Restoring True Beauty

By: Monsignor Bradley Offutt
Chancellor of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

 Monsignor Bradley Offutt
Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

There is a little known, though remarkable, building on the corner of 8th and Cherry streets in downtown Kansas City. For all of its 133 years, the building has been called Saint Patrick Church and it is undergoing yet another renascence these days. Bishop Finn took stock of the venerable old place some time back and determined that to save Saint Patrick from creeping dereliction, and to answer the long hopes of the "Traditional" Catholic community in our Diocese, he would offer Saint Patrick to the Latin Mass folks as a permanent home if they would undertake its renovation. The leadership of that community took-up the Bishop's offer with an astonishing alacrity. As they put their shoulders into the hard work of wresting old Saint Patrick from the claws of urban decay it became crystal clear that the church would need a complete refurnishing if it was to meet its new (and old) purpose.

Toward that end I telephonically scoured the country looking for bargains to stuff into old Saint Patrick. Eventually I landed in Boston where as lovely a Christian lady as one could ever find motored me from one closed church to another. Every one of them was a grand edifice sadly moldering in the New England winter. The parochial life had drained out of them until they had become like ecclesiastical carrion waiting for buzzards like me to pick them clean of their treasures. Truth to tell, my journey had not been successful until my Boston tour guide led me to a shuttered church called Saint Mary Star of the Sea. Then, as the doors creaked open and we nimbled up a cobwebbed iron staircase, a feeling descended upon me. I turned the corner to spy yet another sanctuary full of Boston detritus and thought to myself, "This is it." Fortunately, Bishop Finn and the Institute of Christ the King, the religious community that ably pastors the Latin language community in our Diocese, agreed. Arrangements were quickly made to dismantle and transport thirty-three thousand pounds of donated marble church furniture from Beantown to Cowtown.

All that transpired over two years ago. Since then a small army of extraordinarily dedicated Catholics have poured buckets full of sweat and money into old Saint Patrick. One of their most recent accomplishments is the reconstruction of the aforementioned Boston altars in their Kansas City church. On a recent sunny Sunday morning I was in that church, alone, walking around and looking for problems. I found a few small ones which will be easily remedied. But as I admired that reborn main altar, gleaming white and gold in the Midwestern morning light, its wide-eyed angels smiling at me from twenty feet in the air, I contemplated a larger and different problem. I considered the artful talent it took to conceive and build such fine liturgical hardware. I thought of the considerable grit it took for Boston Catholics to purchase it so long ago and for Kansas City Catholics to rescue it today. And for all the beauty of the seventeen tons of fairly dramatic history sitting fresh and square before me, I thought of how your faith, and my faith, is alloyed with a hubris that makes our piety like a morning cloud, like dew that passes away.

Given the complexity of life, and the inevitable distance between experience and understanding, reasonable people can well enough see why piety soon yields to practical problem solving. But blessed are the people who come to sense that their piety and their problems are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they can be very much the same thing. Insofar as we learn to baptize our challenges, to dissolve the distance between religion and the rest of life, we learn the meaning of the words, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

Like everything else under the sun, the religious dimension of life is prone to drudgery. Our preoccupations and prejudices pull external observance into droll obligation until it all obtains a patina not so unlike a museum exhibit. This is what Hosea and Jesus protest in the readings this weekend.

There must be an acute connection between the beauty of our altars and the beauty of our lives. There must be a constant, conscious integration of the sacrifice of Christ and the merciful sacrifices we are called to make. If this beauty, this integration, is alive in us, the life of faith becomes most compelling. It is better than sexual gratification. It is better than money and its charms. There is even a peculiarly delicious joy in considering one's failures and reading, I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.

Reprinted with permission of the Kansas City Key.

Posted November 12, 2006

of the
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph

On the Passage of Amendment 2 by Missouri Voters

Over the last months, the Catholic Church has had the privilege of working and praying with many groups and individuals of faith and good will to educate Missourians about the intrinsic evils of human cloning and destructive embryonic research.

Though we made great progress in helping more and more citizens discover the dangers of this seriously flawed proposal, we failed in the end to overcome the formidable material resources of its proponents.

In Missouri, we have lost a significant battle for the protection of human life. The $30 million dollar campaign for Amendment 2 will come to be regarded as the Roe v. Wade of human cloning and will divert attention and public funds from already successful adult stem cell research. It will erode respect for unborn life and our appreciation of the way human life is to come into the world. The provisions of the amendment will enrich the biotech industry long before it succeeds in bringing about life-saving cures.

The Catholic Church stands by its unparalleled heritage of compassionate health care and pledges continuing support for good science and ethical stem cell research.

Posted September 16, 2006

The touring Pilgrim Fatima Statue has been in the Kansas City area for the last several weeks and made a stop at several Oratory members homes for Fatima Devotions.

One small group gathered at the Quastler home for a video presentation on the history of the Fatima apparitions and about Our Lady's promises and warnings. The rosary was led by Father Buchholz along with the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some of those present were left to right, Steve Martinez, Marc Lacelle (the coordinator of the America Needs Fatima Campaign of the American TFP organization), who kindly brought the statue to Kansas City, Father Denis Buchholz and the hostess for the evening, Robin Quastler.

Posted September 5, 2006

The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles entertained family members and friends at a Labor Day week-end picnic and activities.... numerous Oratory members attend.

All 14 sisters entertained their families and guests from Kansas City and surrounding areas and those who came many miles from around the country. About 100 persons attended the event. It was a week-end of great happiness for those who were there.

Former Oratory members Sr. Gemma (Miriam Wilson, daughter of David and Cathy Wilson of Rossville, Kansas and Sr. Tarcisia (Sarah Villotti, daughter of Paul and Felicia Villotti of Garden City, Missouri) posed for a joyful photograph of the reunion with their long-time special friend and mentor, Mrs. Mary Alice Deister, also a long-time member of the Oratory.

Mother Therese, the prioress of the order now headquarted in Kansas City by invitation of Bishop Robert Finn, and Felicia Villotti (Mother of Sr. Tarcisia). In the background is Oratory member Jenny Potts.

Also attending was Pat Ziglinski, the "mother" of the Latin Mass in Kansas City. Pat, in 1988 and 1989 single-handedly led the effort to convince Bishop John Joseph Sullivan to begin Latin Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows. Pat who retired from her nursing career several years ago, moved south to be close to the Benedictine monastery in Clear Creek, Oklahoma. All Oratory members owe Pat a great debt.

Father Christopher Henderson of the Fathers of Mercy is the Chaplain for the Sisters. He held all who spoke to him enthralled with his very interesting discussions of philosophy and philosophical comparisons between some of the pontiffs of the past with some of the of the more current popes. It was a fascinating and informative conversation.

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