5 March 2013

Travels with mom

Took mom out for a drive on the weekend.  She likes country scenes, old churches, old barns, anything pretty, really.  She's easy to please, so I don't mind taking some time to make her happy every now and then.  (One of my co-workers, his mother is impossible to please.  She is, according to him, always complaining, and upset that her life is not as good as she wants it to be, and nothing they do can change that.  As a result, he and his brothers and his father no longer try.  One time, when speaking to my coworker about my mother, he said: "Barns?  You show her an old barn, and she's happy? You don't know how lucky you are.")

I had planned to take her on a short jaunt to nearby Hamilton, but I found I had less to do at her house than I had thought, and we had the entire day ahead of us, so I took us a little farther afield, and we travelled instead into Bruce County on the weekend.  Plenty of scenery and farms and old towns to see.  I was aiming for two churches that I had found on the net and have mentioned in the past:  Immaculate conception in Formosa, and Sacred Heart in Mildmay.  In my careful preparations for this little jaunt, I had the foresight to pick up extra batteries for the camera, and then forgot to bring the camera itself.  So I got some photos from the net, instead.

Immaculate Conception, Formosa.

Sacred Heart, Mildmay

Photos are often deceptive.  In this case, I should say that Immaculate conception is prettier in real life than it is in the photos, and Sacred Heart's photo is a little prettier than the church itself, although both are wonderful churches.  The altars in both churches were made by the same local family, the Durrer's, and the altars have fortunately been preserved.  (As my sister said on seeing the photos:  "Thank God they didn't have the money to rip them out!")  Immaculate Conception seems to have survived virtually intact.  Sacred Heart did go through some renovations in the seventies and eighties, although they appear to be trying to restore some of what was lost now.  Here's another photo from their website showing the church in it's earlier state:

As you can see, the church was once very elaborately decorated.  The possibilities are that, 1: either they got a priest and council in the past who wanted things to be simpler and more plain, who painted over everything, including the statues.  (it happened.  I know a few churches where hundred year old frescoes were given the roller treatment- all in the name of the Spirit of Vatican 2, of course.)  or 2: The paintings and stenciling were getting old and in need of either restoration or replacement.  Attendance was dropping around that time, and in the face of falling revenues, the priest opted for the cheaper alternative of a bucket of paint and a honking big roller.  I suspect the second scenario is more likely.  The priests I know who wanted the church plainer and more in keeping with some ancient "authentic" Catholicism would not have hesitated to have ripped out the altars.  Fortunately, the altars have survived and are beautiful.  If I ever win the lottery, I would gladly give them enough money to bring the church back to its older state.  In the meantime, Mother and I tossed ten bucks into the collection plate.

I should add, the priest as Sacred Heart gave a fine sermon at the Mass we attended.  He pointed out that the secular media, in the wake of Benedict's retirement, is calling the Church "divided".  This is odd, as the media up here, enraptured with multiculturalism, praises diversity where ever they find it, but in the Church, they call it "division."  "We are not a divided Church," the priest said.  "We are a diverse Church."  I thought he was making an excellent point, and he preached it well.  

Both churches are in the diocese of Hamilton.  Mother and I frequently go there for our little outings to see some older churches.  Somehow, it seems as if more churches in that diocese, and in a few other outlying dioceses, have survived better than the churches of the Toronto archdiocese. So many of our churches were gutted and painted over in the chaos following the council.  It is terribly, terribly sad to go into some of our older, finer churches, and see a hollow shell, a shadow of its former glory, the gifts of generations wiped clean and thrown in the trash, for no reason whatsoever.  It is also wonderful to see that there are those that survived and continue to flourish, seemingly against the odds. 

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