Seeking the audience: Joliet Catholic church prays novena in autumn
By Tony Graf email@example.com October 27, 2012 3:54PM
Fr. Michael Lane, of Church of St. Jude in Joliet, blesses people with the Relic of St. Jude at the end of a St. Jude Novena service Tuesday, October 23, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 29, 2012 6:44AM
JOLIET — In the evening of the year, the workday of the tree is complete. The tree has lost its leaves. It has gone dormant for the winter.
Gone is the heat of the day, when the leaf-covered boughs bustled like the crowd at market. Now, the wind whisks right through limbs devoid of all earthly cover. It is a strangely invigorating breeze at night.
Within this fragile and silent frame, the October wind almost conveys — almost seems to convey — a communication.
In Joliet, the Church of St. Jude is meeting to pray in its sanctuary for nine straight nights: a novena, with the concluding session on Sunday. From Oct. 20 to 28, Roman Catholics have attended these sessions, to seek a divine audience for their petitions, to communicate, to ask for spiritual growth and the well-being of their families.
On Tuesday night, the Rev. Michael Lane, pastor of St. Jude, led the novena from the front of the sanctuary. He let incense fill the air.
“To you, Lord Jesus Christ, our mediator and brother, we offer our prayers today,” the congregants prayed in unison, kneeling in the sanctuary.
Marie Kenol, a native of Haiti, has lived in Joliet for the past 30 years. Her father, a widower, still lives in Haiti. Kenol, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Joliet, attended the Tuesday night session.
“Prayer is very important in my life. I attend Mass every week,” Kenol said. “I pray for my family, my children, my parents.”
And with her hands clasped, she sought spiritual growth in her own life.
The night’s session is over, and Larry Gorski sits alone in the sanctuary.
The hundreds of people are gone, their faces absent, their words an echo long passed. The room is quiet. Gorski knows that the only one who is left, the only one who will hear him now, is the audience.
The lights are low. Gorski does not speak. He does not whisper. The silence in this room is so thick, the cracking of an ankle bone is like a gunshot, a sniffle is like a slamming door. After his oratory is complete, he arises and exits the sanctuary.
Out in the parking lot, the night wind lifts the senses. Gorski discusses the essence of prayer.
“The main thing is that prayer is effective, or efficacious,” he said. “And more specifically, prayer changes the one who prays.”
Spiritually, Gorski grows through prayer.
“Beyond doubt, you get spiritual gifts,” he said. “The gifts that you get are gifts of understanding, perhaps new ways of looking at things, perhaps more acceptance of others in life.”
On this windswept night, Gorski spent well more than a half-hour in complete silence.
“It’s in solitude that you experience presence,” he said. “There’s a difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is an emptiness. Solitude is a fullness.”
“If I truly believe the Lord is risen, what could possibly hold us down?” Lane told the congregants in his homily. “No matter how difficult life can get, at the end we rise from the dead. Even when we come to that final death in our lives, it is God who creates all things new.”
At the end of Tuesday night’s session, congregants approached the front of the sanctuary. Lane held a gold reliquary, inside of which is a circle. Inside that circle, there is a chip of bone. Lane recognizes this bone as being from the saint, Jude.
Through the centuries, there has been much discussion and debate regarding relics. It is not of primary importance here. If you read of the old saints, you will discover that they were men of like passions as Christians today. They were sinners, whose bones had been in a dry valley, needing flesh and sinews to be put upon them.
Those limbs will lose their earthly cover for a final time. And then there will be nothing left, except for the wind that brought this strange and beautiful communication through them.