times. Unfortunately, that means it will not be timeless like the Church as a whole should be, but hey I’m sure UST has plenty of rich donors, right?

  20. AS says:

    UST Alumnus wrote: “everyone got all upset on just hearsay”

    Are you sure you didn’t mean to type everyone got all upset over just heresy?

  21. UST Alumnus says:

    “AS” wrote: “Are you sure you didn’t mean to type everyone got all upset over just heresy?”

    No. I meant what I wrote: hearsay, as in rumor or innuendo. Just like the inneundo the word “Wreckovation” found in the title of this post implies.

    Hey RBrown: My answer to you is paragraph #9 of Constitution of Sacred Liturgy. Look it up. Not a long paragraph but is says volumes.

  22. Sean says:

    It’s wrecked anyway as far as I can see. I notice from his modernist chapel that he understands verticality and that the font should be near the west door. If only he had kept on reading and installed a proper sanctuary. A proper sanctuary in the same style (steps, no cube, no in the round) and the chapel would look very nice with a 1962 mass in progress. The 70s in continuity.

  23. CPT Tom says:

    UST Alumius

    Not sure how you think paragraph 9 applies which states:

    9. The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church. Before men can
    come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to conversion: “How then are they to call
    upon him in whom they have not yet believed? But how are they to believe him whom they
    have not heard? And how are they to hear if no one preaches? And how are men to preach
    unless they be sent?” (Rom. 10:14-15).
    Therefore the Church announces the good tidings of salvation to those who do not believe, so
    that all men may know the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and may be
    converted from their ways, doing penance (24). To believers also the Church must ever
    preach faith and penance, she must prepare them for the sacraments, teach them to observe
    all that Christ has commanded (25), and invite them to all the works of charity, piety, and the
    apostolate. For all these works make it clear that Christ’s faithful, though not of this world,
    are to be the light of the world and to glorify the Father before men.

    paragraph 122, however, is DEFINITELY relevant:
    particularly this:

    Holy Mother Church has therefore always been the friend of the fine arts and has ever sought
    their noble help, with the special aim that all things set apart for use in divine worship should
    be truly worthy, becoming, and beautiful, signs and symbols of the supernatural world, and
    for this purpose she has trained artists. In fact, the Church has, with good reason, always
    reserved to herself the right to pass judgment upon the arts, deciding which of the works of
    artists are in accordance with faith, piety, and cherished traditional laws, and thereby fitted
    for sacred use.

  24. Louis E. says:

    To “UST Alumnus”…I’m not a religionist but even I understand that replacing a fixed altar with a movable one is a symbolic repudiation of the very idea of sacred space.And a sanctuary with no barriers to access ceases to be a sanctuary.

  25. UST Alumnus says:

    CPT Tom wrote: “Not sure how you think paragraph 9 applies which states: The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church. Before men can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to conversion…”

    This first sentence of paragraph #9 (above) says it all. You MUST be called to faith and conversion BEFORE coming to the Liturgy. How can one have a problem with handicap access in a church and go to Mass with a clear conscience? This is a College Chapel, and a much larger and diverse group of people have and will worship there over time as opposed to a parish church. Their needs must be anticipated and met. That is the only right thing to do. We are called to be disciples ALL the time.

    You also brought up paragraph #122, which is very correct. In particular, “In fact, the Church has, with good reason, always reserved to herself the right to pass judgment upon the arts, deciding which of the works of artists are in accordance with faith, piety, and cherished traditional laws, and thereby fitted for sacred use.”

    Who is the “Church” paragraph #122 is referring to? It is the people directly involved with the Chapel, in particular the students and faculty of St. Thomas, and the people in the surrounding community that worship there. They work with the Archdiocese and abide by the decisions made by the Archbishop of St. Paul/Mpls. It is the Archbishop’s duty and right.

  26. dcs says:

    UST Alumnus writes:
    How can one have a problem with handicap access in a church and go to Mass with a clear conscience? This is a College Chapel, and a much larger and diverse group of people have and will worship there over time as opposed to a parish church. Their needs must be anticipated and met. That is the only right thing to do. We are called to be disciples ALL the time.

