The Cathedral of South Saint Louis

Restoring Saint Francis de Sales Oratory

by Phil Roussin

For over one hundred years, the silhouette of Saint Francis de Sales has been a distinctive mark on the skyline of Saint Louis, Missouri. While the area surrounding the church has undergone considerable change, the 300-foot tower has remained a steadfast symbol of Catholic tradition and hope.

Now, the Oratory is being renewed by the faithful witness of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest.  In this article, parishioner Phil Roussin discusses the history and the reality of this American treasure.

History and Background

In 1867, seven German dairy farmers purchased a plot of land between Gravois and Ohio streets on which to build a new church. With the laying of the first cornerstone on September 15, 1867, Saint Francis de Sales Church began to serve as the spiritual and social anchor of the community. Over the next 40 years, a new generation of Americans built the church with the hope of a prosperous future in their new country. They first added a school, then a convent, then started to plan the next phase: a larger church which would capture the grandeur of the eternal expression of truth.

By the 1890s, Saint Louis had become the fourth largest city in the United States after New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Amidst the post-Civil War economic expansion, bustling Saint Louis City became the proud owner of a new transportation infrastructure, as well as one of the world’s first skyscrapers: the 10-story Wainwright Building.

It was against this backdrop that the parishioners of Saint Francis de Sales planned to build their new, larger church. Led by their pastor, Fr. Lotz, the largely German congregation looked to their ancestral heritage for a set of architectural plans. The original German design called for an elaborate Gothic Revival church built with cut stone and two towers at each transept arm. However, at this point an act of Divine Providence definitely intervened. Before the basement of the church could be completed as planned, the most devastating tornado ever to strike Saint Louis happened on May 27, 1896. The original church was all but completely destroyed, and much damage was inflicted likewise upon the homes of the entire neighborhood. All plans to raise funds for a new church had to await the return of normal conditions among the people of the parish and the city.

On May 27, 1908 — the twelfth anniversary of the terrible tornado that had destroyed the old parish church — parishioners raised the old church’s iron cross on the pinnacle of the church’s majestic new steeple, amid the full and loud ringing of the new church bells.

However, it was not long before the work continued without interruption. It is interesting to note that on the twelfth anniversary of the terrible tornado (May 27, 1908), at the precise time that the tragic tornado had destroyed the old parish church, parishioners raised the old church’s iron cross on the pinnacle of the church’s majestic new steeple, amid the full and loud ringing of the new church bells. There was cause for much rejoicing.

This immense new church was built to symbolize the hopes and dreams of the immigrant community, deeply rooted in the traditions and heritage of their forefathers. It was a brick and mortar symbol of American values of the time: faith, beauty, and grandeur in the midst of hard work and community sacrifice, venerable traditions in a new land, and hope for the future. This spiritual edifice embodied the aspirations of an American community. What came to be known as the Cathedral of South Saint Louis would also be a living tradition of the past.

This immense new church was a brick and mortar symbol of American values of the time: faith, beauty, and grandeur in the midst of hard work and community sacrifice, venerable traditions in a new land, and hope for the future.

Decline and Renewal

Since its dedication in 1908, the fate of Saint Francis de Sales Church has closely dovetailed with that of the city of Saint Louis. As the city grew, the parish also grew continuously through the 1950s, adding a thriving high school to its campus in 1939. However, in the 1950s the population of Saint Louis steadily declined due to outward migration towards the suburbs. Fox Park, the neighborhood of Saint Francis de Sales, followed the same pattern. By 1974 the parish dissipated to the point that Saint Francis de Sales High School would close for good. With decades of dwindling support, the condition of the church and surrounding campus began to deteriorate visibly and rapidly. As the city embarked on various urban renewal projects, so did the Fox Park neighborhood. The DeSales Community Housing Corporation was formed from the congregation of Saint Francis de Sales in an effort to stay the tide of decline. In recognition of its architectural, cultural, and historic significance, Saint Francis de Sales Church was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. In spite of these efforts, the decline continued, and the church was in danger of being closed and demolished.

In recognition of its architectural, cultural, and historic significance, Saint Francis de Sales Church was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. In spite of these efforts, the decline continued, and the church was in danger of being closed and demolished.

In 2005, an important change took place in the effort to preserve this magnificent church. Under then-Archbishop Raymond Burke, Saint Francis de Sales was erected as an Oratory of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, serving Saint Louis as the premier center of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Since the architecture and the interior of Saint Francis de Sales were originally designed for this use of the Roman Rite, the church was perfectly suited for this new endeavor.

With its new mission, the appeal of Saint Francis de Sales would be extended beyond the boundaries of the original parish, and beyond any singular demographic group. For the first time, there was hope that the deserted infrastructure would slowly regain active and purposeful use. The perfect balance between usage and preservation would be an effective means of safeguarding a cultural treasure of Saint Louis.

