Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Little Church Madness!

First off, since it is Easter Wednesday night as I type this, happy Easter! Today's post is a brief one, but unique in the grand scheme of my blog posts to date. Over the month of March and coinciding with college basketball's March Madness playoff tournament, I had the opportunity to contribute photos to a fun tournament, known as Church Madness.

The nave and spectacular high altar at St. Francis de Sales Oratory, St. Louis, Missouri.
2017 Church Madness Winner. Photo taken in September 2013.

Church Madness is a tournament of unique merit. It pits 64 of the most beautiful churches in the United States in a vote-based tournament to select the "Most Beautiful Church in America." Hosted by Patrick Murray of the superb Art & Liturgy blog, his effort does a phenomenal job of sharing the beauty of sacred places across the United States with his readers. What's more? Patrick works for Granada Liturgical Arts who designs and produces a lot of materials that make churches physically beautiful, from tabernacles to priestly vestments. Check out Patrick's blog and Granada!

An oldie, but a goodie: Basilica of the Assumption, Baltimore, Maryland.
Oldest cathedral in the United States. Photo taken in December 2010.

How did I get involved in the Madness? As you may know, Roamin' Catholic Churches posts pretty regularly on Instagram (check out the side bar to the right, or see this link for some of these photos: Through this, I was able to connect with Patrick and round up some of the photos I've take in the past few years to contribute to the tournament.

Extraordinary form, extraordinary sanctuary: St. Stanislaus Oratory, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Photo taken in September 2016.

In a couple cases this winter, I was able to hit the road and visit a couple churches to take photos to offer to Church Madness. As time allows, I have enough photos from two Church Madness participants to do specialized posts just to focus on them.

St. John Catholic Newman Center, Champaign, Illinois

This baldacchino top only begins to articulate the beauty found in Champaign, Illinois.
Photo taken in February 2017.

St. John the Evangelist, Indianapolis, Indiana

Church and state: This neo-Gothic hunk of a church is only three blocks from Indiana's state capitol.
Photo taken in February 2017.

Many thanks go to Tyler Strom and Megan Fish for their tips, and in Megan's case, tour to help facilitate my visits and photo-taking!

You can check out the rest of my photos used for Church Madness on Flickr through the slideshow below.

Church Madness 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holy Week & Some Reflection

Sanctuary, St. Luke Catholic Church, Plain, Wisconsin - Palm Sunday Vigil 2016. 

Another Lenten season is almost complete. This Lent, perhaps more than most, is forcing a pause for thought as I consider where this site, my other projects, my faith, and my life are all headed. Today's post focuses on how I think Roamin' Catholic Churches might be shaken up.

About three years ago, I wrote the About page for this site. In it are the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed aspirations of a 26 year old, excited to tell the world of the pretty buildings and perhaps some special communities within the Catholic Church. As someone originally drawn to church buildings for their aesthetic beauty, it was not a major goal to let whatever personal faith that I may have run directly through the blog. Roamin' Catholic Churches was planned to be a near-equivalent of an American Institute of Architects primer. The idea of any spiritual stirring for the reader was some sort of "bonus," independent of any writing or photography that I do. 

Similarly, I was hardly keen on letting my faith spill directly into my social life or really at all away from Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This lifestyle choice made it acutely difficult in the rare moments where I tried to share my Catholic faith with those close to me. Cradle Catholic problems, anyone?

Sanctuary, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Baraboo, Wisconsin - Palm Sunday Vigil 2016. 

Of course, life will tell you that any spiritual inspiration can't be forced on to a person, whether a close friend or a blog reader. At the same time, it's hard to shake the influence of said inspiration. The last few years have given me a host of friends and influences, Catholic and more secular, that are leading me to think about the purpose of the blog and my life differently. Many times, this comes from friends outside the church asking questions about the blog or Catholicism in general because they know I run this site. Other times it comes from me asking my friends for their perspective on all things spiritual and secular. These scenarios, almost always extemporaneous in nature, give me more reason to be excited about Catholicism as a culture and a practice! On one of my church photography road trips, I was compelled to ask one of my closer spiritual friends, "how could I better introduce a faith-focused slant into the blog?" Roamin' Catholic Churches as strictly an architectural resource most likely won't fulfill everything the site can be.

To try to keep this post somewhat short, it is fair to say that I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that my life and the blog can and should exhibit more qualities of the Catholic faith. This isn't to say that I or the blog are going to get super preachy, as I am still leery of looking like I am on some moralistic high ground. What I am jazzed to try and share with you more clearly are the church buildings and communities serving as witnesses to the Catholic faith and its beliefs. At the same time, I hope that I can offer some of my personal faith story where it's appropriate in these blog posts. I can't promise that it will suddenly make this blog terrific, but I think that the blog can become a little more fruitful for us all by better discussing the Catholic faith. Your comments are welcome!

We'll see where this flows and where inspiration goes.

Have a great Holy Week! Now I better make some more blog posts!

Sanctuary, St. Norbert Catholic Church, Roxbury, Wisconsin - Palm Sunday Vigil 2016.