Take a walk on the sacred side

Faithful invited to take summer Art and Architecture Walk

Sometimes words are not necessary.

Man can express love and adoration for the mystery of God through exquisite works of art and stunning edifices. The Church’s rich history of sacred art and architecture can turn minds to the truths of faith in a language accessible only to sight.

This summer, the Denver Archdiocese is inviting faithful to take a walk through the sometimes inexpressible beauty of art and architecture found along the Front Range.

The archdiocese’s 2014 Art and Architecture Walk includes seven sites selected for faithful to explore the sacred side of art and architecture.


Adoration chapel at St. John the Evangelist Church
The newly-constructed Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel at this Loveland parish was selected for its artistic theological expression of Scripture and the Church’s mission. Former parochial vicar Father José María Quera, an architect from Spain, designed the perpetual adoration chapel that is the first of its kind in northern Colorado.

The chapel highlights a neoclassical design with seven exterior recessed pillars between Spanish alabaster windows. The outside is shaped like a ship, referring to the Church’s mission, and led at the helm by a figure of St. John the Evangelist.

Inside, two angels are engraved in white marble panels around the monstrance to symbolize their protection of the Ark of the Covenant, as described in the Book of Exodus. The tabernacle is formed by three triangular pieces to symbolize the Trinity and two gold pillars that represent the humanity and divinity of Christ.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila blessed the chapel in December 2013. It is open to the public between 8 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.

Visitor question: In the foyer of the chapel is a copper water font engraved with five symbols of the faith. What are these symbols?


Icons in Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Church
This cozy Byzantine Catholic Church in Denver is home to symbolically-rich Eastern icons, typically painted as two-dimensional religious images considered windows to heaven. At the center of the church and behind its altar is an icon of the Mother of God called the Virgin Orans, also known as The Great Panagia. The image can be traced to Ukraine in the 12th century. It depicts Mary with outstretched hands and the child Jesus in a circular “mandorla,” symbolizing his presence in her womb. The Virgin and child are depicted with graceful lines, solemn expressions, and an attitude of prayer, suggesting the priestly role of Mary in bringing Christ into the world.

Visitor question: What biblical event is depicted in the icon located in the arch above the altar?


St. Catherine of Siena Church
The building itself of this Denver parish is one of the loveliest churches in town with breathtakingly beautiful brick and stone underneath massive exposed ceiling beams. The interior stained glass windows honor popes and St. Frances Cabrini, a favorite among the Italian parishioners who founded the church. A massive square bell tower flanks the outside and arches to the entrance of the church are done in gold foil.

The more than 100-year-old church was once nicknamed “the carnival parish” for its famous three-day sensational events that attracted more than 5,000 to its grounds. Even the Ku Klux Klan could not stop the lucrative carnival that raised enough funds to build the new church in 1913.

Visitor question: Whose image is depicted in the rose window that faces Federal Boulevard?


Stained glass windows at Annunciation Church
This old-fashioned church boasts being one of the most untouched Romanesque Revival buildings in Denver. The traditional Gothic interior is most renowned for its 34 stained-glass windows created by the famous Munich, Germany, artist Franz Mayer, who also provided stained glass for the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception downtown. In 2010, one vandalized window required six months of work before it was restored. Protective shields were placed over all the windows and other repairs were made.

The church also boasts of a 25-foot-high altar, Carrara marble, golden oak pews and florid capitals carrying vaulted ceilings. In 1988, the church and rectory were used in filming the TV series “Father Dowling Mysteries.”

Visitor question: Which stained glass window depicting Christ required repair after it was vandalized in 2010?


Grotto at Our Lady of Lourdes Church
This Denver parish’s first construction project was an outdoor shrine made in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes. The first pastor Father Damen McCaddon organized the “Rocks of Lourdes” club comprised of some 200 volunteers who began constructing a 35-foot-high stone shrine and outdoor altar in 1947. Workers hauled large rocks from Golden near Mount Olivet Cemetery to the site that has the shrine near Iliff Avenue and South Logan Street. The grotto took 624 tons of stone and steel, 101 tons of gravel and 1,500 sacks of cement to build. Inside is a statue of Mary, who appeared to St. Bernadette and announced to her that she was the Immaculate Conception. In 1949, the shine was dedicated with water from Lourdes, France.

Visitor question: What saint statue is depicted kneeling before Mary inside the grotto?


