Earlier this week I rocketed down the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago, which was a unique experience. Normally on this road, which slices through the near north of the City of Big Shoulders, your velocity may approach crawl rather than rocket. Crawl, however, allows you to contemplate steeples of huge churches that mark neighbourhoods where waves of Polish immigrants settled.
Once there were more Poles in Chicago than in Warsaw. In the 1950s, when the Expressway was constructed, the Catholic Church was so influential in the Windy City that it forced the redirection of the highway to curve around the rectory of St Stanislaus Kostka, which at one time was probably the largest, busiest parish in the world with its 15 Masses a day in upper and lower churches. The guardrails of the Expressway now pass within arm’s distance of the rectory’s wall. Also visible from the highly trafficked route is the cavernous and domed St Mary of the Angels, now one of two parishes in the US staffed by Opus Dei.
But my interest peaked with the sight of the distinctive bell towers of St Hedwig of Silesia and, especially, of St John Cantius, since we celebrate both of their feasts this week in the Roman Church’s traditional calendar. In the new calendar, St John Cantius was moved to December.
St John Cantius Church has risen to world prominence because of its new religious foundation of canons, its exquisite liturgical practices in both Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms and its superb music programme. The parish recently released a new disc of music in honour of Our Lady of Fatima. The huge church (voted the most beautiful in America in 2016) and parish life were a wreck in the 1980s. Some 50 people in total attended on Easter Sunday. Then came a new pastor with a vision: bring back traditional practices and implement worthy sacred liturgical worship. The subsequent restoration of life in the parish could be mistaken for miraculous, were it not also so deeply rooted in simple common sense.
Speaking of restoration of life in both America and in the Sceptred Isle, some bishops are thinking out of the box and entrusting parishes otherwise slated for closure to communities, institutes and priests who offer traditional Catholic liturgical worship, devotions and preaching. These moribund parishes begin again to thrive.
Could there be a connection between traditional expressions of our faith and renewal?
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