The Rockford Files

Summertime Blues

Driving from Rockford to St. Paul, Minnesota, is a bit like going back in time.  St. Paul (like La Crosse, Wisconsin, where we crossed over the Mississippi River just hours before it began to burst its banks) is relatively well preserved, unlike its clearly fraternal twin.

Much of the city is stunningly beautiful—from the immaculately maintained Summit Avenue, the height of Upper Midwestern bourgeois civilization, over to the century-old St. Paul Cathedral, down the hill to the capitol with its golden dome, and into the downtown, where Mickey’s Diner has remained open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for over 65 years.  St. Paul Cathedral was the brainchild of Archbishop John Ireland, whose Americanism not only helped make the Catholic Church in America what it is (not) today but also made him the father of the Orthodox Church in America, when he overstepped his authority and refused to allow Fr. Alexis Toth to minister to Ruthenian Catholics who resided in the archdiocese of St. Paul.  Father Alexis, like many of his fellow Ruthenian Rite priests, was married (although he had been a widower for almost a decade by the time he came to these shores), and Archbishop Ireland (and many, many other Irish-American priests) could not tolerate the diversity of rites and practices within the Catholic Church.  Father Alexis took his congregation into the Russian Orthodox Church and, over the next 15 years, brought...

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