here is a short video about the Catholic Church in Illinois. It was produced for and shown at the Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast earlier this month.
I attended the Prayer Breakfast and was quite impressed. It is wonderful to go to events like that where one can experience the larger Church beyond your own parish boundaries. It can be so easy sometimes to be so involved in your local Church that I forget the larger community of Catholics throughout the city, region, state, country and world.
Every once in a while I like to make some completely ridiculous plans.
For example, if I were to decide tomorrow to take a cruise to Antarctica, an African safari, or go backpacking through India... I have every detail planned. Obviously, I like to travel and so most of my daydreams run in that direction.
However, in the view of Daniel's contribution to the Village of Volo's tourism efforts I have decided to expend my daydreaming time on something that will involve traveling much closer to home.
Around the turn of the last century my great grandparents purchased some land on Long Lake in northern Illinois. At the time there was evidently a bit of a 'get back to nature' movement of some sort. So in order to escape the city they would go stay in their "Tent Cottage". As far as I can ascertain it was a sort of multi room platform tent. They would live in it for weekends and some weeks in the summer, and then take it down and store it in a local farmers barn for the winter.
I have always kind of loved that story and figured that my great grandmother must have been a real trouper to be willing to go 'rough it' while wearing Edwardian clothes and chasing children in perfect white pinafores (I would not be interested). My grandmother had wonderful stories of playing in what, at the time, was pretty much the back of beyond and truly 'wild' for a family from Chicago.
Sadly, at some point in the 20s the farmers barn burned (with the tent house inside) and the family stopped going to Long Lake. A normal family would sell the land... but not my pack rat relatives.
Instead we just hang on to the land paying property taxes, doing basic maintenance (and by that I mean paying a tree service to remove a tree about to crush a neighbors house), driving by once a year to make sure the land is still there, and fielding the occasional call from a neighbor wanting to buy the land. In fact, I think the title might still be in my grandmother's name (and she died in the 1960s).
Most family discussions of the land are about how we 'really should do something about that'. And then nothing until the next property tax bill comes due. For all the unformed idea of putting a little cottage there, or selling it to the neighbors... nothing ever happens because being that it's an hour away - 'out of sight, out of mind' is very strong.
However now with Daniel pointing out all the wonders of the Volo area I am reminded that our land on Long Lake is just 10 minutes away from a bog, the Batmobile, and the Tridentine Mass!
Clearly this is a sign that I should do something with the land. Perhaps actually get around to building a little weekend cottage. I could head up for weekends and check out the bog, the Batmobile and head over to St. Peter's for a high quality Mass.
I am pretty much 100% certain that as far as the rest of the family is concerned I can do whatever I want with the land... so the question is - what should I build?
In a perfect world I would be able to build something along the lines of the Mies van der Rohe designed Farnsworth House.
Sadly, I am neither made of money nor do I live a 'Architectural digest' level lifestyle. So Mies van der Rohe is out.
I need something more along the lines of a cottage that I can furnish with hand me downs, and finds from Goodwill. I think a cottage should be in part 'where furniture goes to die' (as my sister describes her place in the UP). Something comfortable where my friends and their kids will be welcome to come and not have to worry about breaking things. Ideally I want something small and fairly cheap to build.
Along those lines I found some plans for 'Katrina Cottages'. They were originally designed to be built as emergency housing following a disaster like hurricane Katrina. Small, well designed and fairly easy to build they seem perfect as a second home. While I can't go back in time and convince my ancestors to buy a Sears kit house (which I would prefer) this seems like a fairly good modern alternative.
Evidently, one can purchase the plans and all supplies as a kit from Lowes. I have been mighty tempted by KC 697. Now of course, the chances of this ever happening are slim to none. However, the more I think about the bog, the Batmobile and Tridentine Mass... the less ridiculous the plan seems.
I will admit that I love Fellini films. It goes back to when I was studying Italian, and they were the easiest Italian films to find. I would pop in a tape of La Dolce Vita and prep for my exams while trying to get myself in the proper Italian frame of mind.
Looking back, it's no wonder I never did very well in my Italian exams.
The thing is... his films are insane. Seriously, crazy. I like them, and think that they are fantastic in lots of ways, but they are fantastic the like the the insane cat pictures of Louis Wain to the left.
I just tripped across the clip below from Fellini's 1972 film Roma. I have to admit that though it is still bizarre, I still love it.
It's particularly interesting to think that this was created in 1972. It would have amazed Fellini in 1972 to think that a Catholic like myself (born in the early 70s) really wouldn't 'get' the satire of this piece because we were never exposed to any of the traditional Catholic pageantry that is being shown (and satirized) here.