The New Focus

In 2008, Saint Francis de Sales’ centennial celebration was attended by members and visitors from all over the Saint Louis metropolitan area and beyond. Two consecutive annual surveys (2010 & 2011) show that the average family drives 20 miles (one-way) to attend Holy Mass at Saint Francis de Sales. These annual surveys also reveal the median age of the congregation to be less than 30 years old. The church building may be old, but the youthful families it attracts are as vigorous as ever.

One aspect of our preservation work is to bring to life the repository of sacred music used in the Church’s highest liturgies. A living tradition, sacred music has enriched the hearts and minds of many souls in every age through the centuries. At Saint Francis de Sales Oratory, the ever-growing repertoire of ancient chants, classical music, polyphony, and magnificent organ pieces can be heard in the context for which they were originally composed.

At Saint Francis de Sales Oratory, the ever-growing repertoire of ancient chants, classical music, polyphony, and magnificent organ pieces can be heard in the context for which they were originally composed.

The Restoration – A Daunting Task in Small Steps

Due to the size of the campus and the enormity of the church, restoring its dilapidated infrastructure is a daunting task from any perspective. Nevertheless, since 2005, generous volunteers yielding much success have done the on-going restoration in steady, small steps.

The most recent restoration work on the church building was restoring the damage caused by water on the tall steeple masonry. Brick and terra cotta pieces were missing and damaged, and some of the brickwork was loose. Due to the extreme height of the steeple and the limited reach of standard lifts, a special lift was required to be used that could access the damage at the 150 foot level. Several locations needed work and the timing required calm and clear weather to safely accomplish the repairs.

Another recently completed project was the restoration of two statues of adoring angels that had been lost for many years. They had been given to the parish some time ago but were sent off for restoration and forgotten. While in a search for other liturgical items, the angels were accidently discovered at a specialty restoration company and identified as belonging to Saint Francis de Sales. Through the efforts of some members of the congregation, the statues were restored to their original glory in time to be made available for use during Holy Week devotions at the Oratory.

Through the efforts of some members of the congregation, two statues of adoring angels which had been lost for many years were restored to their original glory in time for  Holy Week at the Oratory.

An on-going restoration project concerns the steeple clock that has been non-functional for many years. Pieces of the mechanical gearing that drives the hands at the four faces were missing and the remaining mechanism was corroded and unable to turn. Through the generosity of a local machine company, new parts were made and our volunteer repairman is in the process of installing the new gears, coordinating the four movements and calibrating the speed of the drive motor. We hope to have the clock working in the very near future as an outward sign of the church’s restoration efforts.

A future restoration project is to ensure the continued viability of all of the outstanding stained glass windows that are the hallmark of this beautiful structure. They are all intact but require replacement of the protective outer glass, sealing all the joints to make them watertight, stabilizing them, and cleaning the interiors from decades of soot and smoke accumulation. Due to the number of these windows and the terra cotta replacement work for the columns that provide the exterior support, this work will be phased in over a period of years, working on the most deteriorated windows first. 

 

Through the generosity of a local machine company, new parts were made and our volunteer repairman is in the process of installing the new gears, coordinating the four movements and calibrating the speed of the drive motor. We hope to have the clock working in the very near future as an outward sign of the church’s restoration efforts.

Tradition for Tomorrow

Restoring the campus of Saint Francis de Sales is also much more than brick and mortar repairs. It is equally about restoring the sense of community amongst the faithful and the youth. We discuss this at length with Canon Raphael Ueda, Vicar of Saint Francis de Sales Oratory in the article “How I got to St. Louis elsewhere in this issue.) 

Photos by Phil Roussin

Miracle in Palo Alto

How The St. Ann Choir Kept Chant and Polyphony Alive for 50 Years by Roseanne Therese Sullivan The St. Ann Choir is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The timing of its beginning seems to have been providential. The Choir began singing the music for the traditional cycle of the Church year at Sunday Masses in … Read more

In Hoc Signo: “We Shall Publish”

The Amazing Success of Ignatius Press

by Bridget Green

Have you heard of the Youcat? How about a little number called The Harp and the Laurel Wreath? Perhaps you have read Jesus of Nazareth by then-Cardinal Ratzinger? Even if you haven’t come across any of these, there’s a great likelihood that there’s a child in your life who is acquainted with the Faith and Life series through their parish CCD program.

All of these have something in common: they have been published by a home-grown American upstart, San-Francisco-based Ignatius Press.

Ignatius Press – named for the Jesuits’ founder, the 15th century St. Ignatius Loyola – is an astonishing success story run by a Jesuit priest. Today, it is one of the foremost Catholic publishing houses in the world.

Founded in 1978 by the Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, San-Francisco-based Ignatius Press is a home-grown American upstart, a real success story. A former student of then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Father Fessio has since taken the Pope emeritus’ call to the “new evangelization” to a global scale. 
Astounding scope

THE FILMS OF IGNATIUS PRESS include distributing critically-acclaimed foreign films to the English-speaking world. Here Maia Morgenstern is the lead in “Edith Stein: The Seventh Chamber” originally released in Italian. Available in DVD from Ignatius Press.

