Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Father Eugene the Snows Blessing Priest

Today the Bear had to see his veterinarian in Belleville, Illinois. (Believe it or not, not just any vet treats Bears.) This permitted a visit to Our Lady of the Snows National Shrine.

Normally, a post on OLS would be an occasion for complaints by the Bear. However, the hideous, rusted iron abomination featuring tentacles that served as a crucifix in the chapel of Hope and Healing has been replaced by a much less hideous rusted iron abomination featuring a figure in a grass miniskirt.

Trust the Bear -- it's a great improvement.

It was also a good visit because the Bear's mate bought him a Miraculous Medal for his birthday! And a St. Dymphna pocket coin. (It will join his St. Benedict Medal coin, so anyone rifling through his pockets may conclude he is a crazy Benedictine oblate.)

And lucky for us, Fr. Eugene the Blessing Priest was on duty.

Fr. Eugene regularly sets up outside the gift shop (still inside the building) and blesses purchases. The Bear suspects he is one of their retired Missionary Oblate priests; at any rate he is is quite old. He has an expansive personality the Bear finds attractive.

He greeted us by telling us not to be afraid of a book he was reading, entitled Zen and the Body. It's for a Tai Chi class which he said wasn't doing him any good. "It's free, though," he added, "so the price is right."

When we got to the blessing part, Fr. Eugene did not so much "read the black" as allude to various sections in a binder filled with photocopied pages. They included an epistle, a mini-homily and (eventually) a blessing. It was charming, actually, because he was sincere, and maybe because it is nice to see someone feeling useful. (The Bear is sensitive to this since his involuntary retirement.) The Bear suspects any shortcuts were a concession to our assumed short attention span.

At one point he said, "and here we have the prayer of the faithful for various things, such as" -- dropping his voice and shaking his head -- "same sex marriage." The Bear is still puzzling over what the intercession actually was. You never know these days. At any rate, it was clear Fr. Eugene was not a fan.

The Bear had originally intended to describe Fr. Eugene as "colorful." But the Bear's mate gently corrected him to use the word "sweet." And she's right. Fr. Eugene was saying the rosary when we came up, and, despite being clearly over eighty, he stood for the entire blessing. The Bear prays that God grants him many years in his gift shop ministry.

Pope Francis Bobblehead

The gift shop is a mere shadow of its former self. They tell me people do all their shopping online. However convenient shopping at the click of a banner is, the Bear is a bit skeptical. Is browsing dead? Impulse buys? Is there no obligation by a Catholic order at a national shrine to stock an edifying collection of books, as well as Pope Francis bobbleheads? (Oh, so many snarks must be strangled on the altar of good taste!)

But the Bear did find one treasure. Anyone remember these? It was originally published in 1954, what surely seems like a Golden Age of American Catholicism. There were other Confraternity titles, too. Some of them, the Bear recalls, were filled with engravings of a man in a suit carrying a cross and otherwise acting out Christian scenes. Just solid Catholic formation in a time when Catholics were presumed to care about such things.

It seems so long ago. Far too long.

Confraternity of the Precious Blood


  1. Happy Birthday Bear!
    And may you always rest in God's care.

  2. I've got a 1954 edition of "My Daily Bread" found on eBay for a pittance. I love it.

  3. Not to put a damper on a lovely post, but, on a recent visit to OLS I noticed they were selling batik scarves with Sanskrit printed on them! Who knows what they said! IMHO they shouldn't be selling Hindu items. :(

  4. Visited the Shrine last year and attended Mass. No server. Ugly and uninspiring worship space. The three 'projections' seem to mean all are equal? They would be the ambo, the altar, and the piano. Do not care for the baptismal fountain either. Wood tabernacle off to the side as I recall.

  5. The astethics of the OLS church are indeed awful. But the mass is usually celebrated decently. Most weekday masses are simple by the book affairs at most parishes.

  6. The masses there are tolerable, especially the weekday ones, which are indeed quite simple. The photograph of the awful crucifix was from the "Chapel of Hope and Healing" -- a tiny room just past the bathrooms and opposite the gift shop in different building than the church.


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