July 1, 2010 also marks the Fifth Anniversary of the founding of St. Francis de Sales as an Oratory of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. Though the priests of the Institute began their work in St. Louis at St. Agatha Church (the very beautiful former home of what used to be known as the "indult" Latin Mass community), they officially assumed charge of the former St. Francis de Sales Parish on July 1, 2005.
I remember clearly the very first Mass celebrated there, a low Mass said on Friday, July 1, the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord, by Canon Karl W. Lenhardt, the first Rector of the Oratory. I had only begun to consistently attend the traditional Mass in May of that year, and was blessed enough to be able to go to daily Mass on a regular basis. As the TLM really was a means of deeper conversion for me while the Institute was still at St. Agatha's, I had developed a strong attachment to that Church, even though I had only attended for a short time. The painting of St. Agatha above the high altar is very beautiful, and the association I have of it with my "trad-conversion" is so strong that I still can picture it above just about any altar where the traditional Mass is said.
So, not knowing what to expect at de Sales, I arrived before 8 am Mass that day and was immediately struck with the vastness and grandeur of the Oratory. It is an undeniably majestic and beautiful setting for the Holy Mass. And when I entered, I looked to my left and there near the entrance was a stained glass window depicting-- of all things-- St. Agatha. I took it as a sign that all was for the best.
Of course, the work of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest is about much, much more than the building where its priests celebrate Mass. But anyone who has read this blog for two days will likely have the idea that I am a wholehearted supporter of its mission and work. I give the Institute much credit for giving me the Catholic faith, whole and entire, in a way that I had not known it before. Though there are many external reasons for this, perhaps, I don't want to insinuate that anyone but myself was to blame for my lack of fidelity and charity in the past. But the Salesian spirituality of the Institute was for me the perfect vehicle to begin the journey towards holiness.
I pray that God bless abundantly the Institute and all those who come in contact with it. Happy Anniversary to the Oratory.