By Kathleen Rogers
Recently, I met with Father Curtis finalizing details for my last blog post for The Cross and The Light (TCTL). As a recent Art History graduate from USF, I shared with him my innate curiosity about the architecture of our new St. Stephen Catholic Church. What unfolded during our conversation can only be described as an unexpected gift. I feel blessed to share with you Father Curtis’s thoughts on the deeper meaning of the structure’s architecture.
Mission Style Churches & Catechesis
The architectural elements of the new church—both interior and exterior—define a spiritual journey to paradise. This is apparent in the design of mission churches, like St. Stephen, and the church it was inspired by, the Annunciation Church in Alta Monte Springs. The use of architecture is a unique way to catechize or hand on the mysteries of our faith in an art form. To clarify how catechesis works Father Curtis explained to me how the architectural features of St. Stephen have a spiritual meaning enabling us to enter into the mystery of our salvation.
Visualize the Spirtual Journey Through the New Church
When you attend TCTL, take a moment to appreciate the architecture of our newly constructed church. Before you enter the front door of the church, look up at the roof to see a 14-foot cross affixed 90 feet high (7 stories). By walking through the door, your eye will immediately be drawn to the baptismal font. Father Curtis shared that this is the font of our redemption, where the baptized become members of Christ’s body and we become a Church.
Looking around the walls of the entry are icons of the Saints. Father Curtis pointed out that these icons represent generations of faithful followers linked by baptism, which transcend time and space. Supported by intercession and prayers of these Saints, we draw strength for our journey, that this Christian life is possible. The pews, then offer the faithful refuge to gather time after time, joined as a spiritual family, together along this journey of life.
If given a tour of the new church after TCTL, you can walk into the sanctuary, which includes the ambo (podium) of the Word, Altar of the one Sacrifice of Christ, the presider’s chair, and the tabernacle. At this moment, you’ve arrived at Parasouia (paradise), and Father Curtis expressed “this will give us a foretaste of Heaven and the heavenly banquet and paradise we are longing for.”
On the pinnacle of the roof over the sanctuary, directly above the tabernacle is the orb associated with the arrival at paradise, where “God will be all in all”. Through these architectural elements, we can read a language of signs and symbols which share the mysteries of our faith, guiding us along the path of salvation.
Dedication of New Church
When the new church is formally dedicated in June, it will be set apart from all other buildings so we can worship and encounter God. Every time we gather, we will bring with us our joys and sorrows, our works and labors, our struggles and thanksgivings on this journey together in Christian living.
I hope that Father Curtis’s interpretations of the inner architectural meaning of St. Stephen Catholic Church will enrich your TCTL experience. And hey, who knew that my Art History degree could come in so handy! But seriously now, don’t miss TCTL; it promises to be an amazing experience. It’s the powerful story of Jesus in a multisensory production that you won’t want to miss! Please join us for this special moment in St. Stephen’s history. Buy your tickets today!