I am sure that even Fellini could not have imagined a Catholic Church like the one I grew up in... Where the nuns wear polyester pantsuits, the priests rarely wear their collars, and the altar girls wear only an alb and surely have never carried a thurible (it was all bowls of incense all the time).
Fellini's Catholic Church Fashion Show is sort of fascinating as a window into the bizarreness of another time, but even more interesting as evidence that what the Catholic Church really did was beyond even the most bizarre imaginings of Catholics of the 60s.
For me the best part of traveling is the unexpected surprises that one runs across.
On a recent trip I decided to check out a city's Catholic Cathedral to say a few prayers and take a look around. Boy, was there ever a surprise for me there.
To the left is a picture of the giant velvet painting/banner that was hanging in the cathedral.
As a child of a thoroughly post Vatican II parish I would have bet that I had seen every variation of banner that was out there.
In my experience they were primarily felt, burlap or yarn based. How could I have never considered what could be done with a bolt of velvet!
The last religious velvet painting I saw was Elvis and Jesus (Elvis had a halo, Jesus did not). This painting of Mary and a log cabin is my new very favorite liturgical velvet painting... based on the surprise factor alone. I am now hoping that I never - EVER see another velvet painting in a church... this should be a one off (PLEASE let it be a one off).
As an added bonus... this make me feel much, much better about our own Cathedral here in Chicago. At least it is velvet painting free!
Last night the lure of Palestrina (I love Palestrina) brought me to an un-air conditioned parish for Mass the Feast of the Assumption. Unexpectedly, I learned a few valuable life lessons.
1. If you are headed to Mass at 7:30 pm don't think that just eating salad and yogurt at 11:30 am is a good plan. That might make you susceptible to passing out. (Yes, as an adult I should have known this already) 2. Drink lots and lots of water before headed into Mass in a church with no air conditioning. That could stop you from passing out, or at least decrease the possibility. (Yes, another thing that adults should know)
3. If you have a habit of leaning your head on the grille during confession... that can work out to your advantage if you black out during confession.
Here is the story - In the middle of reciting my act of contrition I blacked out. Full tunnel vision, tingling extremities blackout - bad times. It was just for a couple seconds because I came to as the priest (who likely assumed I had just forgotten the Act of Contrition) was trying to jog my memory by reciting the next couple of lines for me.
I quite honestly think that the only reason I actually woke up was the fact that I had not yet received absolution... and I was NOT going to go to confession and then pass out before absolution. That would be double bad times.
I then headed back to the pews and learned a few more lessons...
4. If you have just blacked out in the confessional - go get some water and then sit in front of a fan and pray that you won't become "That woman who passed out on the Feast of the Assumption". Pray really, really hard. 5. When choosing your seat near a fan... try NOT to sit in a place where someone wearing Drakkar Noir is between you and the fan. Somehow, that 80s scent will rob the fan breeze of it's refreshing character.
6. Do NOT think to yourself 'it can't possibly get worse', because then the next turn of the fan will bring the scent of Drakkar Noir combined with incense. Trust me on this one... no matter how much you may like the smell of either one (I love the smell of incense) it is not a good combination.
7. Sometimes, even though the music is really, really tempting (Palestrina!) and going to confession would be a good idea... attending the local St. suburbia (with air conditioning) can be a better choice. Hard to imagine - but true.
8. The REAL lesson of the evening was this... If things are unexpectedly going badly - even if you never, ever pray to Mary for intercession - give it a try. I can testify that Mary really came through for me last night.
After blacking out again briefly in the pew, I realized that if I didn't get it together I was in real trouble. I had to be certain that I wouldn't black out behind the wheel while driving home on the expressway. This was a double problem because if I was unable to drive there is no plan B to get home. That realization is what led me to turn to Mary and ask for her intercession... something I never do (pray to Mary, or for myself)
After Mass I walked around a bit, got some fresh air and then sat down and listened to Compline (beautiful). Finally I said a few Hail Mary's praying I would feel better soon. To my great surprise... it worked. I was able to drive home safely, and about 30 minutes after getting safely home the migraine which had clearly been brewing hit with a vengeance. Now, after 18 hours of sleep I feel fine... but mostly I feel thankful to Mary for helping me get home safely.
Perhaps what I learned yesterday wasn't in the homily... but trusting in Mary is a lesson that I clearly need to work on learning - and the Feast of the Assumption seems as good a time as any to learn to turn to Mary.
People talk all the time about 'Catholic guilt'. I have even joked about it myself. But honestly, I just don't feel much Catholic guilt. After all, I was raised in the 'I'm ok, you're ok' spirit o'Vatican II Catholic Church. A 'post guilt' Catholicism as it were.
