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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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Legitimate and necessary concern for current realities in the concrete lives of people cannot make us forget the true nature of the liturgical actions. It is clear that the Mass is not the time to “celebrate” human dignity or purely terrestrial claims or hopes. It is rather the sacrifice which renders Christ really present in the sacrament.
— Pope Saint John Paul II (20 March 1990)

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.