"Just as the term Church refers to the living temple, God's People, the term church also has been used to describe 'the building in which the Christian community gathers to hear the word of God, to pray together, to receive the sacraments, and celebrate the eucharist.' That building is both the house of God on earth (domus Dei) and a house fit for the prayers of the saints (domus ecclesiae). Such a house of prayer must be expressive of the presence of God and suited for the celebration of the sacrifice of Christ, as well as reflective of the community that celebrates there" (Built of Living Stones, 16).
"Initiation into the Church is entrance into a eucharistic community united in Jesus Christ. Because the rites of initiation of the Church begin with baptism and are completed by the reception of the Eucharist, the baptismal font and its location reflect the Christian's journey through the waters of baptism to the altar" (Built of Living Stones, 66). Therefore each time we enter the church we are reminded of our baptism and bless ourselves with the same water by which we were buried with Christ and raised again in the waters baptism.
"May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds" (Sacramentary). By these words the Paschal candle is blessed at the celebration of the Easter Vigil and carried in procession to remain burning throughout our celebration of Christ's resurrection. From this light all other lights are lit, including the baptismal candle of every Christian. The Paschal Candle also stands prominently during the celebration of a funeral Mass, as a reminder of the salvation given us through our baptism. Candles came to be understood by early Christians as representing Christ himself, insofar as candles consume themselves in order to give light to the world.
"The consecrated oil of chrism for initiation, ordination, and the dedication of churches, as well as the blessed oils of the sick and of catechumens, are traditionally housed in a special place called an ambry or repository. These oils consecrated or blessed by the bishop at the Mass of Chrism deserve the special care of the community to which they have been entrusted" (Built of Living Stones, 117). Because the holy oils are used in the sacraments of initiation to annoint before and after baptism as well as in the Sacrament of Confirmation, they are housed near the baptismal font and serve to remind us of our own entrance into the Church through these sacraments.
Having reminded ourselves of the symbols of our baptism and into the Church, we enter into the main body of the church, called the nave. Taking its name from the Latin navis (ship), we are reminded that just as the crew of a ship is integral and vital for it to reach its destination, so too much each of us as baptized Christians do our part to bring the Church—the Bark of Peter—to its final destination. The nave is central to "processions during the Eucharist, the singing of the prayers, movement during baptismal rites, the sprinkling of the congregation with blessed water, the rites during the wedding and funeral liturgies, and personal devotion. This area is not comparable to the audience's space in a theater or public arena because in the liturgical assembly, there is no audience. Rather, the entire congregation acts" (Built of Living Stones, 51).
Although the title sanctuary is used in some other denominations to refer to the entire church building, in Catholic sacred architecture "Sanctuary" is reserved for that area proper to the celebration of the Eucharist, and includes the dais on which the altar, ambo, and presider's chair are located. This area is set apart from the main body of the church in order to emphasize "the unique quality of the actions that take place in this area while at the same time expressing the organic relationship between those actions and the prayer and actions of the entire liturgical assembly" (Built of Living Stones, 54).
"At the Eucharist, the liturgical assembly celebrates the ritual sacrificial meal that recalls and makes present Christ's life, death, and resurrection, proclaiming 'the death of the Lord until he comes.' The altar is 'the center of thanksgiving that the Eucharist accomplishes' and the point around which the other rites are in some manner arrayed. Since the Church teaches that 'the altar is Christ,' its composition should reflect the nobility, beauty, strength, and simplicity of the One it represents" (Built of Living Stones, 56). The altar is both a place of sacrfice of ourselves and the one sacrfice is Christ which we memorialize (anamnesis) every Sunday and the banquet table of the Lord to which all the faithful are invited.
"Here the Christian community encounters the living Lord in the word of God and prepares itself for the 'breaking of the bread' and the mission to live the word that will be proclaimed." (Built of Living Stones, 61). The ambo is the place from which the two readings, Psalm, and Gospel are proclaimed. Just as we encounter the real presence of God in the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar, in the Word we encounter the real presence of God. It is for this reason that the assembly remains standing as the Gospel book is enthroned on the ambo and the Word of God proclaimed.
