Pastor’s Desk ~ April 28, 2024

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

Last week I shared a few thoughts about devotions in general, and more specifically about the devotional life and design of our church. The response was surprisingly positive, and I’ve decided to go a week or two further on this subject.

The statues and devotional images behind the communion rail and facing the congregation are, in roughly chronological order, products of the French church: the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Vincent de Paul, Our Lady of Lourdes, and St. Therese of Lisieux. The most visible statues in the church all give witness, in one way or another, to the humanity and mercy of God in Jesus.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart is associated most closely with three saints: St. John Eudes (preacher, reformer, educator of seminarians), St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (visionary), and St. Claude de la Colombiere (preacher and confessor); all from 17th century France. At its height, devotion to the Sacred Heart amounted to a spontaneous Jesus movement in the Church continuing to the present, reflecting specifically on His humanity. This devotion was still going strong at the time our church was built.

St. Vincent de Paul was known for his dedication to the poor, especially poor urban youth. He was appointed to minister to the galley slaves who powered ships, and was abducted for a time to join their ranks. But in his earlier years, he sought little other than an opportunity to secure a comfortable life for himself. What changed it all for him was hearing the humble confession of a poor peasant.

Many saints had companions who shared their vision and charism. St. Francis of Assisi had St. Clare, St. Benedict had his sister St. Scholastica, St. Vincent de Paul had St. Louise de Marillac and the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Later, the Vincentian mission to the poor was promoted by Blessed Frederic Ozanam, who was beatified by St. John Paul II in 1997. Thanks to the pastoral zeal of St. Vincent, and Blessed Frederic Ozanam, a layman, the St. Vincent de Paul Society is now in over 153 countries, with over 800,000 active members. Closer to home, De Paul University in Chicago is, by enrolment, the largest Catholic university in North America. There are many churches dedicated to St. Vincent de Paul, including our own. At about the same time as our church was built, another larger (but never more beautiful) St. Vincent Church was built in Los Angeles, paid for by Edward L. Doheny, oil mogul with holdings in California, Mexico and Venezuela. The church was nicknamed “The Church of the Holy Oils.” At the consecration of the new church, Bishop Cantwell anointed the altar and interior walls of the church with the Sacred Chrism, according to ancient rite. He paced the entire perimeter of the church, in all his regalia, sprinkling holy water on the exterior walls. Whereupon his secretary whispered discreetly, “Bishop, Mrs. Doheny donated the landscaping.” Cantwell grabbed the aspergillum from the holy water bucket, gave three more shots in the general direction of the church, and added, “And the bushes are nice!”

Fr. Bill Donahue

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