Last night as I was going through some family papers and found an echo of the old Catholic guilt machine in a church bulletin from 1957. The bulletin was saved because it includes the banns before my parent's wedding. However, what I really found fascinating was the window into the average 1950s parish on an average week.
The absolute best entry was this:
We wonder why forty public High School students have consistently missed the Religious Instruction Classes on Tuesday evening from 7:00 to 8:00 P.M. Their inconvenience in attending the classes could not be so much greater than that of the 110 faithful students each week. It is difficult to see how those students of their parents can lightly cast aside so serious an obligation of religious required by the laws of the Church. Can a detailed course of religion mean so little to them?
I can't imagine any parish including something like this today. It could be an interesting experiement to try... but I don't think the results would be pretty.
The first problem with an entry like that in a modern bulletin is that religious instruction for public school students in this diocese ends in 8th grade. The standard seems to be one hour a week during the school year until confirmation in 8th grade... and that's it. No further religious education offered - let alone encouraged. I wonder when it was decided that at age 13 we knew all we needed about Catholicism and were free to go.
Secondly, in my lifetime I have never seen any reference to the laws of the Church in a bulletin - let alone our obligation to follow them. Well, perhaps there have been references in the bulletin at St. John Cantius, but that's a special case. I am talking about the standard parish bulletin in a standard suburban parish. Try as I might, the only obligations I can recall being raised are to the building fund, and to volunteer with the local 'peace n' justice' organizations.
Finally, I am most impressed by the straight up 'calling out' of both students and parents for failing to attend religious education classes. I just don't think it would work in many parishes today. We are all too steeped in the post Vatican II world where nothing is really required of us by the Church. If a priest actually pointed out that we were failing in our obligations the Church the negative reaction would be swift.
I will admit that I often look back at the solidly Catholic world that my parents were raised in and I am nostalgic for something I never experienced (I was born in the 70s). However, I have to admit I am only nostalgic for half of that experience. I would have liked the religious education classes that lasted through high school... but I don't know if the Catholic guilt would suit me all that well.
The cicadas are here, the cicadas are here! Brood XIII of the 17 year cicadas are here in full force - and volume.
I live just outside of the city in a town filled with parks filled with old trees. Right now it is a town filled with trees that are filled with cicadas (roughly 1.5 million per acre).
The cicadas aren't really that bothersome. They are big, and they really don't fly well (so my hair will be up for the 1st half of the summer) but they don't bite, and they don't even really hurt the trees. The biggest problem is that they are very, very loud.
Cicadas are the loudest insect in the world with a call that can reach 90 decibels. Right now the cicadas are in the trees 'singing' and the result is waves and waves of sound that are inescapable. Even with the windows closed and radio on I can still hear them.
I have to admit that I was kind of looking forward to the return of the cicadas. It is bizarrely 'special' feature to living here in the Midwest. However, now that they are here sometimes I just want to yell out the window - Shut up!
Actually, truth be told - I am a total WWII history dork. For example, I participate in WWII reenacting events and am building a collection of WWII items (generally USO related).
In many ways my interest in WWII, reenacting and swing dancing more or less led me to interest in the Tridentine Mass. My interests in both the Catholic Church and WWII grew at the same time it was inevitable that they would intersect. Crazy but true... evidently the Holy Spirit uses just about anything to get wandering Catholics back into the fold.
In particular, as I read biographies about those who fought in WWII I was struck by how important their faith was to them... in a way that I had never encountered in person.
I am certain a portion of that was surely of the 'there's no atheists in foxholes' variety of faith. Yet I am deeply impressed with the importance put on the sacraments by those who were in the midst of hell. Sometimes faith in God and prayer was all that they had to keep them going forward in impossible circumstances. For those on the homefront as well - often uncertainty about the fate of loved ones in harms way was only alleviated through prayer.
In particular the stories of the bravery and self sacrifice of chaplains at the battlefront are stunning. For example - Father Francis L. Sampson parachuted into Normandy on D-Day in 1944 with the 101st Airborne Division. He went behind enemy lines without a gun in order to ensure that the men who he jumped with would have access to the sacraments. He traveled with them throughout the war - even including time as a POW (where he requested that he be imprisoned with the enlisted rather than the officers).
Today the Catholic chaplaincy in the military is dreadfully undermanned... one way we can support Catholic men and women in the armed forces is to make a donation to Catholicmil.org, an organization that works to make sure that the Catholic members of the military get the spiritual support they need. In particular, through the distribution of literature such as Fulton Sheen's Wartime Prayerbook.
