The new church is being designed in continuity with the 2,000 year-old living tradition of the Catholic faith and in keeping with the principles which have been handed down, as well with a respect for the 127-year history of St. Martin of Tours in the vibrant context of Texas Catholicism. The church will be designed as an expression of what has been handed on to us as a parish and left as a legacy to those who will follow, not as a monument to one person or one idea, but to a vibrant living faith.
No church should be a museum to simply preserve the old, nor should it merely be based on a particular stylistic preference. The Catholic architectural tradition is based on ancient systems of order, proportions, and symbolic language to visibly communicate God’s nature, his design for the universe, and his plan for our salvation. When this tradition is intentionally and authentically drawn from, adapted to a specific context, and built upon, it is expressed in a unique way that finds a home in any culture.
What the Church calls the principal liturgical furnishings (altar, ambo, tabernacle, chair, font) will be required and are the most important elements in the church, along with the Stations of the Cross and items such as candlesticks. While an organ may take time to purchase in its full state, it can be gradually expanded over time. Other items that may be devotional in nature, such as stained glass and statues, may need to gradually be procured in the future.
Currently the conceptual design targets a comfortable, average Sunday capacity of around 750 seats. Pews offer greater flexibility than chairs in how much space remains between people. The rule of thumb is that at around 75-80% full, the church will feel full, which means Masses of around 550 and up. For special liturgies, the max capacity according to the building code for standing-room crowds with overflow seating will be around 950. These numbers help us balance the need to accommodate the rapid growth of Forney with a need to retain some intimacy as our parish body gets larger. This is about the largest church our present property can support, and it is possible that in the future additional Mass times can be added as well.
The current plan is the maximum build-out that was considered among other options that offered expansion capability. Adding on to a cruciform church in the future is extremely costly and difficult to plan for as compared with the value of adding that additional space now when it is much more cost effective to do so. Therefore we are opting to build the church for our ideal size up front, trusting this will be a worthwhile investment for those who follow us.
Parts of the Church
The main parts of a church building parallel the parts of the Old Testament temples of Jerusalem, because through Jesus Christ our Catholic liturgy fulfills the temple worship of the Jewish people. In the Mass we experience a foretaste of the new heavenly Jerusalem described in the book of Revelation that is anticipated and sacramentalized (making an invisible reality visible) by church buildings. We can understand a Catholic church building as the Christian temple, which symbolizes the Body of Christ the Church, which Scripture says is “built of living stones”.
The narthex (gathering space) serves as a transition from secular to sacred, symbolically and sacramentally stepping into heaven. The nave (main body of the church) is named after the hull of a ship, recalling the pilgrimage in faith under the protection of Christ and guidance of his Church. The transepts (the arms of the cross) help remind us that the liturgy makes us the Body and Bride of Christ and anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven when we are joined to God forever. The sanctuary (the elevated platform that houses the altar, ambo, and presider’s chair), symbolizes heaven, so the ministers are robed in white, and this area is distinct from the nave because there still exists a separation between heaven and earth that is bridged by Christ, the eternal Word of God made flesh who offers himself to us in the Eucharist. He tore the veil of the temple symbolizing our access to God through him, but only at the end of time will this division be removed. Finally, the apse is the place of reservation with the tabernacle behind the sanctuary, symbolizing the Holy of Holies of the old temple, where the Ark of the Covenant was housed that served as the dwelling place of God, fulfilled in the Incarnation of Christ and his true presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
Cruciform refers to a church in the shape of a cross, a widespread practice in the Church for centuries. This form makes visible the invisible reality that we are the Body of Christ – an identity which is found in the Mass through offering ourselves as a living sacrifice of praise with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross made present at the altar through the power of the Holy Spirit. We assemble at Mass taking up our cross to be crucified with Christ!
The Bell Tower
The steeple will serve as a beacon, calling to mind the image of the Church as a city on a hill. It will include a spire topped with a Celtic cross and a belfry to house the church bell that was cast in 1955. It is possible one or two complementary bells could be added. When church bells are blessed during a church dedication, the prayer asks of God that whenever the bells are rung that the Enemy and all evil spirits will flee, that the faithful will hear the call to assemble in faith and be strengthened, and that the clouds will resound as legions of angels stand watch over the assembly.
The Rose Window
The rose window is a declaration of what happens inside the church in the liturgy: all things are restored to Christ, through whom they were brought into being. Jesus is at the center of creation because he is the Word through whom all things were spoken into existence – everything from angels, humans, animals and plants, the mountains and seas flow from him. Despite the fallen state of the world due to sin, Christ is again restoring everything to its original order and purpose. The geometry of the window plays on the outward direction (creation) and the inward direction (restoration) of these divine actions that are made present in the liturgy.
Yes, similar to our current 1927 church, the new plans include a choir loft above the narthex, which makes efficient use of the area above and offers space for two meeting rooms. At the rear of the nave, the choir is better equipped in this location to participate liturgically and support the singing assembly, sacramentalizing the song of heaven without presenting visual distraction.
The Rood Screen
The word ‘rood’ is an archaic Old English word meaning cross. A rood screen was a wooden partition used, similarly to an altar rail, to distinguish between the sanctuary and the nave, and was often topped by crucifix. The current conceptual design for St. Martin of Tours makes use of the screen to create a slightly different distinction behind the altar to delineate a place of reservation for the Blessed Sacrament in the apse. The crucifix part of the screen is instead attached to a beam (rood beam), which is located above the altar across the sanctuary. It serves as a sign of victory and marks the place where the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary and his Resurrection – the Paschal Mystery – is made present: the altar.
The Altar Rail
Like the old rail that was removed, the altar rail is a richly symbolic part of many Catholic churches that remains a beautiful part of our sacred architecture tradition. It serves to express the distinction between the sanctuary and nave by symbolizing the veil of the temple, which was the symbol of the division between heaven and earth that remains until the end of time. Only the high priest of Israel could enter the Holy of Holies – now the great high priest is Christ, symbolized by the priest who serves in persona Christi, and the ministers who serve in the sanctuary symbolizing his attendants in heaven.
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