Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

From St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church in Chicago.

With my camera battery practically dead, I stumbled into this church, which they keep open 24 hours a day.  I happened to go in only minutes before a Mass and for a small of a crowd as there was (maybe two dozen folks, it wasn't an actual holiday) I was able to experience one of the more elegant services that I have seen.  The decor and the lighting in the church only helped this matter.  As I recall, the lights were either off or heavily dimmed in the nave, which forced the eyes up to the splendidly decorated altar.

One more "Advent" post will come out sometime in the next couple weeks.

St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish
The Sanctuary of Divine Mercy

St. Michael in Old Town & Assumption, Chicago, Illinois - Christmas in Chicago Advent Series, Part 3

After visiting three churches on my Christmas Chicago Church Chase, my camera's battery began to die.  I managed to take a few photos at three more churches, two of which you see here.  These first photos are from St. Michael in the Old Town neighborhood.

The Poor Souls Altar, which depicts a soul being raised from Purgatory [1].

St. Catherine of Alexandria.

The Sacred Heart Altar.  Sts. Alphonsus Ligouri & Teresa Avila flank Jesus on this altar [2]

The Infant of Prague. 

Our Mother of Perpetual Help Altar [3].

St. Michael's is one of Chicago's older parishes.  In fact, the church building that preceded the present structure succumbed to the Chicago Fire of 1871.  That building was one of the tallest in Chicago at the time, with a steeple reaching 200 feet (larger than the still-standing famous water tower on North Michigan Avenue).  This building, erected shortly after the fire, points higher still, with the 290-foot tower dominating the Old Town neighborhood [4].

Assumption Catholic Church is in the River North neighborhood, only blocks from such iconic landmarks as the Hancock Tower and the Magnificent Mile.  Originally founded for the Italian community, its location within downtown brings all types of visitors near and in the church [5].

Perhaps most striking in my short visit were the stained glass windows, which depict a mix of older, more traditional religious events and more recent periods in the history of the Catholic Church.  Above are views of one of these windows, where St. Frances Xavier Cabrini makes her landing in New York Harbor.  St. Frances Xavier Cabrini moved on to Chicago and much of her life's work was performed through this church and the nearby Assumption School that she helped to run [6].


Left: Jesus and His Sacred Heart in a vision to St. Mary Alacoque.
Right: Pope John XXIII calling the start of Vatican II, with Chicago's bishops and archbishops near the bottom of the window [7].

St. Anthony of Padua with Child and St. Patrick.

St. Michael in Old Town Catholic Church

Additional Sources

Monday, December 15, 2014

St. Mary of the Angels, Chicago, Illinois - Christmas in Chicago Advent Series, Part 2

St. Mary of the Angels is certainly one of the most iconic of Chicago's Catholic Churches.  Most people see its proud dome and twin towers while speeding by (or while being caught in traffic) on the nearby Kennedy Expressway (I-94) northwest of the Loop in Downtown Chicago.  At a closer level, finer details emerge, like these angels lining the main roof of the church.

Side note (a proper post will describe this later): Roamin' Catholic Churches is on Instagram!  I started taking photos while on a trip last month.  I bring it up here because my first Instagram post came from this church!

The layout inside the church, with the large done and barrel vaulting, along with the largely light-toned interior give St. Mary of the Angels a very elegant look.  A seminarian from a neighboring parish described the interior as being like "Angel Food Cake."  I think it's easy to see why.

"Gloria in excelsis deo..."  (Latin)
"Glory to God in the highest," for those you you who just sing the line at Christmastime (like me).

Fairly dramatic (and pretty) window display.  There is a dedication near the bottom of the middle window, "Parafia Sw. Stanisława Kostki," or the Parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka, the mother church of all Chicago's Polish parishes.  With that is seems safe to assume we have the Virgin and Child facing St. Stanislaus Kostka, who is in the left window.

St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei.  Opus Dei (Latin for "God's work") priests have administered the parish since 1991, as St. Mary of the Angels was on the brink of meeting the wrecking ball [1][2][3].  Restorations in the years since have helped pull the church from the cliff of destruction and are helping cement the church as an icon of the Bucktown neighborhood.


Left: St. Mary as Mother of the Fairest Love and Child.
Right: Depiction of the Pietà.

"Jezus upada po raz pierwszy.  Oddz Sw. Barbary."  (Polish)
"Jesus falls the first time.  Branch of St. Barbara/" (English)

"Congregatio a  resurrectione domini nostri jesu christi"  (Latin)
"Congregation of  the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ" (English)

Jesus & the Sacred Heart, with more Latin to translate above if you are a little ambitious.

'Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus." (Latin)
"Holy, holy, holy." (English)
The Assumption of St. Mary is the focal point of the dome above the altar.

Look closely above the columns (or click on the image to see a larger version), you can see a papal tiara in the terra cotta among other religious insigniia. 

It is safe to say the exterior of St. Mary of the Angels deserves it's own blog post.  Angel statues, the towers, the dome, the significance of this building to the gentrifying Bucktown neighborhood...there are lots of ways to talk about this church.

St. Mary of the Angels Parish

Additional Posts on St. Mary of the Angels:

Additional Sources

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Vigil Mass of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Last Friday, the 12th was the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.  The night before, my parish church held its big celebration led by the parish's enthusiastic Hispanic community.  Mass began at 10pm and was preceded by three hours of dancing and prayer and followed by another couple hours of music, stretching the festivities to six hours on a work night!

