Between T-Square and Cross

California has been plagued by so much bad news lately that it was a welcome change to come across this appreciation in today's Wall Street Journal for California's ... Catholic cathedrals.

California is home to the three most imaginative and successful modern Roman Catholic cathedrals in the country. St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco (1971), designed by the Italian engineer/architect Pier Luigi Nervi, and Jos Rafael Moneo's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which opened in Los Angeles six years ago, have now been joined by Oakland's ingeniously designed and handsomely crafted Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Peter Nixon has been involved in producing material explaining the theological and spiritual significance of the Oakland Cathedral's space and its symbols.Here are some of the Journal writer's impressions:

I sat through three Sunday Masses, in English, Tagalog and Spanish, in part to share the experience of the friendly congregation, in part to sense the shifting play of light. Rows of luminous lozenges, created by the intersection of light from the vertically etched glass and the horizontal slats of wood, keep changing shape as they move across the walls and pews and the looming image of Christ.During services held after sundown, electric lights atop the concrete base wall shine horizontally across the nave. Other lights from above shine down on the altar and the Omega Window. The effect from outside then becomes that of a lantern or beacon glowing from the north end of Lake Merritt. A ghostly Christ in Majesty beams over and blesses the city instead of the congregation.Bishop Vigneron says that he hopes the Cathedral of Christ the Light "will bring a new infusion of ideas into church architecture." It already has, thanks to Craig Hartman and his talented, dedicated team at SOM/SF (notably chief engineer Mark Sarkisian), and to the amiable and productive meeting of the minds between T-square and cross.

Robert P. Imbelli, a long-time Commonweal contributor, is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. A book of essays in his honor, The Center Is Jesus Christ Himself, edited by Andrew Meszaros, was published this year by The Catholic University of America Press.

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