Reason #7566 for Summorum Pontificum – POLL

Well… not quite, as it turns out.  But, hey!

For your consideration.

I dunno, people.  I just don’t get this.

UPDATE: The color is off. The dark that looks black should be purple. I have another photo of these in a comment, below. You’ll be surprised where this is and who designed the place and vestment!  In other news: they are still pretty awful.

How awful is this?

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Luvadoxi says:

    At least they have the Benedictine arrangement? :/

  2. tonesing says:

    It is sinfully ugly, but…
    …at least the chalice is veiled!

  3. e.davison49 says:

    It’s a joke, right?

    Chalice veil but no maniple?

    No, it has to be a joke.

  4. Stephen Matthew says:

    Where did this possibly come from?

    How is it possible for a priest to at the same time use those vestments but also use the “Benedictine” altar arrangement with a full six altar candles and a crucifix? Should not those two things be psychologically, spiritually, and aesthetically incompatible?

    Hopefully that is his “rose” set and it is only used two Sundays per year, that could almost be tolerated without screaming and running in terror, provided there is nothing else even vaguely like this in any other color. Also, hopefully it was given by some kindly old lady relative and is being used not out of preference but a feeling of obligation to the giver. I mean, the man is wearing a lace trimmed alb, using a reasonable arrangement of the altar, even using a chalice veil, so surely this can’t be normal, even in whatever bizarre corner of the universe this happened in. Can it?

  5. Phil_NL says:

    Black and pink? Made especially for funeral masses on Leatare or Gaudete Sunday, perhaps?

    I mean, it looks like some rubrics (e.g. on chalice veils) are read better than others in that place, so who knows?

  6. Arlen says:

    Pazuzu was here.

  7. Guido03 says:

    “6 – I like it! But I’m also a little stupid”

    Love this option, Fr. Z!

  8. Clinton says:

    These vestments, and the chapel with all of it’s furnishings, was designed by Henri Matisse
    in the late 40’s, near the end of his life. The chapel in Vence was designed to be used with what
    is now called the Extraordinary Form.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

    [I like Matisse, as a rule. This is the exception that proves the rule.]

  9. Kathleen10 says:

    Is that Veronica’s veil with a skull?? The hieroglyphs are…err…questionable.

    “You look like a pink nightmare!” (Christmas Story)

  10. Uxixu says:

    What if he had a matching maniple, though?

  11. The color is off in the top entry. The dark part seems to be a kind of purple, or violet.

    But wait! There’s more!

    Reminder: Matisse was an atheist. Looking at these vestments and that chapel gives me the same sense I had when listening to Bernstein’s Mass. It doesn’t work.

  12. Maynardus says:

    Given the juxtaposition of the traditional and the avant-garde, this has to be one of the weirdest liturgical photos I’ve ever seen… What a feast for the (disordered) eye… The base of the altar appears to be cylindrical while the mensa itself – whatever its orientation – appears to be at a diagonal to the axes of the room/walls as well… And the walls, with those cave drawings… If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the priest doesn’t look terribly thrilled about the whole thing.

  13. Elizabeth D says:

    That is hilarious. I was guessing it is a vintage photo from the transitional period in the 60s or the early 70s… Clinton’s comment makes even more sense. There must be a matching maniple!

  14. CantareAmantisEst says:

    As some people have already pointed out, this image is indeed slightly unusual because some atypically ‘traditional’ rubrics are observed, despite the otherwise extremely un-traditional vestment set. Furthermore (although it is impossible to conclusively deduce from the picture) it seems like the celebrant is actually celebrating Mass Ad Orientem.

    While I do not find this vestment set aesthetically pleasing, perhaps it might help us all to refrain from any vitriol about the picture until we have more information about its context. [Not really, no. It’s ugly. No way around this.] Otherwise, the possibilities are endless and it’s as easy to draw out a ‘half-full’ reading as a ‘half-empty’ one. From the little I can see in this photograph, the chasuble and chalice veil seem to be of a consistent aesthetic with the altar linens and the wallpaper. Perhaps they were the result of an attempt at inculturation in some mission territory which, unfortunately, did not work out too well? We may not find it particularly beautiful with our own aesthetic sensibilities, but it is important to remember that the liturgy and its symbols, while expressing sacred mysteries, have also always been a product of human culture. Perhaps in an culture unfamiliar to ours what we see in this picture may contain symbolism we do not recognise (even if the attempt at inculturation was probably not very… well-executed, shall we say?). Perhaps, just perhaps, this priest (or someone else) is already trying to reform things by introducing the Benedictine altar arrangement and a nice alb. [Nope. These are from the late ’40’s, early ’50’s]

    And with all due respect to Fr Z, is the poll really necessary? Especially Option 6? [YES! Is that the one you chose? o{];¬) ]

  15. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    The photo looked old. I was glad to see there were no liturgical dancers. I believe it’s better than some of the services Fr. Z has highlighted from the archdiocese of Los Angeles.

