Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 52 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fr. Coughlin's Shrine Church

Today I had the honor of assisting at the wedding of our parishioner Allen Mullin. His wife, Nora, is a member of Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, MI. The Officiant was the RC Campus Minister at DePaul (Chicago), Nora's college.

As I hear so often from people who see St. John's for the first time, I have driven past this Church on the corner of 12 mile and Woodward a million times, but have never been inside. I had heard about it, and its founder, Fr. Coughlin. I new it was "in the round" and decided ahead of time I would not like it. But I was surprised!

The retired pastor of the Parish gave me the nickle tour and explained to me all the wonderful symbolism incorporated into the building, such as the seating sections divided into seating for 50, because Jesus had the crowds divided into 50's before he fed them in the multiplication of loaves and fishes. The 1920's Art Deco Decor is great and lovingly maintained/restored. And the massive sacristy had lovely things such as the vesting prayers painted in wonderful illuminated text over the Vesting areas (in Latin, of course). I am glad that with the changes of Vatican II, they didn't destroy the architecture of the place, the major change being the "Big Six" Candlesticks and Tabernacle being removed from the Central Altar to a handsome Sacrament Chapel directly behind the central Altar. And Fr. Coughlin's wonderful second story pulpit - AWESOME (although they don't use it any more I am told).

Who is Fr. Coughlin? He is known as The Radio Priest. His radio show was nationally broadcast, beginning in 1926, and in the 1930's it is said he received more mail than President Franklin Roosevelt! He was silenced from the radio by Cardinal Mooney in 1940, and retired as Rector of the parish in 1966 (the year I was born). He was an ardent defender of Labor, and staunch opponent of Communism, and eventually FDR himself. His statements against entering World War II and about Jewish involvement in banking and Marxism lead to charges of anti-semitism and being a facist, his eventual downfall. Many of his broadcasts are widely available via internet.