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The Faith of our Fathers April 28, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, General Catholic.

I’m a farmer.  Well, kind of.  One day in the not too distant future, I will own 440 acres of northwest Kansas farmland. My dad grew up on that farm, and it’s  my intention to keep it in the family for at least one more generation.  No one has owned that land except my family, ever.  One of my great-great grandfathers was “kidnapped” by Cheyenne indians during the homestead era, and fed a delicacy – skunk gravy.  He said it was good.

But that’s beside the point.  The point is, I have travelled to Phillipsburg, KS, about 60 miles north of Hays, many times in my life.  The last several times I travelled up there, I kept noticing what looked like a huge Church about a 1/2 mile south of I-70 between Russell and Hays.  The last time I was up there, I convinced my traveling party to turn off and see about this Church.  I’m glad I did.  In the tiny town of Victoria, KS, there is a huge Church, called ‘The Cathedral of the Plains,’ although it is not the seat of any bishop. 

Victoria, KS was initially settled by a group of English aristocrats who thought they could have some adventure and possibly add to their wealth by attracting settlers to the Kansas prairie – this was back in the 1870s.  They failed, miserably, and wound up going back to England with their tales rather between their legs.  A few years later, however, a more sturdy group of settlers arrived.  Not too many Americans are aware that during the 16th-17th centuries, a number of Germans left what is now Germany and settled in other parts of Europe.  Many relocated, if it can believed, to the bend of the Volga in southern Russia.  Unfortunately, these Germans were almost as persecuted by the Czar as they had been in Germany, and some of those very stout people, who were natural farmers, emigrated to Kansas in the 1880s or 90s.  A group of them wound up in the area around Victoria.  They did what German immigrants of that time did almost everywhere, they settled, started farming, and they built.  What they almost invariably built, first, from Quihi, Texas to Victoria, KS, was a church.

And what a church.  Actually, not just one, but three, large, very beautiful churches.  All these good Catholic Germans scrimped and saved and built a house of worship to honor God and to provide their children with that mystical, transcendent experience that they hoped and prayed would instill a deep faith in them.  The crown jewel of these churches is St. Fidelis, the Cathedral of the Plains, in Victoria

Think about this for a moment.  These people were farmers – they were not, and are not, rich.  The total population around Victoria has never been more than about 2000 people at any one time.  But, these folks built a church worthy of the grandest city, of the richest men, and the thing is, this didn’t happen a long time ago, this church has been improved on and added to and made more beautiful as the years have gone by.  This has been an ongoing effort for generations.  The results are amazing

I think there is a lesson to be had here.  These simple people, aided by various orders to provide religious direction, have built an incredible place for honoring God and offering the Sacrifice of the Mass.  If we really believe that Heaven comes down to earth, and perhaps that we get lifted up a bit, during the Consecration and the Liturgy of the Faithful, isn’t this the kind of place where such an august Sacrifice should take place – the finest, most beautiful structure we can build?  Perhaps we should think on St. Fidelis the next time our church needs to build a new facility, or needs more donations just to continue ongoing operations.  I know this is a very sensitive subject, but we have been very blessed that many who have gone before us have been willing to sacrifice, sometimes greatly, to provide a faith legacy to hand on to later generations.

Of course, I think pastors and other Church leadership should also think on St. Fidelis in tiny Victoria, KS, if they are in position to build a new church or remodel and existing one.  Yes, building a church like St. Fidelis is expensive, but is it, perhaps, worth it?  Not every church needs to be quite so grand, but need every church, especially those in suburbia, be so banal?  Should our churches not possess those architectural and stylistic elements which serve to highlight the sacrificial nature of the Mass, and the very special role that priests play in that?   Is this not an important part of the new liturgical movement?

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