  16. wmeyer says:

    And the reason for using a chapel and vestments designed by an atheist would be… ??

  17. Tom L says:

    I study Art History, and we’ve actually discussed this in class. It is very well liked. To each his own, I suppose.

  18. Gregorius says:

    But father! But father! I’ve been taught by the local clergy for the past couple years that the only thing needed [??] to fix the NO as commonly celebrated is to add a few traditional elements into the celebration! With the six candlesticks, chalice veil and lace alb everything there’s fixed, right?? [The only thing? I doubt that.]

  19. Clinton says:

    Father, I have to agree– that particular set of vestments is hideous.

    The Chapelle du Rosaire is in the town of Vence, in the south of France. Henri Matisse had
    retired there after a surgery for cancer. He was nursed by a local girl who subsequently
    entered a local Dominican convent. They remained friends, and the new nun approached the
    elderly Matisse with the nuns’ request for help designing their new chapel. He took on the
    commission, designing the stained glass, the vestments, candlesticks, confessionals– everything.

    The altar is angled as it is because the chapel is L-shaped, with the main body for the towns-
    folk and the smaller for the sisters. With the altar angled, both groups would have similar
    sightlines to the sanctuary.

    Evidently, Matisse designed the vestments by manipulating colored paper cutouts, and the
    sisters executed the designs with cloth applique. I’ve read that copies of the vestments were
    also made and sent to the Vatican. I cannot imagine that Blessed Pius XII ever used them,
    but I know I’ve seen some in the Vatican’s modern art collection.

    Matisse had been raised Catholic, but had not practiced the Faith for decades when he
    befriended the sisters and designed the chapel. I truly hope that his experience late in life
    brought him back to the Faith of his fathers. That said, that chasuble is not a success.

  20. Christine says:

    The mural on the wall looks like a coloring page.

  21. Supertradmum says:

    Grumpy Priest is thinking, “How long do I have to stand here wearing this hippie carpet?”

  22. Yeah Christine, I’m not quite grasping the petroglyphs . . . and not with the “AVE” added . . . none of this makes any bit of sense, and I can be pretty imaginative.

  23. incredulous says:

    I recognize the rock art from Todillo Hills in Botswana.

    Anyway, I think Father Zuhlsdorf needs to stay away from polling. Although it’s not obvious, the question seems a bit leading and I’m detecting a slight bias in the answers. It may even border a push poll.

  24. NBW says:

    So this is pre Vatican II? It seems to me that modernity has been trying to rear its ugly head for a long time, then Vatican II happened…. and the pics above don’t look out of place now. How sad.

  25. mysticalrose says:

    The 70’s called: they want their wallpaper back.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  26. Uxixu says:

    There are still 6 candlesticks for the NO. They’re just in two groups of 3 on either end of the altar.

  27. ChrisRawlings says:

    Far out.

    I could probably illuminate my entire suburb with that chausible.

  28. TNCath says:

    These vestments look like something Hans Kung might have worn in his early years of priesthood.

  29. pelerin says:

    That is truly horrible. From one of the photos above it looks as if the chasubles are now displayed in a museum – best place for them preferably with the lights out! I hope they never come out of it to be worn. The designs look as if they were done by a 6 year old.

    NBW mentions that some of this ugliness started way before Vatican II. I remember seeing what I considered to be a hideous set of vestments in a museum which had been designed in 1958 so sadly it does look as if modernity did start earlier than the 60s.

  30. incredulous says:

    Priest looks Danish. Is he wearing wooden clogs?

  31. lsclerkin says:

    kathleen10 cracked me up.
    Is that Veronica’s veil with a skull?? The hieroglyphs are…err…questionable.

    “You look like a pink nightmare!” (Christmas Story)

    And mystical rose, too.

  32. Charles E Flynn says:

    The Museum of Modern Art once exhibited a black chasuble by Matisse that was stunning, and bore no relation to the works shown here. The chasuble was exhibited on a frame that made it possible to see the entire surface, and the lighting was quite dramatic. The description noted that the fabric chosen caused the chasuble to be too heavy to be practical.

    I suspect that if we had a high-resolution file of the first image above, we could see the tiny letters on the hem of the alb that declare: These vestments were made possible by a grant from Good & Plenty candy.

  33. lh says:

    Oh my soul. I’ll probably have nightmares tonight.

