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Holy Trinity selected for online competition for most beautiful church

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“What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation —  if not beauty?” Pope Benedict XVI asked a group of artists gathered in the Sistine Chapel in 2009.

“Authentic beauty unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond,” he said.

For hundreds of years the Catholic Church has recognized the power of beauty to bring people closer to God. One blog, titled Art and Liturgy, seeks to celebrate that beauty with an online competition to determine the most beautiful church in the United States. The site is run by Arlington Diocese native Patrick Murray, who works as a projects consultant for Granda Liturgical Arts.

A spoof of college basketball's March Madness, the Church Madness competition is in its second year. Most of the 64 churches in the contest were submitted for consideration by readers of the blog during last year’s competition and then were selected by Murray. Nominees are judged primarily on their interior. St. John Cantius Church in Chicago, last year’s victor, is no longer eligible.

The bracket this year includes one parish from the Arlington Diocese — Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville, which is grouped in the East Coast bracket. The church will compete against churches such as Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, Church of the Holy Innocents in New York City and the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore.

Anyone is eligible to vote, but the blog encourages people not to take Church Madness too seriously. “This is a fake internet competition,” the site reads. The contest is not about vanity or rivalry; rather it is a celebration of Catholic art and architecture.

Holy Trinity parish was founded in 2001, and the church was dedicated in 2008. The founding pastor, Father Francis J. Peffley, now parochial vicar at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, credits the church’s beauty to O’Brien and Keane Architecture and the artists at Dixon Studio in Staunton, who created the stained glass windows featuring the mysteries of the rosary.

The church’s interior is colored with warm creams and browns, and is held aloft with trefoil arches. The sanctuary is a representation of the Transfiguration. While much new art was commissioned, they also repurposed statues and Stations of the Cross from closed churches. It was probably one of the first churches in the country to have all 20 decades of the rosary represented, according to Father Peffley.

The church’s name was the primary inspiration for its physical design, said Father Peffley. “Jim O'Brien did a magnificent job (creating) many reflections of the blessed Trinity throughout the architecture,” he said. “We tried to make the church a living catechism.”

After learning about the Church Madness competition, Father Thomas P. Vander Woude, pastor, was reminded of the three transcendentals —  truth, goodness and beauty —  and their power to “attract the heart,” he said. He hopes that those who see Holy Trinity’s aesthetic beauty also can experience the prayerful atmosphere it nurtures. “There’s a beautiful balance there,” he said.

Find out more

Holy Trinity Church is part of the East Coast bracket. Online voting for the first round is March 13-15. To vote, go to artandliturgy.com

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017