In the comments to the last post Fr. V asked about general pictures of the rest of St. John Cantius. Here are a few that I recently downloaded from my camera.
On Easter Sunday after Mass I took a few minutes to head up to the choir lofts and take some pictures of the Church. Mostly, my intention was to take pictures to send to a friend who had taken over the responsibility of decorating her parish church for Easter. She wanted to see what was done in my parish... yeah, I should get around to sending these to her.
Heading into the choir loft there is this most excellent sign. I love it because it was what my HS Latin teacher would post on the board during exams. It's amazing how what was once tortuous becomes nostalgia fodder...
A view of the main Alter decorated for Easter. I have to say that the decorations were pretty much fantastic... I can't imagine how many flowers were used.
This is one of the reasons I stopped wearing hats to church... I missed being able to see the painting of the risen Christ in the apse and reading sanctus, sanctus, sanctus on the arch. Seriously - I really missed them.
The Mary Alter with an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa (yes, it's historically a Polish parish). I will admit that I spend little to no time on this side of the Church... I am more of an epistle side kind of gal.
This is usually the St. Joseph Alter. However, for Easter it was transformed with a statue of the risen Christ and an empty tomb. Which is cool... but poor St. Joseph always gets covered up (that is where the creche is placed as well). I like St. Joseph so I always miss him when he is covered.
In some ways the best part of the church building at St. John Cantius is the sense of discovery that one can have. It is as though whenever you turn a corner, there is seemingly always a treasure to be found. In a dusty corner of the upper choir loft I saw these great statues and I just loved them. It's like some random angel is having a conversation with some random Saint.
Well, that's about all I have in photographs for now. I guess I should actually think of something to actually write and post on a regular basis. Lately all I have been doing is writing some great drafts... never quite getting around to publishing.
Yesterday was the Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving of Father Scott A. Haynes, SJC - it was absolutely amazing. Here are a few of the pictures I took of the Mass from a side choir loft.
Check out those vestments! According to Fr. K they are about 150 years old from France. Fr. Scott looked like he had been doing this for years... he didn't miss a beat. The consecration was as always amazing.
Yesterday I was privileged to be able to attend the Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving of Father Scott A. Haynes, SJC. It was absolutely wonderful - Ma Beck put it best:
"Father Scott was tremendous. I mean, he was perfect. No sign of nerves, nothing. His Latin is impeccable, his voice is beautiful, I mean - he's perfect. It was like he'd been doing it all his life."
As an added bonus I was able to go up into the one of the side choir lofts and take pictures of the Mass. It's a fantastic view from there, and even though I am not particularly pleased with my photographs (no tripod, one lens and never having taken pictures from there, or of this event before...) it was a wonderful experience. I will be posting pictures later.
Usually when I am photographing a Mass I don't take communion. Generally, I feel that the camera causes me to be an observer instead of a participant. However, yesterday I felt prompted to go to communion and pray for a friend - Kathy.
Kathy has been on the waiting list for a donor liver for seven years. However, in the last months her condition has worsened and she was bumped up the list. Yesterday at Mass I went to communion and offered the graces I would have received from communion for Kathy's health.
After Mass as I was driving home I received a call from my sister. At 12:15 Kathy received the call - she would receive a liver transplant that evening. When I told my sister that I had been praying for Kathy at Fr. Scott's Mass... my sister announced that Fr. Scott is her new favorite priest.
Last evening Kathy received her new liver, as of this morning she and her new liver are doing great. We are all still praying for her continued health as well as for the donor and his family. Perhaps the hardest part of knowing someone who receives a transplant such as this is the realization that our happiness at Kathy's health comes through the tragedy of another's sudden death.
This evening I had a friend in the car when going through the drive through at the bank. I had one of those ridiculous little 'I'm Catholic' moments of life.
Of course I hadn't filled out my deposit slip before going to the drive through (that would make to much sense) so I had to dig through my purse hunting for a pen. I have seemingly dozens in there, but can never find them. So the process usually goes like this... I reach into the bottom of my purse and pull out a pencil, a hair stick, a spoon, another pencil and then (if I am lucky) a pen. It's kind of a game to see how much I pull out before getting what I actually want.
This evening there was an extra feature to the game - I pulled out a candle from Easter Vigil. I have no recollection of shoving it in my purse, but the candle must be from one of the Easter Vigil Masses I attended. The friend in the car with me is more or less accustomed to the randomness of the contents of my purse, but this one threw her. She held up the candle and asked if I was carrying it around in order to be prepared for the destruction of the electric grid?
