Saturday, March 03, 2012

Newsletter from the Oratory


2653 Ohio Avenue
Saint Louis, Missouri 63118
March 01, 2012


Dear Faithful and Friends of Francis de Sales Oratory,

St. Joseph statue in the rectory garden
of Saint Francis de Sales Oratory
Today we begin the month of March, the month dedicated to St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church and Guardian of the Redeemer. Both Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II, had remarked on the “silence of St Joseph” in the holy Scriptures: Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “His is a silence permeated by contemplation of the mystery of God, in an attitude of total availability to his divine wishes. In other words, the silence of St Joseph was not the sign of an inner void, but on the contrary, of the fullness of faith he carried in his heart, and which guided each and every one of his thoughts and actions.”
Just as the Church turns to St. Joseph to invoke his patronage and protection, so we follow. At our Motherhouse in Gricigliano last year, the feast of St. Joseph was marked by a joyous baptism and confirmation of an adult convert. At the Oratory, daily Masses are celebrated at the altar dedicated to St. Joseph, as a constant reminder that we look to him for the protection of our families and our welfare.

As always, the Oratory is very grateful for the generous spirit of our volunteers who are helping in many aspects of the restoration projects on campus. An example is the work being accomplished to refurbish the original chapel on the second floor of the convent building. The floor was renovated 18 months ago, and presently a new ceiling is being installed, and the walls painted. With the new light fixtures installed and a few additional finishing touches, the chapel will soon be ready. It will be an invaluable help to accommodate the impacted schedule of Masses during the upcoming priestly retreat for all Institute clergy in the US Province in the month of May.

Every square inch of the newly sanded floor or the new coat of varnish is the fruit of selfless work and countless man-hours given to the Oratory by so many generous souls in our community. But their work will not go unnoticed when Holy Sacrifice is offered in the refurbished chapel in the near future. With our heartfelt thanks: May God reward you!

Since its introduction in December, the new Scrip Program has already generated nearly $1500 for the Oratory. By using scrip to do your household shopping, you have enabled various merchants to donate a percentage of your purchase to the Oratory through the scrip program. What is most amazing is that the amount received by the Oratory represents the cumulative contributions from many households, each doing a part to help our community.

Thanks to the capable administration of Mrs. Gretchen Clinton, the Oratory has on hand scrip cards from a number of popular vendors, ready for immediate purchase.

They include: Walmart/Sams, Shop n’ Save, Dierbergs, Blues City Deli, Bath and Body, CVS, Walgreens, TJ Maxx/Marshalls, Lowe’s, Steak n’ Shake, St. Louis Bread Co., Target, Office Depot, Office Max, JoAnn Fabrics, JCPenny, Payless Shoes, Land’s End, LLBean, Macy’s, Qdoba, Little Caesar’s and several others.

The procedure for ordering scrip for the merchants you use is very simple. Fill out the order forms available every Sunday at the scrip table in the church hall, and scrip will be ordered on Monday. The cards will be ready for pick-up by the next week.

Thank you all for generous support through this year-round fundraiser for St. Francis de Sales Oratory!

Thursday of Second Week of Lent

“Now Joseph, who was just, did not lose his justice because he was not chosen to be an Apostle. His holiness remained with him to teach us that God does not always choose the holiest to govern and to have charge in his Church. Therefore, those who are called ought not to glorify themselves and presume themselves to be better or more perfect than others. And those who do not receive such offers ought not to be troubled about it, since that will not prevent them from being just and pleasing to God.”


Right Reverend F.G. Holweck,
Fourth Pastor of the parish, 1903-1927

In 1895, it was unclear that the building of the new church should go forward as planned. A roof was erected over the basement that was already prepared, and the church construction postponed.

Then in 1896 the course of action was decide by an act of providence.

At this point an act of divine providence definitely intervened. Before the basement church could even be completed as planned, the most devastating tornado, in point of 306 lives lost, ever to strike St. Louis happened on May 27, 1896. The original church was all but completely destroyed and much damage was inflicted likewise upon the homes in the entire neighborhood. All plans to raise funds for a new church had to await the return to normal conditions among the people of the parish and of the city.

The first church demolished by the tornado of May 27, 1896.
306 lives lost in St. Louis that day

Nevertheless the basement church was finished in the next two months after the terrible tornado and services were held there from July of 1896 until the completion of the church in 1908. Many of our present parishioners still remember with great fondness that period of 12 years when the so called "basement Church" was in use, before our present grand church structure was completed.

Again another act of divine providence intervened in the history of the parish. Good Father Lotz, who labored for twenty seven years as Pastor of the parish and whose great dream it was to build the most beautiful church in St. Louis, was called by Almighty God to his final reward. His health had never been the best. His death took place on May 14, 1903. He had left his task well done however and had all but arranged the work ahead.

His successor was Father Frederick G. Holweck, pastor of St. Aloysius and a former Assistant Pastor at St. Francis de Sales. He came back to the parish with great zeal for his work and with special dedication for the building of the new church. Before even one year of his new assignment had been completed, plans were already under way for the resuming of the building of the new church. Meanwhile there was need for more funds and for certain modifications of the original plans. But by early 1907 the work of construction of the new church was again begun.

St. Francis de Sales church, 1908.

Father John Peters, the Assistant Pastor to Father Holweck and later on the Pastor of St. John the Baptist for many years, laid the first brick on the new church. In one year's time the church was under roof. The work continued without interruption and it is most interesting to note that on the twelfth anniversary of the terrible tornado, on May 27, 1908, again at the hour of the evening Angelus, the same time the tragic tornado struck the old parish church and destroyed it, the big iron cross was placed on top of the pinnacle of the steeple of the new majestic church, amid the full and loud ringing of the new church bells. There was cause for much rejoicing among the parishioners on this wonderful occasion.


Along with St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Benedict are patrons whose saintly lives provide the underlying principles for the spirituality of the Institute. Both St. Thomas Aquinas’ and St. Benedict’s feast days are celebrated in the month of March, on the 7th and the 21st, respectively.

From St. Thomas Aquinas we find clarity and structure in the understanding of the Catholic philosophy and theology. From St. Benedict’s profound influence, the daily community life of the Institute is centered on the liturgy. Particularly during Lent, celebrating these first class feasts will enhance our Lenten observance with special insight and graces. Please join us next Wednesday, March 7th when we celebrate St. Thomas’s feast with a Solemn High Mass at 6:30 PM (Low Mass at 8:00 AM).

St. Francis de Sales tells us: “Even when the world turns upside down and everything be in darkness, still your angels are around you like sentinels of God.” Fortunately, the interior of St. Francis de Sales church is filled with many images of angels to remind us of this truth. In this week’s mystery photo, we see the face of an angel.
Where in the Oratory have you seen it? Please enter your response in the combox of our blog.

With my sincere best wishes and the assurance of my prayers I am gratefully,

Canon Michael K. Wiener
Rector, St. Francis de Sales Oratory

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