  34. UncleBlobb says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z.! You’ve made my day.

  35. JohnE says:

    One time I was being trained at work and it happened to be Halloween. The person doing the training was wearing a clown costume and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t stop laughing whenever she would try again to explain some serious instructions to me.

    Another thought that popped into my head was at the end of A Christmas Story when Ralphy came downstairs in the big pink bunny pajamas his aunt made for him. He had about the same expression on his face as the priest in the picture too.

  36. Bob B. says:

    Far out…..this was in Colorado yesterday, right?

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  37. mamajen says:

    I voted 3, but I daresay I like it a little better with the more accurate colors shown. Oh, man. I love Matisse, too, but this…just…no.

    Does staring at the first image for a while qualify as penance?

  38. Tantum Ergo says:

    There’s a big problem with the poll…. there’s no option to select one through four. At one time I would have really liked these “vestments,” but I haven’t smoked dope in a long time now. I’m sure some parish of aging hippies would love to have them. I can just hear the “Far OUT, man!” being echoed throughout the nave.

  39. Imrahil says:

    I’d have voted for “u-huh”, but that was not an option.

    Not beautiful.

    Though if the black is actually purple and it is used on Laetare or Gaudete (the only times when a rose-purple mixture makes theoretical sense), I’d still prefer it to a rainbow-stole without chasuble. In this sense, yes, I have seen worse things, unironically. I do not mean as to taste but as to correctness; but as to taste, I regularly think little about it and say less.

  40. Mike says:

    Don’t knock clogs. My Latin teacher in the late 70s wore them, and he knew Vergil really well.

    These vestments are terrible; however, the polyester one-color variety I have seen are a close second.

  41. Muv says:

    Didn’t know what to vote out of 1 to 3 until I realised how much this outfit suits the priest (or is it posed by a model?) The shade of pink enhances his complexion, and the black and white rays line up perfectly with his ears. The longer you look, the funnier it gets. Number 5.

  42. Faith says:

    I’m not so sure Matisse was an atheist, no matter what he said. Why he designed the vestments and the chapel was because his model asked him to. His model entered the cloister and he visited her occasionally. I think his vestments look like his art. He is known for vibrancy in color and design. In fact, he considered this chapel, his masterpiece.

  43. mamajen says:


    Hahaha! You’re on to something there! The dark shape around the cross reflects the shape of his beard, too.

  44. Kerry says:

    Vestments…? Really. I thought they were the Matisse designed wrappers for Hostess snowballs, cupcakes and twinkies.

  45. Muv says:

    Oh no Mamajen, there’s more… His hair and beard… His WHOLE HEAD is pink, black and white.

  46. Moro says:

    He should send me those vestments. I can fix them. I just need a match and some gasoline.

  47. skip67 says:

    It looks like the front seat covers on a 1959 Nash

  48. jflare says:


  49. amenamen says:

    He looks familiar.
    Now listen, you. You’re an elf, and elves make toys. Now get to work.

  50. “The Chapelle du Rosaire is in the town of Vence, in the south of France. Henri Matisse had
    retired there …”

    Thank you, Clinton, for that story.

    I knew I had seen this chapel before when studying art history in college in the mid-70s (thus giving away my age). While it is not my preference — I’m partial to the Romanesque and Gothic period, myself, as well as mosaics of the Byzantine era — the fact that Matisse was an influence on my early graphic design and publishing illustrative work makes for a soft spot for an “avant-garde” example such as this. As to the vestments … well, some examples are better than others. I realize that may not be saying much.

    Like I said, Romanesque, Gothic, Byzantine …

  51. mamajen says:

    ROFL, amenamen! Those vestments wouldn’t be out of place in that movie.

  52. Unwilling says:

    Note the Latin word “AVE”.
    It means: “by a bird”. (Perhaps dropped by…?) [No.]

  53. jhayes says:

    Here is a better photograph of the vestments displayed in the gallery at the chapel . Note that the Pope directed the sisters to make a second set of the vestments to be displayed at the Vatican Museums.

    Matisse designed the priests’ vestments, using the traditional ecclesiastical colors of the religious seasons: purple, black, pink/rose, green, and red. The Pope requested that the nuns send the vestments to Rome to be put in the Vatican’s museum of modern religious art. The nuns made copies of five of the sets of vestments, including chasuble, maniple, stole, and covering of the chalice, and sent them to Rome.

    Here is the CNS article on the opening of the Matisse Room at the Vatican Museums in 2011.

    On display are giant cartoons — yellow, blue and green models for the stained-glass windows that Matisse made in the collage style for which he was famous. There is also the original drawing of a large Mother and Child surrounded by leaf decorations that was executed on white tiles in the chapel, and a simple bronze crucifix he designed.

    Other items in the collection, including five chasubles and letters regarding the project between Matisse and the Dominican chapter superior, will be shown on a rotating basis.

  54. JoseTomas says:

    The Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro was designed and built by Oscar Niemeier, the “best and most important Brazilian architect evuh”, a staunch communist atheist. You saw it at WYD. It doesn’t work either.

  55. iPadre says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “Matisse was an atheist.”

    Observing the many wreakovations of beautiful old churches, the building of cements tombs for cathedrals, cheap & ugly vestments, and everything that goes along with it, I’ve always had the feeling that the designers/ destroyers are also atheists. Kind of like “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

  56. OrthodoxChick says:

    I know nothing about art. Never heard of this Maltese guy. None of the vestments pictured above, nor the photo of the chapel indicate any level of greatness as an artist. Is Maltese actually “great” or is he only great because all the cool kids said so?

  57. HyacinthClare says:

    You all are so funny!! Supertradmum… mystical rose… Chris Rawlings… skip67… it’s been a long day and it’s great to laugh this much!

  58. Faith says:

    iPadre I watched the video. I knew Matisse wasn’t an atheist. Thank you. It was beautiful.

  59. edm says:

    OK. I will be in the minority. I have always liked the chapel. I like the way it was laid out in the L shape I even like the drawings, the altar itself and the appointments. Even the altar cloth shown here is good. I had not seen the vestments before…not so enamored of them. I also like his St. Dominic.
    Ok. Ok. I really dislike the vestments.

  60. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Tantum Ergo says: “I can just hear the “Far OUT, man!” being echoed throughout the nave.”

    Ah yes, Tommy Chong’s in the back leading the echo!

    No, wait. It was Dave, wasn’t it? Dave’s there isn’t he? Dave? Dave?

    Aw never mind. (man)


  61. joecct77 says:

    There’s a Monty Python sketch somewhere just waiting to see the light of day.

    There was, back in the day, No Time Toulouse.

  62. Unwilling says:

    The BBC telling me that something is beautiful, so beautiful, is not very compelling. The host’s tears are less evidential than Glen Beck’s. If Matisse found Faith, good. But that does not validate his “art”, especially as sacred art. I would not want to make a commitment to religious life and have to find my way spiritually (liturgies, private prayer, lectio, stations, etc.) in such a bizarre surrounding. The chapel may be an important document in the history of art, but a consecrated place of worship. No.

  63. danhorse says:

    Hew-wee, what’s up with that?
    Matisse or no Matisse, even Father doesn’t look happy about it.

  64. Paul says:

    Isn’t this from the liner notes of a Vanilla Fudge album?

  65. Rich says:

    I think that the most remarkable aspect of this photo is how the priest can stand there wearing the vestments, and with a straight look on his face.

  66. OrthodoxChick says:

    Just checked out a bunch more Matisse artwork. Still don’t get it.

  67. Legisperitus says:

    This gave me the feeling (accurately so, as it turns out) of being pre-conciliar Modernist art. It reminded me of the faux-primitive style that was starting to adorn some new Catholic churches, hand Missals, and such things as Christmas cards in the late Fifties and early Sixties.

  68. Legisperitus says:

    Oh, yeah, and I voted “Phew!”

  69. off2 says:

    I like the designs shown in the second photo. And the colours are within the the rules of the Roman rite. That being said, they seem not worthy for the sacrifice of the Mass. Interesting textiles, yes. Vestments, no. And, sadly, they are very far from the worst I’ve seen.

  70. Matt R says:

    Oh my. That might be the ugliest vestments set I’ve ever seen, even if the second photos gives a better indication of the colors.
    For those curious, this is probably, if the rubrics are being followed, from 1967, when the maniple was made optional, to 1969, in which the Novus Ordo Missae was introduced at Advent. The missal is still on the Epistle side, whereas it is always on the left in the new rubrics. Because there is no maniple and no altar cards it can’t be from an earlier year…I have seen altar cards laid almost on the altar. Very strange indeed.

  71. jflare says:

    Perhaps some of our architects and artists have been channeling Mr. Matisse for some 50 years?
    Honestly, reviewing the chapel in the video link that someone included, I remember the.. Meditation Room SeaTac Airport from some years ago.
    It’s great if you’re looking for a quiet, secular, place to sit and.. contemplate life, I guess.
    For a Catholic chapel though? Not so much.

  72. LadyMarchmain says:

    Legisperitus, I had the same feeling as you. The gold on white imbrications are superior to the later imitators of this kind of thing.