And, Ignatius keeps growing — the breadth of traditional works being published and promoted by the publishing house today is amazing. Everything from exclusively web-based magazines like Catholic World Report and Homiletic & Pastoral Review to printed and online catechesis, and from homiletics to hymnals to movies, Ignatius does it all. And, unlike some others, Ignatius does it all well.

From homiletics to hymnals to movies, Ignatius Press does it all. And, unlike some others, Ignatius does it all well. 

Doing it for God

What is it about this company that makes them so well suited to filling the media needs of Catholics the world over?  They do it all for God.

Founded in 1978 by Fr. Joseph Fessio, Ignatius Press is spreading the message of Christ through the publication and sale of solidly Catholic works.  A former student of then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Father Fessio has taken the Pope emeritus’ call to the “new evangelization” to a global scale.

 

Fr. Fessio has held posts at a number of colleges and universities, including Ave Maria University. He has written extensively on matters of faith and morals, defending the Magisterium at every turn.  His friends and colleagues are a list of those among the best known and most faithful priests, bishops, and cardinals of our day. (And, as we all know, we are who our friends are.)

Currently, Ignatius Press has over 1800 titles in print, and more are coming each month.  Their film series alone is unmatched and unparalleled by any publishing venture in the world today.

This October, in the month of the Rosary and the month dedicated to respecting life at all stages, their latest epic movie hits theaters: Mary of Nazareth.  The film also has a Facebook Page.With this new film, Ignatius Press and Fr. Fessio take yet another step forward in spreading the Gospel of Christ to all lands.

The Accidental Publishers

Preserving Christian Publications

In 1983, John Parrot faced a daunting task: clearing out the collection of almost 900 books he had inherited from his parents. Plus, he had to move fast, due to an impending house sale.

Fast forward 30 years, and today John has turned this initial sale into one of the gems of the Catholic publishing world: Preserving Christian Publications (PCP). This is story of how John made this happen, with a little help from his friends and co-workers.

After realizing that there was indeed a market for traditionally Catholic works, John’s first steps included expanding his parents’ collection by collecting used books from various places — including the dumpster of a closing religious house.

 

John’s first steps included expanding his parents’ collection by collecting used books from various places — including the dumpster of a closing religious house. 

Through his efforts, and those of close friends Francis Panakal and Brian Pouliot, important books that were in danger of never seeing the light of day again were now being matched with fellow Catholics seeking a deeper understanding of their ancient Faith.

This is the work not simply of bibliophiles who fear losing quality books, but of men of faith, who fear the loss of a crucial piece of our collective Catholic memory. Over 100,000 second-hand books have been sold through PCP, but John and friends were not content to rest with “merely” saving already-printed books from the trash heap.

This is the work not simply of bibliophiles who fear losing quality books, but of men of faith, who fear the loss of a crucial piece of our collective Catholic memory.

Realizing that many of these important books were out of print and soon to be lost to the world, PCP decided to begin reprinting soon-to-be-lost books.  In 1988, a scant five years after they accidentally opened their doors, PCP began publishing new copies of some of the classic works they had rescued.

Catholics the world over rejoiced.

Today a darling of the Catholic homeschooling world, Preserving Christian Publications publishes and distributes books which no one else does. These are books that homeschoolers are happy to be able to use to further their children’s education.  PCP’s offerings are traditionally Catholic, faithful to the Magisterium, and, quite frankly, excellent — an attribute not found in many of today’s textbooks and other works intended for use in schools.

PCP’s offerings are traditionally Catholic, faithful to the Magisterium, and, quite frankly, excellent — an attribute not found in many of today’s textbooks and other works intended for use in schools. 

Preserving Christian Publications distributes not only great works of well-known authors like G. K. Chesterton, but also smaller but just as valuable works, such as the New Catholic Speller and Word  Book, originally published in 1895.  To people looking to raise up the next generation of saints, this is the food on which they want them to feast, and it is PCP that is placing it in their hands. PCP is filling a need and in the process performing a great service not only for Catholics, but for the world.

And it all started almost by accident, with a basement full of good books.

(Editor’s Note: Preserving Christian Publications  is located in Boonville, New York.)  

One Man’s Perspective˙

 
After 30 years of working to support the Latin Mass in America, Stuart Chessman has a point of view.
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REGINA: How many years have you been involved with the Latin Mass? In what capacities?

Stuart: I’ve been involved with the Latin Mass in America for at least 30 years –as a member of the congregation, as an organizer of Latin Masses (both traditional and Novus Ordo), as a server and as a reporter/photographer.

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OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL, Bronx, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REGINA: What progress do you see being made, say, since the Motu Proprio of 2007?

Stuart: Traditional Mass communities have arisen with more depth and stability. The TLM has been celebrated at many more locations. The ceremony and music in many places are of a very high order. There is great involvement of the young – especially large families. Solemn Masses and even pontifical solemn masses are nowadays no rarity – that is an improvement even over the pre-conciliar situation.

