I must share a thought with you today regarding our “Cathedral on the Prairie”, St. Augustine, etc. I believe we can all learn a valuable lesson about our faith as we re-visit an old matter. I understand re-visiting old wounds can be painful, but I believe this one is worth it. I was inspired to write this article after looking through some old photos of the old churches (some of you saw them…of the church basement in Hoven being used as the parish church…and the sanctuary of the old country church that sat on the current site of St. Anthony…just to name a few I have seen). I can’t tell you the exact dates, but I imagine there are a few of you who will remember “what it used to be like”. I know I am not telling you anything new, but we have all seen churches that have been “stripped” of traditional attire for the sake of simplicity and keeping up with the times. It has to do with faith in God and a sense of history. I am so glad that the churches I have been given oversight and responsibility really hasn’t been “simplified” to the point of cold emptiness (we have Holy week to get that effect).
First, we begin by contemplating God. One of our basic beliefs about God is that God is eternal…Yes or Yes? But we must not take this for granted, because not all people think this way. Paganism, which dominated the world before Christianity always consider their gods as incapable of death, but they never considered them as outside of time. They were more powerful than us humans but they lived in time just like us. Today, as Christianity seems to be fading away and attempts are being made to replace in minds a “new paganism”… the Christian sense of time is being obscured. (Witness the great popularity and reverence of “divine spirits” and “mother earth” on earth day…and whatever is going on in these paranormal shows on TV…that are beginning to make up the new religions of our nation. )
So what does this have to do with those old pictures and our present reality? Well, about 93.5% of the people that I have met so far here (and especially those people who love to visit these old churches) love to talk about history. It usually begins with stories of the people buried here, but quickly expands to all sorts of historical details. I must confess, I have been bitten by the bug of historical research as soon as I set foot within all our church doors. When you step into our churches you are transported in time while being firmly rooted in the present. There is something almost magical…well, more mystical…about praying here. When you come to these churches you can’t help but realize you are in a place that has withstood the test of time. You can feel, over 100 years of Masses, Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals. You begin to feel that your life, as complicated and marvelous as it is…is only a small chapter in a longer story. The stories of the French Missionaries and German priests and holy sisters who brought the Sacraments and the Gospel to the Native Americans, the emigrants from the old country… and all the rest. We need to let the ages speak to us here. We need to be careful with the treasures handed on to us. And so, the removal of some of the old things has a certain sense of forcing the past to keep silent. Thinking of the remolded churches I have seen in the name of Vatican II and progress…so bare, cold and dead…makes me think that the new generation did not respect the past generations enough. It was the right thing to do when the renovations done in our churches respected the work and investment of past generations.
God is eternal while we live in history. But, us historical beings, don’t appreciate history enough. And if we don’t appreciate our history we won’t marvel in the eternal God, Who lives outside of history and calls us to live with Him in a future of timeless glory. A young person who awakens to the fact that the world does not begin and end with himself is ready to receive God. Only then, is he ready to make his mark in history.
and… that God will lead us to make our nation, unlike other nations…