21 January 2014

Sacred Space in the Gateway to the West

As I promised to do before all the excitement of last weekend began here at thetimmansion, here are a link and excerpts from a nice article in the National Catholic Register about St. Francis de Sales Oratory.

After describing how SFdS was slated to close in 2005, along with several other parishes, the writer, Mary Frances Moen describes the actions of Cardinal Burke:

...When the newly appointed archbishop of St. Louis, now-Cardinal Raymond Burke, toured these empty churches, St. Francis de Sales caught his eye. Despite the dilapidated condition of the church, the elegantly designed interior and exterior most likely made an impression on him, as well as the over-300-foot-tall spire.

How could the archdiocese destroy a high altar that tops 50 feet, the side baptistery decked with walls of Byzantine-style mosaics and the European Gothic style of the pointed and arched stained-glass windows?

The 130-foot-long aisle is one of the longest in St. Louis, and the interior is uniquely German, with its ceilings over the side aisles almost as high as those over the main aisle. The generic wooden statues are complemented by the ceiling frescoes modeled after those in the Gothic churches of Germany, although none of them shine so brightly as the north transept altar to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Could they take all of that down, as well as the Shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes in front of the church?

The new archbishop could not let such a treasure go, so he called in an order that he knew could restore this church to its former glory. During his time as bishop of La Crosse, Wis., Cardinal Burke successfully worked with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest to restore a church in Wausau, Wis. Through his efforts, he erected St. Francis de Sales as an oratory of the order; the oratory serves the Archdiocese of St. Louis as a center for the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. The Institute of Christ the King set to work on cleaning and restoring St. Francis de Sales in July 2005.

The sanctuary has been restored for the daily celebration of the liturgy; the sacristy has also been restored. The sacristy was a priority for the institute because that is where priests prepare for their most important role. It is now a beautiful red, painted in the style of St. Louis IX’s chapel, and restored with a counter from another church that closed. The altar in the sacristy is used for priests in the area to practice the traditional rite. The pulpit was moved from the middle of the church to the front, and the institute added two new confessionals. While there is more cleaning and repairs to do, the magnificent design of the church remains the same.

Traditional Mass

Restoration isn’t the only thing that the Institute of Christ the King does well. It is also in the business of restoring the traditional Mass. The institute’s charism is to celebrate the liturgy to the fullest, and since they’ve taken charge of St. Francis de Sales, 600 to 1,000 people are drawn to the oratory every Sunday. The average family drives 20 miles to get there, and the median age of the congregation is 30 years old.

In addition to the St. Francis de Sales-like preaching (the bishop-writer’s feast day is Jan. 24), with truth covered in charity, the oratory feeds souls with confession, adoration, daily Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. The neighborhood around the church has also improved since the Institute of Christ the King entered the picture. A school and a day-care center were put in next door, which has brought new life to the campus.

At St. Francis Oratory, one can contemplate truth and discern how — as St. Francis de Sales himself put it — to "be who you are and be that well."


thetimman said...

Of course, the Feast of St. Francis de Sales is January 29; Ms. Moen gives the Jan. 24 date of the altered Calendar used in the n.o.

Anonymous said...

There is a very entertaining discussion going on at http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/sacred-space-in-gateway-to-the-west/.

Barto of the Oratory said...

Cardinal Burke saved St. Francis de Sales, but he lost St. Stanislaus Kostka.

Athelstane said...

St. Stanislaus Kostka lost itself.

JBQ said...

Hoozah to now Cardinal Burke for his dedication. I went to his "removal" Mass on August 18, 2008 at the Basilica. The name of Cardinal Glennon is on the cornerstone. I verified through Canon Weiner that the green medallion in the steeple and the bishop statue in the church are both most likely of the red bearded St. Patrick. At that time, there was a German-Irish conflict and Glennon worked out a French compromise. I wholeheartedly support the mission of St. Fr de Sales.