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CORPUS CHRISTI PROCESSION and Eucharistic Adoration in Connecticut.

REGINA: Are there many more priests learning the Mass? How does the Mass gain a foothold? What typically happens?

Stuart: Yes there is quite a demand for this training. For the Mass to gain a foothold, it requires dedication of the priest. It requires men who will support  him with the necessary resources for the ceremony and music. And it requires dedication and perseverance. It cannot be done on the side as an afterthought in hopes it will catch on. The liturgical sense of the Catholic population has been too dulled for that approach. It must be  one of the “core missions” of the parish, and there must be the will to persevere if at first the numbers are not as great as had been hoped.

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LIGHTING THE EASTER FIRE for the Solemn Vigil of Easter in Connecticut.

REGINA: In many countries, there seems to be no crisis of priestly vocations in circles where the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is supported. Have you noticed this to be the case in your experience?

Stuart: What I have actually seen? Parishes in New York and here (in Norwalk, Connecticut) where the TLM is celebrated generate vocations disproportionately.

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REGINA: Many Catholics today no longer see the need for Confession, or Reconciliation, though this does not seem to be the case for those who attend the TLM. Why do you think this is?

Stuart: One of the most striking  things I have noticed here in Norwalk is that there is a much greater demand for Confession.

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Anecdotally, I have heard many people say that they were converted to Catholicism through the beauty of their experience of the Extraordinary Form. Do you find this to be true?
I can’t speak directly to that as I was brought up Catholic, but I have seen several conversions at our parish and I am pretty sure the TLM played some role there. 
 
 
 
ALL PHOTOS: STUART CHESSMAN
 

The Order With Vocations ‘from the least expected places’

Mother Maria Aeiparthenos is the Mistress of Novices for the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Novitiate for the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Her Order, which wears a traditional habit, is one of many experiencing a significant uptick in interest on the part of young, American Catholic women. Now, Mother shares her joyful experience in this exclusive interview with Regina Magazine:

Q. What is your Order’s charism?

The Religious Family of the Incarnate Word is missionary and Marian. We are comprised of both a male branch, the Priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, and a female branch, the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará.

Our mission is to commit all our strength to inculturate the Gospel, that is to say, “to prolong the Incarnation” of Jesus Christ. Following the call of Blessed John Paul II, our goal is to evangelize the culture in the most difficult places. Our evangelization takes many forms: homes of mercy for children, the elderly, and the sick, parish work, Catholic education, popular missions (in which we go door-to-door in the neighborhood of the parish and invite people to the parish mission), providing the St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises. We also have contemplative sisters who sustain the mission through their prayers and sacrifices.

We entrust the missions and our entire lives to Christ, our Spouse, through the hands of his mother; we take a fourth vow of consecration to the Virgin Mary according to the method of St. Louis de Montfort.

The Servants of the Lord was founded by Father Carlos Miguel Buela in Argentina on March 19, 1988.

Q. Given the scarcity of vocations in America, how is your Order doing in this regard?

 The Servants of the Lord was founded by Father Carlos Miguel Buela in Argentina on March 19, 1988. Now the Servants of the Lord have over 1000 members who serve in 35 countries. By the grace of God, generous souls continue to come; around the world, there are currently more than 90 novices and 90 aspirants.

Now the Servants of the Lord have over 1000 members who serve in 35 countries. By the grace of God, generous souls continue to come; around the world, there are currently more than 90 novices and 90 aspirants.

Q. How would you characterize the formation of young Catholics these days – as opposed to 20 years ago? Any reason for hope?

There is always hope! Men naturally desire truth. In a world plagued with increasing violence, youth have an ever greater urge to give themselves to God – to live for eternity while we’re here on earth. The generation that has grown up with Blessed John Paul II, a strong and vibrant witness of hope, thirsts for Truth, and they have received many answers through the fruits of the Second Vatican Council: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Theology of the Body, and many World Youth Days.

Young Catholics are the leaders of the New Evangelization. Youth from the most difficult or least Christian cultures joyfully pick up the Cross of Christ; for example, we have many vocations from some of the least expected places: Tajikistan, Egypt, and Holland!

“In a world plagued with increasing violence, youth have an ever greater urge to give themselves to God – to live for eternity while we’re here on earth.”

There is always hope! Men naturally desire truth.

Support

 

In addition to direct monetary donations, anyone wishing to contribute through donations of food, household products, office supplies, old furniture, or services (auto repair, plumbing, etc.) is invited to contact the convent closest to them by consulting the Order’s Province-wide directory.

Some of their missions  have special needs. Read about the missions on their website to learn more about their apostolates and how you can share in their work through prayers and material support. It is now easier to help online using PayPal.

Click here to make a tax free donation

Our evangelization takes many forms: homes of mercy for children, the elderly, and the sick, parish work, Catholic education, popular missions and providing the St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises.

