DENVER — Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a parish of the Denver Archdiocese, recently dedicated its new church building, which local Archbishop Samuel Aquila has described as “beautiful.”
“The beauty of it ... speaks to the gift of our faith and that this is a place where the Lord is truly present and dwells,” the archbishop told Catholic News Agency shortly after the dedication Mass on March 23.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is located in Littleton, a suburb of Denver, and is a personal parish of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a society which celebrates the extraordinary form of the Roman liturgy as it existed prior to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
At the beginning of the dedication, the Litany of Saints was prayed, and Archbishop Aquila sprinkled the church with holy water. Parish pastor Father James Jackson then celebrated a solemn high Mass.
“It was the first high Mass that I’ve been to in the extraordinary form since I was a child, so it was a whole new experience for me,” Archbishop Aquila reflected.
He said that on entering Our Lady of Mount Carmel, “one knows immediately that one is in a Catholic church.”
The church is built in a Gothic style and has three altars, which were made in 1903 from Carrara marble. The main altar is 33-feet tall, extending virtually as high as the interior ceiling.
The building’s stained-glass windows depict the mysteries of the Rosary, the Evangelists, the four Latin doctors of the Church and St. Charles Borromeo.
Father Jackson told the parish that St. Charles Borromeo was honored because he used the saint’s writings on sacred architecture in designing the church.
“The altar is spectacular,” reflected Archbishop Aquila. He also emphasized how the choice of depictions for the stained glass and the beauty of their execution convey to parishioners the gift of the Catholic faith.
Father Jackson explained that Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Gothic design was chosen in part because “these older forms of architecture — they’re tried and true, and they really work.”
The substantial height of the church, he explains, contributes to good acoustics, which support the Gregorian chant and polyphony sung during the Mass. “There should be no need for a microphone when our church is all completed,” he said.
The height has theological as well as practical reasons, he said. Such high altars serve to lift eyes and in so doing lift minds and hearts to God. The stone used on the exterior conveys a sense of permanence and reminds one of the eternal reality of the Kingdom of God. Constructing beautiful churches, he said, is important because there is so much ugliness in the world today. “Beauty is one of the four transcendentals — goodness, truth, consistence (unity) and beauty. Those are the ways we come to understand God.”
By portraying the transcendentals in architecture and the celebration of the liturgy, visitors and parishioners are aided in their relationship with God. “The building you’re in, the sacred vessels you use, the vestments you wear, the music you sing, the acoustics, everything ... should be in harmony with the rite,” said Father Jackson.
“Any church,” he explained, “needs to be in harmony with what you’re doing at the altar.”
Our Lady of Mount Carmel continues to work through its remodeling. In the future, the parish hall and basement will be renovated and a choir loft, narthex, baptistry and bell tower will be added.
“Of course, it’s not enough (just) to have beauty,” said Father Jackson. “You have to speak truth from the pulpit and give kindness and mercy in the confessional, but beauty really does move the soul of modern man in a marvelous way.”