The Two Pillars of the Church

August 18, 2014


St. John Bosco had a dream in which he was on a ship being tossed about by a sea storm. The ship rocked back and forth, almost cap-sizing. But this did not happen because two pillars guided the ship: one with the Blessed Virgin and the other with the Holy Eucharist. St. John Bosco interpreted the ship in his dream as the Church sailing through the seas of time during which it is often kicked about by tumultuous storms, threatening to cap-size the Bark of Peter. Sometimes it seems like the violence and indifference of history will have the last word. But with St. John Bosco we can embrace the hope that the Church has a glorious future dependent upon the care of our Blessed Mother and the Holy Eucharist, i.e. Christ’s presence among us, continually constituting us as His Mystical Body.

Unfortunately, many people do not realize this and so devotion to the Blessed Mother and Eucharistic Adoration fall by the wayside. Mary is seen as ‘our beloved sister’, one among us. The Eucharist is interpreted merely as a communal meal and not, more importantly, as the Bread of Salvation that makes us one Body. These interpretative tendencies may be symptomatic of the Church in America that, as Will Herberg eloquently argues in Protestant, Catholic, Jew, more often than not tacitly understands itself in Protestant denominational terms. Protestantism tends to fragmentation– just look at a denominational tree. This tendency was clear even within Luther’s own lifetime. A healthy Church must not participate in this. Rather, taking the advice of St. John Bosco, we must cling to the Bark of Peter, devoting ourselves to the Blessed Mother and to Christ in the Eucharist, the person who assimilates us into His Body. While the Archdiocese of Chicago has many examples of resistance to the Americanization that is deeply Protestant, I would like to acquaint you with two: St. Hyacinth’s Basilica and Mundelein Seminary.

I choose these two on a personal note. Last year, my wife and I were married in Poland on St. Hyacinth’s feast day, August 17th, and we currently go to St. Hyacinth’s Basilica on the Northwest Side of Chicago for Mass.  The neighborhood is even named after the saint; it is affectionately called “Jackowo.” Little known in the West, St. Hyacinth was a 13th century Dominican friar famously known as the “Apostle of the North.” He is typically depicted with a statue of the Blessed Mother and a monstrance. This is from a story that when Mongol invaders were laying siege to Kiev St. Hyacinth went into a chapel before the invaders burnt it lifting the heavy statue of Mary and the monstrance to a safe place. Why these? Consciously or not, he understood what is essential to the faith.

Recently moving to a suburb north of Chicago, my wife and I are not far from Mundelein Seminary. A grand theological vision is embodied in the seminary’s campus and buildings. Sharing in the sensibilities of St. Hyacinth and St. John Bosco, Cardinal Mundelein put Mary and the Blessed Sacrament on the two ends of his seminary campus. The Main Chapel, which occupies the highest place on campus, is devoted to the Blessed Mother. A chapel for perpetual Eucharistic adoration is on the other end of campus (i.e. Marytown). Simply in the design of the seminary campus, Cardinal Mundelein was making a concrete statement of what should be the basis of his seminarians’ lives. They should be the basis of everyone’s life. The health of the Body of Christ is dependent upon these devotions. St. John Bosco, St. Hyacinth, and Cardinal Mundelein got this; hopefully, we will too.