Monday, September 1, 2014

Hidden Treasure

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?

Opus Dei

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.


  1. It's been decades since I've been inside but St. Mary's in Alton, IL was just as beautiful. At the time, Msgr. Suddes kept the ravages of the 70's to a minimum. We used to attend Mass there as the Msgr. only said the now-EF Mass.

  2. I will be passing through in a couple of weeks on I-70 and will see if we can stop. Plan to stop at Our Lady of the Snows and also the Belleville Cathedral where I stopped 14 years ago and spent several hours alone in there with the Lord and thought it a lovely church. No other humans came to visit. I wonder if it is open during the day?

    1. M. Prodigal, although as a rule I love a richly-decorated church interior, I too find St. Peter's Cathedral in Belleville exceptionally beautiful. Its grey stone interior is relatively austere - reminding me somewhat of the medieval churches I visited years ago in France, whose lack of interior ornamentation astonished me - but it is bright with natural light and so very graceful and conducive to contemplation. Being there when it is hushed and nearly empty is indeed a memorable experience. There used to be a weekday Mass there at 12:10 pm, but on the Cathedral website I see that the weekday Mass is now at 6:45 am.

  3. We always enjoy the Snows, although the book store has suffered greatly, from competition by online booksellers, I have been told. You'll have to hunt for Teutopolis (they call it "T-Town" up there). There used to be a seminary or something there, and there is a museum, but we never caught it when it was open.

  4. Well, Opus Dei isn't for everyone--it's a small part of the Lord's vineyard.

    A slight correction--Opus Dei members only confess to priests in the sacrament of Confession.

    God bless!

  5. I was not privy to exactly what was going on, whether spiritual direction from the priest and/or confession. The reason I didn't go back was it seemed very disciplined and serious. Perhaps a bit more of a commitment than I was prepared to make. But it was a memorable evening!


  6. I understand. We take the Faith very seriously, as I can see you do too! But there's room for lots of laughs, too, but you know that as well.


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