Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Who shall acquire Augustine and buy Baraga?

The diocese of Cleveland, Ohio is liquidating parishes and selling off their possessions. Some of those affected are smaller, urban, ethnic parishes of pristine care and financial solvency, and are served by non-diocesan clergy. The ordinary of the diocese, Bishop Richard Lennon is unimpressed with each particular criterion, even when it is in conflict, nay in contradiction, of his rationale for suppression and extinction.

Infra (pictured below) are details of the first and the sixth or last window on the Saint Joseph side wall of Saint Lawrence Catholic Church, Cleveland. Saint Lawrence's parish is of slightly over a century in existence. The present church building was created before the second world war at the end of Hoover's Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt led the nation and Joseph Schrembs was archbishop of Cleveland.

The art in a church is more than atmosphere, more than decoration, and the degree of artfulness is not of primary or secondary importance. The art depicts the truths and teachings and commemorations of the faith. These two windows have no letters to read, but they are well identified and tell much.
The first is of a man and a child. The man wears a mitre (hat) of a bishop, and carries a book (Scripture) marked with a cross. But which bishop? and why is the child there? They are at a beach and the child has dug an impression into the earth near the shore. Now, if you are well read, or had a faithful and diligent sister as a grade school student, you must know it is Saint Augustine.

Now, Saint Augustine was bishop of Hippo (near Carthage, modern day Tunisia on the southern Mediterranean Sea) about the years on either side of A.D. 400. He was a doctor of the faith and church father, the foremost theologian of christianity before Saint Thomas Aquinas. He wrote much, one work was on the Trinity (De trinitate). He spent many years, on and off, in its composition; only on The City of God (De civitate Dei) did he spend more time.

One day he saw a child dig a hole in the sand, and asked why and what for. The child told Augustine that he wanted all the ocean put into the hole. Augustine enquired more of him, the child responded that it would be easier for the hole to contain all the seas, than for the mind of Augustine to comprehend all the Trinity. The child, an appearance of an angel, then was gone.

Still above the scene is a heart aflame, pierced with arrows for Augustine prayed, "Lord, you have wounded me with your Word." Writing is not needed on the window.

Frederic Baraga, Servant of God, *1797 †1868, was a missionary to the Chippewa (Ojibwa) and the first bishop of Marquette, Michigan. He wrote devotional books in Slovene, Ottawa and Chippewa. He was the grammarian of those indian languages. His ability as a polyglot was useful. On the south shore of Lake Superior his communicants were the indians, and the french, and the newer arrivals, to the iron and copper mines, that were irish and german. He traversed the frozen country in snowshoes. So the county that is about the mission he founded in 1843 at L'Anse, Michigan is, to-day, Baraga.

Baraga was born in Slovenija during the Napoleonic period, and was schooled in both the occupying german austrian and french languages. He went to law school in Vienna and became a priest in Ljubljana. In 1830 he went on to Cincinnati and was sent to Michigan, eventually he became, for several years, the only priest in upper Michigan. After years his visage resembled an indian. At the time and many years thereafter he was warmly remembered. There is an active cause for his canonisation.

Now, how will Bishop Lennon dispose of Saint Lawrence, and the images of the sainted, bishops Augustine and Frederic Baraga?

1 comment:

  1. What about the rest of the leaded windows? What will happen to these fine works of art? What a waste of brick, mortar and devotion of the St. Lawrence community.