Pilsen’s Via Crucis

Mexicans in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood perform a living stations of the cross, or via crucis, every year on Good Friday. The television stations dutifully cover it.

The event starts out at Providence of God parish, then proceeds one and a half miles west down 18th Street to Harrison Park.

Providence of God front

Providence didn’t post any signs outside its church. The doors to the church itself were locked, so anyone wanting to visit the Blessed Sacrament in the altar of repose were out of luck. After seeing some other confused visitors wind their way into a side door, I discovered the stations start out in the basement hall underneath the church.

Those who got there early enough to find a seat contended with hard metal folding chairs. The performance began 30 minutes late. Everyone in the audience was casually dressed. Many held up their smartphones, often quite conspicuously, to record photos or videos. The performance was mostly in Spanish and was well done. Although, there were repeated audio issues – every time the actor playing Jesus turned his head to the right, his mic cut out.

At the point where our Lord takes up his cross, we filed outside to 18th Street to follow him. Following the procession was a van with loudspeakers blasting a campy song in Spanish accompanied by acoustic guitar. It distracted from attempts to focus on the passion of our Lord.

Every so often the procession would halt. An announcer would narrate the current station, first in Spanish and then in English. But this wasn’t consistent; he skipped the English for several stations, then at another he narrated entirely in English with no Spanish translation.

Via crucis procession

Many of the women among us wore tight jeans or tight leggings, surely a potential temptation to sins of lust for the men.

When we reached Harrison Park, where the crucifixion itself was re-enacted, our male narrator vanished and a woman, speaking only in Spanish, took over. She spoke in a monotone voice with no emotion, clearly reading off a script.

Crosses in Harrison Park

Roaming about the park were vendors hawking cotton candy and treats, on a day of fasting.

cotton candy

After the actor playing our crucified Lord was taken down from the cross, the procession turned north towards Pilsen’s cavernous, crumbling, beautiful, soon-to-be-closed St. Adalbert’s parish for a “reflection.”

St Adalbert aisle

Alas, the priest who spoke from the pulpit offered no Good Friday reflection, just some remarks thanking the volunteers. Meanwhile the church organ played in the background, in what struck me as a discordant violation of the prohibition on music from Holy Thursday to the Easter Vigil.

The priest concluded his remarks without even so much as a blessing or wishing of a Happy Easter. We all sat in our pews wondering what to do. After a few moments, we realized it was over and started to leave.

St Adalbert choir loft

I couldn’t locate the altar of repose. As I passed through the narthex, there were individuals handing out parish bulletins. I asked no less than three of them, “Where is the altar of repose?” Not one of them could tell me. One young man shrugged, said he didn’t know, and turned away from me.

Food vendors encamped the sidewalk, tempting the weak flesh.

sidewalk vendors

As I walked back to catch the CTA, I took note of all the Mexican restaurants open on 18th Street, the smell of cooked meat in the air.

Pilsen’s named after the Czech city of Plzen. For the first half of the 20th century, it was home to a large population of Central European immigrants – Czechs, Poles, Lithuanians. As they graduated up the economic ladder, Mexicans moved in and Pilsen became known as one of Chicago’s most Mexican of neighborhoods, if not a hotbed of gang violence and shootings.

In recent years, however, 10,000 of its Mexican residents have left, as the neighborhood’s close proximity to downtown attracts yuppies and gentrification, while its reasonable rents attract hipsters and artists. Its five or so Catholic parishes face closure, consolidation, and likely extinction. How long before Via Crucis is just a memory?


He will use Africa will chastise, purify the world

This morning’s front page of the Washington Post features a story on Africa’s incurable, often deadly monkeypox virus and how “scientists are racing to understand it before it goes global.”

Which got me thinking, God could be about to use Africa to purify the world and his Church.

The West is dying. It’s not having children. Its churches, convents, and monasteries are empty. It’s morally bankrupt, a new Sodom.

Africa is growing. Sub-Saharan African has some of the highest fertility rates on the planet. Holy Mother Church has gained tens of millions of new souls across the continent. The Church is in many ways going home. Holy men like Africa’s Robert Cardinal Sarah point us to the light of Truth amidst the fog of the West.

The West hasn’t seen a deadly epidemic since what, the Spanish Flu 100 years ago? Medical advances eradicated the threat of many deadly pathogens. But to paraphrase Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.”

Perhaps it will be monkeypox. Perhaps another pathogen will evolve immunity to our antibiotics. But it would seem preeminently just that the Lord would choose his newest son to chastise and purify his oldest sons and daughters, wiping the slate clean as He’s done so many times throughout history.

Coming under spiritual attack

Maintaining purity of mind and body isn’t easy, and sometimes I fall off the wagon. But I get back up and go to confession.

