Thursday, April 24, 2014

"The Snows" Continues to Melt

Welcome to Metro-East Spaceport!
The Bear has shocking and important news that forces him to set aside his regular programming. Our Lady of the Snows National Shrine in Belleville, Illinois has ceased serving its buffet! To a bear, this is dreadful.

First the Snows drastically scaled back its excellent gift shop. They offer almost no books now, having replaced that section with a coffee bar and overpriced Fair Trade gewgaws that seem to be gathering more dust than customers. Now they have entirely eliminated their legendary buffet. If the soup and salad bar for lunch goes, the Bear may have to start going to a mega-church for food. (Read that how you wish.)

The Bear did pick up this little item, though. It was in one of those plastic display stands on the table, where they advertise things like salted caramel ice cream and dubious programs. The Bear took the liberty of removing it and bringing it home to make sure he got it right. The following is a verbatim quote:

A Journey in Time
The Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith 
Learn how the understanding of Jesus of Nazareth evolved into the theological notion of Christ, the divine Son of God and Second Person of the Trinity.

The Bear and his mate had just picked up one of our sons from Lambert St. Louis International Airport, where he had flown in after a tour of military duty in South Korea. His twin brother was with us, himself an Army veteran of our country's adventure in Afghanistan. We had stopped by the Snows on the way home for supper. (Fortunately, their excellent Reuben sandwich is still available, and their St. Louis style chicken salad sandwich isn't bad, either.)

"Dad's getting riled up," the Korean son said, glad to see that nothing had changed during his absence.

"Dad's always riled up," the Afghanistan son said (accurately; I am not a Disney singing and dancing bear, but a real bear, like Bruno the Martyr).

What riled the Bear is the separation of "the Jesus of history" from "the Christ of Faith." The Catholic Church teaches they are one and the same. Jesus of Nazareth did not "evolve" into a "theological notion of Christ." If it was just a historical review of quashing heresies and establishing the dogma of the Holy Trinity, that would be legit. But it doesn't smell right. And Bears have excellent noses.

Some other courses offered in the program don't smell right, either.

Other Christianities 
The first three centuries of the Christian era were marked by a rich and fluid diversity of Christian communities with distinctive scriptures, beliefs, and practices. Recent literary and archaeological discoveries have given us a clearer view of some of these groups.

We used to call "other Christianities" heresies. It is true there were all sorts of bad ideas floating around, and still are. Somehow the Bear suspects these are going to be presented as reasonable variants. In any case, is this an edifying program for the general public?

MINDFULNESS: Sitting, Walking, Running the BUDDHIST WAY 
Join us as Venerable Sha'ul Hirschmann, Senior Priest at Blue Lotus Dharma Center in St. Louis, talks about Buddhism and mindfulness, whether in sitting, walking or running. Following Sha'ul's presentation, he will lead interested people in a meditative walk through the shrine grounds.

Mindful of the dangers of mixing Buddhism with the true Catholic religion, the Bear urges everyone to run, not walk, to a real Catholic program. There is a reproduction of the grotto of Lourdes on the grounds, which is an excellent place to sit and pray the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary the CATHOLIC WAY.

There is also one about "looking at ancient traditions with modern eyes" that deals with the Rosary and other devotions. The Bear hopes it is legit, but wonders how the Rosary looks different through modern eyes than through 19th century eyes. Perhaps it is just sneaky marketing to lure Buddholics into real devotions.

This is a national Marian shrine that is supposed to commemorate a 4th century meteorological miracle that led to the construction of the magnificent Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, one of the oldest churches honoring the Mother of God. The grounds are nice, but the architecture is, to put it charitably, dated in that regrettable way so many Catholic structures of the 1960s are dated.

The Bear took a moment to duck into the small chapel to calm down and give thanks for his son's safe return. In the front, there was one of those "resurrectifixes" where Jesus appears to have pulled his hands from the nails. This was was more horrible than usual, though. It appeared to be made of rusty pieces of junk welded together with an ugly, wraith-like creature lunging at the Bear from what he supposed might be a cross. Poor old Bear can't even sleep tonight! What it was supposed to inspire, besides nightmares, the Bear is not competent to judge, but he left as quickly as he came, and in no better mood.

The gift shop was downsized and the buffet was ended because "they weren't making money," according to Shrine employees. Good to know they still manage to keep serving up Buddhism and ancient heresies. One would think the business plan for a Catholic attraction would involve, you know, Catholicism. The label Catholic FAIL was invented for stories like this.


  1. Your story saddens me. I hope they get their act together. It would be terrible to ultimately lose the Shrine. Get away from the touchy feely stuff and perhaps they can right their ship.

  2. The place has been having questionable events for a few years. I remember they had the person the wrote "The Shack" there for a conference. Why? IMHO stay out of The Shack, and go to Mass! I think some of the bizarre events they are now hosting are mainly to "keep the lights on" and not geared (I hope) toward a Catholic audience. It's questionable, but I think they are just testing different bad ideas. When the boots and the dollars go they will either have to change again or close. I wonder what will be next?

    I really hate it that every time I go there it's less Catholic and more ecumenical. It's the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, does anyone think that's not Catholic?!!

    And, regarding the gift shop/coffee shop. If I want a cup of coffee I'm not driving to The Snows for it to sit at one of three tiny tables. Oh and if I want a beautiful basket from Ghana I'll go to Whole Foods, thank you very much. Give me back my darn book section. Now I just figure if I want something I have to drive across the river to Catholic Supply on Chippewa.

    OK, my screed is over. Thanks for listening everyone. (sigh)

  3. Yep. It is now The National Shrine to Modernism. And you're really telling me a Catholic book store and buffet can't make money in the most Catholic region of the country? The Bear must roar. PEOPLE WANT REAL CATHOLICISM, NOT YOUR DUMBED-DOWN CRAP. Make it Catholic and they will come. And after a couple of confessions there, the Bear wonders if the Missionary Oblates would not benefit from a Apostolic Visitation like LCWR got under Pope Benedict (a.k.a. the Bubble Pope -- hey, anything is possible in your personal Bubble! And what gos on in the Bubble stays in the Bubble.)

  4. They need a Richard Rohr program, and a "Finding the Divine Feminine Within (Men Only). That would right the ship.


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