by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
(May 27, 2008) What is believed to be the world’s largest monstrance will be unveiled by Cardinal Francis George OMI in an inner-city Chicago parish whose pastor believes Our Lady instructed him to build a sanctuary of Divine Mercy where her children could “seek refuge in God.”
The nine foot tall, 700 pound monstrance took two years to carve from linden wood by Stepfan Niedorezo who used Renaissance methods to create the masterpiece. Called “Our Lady of the Sign – Ark of Mercy,” it depicts the Blessed Mother standing over the Ark of Covenant to symbolize her as the link between the old and new covenants. She is “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars,”as she is depicted in the Book of Revelation. The monstrance places the Eucharist at her breast.
The vision for the sanctuary and monstrance began nine years ago when Fr. Anthony Bus, CR, pastor of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church in Chicago heard a call from Mary asking that he build the sanctuary. He wrote a book about his experience titled A Mother’s Plea: Lifting the Veil in Sanctuary (Marian Press).
“It has not been an easy nine years,” said Fr. Anthony during a recent interview with Felix Carroll, writing for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. “But Our Lady is in charge. I’ve always prayed, since the beginning of all this, that if this is not of Our Lady, if it is not the will of God, let it stop. But it just continues to unfold. The fact that we are coming to this moment, which is the first truly tangible sign of the sanctuary, is overwhelming.”
His journey began in 1999 while his parish was experiencing financial difficulties. He decided to make a consecration of his life to Our Lady. During preparation for the consecration, he felt a “strong pull to Our Lady.”
“I heard Our Lady say in a very distinct way, ‘Make me Mother and Queen of the parish,’” he recalled. “It was at that point, I consecrated the parish to Our Lady, and then it became very, very clear — an interior intuition or sense or detailed call — that she was asking for a sanctuary for The Divine Mercy, and that was being confirmed right and left, all over the place. We went into the Jubilee Year, and we just had confirmation after confirmation.”
Nine years later, what he calls the “jewel of the sanctuary”- the monstrance – has been completed.
“One of the key themes in A Mother’s Plea,” said Fr. Anthony, “is that Our Lady will not permit the cacophony of the world to shout into silence the voice of the Living God. We’re inundated with noise. We need sacred space, the nurturing and cultivation of sacred silence, so that God’s voice can be heard. And we believe this is what Our Lady is asking of us here.”
The message of Divine Mercy is central to the project. In fact, Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, vice-postulator for the canonization cause of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, is serving as a theological advisor in the project.
Fr. Anthony believes both the Divine Mercy revelations of St. Faustina and his own call from Our Lady point to the need to be attentive to the signs of the times.
“We are broken,” he said, “and there is so much disconnect in the world.” Chapels for adoration can create refuge for a “weary, wayward, wondering, and wandering people” to help them re-connect to our Merciful Lord.
“We’re very much in need of God’s mercy,” he said. “We need to know that God knows us and he loves us and He serves us. It’s really in this that we are able to make a response. In other words, when I know that God knows me, then it’s much easier to respond. We need to know that we’re not just one among the masses, but rather God really knows us in a very personal, very real way. We’re His creation, and He desires an intimate and personal relationship with each and every one of us.”
The sanctuary will provide a place to tap into that relationship in a deeper way, he said.
“We’ve got to come into sacred silence and be disposed so we can hear that voice of mercy,” he said. “We’re living in a world with so much abuse in the home, alcoholism, gang violence, division within the family, youth that are so confused and lost, and there’s no place to go. So often they may think: ‘If I go to church I’m going to be preached at,’ and they don’t want to be preached at, perhaps. But this sanctuary will be a place where they can come and just be and where they can find refuge from the storms of their lives.
“And the hope is — and I really believe this will happen because there certainly is a power that emanates from the Holy Eucharist — that there will be an opportunity for conversion and healing and for transformation that will lead them into the church itself,” he said.
The new monstrance, which will serve as the sanctuary’s centerpiece, will be unveiled at 6 p.m. on May 31, the feast of the Visitation. The event will be televised live on EWTN; Catholic TV; and the Latin American TV station El Sembrador. Relevant Radio will also provide U.S. coverage.
The Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, who has been following Father Anthony’s story almost from the beginning.
Following the May 31 unveiling, the sanctuary’s planners will begin raising funds for the sanctuary itself, which is estimated to cost between $15 million to $20 million. The sanctuary will serve as a silent space for perpetual adoration.
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