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Mother-Daughter weekend in Williamsburg

I had a lovely weekend in Williamsburg with my daughter. The soccer tournament didn’t turn out exactly as we hope since they came in second instead of first in the State Cup, but as always I thoroughly enjoyed the time with my only girl. She has grown into such a young woman. While we still have lots of parent child interaction, “Please pick up your____, Don’t forget your_______, and Be home by_______” , she has also matured to where we can have some lively, interesting, conversations on a wide variety of topics. I took great pleasure in her observations after we attended Mass at St. Bede’s in Williamsburg.

This is a new church built in-the-round as is the style of the Diocese of Richmond. Unlike many of the round churches we have visited in this diocese, this church has kneelers, holy water, votive candles, and statues of saints. In other words, it looks very Catholic. The liturgy was also fairly orthodox. The wine was poured into individual metal chalices before the Eucharistic Prayer instead of consecrating a large flagon and then pouring the Precious Blood into glass or pottery chalices as I am used to seeing in parishes of this diocese.

My daughter hopes to eventually study architecture and right now has a special interest in church design. She pointed out how awkward this particular round church design is in two key areas. The tabernacle is set aside in a glassed-in Eucharistic chapel located near the entrance of the Church. When one enters the sanctuary, it is not within sight. Consider the main entrance of this circular church as the 6 o’clock position. The altar is the center. Behind the altar is the choir and a very impressive set of organ pipes. We sat at the 3 o’clock position where there is a very large, beautiful wooden carved crucifix situated behind the pews in a shrine with votive candles. She felt confused when she genuflected as she entered or exited her pew. There was no tabernacle in sight and the crucifix was behind her. What exactly was she reverencing with her gesture?

The ambo is to the side of the altar and canted a bit. This means that when the priest proclaims the Gospel or gives his homily his back is to about a quarter of the congregation. My daughter noted that the same people who advocate the round churches tend to be the same people who object to priest saying mass ad orieintem. She found this ironic since the round church by design really puts the priest with his back to some of the people. Contrast this to saying Mass ad orientem where the priest is not turning his back on the people but putting himself in a position to lead the people.

The weekend was not all church talk. We chatted about television shows, food, school and soccer. But as the specter of sending her off to college next fall looms ever closer it is reassuring to see she has a good grasp of the fundamental tenets of her faith.


The new St. Bede was finished during my sophomore year of college at William and Mary, and a bigger church was desperately needed to replace the quaint old church. (If memory serves, they were actually having 6 or so Masses on a weekend in the old church.) Some have dubbed it the flying saucer, while others have commented that the big cross outside is so that Jesus has a target on which to land when he returns.

All that aside, the crucifix in the church is absolutely beautiful... very good to look at in preparation for confession. The adoration chapel is also one of my favorites that I've been to, what with all the light that streams in. The organ is wonderful, though it sent costs skyrocketing out of control.

If your daughter wanted a school with a strong Catholic Campus Ministry, William and Mary would be a good choice. I don't know how the numbers stack up to some other public campuses, but they've sent at least a half-dozen or so people into seminaries or religious orders in about as many years. They're also well positioned in that they are in possession of the Old St. Bede's, which is right next to the football field. Of course, on homecoming weekend I imagine you stayed away from campus traffic if you could.
Barb, sfo said…
Interesting on the round churches (we've got a LOT of them here too). Our semi-round parish is merging with another, different, semi-round--this one has sloping floors, altar at 12:00, pulpit/ambo at 6:00 with choir behind, and assembly seats in 2 rows facing each other. EEKK! (That's a "what were they thinking" if I've ever seen one). Tabernacle and crucifix, however, are front and center at noon, where they belong.
Eileen said…
We have a round parish at St. John's in McLean VA; however, the altar and tabernacle are in the center of the clock -- you can't miss them. There are only about ten rows of pews, so even in the back row, you're still much closer to the altar than you are at many churches in the front row. The ambo is at 9 o'clock, so that the lector/priest has his back only to part of the choir during the readings and homily. During the Eucharistic prayer, the priest always has his back to a portion of the congregation. We've had a Latin Novus Ordo Mass each Sunday for more than a year, which has become the Tridentine Mass as of two weeks ago. It IS possible to have great reverence and devotion in an "unorthodox" space, but having the tabernacle right in the center is key.
Anonymous said…
Well done, parents! Enjoy your last year with your precious girl.

Thanks for your blog.
Jim said…
"Unlike many of the round churches we have visited in this diocese, this church has kneelers ..." -- Dr. Hunnell

Forgive me for asking a stupid question, but what do people do in those churches without kneelers? Kneel on the floor?
Catholic Mom said…
They don't kneel. For a prototype of the typical Diocese of Richmond parish, see this post. I think the reasoning falls something like we are a "resurrection people" so we stand joyfully before the Lord. Of course somewhere in there they forget you cannot get to the Resurrection without the Cross. It does bring to mind this past Sunday's Gospel and the standing Pharisee vs the humbly kneeling penitent tax collector.
Anonymous said…
My eldest loves her faith & has thrived at University..looks like you have a lovely young woman there too!
Jim said…
Thank you, Dr. Hunnell. I guess I should consider myself lucky in that I've never heard of such a thing until I read it here on your blog. God bless.

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