The entire building is a teaching aid, so let’s start outside: The building itself, bricks and mortar, is a reminder to us that we are members of the Church making up that which is also called Christ’s Mystical Body on Earth. As the mortar holds the bricks together, so we Catholics are linked, very closely, by our common Baptism, God’s Grace and our Faith in the One True God. When anybody receives Communion, they receive the very same Christ as each of their brothers and sisters Worldwide. Have we considered just how close we are to one another in Christ? The term Mystical Body of Christ, of course, refers to a living organisation with each and every member of the Universal (or Catholic) Church, described by Saint Paul as 'living stones'.
The shape of the building, pointing Heavenwards, reminds us of its purpose – to help us raise our minds and hearts in Prayer to God. If we could fly over the church, we would see that it is built in the shape of a cross. There are many striking churches and cathedrals in Britain and around the world which very clearly have been designed to move us to contemplate our Creator, to raise our minds and hearts to God. The spires of the great Gothic cathedrals are a vivid sign of this. Back at Saint Bart’s we see, at the apex of the roof, a Cross, reminding us of Christ's Sacrifice, daily re-enacted on the Altar within. How prayerfully do we mark ourselves with this sacred symbol?
Over the main door is an image, in mosaic, of our Patron, Saint Bartholomew, shown holding the knife with which he was flayed (skinned) alive. St Bartholomew is the patron saint of butchers, leather workers and tanners. Over the side doors are mosaics of his Martyr’s Crown and Palm of Victory, recalling the fact that, whatever the challenges, a wonderful Eternity waits in Heaven for those who do their best to follow God’s Laws while on Earth.
On entering the church porch we need to consider where we are and why we have come to church, sometimes referred to as a Sacred Space. Who is our first priority? We make the Sign of the Cross with Holy Water. This is a reminder of our Baptism, '...in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...' when Original Sin was washed away, we became a child of God and our Soul was flooded with Sanctifying Grace. We do this for ourselves and for any of our Children who are too small to do this for themselves; in this way we are teaching them a holy and beautiful custom. There are Holy Water stoups (bowls) at each entrance to the church. At the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Masses we are invited to renew for ourselves the Promises made on our behalf at our own Baptism. At times during the Liturgical Year, Father will process round the church and bless us with Holy Water. On the day that a man and woman take their solemn vows to remain lovingly faithful for the rest of their lives, Wedding Rings are blessed with Holy Water. When a person dies, their coffin is sprinkled with Holy Water, recalling that, “In Baptism s/he died (to sin) in Christ…” and asking that they may now share in His Risen Life in Heaven.
From St. Bart's
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church