What I’ve noticed lately, however, is that when I have managed to “sustain” that purity for a while, I start getting attacked with hateful thoughts. They come out of nowhere. I’ll be doing dishes and suddenly start thinking about people who rubbed me the wrong way, perhaps just once, perhaps even many years ago. Before I know it, I’m imagining things I could have said to them, or even physical violence I could have perpetrated against them. Then I snap out of it, embarrassed and horrified.

This never used to happen to me. Or perhaps it was, but I was too sullied with sin to realize it as wrong.

Is this the devil, inciting these thoughts? Knowing I’ve conquered temptations to impurity, he seeks out other weaknesses in my character?

Hopeless causes at Chicago’s Shrine of St Jude?

Recently, I made a pilgimage to the National Shrine of St Jude in Chicago.

One hopes a shrine provides solace, quiet, and an atmosphere of prayer and quiet contemplation. One is therefore quite taken aback to find children running around, scantilly-clad women with exposed shoulders and thighs, and numerous outbreaks of applause.

The Shrine is housed in a parish, St Pius V, in a now-Mexican neighborhood, and I walked in on a mass baptism of children. The church building was erected for an Irish congregation in 1893, and has been wreckovated in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. There are no communion rails; the statue of Mary was squeezed in with St Joseph’s statue to the right of the altar; a small cube-shaped tabernacle takes Mary’s place left of the altar; the high altar itself is long gone, replaced by a baptismal font and several feet in front of it, a freestanding ironing board I mean altar table.

As an aside, I found it peculiar that a parish named in honor of Pius V does not offer the sacrifice of the mass in the extraordinary form! Yet their web side advertises plans to HONOR Catholic heretic (pro-abortion, pro-sodomite marriage, etc)  Democrat Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Placing the baptismal font at the center of the sanctuary worries me. I fear it opens up theological problems. I fear it sends a message that, as long as you’re baptized, you’re saved. The Eucharist, the sacrifice, is not the center. Another sacrament supersedes it –it may appear to some– and gives us free license to sin, to obey the magisterium of our consciences, to worship at the altar of man.

Neither of the two red tabernacle lamps appeared to be lit. A tablecloth from a Mexican restaurant, or perhaps a Mexican quilt (I’m not sure which) draped the tabernacle.

Repeatedly, I witnessed men, women, and children walk directly in front of the tabernacle without reverencing it with a bow or a genuflection.

At one point, I witnessed a photographer pose a small girl in a sequin gown with two adults (possibly her parents), a well-dressed man and a woman in a tight, short dress, directly in front of the tabernacle obscuring it and taking their picture.

The priest or deacon appeared to be performing an assembly line baptism, one baby after another, with no interaction from godparents. I lost track of how many times the audience oops congregation broke into applause. I’m not sure if they were applauding the children or themselves, but it certainly wasn’t our Savior.

At one point I could hear music coming from a cell phone on the other side of the church.

Meanwhile, the side altar / shrine to St Jude was ignored, save for a pre-teen boy before it, who kept toggling several elective votive “candles” on and off.

I suppose I should take heart that these parents and families saw fit to have their children baptized in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Were their children taken tonight, they would be assured of the beatific vision. Yet I worry. The lack of decorum, the lack of respect for the Real Presence, the applause; these brothers and sisters either received deficient catechesis or reject various truths of the faith. Will their children fare any better?

Is it not damning that this parish and shrine are operated by the Dominican Friars, and order of preachers? Is it not demonic that the Domincans brag on the parish’s Web site about their role in getting a local high school named after Freemason and persecutor of the Mexican Church, Benito Juarez?

There is one approved Marian apparition in the United States, and it is outside Green Bay, Wisconsin at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. Our Lady, it is believed, spoke to a young woman 140 years ago and instructed her to catechize the immigrant children of the area.

Let us pray to Our Lady of Good Help and St Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes, for the salvation of the souls of these new children of Christ; of their parents and families; and of the Dominican Friars entrusted to serve them.

Council of Cardinals coordinator confounds me

Photo from the Holy See Press Office

Oscar Rodriguez Cardinal Maradiaga is said to be the coordinator/chairman of the council eight cardinals appointed to advise his Holiness.

Whispers in the Loggia shares a transcript of a speech he gave in Dallas on October 25, with the implication that his remarks may portend the direction the “Gang of Eight” is headed in.

