Appreciate the foundation builders

The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.

When Jesus speaks of the rock the church is built upon he is referring to Peter. However, we also gather to worship in a building of rock and stone.

For the early immigrants to our country the building of a church flowed from pride in one’s nationality. We can recall when church X was the German church and church Y was the Polish church and church Z was the Irish church.

Our ancestors donated land, lumber and stone. They also supplied most of the manpower to build the church. There are stories of people in the parish donating their watches of gold to be melted down to be remade into a chalice or women donating their precious jewels to adorn a monstrance.

In our time, the community does not have such a hands-on approach. Perhaps only those who sit on a building committee have any idea of what it takes to build a church. Finances need to be raised, architects and contractors submit bids, and all plans have to be approved not only at parish level, but also at diocesan level. Each parish is required to enlist a liturgical consultant who works with them. A liturgical consultant not only has degree in liturgy, but is also well-versed in the art and architecture of the Catholic Church.

At times, the bishop and his committee will request that plans be changed and parishes go back to the drawing board.

As the building process begins, a community may be temporarily displaced especially if a preexisting church has to be torn down on the same space where the new church will be built.

When a merger of parishes has taken place there are times when preexisting churches will no longer be used and one new central church will be built. In this situation, special attention is given that the history of the former churches is incorporated into the new design. Stained glass windows might be repurposed or old statures enshrined. Perhaps the history of the former churches including pictures and other mementos are placed into the cornerstone of the new church.

After many months of construction, when the dust has not only settled, but literally has been scrubbed and polished away, the bishop comes to dedicate the new church. Two rituals are most significant in this dedication.First, representatives of those who have been involved in the building of the church formally entrust the building to the bishop’s care and, secondly, the bishop blesses water and sprinkles the people, who are the spiritual temple, then the walls of the church and, finally, the altar. If a new altar is being used, the bishop consecrates it by pouring holy chrism over the top and rubbing it into the surface of the altar.

This Sunday take time to appreciate the rock upon which your church is built. Keep in your prayers the ancestors and people among you who worked so steadfastly to bring your building into existence.

Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.