Sunday, September 30, 2012

Late Night Catechism: Chicago, IL

Late Night Catechism is a one-woman play that has been running in Chicago quite a long time.  I planned to attend this before I left Dallas and it ironically fit right in with the religious experiences of the week.

The play is at the Royal George Theatre in downtown Chicago.  Even though I am from a big city I don't actually LIVE in that big city so parking and the traffic of really large cities is sometimes hard for me to deal with.  I left Hammond 3 hours before the play to leave plenty of time to eat and park and I still ended up feeling rushed.

I drive around the block 3 times trying to figure out where to park and get so frustrated I finally just park about 4 blocks away in a public parking lot.  I didn't really want to do that since I will be walking back around 10 pm.  Alone.

When I finally arrive, I am sweating and later than I like to be.  I am the first person there.
This gives me a chance to get a good look at the "set" which is a replica Catholic School classroom.  That is if Catholic School classrooms include a bar.
I also make sure I understand the rules.  I assume now that #10 meant they take tips but I didn't tip when the play was over.
While I am roaming around, a couple in their 60's come in and take their seats.  I will be seated next to the husband which at this moment seems silly as we are the only people here.  The seats are basic chairs, not theatre seats.  I sit down a seat away and explain I will stay there as long as possible so we aren't crowding each other until we have to.  They tell me that they were told it will be a small group and they will likely ask us to spread out anyway. 
It looks like this room will hold around 100 people (though I didn't count the seats) and it is set up in an L shape.  Finally, 8 more people arrive and we learn that we are it...all 11 of us.  The three of us on the short part of the L move toward the middle and have seats between us.
The view from my seat.
I assume that the reduced number of people will greatly increase the possibility of interaction between each of us and the "nun".  The idea of the play is that we are here for instruction and the nun has been made to come because the priest was unavailable and she isn't happy about this.
Sister comes in and starts her monologue.  I can't remember what she talked about.  I remember that she dropped her chalk and stood there waiting until one of the women on the other side got up and picked it up.  Then she got one of the men on the other side up to explain "Easter Duty".  Even though he claimed to be Catholic, she had to lead him through it.  Once done, he wins a prize that is a credit card shaped rosary.
I had no idea what Easter Duty was and didn't know the answer to what Immaculate Conception was, though I thought I did (has to do with MARY being an Immaculate Conception - not Jesus) so I was glad I wasn't called on and I certainly wasn't going to raise my hand unless I was sure.
We spend a lot of time talking about a list of 5 saints and whether they we think they should remain saints.  While talking about Saint Veronica (who ate cat vomit and lots of other disgusting things) she asks if anyone knows what Stigmata is.  I DO I DO I DO!!  I raise my hand and try not to bounce in my seat.
She makes me stand and say my name - which she likes because Noelle is "such a great Christmas name!"  Then she asks me to explain stigmata.  "It is where you suffer the wounds of Christ," I say.  Where? she wants to know.  "The wrists, the back, the feet, the head, the ribs," I answer with confidence.  She is impressed.  No one remembers the back! 
I am about to say, "Well, I have seen that movie a bunch of times."  Looking back, I think it is better that I didn't disclose that's how I knew the answer.  The movie I am talking about is Stigmata from 1999 starring Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Byrne.  Patricia's character Frankie is a self-proclaimed atheist who suffers stigmata and Gabriel's character is Father Kiernan, a priest sent from Rome to investigate/discredit.  I don't think Sister would have been impressed that this is why I know what stigmata is.
There is a short Q&A section, I assume to show off the actresses' ability to ad-lib but there are few questions with a group of 11.  I did ask if she believed that people really can and have suffered stigmata and she answers yes but keeps it pretty short.
All-in-all, I didn't think this play was funny.  It is supposed to be hilarious according to the reviews and to some of the comments on You Tube, where you can check out some videos (though photography is prohibited).  I smiled a couple of times but never really laughed.
Maybe I was too young (I am probably 20 years younger than the other people here and some of them laughed a lot).  Maybe you have to be Catholic.  I really don't know but I know I just didn't like this play.
The best thing that came out of this was my prize for knowing the answer to the stigmata question:
This might come in handy on the dark, lonely walk back to the deserted parking garage.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The John Dillinger Museum: Hammond, IN

When I was looking for things to do in Hammond, I found the John Dillinger Museum.  I didn't expect to see it.  The information I read indicated they close at 4 pm so there is no way I can go after work.  When I drive to my hotel for the first time I am surprised to learn that the museum is in the Indiana Welcome Center which is next door to my hotel.