 

How Catholic Radio Changed My Life

by Angie Gadacz

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Fr. Marty Moleski and Gina, host/producer of Calling All Catholics on The Station of the Cross

Of late, there have been some big changes in my life. Recently, our family decided to reset our priorities; a job change and a move across Minnesota soon followed. My husband moved into a job less demanding of his time. My employer asked me to work remotely.  Our kids are no longer in daycare.

In the beginning of our new, more relaxed life, I listened to political talk radio; though after the 2012 election, I began to search for something more positive and meaningful. I found an ICatholicRadio app for my phone — and I have some advice for their marketers. Do pledge drives featuring how much people’s lives were changed by listening actually work?   Yes.

I was fascinated, though to be honest, somewhat disappointed to realize how little I knew about our Faith.

A Catholic Psychologist with Real-Life Answers

I began to listen to Dr. Ray Gaurendi on The Doctor Is In. He’s a common sense psychologist — with a sense of humor — who helps people raising their children or in relationship struggles.  Dr Guarendi teaches time-tested, useful techniques.  Interestingly, he acknowledges that his profession had given rise to many problems in raising children in our increasingly secular world.  For example, he says the excessive praise commonly bestowed upon children does not serve the best interest of families — and this is just one among many problems with the way parents are now encouraged to raise their children.

Catholic Radio Apps

Before long, I found the Relevant Radio app, (and Tune In Radio where I can pick up my local affiliate)—and a whole new set of programs throughout the day:

  • Morning Air with Sean Herriot is a great show where guests from a wide variety of professional fields cover a huge range of topics.
  • Glen’s Story Corner starts off my day with an inspirational story on my Facebook feed, and my local affiliate posts the daily gospel readings.
  • Every day I hear Mass from a local parish, followed by the rosary and prayers said by local seminarians.
  • The Inner Life features a spiritual director counseling call-in listeners.  New priests always offer a fresh perspective, too!
  • When my kids are home in the summer, our lunch hours are spent listening to Msgr. Swetland, or the other priests on Go Ask Your Father, fielding questions from people all around the country.
  • A new show that debuted on September 23rd, is Father Simon SaysHere, Father Richard Simon, who is also known as the Rev. Know-it-All; hosts a bible study on the daily readings and also takes calls on questions on the faith or its teachings.
  • My favorite is On the Journey, by Lighthouse Catholic Media, where I can hear well-known Catholic speakers such as Fr. Robert Barron, Scott Hahn, Jeff Cavins and Steve Ray.
  • Last but not least, afternoons on The Station of the Cross, an EWTN radio network affiliate, the Quiet Waters Holy Hour (3:00 p.m. EST) is a nice break.  I listen to the Divine Mercy Chaplet in song, followed by prayers, meditations, songs, the Stations of the Cross and the Rosary.
Morningshowhosts
Morning Air hosts Sean Herriott and Glen Lewerenz on Relevant Radio

US Catholic Radio Today

Many Catholics might not know that there’s a thriving Catholic radio scene out there. For example, Relevant Radio, in its 13th year, has 13 stations and 20 affiliate stations covering 13 states.  The EWTN Catholic Radio Network has over 200 affiliated stations, covering about 40 states.  ETWN Radio Network stations are all independently owned and EWTN programs are provided to the radio stations free of charge to air, to minimize costs for the stations.

All Catholic radio is financed primarily through funds donated by listeners.  Many of the local stations have some of their own locally produced shows, so each station’s programming is slightly different.   Most stations can be listened to through their website online, or with a phone app.

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Angie’s Picks

  1. Do you have questions about the Faith? I recommend Calling All Catholics (The Station of the Cross); Catholic Answers Live; EWTN Open Line and Right Here Right Now.
  2. Are you curious about people who convert?  Check out The Journey Home.
  3. Are you interested in Catholic athletes? Tune in to Blessed 2 Play and Crossing the Goal. Both shows feature far better role models for our kids than the ones we hear the most about.
  4. Are you tired of all your news about the Church being filtered through a political lens?  Shows such as Vatican Insider, Celtic Connections, Kresta in the Afternoon, A Closer Look with Sheila Laugminas, or Register Radio are a great way to find out what is going on in the Church – in the US and the world.
  5. Do you have questions about vocations, or how to live out your faith in your personal life?  Check out programs such as Vocation Boom!, On Call with Wendy Weise, Women of Grace or Dynamic Catholic.
  6. Do you love reading Catholic literature? There’s  EWTN Bookmark with Doug Keck.

You can also check out the programming grids for my favorite networks here. 

 

The American Disciple

Following the English Apostle of Common Sense into the Catholic Church

by Angie Gadacz

“Ask after the dox.  Ask how long the dox has been in the world.  How many nations or centuries have believed in the dox?  How often the dox has proved itself right.  In practice, how often have thoughtful men returned to the dox?  In theory, pursue the dox, persecute the dox.  In short, ask the dox whether it is orthodox.” 

