On June 30, the Archdiocese of Boston finally locked the doors of Holy Trinity Church in Boston's South End. This is a grand, old, beautiful church built by German immigrants. I'm not one of those who thinks that every church in the Archdiocese should remain open in perpetuity. The fact is that the number of mass-attending Catholics is much smaller than it used to be; at Holy Trinity, they were getting about 50 people for the English Mass on Sunday and about 100 for the Tridentine Mass at 12 noon. Church closings are but a symptom of a much deeper and more serious problem - the general loss of faith. Keeping surplus churches open won't solve that.
But it doesn't mean we can't lament the loss of our Catholic heritage in Boston. Over the last three or four years, I would periodically take my kids to the Tridentine Mass at Holy Trinity. The blood, sweat, and tears that the original immigrants poured into this church are palpable. It is filled with traditional artwork of the saints on the walls and ceilings, giant stained glass windows, marble and oak. Lord knows what sacrifices the immigrants made to build it. The building is a testimony to what Catholic faith in Boston used to be like, devout and unapologetic and, in that sense, stands as a rebuke to the contemporary Church.
We need these old, immigrant Churches around as the voice of tradition, a "sermon in stone." I sometimes wonder if it is a relief to the contemporary Church to close down these grand old Churches, so we don't have to be reminded just how far we have fallen and how flaccid the faith is compared to what it used to be. Things don't look so bad from the perspective of the suburban church-in-the-round, which testifies to its own transitory and superficial nature; perhaps this is why we are anxious to bulldoze Holy Trinity but not the shopping mall church. Visiting Holy Trinity, especially in the context of the majesty of the Tridentine Mass, is like meeting your grandfather after indulging in a lot of self-pity over how difficult your own life is. It makes one ashamed for the lame excuses we offer for not being more faithful Catholics. Better to just shut grandpa up altogether.