I responded 'Of course not, it's from Easter Vigil'. Stating that as though it was perfectly reasonable... because of course to me it was. My friend gave me a bit of a blank look and I took the opportunity to explain about the vigil - with the fire and candles and the renewal of baptismal vows. I don't know if any of that got through to her.
I am fairly sure that to my non-Christian friend the upshot of the story is that carrying candles around in my purse goes on the list of weird Catholic things I do. Right up there with the random holy cards that she always finds in books she borrows from me. It's nice to have friends around whom I can be exactly who I am (weirdly Catholic) with no pretension... candles in the purse and all.
Random segue of the day - Luxembourg is a cool country and one of my favorites.
Once, when there I went to the town my ancestors came from (Rippig or Rippeg - evidently it has multiple spellings). I missed the bus back to Luxembourg City and I had to walk back. You have to love a country that you can basically walk across in an afternoon.
I was raised in a nominally Catholic home by two pre-Vatican II parents (they married in 1957).
You would think that fact combined with 10 years (high school, college, graduate school) in expensive Catholic schools would mean that I would have some sort of grasp of the Catholic Church.
Sadly – I don’t. Instead I have a kind of swiss cheese knowledge of Catholicism.
I was raised in was a parish where the DRE and Pastor really bought into Vatican II with some fairly terrible results. Sure, it was *named* St. Mary's Catholic Church. And sure, we were *told* that we were Catholic. But it's not like you could tell based on the catechism we received.
I was a public school kid who went to CCD. My parents just assumed that I was being taught the faith – because after all, they were CCD kids in their day (the 1940s) and they learned it. The key difference is – I was in CCD in the 80s. The age of ‘felt banner’ catechism.
For the last few days I have been making two mental lists – things I was taught in CCD, and things I never learned.
12. All about my name – every year we had to do a report on our name. Why? I have no idea. Maybe to make us feel a connection with the communion of Saints. It never worked with me, as I have an Old Testament name with ZERO associated Saints. Oh how jealous I was of my friends with a variety of cool Saint's stories to choose from.
Things CCD never taught me:
1. Any prayers beyond the Our Father. We were never taught the Hail Mary (I learned it in my 20s), the Act of Contrition (I still have to read that one in confession) or the Apostles Creed (which morphs into the Nicene Creed for me to this day)
2. The Parts of the Mass – actually there was never any explanation at all of what is happening in Mass
3. Church history of any kind
4. Devotions of any kind
5. What sin is - I guess they figured they didn't need to teach us about sin because they never taught us...
6. When or how to go to confession. We were taught that after 1st confession we didn’t have to go again. I *still* couldn’t tell you where to find the confessional in that church (and it is still my geographic parish).
7. How we can/should love and serve God
8. What transubstantiation is – or even that it occurs
9. Anything at all about purgatory or hell
10. The Rosary
11. Any sense of obligation to God or the Church
12. Anything at all about Mary or the Saints.
13. A million more details about Catholicism (Sacramentals, Adoration, Benediction, etc)
I am certain that my CCD teachers meant well - it was just the time I grew up in. All they had to teach out of were horrible workbooks that included little if any actual catechisis. The pastor and DRE of my parish had drunk deep from the cup of “sprit o’ Vatican II” and my generation’s religious training was sacrificed for their pet felt banner projects.
Of course, now that I am an adult it is my responsibility to learn all the things that I missed. I am doing my best to work on it step by step. However, it seems like as soon as I get my mind around one thing two more come up that I should know. As I play catch up learning about Catholicism my different friends have different reactions.
Friends who I grew up with joke that I am ‘born again Catholic’ or a ‘Convert’ because they have all pretty much left the Church (at best they are ChrEasters). I am choosing to take it as well meaning – but I know that they are actually quite confused about why I am actually working at being a Catholic. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to them because they never were challenged by the Church and can’t understand why I would seek out the challenge of learning how to be faithful to the magisterium of the Church.
Simultaneously, my very traditional Catholic friends have gone so far as to question my Catholicism because of my lack of knowledge about the Church. Sometimes I think it’s a shame that the parish we attend doesn’t have a ‘Jesus loves you felt banner’ component – because I would totally RULE at that.
Then I remember that I would really prefer the parish as it is. With Marian devotion that I don’t understand instead of the felt banners that I totally understand – and know are meaningless.
After all, I have had enough felt banner Catholicism to last a lifetime.
I wandered away from the Church and my faith for years... never completely gone, but unwilling to accept what I knew in my heart to be the truth.
Finally, as an adult I have realized it is time to truly go back home to Rome. Now the trick is to find a home within the Roman Catholic Church.