    Fr. Z, with respect: Matisse was not exactly an atheist. He indicated that he believed in God when he was creating, that he felt then that there was “something greater than myself, something that is my life.” Granted, this is not orthodox faith, but it suggests his awareness of spiritual realities and his humility in the face of transcendence. This makes me hopeful that his end of life experience, his decision to contribute his artistic gifts to every element of the chapel, including all the vestments, as a kind of gift of gratitude for his healing, suggests he was headed in the right direction.

    He was very ill while doing this; perhaps it could be considered penance?

    Interesting that because he was bedridden, he drew with his chalks attached to a long stick! You can see the photo at the bottom of the page Faith provided:

    What is also interesting to me is that Matisse understood that there should be aesthetic coherence in his design. Although sister asked for just a mural, Matisse felt he should design the entire thing. Now we might say, we wished he hadn’t, thank you very much, but I think there is something to be learned from this about unity and integrity. Some of the vestments he designed are very beautiful (as long as they are seen as works of art rather than vestments), and some of his patterns, while primitivist, share the exuberance and beauty of medieval French illuminated manuscripts.

    The thing is, it is “a Matisse”–meaning, this chapel is an oeuvre of the artist, and we see it as “a Matisse” in the same way we recognize one of his paintings.

    This whole discussion reminds me of Brideshead Revisited, where Brideshead and Charles Ryder discuss the pre-Raphaelite Chapel commissioned by Lord Flyte. Brideshead asks Charles his opinion of it and Charles says that he personally does not like it, but recognizes that it is very good for what it is. I would say the same thing here–this is all wonderful Matisse. But when I see it, I see a work of art about a chapel, not a chapel.

  73. Anchorite says:

    Is that the kind of polling that Vatican provided for the Franciscans of the Immaculate?
    Any time an artist with a strongly recognizable and unique style is given a free reign in controlling the sacred space and its decor, the results are questionable. That said, God bless Matisse for working hard to design the space, the objects, the decorative programme. It brought him closer to God, whether he intended that or not.
    Not every church needs to be filled with art of St. Sulpice.
    Oh, I am not stupid, just so we got that cleared up.

  74. Bea says:

    My first thought was “Is this Catholic?”

    Designed by an atheist, Huh?
    I guess that answered my question.

  75. Honestly, if there was a Byzantine Cross and some of the clutter eliminated, the vestments wouldn’t be that horrible.

  76. Mariana2 says:

    This is Matisse and art historians love it. But he was an atheist, and why the good Dominican sisters asked him to do this is beyond me.

  77. Mariana2 says:

    Clinton says:

    “Evidently, Matisse designed the vestments by manipulating colored paper cutouts, and the
    sisters executed the designs with cloth applique….”

    He wasn’t physically able to paint anymore when old, and so did the cutouts, some of which are wonderful, though unfortunately not the ones used here.

  78. Gaz says:

    @CantareAmantisEst and others…

    Half full, half empty… I like the new saying: the glass is twice as large as it needs to be.

    Yes, OK, they are horrible. However, Sometimes substance actually does trump style.

  79. Wiktor says:

    I think the chasuble the priest is wearing and the one displayed in museum is not the same. Assuming we see the front of both chasubles, there is difference in how the bottom “star” thing touches the “radiant cross” thing.

  80. StWinefride says:

    Father Z says: Reminder: Matisse was an atheist. Looking at these vestments and that chapel gives me the same sense I had when listening to Bernstein’s Mass. It doesn’t work.

    It can work. The French composer, Camille Saint-Saëns (1831-1925) was an atheist but managed to compose some beautiful sacred music, for instance his Requiem.

  81. FrDulli says:

    Fr. Bilbo Baggins is visiting the elves.

  82. Rachel K says:

    Yes, he was an atheist, but “even a blind man can find a candle in the dark”, maybe he saw the light eventually?….
    You haven’t put in option 7) “Hey, it’s not good taste , but I am not stupid and there are worse things going on in and out of the Church” .
    Remember, “the greatest of these is love” , so I suppose the worst is un-loving.
    Let’s pray for Matisse’s soul; after all he did create many really beautiful things, all a reflection of God’s glory. Let’s cover over his “mistakes” with love and appreciation for all the good he did.

  83. Rachel K says:

    Just thinking further on the atheist thing. Although he may have professed to being a non-believer, it opens up the interesting philosophical question of how do we “know” God?
    Maybe Matisse “knew” God well in the sense of understanding and creating beauty.
    I will never forget the shock of hearing my best friend telling me that her father would go to Hell when he died because he was not an evangelical Christian like herself. Jesus himself says those who call Him ” Lord, Lord” will be met with the reply ” I do not know you” .
    I am hopeful that many, maybe Matisse too, “knew” Jesus through art and beauty or other means and recognised His face when called from this life…

  84. Rachel K says:

    Faith, thanks for the link to the photos of the chapel, the stained glass window is lovely.
    iPadre, I can’t get the YouTube video in the UK, it is blocked, but will see if there is an alternative here. Glad to know that perhaps Matisse wasn’t out of the Faith!

