Sometimes we Catholics take the beauty of our churches for granted. In our tradition, we believe that the house of God deserves our best and our first. Often we’re criticized for this because it is thought by some that the money invested in the beauty of a sacred space could be spent on helping causes for social justice. Both are important, and the investments spent on the beauty of a sacred space is not in vain.
In the past few generations, many of the parishes in the United States have invested less in the physical building of our churches, and in many ways, this has left some parishes somewhat beautiful but mostly still beige and bland. When our architecture is mild or even boring, it fails to communicate the grandeur and awe found in the power of the Gospel.
It’s understandable why so many parishes are unwilling to take on such large tasks. Building worship spaces that express our faith does take a full commitment of the money and time of a community that came appear overwhelming, but it is possible and worth pursing.
Not too long ago, the community of St Vincent de Paul in North Austin built a new worship space for the first time in their history as a parish, and it was inaugurated in a beautiful dedication mass. Like many parishes, it opened it’s doors with the basics in place, and left plenty of room to finish as the resources come in to help finish the finer details.
Currently, St. Vincent de Paul is one of two parish in the Diocese of Austin that are taking on a rare form of sacred art these days – mosaics. As a Catholic artist, I was quickly drawn to these unfinished details in both St. Vincent de Paul and St. John Neumann that were dedicated in the last few years. It’s rare enough to find high quality art in many contemporary parish buildings, but mosaics are among the rarest in the United States.
Mosaics are usually more expensive than paintings, but their value comes in their physical permanence and longevity of the color vibrancy. In the positioning of these pieces of art, they will also ensure longer durability since they will be in the reach of anyone. A painting or other forms of art could easily be damaged when they are so easy to access.
On July 21, 2014, the skilled artisans finished installing the mosaics that were carefully grouped and shipped all the way from Italy. Currently only 2 of the 6 planned mosaics have been finished and installed, and the pending pieces will be completed once the funding has been reached. The larger piece is part of the planned mosaic of the communion of saints and includes St. John the Baptist, St Peter, St. Jude Thaddeus, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Paul, and St. Thomas. The other mosaic is in of the acoves to feature the Evangelist.
St. Vincent de Paul contracted Mellini in Florence, Italy to create these large and colorful works of art. You can see images of these beautiful works of art in a PDF at their website.This same group was also contracted to make the large mosaics for the dome of St. John Neumann.
Visit St. Vincent de Paul parish Facebook Page to see a full album of th.