    I don’t think anyone has a problem with handicapped access to the chapel in general. It’s making the sanctuary handicapped-accessible that is the issue. Are you perhaps using “sanctuary” in the mainstream Protestant sense, as applying to the whole body of the church? In Catholic circles the “sanctuary” refers to the area around the altar, which should be set apart from the nave of the church by steps and an altar rail or chancel screen.

    Who is the “Church” paragraph #122 is referring to?

    The One Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church.

  27. eft says:

    …chapel will become more of a performance space than a “worship” space…

    Congregation for Divine Worship
    Prot. N. 1251/87 (5 Nov 1987)
    Concerts in Churches

    http://www.usccbpublishing.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=294
    pages 1087-1090

    http://www.adoremus.org/concerts.html

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDWCONC.HTM

  28. UST Alumnus says:

    eft wrote: “…chapel will become more of a performance space than a “worship” space.”

    You quoted an opinion from an autonomous email that Father Z used as the basis of this post, assuming this is fact. The actual fact of the matter is that just the FIRST phase of the process (quote from the UST bulletin). They have a very long way to go. Let UST, the Archdiocese, and the Archbishop sort all this out.

    dcs wrote “…Are you perhaps using “sanctuary” in the mainstream Protestant sense, as applying to the whole body of the church? In Catholic circles the “sanctuary” refers to the area around the altar, which should be set apart from the nave of the church by steps and an altar rail or chancel screen.”

    Quote from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal…
    “295. The sanctuary is the place where the altar stands, where the word of God is proclaimed, and where the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers exercise their offices.”

    From the Constitution of Sacred Liturgy…
    “28.In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy.
    29.Servers, lectors, commentators, and members of the choir also exercise a genuine liturgical function. They ought, therefore, to discharge their office with the sincere piety and decorum demanded by so exalted a ministry and rightly expected of them by God’s people.”

    That is about as Catholic as you can get. In order for the priest, deacon, and other ministers to exercise their offices, they have to be able to get there, correct?

    Why insist on physical obstacles for clergy who suffer from limited mobility? It can be done very subtly and tastefully.

  29. USA Alumnus: “Let UST, the Archdiocese, and the Archbishop sort all this out.”

    Which Archbishop would that be? The one UST sloughed off the Board? And which UST? The UST which chose “The Handmaid’s Tale” as obligatory reading for freshmen?

    In any event, I am glad to know that this is just the first phrase. That means more information can be gathered and more people can be informed about this.

    I also agree that a sanctuary, and please let’s do call it a sanctuary, can be made accessible for people who have a hard time getting around. No problem there at all.

    If such an important accommodation is being made for an issue which isn’t at the heart of the purpose of a sanctuary, as laudable as that is, then accommodation ought to be made so that the sanctuary is appropriate for the full use of the Roman Rite, and not only the newer use of the Rite. That would make the chapel “Roman Tradition limited”.

  30. RBrown says:

    Hey RBrown: My answer to you is paragraph #9 of Constitution of Sacred Liturgy. Look it up. Not a long paragraph but is says volumes.
    Comment by UST Alumnus

    Hey, UST Alumnus: That paragraph says (and implies) nothing about handicap access to the sanctuary. I wonder whether you are doing what Cardinal Ratzinger described as using Gaudium et Spes as the hermeneutic for all Vat II documents.

    BTW, I am aware of the history of the philosophy faculty at UST and Msgr Henri Dulac–and Dick Connell was a gueat speaker when I was an undergrad at KU. I understand that the philosophy faculty was heavily influenced by Charles De Koninck of Laval.

    When I was teaching theology at the FSSP seminary, one of my colleagues was an alum of UST. Dennis McInerny, like his brother of Ralph, a prof of philosophy. His excellent work made it easy for an unrepentant Thomist like me to teach theology to the seminarians.

  31. RBrown says:

    From the Constitution of Sacred Liturgy…
    “28.In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy.
    29.Servers, lectors, commentators, and members of the choir also exercise a genuine liturgical function. They ought, therefore, to discharge their office with the sincere piety and decorum demanded by so exalted a ministry and rightly expected of them by God’s people.”

