Liturgical Environment Committee
Introduction on the Liturgical Environment
Outside Setting and a Welcoming
The Entrance, Baptistery, and
the Light of the World
of the Word and Eucharist
The Priesthood and the Heavenly Host
Tabernacle, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the Chapels
Liturgical Music and
The Sacristy and Behind the
The axiom that a picture tells a thousand words best explains our liturgical environment.
Please take a look at the pictures of St. Bernardine of Siena Catholic Church.
hand both the work of the Holy Spirit and also the workmanship of "The
stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." For as St.
Paul humbly said, "Not I, but Christ within me." Please click on the
text links to learn more about the liturgical setting so that you can enhance
experience, that is, your
active and conscious participation. For an in depth look on
the liturgy, check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Also, click on any picture to see a larger image and
a brief explanation in order to better appreciate our liturgical environment. (After the bigger image appears, it will be possible to see
all the pictures on this page and more via a slideshow; or you may return to this page by clicking
the up arrow or the browser back button. Thank you and enjoy the FREE tour.)
Certainly, the church is foremost thought
community of Christian disciples, both those
living on earth and in heaven rather than a structure. And the mystical body of Christ, and the people
of God and a sacramental sign, and so many other biblical and traditional
truisms embody the model of the church. Furthermore, the
church, the actual physical structure, derives special
significance from all these encapsulations.
In fact, our parish
mission statement declares "As member of the body of Christ
...We are called to worship.....We come together to pray....to celebrate.....Ē
All our liturgical actions which are based upon these notions of church revolve
around a central physical edifice and all that is contained within it and in
near proximity to it. This church is a fantastic reminder of the Almighty's
presence on earth and forever calls to mind the mystery of the incarnation
celebrated during the liturgical season of Christmas. Our church building which has served us since
and was later rebuilt in 2000 (as is now photographed here) depicts the
liturgical environment chosen by the parish family of St. Bernardine
Of course, no church is alike, simply because of such circumstances
as time, place, and a host of other factors as well. We at St. Bernardine
of Siena, in the 21st century and in Woodland Hills California
have constructed an environment tailored
to us. In fact, each specific church is built to engineering
specifications, from surrounding materials, with architectural tastes, at a
target budget, following
general rules and ecclesiastical
laws, hopefully with
congregational feedback and so on.
We also incorporate all sorts of meaningful and traditional signs
and symbols, including those from the natural world such as water, ashes, incense,
and light, together with man made ingredients of bread wine, words,
actions, and music, A gem of a motion picture (Los
Angeles Times) "Lilies of the Field" tells the ecumenical
story of non practicing Catholics and Protestants who for diverse reasons help
these missionary nuns to build a chapel. In fact, the Mexican short order cook helps out for
insurance reasons, i.e., in case there really is a God. Our parish family with its
unique character and gifts has formulated its own
ecclesial environment that shapes our liturgical exercises as you can well see.
Outside Setting and a Welcoming
Even before one views the sanctuary of our
church, a worthy setting and mood is created on the outside with a noble and
simplistic design. The bell tower constructed of brick indicates that we
are to stand tall and strong because we are not to be like a
lamp under a bushel. We are the salt of the earth. The bell echoes the call to
worship and rings constantly throughout the day to remind us of God's presence
in our lives. It is also an audible reminder that the call to holiness is a
universal call, and all should pray for the salvation of the world and their
very own souls. Jesus Christ the messiah came to save all people.
landscape shows the vitality of the Holy Spirit while a desert like setting
reminds us of the Lenten period of fast and abstinence. The lovely external scenery
depicts the story in Genesis where God created the heavens and the earth
and all was GOOD. Roses reflect the handiwork of the invisible God. The greenery
and colorful flowers around this house of worship should enliven our praise to God.
Typically, we arrive to celebrate our faith in our Catholic cars for which we need plenty of
Did you not know that there is a special blessing for these modern day chariots?
the liturgical books are full of prayers for a variety of occasions like baptisms,
funerals, sicknesses weddings, and for a
multitude of objects such as churches, homes, animals, and cars. But not all drove, soon to be saint, the Blessed Junipero Serra whose
statue is besides the parking lot recollects the pioneering
Franciscan missionaries. They originally settled our San Fernando Valley a couple hundred years before us.
