|St. Francis of Assisi Church, Teutopolis, Illinois|
We may have found the crown jewel of the Belleville Diocese. Near Effingham, in southern Illinois, at the crossroads of Interstates 57 and 70 is a tiny village known as Teutopolis. The only church in town is St. Francis of Assisi. It is gorgeous, richly decorated in statues and stained glass. The photo does not do it justice. Perhaps because it was in the middle of nowhere, cherished by stubborn German farmers, Vatican II barely brushed by it.
If your travels take you through Effingham, a detour to visit St. Francis of Assisi is well worth it.
Any other little known treasures in the Belleville Diocese?
The Bear once visited the Opus Dei house in Kirkwood, on the other side of the river. At least he believes it was Kirkwood. It was like a club for the well-to-do. There was a letter hand written by St. Josemaria Escriva hanging on the wall. Everyone was friendly. The Bear was paired up with a state official from Missouri, he presumed because we were both lawyers, but it could have been for some other reason.
People made lengthy confessions to their spiritual advisers. The Bear seems to recall some had journals. The sacred Host was exposed and the priest gave a long address, directing comments to Jesus, as if he were present. Which, of course, he was. At the end everyone sang Pange Lingua. The Bear did not remember it then. But it was a very moving experience to be surrounded by dedicated men, hearing male voices singing in Latin.
The Bear will not say he felt recruited at that point, but did get the impression people would welcome him if he came back. Saying your name back to you, as if really memorizing it for next time. Everybody introduced himself. Little things like that. And there was food. Probably nothing you wouldn't encounter at a Rotary Club meeting, though. The Bear doesn't get out much.
There is a little story that goes with that, one you might find interesting. If nothing else, it goes to show what a strange world we live in.
The day after the Bear called up Opus Dei, he received a friendly email with local contact information. The very next day my mate and I took a trip to Mens' Wearhouse. (Didn't you know they have a Bear section in the back?)
When we came out we found, in the space next to our, a car with the license plate OPUS DEI. That's the kind of thing that messes with your mind. If you figure the number of licensed vehicles in the state of Illinois and the brief time we were parked there, the chances of that being a coincidence are essentially zero. Especially since the driver was "just passing through" from Chicago. (Don't ask how the Bear found that out.)
If it was a sign, the Bear ignored it, though. The "vibe" wasn't quite Bearish. He went on to become a Benedictine Oblate.