For centuries, the Catholic Church supported the most talented, pioneering artists and designers to create churches, icons, altars and other religious art. Although spending all that money on art hasn’t gone without question. The Church has often been criticized for spending so much on fancy buildings and priceless paintings instead of using that money to feed the hungry.
Poverty comes in many forms beyond what the eyes can see. It is necessary to feed the body, but even more necessary for the church to feed souls first. Just as Jesus first fed the multitudes with the fullness of Truth before proceeded to feed their hungry stomachs with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.
Good art and design for the Church is more than just pretty picture, they become a form of an icon – a window into heaven. Religious art works as an aid for our minds to transcend the visible world. We use it to bring glory to God. Once we understand this, why wouldn’t we give Him our first and our best?
The world may put a number on the value on our cathedral or the stained glass that lines its windows, but its value cannot be simply defined by that dollar amount. The message from Michelangelo’s Pieta or Caravaggio’s paintings can communicate a perspective of the Gospel that cannot be replicated.
Every time I visit my own parish, I look at the beautiful structure and have a greater understanding of how even the rocks cry out His name as it screams of the glory of God in a world that wants to ignore Him (John 19:40).
Now let’s look at contemporary web design. The same church that supported innovation in architecture and other design fields is the same church that has greatly lagged behind in its web presence. Many Catholic websites today are the digital equivalent of cheap pre-manufactured homes that aren’t even kept up.
The virtual presence of the church is secondary to all that is directly involved or related to the sacred liturgy, but it still represents who the Church is to the world. In fact, the virtual presence is the first encounter that many people will have with the greater Church and the local parish today.
If a parish has not yet taken time to re-evaluate their online presence in the last 5 years (or less), then the time has come to do so. Unlike the high costs associated with starting over with a church building, a digital restart with the digital identity is much faster and less expensive. Still, it is just as important.
Today, the Church is known for its ancient traditions, but throughout our history, it was our innovation that produced such great works. We cannot settle for good enough. We must give the Lord the first and the best. Our sites should be the best we can provide in beauty and usability. The parish website needs to think beyond a digital version of a bulletin.
Taking on this mission may mean spending more money than originally planned and hiring outside of the normal networks. Expanding plans and budgets for this is difficult because it hasn’t been needed before, but in today’s world there really is no other choice. I believe that God will repay what we put into it. Investing the resources to do this will have high initial costs, but communicating to people effectively will bring in more resources.
Let us pray for our Catholic communities, that we may awaken from a digital dark age and bring a great glory to God in the new digital continent.
A wonderful song by the Christian group Gungor for your reflection.