Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Visit to St. John Cantius

Last Wednesday my family took me on a day trip to Chicago to visit St. John Cantius Parish run by the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, for my birthday. It was truly amazing, breathtaking, and overwhelming.

We arrived there just after vespers; entering into this beautiful church to the sound of about twelve men singing the prayers of the church.

Afterwards they all left for dinner, and our family stayed to take a look around. We got a chance to meet briefly with the Pastor of the parish and Superior of the order, Fr. Phillips, until he left to eat.

The church is such a testament to what their order's mission is: to bring back the sacred in every aspect of our Liturgy. The place is just gorgeous. It contains many different pieces rescued from closing churches and parishes throughout Europe- including a "pieta" from Bavaria and statues of Padre Pio, St. Therese, and so much more.

After we had a look around (the church was empty while we were there) we sat in the first few rows of pews to pray. I picked a row off by myself, and my parents gave me some extra time to go and pray by myself.

At this point I was feeling very overwhelmed. The thought of being colleagues with these men, and possibly spending the rest of my life here was too much. I felt so tiny and insignificant compared to the church and the order. How could I be worthy enough to stay there? I asked God to give me some sort of sign or something to make me not feel so overwhelmed.

When I was done praying we went back to the car to relax a little before Mass (which was in only half an hour). Then we came back in for Mass. On our way in we met a priest who heard from Fr. Phillips that we were from Michigan; he talked to us and my dad told him why we came to visit.

The priest immediately took me for a tour in the sacristy to show me all of the vestments and sacred vessels stored there. We entered into this giant room to the left of the altar and the room is just filled from floor to ceiling with wooden shelves and closets holding vestments of all sorts. He showed me beautiful sets of vestments from Italy and Poland that are over a hundred years old, with beautiful lace and gold details. He showed me the chalices and ciboriums held in a special shelf and we met another priest setting vestments out for Mass (low Tridentine Mass).

Then he took me to a small door that led behind the altar. There was a small dark hallway that led right behind the tabernacle. The tabernacle is double sided and opens up into this hallway where any priest can come and get Holy Communion and go on a sick call, or whatever the circumstance is, while Mass is being celebrated. There is also a flip up table back by the tabernacle and the priest joked that if anyone were to attack Chicago they could still say Mass back there in secret. =D

We kept following the hallway into another sacristy that had even more closets and shelves holding more vestments, surplices and cassocks (but not as nice as the ones in the first room). Then afterwards we talked a little bit and I told him how I was interested in the order. He talked to me a little bit about it, and then I left because he had to go prepare for Mass (he was serving).

While I was back out praying in the pews before Mass, Fr. Phillips came over to me and talked to me, asking me about my interest in the order and telling me that if I ever want to take a "vocational visit" I should just contact him and he'll work it out. Not much more I could ask for than that!

If I thought getting a tour of the sacristy and meeting talking to Fr. Phillips were the only signs from God that I was going to get that day, I was wrong!

Two minutes later Fr. Phillips came back out and thumped me on my shoulder (I was praying with my hands over my face so I didn't see him coming). He had a book that was just released showing and explaining the art and architecture of St. John Cantius. He handed it to me with a smile and said, "Now don't say I never gave you nuthin' on your birthday!"

The Mass was beautiful. The most beautiful Tridentine Mass I've ever been to. I didn't want it to end. It is something that cannot be described, but has to be experienced and lived. Something I wish to share with every person I come into contact with, but few seek or even know this feeling. The feeling I'm talking about is Love. It is God.

Whether I will join the order or not, I leave the whole experience and visit all up to God.

His will be done.