    That is about as Catholic as you can get. In order for the priest, deacon, and other ministers to exercise their offices, they have to be able to get there, correct?

    Why insist on physical obstacles for clergy who suffer from limited mobility? It can be done very subtly and tastefully.
    Comment by UST Alumnus

    1. Who’s insisting on physical obstacles? I’m just wondering why such a priority was placed on it.

    2. NB: The Vat II documents were promulgated at least 8 years before Paul VI create Lay Ministers. When SC was written, all ministers (subdeacon, lector, acolyte, porter, and exorcist) were clerics, not laity.

    3. My problem with all the renovations is that is that after all the money is spent, the liturgy is still a bad Protestant joke. It is much like the situation with secondary schools in the US–new schools are built, but the new building don’t address the problems with the education.

  32. UST Alumnus says:

    Father Z wrote: “Which Archbishop would that be? The one UST sloughed off the Board?

    Hi Father Z. Of course the very same Archbishop, you already knew the answer to that! Check out Canons# 813, 1215, and 1216.

    Father Z wrote: “And which UST? The UST which chose “The Handmaid’s Tale” as obligatory reading for freshmen?”

    That is a non sequitur, but I will play along. While you have your Code of Canon Law open, read paragraph 810, paragraph 2.

    My point here is that I will trust in the wisdom of the Church and will let those ordained and appointed to these responsibilities to do their job.

    Father Z wrote: “If such an important accommodation is being made for an issue which isn’t at the heart of the purpose of a sanctuary, as laudable as that is, then accommodation ought to be made so that the sanctuary is appropriate for the full use of the Roman Rite, and not only the newer use of the Rite. That would make the chapel “Roman Tradition limited”. ”

    Very well put. I am just sensitive to the needs of the aged and handicapped. Some of the above posts just touched a nerve in me.

    And to RBrown, who wrote above: “Hey, UST Alumnus: That paragraph says (and implies) nothing about handicap access to the sanctuary.”

    Oh come on! It sure does! It states that You MUST be called to faith and conversion BEFORE coming to the Liturgy. That includes the respect and love of those all around us. That means we must be conscious of the needs of their neighbor, especially if they are handicapped (not only how they can get to church, but how they can navigate in the church. And if that person is a priest, how they can “discharge their office with the sincere piety and decorum demanded by so exalted a ministry and rightly expected of them by God’s people.”,

    BTW, had both Msgr Dulac and Prof Connell for a couple Philosophy courses each at CST. Prof Connell’s Logic class was brutal (in fact, I still have the Logic Textbook he wrote). Msgr Dulac insisted on his papers to be typed on onion skin paper (pre-PC days). If he found one typo – he would tear it up. Both were very demanding, and I enjoyed their courses immensely.

  33. RBrown says:

    Oh come on! It sure does! It states that You MUST be called to faith and conversion BEFORE coming to the Liturgy. That includes the respect and love of those all around us. That means we must be conscious of the needs of their neighbor, especially if they are handicapped (not only how they can get to church, but how they can navigate in the church. And if that person is a priest, how they can “discharge their office with the sincere piety and decorum demanded by so exalted a ministry and rightly expected of them by God’s people.”
    Comment by UST Alumnus

    Your conclusion doesn’t follow. For centuries sanctuaries haven’t been handicap accessible. Does that mean the people of those times weren’t conscious of the needs of their neighbor? Do you think that steps should be eliminated from high altars?

    But I’ll say again: There has been millions of dollars spent on chapel renovations, but the liturgy still is a bad Protestant joke.

  34. RBrown says:

    That is a non sequitur, but I will play along. While you have your Code of Canon Law open, read paragraph 810, paragraph 2.

    My point here is that I will trust in the wisdom of the Church and will let those ordained and appointed to these responsibilities to do their job.
    Comment by UST Alumnus

    Anyone who visited an American seminary or house of religious formation, esp from 1970-90, is aware that there have been many ordained and appointed to various responsibilities who have not done their jobs.