Blogging about life at a Benedictine monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Old St.Pat's Church
Many Sunday mornings find some of us in the IRF (Institute of Religious Formation) and Hessburg Sabbatical Program choosing to go to a different church other than our parish church near CTU. Such was the case two weeks ago when five of us drove (it is always nice to know someone who has a car) to downtown Chicago and attended Eucharist at Old St. Pat's. Yes, that is actually the name of the parish. If you Google the name it will recognize it as its proper name.
Old St. Pat's is well over 100 years old. By the Celtic cross on the outside wall of the church and the inside, which has been completely renovated, one would be right in assuming that this parish served immigrant Irish for many generations. As it sadly happens sometimes, inner city churches lose their parishioners who move to the suburbs, or at least out of the downtown area. Old St. Pat's was not the exception to the rule, not at first. Attendance dwindled steadily over many years until it was no longer viable. However, a miracle happened! Cardinal Bernadin assigned a new pastor in the hope that the parish could be saved. Saved it was! Now on a Sunday morning each of the Eucharists is literally filled to the brim with people of all ages. The nave and the balcony are packed and at the time of Eucharist there are about 12-15 Eucharistic ministers. This year on the Third Sunday of Lent (St. Patrick's Day) if you wanted to attend Eucharist at Old St. Pat's you had to order a ticket! So with only one pastor what is their secret? It seems to me that there is a great deal of collegiality and that the life of the parish is not in the hands of only a few people, i.e. the more people involved the better. Because they attract a large crowd it means that they also attract excellent presiders and homilists. Some of us started going to Old St. Pat's because Fr. Ed Foley, a Capuchin and a well-known liturgist who teaches Liturgy at CTU is one of the regular presiders.
The Sunday we were there recently the presider invited the 2nd Graders who are preparing for First Communion (40 little people) to come to join him around the altar at the time of consecration and he brought them into what he was doing, explaining and teaching as he went along.
Leaving church after a Eucharist at Old St. Pat's I am always renewed in hope for our Church. If you are ever in Chicago, the address is: 700 W. Adams Street.
I recently read a thought provoking comment by Father Richard Rohr, OFM. He said, “Humans are like two-way mirrors, both receiving and reflecting. Humans are like tuning forks that pick up a tone and hand it on as resonance.”
Some of us may have had the experience of picking up a jovial tone when we entered a room filled with friendly companions. We almost immediately found ourselves adding our humorous stories to the flow of conversation. Might this phenomenon of spontaneous resonance be possible within the Roman Catholic Church in our current era?
The unique behavioral tone of the newly elected Pope Francis has already been experienced as he began to live into his role as supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church. The authenticity of his solidarity with the poor, the marginalized, and the environment has been clearly noted by the media. It also has apparently resonated with millions at all levels of the church.
What hope if this tone could provide for each of us a way to move forward and respond to the challenges we face! If we, the human tuning forks within the structure of the Roman Catholic Church, respond to the current tone of Francis, we also may be given a new vibrational frequency for resonating with others, and all of creation, with simplicity, humble authenticity and inclusive solidarity.
I have always loved the season of Lent. I know - it's an odd season to love. But I like the simplicity, the paring down, getting rid of the "frills" of life. I think I like the fact that I can make a decision to give something up, read a special book, or perform a charitable act.
Somehow this Lent isn't quite measuring up to my expectations. Instead of reveling in simplicitty, life seems a little dull. Identifying that has made me realize that maybe the dullness is giving me more of a Lenten experience that my normal, rather ebullient, approach. I'm having to give my sense of dullness over to God and trust that it won't last forever. I'm learning the lesson that I'm not in control of things the way I am when I decide what my Lenten practice will be. Not being in control, which we never really are, and giving the uncertainty that this creates over to God, are teaching me a true Lenten lesson. They're also making me look forward to the bursting of the Easter light in a whole new way. So, I think I can end by saying that I'm grateful for my dull Lent.
As I ponder the riches of life that God continues to lavish upon me, I am constantly struck by the wonderful gift of my family. I had parents and grandparents who loved life. They loved to sing, dance, play instruments, socialize, read, discuss, invite, and pray. I couldn’t possibly enumerate all of the qualities, but I do know that hospitality, kindness, sharing and love were some things at the core. They reached out to others constantly, and I learned that some people who were considered “undesirables” by others were given respect and even help by my family.
Education was valued and promoted. “Please” and “Thank you” were learned at a very young age as was “give her some of your candy” (or whatever). Fun and laughter were usually part of the day, and support in sorrow was a given. At times as a child I forgot that “No” meant “No,” but it didn’t take me too long to relearn it.
I guess I intend this blog to be a form of gratitude to God, my family, and all my friends. Though I am filled with thankfulness, I also remember those who did not or do not now have the security that a solid family life provides. I want others to know that we, my family, were not wealthy in material terms. We had to go without some things that would have helped make life easier, but the important things of life were always there: presence, caring, giving, helping, etc., and so much more, made life rich, exciting, inviting.
I hope that this little piece will motivate you to “count your blessings” wherever you are and whatever they be. The chief one is that God is in each of us, and with us daily in all we are and do. Each of us is unique and God loves us unconditionally. God is with the depressed, the addicted, the thief. I pray that each of us opens our mind and heart to God and that we then touch all who sit in darkness. Let there be light because of Love!
This blog is maintained by a group of Sisters at Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota. We try to post weekly and often succeed at that.
The opinions on this blog belong to individual writers and do not reflect any official position of the monastery. Please feel free to comment on any of the entries-- comments are moderated, but we'll publish any reasonable comment.