  85. mamajen says:

    If you watch the video about the chapel that iPadre posted, you’ll learn that Matisse was cared for in his ill health by a woman who went on to become a nun. Though he was an atheist, he doesn’t seem to be the sort who hated the Church. I actually do like the chapel. The windows are gorgeous. I don’t really care for the Stations of the Cross, though. I think the vestments would have been more successful if he had used patterns like in the windows, on a smaller scale and in subtler colors.

  86. Sonshine135 says:

    My first impression was: “Father Lovebeads! You finally found him!”
    My next thought was how well puppets would have fit into this setting.

  87. Wiktor says:

    @Rachel K: alternative link, maybe it will work for you:
    Be warned however, that the commentator is uber-enthusiastic about the chapel :-)

  88. Gail F says:

    It just goes to show that being a great artists doesn’t mean you can design EVERYTHING.

  89. Gail F says:

    This is like Target asking famous designers to do kitchenware lines. It might work, it might not…

  90. The Masked Chicken says:

    Weren’t the colors of liturgical vestments, pre-Vatican II, prescribed by the appropriate documents? When would any of these vestments have been licit (except the rosy colored one)? Since these were made before Vatican II, why would this be a reason for Summorum Pontificum? I could see that it might be a reason for having Mass in the dark, however.

    The Chicken

  91. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Given the trauma that convulsed Europe so acutely from 1914-1945*, I can sort of understand the concept of an atheist making nightmare-inspired vestments.

    *The trauma continued sub-acutely through the cold war and is becoming acute again, largely thanks to the Soviet fifth-column activities described so well by former KGB Col. Oleg Gordievsky.

  92. robtbrown says:

    It looks more like a kimono than a chasuble. But it creates various other possibilities:

    Sell advertising using removable shields. Of course, this would work better with mass said ad orientem. Who wouldn’t want to see a chasuble with the sign “Friday. Crab Legs. All you can eat $15.95”?

  93. kimberley jean says:

    I’m going to assume that the his mother made it or perhaps it was a gift from the taste challenged but well meaning parish ladies and the priest felt that he had to wear it.

  94. robtbrown says:

    A bit off the subject but in the same genre. 36 seconds.

  95. RJHighland says:

    I believe he is the first Vulcan Priest at St. Spokes on the planet Vulcan. Interstellar missionary work is full of surprises.

  96. Nancy D. says:

    “…the destroyers, (wolves) are atheists.”

    Communism/socialism…is not just an economic system, it is a form of government where the State becomes father.

    “Call no one father but your Father in Heaven.” – The Word of God

  97. pelerin says:

    robtbrown – thanks for the link. That was hilarious!

  98. wmeyer says:

    This is one of those posts I wish would scroll off far more quickly! ;)

  99. Filumene says:

    Looks like the masterly third graders, at St. Smash the Alters Academy, made Father Withthetimes, AKA ” Fr. Upbeat, a lovely…um…… vestment.



  100. ChesterFrank says:

    I could not find a quote where Mr. Matisse said he was an atheist. I read that he was raised catholic, but not in a very religious family: His father might have been an atheist, and his mother Catholic. I found one reference where Matisse said that only while painting did he believe in God. I found two quotes where he reluctantly speaks of God:

    “Ever since there have been men, man has given himself over to too little joy. That alone, my brothers, is our original sin. I should believe only in a God who understood how to dance.”

    “I don’t know whether I believe in God or not. I think, really, I’m some sort of Buddhist. But the essential thing is to put oneself in a frame of mind which is close to that of prayer.”

    Perhaps the atheists are quick to claim him as their own, and the Catholics too quick to disown him? I find it odd that the when last work of an artist is a catholic chapel, he is called an atheist: even though he spent devoted 4-years to that church and chose to be surrounded by Dominicans. After it was completed, I wonder if he went to the dedication when the altar was consecrated. I also wonder if he ever attended a Mass there.

    Regarding that chapel, I do like its design but am a little uncertain about the chasubles. Their design is great when they are on display, but perhaps a little over the top when worn by a priest. In that chapel, byzantine styled vestments would not be at all out of place aesthetically. From sitting in a pew, I often view and pray the stations and having them all as one mural would meet my need. They are not the best for a procession such as saying those stations during lent though. What is the difference between a chapel and a church?