G. K. Chesterton

In the 1920s, British writer G. K. Chesterton famously used ‘common sense’ to find his way into the Catholic Church.  Now, many decades later and half a world away, another Protestant has followed in Chesterton’s footsteps.

As an American Baptist Evangelical and a C.S. Lewis fan, Dale Ahlquist’s curiosity about Chesterton was piqued after learning how Chesterton influenced Lewis.  As he read his way through Chesterton’s prolific work, Ahlquist was so stunned that he   began to feel that his four years spent in a liberal arts college was ‘fraudulent.’

How was it that he had discovered one of the greatest writers of the last century — a giant intellect with unmatched literary accomplishment — yet had never heard about him at university? He had learned about most of Chesterton’s contemporaries such as George Bernard Shaw, yet Chesterton was never mentioned.

After 16 years, Dale was received into the Catholic Church, he says, due to Chesterton’s words.

Not to Let the Next Generation Be Cheated

Today, Ahlquist is one of the top Chesterton scholars in the world.   Determined not to let the next generation be cheated, he has dedicated his life to educating people about the great truths promoted by Chesterton.

As president of the American Chesterton Society, he’s is an internationally sought-after speaker, giving Chesterton talks on a variety of topics at colleges and other venues.  (Chesterton seemed to have something to say about virtually every topic.)

“Aside from Chesterton’s literary importance,” says Ahlquist, “is his importance as a great soul and a great teacher. He tells the truth that we need to hear. And he tells the truth with great wit and beauty.”

Ahlquist also hosts an EWTN television series, G.K. Chesterton-The Apostle of Common Sense. He does frequent radio interviews on  Morning Air with Sean Herriot (a Relevant Radio program), Kresta in the Afternoon (an Ave Maria Radio program), and others.  The Society has also produced about 50 Chesterton Minute radio segments for EWTN radio networks.

1920’s British English

How should a modern reader approach Chesterton?

As some may find his 1920’s British English to be somewhat daunting, Ahlquist has written a series of books to help new readers engage in Chesterton’s work.  These serve as a virtual ‘intro to Chesterton’ course and include G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense, Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton, and The Complete Thinker: The Marvelous Mind of G.K. Chesterton.  Ahlquist then recommends that new readers should pick up G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and read it through three times!

Saint G.K. Chesterton?

Recently, the Catholic world has focused on the American Chesterton Society.  At the annual Chesterton conference on August 1, Ahlquist was delighted to announce that His Eminence Peter Doyle, Bishop of Northampton (UK) will start the process to determine if a cause for Sainthood should be opened for GK Chesterton.

Ahlquist says that he has been in regular contact with Bishop Doyle ‘through various forms of communication, although none face to face.’ He also worked with Bishop Doyle’s predecessor to open a cause for the canonization of G.K. Chesterton.

It took a long time to convince the Bishop that there was a local cult devoted to Chesterton, in spite of the obvious presence of a universal cult. When people in England started making their presence known to Bishop Doyle, however, he was very gracious.

Looking for a dose of common sense? If you’re tired of the insanity that pervades so much of our culture, visit www.chesterton.org

Dale says of Bishop Doyle, “In addition to our persistence, I think he was very moved by the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman (2010), which created great excitement in the Catholic Church in England. Then, most recently, he found out that Pope Francis is not only a Chesterton fan, but, when he was Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, approved a prayer for Chesterton’s intercession to be used for private devotion. That was an eye-opener.”

Dale and the American Chesterton Society are assisting in the process of working on Chesterton’s cause towards canonization.  The clerics assigned to the cause will be required to conduct a thorough investigation into Chesterton’s life.  The Society has spent years collecting this material; this may save much time in the research phase.

ACS_logoWhat Would Chesterton Have Said?

The Society’s goal is to show Chesterton’s great joy in defending the Catholic faith, and relevance to our own time. They publish Gilbert Magazine which addresses today’s controversial topics with Chesterton’s prophetic words.  Certainly Chesterton saw the Culture of Death coming, Ahlquist says, pointing out that Chesterton confronted many of these problems squarely, as he foresaw today’s attacks against marriage, the family and the Faith.

“He is exactly what we need for today,” Ahlquist says. “It is great to see that the Church recognizes that he could be a saint. I am really privileged to have played a small role in the Chesterton revival. I hope I can do even more.”

Chesterton’s wit also seems to be contagious. Does Ahlquist have a favorite show to promote Chesterton?

“Well, I hear that “G.K. Chesterton – The Apostle of Common Sense” on EWTN is pretty popular, but I can’t bear to watch it,” he says with a twinkle. “The host is insufferable.” 

Bringing the ‘Catholic’ Back to a California Parish

Pundits are fond of pointing out that ‘California leads the nation’ when it comes to trends. Here’s one such an example, in a priest who has been quietly laboring in the Lord’s vineyard in Newark, California.

Father Keyes, what is your background and training?

