Thursday, April 12, 2012

Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Tribute to St. Jude's Chapel in Dallas, Texas


St. Jude
St. Jude is the patron saint of desperate cases, so he is an appropriate patron for St. Jude’s Chapel in downtown Dallas. Squeezed between commercial buildings on Main Street, the little chapel looks like a desperate case--a down-at-the-heels interloper among the dazzling skyscrapers of urban Dallas. Although it is located across the street from Neiman-Marcus’s flagship store, St. Jude’s is the antithesis of all that Neiman-Marcus represents. Neiman-Marcus symbolizes elegance, refinement and affluence, while St. Jude’s Chapel’s storefront facade and bright mosaic-tile d├ęcor are decidedly unfashionable and a bit scruffy.

And that is why St. Jude’s Chapel is my favorite Catholic Church.  I like the fact that I must enter and exit through the gift shop, which is stocked with holy cards, inexpensive statues of the saints, and St. Jude musk-scented air fresheners that I can buy and hang on the rearview mirror of my car. I like the fact that the chapel has substituted moist sponges for holy water in the fonts at the entrance doors. And I like the fact that someone has thoughtfully placed big bottles of hand sanitizer next to the sponges.
Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day wrote that she was attracted to the Catholic Church as a young woman because it was the Church of the poor. “It was the Irish of New England, the Italians, the Hungarians, the Lithuanians, the Poles, it was the great mass of the poor, the workers, who were the Catholics in this country,” she wrote, “and this fact in itself drew me to the Church” (Day, 1952, p. 107). Surely Dorothy would feel at home in this eccentric little chapel where Catholic working people and the poor come to worship.

During the time I lived near St. Jude’s Chapel, it had no regular pastor, and an elderly priest came out of retirement to celebrate daily Mass.  I am sorry to say I have forgotten his name. I recall he had a distinctive way of concluding the general confession. “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us for our sins, and bring us to . . .” and then he would pause expectantly and say “What?” to the congregation. And we would dutifully complete his sentence by chanting, “Everlasting life.” 
“That’s right,” the old priest always replied. “I guarantee it.”

*****
St. Jude’s Chapel is located at 1521 Main Street, Dallas, Texas 75201. The chapel provides daily Mass at 11:40 AM on Mondays through Fridays and two Masses on Sundays--9:30 AM and 11:30 AM. A novena to St. Jude always follows the Mass.  For more information, visit the chapel’s web site at http://stjudechapel.net/

References
Day, D. (1952). The long loneliness. New York: Harper.

Champlin, J. M. (1986). The mystery and meaning of the Mass. New York: Crossroads Publishing Company.

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