Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Remembering St. Olaf, the Downtown Church

Icon: St. Xenia of Petersburg, Fool for Christ

St. Olaf in Downtown Minneapolis used to be my parish when Monsignor Flemming was pastor. I have some fond memories from back then. The Church has changed physically with the latest renovations, but the spirit of the parishoners has remained as vital as ever. It's a good parish, always noted for its middle of the road stance, welcoming everyone, conservative and liberal alike. It's mission in the heart of Downtown Minneapolis is essential, the Church is a haven amidst the hustle and bustle of city life, a real 'soul saver' offering the sacraments to people who may not otherwise receive them.

I posted a picture of St. Xenia, because I think of many types like her that worshipped with me at St. Olaf. Lovely and holy people in their own right, or so I am convinced.

One woman, Mary Ellen, always edified me. She would call out, "I want to be a nun in Rochester!" Sometimes Monsignor would quiet her down at Mass by saying, "Now, now, Mary Ellen, keep quiet." Once she turned and saw me coming in for confession during noon Mass wearing shorts and she yelled at me, "You can't wear shorts in Church!" I mouthed "Shut up!" back at her and she just smiled at me and turned around. She always smiled at me. Once she was next to me and wasn't approaching Communion, I patronizingly thought that she was too simple to have any sin that could keep her from Communion and I whispered something to that effect. She blasted me with, "How dare you! You don't know my soul!" She so much put me in my place.

There was another woman, very anorexic who went to confession every day, sometimes three times in a row. She would dissapear for some time and when I saw her again she would have new clothes and would have gained weight, I figured out she had been hospitalized and her medication adjusted, since she seemed much more peaceful and less agitated. I see the same woman now at St. Agnes where I believe she has found some stability.

Once, before the chapel was built I was in the main Church for adoration. (It was around the time "Brother Son, Sister Moon" had come out, when Francis took off all of his clothes and laid them at his father's feet.) This man walked up slowly towards the altar, I heard gasps and looked out of the corner of my eye to see what was going on. The guy was stark naked and suddenly prostrated himself on the floor before the Blessed Sacrament. The old ladies were gasping and so I knew they would fetch someone to take care of the matter, and I laughed out loud.

I have fond memories indeed of the old St. Olaf's. It's a lot more slick these days. I don't care for the renovated sanctuary - it reminds me of the Mormom Tabernacle. Everyone else I know still likes it. It doesn't matter, it's a good parish.

July 29 and 30 St. Olaf is celebrating their patronal feast as well as their 65 year anniversary. What an appropriate time for their new pastor, Fr. Mark Pavlik to be installed by Archbishop Harry Flynn. See Ray's post at Stella Borealis for all of the details.

1 comment:

  1. You sure have met interesting folks on your spiritual journey, Terry.

    And now that I think of it, I would say the most "interesting" whom I have met were also at St Olaf's during Msgr Fleming's tenure. We were probably there at the same time. I later left for the Basilica.

    That parish has done well for itself with good pastors and good parishioners. They have an "associate membership" category for the 200,000 who work downtown and use St Olaf's for their Holy Days of obligation, Lenten and Advent devotions and other devotions throughout the year.

    And their ministry to the recent African immigrants to the Twin Cities and to parishes in Africa is something special, also.

    Their African Mass on the third Sunday of each month at noon is worth a visit to see how the third world celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


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