Once occupied by the tangible presence of the Blessed Sacrament and a truly noble altar of sacrifice, the vast, tiled area between the butchers block and the mantel-piece under the stained glass window was now the object of a garbled discourse on “space”, Father’s liturgical panacea for all lay objections to his renovation:
The bishops say that space is the symbol of God. Go down to the lake tonight and watch the stars. Go out to a farm early in the morning or late at night. You will know exactly what they mean. Space makes you wonder. Space is standing filling your hearts. Space helps to get away from the fact that you had a fight with the kids on the way to Mass in the car. Space helps us to forget about the business deals we did, for a few moments during the week. When you come into a church we need some area that enables us to wonder, or if you want to use the word — Pray. To get away from what clutters up …our lives.
You have in this church what probably is the best symbol of that of any church in Australia. Space that enables us to reflect on a Father Who sent His Son, Who was prepared to die. A young Jewish mother who was prepared to stand there while her Son dies in order that you and I might live.
…There is no need to clutter up that [sanctuary] space… We use that space for Baptism. We used that space last Wednesday for ashes with the children of the primary school … The main reason is to get you and me wondering about “why did our God bother to do that for us” [referring to the stained glass window behind the sanctuary depicting the crucifixion]. As one man said, “if you go into an art gallery of beautiful paintings, you don’t put a little vase of flowers at the bottom of it, the flowers cannot cope…”
Father was apparently suggesting that only a church stripped of its Catholic clutter could provide the necessary “space” — the emptiness — within which to achieve a full appreciation of God! This sounded more like a recipe for initiation into the abyss of Eastern mysticism, about which the Bishop of Pamiers, Albert Marie de Monleon, recently warned Catholics:
In chapels, changed into ‘prayer rooms’ or ‘meditation rooms’, a symbol of the void, an initiation into the absent, replaces the Christian sacraments. One ‘meditates’ in places which are not inhabited. In the long run, these attitudes, these ceremonies, these places emptied of their Presence end up shaping an entire way of behaving, a mentality and interior life which has nothing to do with the center of the Christian life, which is communion with God by means of his grace.3
The Team had created the architectural endpoint of the new church — a physical environment more suited to a religion of nothingness, a’ la Hinduism.
Father completed his discourse, wherein he failed to mention the word “sacrifice” even in passing, with an appeal for money to pay for the newly created “space”. He then omitted the Creed in favour of a private reflection on that “young Jewish mum who was prepared to watch Him die in order that we might live”.