Yearning for the past

In Detroit on the weekend I spent time talking with a lifelong Detroiter near St.Mary’s Catholic Church in Greektown. Old St Mary’s as it is now called is the third oldest Roman Catholic Church in Detroit and the first German Church. Many parishes in American cities I have visited are ethnically based. Many Germans came to Detroit before the Civil War and in 1841 the first St.Mary’s was built. Detroit was then an ooutpost, the beginning of the Midwest and its population was but 5,000. In 1884 the origianl was replaced by a lovely Victorian Gothic structure.

The original school staffed by Christian brothers in 1855 stands across the road—ready for development! and the vultures have moved in, probably condos near downtown.

The gentleman laughed when I asked him about the parish run by the Spiritan order.

“Well, nobody lives here in Greektown but they come in freom the burbs and  pack the place on Sundays—for the Latin mass and boy they do not like this pope,”,he laughed.

The parish is replete with nuns in traditional garb, eucharistic adoration and the Tridentine mass.


More Catholics yearning for the past, freezing a moment in time as “The Tradition.” Very sad indeed.

Scripture has a great story at people who look over their shoulder instead of the onrush of the future and the Spirit’s presence there.

But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Gen.19:26

My old prof Mcluhan used to say,” It’s great to have a rear view mirror but you’ll miss what’s ahead of you.”

Theologian Jarosalv Pelikan has a nice distinction between tradition and traditionalism.

Tradition is the living spirit of the dead.Traditionalism is the dead spirit of the living.

Here in the Tridentime mass and in all nostalgia movements which sacralize the past you create the past; you have the external structures which never by themselves give life—but the living spirit has fled.

Sounds like old St Mary’s.

The Spiritans are like many religious orders. Many who embrace the living Spirit and some still mired in a long gone past.



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