    To get back to the atheist part, isn’t it interesting the great lengths that Dominican nun went to in order to convince an elderly , lapsed- catholic (aka atheist) artist to take another look at the Catholic Church? Isn’t it also interesting how many visitors that artist got to step inside a church too? It would not be too difficult to look at that project from an evangelical point of view.
    Finally, why are all of the poll choices so negative? [You are jesting, for sure.] Doesn’t anybody like modern art?

  101. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Here is a link about this liturgical eyesore:

  102. LadyMarchmain says:

    ChesterFrank: Yes! What a great observation–just think of all the people who were brought inside a Chapel by their interest in Modern Art.

    In the link Sid Cundiff provides, Matisse is quoted as talking about God, that he has served him his whole life in his art, and that he travelled to Tahiti to paint the light God created. So he’s not an atheist, just a lost lamb.

    Perhaps we could think of it this way: this was a unique creation, but should never have become a principle for how our churches should be.

    Right now I’m reminded of Jack Kerouac, who proclaimed very loudly that he was Catholic first and foremost.

  103. CantareAmantisEst says:

    Unfortunately I started typing my earlier comment before Fr Z and others had posted more information about Matisse and his artwork, and only saw those after I clicked ‘Post’. It’s good that there’s been more context about the vestments and some illuminating discussion. Am grateful to LadyMarchmain, ChesterFrank and Rachel K for their comments.

    I do find these vestments ugly, that’s for sure, and I don’t like them. But even without knowing about Matisse (and I confess I know little about art history) I had a sense that there was something different about this picture. It wasn’t the typical shoddy vestments and nonchalance about the liturgy that I have bigger problems with; it wasn’t like a rainbow chasuble/clown Mass or a typically ‘liberal’ piece of work. Even though if I don’t quite agree with the aesthetics of Matisse’s design, I could sense that there were elements of tradition and that there was unity and integrity in the design. There was, at least, a sense on Matisse’s part that he was making art and not just designing something functional for church use. In a word, there was thought behind it. (My original speculation about inculturation was due to the faux-primitive style that has been pointed out by Legisperitus and LadyMarchmain.)

    I think rather than just laughing at how awful it is and calling those who like it stupid, this whole Matisse design does raise many questions worth pondering. How can modern art/aesthetic sensibilities be made coherent with traditionally Catholic aesthetics (and surely there are good, modern designs of chapels and chasubles elsewhere)? Is liturgical symbolism culturally static, or does it evolve? Again I reminded of Guardini’s famous question, ‘Is modern man capable of the liturgical act?’, and if not, then is it modern man that must be adapted to the liturgy, or vice versa, or both? If old, traditional symbols in the liturgy (e.g. the pelican motif) do not have the same cultural significance as before, can new and yet beautiful symbols that modern man, or those in non-Western cultures, can identify with be developed? I see this work of Matisse’s as a kind of teething pain in man’s search for new symbols that remain culturally identifiable with modern man, but which remain in continuity with traditional Catholic liturgical expression. The same cannot be said for the type of ugly vestments and church designs that are purely functional, have zero artistic thought behind them and have no regard for liturgical tradition and law.

    Equally interesting are the questions about atheists and religious art. Rachmaninoff stopped attending church but his ‘All-Night Vigil’ is considered one of his greatest works, in which he took traditional Slavonic chants and reworked them with his choral style. And yes, I do wonder if Matisse ever attended Mass in the chapel he designed. Perhaps the most productive thing we can do after all this discussion is indeed to pray for his soul.

  104. Rachel K says:

    Wiktor, many thanks for the alternative YouTube link which does work. The more I look at the photos and footage of the chapel, the more I like it. I really like the Stations of the Cross.
    Matisse is right about dance and God. His work is like dance on paper; it has a movement which is joyous and bubbles over.
    Again, the question of the chasubles is about taste and subjectivity. But let’s not be too rigid in defining only one type of artistic style as being the “correct” one for the liturgy.

  105. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    StWinefride, How do we know/why do we think “Camille Saint-Saëns (1831-1925) was an atheist”? (Reading this was new to me – I love and admire his Christmas Oratorio!)

  106. StWinefride says:

    Venerator Sti Lot – I only know the fact that Saint-Saëns was an atheist from the booklet that accompanies the CD of the Requiem. Here is some information:

    “A few weeks after the onslaught of the First World War, a young Padre in the French army, Abbé Renoud, wrote to Saint-Saëns enquiring about the composer’s religious views. The answer came straight back:

    I am not a virtual disbeliever. I am an utter disbeliever. As a boy I was very religious, but as my mind developed it gradually eroded and finally destroyed all belief in me and gave me back my peace of mind after years of doubting. However, I can appreciate the part played by the various religions and I know they are necessary to the evolution of Mankind. I respect whatever is respectable. (10 October 1914)

    In another letter he says:

    In art, it is not enough to be a Saint. You also need talent, you need style. And what better place is there for the grand style than the Church, with its utter disdain for applause and success which so impoverish art. (Article on Church music in Echo de Paris, 22 June 1912).

