We made this decision at about 9:30 a.m., so I decided that we would find an evening mass in Chicago. Which we did, via Mass Times.
Weren't sure of what we'd get, nor what kind of neighborhood we'd end up in, but we were mostly concerned with getting to mass, period.
Here's what we got:
What church is this? St. Michael's in the Old Town (Lincoln Park) area of Chicago.
Now, I'm sure people reading this have seen more spectacular Catholic churches than this....and everyone is going to have different opinions about what makes a church noteworthy. For example, while the outside of Notre Dame in Paris is stunning (I've been there twice), I believe the inside to be a big yawn (notwithstanding the really cool burials in there.)
But for us, my husband and I both agreed this church rates in our top three. In our limited experience, the only place we've seen that tops this is the new cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri.
And by the way, to all the people who think St. John Cantius in Chicago is so beautiful? It is. But this place kicks its butt.
When we walked in, it took our breath away. (And sorry for the bad photos, my phone camera isn't great.) Of course, like most things, you kinda have to be there to see it for yourself.
But here's what's interesting: Our five year old son, who normally can't wait for mass to end, was taken in the entire mass with the spectacular surroundings, constantly interrupting to ask us questions. His predominant question was about the huge statue of St. Michael the Archangel that looms over the altar, with a really creepy figure of Satan being crushed under his feet (the pictures don't show this well or at all.) In response, he whispered to us that he said the prayer to St. Michael twice.
And then he said to us that he wished he could go to mass everyday!
OK, we all know that was a momentary thing and that he'll be whining about not wanting to go next weekend. But there was something about a place so grand, so spectacular, so filled with imagery and things to ponder, that even a small child grasped that there was something bigger than himself.
Later on, while we were driving back home to Milwaukee, I did note to John than there are people who would legitimately feel overwhelmed with such ornateness. I believe that if we explored some of the reasoning behind the post-Vatican II church architecture, such overwhelming church decor was likely a piece of the pie.
But as is so often the case, this is all cyclical. My generation and a couple below me are intrigued and thrilled with this kind of art and richness. In future generations, there will probably be a pull towards simplicity again. At least that's how I see it.
Incidentally, we could immediately detect from the liturgy and church bulletin that St. Michael's is a parish on the liberal side of things. A previous incarnation of me could have blogged here a complete list of everything wrong that I saw there, but I'm trying to not do that anymore unless it's really heinous. Besides, God played a trick on me! The priest gave a sermon that made my husband and I raise an eyebrow or two. (Not gonna say why, but trust me.) So when we left and shook hands with the priest and told him we were visiting, guess what we discovered? He's the main priest writer from one of my most beloved and helpful publications: Scrupulous Anonymous. Just goes to prove that one can't guess how God works through people in different ways and at different times for different reasons.
What are the most beautiful Catholic churches you've been to? Here in the Milwaukee area, we have the magnificent Basilica of St. Josaphat (probably near the top of our list), as well as the Basilica of Holy Hill, which (in my opinion) is much more impressive for its outdoor setting than what's inside. There's also a church in downtown Milwaukee - Old St. Mary's - that is beautiful in a sort of standard, ordinary way.