Monday, June 9, 2014

68. My Impression of the Taj Mahoney

Back while I was in California, I mentioned in my post titled "Traveling" that I would write about my experience with the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (AKA the Taj Mahoney) in LA.

I'm sure you all were anxiously awaiting my post.... JK

Before you all jump down my throat about "don't judge a book by its cover," and "don't be so focused on the external," please keep in mind that we as beings are both soul AND body, and the exterior matters to our interior disposition. Not to mention, it portrays visibly our ideas of God and what He deserves. So, here we go:

As you approach the Cathedral, it looks more like a mall than a house of God. If you happen to miss the cross-shaped design on the side, you might mistake it for a shopping center or office building. It's plain and unadorned, and not only that, there are very few signs that advertise the Cathedral. I didn't notice the cross design until I was heading in. 

From the road/highway
It's a shopping center look-alike

With regards to the shopping center-ness of the space, it not only looks the part, but sports a café, garden, gift shop, and a very large (creepy...) parking garage. Even in my very liberal diocese, our Cathedral is not home to a café. That's just ridiculous and out of place.

From the website: 
"Spanish architect, Professor José Rafael Moneo has designed a dynamic, contemporary Cathedral with virtually no right angles. This geometry contributes to the Cathedral's feeling of mystery and its aura of majesty [no, you're getting that confused with architecture that makes you think of the Glory and Beauty of God, like this:
]...The challenge in designing and building a new Cathedral Church was to make certain that it reflected the diversity of all people [yes, let's be people-centered]. Rather than duplicate traditional designs of the Middle Ages in Europe [I'd like to see someone try to duplicate anything of that style. They're all so unique and intricate!], the Cathedral is a new and vibrant expression of the 21st century Catholic peoples of Los Angeles [the purpose of distinct architecture is to draw people out of the world and out of the times, not to remind them of it]."

There are only a few statues or representations on the exterior of the Cathedral. One of them being:
This is supposed to be Mary. It looks more like an Egyptian or pagan god to me...

The interior is very modern and plain, with bare walls, no statues, and hardly any holy images. The only thing reflective of the Catholic Faith would be the long tapestries hanging along the wall depicting Saints. It's very drab, boring, and not very inspiring to me at all. 

Looking up, you see a mixture of crooked walls and seemingly misplaced windows. It looks very messy and thrown together, instead of planned for the Glory of God. 

The in-the-round setup gives the impression that we are not joined with the priest offering the sacrifice, but that we are spectators at a human event for entertainment, one that is centered around the "performer," AKA the priest. Another reason for ad orientem... It's highly distracting to have other church-goers in your field of vision, facing you, as you witness the sacrifice. In my opinion, in-the-round is FAR worse than the versus populum arrangement. But of course, ad orientem is the BEST.


You may have seen this image floating around of the consecration of a new altar:

look familiar?
That's the (of course, wonderfully square) altar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. And oh, how nice that those "nuns" were able to participate. ... Get them off the altar. SMH.

When the Cathedral was being constructed, there were a couple of objections regarding the amount of money spent on it. In total, $250 million were spent on this Cathedral.

$1 million was spent for a tabernacle that nobody sees because...


Jesus is in a closet

And let's be honest. That tabernacle is hideous anyway.

The Confessionals are very odd. I went to Confession  there on a Friday before Mass. The doors are actually wooden slabs with square-shaped (well, what other shape would they use?) holes throughout. You can kind of see the penitent if they're sitting face-to-face. Surprisingly, they also offer Confession through a screen. That's a plus. 

Note the hol-ey doors

The floor of the Church is slanted so it gives the impression of an arena or a movie theatre more than a Church where the altar is supposed to be slightly elevated and is to be the focal point... 

And how could I write about this without bringing up my pet peeve. There is a ridiculously unnecessary number of EMHCs. I went on a Friday for noon Mass, and there was a swarm of EMHCs that gathered around the altar for Communion time. Although I was (unfortunately) parked in one of the sections flanking the altar, I walked all the way around the Church (in my mantilla. I have no shame.) to receive from the priest. I refuse to receive from unconsecrated hands unless completely necessary. Period.

What's surprising is the fact that, despite the huge number of EMHCs, the liturgy itself that I witnessed was not all that bad. It was a typical Novus Ordo. I honestly expected a Mass filled with abuses, whereas this one wasn't perfect, but was live-through-able. 

Check out the Wikipedia page about the Cathedral for details...

Thanks for reading my rant-style review. ;)




  1. Hey! I'm the one who asked you a question regarding this post on your site. I just wanted to follow up on your response to my question, but I'm doing it here since I need more space. I'm just really interested in these issues yet also unsure about them.

    I guess I question the usefulness of the distinction between being "God-centered" and "people-centered". For example, you suggest that vertical architecture leads us to wonder more at God's glory. But after all, God is not actually somewhere *up* there spatially, He's just as present around us in the world. That's not to say it can't help us to think of God as "above", since we're spatial beings and inevitably think in these terms, but is this model not itself "people-centered" since it's a concession to our spatio-temporal limitations?

    With imagery too, it's interesting...historically, the Iconoclasts and later many of the Protestant Reformers rejected images in favor of an austere aesthetic precisely because they *too* wanted to be God-centered, and considered these things too people-centered. You mention that you don't like having to look across at others during the Mass, but is this really that different from a Puritan who objected to having to look at images of saints during worship? And of course, even if imagery is accepted, the questions of *which* sorts of images best draw people to God will vary greatly with culture. So here too, I don't think "God vs. people" centeredness is that clear-cut.

    I would actually say that because of the Incarnation, there's no need to choose between God-centered and human-centered. Or, even more, could they not actually be the *same* thing, since they're united in Jesus? By human-centered I don't mean "self-centered," I mean human in the sense of who we're created to be, like when St. Irenaeus says that "the glory of God is man fully alive." Because of this I kinda sympathize with the Cathedral's intention to "reflect the diversity of all people" - if Jesus united himself with *all* of us in his human nature, not just (for example) Americans or Europeans, then to be truest to Him shouldn't we try to integrate different sorts of cultural expressions?

    Whether this Cathedral does that successfully, of course, is another story, and I think you make *very* good points about it resembling a contemporary American mall - which would be the ultimate cultural diversity *fail*! So thank you for sharing and reflecting. I don't actually have much in the way (yet) of my *own* constructive proposals these issues - I'm just interested in them and in understanding how others see and experience them.

  2. No kneelers. I guess NewChurch doesn't require anyone to actually kneel before God. Oh, but wait, God isn't in the building, is He? The entire structure is hideous, in my humble opinion. Catholic churches/cathedrals should not be like this.

    1. Some of the pews do have kneelers, but the sections with just chairs don't. And God is present there, just not in His Eucharistic Form (except after the Consecration)... It's very odd, I agree.