Sunday, December 12, 2010

Roses in the Snow - Hickey Christmas Party, Nine Lesson/Carols and Our Lady of Guadalupe

Praestet fides supplementum/sensuum defectui -faith for all defects supplying,
where the feeble senses fail.Tatum Ergo Scaramentum by St. Thomas Aquinas

Last night, I attended two great events and witnessed another at 1919 S. Ashland Avenue.

The first was the annual Hickey Christmas Party at Cork and Kerry. This event began in the basement of my grandparents house at 75th & Marshfield in Little Flower Parish. My Dad's family was huge -thirteen children of Lawrence and Nora Hickey ( seven men and six women of whom only my Aunt Helen Brennan survives). The Hickey Party featured corned beef, Italian beef, cookies, cakes, and a ceili. Santa made an appearance often encorpified by the beefier males of the clan. Irish step dancing to the button accordion in the thick mitts of Granpa Hickey accompanied by some of the best Irish musicians in Chicago - Cuz Teahan, Jimmy Neary and Tom Masterson on fiddles and tin whistle.

Years later the party moved to Wally's Last Stop at 85th Kedzie, a bar that was closing for decades and owned by Polish Polka Museum Hall of Famer Wally - Leader of Wally and the Fat Boys. Subsequently, this movable feast journeyed to such halls and watering holes as could accommodate the massive extended Hickey Clan.

The Clan swells. With two of my three children, I entered the hall section of Cork and Kerry. Like Wally's, Cork and Kerry has a mini stage. This seems to be the key feature necessary, as the platform gets swarmed by toddlers who dance, gambol, cavort, tease and generally strut their tiny stuff. There was a tide of tiny Hickeys, Winters, Walshes, Brennans, McNamara's, & etc. darting and weaving among the taller legs and limbs like Roses in the Mantel of Our Lady. It was magical.

I had to leave in order to attend the Nine Lessons performance at St. John Cantius, where the woman I love sings with the St. Cecilia Choral. This annual festival that runs over two nights, is a presentation of music and faith centered on the miracle of Christ's birth. Each reader opens a Lesson about the Nativity of Christ with a passage of Scripture from Old and New Testament followed by a Carol from the greatest Christmas themed music in Western Civilization.

St. John Cantius Church is Chicago's link to Catholic culture in its devotions that are traditional and universal - rites are conducted in Latin and English in the Novus Ordo and Tridentine forms. I immediately went to Confession, because I am topped off with sin and folly.

Then, I applied myself to a full spiritual soaking of sacred texts rich in message and mystery and music that purges the petty from a very petty man. One Carol in particular hit home a 17th Century Carol by Thomas Ravescroft (c.1582-1635):

Remember God's goodness/Othou man, O thou man,/And promise made:/Remember God's goodness,/HOw his only Son he sent,/Our sins for to redress:Be not afraid.. . .In Bethlem was he born,/for mankind dear:/In Bethlem was he born/for us that were forlorn,/And therefore took no scorn,/Our sins to bear.

I have a terrible memory. God's goodness has given me more moral mulligan's any sinner deserves.

I took Ogden Avenue to Ashland home to Morgan Park and at 1919 S. Ashland witnessed the hundreds of devout and proud Mexican Americans crowding the icy corners around St. Pius V Church where the Dominicans still lead the devotions to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a peasant named Juan Diego in the 17th Century, two centuries after Spain conquered the people of Mexico. Our Lady appeared not to a Spanish grandee but a humble native and directed Juan Diego to build a Church on the place of that apparition. Juan Diego told his bishop, but like any good company man the Prince of the Church wanted due diligence - go get a miracle.

Juan Diego was directed by Our Lady to gather flowers in the snow. Juan Diego found the flowers where Our Lady had placed them in her cloak and when Juan Diego returned the image of Our Lady had replaced the flowers in her blue mantle and that image remains in the Church built upon the flowers in the snow and the Faith of a man.

Three hundred years of Peace followed the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I don't require that many years, but do need to bone up on my faith and devotion to my family, my Church and my God.

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