St. Peter Church
This Gothic-style church in Greeley is notable for its rusticated white stone and gray manganese brick exterior that is decorated with a variety of Gothic, rose and roundel windows. The church is an echo of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris that also features two bell towers on either side of the church. Inside visitors will find soaring rib-vaulted ceilings and elegant furnishings with graceful arches. Parishioners will boast of the church’s unique Stations of the Cross made out of wool and dyed with plants from New Mexico.

Visitor question: When was the cornerstone of the church laid?


Art and Architecture Walk
The Denver Archdiocese’s summer Art and Architecture Walk is an opportunity for faithful to visit seven notable sites of beautiful and historic art and architecture. See the graphic with addresses and contact information below. Participants are invited to answer the questions listed for each site in the story above and submit them to the Denver Catholic Register. Email answers and share photos with the Register by emailing info@archden.org. For questions and more information, call 303-715-3230.

Art and Architecture Walk map


COMING UP: Collegiality and eucharistic integrity

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The concept of the “collegiality” of bishops has been sharply contested since the Second Vatican Council debated it in 1962, 1963, and 1964. That discussion was sufficiently contentious that a personal intervention from Pope Paul VI was required to incorporate the concept of episcopal collegiality within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in such a way that the pope’s primacy and universal jurisdiction were safeguarded. The debate about collegiality has continued ever since. Now, however, it’s focused more on what kind of collegiality exists within national conferences of bishops. Is it an “affective collegiality” of mutual support and encouragement? Or is episcopal collegiality within bishops’ conferences “effective,” such that a conference has real teaching and legislative authority?  

Whether collegiality is “affective,” “effective,” or some combination of the two, it ought to be clear what truly “collegial” behavior isn’t.   

It isn’t individual bishops attempting end-runs around their national conference, appealing for Roman interventions that would forestall debates that their brother bishops wish to engage. It isn’t bishops trying to browbeat the conference chairman into changing an agenda to suit the tastes of a distinct minority — and misleading their brother bishops as to what they’re about when soliciting support for such a gambit. And it isn’t trying to filibuster a conference meeting so that no action is possible on an agenda item that the great majority of bishops wish to consider and act upon. 

If any of those three maneuvers qualifies as collegial, then “collegiality” has no more meaning than the claim that my poor Baltimore Orioles have a great starting rotation. 

For years now — and by “years,” I mean long before the idea of a “President Biden” entered the stream of national consciousness — the bishops of the United States have been concerned that ours is becoming less of a eucharistic Church than Vatican II called us to be when it taught that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life. Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed that conciliar summons when, in his final encyclical, he taught that “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist,” which “recapitulates the heart and mystery of the Church.” Yet all around us we see declining Sunday Mass attendance: a sadness that preceded the pandemic but has been further exacerbated by it.  Moreover, surveys suggest that too many Catholics think of Sunday Mass as essentially a social occasion, rather than an encounter with the living God in which Christ is offered to the Father and is given back to his people in holy communion — a communion in and through the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, received under the forms of bread and wine.

If the Church lives from the Eucharist and yet the people of the Church don’t participate in the Eucharist as often as they should, or don’t understand what they’re celebrating and receiving when they do, then the Church suffers from a serious eucharistic deficit. Those ordained to leadership in the Church are obliged to do something about that. 

That is why the U.S. bishops have been determined for some time to undertake a comprehensive program of eucharistic education throughout the Church. For the great majority of bishops, that determination has been intensified by the fact that our eucharistic deficit is being compounded by the eucharistic incoherence of public officials who, rejecting authoritative Catholic teaching based on both revelation and reason, nonetheless present themselves for holy communion as if they were in full communion with the Church. The longstanding episcopal failure to address this incoherence exacerbates the eucharistic deficit in American Catholicism by implying that the Church really doesn’t mean what it teaches about the sacred nature of the Eucharist. 

Those suggesting that this is all about “politics” are either ill-informed or deliberately misleading the Church and the gullible parts of the media. Concern for the eucharistic integrity of the Church includes, but goes much deeper than, concerns about the eucharistic incoherence of Catholic public officials who act as if the Church’s settled convictions on the life issues and on worthiness to receive holy communion don’t exist. That is why the U.S. bishops are forging ahead with developing a teaching document that will clarify for the whole Church why we are a Eucharistic community, what the Eucharist truly is, what reception of the Eucharist means, and why everyone in the Church should examine conscience before receiving Christ in the sacrament. 

The wheels of collegiality may grind slowly. In this case, however, they are grinding truly, and for the sake of the Gospel.

George Weigel is an independent columnist whose weekly column is syndicated by the Archdiocese of Denver. The opinions and viewpoints expressed by Mr. Weigel therein are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Archdiocese of Denver or the bishops of Denver.