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.