This modest statue of Our Lady is swamped with flowers from church-goers, which could be said to mimic the flowers that accompanied St. Mary as she appeared to St. Juan Diego on a hill near Mexico City on a chilly December day.  This filled the entire area in front of the church's side altar devoted to St. Mary.

When I arrived just in time for Mass, the church was full and I had to stand in the back along with a few dozen other attendees.  Most of these pictures were taken about 45 minutes after Mass concluded as two bands continued to serenade the shrine to Our Lady.  The Bishop of the Diocese of Madison, Robert Morlino, attended the Mass and stayed to bless parishioners and the hundreds of religious articles that they brought in tow.  

Although I have seen very few true and current ethnic celebrations of Feast Days, I was very impressed and a bit awestruck while getting to see the devotions that went into this Mass and celebration.

Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Cathedral Parish
120 W. Johnson Street, Madison, WI 53703

Monday, December 8, 2014

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today is a holy day of obligation, as the Catholic Church terms it, to commemorate the St. Mary's conception that deemed her free of original sin.  I was in Milwaukee for a run yesterday, and didn't realize this church was named for the Immaculate Conception until walking by (I always thought it was St. Vincent de Paul for some reason).

From the outside, this church looks handsome.  The church was locked, so I couldn't go inside on this visit.  The rectory is visible to the left.

Unusual for Catholic churches that I am familiar with, this steeple is at the end opposite of the front doors of the church.  I am curious to know the history behind this design.  The form of the steeple itself reminds me of the steeple at St. John's Cathedral, just a few miles north of here.

Looking behind from where I took the previous photo, you see "Downtown" Bayview on Kinnickinnick (KK) Avenue.  Bayview is one of Milwaukee's many upstanding neighborhoods, with a wide selection of eateries, shops, and housing stock.  The church down the Avenue is St. Lucas Evangelical Lutheran Church, another nice edifice in this part of Milwaukee.

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
1023 E Russell Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53207

Monday, December 1, 2014

Basilica of St. Hyacinth, Chicago, Illinois - Christmas in Chicago Advent Series, Part 1

Chicago is full of incredible churches, especially "Polish Cathedrals," a name assigned to the grand houses of worship built by Polish immigrants and their immediate descendants.  This church however, is the only one of the grand Polish churches to be granted status as a minor basilica in Chicago.  In fact, the basilica's umbraculum (Latin for umbrella), or Papal umbrella, is visible on the far left of the photo.

Contextual Note: On December 30th of last year, I took a day trip to Chicago primarily to take pictures of a few of Chicago's churches while they were decked out in all of their Christmastime splendor.  Originally I planned to post them shortly after my visit, then as a "Christmas in July" series.  Now here we are, almost a year later, and I am finally starting to post them.  Perhaps the Advent season, which started this week, is more fitting for these photos anyway, but I'll let you, the reader, ponder that.  Another note: For the sake of speed, I didn't use my tripod for any of the photos I plan to use for this series, Sometimes, that decision is reflected in the photo quality (all the more reason to re-shoot!). 

One of the Basilica's many highlights is the dome above the center of the nave, featuring a painting that includes dozens of religious figures of both Polish and more general Catholic history.  I wasn't able to get a great picture of the dome itself, but here is the stained glass window that makes up the centerpiece of the dome.  

Jesus presenting St. Peter the Keys to the Kingdom as noted in the Gospel.  Note the inclusion of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City near the top of the window.

Left: Side chapel featuring Our Lady of Częstochowa and Child.
Right: St. Barbara.

Left: Area to the right of the main altar, including the Basilica's tintinnabulum (bell), several shrines to St. Mary, and the Basilica's main crucifix.
Right: St. Joseph and Child.

St. John Cantius, Polish saint and the namesake for another of Chicago's Polish cathedrals.

The high altar.  The Host was exposed for veneration at the time of my visit (see center).  While most churches and chapels that I have visited are deathly silent when the Eucharist is visible (a time of Eucharistic adoration), I recall hearing vacuums inside the Basilica while I was taking pictures.  Flanking the sides of the altar are Sts. Peter & Paul.

St. Haycinth as a priest, is depicted above the Host carrying a ciborium away from a Mass in Kiev, where he served for a time.  Warned of an attack from an invading Tartar army, St. Hyacinth is shown while passing a statue of St. Mary & Child (shown to the left of St. Haycinth).  As is summarized in Fr. Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints, a voice called to St. Hyacinth summoning him to carry the statue with him out of Kiev.  As difficult as it seems to lug a statue around while avoiding invading troops, this saintly story meets its peak when St. Hyacinth is forced to cross the river Dnieper, and does so by walking across its surface.[1]

From the narthex, another image of Our Lady of Częstochowa and Child.  The icon at the far right is the Polish eagle, while the Polish text arching over Our Lady and Child.

One of bronze sets of doors at the main entrance of the Basilica.  Sculpted by Polish artist Czesław Dźwigaj, we see among other events, the building of the Basilica and St. Hyacinth himself with Our Lady and Child on the right door.[2]  These doors were installed in 2005.[3]

The St. Hyacinth School building.

Nativity scene by the rectory.

Does it look like the Polish have some influence in Chicago?

St. Hyacinth Basilica 
3636 West Wolfram Street, Chicago, IL 60618

Additional Sources
[1] Butler, Fr. Alban. Lives of the Saints, Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 1995 reprint of 1955 edition, 423.