(Incidentally, the San Fernando Mission is 20 miles away. It is the 17th California mission founded in
1797, and it is also the home for the local bishop.)
Statues of Saints adorn most churches and
remind us of our Catholic
heroes. That is, those wonderful people who have been
solemnly recognized by the Vatican and gone before us marked with the sign of
faith. Whose statues we select as adornments have a special
significance for a Christ centered community. In fact, it is similar to our
teens choosing a patron saint for their confirmation name.
Saint Bernardine of Siena for whom this church is named is replicated in
tile in an alcove to the right of the main door of the Church. The
entrance to our wonderful Church is open to all, as is the universal Catholic Church.
With a spirit of hospitality, the large
patio and surrounding corridor were envisioned to provide a meeting place
before and after the liturgies. Everyone is certainly welcome
to hear the good news of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the liturgy of the
word, and by the grace of God we hope that we have created an inviting atmosphere.
The Entrance, Baptistery, and the Light of
As the congregation enters the church,
it should be reminiscent of the triumphant entrance into Jerusalem of Christ the
A procession at the beginning of the
mass should symbolize the Palm Sunday festivities where Jesus was proclaimed the
In that same week, He was crucified for our sins, but in three days He rose from the
dead. So our liturgical environment encompasses the movements of our heart from joy
and enlightenment, then sorrow, and ultimately to a glorious rapture as the
mysteries of the rosary do replicate a spiritual rhythm.
baptismal fountain just inside the entrance to house of God alludes to the pool of Siloam or better yet to the Jordan
river in which John the Baptist proclaimed the Lamb
of the God has come. Baptism is the rite of initiation for
it is for that reason we place the holy font at the entrance. Remember
also the story of the well at which
Jesus proclaimed to the Samaritan woman, "Whoever
drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will
become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Holy water at the entrance of a church is
there to bless ourselves, to remind us of our
baptismal promises, and to wipe away our
venial sins. In fact, there is so much rich symbolism in the bible and
church tradition that it is truly a fascinating process to design a house of God.
For example, in
the early churches, a picture of a lamb signified a Catholic church; and this signification stills remains
evident today in the mass when we say "Lamb of God who
takes away the sins of the world have mercy on us." But there is also
plenty to say about
our own liturgical environment that we must go on lest we spend too much time on digressions such that we break
the third commandment of
Continuing along the
wall of the church, you will notice
other candles in addition to those next to the altar. Candles are significant for
many reasons. When lit, they symbolize the light of Christ and in turn prompt us
to be lights to the
world. Candles are used in many of the liturgies besides the celebration of the mass, for example, at baptisms, the
confirmation rites, the catechumen rituals, and the marriage ceremony. And in many churches, whenever
possible, little children enjoy to light the candles besides the statues of the
saints. One wonders if the
custom of birthday candles on a cake had any preceding link
with the tradition
of the lighting of candles before a saintsí statue. The altar candles and those along the church wall remind us also of the special
feast celebrated on Feb 2. On that day, forty days after Christmas, the universal church celebrates the
presentation of Jesus in the temple, and this is when the priest traditionally blesses the candles to be used on the Eucharistic
table nowadays. Finally, the
Pascal candle holds special significance during our Easter liturgies. Candles,
then, play an important role in liturgical events and church decor.
The Liturgy of the Word and Eucharist:
for which a dignified setting is required is actually composed of two
liturgies, the Liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. The liturgy of he word is first.
It is composed of prayers,
songs, acclamations, and scripture readings. There are also moments of quiet reflection and a
homily for illuminating the word
of God. Here, we unfold the mysteries of the old and new testaments and
apply divine revelation to our current life.
Anthony preached in such a manner that he broke open holy scripture to the
benefit of all; legend has it that he even sermonized to the fishes along the shoreline when
the townspeople would not listen. The great biblical scholar of the middle ages,
St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." Why?
One could quote innumerable scripture passages but a few shall suffice. St
Peter said, "To whom shall we go Lord, You have the words of everlasting
life. Scripture has it, "Your words Lord are sprit and life."
