I thought you might be interested in meeting one of my teachers here. Dr. Denis McNamara is a lay man who has written and lectured widely on the history and theology of ecclesiastical architecture, and had served on the Art and Architecture Commission of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He is currently Assistant Director and faculty member at the Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary, and serves as a liturgical design consultant.
It is inspiring to hear Denis talk about the purpose (as opposed to simply the function) of a Church building. The function of the Church building is to provide a gathering space for people who seek to worship. The functions of the building are to keep the rain out and provide enough warmth with some heating and some windows. That is simply the function, although in the last fifty years many Churches have been designed with these practical functions as their entire brief.
Much more important than these practical functions of the Church building, is the purpose of the Church building. The purpose of a Church is to serve as a sign that directs the worshipper to the reality of God. The Church will do this by pointing us beyond the limited realities of earthly existence to the beauty of the fulness of eternal life offered us by God.
You will get a sense of this beauty if you listen to some of Denis’ brief interviews on youtube. His introduction the life of the Jewish Temple is a good start. Denis develops the theme of the Temple architecture in his reflections on the San Chapelle in Paris and Chartres Cathedral about an hour from Paris.
In recent months Denis has received awards for his book Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy
It is especially satisfying to know that the restored Our Lady of Victories Church meets the central requirements of not only function but also (and more importantly) the purpose of good Church architecture.