Art and Irreverence

Last summer the Four Evangelists came to church.

evangelists behind altar
Last summer’s Evangelists, AKA the Traveling Willburys

They were set up behind the altar where they distracted me at each and every Mass. There they were, looking over Father’s shoulder as he recited the prayers. If I didn’t keep my eyes closed, I’d find my gaze wandering over to see if I could find the guy on the left’s other hand. The Evangelists were larger than life, but oddly proportioned, with any visible hands flat and deformed and smaller than mine.

And they weren’t in any kind of order, either, as we found out when the pastor conducted a little Who’s Who tour during the homily one day. Not alphabetical, not chronological, and not the order in which the Gospels appear in the Bible.

We musicians, of course, dubbed them “John, Paul, George and Ringo.” After about two months, they disappeared, but we found them again at the other church within our parish. That’s when they got a new name:  the Traveling Willburys.

I’m pretty sure that the purpose of art in a church isn’t to inspire the assembly to new heights of snark. It’s also not there to distract from worship. It should lead the mind to God. It should inspire not sarcasm but devotion.

Gary ColemanI’d forgotten about this particular venture in ecclesial decor until today, when a new set of Evangelists had taken their places behind the altar. These were even larger, and from where I sat in the choir area, it seemed that the one on the far right was giving the musicians the side-eye.

My teenage neighbor told me after Mass that she thought they looked creepy. For the moment, I’ve dubbed them the Suspicious Evangelists.

(That would be a pretty good band name, come to think of it.)

I’m guessing that the Traveling Willburys have taken up residence in the other church, and now that we have two complete sets (collect ’em all!) we’ll all get to be distracted by the various Evangelists until the end of Ordinary Time.

If I had my druthers, the only things behind the altar would be the crucifix and the tabernacle. There’s got to be a spot somewhere else in the church where the Evangelists could go, somewhere that can’t be seen from the pews during Mass.

Lead us not into distraction, Lord, and deliver us from creepy Evangelists.

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