Last week my dad and I went to daily Mass in Paw Paw. We were planing on visiting St. Anne's Chapel in Lawton while we were there, so I asked Fr. Stanley if he could get us inside to take a look (He knows the couple whose property it is on).
One of the days we were at Mass we noticed a man (who I thought looked like a canon from St. John Cantius) in the back of the church who was in cassock and collar with a rosary on his cincture. Sure enough, he was: Brother Chad! Brother Chad was in Michigan on retreat to take care of the grounds around St. Anne's. Fr. Stanley talked to him and asked if he could show my dad and I inside St. Anne's.
Brother Chad was more than happy to give us a tour and talk with us, so about half an hour after Mass we met with him at the chapel. The chapel is just gorgeous inside!!! Amazing! He was one of two men who built the chapel. The chapel is designed after the polish mountain chapel.
It is intended to have a nailed on wood roof with no metal on top. But after the first rainstorm it drenched the inside. So Brother Chad and a few others spent almost a month caulking every crack in the roof. After that it leaked a little bit. Eventually the Superior, Fr. Phillips, decided that they would put on a copper roof over top of plywood. This caused so much additional weight that the walls started to bend out. They put in more braces at the top of the roof and put iron tension beams from one wall to the other to bring the walls back in.
Regardless of the beams and such, it is a beautiful little chapel! It has a choir set up before the altar rails and even has a small choir loft with an organ in the back of the chapel. It is such a wonderful place to send these priests and brothers away on retreat from the city!
We had a chance to talk with Brother Chad about vocations for about a hour and a half. It was just what I needed. I needed to talk to someone and ask them questions about SJC after my visit there a few weeks ago. He answered all of my questions and was very helpful.
Brother Chad is a very holy and loving man. They all are at SJC! We told him, "Ya know, we've noticed that you guys are always so joyful!" He replied with, "Well, I just think we're down-to-earth!" That's exactly it! The men of St. John Cantius are just "down-to-earth," joyful men. They love God and the church's liturgy, but they do not approach it with faces and attitudes of such somber seriousness as others do. They are joyful in their works and liturgies while still being very serious about them. They are just regular guys who are called to be priests and brothers.
Brother Chad gave a very wonderful analogy that I thought I'd share with you. It helps me to explain why I'm interested in SJC and their works. Along with how they fit into the church and it's mission.
He said that the church is the Body of Christ. So to have a body you need a heart, and that's the cloistered nuns and monks who pray for us who can't pray all of the time. They pump the blood (the faith) out to everyone else. The skin is the laity. The laity (or skin) is what everyone sees, it is the face of the church. We need lots of people to be laity so that they can spread the good news and live a christian life. Likewise, we don't need as many people to be the heart and live a cloistered life. Then all of the other religious are at different locations in the body, the diocesan priests are like the muscles who are closest to the skin (we need lots of muscles, but not as much as we need skin), while the deeper you go into the body the more of a monastic life you live until you reach the heart. Brother Chad said that the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius are like the veins that bring out the faith from the heart to the rest of the religious on to the laity.
This is why I find SJC so appealing! They set an example for other religious who in turn set an example for the laity! They live both a monastic and a diocesan lifestyle. They minister to people, yet their mission is to keep that Catholic bloodline pumping out to the rest of us.
It was an excellent visit and an excellent talk. Just another push from God.