Monday, August 28, 2006

A Visit to Father Altier's Chapel in Hastings

I went down to Hastings (about 25 miles) with Cathy_of_Alex, the region’s new blogger ( The Recovering Dissident Catholic ) to see for ourselves what it is like down there, especially after news circulated that some of the attendees at the Regina Medical Center's chapel were unhappy with Father Robert Altier and had circulated a petition to present to the Archbishop.

We wanted to arrive about 30 minutes early so we could say a Rosary, but chatting and road construction in South St Paul got us lost and we didn’t get there til 9:45; And half the congregation was already was there, quietly praying. I would venture to guess that these were the “true believers” that would follow Father Altier almost anywhere within reason with gas at $3.00 a gallon.

It is a Catholic Medical center with a nursing home attached. The Chapel is Catholic but the design and furnishings aren’t much to like. Really bad crucifix, strange “post it note-like” colored tabs sticking out of the wall behind the altar. But there were holy water founts, a tabernacle, statues of St Joseph and the Blessed Mother and other things Catholic. But not very conducive for meditation and prayer. Although we had to finish our Rosaries after Mass and the lights were off and a large skylight (it was a gorgeous sunny day) behind the altar backlit the cheesy crucifix so that it actually became a good place for prayer and meditation under those conditions. But it seems to me for a couple thousand, they could probably repair a lot of the problems. That’s nothing for a hospital.

The chapel seats maybe 125 or so and there were probably 100 there, maybe 25 in wheel chairs or otherwise looking to be nursing home residents.

Father, who himself wore a cassock (first time I have seen a priest in person in one for maybe 40 years), did scrounge up some cassocks and surplices for the two altar boys, but the surplices didn’t match. So it must have been difficult. They were well trained. Excellent cantor/lector who was an older woman with a great voice. He pretty much celebrated a St Agnes-style Novus Ordo Mass, wonderfully, as usual. He did have an EMHC for Holy Communion for the wheel chair people, but he handled both lines without another one. Most received, standing, on the tongue. For the first time I received a Host that had been intincted. Barely a drop of the Precious Blood. They don’t do that at St Agnes.

I didn’t see any dissidents, but “Cathy” said she saw a woman in one of the front pews acting strangely. But probably most of the dissidents have removed themselves to St Elizabeth Ann Seton parish that is probably only a couple of miles away. It is quite large and prosperous with a good pastor and adoration, etc.

I don’t know why the complaints. I speculated that he might take too long. But Mass was over in 55 minutes.

So it doesn’t seem like orthodoxy is the issue. It must be sermons where “sin” is brought up too much. But I can’t imagine that they would use that in a letter to the Archbishop. He does have a bit of a “slow” delivery that might be “off-putting”, but again, that doesn’t seem to be something that you would put in a complaint.

The choice of music wasn’t especially great but there were a couple of traditional hymns that I liked.

Frankly, all that I can think of is that the previous pastor who was in a Chicago religious order must have had a really un-orthodox style that some of them grew to like and they just didn’t like Father Altier giving them what they are supposed to get.

So they didn’t know that they weren’t getting a proper Mass before.

Being that we finished our Rosaries, as we finally left, Father was still out chatting with the last couple and so we got to spend five minutes with him. “Cathy” had taken a class from him last Spring, so he recognized her. I mentioned we were bloggers and would be promoting his Catholic TV program with Catholic Parents Online. I was dying to ask about his relationship with the Archbishop and how he can be on TV if he can’t be on radio, but I’m not that tactless.

But he seems like a pretty nice guy and we later regretted that we didn’t invite him to have brunch with us. And I think he has a bit of a sense of humor about the situation he is in.


Anonymous said...

I am ASTOUNDED by the arrogance you show in your blog about the good people who attend mass at the chapel in the Regina Medical Complex. You "assume" that the people praying reverently before mass are the "true believers" who follow Father Altier. Do you really think there are no "true believers" who live in Hastings and attend mass regularily there? And how do you define "true believer"? Is it defined by your criteria only? As to your not noticing any dissenters, what do you think they look like? How would you identify them? Did you go to worship and attend the sacrifice of the mass or to look for scandal? Your "holier than thou" attitude is a real turn off and seems very judgemental and negative - not Christ-like at all. Please give the good people of Hastings some credit for their faith.

Unknown said...

I apologize if you were offended by the post.

The reason for the mention of "dissidents" was the report in the Twin Cities newspapers that some of the attendees had circulated a petition in opposition to Father Altier's ministry at the Regina chapel.

As I mentioned, I don't think that there was anybody there who objected to Father Altier that day.

If they are many Hastings residents who have grown to like Father Altier, that is wonderful and I apologize for inadvertantly disparaging them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you anonymous. I agree. This blogger is awefully judgemental. There are plenty of good Catholics in Hastings and the numbers are growing.

As far as the previous chaplain at Regina, he was a sweet and holy priest originally from Ireland. How can you judge him without ever knowing him. We know what assuming does. The chapel is what it is, it was designed by someone who is probably long gone. Those post-it note like things, are plates of glass that form a flame coming up from the tabernacle when the sun shines in. It may not be traditional, but when I see it it reminds me of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost... not a bad thing to be reminded of.

Before you judge, it may be wise to do a little homework and walk a mile in other people's shoes (or slippers in the case of a nursing home). Those residents are faithful in attending daily mass and are beautiful people who love Fr. Altier (and their former chaplains as well).

Unknown said...

I posted this in August of 2006. Lots of things have changed since then.

Including me.