My thoughts after reading the 5,500-word transcript…

  • Throughout, he portrays the Church’s sole mission to be the elimination of all earthly suffering, especially poverty and the concentration of power and wealth by a few
  • Specifically, states that “Her foremost goal is to care for the penultimate (hunger, housing, clothing, shoes, health, education…) to be then able to care for the ultimate, those problems that rob us of sleep after work (our finiteness, our solitude before death, the meaning of life, pain, and evil…).”
  • States that “If the Church has a mission at all, it is to manifest the deeds of Jesus” but to me at least, it seems he defines “deeds” through the lens of social justice and not the salvation of souls, submission to the Trinity, the crucifixion and resurrection, etc.
  • All but ignores fundamental topics such as virtue, sin, Heaven, Hell, Satan, salvation, damnation, the conversion of sinners, heretics, heathens, and non-believers, the Blessed Virgin Mary (except for referencing her presence at the wedding at Cana), the role of the Church in salvation history, the Holy Trinity, etc.;
  • Befuddles with the proclamation that in the USA, “the Gospel of Christ is also alive and effective”
  • States that the Second Vatican Council “meant an end to the hostilities between the Church and modernism”
  • States that “even today, the greatest challenge is to examine the mission of the Church to conform it to the mission of Jesus” but seemingly interprets that mission as eliminating suffering, poverty, etc on earth with no regard to the salvation of souls and reparation for the sin of Adam;
  • Makes contradictory statement that a Tower of Babel Church of diversity is actually more universal than one where (nearly) everyone shared a universal language and liturgical rite: “From being a European Church, more or less culturally uniform, and hence monocentric, the Church is on her way to become a universal Church, with multiple cultural roots and, in this sense, culturally polycentric.”
  • Ignores that Pope Francis is ethnically Italian and that his Holiness, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Blessed Pope John Paul II were all European when he states, “it is symbolic indeed that the last three Popes have not been Italian; the temptation of Europeanizing and Italianizing the Church has always been one tied to pretenses to power.”
  • Seemingly questions the Church’s Magisterium and infallible teaching with statements like, “Too many times she gives the impression of having too much certitude and too little doubt, freedom, dissension or dialogue.”
  • I think I know what he means when he states Christ “treated women without discrimination” but let’s not forget the 12 Apostles were all… men
  • States that “If the Church wants to stay faithful, she must also continue purifying herself through the martyrdom and the sanctity of the faithful.” I read that and wonder, are all those Christians in the Middle East and other parts of the world who are murdered out of hatred for the One, True Faith dying to purify the Church’s worldliness? Given that there were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in all previous 1,900 years combined, wouldn’t we then have the purest Church evah today?
  • Takes license with ellipsis’ to fabricate quotes from the Second Vatican Council with statements like this: “this is what Vatican II teaches: “The baptized… are consecrated as… a holy priesthood” (LG 10)”
  • Speaks not of the “dictatorship of relativism” but instead “a world dictatorship of finance capital”
  • I like what he says about “The lords of financial capital wield over billions of human beings a power of life and death.”
  • Implies that Holy Mother Church’s “solidarity with the poor” and “denouncing injustice and oppression” stopped somewhere after the third century and only resumed in the 1960s
  • States, “If Jesus calls the poor ‘blessed’ is because he is assuring them that their situation is going to change, and consequently it is necessary to create a movement that can bring about such a thing, restoring dignity and hope to them.” If I can play armchair theologian, wasn’t our Lord speaking about their situation changing when they got to Heaven?
  • Sounds Marxist / Modernist when he shares this quote, “The original Christianity faces the reign of money and power as means of domination and introduces a passion into history: that the last stop being the last, that behaviors are adopted and politics and economies are put into place to give them primacy, so a society can be built without first or last, or, at least, with less inequality between human beings called to be brothers.”
  • This doesn’t bode well for contemplative orders: “Making our own the culture of the Good Samaritan before the neighbor in need; feeling as our own the pain of the oppressed, getting close to them, and freeing them. Without this commitment, all religiousness is false.
  • Seems to pretend Satan, sin, concupiscence, etc don’t exist when he states, “Justice opposes contempt, violence, deceit, slavery, death. To the extent that we eliminate those, life will be just and human.”
  • States that “The Church did not have a monopoly on truth anymore”
  • States the obvious, but offends animals and inanimate objects in the process: “One cannot be a Christian without being a person first.”
  • I strongly agree when he states, “the Church will convert the world not by argument, but by example. There is no doubt that doctrinal argument is important, but people will be attracted by the humanity of Christians, those who live by the faith, who live in a human way, who irradiate the joy of living, the consistency in their behavior.”

Pope Francis’ oft-publicized echoes of Christ’s commands to love thy neighbor and serve them increasingly cause me to ponder embracing a lay vocation to do just that. But without a hermeneutic of continuity to tradition, without a healthy awareness of the need to BOTH avoid sin AND pursue virtue, without a parish that embraces restoring the sacred and a Pope Emeritus who highlighted the dangers of secularism to me, I’d BE a fallen-away Catholic fag living in sin, worshiping the flesh and materialism, and never laying eyes on the challenging remarks of an archbishop from Honduras.