Being not quite sure what to do next, I decided to turn right. Scanning the horizon for unknown church steeples amidst the trees and silos late Sunday morning, Nov. 8, 2020, I soon found myself leaning forward a little and blinking my eyes. That was quick — and I wasn’t just looking at white sky framed by tree branches.
Come to find out, St. Mary's - Big River Catholic Church, River Falls, was the childhood parish of Fr. Solanus Casey, who is now being considered for sainthood. The information tells us he was born Nov. 25, 1870, near Prescott, Wis., in a small town named Oak Grove. Years later working in Superior, Wis., he witnessed a murder. The shocking experience caused him to consider joining the priesthood. He ended up spending over 20 years in Detroit. Working in a soup kitchen during the Great Depression, the line could be over 2,000 people long. According to a link on their webpage, there was a procession of an estimated 20,000 people moving past his coffin as tribute in 1957. Casey was known for his holy healing and the phrase, “Thank God ahead of time!”
It is “highly encouraged” in information posted on the church’s webpage that at-risk populations continue to worship at home. Attendance is limited and guidelines are in place, which in addition to masking and social distancing, include hand sanitizer, designated pews and moving away from the front door if you want to visit with others on your way out. “Spiritual communion” is allowed.
There’s a link to the Diocese of La Crosse to find a recorded Mass. On Nov. 8, 2020, it was held at the House of Formation. Readings included from the Book of Wisdom. A phrase intoned by the cantor (that perhaps somewhat irreverently caught my attention for its appropriateness to our times) was, “I will remember you upon my couch ...” The homily by Father Alan Wierzba said it was not too late for us to heed the warning signs of the times, but not to ignore them like gauge lights on a dashboard. He preached asking for and bestowing forgiveness.
The Gospel meditation in the colorful weekly bulletin encourages readers to put forth the effort “to go from okay to excellent.” There are notices about “adoration” and “purification,” as well as pie sales to be picked up the weekend before Thanksgiving. In a separate online notice, expect Kolache Day to return Sept. 2021.
Another of the many connecting links was for a call to pledge “civility, clarity and compassion.”
The last entry on the list of protocols is a prayer for protection during a time of pandemic. It asks that Mary, intercede for us and send divine light to “brighten our path as a sign of salvation and hope.”