"The truth shall set you free." The bible, priest, ambo, lectern,
and lector constitute important elements in the proclamation of the truth and
due attention should be directed to them.
it is important to have an atmosphere that is conducive to public speaking with working microphones, proper illumination for the lector, a position
where the audience can see him or her who proclaims the word of God, good audio
speakers so that the spoken word is neither missed, muffled, or echoed, and
where interference from outside noise is non-existent, especially for the
periods of quiet reflection. When we fully realize that it is God speaking to
us, right there, right now, we naturally recognize that our liturgical environment
needs to be fitting for such a solemn and grand occasion.
the second half of the mass comes the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is the preeminent
liturgical service for Catholics. In fact, our initial attention
after entering through the doors ultimately leads to the focal
point of any Catholic church, the altar. That monumental fixture symbolizes
where the Old Testament sacrifices of God's servant Abel, our father in faith Abraham, and
His priest Melchisedech were
offered. Finally the altar is the pinnacle element on which we
commemorate Jesusí sacrifice on the cross.
It is no wonder then that the
crucifix is definitely an important symbol for Christians because of its
reference to the resurrection. "If Christ did not rise, our faith is
in vain." Also, the altar is considered
the table around which the Lord
celebrated the Eucharistic on Holy Thursday. There we memorialize the
Passover meal of the New Testament as commanded by Christ. So many of the
biblical stories revolve around meal time in the old and new testaments. The
manna from heaven, the Passover Seder, the wedding feast at Canaa, the
breaking of the bread in Emmaus, and Jesus' invitation after the miraculous catch of
fish (which occurred after His resurrection) all prefigure or allude to the
Eucharistic banquet. With the advent of the Apostolic tradition handed down to
us, we celebrate the Eucharist in our sacred setting with all its ecclesial
decor as you now see.
The Priesthood and the Heavenly Host
ministry of the priesthood is alive and well at our parish, thanks be to God!
Ultimately, the final responsibility for the liturgical environment rest with
as the one in charge of St. Bernadine's spiritual talents, ministries, gifts,
and treasures. Foremost, our pastor, assistant
priest (s), and deacon (s) lead us in
prayer. What color vestments the priest wears during a prayer service changes throughout
according to the liturgical season. But
one is also reminded of the story of the woman in the crowd who touched Jesus' garment
and was cured. May our spiritual events be filled to overflowing capacity
to fulfill the words of the apostle who said, "Can't you see Lord,
there are so many people, it's impossible to determine which one of them touched
By the way, our deacon with his white robe and colored stole and
the altar servers have to be properly attired for their important ministries too.
We hope that you, either visitor or parishioners, also come properly dressed as
befitting the religious ceremony. For you also share in the priesthood
of Christ through your baptism. Now Jesus our high priest continued the
ministerial priesthood at the last supper and has ensured its longevity.
But we must pray hard, and for that, the priest heads the liturgy of the word
from the presider's chair. That chair holds a prominent position in the sanctuary.
With its occupancy, we rest assured that Jesus is in our mist in the persona of
It is the priest who also uses the oils for the anointing of the sick.
And it is our bishop who comes and uses the oils to confirm the youth of parish
with the fullness of the Holy Sprit. Yes, the ministry of the priesthood is a
very important element in our liturgical services, and it has a tremendous
impact on the decor of the church.
The liturgies of the church are
in a real manner cosmic. They must be because they are
directed to God, a Trinity of three persons. The Father
almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible,
is the source of all life and matter. Our ecclesial environment has a natural and supernatural
dimension that is instilled from the
liturgical services. That is, by the visible elements in our environment, we
hope to reveal the invisible character of the sacraments that we come to
celebrate. God, angels, grace, the community of saints and the devil are truly
spiritual realities that dramatically affect our lives. In fact, it is no wonder
then that angels
play an important roll in our liturgies and are constantly recounted in the
Bible. In the Eucharist prayer number one, the priest says "May
the angels take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven." They are depicted
in churches throughout the world in one form or another even though they
Needless to say, if we attend mass our guardian
angel whom has been entrusted with our care is at our side. Even having
our wonderful Catholic
school no more than 30 feet away from our great church is
a constant reminder of their continual presence. For holy scripture proclaims, "See that you do not despise
one of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels always
behold the face of My Father who is in heaven." Matt 18:10. Along with the
angels, the church triumphant participate in our heavenly celebrations. We
invoke the communion of saints in the creed
profess at masses and baptisms. In addition, the litany of saints is said at
baptisms and funerals, for example, "St John the Baptist, pray for us."
