Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Month of Ma(r)y and Explaining a Really Long Rosary

Take a look at the photo above. The character in the statue is carrying what looks like a Rosary, right?  There is a crucifix, the first few beads for the opening prayers, and beads in groups of ten for each decade of the Rosary.  Here's where it get's fishy.  A typical Rosary has five of these decades, but clearly there are a lot more here.  I counted fifteen decades.  That's 150 Hail Marys!

Yes, there are people who are devoted to prayer, but how many folks really do 150 Hail Marys in a sitting?  What could this super-long Rosary mean?  Is it maybe just a Paul Bunyan-esque gimmick so people in the back of church can see it?  

Ok, it isn't anything too superfluous.  This statue is a representation of Our Lady of the Rosary.  The long Rosary she is carrying represents the fifteen different decades of the Rosary grouped by what the Church calls the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries.  Pope (now Saint) John Paul II added a fourth set of mysteries, the Luminous, late in his Pontificate.  If Our Lady's Rosary were up-to-date, it would have twenty mysteries and over 200 prayer beads!

Today marks the last day of May, often referred to by the Catholic Church as "The Month of Mary."  On my visit to St. Peter's in Stevens Point last month, I noticed this statue of St. Mary and the Christ Child and was surprised to see this huge Rosary.  A little explanation from the young seminarian at the parish and a bit of intuition clarified its purpose.

St. Peter's Parish
800 4th Avenue, Stevens Point, WI 54481

Sunday, May 11, 2014

St. Peter's Catholic Church, Stevens Point

It's only fitting that this church visit came barely a week prior to the canonization of St. John Paul the Great, better known as the late Pope John Paul II, and lesser known as Karol Wojytła.  St. Peter's is one of very few, if not the only church that he visited in Wisconsin.  His visit to Stevens Point was largely driven by the strong Polish-American culture in the area[1].  St. Peter's Catholic Church remains a bastion of this Polish-American culture in Stevens Point today, as seen in much of the church's artwork.

Note: Click on any photo to see it in greater detail.  The details in some of them will make it worth the effort!

Gothic altars reign supreme in the front of the church and statues abound.  There are 21 statues that I can pick out in this photo alone.  Church yearbook photos indicate that these altars and most of the statues have been in the church since at least the 1920s.


Left: St. John
Right: St. Casimir, King of Poland

High Altar detail.

Left: St. Agnes, Martyr
Right: St. Peter, holding the "keys to the Church"

The Easter scene at the church is one of the more elaborate I have seen, complete with the empty tomb.  The smell from the fresh flowers filled the church on Holy Saturday afternoon.


Left: St. Hedwig, Queen of Poland
Right: St. Rose of Lima, first canonized saint from the Americas

Left: "Wypłyń na głębię." (Polish)  "Put out into the deep." (English)  Relating to the story of St. Peter from the Gospel of Luke.
Right: "Totus Tuus." (Latin)  "Totally yours." (English)  Motto of Pope John Paul II.[2]
The floor was updated in the last few years with these and other religious artwork.

Not a terrific photo by any means, but worth a closer look (click to do so) simply to look at all the detailing that makes this rendition of Our Lady of Częstochowa and Child.  My limited translation tools did not generate a sensible translation for the message at the bottom either.  If you can translate the Polish well enough, feel free to comment at the end of the post!

St. Peter, from above the front door of the narthex.

St. Peter's is surrounded by a host of stately buildings.  The Parish school, which I did not photograph, is off to the right from this photo's vantage point.  The rectory is in the foreground in this picture.

Across the street to the side of the church is the Stevens Point Area Co-op.  Based on the stone at the top of the building, it was originally built as Kosciuszko Hall.  The Co-op has this to say about their building:

"The SPA Co-op building was constructed in 1909 and served the community for many decades, as a mercantile and grocery store on the main floor and a dance hall upstairs, before becoming a furniture store and warehouse in the 1960s.
The SPAC has dedicated itself to renovating and preserving this historic building.[3]"

It seems safe to argue that a healthy Parish and Co-op aren't just good for the buildings they exist in, but for the neighborhood as a whole.

Our Lady of Częstochowa and Child at the portal from the nave to the narthex.

St. Peter's Parish
800 4th Avenue, Stevens Point, WI 54481

Many thanks to the young seminarian who gave a more detailed tour of St. Peter's after Easter Sunday Mass!  Also to the other folks who offered help in my visit!

Additional Sources