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Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward a doctorate in liturgical theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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“Although the mass contains great instruction for the faithful people, nevertheless, it has not seemed expedient to the Fathers, that it should be every where celebrated in the vulgar tongue. Wherefore, the ancient usage of each church, and the rite approved of by the holy Roman Church, the mother and mistress of all churches, being in each place retained; and, that the sheep of Christ may not suffer hunger, nor the little ones ask for bread, and there be none to break it unto them, the holy Synod charges pastors, and all who have the cure of souls, that they frequently, during the celebration of mass, expound either by themselves, or others, some portion of those things which are read at mass, and that, amongst the rest, they explain some mystery of this most holy sacrifice, especially on the Lord's days and festivals.”
— Council of Trent (17 September 1562)

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This Is a Cathedral, Not Disneyland
published 15 September 2019 by Fr. David Friel

ORE THAN one medieval English cathedral hosted an unconventional exhibit this summer. Three sacred spaces, all of them in the hands of the Church of England, were transformed by particularly peculiar amusements.

Rochester Cathedral gave over the floor of its nave to a nine-hole course for miniature golf (or “crazy golf,” as it is commonly called in the UK). The BBC reported on this attraction in July.

In Norwich Cathedral, the rear of the nave became the site of a 55-foot helter-skelter (a slide that spirals down the exterior of a large tower). The BBC ran a story on this display in August.

The floor of the nave in Lichfield Cathedral was refashioned to resemble the surface of the moon, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. According to the description on the church’s website, the One Small Step installation “allows us to contemplate and observe one of the most significant journeys that humanity has taken and allows us to imagine possibilities for humankind.”

Arguments in favor of these displays and in opposition to them made their way into a piece in the New York Times last month.

Another story describes how one man’s opposition prompted him to unleash a rant, during which he observed that cathedrals should not be managed as though they were Disneyland.

As noted above, these three spectacles were on display in cathedrals of the Church of England. Such capering, however, is not entirely unknown in Catholic churches (e.g., the light show in residence at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal). Contrary to what their organizers might argue, these frivolities do little to attract new disciples of Christ, while doing much to cheapen our Christian heritage and to obliterate the reverence that is God’s due.

The exploitation of these sacred spaces for such profane purposes is quite a tangible manifestation of the death of Christianity as the life principle of Western culture.