Saturday, June 26, 2010

St. Joseph's in Martinsburg where Jesus lives in a Closet

It never ceases to amaze me to find ordained ministers who treat Jesus as though they are ashamed of Him. How else to explain the appalling reality of Our Savior being shuffled off into a back corner in the church, a renovated closet that calls itself a "Eucharistic chapel." But I'm getting ahead of myself.

St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Martinsburg, WV is beautiful from the outside. I wish I had looked for the cornerstone because it is obviously an old church. And it has some lovely statues on the grounds including a beautiful one of Mary. We were pleasantly surprised to find it unlocked when we stopped to make a visit. (If I'm on foot, I rarely pass a Catholic Church without stopping to say hello to Jesus.)

As soon as we got inside the church we could see that Jesus wasn't home and that his house had been got at by the church wreckers. It sported all the earmarks of the 70s and 80s ruination: the baptismal hot tub, an altar that had been moved, in this case to the side - very bizarre. But see for yourself.

Below is the view from the back of the church. The altar has been moved from its natural location at the front of the church to the right side between the windows with an artificial back wall. Where the altar used to be are rows of movable chairs. The arrangment is such that most worshipers are viewing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass from the side and are facing each other rather than Christ.  But even those facing the altar receive a distorted view. The crucifix is off to the left as though to say, "Jesus death on the cross has no place at the center of our faith. It's simply off to the side." 

And where is Jesus in His Real Presence? We had to go looking for him. But we found a clue in the vestibule pointing to the little closet where He was hidden away as though an embarrassment. And it did, indeed, appear to be a made over closet. But See for yourself.

Below is the view of the "chapel" from the doorway. Would you call this a worthy place for the Lord of the Universe? Does it lift the minds and hearts of those who come to pray? We stayed and offered prayers of reparation and apologized to Jesus for the way He is being treated at this church. Note in the second picture below, the ladder on the left side of the room that apparently leads to a storage attic. Can there be any doubt that this "chapel" was once a back closet? Not in my mind.


A number of years ago, Mike Rose wrote a book called Ugly as Sin about the horrible churches being built. St. Joseph's is one that is beautiful on the outside but, like the sepulchre, is filled with dead men's bones. It's hard to imagine that this is a good parish where Jesus is treated with such disrespect. I wonder if anyone ever bothers to visit him? Certainly not many; there's no room for them. And, in fact, there is no room for Jesus in the main church but there's room for a piano and a set of drums, musical instruments that should not be used for the Mass. But one consolation, there's a beautiful statue of Mary outside the Church. It would be funny if it weren't so sad: Jesus in the closet and Mary in the yard. Pray for a restoration of our churches and the rightful place of our Lord and Our Blessed Mother at the center of our faith.


Louise H said...

In our travels to Hawaii and California, we came across the same side facing churches in what were once beautiful churches and yes, the tabernacles were not at the altar. We live in Alabama, the home of EWTN and Mother Angelica, believed to be God's land, but not so. Our parish has the same side facing altar and bare church. Where are the traditional, faithful pastors. I think that some wish to be with the protestants. This is not a new phenomenon but part of the time of confusion in which we now live as faithful Catholics. Remember that God is present and listening to our prayers.

Anonymous said...

GAAHHH! I was an altar boy at that church as a kid in the 1980s - what the heck happened? Back then, the only things ugly about it were the 1970s-era light fixtures and the stained glass that appears to still be in place. Otherwise, it had a traditional post Vatican II configuration, with a large crucifix hanging where that circular window is now.

What a shame to see such garish changes to such a beautiful house of God. I heard stories from an old usher about the basement serving as a stable during the Civil War; not sure if that's true, but it's an historic building. Seeing these pictures made me throw up in my mouth a little.