Browsing From the Pastor's Desk

Iconic

May 18, 2017

For the last ten years, The Oratory of Saints Gregory and Augustine has occupied the Saint Anselm Parish Center chapel and lower level of the Parish Center to provide Mass and community activities for a dedicated group of people who desire to worship in the traditional Latin Tridentine rite. In their time here, this community had outgrown the space to the point they were televising their Mass from the chapel into the Parish Hall area outside the classrooms where our PSR classes are held. On May 1, the Oratory relocated to All Saints Church in University City.


Since their departure, we have repainted the Parish Center chapel and restored it to Parish use. Eucharistic Adoration recommenced there on May 11. The chapel has a new orientation, similar to the way it was before the arrival of the Oratory, and a new tabernacle. The large wooden crucifix has been moved from the Parish Hall area and back into the chapel.


Saint Anselm Parish has always had a vigorous Pro-Life committee that has been strongly supported by our parishioners. So just as the icon of Saint Vincent de Paul is prominent in our Worship Space (in honor of our strong St. Vincent DePaul society), an icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be prominent in this renovated chapel.
To complement Our Lady of Guadalupe and (I hope) to inspire us, there will be six other icons of North American saints: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Saint Catherine Drexel, Saint Elizabeth Seton, Saint Juan Diego, Saint John Neumann and Saint Andre Bessette. The icons will arrive here in about six weeks. Until then the chapel will be adorned simply by the presence of God.


Our Lady is Guadalupe is also known as Queen of the Americas. Of all the many manifestations of Mary’s presence throughout the centuries, it is only in this apparition that she appears as a pregnant mother. She appeared to Saint Juan Diego at a time when human sacrifice, an important practice in Aztec religion and culture, was still being practiced surreptitiously, including the sacrifice of infant children. It was devotion to Our Lady in this image as one of them that helped end this practice and turn the indigenous Mexicans to Christ. For this reason, she is Patroness of the Unborn and of the Respect Life movement.


As Our Lady did at Lourdes and Fatima, she did not choose to appear to a bishop, a priest or consecrated religious. She did not appear to a powerful Christian conquistador or any other powerful person. She appeared to Saint Juan Diego, a humble man of a conquered people, engaged in a mission of mercy, and through him continues to give all people hope.


Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was a member of the Iroquois Mohawk nation, the people to whom the Jesuit North American martyrs preached. She was born just ten years after St Isaac Jogues was martyred in the same village where she was born. She is ample proof of the saying. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”


At the other end of the social spectrum is Saint Katherine Drexel. She was an heiress and Philadelphia debutante. In an audience with Pope Leo XIII, he suggested Katherine become a missionary. She did, and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and dedicated her life and fortune to the home missions here in America. She died in 1955 at the age of 98. One of her relatives is an active member of our Parish.


Saint Elizabeth Seton is the first native-born American citizen to be canonized. She was a convert, a mother, a widow and she established the first Catholic girls’ school in the nation in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she also founded the first American congregation of religious sisters, the Sisters of Charity.


I wrote about Saint Andre Bessette last year when I visited his shrine in Montreal. A humble member – and only saint – of the order that runs Notre Dame University, he is known as God’s Doorkeeper, because that was his lowly job at the school in Montreal where he lived. He had a great reputation as a saintly healer in the name of Saint Joseph, whose shrine he began to build in Montreal. He is the patron of Canada and he died in 1937.


Saint John Neumann was an immigrant from the Austrian empire who became a priest in America and was first assigned to serve the German immigrants in upstate New York. He served for a time in the church my great-great-grandfather helped build in Rochester. Saint John Neumann went on to become bishop of Philadelphia and there founded the first Catholic school system in the United States.


I hope someday we will have an icon of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, but “Icons-R-Us” has not produced one yet. But these saints, a layman and laywoman, religious men and women, of colonial times, the 19th and 20th centuries, from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, native born and immigrants, all tell us that the call to holiness is for all people, at all times, for us even in our place. And not just the call, but the real possibility.

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