This past Sunday, March 5th, the Confirmation students of St. Patrick's set out on Holy Journey to
St. John Cantius Catholic Church in Chicago
The bus was loaded and ready to go with our retreat study guides, a couple catechists, and nine of St. Patrick's Confirmation candidates. Rethinking the typical retreat setting, the goal of this pilgrimage was to leave "an indelible" mark on the kids' souls--one they won’t soon forget.
We catechists and students had class on the bus on the way to and from our destination. Great conversation and learning was had by all. On the bus, we were focused on presenting the fullness of the truth of the Catholic faith in a practical and real way to our students. They deserve nothing less.
We arrived at the church, and the beauty of the nave and sanctuary was amazing. But probably most inspiring was the activity of a very large church with almost every pew filled. Three or four active confessionals had priests hearing confessions. One of the study sessions on the bus was entitled, "Repentance/Reconciliation/Healing", so we were all ready to have our slates wiped clean immediately when we arrived.
We approached a young gentleman (of many) in clerical garb and introduced ourselves as the Confirmation class from St. Patrick's in Cottage Grove, WI. He introduced himself as Brother Matthew and kindly offered to assist us with a short tour of the Church in the time between the Tridentine Latin Mass, which we were about to attend, and before rosary and vespers, which we were also going to pray with the brothers and priests.
The Tridentine Latin Mass was something that the catechists nor the students had ever experienced, and it was really something special. The Mass in Latin really connected us with the ancient and official language of the Roman Catholic Church. It also immersed us in the deep, historical heritage of our Catholic Faith in Christ. One of the most mysterious moments was when the priest whispered the prayers of consecration (when the bread and wine is transformed into Christ's body and blood).
After Mass, Brother Matthew immediately and graciously attended to us. He was standing at our pew as we finished praying after mass. He took us to a small chapel which featured the Wit Stwosz Altarpiece Replica, which is a replica that was recently erected and models the much larger real altarpiece which was carved in the late 1400's in St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow, Poland.
Brother Matthew then told us about the religious community of brothers and priests he belongs to called the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, who serve in parishes and help Catholics to rediscover a profound sense of the Sacred through solemn liturgies, devotions, sacred art and music, as well as instruction in the heritage of the Church, catechetics and Catholic culture.
The students got another dose of teaching as Brother Matthew taught them how the very architecture of the church teaches the faithful. In this picture, he told us about the Star of David being the first image on the floor as you approach the sanctuary from the back of the Church. The particular positioning of this image stems from many Catholic liturgical traditions and architecture being rooted from our Jewish heritage. In this example, the Star of David is first because Jesus comes from the lineage of King David.
After rosary and vespers, Brother Matthew was kind enough to spend more time with us and tell our Confirmation students how God led him to his vocation. He gave our students great advice on how to seek God's will in their lives.
And to top it all off, on the way home we stopped for pizza at Giordiano's and left Chicago with a full stomach and full heart!