    Tragically, he lost his two sons shortly after the first public performance of the Requiem. One from an accident, the other through illness. He says:

    Yes, I have been stricken to the soul by sorrows, but that is not the reason I lost faith. I had already lost faith. My sorrows would rather have restored my faith, had that been possible. (To Abbé Renoud, 5 November 1914).

  107. Filumene says:

    The chapel looks like we are trying to make God fit into our understanding of Him. A very human, limited understanding. Like we don’t want what He wants to give us. More like we are choosing our own “dose” of God.

    Yes, the brightness of space and color combinations are astetically pleasing, but that’s about it. I find myself no more moved than when browsing through an interesting home interior website or magazine. The art and design of the chapel is reflective of much of our new religious art. Light and fluffy. Not, soul penetrating. It’s like, we only want so much. Just enough to feel….spiritual. Not enough for the conviction to abandon ourselves to HIM. This Chapel reflects this very much. It’s obviously designed for something other than a living space, but there is nothing here to make you fall on your knees and beg for God’s mercy. Plus, the “art” on the walls is somewhat mocking. My 10 year old captures more of Our Lord’s sufferings in her drawings than Matisse did. Matisse showed, through his work, more of a resentment of the Cross than anything.

  108. LadyMarchmain says:

    Cantare, Yes! You’ve expressed what I was trying to say–it is different. It is not banal. We may not like it, and it may look more like a Modern Art museum piece than than the altar of God, but at least it doesn’t look like someone’s living room, with bathroom tile, cheaply upholstered pastel furniture, wall to wall carpeting and oriental vases. The vestments convey ideas about the liturgical season, and the fabrics are beautiful (instead of being cheesy polyester in unrefined colours). We know this space is mean to be something different and set apart from the ordinary.

    Rachel K: thank you for your gentle words. Let us pray for the soul of Matisse.

    St Winefride: I am grieved to learn this about Saint-Saens. Did he remain that way to the end?

  109. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    I, too, am deeply saddened to read the details I am grateful to you for providing. Having found other musical resources at the Internet Archive, I looked for a biography of Saint-Saens – without success. However, I did find two scans of his Musical Memories (1919) and a Project Gutenberg transcription of his 1915 lecture, On the Execution of Music, and Principally of Ancient Music (which seems to launch immediately into Gregorian Chant and Renaissance polyphany: but I have not read either, yet).

    CantareAmantisEst asks “How can modern art/aesthetic sensibilities be made coherent with traditionally Catholic aesthetics?” and also says “Equally interesting are the questions about atheists and religious art.”

    The first seems to have been a lively question for at least a century and more. For example, Joseph Otten in his 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia article about Gounod says, “Although these two works [masses in honor of St. Joan of Arc and St. John Baptist de la Salle] come nearer to the spirit of the liturgy than any of the earlier masses, nevertheless they bear the general character of all his compositions for the church. Gounod was a child of his time and of the France of the nineteenth century. His temperament, emotional to the point of sentimentality, his artistic education and environment bound him to the theatre and prevented him from penetrating into the spirit of the liturgy and from giving it adequate musical interpretation.” Another discussion I have read of similar vintage further notes that not all ‘sacred’ music is ‘liturgical’.

    So, we might formulate an aesthetic discussion in terms of the modern (including non-Catholic, non-Christian, and even atheist artists) and the ‘sacred’ broadly and both the ‘devotional’ and the ‘liturgical’ in particular. (Distinct from the more important matter of praying for conversion from sin and error.)

  110. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Oops, sorry: “polyphony”!

  111. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    To continue a bit. Fr. Z in updating commented, “Looking at these vestments and that chapel gives me the same sense I had when listening to Bernstein’s Mass. It doesn’t work.”

    I don’t think the Matisse works, liturgically, either, which is disheartening in that that was its purpose – but perhaps it does, or might, work ‘sacredly’ in a broader sense, as work with sacred subjects (I have not looked enough at the wall painting).

    Father, it would be interesting to hear more on Bernstein’s Mass. That is obviously a musical drama, yet part of the ‘picture’ are settings of liturgical texts (and/or somethings-like, e.g., the English ‘Introibo’): there is some (lots of?) deliberately shocking stuff (and simple vulgarity?) in text-setting and in general. But what if one takes text settings out of dramatic context? I think the Chichester Psalms are more successful as a sort of non-litugical ‘sacred’ work, but I also like the ‘De Profundis’ and even the ‘Gloria’ (however vulgar it is).

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