One day there were several cars still in the parking lot when I went by around 4:15 so I decided to stop and double check the hours.  They are actually open until 5 during the summer.  I pay my $4 and go in for the tour.  No photography allowed.

I broke the rules for this since it doesn't show anything critical but helps my story.  There were three or four of these throughout the museum.  This one was right as I came inside. (I would like to note that I am the only person in the museum and there isn't even an attendant at the rope separating the museum from the gift shop, I moved it myself.)

The buttons operate lights that allow you to see into a room you otherwise cannot see.  The first one allows me to see Bruno Hauptmann's wax figure as I am executing him by pressing the button and activating the electric chair.  Another allows you to see the bloody body of Dillinger as he lays on the street where he was shot and one lets you see his body on display at the morgue (apparently this was a common practice at that time).

There are a lot of wax figures here, some of John and his gang, some of women he was known to have dated or associated with.  A couple are of law enforcement officers.  There is a really creepy one of Mary Kinder, one of "Dillinger's Women" (there is even a website by that name:  Looking at the wax dummies I learned that Baby Face Nelson was really short.  He barely came to my shoulder.

In the first part of the museum there are multiple photos of John as a baby (where did it all go so wrong?), his parents, his grandparents, his sister and the homestead.  I am a little surprised at the number of them and that family and others would be willing to donate them to the museum.  I would have expected them to NOT want him memorialized in this way.  The personal effects continue when you get to see a letter to his wife and his divorce papers (he was married to Beryl Hovious from 1924-1929).  There are pictures of him with his baseball team, in the Navy and at the 1933 World's Fair.  You really get the sense he was a normal person, until you turn the corner and the crime spree begins.

A timeline wall provides interesting context to what is going in in the world at the time of John Dillinger's crimes.  This includes things like who is the president, who won the World Series, music and literary events, the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, prohibition, the depression and more.  You can also learn about gangster vocabulary in cause you don't know that "loot" and "stolen goods" are the same thing.

John and his gang robbed 12 banks in 14 months and there is a replica bank complete with several wax figures.  I almost jumped out of my skin when the motion sensor caused the dummies to start talking.  There was a pretty long delay between my entering the bank and the beginning of the recording so I wasn't prepared.  I also think that one of the narrators in another display sounds like John Wayne, so much so that I assumed they were showing a clip from one of his movies.

There is one interactive section of the museum:

A small part is dedicated to the formation of the FBI.  Let me just say, it is really hard to take your own photo on a lineup wall.

My fingerprint card.  I had to do this myself as there is no one in the place except me.  I assume they usually have an employee here during 'peak hours', whatever those are.  This isn't my first fingerprinting.  I worked at a bank several years ago so I was fingerprinted back then. My bank was never robbed.  At least not while I worked there.

At the end of the tour there are more wax figures including a disturbing one of Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde) - who appears to be looking right at you - Clyde Barrow, Ma Barker and Billie Frechette.  You also see Anna Sage and Polly Hamilton, Dillinger's girlfriend and ultimately, his betrayer.

There are boards on a wall near the end you can flip over to see the various fates of the Dillinger gang.  Right above that is the actual wicker basket they transported his body in.  This, the photos of his "death mask" and the wax of his body on the autopsy table round out a creepy finale.

If you are interested in crime, Dillinger or unusual museums, definitely make this a stop if you are in the Chicago area.  For $4 you can't really go wrong.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Shrine of Christ's Passion: St. John, IN

After leaving the Carmelite Shrine, I thought I would go to St. John in time to see The Shrine to Christ's Passion before going to the hotel.  I didn't make it.  By the time I arrived they were closed.  I looked around the grounds but there isn't a lot to see, just two statues.  This surprised me since I had assumed I would see the statue of Christ on the Cross as it is supposed to be outdoors. I couldn't see it when I drove around behind the building and even when I drove to the huge church that sits on a hill behind their land.

So later in the week when my customer had to leave a bit early for a meeting, I decided to try it again.  I have about an hour and a half total to drive there and see the whole thing before they close.  Heavy traffic starts to make me feel that this just isn't meant to be.

When I finally arrive there is a large tour bus in the parking lot.  As I enter the huge gift shop that leads you to the back door where you enter the grounds, I learn they just arrived.  The Shrine is scheduled to close in 30 minutes.  It is something like a half mile - mile loop so I assume that won't be happening.  But, being the compliant person I am, I still try to finish as fast as I can without skipping anything.

