Here we are at the 16th annual Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit (RBTE) in Chicago. This is, according to the organization, “gathering the religious marketplace for Catholic, Episcopal and other liturgical traditions.”
To get here we had to get up at 3am on Tuesday (after I had gotten back the night before from a four-day family road trip in our new van) and drive to Denver to catch our plane. Unfortunately, we missed the flight cutoff by eleven minutes and had to sit around the airport on standby until ten. I got on but Mike, our sales manager, didn't. This was a problem since the next flight to Chicago wasn't until seven pm. We pulled away from the gate, I started praying a rosary and suddenly we were turning around and going back to the gate.
Someone had some medical problem on the plane and had to be taken off before we took off and Mike was able to get on the plane. Would it be wrong to say that our prayers were answered? This seems like Twilight Zone episodes where someone gets wishes and they all come true but not the way you wanted.
We flew Frontier so our flight was sponsored by “Chocolate the Moose”. He's a whole different animal according to Frontier. The flight was fine and every seat had a tv in it so you could get Direct TV or watch the progress of the flight on Mapquest.
I haven't been to Chicago since I was in second grade so I only vaguely remember visiting the Aquarium and going to the top of the Sears Tower. My initial impressions:
- Chicago is hazy. Everything, I think because of the humidity, is wrapped in gray mist.
- The Sears Tower completely dominates the Chicago skyline. There isn't anything close to it in size and all the other skyscrapers seem to be set farther apart from it than each other.
- Chicago is full of Catholic churches. There seems to be one on almost every block and these aren't your average parish church, these are larger than most cathedrals. Too bad they are being turned into apartments or torn down.
- The city is very compact. It took us less than half an hour to get from Midway airport to downtown.
- The streets are very narrow. I have no idea what they do with snow when they need to plow. It must really be a problem.
- The city is tired. the “El” is very dirty and the stations aren't maintained. Bridges are being held up by rows of 2x4s in between the metal girders.
Anyway, we got to Chicago, got our car and with only one of those large pieces of paper called a “map” drove off to downtown Chicago to find St. John Cantius Church. This amazing parish was ready to be demolished when the Cardinal turned it over to a new religious order (the Society of St. John Cantius). The society is dedicated to the restoration and promotion of sacred music, liturgy and art and has developed quite a national following. They offer both Tridentine and Novus Ordo Masses and have turned the parish around.
As we walked into the church, we heard the organist practicing and the view of the interior was just magnificent. The church is still undergoing restoration but what has been finished is wonderful. The stained glass is detailed European art. The floor is a new wood inlay. The statues are larger than life. The communion rail is still intact. The ceiling is stenciled and the choir loft is actually two balconies. They also have a copy of a famous altar piece in Poland in a side chapel.
We also tried to visit St. Nicholas Ukrainian Cathedral but it was locked and the staff at the school next door was very suspicious of us, watching us from the school while we knocked at the rectory and eventually drove away. More tomorrow…