All this is
yet another sign of the dimension of the Catholic faith that transcends death. And along with
the angels and saints, beautiful
nature also proclaims the glories of our Lord as depicted by the rainbow
with Noah, the sky darkening at the crucifixion, the wind of the Holy Spirit on
Pentecost. We must always remember the cosmic dimension surrounding our liturgies
never let them become banal or mundane.
the Tabernacle, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the Chapels:
Needless to say, the liturgical environment is very important to the people of God because we are to grow continually in holiness. In fact, the Lord himself challenged us "To be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." But on our faith journey, we stumble and fall. Yet the incarnate Savior is full of love and compassion. The rooms for
reconciliation are inside the church because our God is ready and willing to forgive His pilgrim people so that we may enter the liturgies with a clean heart. In turn, Jesus asked us to pardon our brother or sister before we bring our gifts to the altar. God's mercy endures forever via the ministry of priesthood who give us absolution for our sins, encouragement on our journey, and advice for life.
Inside the rooms are two chairs for the face-to-face reconciliation. A kneeler and partition are situated for the
traditional approach to confession. But what is so lovely about the rooms is the presence of the two
statues. Especially poignant is the fact that when the penitent enters one
of the rooms of reconciliation, he or she sees the statue of Jesus carrying the
lost sheep on His shoulders. Donít you think that is so appropriate and such a beautiful sign of Godís Love!
In between the two confessionals, the name by which
prime timers remember them, is the chapel containing the
tabernacle. Here, the body of Christ is held in reverence in a beautiful tabernacle surrounded by an exquisite mosaic. The early church established the tabernacle to have the sacred Host readily available as the viaticum for the dying.
The tabernacle is a very important and solemn element within a church; and its surroundings should reflect a most
place, e.g., as when God cautioned Mosses who approach the burning bush on Mount Sinai. The liturgical environment committee has directed due attention
even here with respect to maintaining the
lighted lamp 24 hours a day before the tabernacle.
A tradition developed of the people coming to pray throughout the day in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. In fact,
many of the people of God pray the
Liturgy of the Hours,
the universal prayer of the church said worldwide. Also called the
Office, priest, religious, and others
praise God together no matter where they are in world with the same prayer. They
(by their religious vocations) are required to pray at a certain time of the day which is a carry over from
the Jewish tradition and similar to the Moslem
practice. Their prayers consist of readings from Scriptures, the lives of the saints, and ecclesial prayers, which come together in the
book called the breviary. In a sense, this
rhythmic prayer cycle keeps the presence of God at the forefront of peoples' lives, a very important
goal of the liturgy of the church.
Liturgy of the Hours is meant for the People of God to praise God at certain
times of the day, Likewise, our chapels
are meant to be solemn places set apart from the rest of the world for the
praise of God too. Chapels may be in the church, or outside of the church. They are
at cemeteries, hospitals, religious houses, and in rectories.
Los Angeles archbishop Roger Mahoney requested whenever possible that pastors set aside space
in their rectories for his priests to pray in private. St. Bernadine of Siena
Catholic church also has its own chapel where parishioners can come to pray in
piety is beneficial, and it should always be directed to Liturgical pray
just as the Blessed Mary always points to her SON.
Liturgical Music and Art
The atmosphere and mood surrounding the liturgies must permeate the people of
God visually, audibly, and even aromatically at times. Was not Jesus anointed
with perfume by Mary Magdalene?
see a flowing stream in the baptistery that symbolizes the Jordan river in which Jesus prefigured our own baptism is
greatly enhanced by the sound of the
running water. And why not use sound to awaken the Holy People of God to the
evident fact that
prayer is the lifting of their heart, mind, and soul to God. And
just as important is the opposite effect, that is, the motionless moments of our
worship are enhanced by the silence within the sanctuary. Disturbing traffic
noises or sirens and those intrusive cell phones that ring destroy the
tone of the liturgy. Silence is golden. The congregation must always remember with respect to cell
phones that there is a Higher Calling, i.e. God, present and speaking to us.
