Kooky faith

Pastoral Messages | March 21, 2017

Several years ago, I heard about a magical place in Wisconsin, the grotto in Dickeyville. A grotto is a man-made cave, meant to be a picturesque place for reflection. This grotto is located on the grounds of the Holy Ghost parish and was built by Matthias Wernerus, who was a priest at that congregation from 1918 to 1930.

Picturesque reflection isn’t exactly what this particular grotto inspires, but it is definitely picture-worthy. It was constructed out of thousands of pieces of glass, shells, rocks, fossils, and countless other bric-a-brac. It is a whole garden, with multiple shrines dedicated to faith. Mosaics of Mary, Jesus, and the disciples are scattered around the place. It’s a little wild, a little weird, and certainly kooky.

Fr. Wernerus is buried in the parish cemetery, which are on the grounds with the grotto. Looking at his headstone, I thought he must have been a man of faith. Who else would look out their office window, imagine a grotto like this, and then spend five years building it? It really got me thinking about how we describe admirable or exemplary faith.

We use words like “strong” or “deep” or “incredible” to describe some of our faith heroes. Those are all good adjectives. However, I would also like to add “wild” and “kooky” and “quirky” to the list. Oftentimes we want to trim away the ragged edges, or clean up the wild parts of our faith. Things that don’t fit into the box of normal or with our perceived ideas of holiness are dropped out. We sanitize the bits and pieces that may look weird to other people, and in doing so miss some of the best parts of our faith. Some of the most relatable and life-changing parts of our faith story are also the parts that are a little wild.

Decades after Fr. Wernerus served his community, people flock to Dickeyville to see what his faith inspired him to do. They aren’t coming to learn about his rich devotional life, or read his sermons, or even count up how many catechism classes he taught. They are coming to see what was a little kooky. So perhaps, those are the parts of our faith we should cling to tightly. After all, we follow a God who decided to take on human form and come to earth to live with us. If that isn’t a little wild, I don’t know what is.

Amy Diller, pastor-in-residency


3 Comments on “Kooky faith”

  • Audrey Keeney

    March 23, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    I like this, Amy, especially it being “wild and kooky”. We do want everything to make sense and that is not how it happens. (Just a side note, there is another grotto in north Central Iowa, another place to visit.)

  • Georgeann Kreiter

    March 23, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    We drive through this town on our way to visit family and friends further north. One time when my daughter and I made that trip we stopped (we used to make unusual stops when we were by ourselves) It’s my understanding that this grotto was a church community effort. Broken pieces from many families are included. I’m sure stories have been handed down through families about dishes and glassware from ancestors.

  • pat koranda

    March 23, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Nice piece Amy. I’ve been through Dickeyville many times on my motorcycle. I love that place.

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Isaiah 53:4-12

4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed.

6All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth;

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,

And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,

So He did not open His mouth.

8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

And as for His generation, who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9His grave was assigned with wicked men,

Yet He was with a rich man in His death,

Because He had done no violence,

Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

11As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By His knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death,

And was numbered with the transgressors;

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,

And interceded for the transgressors.

Psalm 91:9-16

9For you have made the LORD, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

10No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

12They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

16“With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”

Hebrews 5:1-10

The Perfect High Priest

1For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;2he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;3and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.4And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.

5So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,



6just as He says also in another passage,



7In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,10being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:35-45

35James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”36And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”37They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”39They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.40“But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.42Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.43“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.45“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight