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.