"The chair of the priest celebrant stands 'as a symbol of his office of presiding over the assembly and of directing prayer'" (Built of Living Stones, 63). Just as the cathedra—the Bishop's chair which resides permanently in each cathedral—signifies his office as the sovereign of the local church, the presider's chair is the seat from which the presider prays the presidential prayers, directing the prayer of the assembly to God. At Masses where the deacon is present his chair is placed beside that of the presider.
"The cross with the image of Christ crucified is a reminder of Christ's paschal mystery. It draws us into the mystery of suffering and makes tangible our belief that our suffering when united with the passion and death of Christ leads to redemption" (Built of Living Stones, 91). At St. Thomas More the beautiful wood crucifix was carved by Norbert Koehn and has the human face of Christ looking down upon the altar. Behind the crucifix is a stained glass window that glows with glory of the resurrection, a further reminder that by the cross and resurrection Christ has set us free. The window, was taken from the earlier Church of St. Thomas More and installed in its present location in 1998.
"May the prayers of Saint Thomas More give us the courage to proclaim our faith by the witness of our lives" (Proper of St. Thomas More). Thomas More is saint, scholar, politician, defender of the Catholic faith, married man, and patron of our community. We commemorate his feast every year on June 22 and continue to honor ask his intercession that we might conform all aspects of our lives to the will of God. Saint Thomas More's life is probably most well known from the 1966 Oscar winning film "A Man for All Seasons," but you may also read a brief biography written by one of our parishoners. Carved by Norbert Koehn.
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, stands in our church as a powerful reminder of the intercession of the Mother of God in the life of the Church. Most associated with the devotional life of Mexican Catholics, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe miraculously appeared on the tilma (poncho) of St. Juan Diego in December 1531 at Tepeyac, near modern day Mexico City. The events of the apparition are recorded in the Nahuatl poem Nican Mopohua and have become one of the most powerful religious symbols in the world, bringing hope to millions and giving voice to the silenced. See Virgil Elizondo's Guadalupe: Mother of the New Creation (Orbis, 1997) for a fuller explanation of the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The painting is by Guadalupita Ortiz.
"Eternal Father, we want to live as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, in peace with you and one another" (Feast of the Holy Family). The Holy Family—Jesus, Mary, and Joseph—is the model of all families and is celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas as a reminder of the value of family life.
"The Stations of the Cross originated early in the history of the Church. It was the custom of the faithful to follow the way walked by Christ from Pilate's house in Jerusalem to Calvary. As time went on, pilgrims to the holy city desired to continue this devotion when they returned home. In the fourteenth century when the Franciscans were entrusted with the care of the holy places in Jerusalem they promoted the use of images depicting the Lord's Way of the Cross" (Built of Living Stones, 132). The stations are arranged in the ambulatory—the space on the sides of the nave—so that we can walk the Way of the Cross in true procession around the church space. Carved by Norbert Koehn.
"In reverent prayer before the reserved Eucharist, the faithful give praise and thanksgiving to Christ for the priceless gift of redemption and for the spiritual food that sustains them in their daily lives. Here they learn to appreciate their right and responsibility to join the offering of their own lives to the perfect sacrifice of Christ during the Mass and are led to a greater recognition of Christ in themselves and in others, especially in the poor and needy" (Built of Living Stones, 71). The Eucharist is reserved in the Tabernacle, which is to Christians what the Ark of the Covenant was to the Israelites, namely the place where the presence of God is experienced. The Tabernacle is located behind the presider's chair. A candle burns continuosly as an indication of Christ's presence.
Known to some as the vestibule, the Narthex is the place of welcome for the assembly. Before entering the sacred space of the church proper, the Nathex is where the faithful greet one another, converse, and form the bonds of reconciliation and fellowship that prepare us to participate in the sacraments. The Narthex is also where a variety of events take place, including hospitality Sunday receptions the first Sunday of each month and stewardship displays the third Sunday of each month, inviting all members of the parish to give of their time, talent, and treasure in doing the mission of the Church.