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I entered the seminary in 1971.  In four years I learned how to play guitar and got a degree in Thomistic Philosophy. I left the seminary in 1976 and worked in a hot dog stand and an insurance company before re-entering another seminary in 1977.

The ’70s did horrific damage to the church and I was criticized for associating priesthood too closely to the sacraments and worship and not enough to social justice. They did not want a “musical priest.”  I was also told to throw away that old Thomistic stuff.

Disgusted and hurt, I went back to selling hotdogs and making music in a liberal Catholic church on Sunday evenings.  I also spent summers in the mid-West working on Graduate Degree in Liturgy and music. When I first got to that Midwest College, all my professors in music were priests, Precious Blood Priests. I am especially grateful to Fr. Bob Onofrey and Fr. Larry Heiman for encouraging me to be both musician and priest. After all, if they could do it, why could I not do it?

Fr. Heiman would become my mentor in Gregorian Chant for more than 30 years until his death at the age of 92. I joined the Precious Blood community in 1988.  I was professed in 1990 and ordained to the priesthood, October 26, 1991.

In my early days as a new priest I served as Vocation Director and as Lay Associate Director and then was made pastor of St. Barnabas, Alameda in 1994.  In 2001 I went to Chicago as Director of Formation and then became Pastor of St. Edward in August 2004.

The  ’70s did horrific damage to the church and I was criticized for associating priesthood too closely to the sacraments and worship and not enough to social justice.

Can you tell us the story of your parish, as you found it?

St. Edward Catholic Church is located in Newark, CA, in the southern end of the Diocese of Oakland.  On my arrival here in 2004, the liturgy was exclusively contemporary music, generally from contemporary Christian music sources. The Gloria and the Memorial acclamations used were unapproved texts and there was an active liturgical dance troupe that performed at the main liturgies.

Here I heard one of our “best” catechists tell the students they could decide for themselves who Jesus was for them. After a year of struggle I was able to fire the music director and hire a new one in September, 2005.  I am still struggling with the Catechetical program although there have been some improvements in the First Communion program.

The Gloria and the Memorial acclamations used were unapproved texts and there was an active liturgical dance troupe that performed at the main liturgies.

Was this because of the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II?

stedwards4Vatican II never told us to stop using Latin.  Vatican II never told us to turn our altars around and Vatican II never told us to take out the altar rails.

It was the introduction of the Latin that got most of the reaction.  I was pegged as a traditionalist and accused of taking us backward.  It really did not help to cite chapter and verse, but it was clear that no one had read the documents of Vatican II.

With ‘Alleluia’ and ‘Amen,’ the people respond with Hebrew and Aramaic without thinking, and even an ’80s Rock groups sings “Kyrie Eleison” because the words sound “powerful.”  But some people avoid Latin like it is the plague because they do not understand it.   Any adult Catholic who does not know what “Agnus Dei” means is simply not trying.

The following was posted to the parish Facebook page in February 2013:

“I will only attend the mass here as long as it’s not Fr. Keys. I don’t know how he turned this church into like a singing contest. He sings from the beginning to the end. He also sometimes do it in Latin. Who understand latin in USA? Not me. Most of the parishioners that used to attend the mass here are now attending in Holy Spirit or St. Anne. Fr. Keys, please bring the old St. Edwards tradition back 20-30 years ago. Fr. Jim is the only one doing an excellent job.”

But some people avoid Latin like it is the plague because they do not understand it.   Any adult Catholic who does not know what “Agnus Dei” means is simply not trying.

This was my response:

  •  The center here is Jesus, Not Fr. Keyes or Fr. Jim. It is not about the priest. The priest is supposed to disappear. 
  • Singing contest? Who are the contestants?
  • Latin is the official language of the Catholic Church and a unifying element in a congregation that speaks 30 languages. Beware that your anti-Latin tirade may be implicitly racist.
  • Vatican II placed Gregorian chant in first place. It does not have first place at St. Edward, but now it has a place. 
  • Liberal traditions of the past are gone. Now we try to do what the Church asks. The 70’s are over. 
  • St. Edward ‘traditions’ of 20-30 years ago were not Catholic traditions. This is a Roman Catholic Parish. 
  • Father’s name is spelled “Keyes”
  • St. Anne and Holy Spirit are fine parishes and people are free to go where they want. But treating parishes like a commercial operation where you go where you like the music or the preacher is a Protestant tradition.

stedwards2What liturgical changes did you make when you arrived?

Now in our liturgy the music is from a variety of eras and cultures and there is a Missa Cantata each Sunday.  There has been a progressive introduction of the Roman propers and ordinary at the Missa Cantata. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal is observed in varying degrees over the nine Masses, but progress is being made.  In September, 2012, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite returned to St. Edward after an absence of 50 years.

Additionally, a cry room which also served as a meeting room has been transformed into an adoration chapel.  Morning and Evening prayer from the Liturgy of Hours is now sung every day.

What is your liturgy like today?