As you walk the trail you view statues representing The Stations of the Cross. 

Each station has a box like this one where you press the button and hear a person, who I am pretty sure was Bill Kurtis, telling the events of this part of the story.

For anyone who is a stickler about the stations, the captions I use below the images come directly from the book I picked up in the gift shop.

The Last Supper

Agony in the Garden

Jesus is Condemned to Death
(This was my favorite of the statues.  I don't care what you believe...when you stand next to the life-size statue of Jesus - who was a real human if nothing else - watching him wait to accept what is to come, it is a powerful feeling.)

Jesus Accepts His Cross

Jesus Falls The First Time

Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross

Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Jesus Falls a Second Time

Jesus Speaks to the Women of Jerusalem

Jesus Falls a Third Time

At this point on the walk you stay to the right to make a loop.  I guess all of these things were okay before but now that we are coming down to the critical moments, a little more respect is required?

Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
(If you haven't noticed before, look at the amount of detail on these statues...the armour, the facial expressions...they are really amazing.)

Jesus Dies on the Cross
(I never got a closer look at these as there was a family up there praying and I didn't want to disturb them.  There is a separate little walk that splits off to go closer or to stay on the main path.  I also see now that it is possible to park at the church I went to yesterday and walk down but it wasn't obvious to me then and I couldn't see these from the parking lot.  I think this is something you would just have to know by word-of-mouth or by having been here before.)

Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross

Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
(Ironic lighting was not intentional, it was unavoidable at the time of the day I am here.)

(This image is part of Jesus is Laid in the Tomb.  You have to enter the tomb to see the angel and the empty shroud.)

Post Resurrection

Ascension into Heaven

At the beginning when I was in the Garden of Gethsemane I found the bulk of the people from the tour bus.  To stop from being an interloper, I skipped a couple of the narrated portions (the text is the guide I have so I can read it for myself).  Plus there is the time issue.  However, I meet them on the way back.

I am on the return trip, they are on the 8th statue.  They aren't even to the fork in the road yet.  This time when I come up the man there in the white shirt is reading from the Bible so I don't feel I can pass them gracefully like I did in the garden.  I wait here next to the priest whose elbow is in the photo on the right.  I try not to let him see that I am even taking this picture.  After the reading the whole group begins The Lord's Prayer in unison as they move on towards the next station.  I get the feeling that they do this each time.

Soon, they will reach this rest area where you can get a water bottle for $1.50 on the honor system.  There are bottles in there, I checked.  No, I didn't take one.

You can also call for help from here which might be necessary at some point since it is in the upper 90's (like a some of people from the bus) and there is almost no shade.

Back at the gift shop - which you must enter and exit through - there are a lot of statues outside.  Inside, there are all manner of things from jewelery, wall art, books, and much more.  It is a huge gift shop.  I buy a Saint Christopher/US Navy necklace for my son and two movies, The Song of Bernadette, starring Jennifer Jones in her Oscar winning role as Saint Bernadette and Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, which feels sort of required.  More on this in a moment.

I have to admit, I was a little bothered by this sign.  The suggested donation is $5 and they ask that no matter what, you leave something.  I know why it bothers me but I can't really easily express it in words.  Maybe you will figure it out yourself.  I left $10 so the first one of you that goes, it's on me.

I have seen movie Passion of the Christ once before.  I watched it alone and was glad I did because from the moment they started whipping him until the movie ended I cried.  A lot.  Sobbing is probably a better description.  I wondered if I would feel the same watching it all of these years later.  Maybe I missed some things while hiding my eyes or dealing with the tears and snot last time. 

Back at the hotel, I fire up my laptop and pop the movie in.  Let me just say...NOTHING WAS DIFFERENT.  I bawled from the same moment until the end and even a little after that.  And ask my mother, I don't cry at movies, but I do at this one.  I will NEVER watch that movie again.  I am not sure how anyone could watch a human being tortured - and that is what is happening for the bulk of the film - and not be upset by it.  I know it is a movie and that is makeup and special effects and all of that.  I think maybe the problem is knowing that it is based on true events.

I have two suggestions for you after this day:  If you are ever in the St. John, Indiana area, and you are Christian, interested in religion in general or interested in art, stop by and take the walk.  If you haven't see Passion of the Christ and are at all unsure about watching it, skip it.  Unless you need a really, really, really good cry or just a reminder about how awful mankind can be to one another, you aren't missing anything.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Carmelite Shrine: Munster, IN

For this trip I am off to Hammond, Indiana.  I know, I know...where?