with respect to the positive force associated with sound, music
overwhelming reverberation on which we the parishioners should focus. The
spoken word is wonderful, but Saint Augustine claims that he or she who sings prays
twice. And so, we especially are cognizant of making the surroundings well
suited for the music ministry at our
church. The choir should
be situated in such a location that they can command the attention of the
congregation in their efforts to lead us in prayer. Then, there should be enough
space and light for themselves and their instruments. Lastly, all the audible factors in
church decor should harmonize well with the visual elements to ensure a holistic
and sacred setting.
key principles behind our liturgical environment
is that the church must be
beautiful. Therefore, artistic works
of genuine substance should occupy the
sanctuary as befitting a most sacred place of worship. Remember, this is the
house of God in our very own neighborhood; here we come together in force to pay homage to the Creator. Beautiful works of art in
various forms (for example, tile, glass, wood, and precious metals) should reflect the
splendor of our Savior.
in mind that the Triune God cannot be out done in generosity and that everything
we posses, (our time, talents, and treasure) are bestowed from Him. So it is
only just that a portion of what God has given to us is returned as a gracious
gift for the glory and praise of the Trinity. All our noble endeavors and nature
itself should manifest in a concrete way a sincere love for God.
who are made in the image and likeness of God, express His goodness and beauty
and culture. Moreover, we express through visual and audible effects our human soul radiating
with joy, knowledge, and truth. We proclaims a
beautiful image of God that is veiled in various appearances and manners, but
however well done, they will always fall short in reflecting the invisible God.
artistic pieces call to mind for this present generation the saving grace portrayed
throughout the old and new testaments. Moreover, such things as relics and the
stations of the cross serve as instructional aids and teach us of the sufferings
that our Savior endured for our benefit.
as the motion pictures the "Passion" or" Jesus of Nazareth" portray the salvation
history through the power of film, church decor can have a powerful influence on
the parishioners. Works of fine art, sculptures, paintings, and tapestries,
serve to remind us of our past traditions and heroes such as the saints. Vatican II states another principle of church decor
is that it should be noble yet simplistic. Therefore, all the efforts of the
environmental liturgical committee are directed to replicating a church befitting of God Himself. top of
The Sacristy and Behind the Scenes:
the work of the environmental committee continues today, and in fact, will
never end. There are liturgical updates from the Vatican and the Archdioceses to
implement, the liturgical seasons from the beginning of the church year through
Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost for which to decorate, and just the daily
liturgical exercises for which to prepare the church.
the work of Martha
continues in order that others like Mary can pray in an environment that is
conducive to thanksgiving, praising, forgiving and petitioning. For remember the
saying invoked by our very own mothers, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness".
Sometimes called the altar society; some of them may work in the sacristy out of
sight from the
congregation. Much of their holy labor occurs there, but not all
of it because there is so much to do. And sometimes, they hastily do their
chores without enough time, but from that great traditions may possibly
as the use of unleavened bread in the Latin Rite of the Eucharist. They wash the chalices, polish the
vessels, launder the garments, iron the linens, sew the cross on the purifiers,
dust the statues, and water the plants. They open the church, mop the floors, vacuum the carpet,
sweep the tile, wax the furniture, wash the windows, and fix what is broken.
They turn on the lights, replace the bulbs, put out the candles, tidy the pews,
return the song sheets, order the missals, purchase the liturgical books, change
the song books, retrieve lost items, through out the trash, and remove objectionable
material. Oh yes, remember our
Lord threw out the money changers from the temple.
check the sound system, set the thermostat, turn off the lights, lock the
door, and switch on the security system. From sunrise to sunset and beyond,
members of our church volunteer to make it an appropriate place to pray,
worship, and celebrate. One can see the rich symbolism of Jesus at the Last
Supper washing the feet of His disciples alive and well at our parish. For all this, we are grateful to
the parishioners and staff who work behind the scenes. But rest assured that they are always recognized by
sees all and by the His priests in turn!
Praise be to God that there is so much rich symbolism to draw upon for the church decor.
It is truly a splendid process to design a suitable house for God and a
satisfying experience for the builder. And
when it is wonderfully done, as it is at St. Bernardine of Siena, it is also a magnificent pleasure for the
eye and ear. We are proud of our liturgical celebration because of our fantastic
people who make it all a reality just as the Holy
Father is thankful of the participants at his prayer gatherings. Without the contributions of so many helpful
people, truly none of this would have been possible. A heartfelt thanks to the
priests, the liturgical environmental committee, and the parishioners who fill up
the pews. Remember, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in