At our parish, there are adult Catholics who speak French, Spanish, Portuguese and Farsi who now sing “Pater Noster” by heart; they know what they are saying and they don’t hold hands because they are praying to their Father, and they don’t lift their hands to the heavens because the real presence of our God is on the Altar in front of us.

The following was posted on Yelp: Have you ever wanted to visit the Vatican and experience a liturgy there but couldn’t afford it? Well.. If you have ever been to Rome or desire to go to Rome but for some reason haven’t been able to make it to Italy, come to St. Edwards!!  It’s been one of the fewest (or only?) places in the tri-city that has liturgy celebrated like they do at the Vatican.  The 10am mass is very beautiful with some of the prayers sung in latin, but not to worry, the readings and the homily are in English.  The choir is truly amazing that it truly feels like you’re surrounded by angels singing a heavenly hymn to God. 

Although I know most people prefer the upbeat music where you clap your hands and hear drumbeats.  This is truly a treat and a find, and even if you could come and participate in this mass once a month (and attend mass somewhere else the rest of the weeks), you will leave truly spiritually uplifted.  Hey you never know, you may start coming here every week.

“The 10am mass is very beautiful with some of the prayers sung in latin, but not to worry, the readings and the homily are in English.  The choir is truly amazing that it truly feels like you’re surrounded by angels singing a heavenly hymn to God.” 

You either love it or you hate it.  Yes, we lost several parishioners who now go to other nearby liberal parishes.  Many former choir members now sing in a Presbyterian Church. But we also have many people who travel all the way from Hayward or Livermore for what they call their “Roman fix.”

TRANSFORMING SAINT EDWARD’S

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PARISHIONERS RECONSTRUCT THE BEAUTY OF THE ORIGINAL from a 1970s photo of St Edward’s original altar rail.

New additions to the sanctuary

We began with the introduction of real lectionaries, replacing the fake loose-leaf binder that had been the focus of the Word of God prior.  The fake plastic green trees were removed and statues were put in their place. The fake oil candles on the altar were replaced with new floor length candle stands with tall, real 51% beeswax candles.

The Advent wreath was a tall wooden stand with four blue and pink plastic candles with oil inserts.  They had used them for years and the candles never burned down completely erasing some of the imagery and symbolism associated with that practice.   A new wooden stand was fashioned in 2009, placing the wreath no longer in the center of the sanctuary but to the side in front of the Ambo.

A Crucifix was added to the Sanctuary in 2006.  That year we also refashioned the baptismal font. The old one was corroded and could have been restored, but the delight of this new font is that it looks like it belongs here, and was actually designed by someone who celebrates the sacrament.  Other additions were an ambry, kneelers, and credence tables, floor altar candles and a New Easter Candle and stand.

In 2013 the carpet in the Sanctuary was replaced with wood laminate and the old asbestos tile in the main body of the Church was covered with new VCT tile.  In January The Church received a new coat of paint with some new colors, inside and out. In February the fiberglass Risen Jesus statue was removed from the Sanctuary, a new cross was fashioned out of Blood Wood from South Africa, and a new hand carved, hand painted Lindenwood Corpus was installed.

The previous Easter Candle was an old plastic one with a small candle insert.  We had a new Paschal candle stand fashioned and ordered a 40lb candle for the first Easter Vigil in 2005.  (That was also the first time we did not do two Easter Vigils, one Vigil in Spanish and one in English.  Now we do one Easter Vigil utilizing Latin as well as Spanish and English.  We also combine the choirs. )

A Filthy, Ugly Altar

Something had to be done about that altar. It was filthy and the altar clothes were ugly and in bad repair.  It took two days to clean all the paste and glue from the altar.  There had been many years of pasting paper banners to the front for school liturgies and first communions.  There was this ugly cloth banner that was fashioned each year out of the handprints of the second graders that was pasted to the front of the altar for first communion.

All of these programs were halted and the altar became a sacred place again.  We purchased new altar cloths and a Jacobean frontal, and new linen corporals.  We also placed relics into the altar.

It took two days to clean all the paste and glue from the altar.  There had been many years of pasting paper banners to the front for school liturgies and first communions.

 Relics Are Placed

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The altar had a stone but nothing was in it.  I had a few relics collected over the years, and a few relics were given to me for this event in 2008.  Our altar now has first class relics of St. Maria Goretti, St. Gaspar del Bufalo, St. Maria de Mattias, St. James the Apostle, St. Martin de Porres, St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Pius X.  It was in May of 2008 with the whole school present and seven school children assisting that we placed the relics in the altar and placed the stone in the altar.

The Heart of a Red Dirt Oklahoma Girl

“OKLAHOMA! WHERE THE WIND COMES SWEEPIN’ DOWN THE PLAIN …” And indeed it does, and so it did that 28th day of January in 1955, the day I was born in red dirt country. Mom says that on that cold, cold Friday morning, I was already two weeks late getting there, and how my grandmother … Read more