Gorgeous New Orleans Church Accents Importance Of Statues, Relics Of Saints
By Michael H. Brown
I don't go for a lot of things. I don't go for folks spreading flyers against priests. I don't go for those who -- if reports are correct -- have cursed at deacons, or walked out because a deacon was allowed to proclaim the Gospel. I don't go for those who shout "sacrilege" because the Precious Blood is offered. And we do get these reports: folks directly attacking priests.
But at the same time I have to say that the Church must urgently return to its traditional sanctity in order to restore holiness and that those who don't think the way an altar looks is important, who don't think statues matter, who think devotion is a thing of the past, would do well to visit St. Mary's Assumption Church in the heart of New Orleans.
It is one of the most gorgeous churches I have seen in all the United States and the awesome feeling comes in large part because of its decor, because of its the reverence, and because of its statues.
It was when we got rid of statues and when that sense of holiness was lost that the pews emptied and sin entered our sanctuaries.
There are at least thirty large statues near the altar of the New Orleans church and more clustered throughout the building and you can tell that God honors that, you can tell that He honors such devotion, and you can also tell that when their statues are present, so are the saints and angels. Here, you will find accounts of folks who feel that presence and speak about the miracles associated with it.
Especially, there is the large statue of Mary in a back room -- and above all there is a huge main Crucifix.
What a place this is: a towering altar with the Trinity atop, with an illuminated cross, with the angels and saints, with Mary, and if that isn't enough to power a place, there is a side chapel with the remains of a beatified priest who once served there, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, who I am betting will soon be "saint." He is currently up for canonization.
And for good reason: the reports of his intercession are many. A current case before the Vatican involved a girl who was all but left for dead or the very least life in a vegetative state from severe encephalitis but who against those medical expectations suddenly showed eye movement when the replica of a cross Blessed Seelos used was passed in front of her.
The case is extremely well-documented if for no other reason than that one of her aunts -- who was there praying -- is a doctor (her story is in The God of Miracles).
"It's been an extraordinary ministry," says Father Byron Miller, vice-postulator of Blessed Seelos' cause. "I have heard and witnessed some powerful things. Not everyone gets exactly what they want -- but if they don't, they receive the peace to accept it."
The administrator of the chapel, Joyce Bourgeois, saw what she believes was the intercession of Blessed Seelos when her own daughter survived meningococcal meningitis, against the projections of medical science.
And so we observe the power of his presence. We see the worth of relics. It is not superstition. Our entire Church needs to know this: if we brought back statues and if we honored and believed in saints more, if we deepened devotion, as we have such an opportunity to do this holiest of weeks, we would achieve the kind of feeling that attracts folks back to the pews.
Bring those statues back! Bring back those novenas! Most of all, bring back the prominence of the Blessed Sacrament.
There are those who even say they have seen Blessed Seelos in apparition, including children who have described what he wore (he died in 1867).
And during the recent catastrophe, the church survived with relatively minor damage.
Across the street, at St. Alphonsus Church -- where Blessed Seelos had been known to hear Confession -- the roof and a cross were lifted up during Katrina, landing a few yards in front of a statue of Blessed Seelos in a courtyard. The cross planted itself right there in the ground in the direct line of his gaze. You can call that a chance event. I don't believe in coincidence.
These things count, dear friends. Go ahead: pray at the tomb (left). These things count for grace. They count for miracles. Let us savor the removal of the purple cloths over the statues this weekend -- in those churches that still have them -- and invoke the saints as never before at this time when they seek so ardently to intercede and when they show themselves even in the midst of devastation.
[selective writing from Blessed Seelos: "This life is full of obstacles, difficulties for one whose purpose is the close following of Christ. O how few start on this road of the following of Christ! And for this reason it may sometimes appear that the true Christian life is something excessive. Our poor human nature may even call it at times a stupidity to despise a pleasure for God. It is as if somebody said to us: 'How stupid you are to deny yourselves all innocent pleasures which others enjoy without scruple of conscience. Do you only want to go to Heaven? O what a dry, uninteresting form of existence!' To such whisperings of the devil, you must never pay attention."]
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