I remember the first time that I entered the Landmark Center and being captivated by its beauty. It was in the first year of my priesthood when I was riding my bike through downtown Saint Paul that I decided to enter the Landmark Center. Since then, I have had the pleasure of visiting the Schubert Museum, the former court room on the top floor and even the main lobby for a wedding reception. It is a scandal to imagine that not fifty years ago the city debated razing the Landmark Center and replacing it with a parking ramp. God be praised that someone had the common sense the halt such a travesty. Even if one never steps foot into the Landmark Center it is a beautiful monument of downtown Saint Paul. I would wager that fifty years from now we will still be having wedding receptions in the Landmark but the Excel Energy center will have been replaced by a more practical building.
Beautiful buildings speak to the human spirit on a deep level. In the big universe a beautiful home, civic center or church give a feeling of stability. Strip malls, like Signal Hills, can come and go without anyone shedding a tear, but a beautiful building like the Riverview Library on the corner of George and Humboldt would not go without a feeling of loss. Many people go to visit the Cathedral of Saint Paul, not because they are Catholic, Christian or ever believe in God, but because the building has captured their attention. And the use of beautiful architecture has long been a means of teaching and evangelizing the faithful.
As we prepare to have our feasibility study this summer I would like to respond to a few concerns and questions that have come forward:
1.) I have been in conversation with the architects and have asked them to come up with a few drawings of what the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe could look like. A few of you have asked what the potential renovations would look like, and we certainly want to provide a glimpse of what the project would look like. One important element in the design is to highlight the Mexican history of the parish and incorporate it in the drawings.
2.) Some people have also raised the concern saying: “Every time a priest comes to the parish he changes the building; what is to prevent the next guy from changing the parish the next time?” To be honest, I can’t tell you in advance what the next pastor is going to do, but I hear that concern and share it myself. I would say that the hope for this project is that it provide some real permanence to the space: using the space to increase seating, security, traffic flow, bathrooms, sound and lighting.
3.) “You keep on talking about beauty, Father, what’s wrong with the church as it is?” To that question I simply ask you: Can your garden at home become any more beautiful? Would it be possible for you parents to give a dress that was too beautiful to your daughter on the day of her wedding? Would it be possible for us to honor Our Blessed Mother too much? I think that we need to be honest and ask ourselves if whether we are giving the Blessed Mother the best that she deserves.
Pray for my conversion,
-Father Andrew R. Brinkman