Hammond, IN is right across the Indiana/Illinois border.  My customer says that sometimes it doesn't feel like she is from Indiana because of their close proximity to Chicago.

Which is where I fly in and out of.  Downtown Chicago in the distance.

On the way to the hotel, I make a side trip to the Carmelite Shrines in Munster, Indiana.  This tip came from the Roadside America app on my iPhone.

Before we go any further, I have a disclaimer.  I am not a religious person, a disclosure that I realize might bother some of you.  I believe things but they probably aren't the same things you believe. For example, I don't think that because you don't consider yourself a Christian - as I don't - that you are a bad person doomed for all eternity.  I don't even want to believe that.  That being said, I several of the posts for Hammond will be about religious places or events.  That wasn't something I set out to do, it just happened that way.  I am interested in religious places, symbols and beliefs of all types.  I won't be preaching or proselytizing, just sharing the interesting pictures and things I saw.  On with the story.

The Carmelite Shrines consist of several shrines and the major ones are closed when I am here.  I am able to wander the grounds only.

I read that they have had some problems with kids damaging things here.  Apparently, they later had a problem with dogs.

There is a lot of statuary here, something I have always liked.  The rosary in young Jesus' hand is real.

Pope John Paul II.  Someone put those flowers there recently, they are just starting to wilt.

Saint Raphael Kalinowski, canonized in 1991.
The bottom of Saint Raphael's statue is a little disturbing

The rocky base contains a lot of skulls. 

If you want to know about his life, there is a big board to accommodate that.  Which is a good thing since I have terrible reception here and can't Google him.  When I return to the hotel I find that there isn't much information on him there anyway.

Saint Maximillian, the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners and the pro-life movement.  There isn't as much information at the shrine about him but when I Google him at the hotel I learn he is a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger at Auschwitz.  This wasn't carried out in the usual way there.  He and 9 others were placed in a single cell and starved to death.  When he was the only one left, he was given an injection of carbolic acid.  He was canonized in 1982.

Saint Therese of Lisieux, also known as "The Little Flower of Jesus".  She is the patron saint of Russia, France, Missionaries, AIDS sufferers, florists & gardeners, loss of parents, tuberculosis and the Russicum.  Here she is telling her father of her decision to join the Carmelite order.  She died at age 24 from tuberculosis.  Her writing was complied into the book The Story of a Soul.  I read it several years ago.  She was canonized in 1925.

The Stations of the Cross are spread around the property on a winding concrete path.

This beautiful and architecturally interesting building is the Highlands Chapel.  I think David would like seeing this in person as he enjoys woodworking and this is a testament to some amazing work.

Unfortunately, Jesus looks bored or like a sulky teenager.  I don't think that is what the artist was going for.

Two of the main buildings are closed.  This is the Holy Mother Grotto.

The Tomb. 

I am really sorry I didn't get to see inside of these buildings as I have seen a few photos and am definitely intrigued.  Especially since it is referred to as the Ultraviolet Apocalypse.

On top of the tomb there is a statue of Jesus on the cross.  I walk around to the stairs to go up.

There are two problems with this situation.  First, I am not planning to ascend on my knees.  Second, if you look at the photo you can see someone at the top on the left wearing a blue shirt.  That is a teenage girl.  She isn't alone.

This teenager is up there with her boyfriend.  He is groping her ass while they make out.  Jesus is watching.  I am not sure how they can do this here.  I am not sure why they would do this here.

I walk around the building and find other stairs that you are - I assume since there is no sign - allowed to walk up in the usual way.  Maybe the front stairs are set up that way because you are walking directly towards the statue of Jesus?  I am not sure.  The teenagers saw me when I was at the front stairs and they descend on the other side of the building.

Jesus on the cross, his mother Mary and Mary Magdalene. 

The teenagers are lurking.  They wait for me to go back down the way I came and they come back to the top for more inappropriate touching with the tortured and crucified Jesus looking on.

As I am walking around the back of the Tomb, I spot this lawn furniture.  See the light?  I can almost hear Angels singing "Hallelujah" in my ear.  I have to go over there.

Where I sit and enjoy the quiet grounds a little longer.  And take this totally believable photo of me as an angel. 

I really enjoyed this peaceful place (in spite of the teenagers who were the only other people there). I would like to return someday to see inside the buildings.  There is an industry conference I could attend next year in Chicago so maybe I can work that out for myself then.