Rorate Caeli

Tradifying a church exterior

During the pontificate of Benedict XVI you have probably seen several examples of Catholic parishes that have restored or improved the interior of their churches, especially the sanctuaries.  The New Liturgical Movement blog has featured several before-and-after photos, such as here and here.

Now there is an example of a parish that has greatly improved the exterior of its church.  In a front-page article in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia's Arlington Catholic Herald, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary in Colonial Beach, Virginia, is profiled after investing five months and $325,000 to transform an early-1960s church into one more fitting for a rural Catholic parish.



For those who know the Diocese of Arlington, it is home to perhaps the ugliest collection of churches from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and even beyond.  Experimentation, including just prior to the Second Vatican Council, led to churches in the round and semi-circle buildings that showcased the choir at ground level and minimized the distinction between sanctuaries and naves.

In recent years, pastors (often with the great assistance of more conservative assistant pastors) in the Diocese of Arlington have overseen the construction of new churches in the diocese that are cruciform in design.  Others have hired traditional-leaning firms to redesign sanctuaries that were gutted or were never traditional to begin with.  In addition to the costs involved with tradification, some of the priests have had to deal with the bishop there, who (as owner of all properties) has vetoed several proposals over the years for being too traditional (including a ban on new altar rails).  N.B.: The same bishop prohibited the traditional Latin Mass until 2006.  Today, nearly one out of every five parishes in the diocese has a traditional Latin Mass somewhere in the schedule as a result of priests taking their cues from the pope, and not just their local ordinary.  Father Vincent Bork, the parochial vicar at Saint Elizabeth's pictured above, offers the traditional Latin Mass on Sundays and Thursdays at the mission church for the parish, Saint Anthony of Padua in King George, Virginia.

In this season of Advent, there is indeed great hope.


  1. St. Christopher5:36 PM

    Bishop Loverde is no friend of Tradition, and of the TLM. Such masses are said in spite of the bishop, not with his help. In fact, he has sought to concentrate priests to single parishes, meaning that other parishes may lose more traditionalist priests, to be replaced with NO-only priests. The ban on new altar rails is disrespectful of the Pope, at the very least. Loverde is among the many American bishops that thunder "obedience" but do so little to adequately teach the Faith, particularly the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II. Good for the many priests and pastors that say the TLM, anyway. /s/St. Christopher.

  2. a parishioner6:21 PM

    The pastor also offers the traditional mass on occasion.

    As a parishioner of this parish I would really appreciate if the moderators would not allow such a positive post to be used by commentators to speak ill of our Bishop. He is our bishop, a successor of the apostles. We should not speak ill of any bishop unnecessarily.

    -a parishioner

  3. I have never visited the Diocese of Arlington. However I am very thankful for Institute of Catholic Culture which is based in that Diocese. I have learned so much and been so edified in my faith by the programs put on there. Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo who runs the Institute is on fire for the Lord.

  4. I'm pretty thankful for Bishop Loverde. We have decent Novus Ordo Masses and I can go to the TLM once a week without traveling half way across the state or going to a Mass at 5AM in a crappy neighborhood.

  5. I consider myself a traditional Catholic but also an admirer of Mid Century Modern architecture, I don't believe that the two are necessarily incompatible. While I have never witnessed it myself, I have seen many pictures of the true Mass being celebrated in beautiful MCM Catholic Churches, especially from the 50s.

  6. Ora et Labora7:30 AM

    Thanks be to God!!!

    Mary Help of Christians pray for us!!!

  7. Gratias7:30 AM

    Please send these architects to my NO parish!

  8. For those who know the Diocese of Arlington, it is home to perhaps the ugliest collection of churches from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and even beyond.

    While not disputing the ugliness in question - I have seen many of these architectural atrocities - it's not the worst. Mr. Wolfe needs to visit the west coast of Florida, which was almost entirely settled in the Age of Air Conditioning.

  9. Crusading Medievalist1:35 PM

    God bless them.

    I second Gratias.

  10. -parishioner8:00 PM

    Patrick, Bishop Loverde is no heretic, certainly not a Nestorian. If he's teaching heresy, or by some other means endangering souls, by all means, call him out. But he isn't. He may not be perfect, but I'm happy to have him as my Bishop and support him with my prayers.

    Detraction is a sin. When its committed against a Bishop I would call it sacrilege.

  11. parishioner8:03 PM

  12. I would say that the Archdiocese of San Antonio has some of the WORST church buildings...with no change in the foreseeable future

  13. George1:00 PM

    Why did they remove, and not tradify, the bell tower?

  14. St. Christopher6:37 PM

    "Parishoner": "Detracttion" is no sin; what was said is accurate, and has been widely reported. And, notwithstanding what "Dymphna" stated, there are a good number of poor N.O. masses in the Arlington Diocese -- just start with St. Joseph in Herndon, where the Franciscans walk around the Church during the homily, and take other liberties with the Mass (as well as preach on the general "rights" of people to things like: "retirement"). And, at St. Marys in Fredericksburg, the pastor has spoken out against anyone even genuflecting prior to receiving communion (and also refusing to regularly schedule a TLM). The Bishop also has done nothing to encourage the learning of Latin and Greek directed by Bl. John XXIII in Veterum Sapientia. This sorry disobedience to the Holy Father and his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, is widespread. /s/St. Christopher

  15. Picard8:58 PM


    I am on your side: not all modern architecture is ugly.

    Spectating this photo of the Church before the renovation I would say it is not that unsightly. Well, the tower seems to be a little bit ugly also in my eyes. But the main building is not that bad. (Even if I would prefer the style after the renovation. It is kind of simple beauty, so, the modern architecture seems to be not as beautiful as most of the older styles.)


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