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Church Wreckovation, Mk. MCCXXVII May 29, 2012

Posted by Tantumblogo in Art and Architecture, Basics, disaster, error, foolishness, General Catholic, religious, sadness, scandals.

Or somesuch.  My wife grew up outside a little town west of San Antonio called Castroville.  Castroville was named after Henri Castro, an empresario from the Alsace-Lorraine region of France that brought a few hundred colonists over to the area west of San Antonio in the 1840s.  They were amazingly productive people, who dammed the Medina River and built a very extensive irrigation system from that impoundment, making the Medina Valley a very fertile agricultural area.  They were also very Catholic.  As so many European Catholic settlers to America did at the time, the first thing they did was build a church.  Literally,  many of these communities founded in central Texas by European settlers built churches before they built their own houses or even defensive works.  It was and is an amazing testament to their faith and the dominant role it played in their lives.

Often times, the first church built would be very small and simple.  As the community grew and prospered, the original basic church would be replaced by an improved one.  This happened in Castroville.   In fact, they built 3 churches, with the last and current church being completed in 1870.  The tiny original church still stands.

The reason I bring up this history is that I happened to come by a book published around the 125th anniversary of the parish in the mid 70s.  The book showed the “renovation” that had been done to the church in the wake of Vatican II in the early 70s.  Here is a photo from the book showing how the church looked prior to the wreckovation:

It’s an amazingly beautiful church.  A testament to the love and faith of those, not wealthy at all, farmers and ranchers who built it.  My wife has a brother in law who remembers the church as it is shown above, and he was furious when, in the early 70s, all the beautiful paint work on the columns, walls, and ceilings was painted over in bland, “modern,” white:

Actually, as church wreckovations went at that time, this one was pretty mild.  Still, there is a palpable loss in the removal of the altar rail and the painting over of the extensive and beautiful paintwork that previously adorned so much of the church.  The sanctuary was also extended some way into the nave in order to accomodate the new table type altar.  Later, the sanctuary was extended even further into the nave, and the altar moved further towards the people, so that now it is difficult to tell the difference between these two very distinct parts of the church.  I have seen this personally, and while the photo below doesn’t reveal great detail it does reflect pretty well how the church looks now:

The exterior has not changed:

I should add now that, as Catholic churches go in this day and age, St. Louis is not bad – it’s actually better at conveying the Catholic Faith and the ends of the Mass better than the vast majority of parishes built in the last 50 years or so.  But, in the modernizing renovation of the early 70s, there was a palpable loss of the sacred and a shift towards a more anthropomorphic view of ‘faith.’  This was exacerbated when the sanctuary and altar were moved further out into the nave, seeming to highlight the human aspects of the Mass and further confusing the differing roles of priest and laity, and the true Actor of the Mass and those who are blessed to witness the great act of salvation. 

An even more tragic tale is that of the Sisters of Divine Providence.  They once operated a huge convent in Castroville with hundreds of sisters, wearing very elaborate habits and teaching kids in Castroville and around the state.  But, in the wake of Vatican II and the general insanity that gripped so many religious orders in the 60s, they moved out of the convent and into San Antonio and have since become heavily involved with social justice work of the ACORN, Alinsky-ite variety.  They are still a quite numerous order but the vast majority are very, very old. There are only about 10 or 12 of the 200 odd sisters still left that are under 60.  Within 10-15 years, this order which nunbered as many as 400 50 years ago will have less than 30 sisters left.

Thus, wreckovation.

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