After all, the governor had informed the state that while restaurants and bars could welcome larger numbers of patrons, churches were to stick to the downright insulting ten-persons limit. This constitutes a violation of the religious liberty of all Minnesotans.
The passive aggressive directive was infuriating on several levels, not least of which is that Minnesota itself was carved out of the wilderness by the Catholic Church. Her priests paddled up the Mississippi and set up missions that grew into Minnesota's largest cities along the banks of the river.
The Twin Cities are dotted with Catholic church steeples even still, while main thoroughfares boast names such as Hennepin, Galtier and John Ireland—famed priests and bishops who’d settled, educated and civilized this territory.
The iconic Cathedral of St. Paul dominates the skyline, while St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral rises majestically over the heart of Hennepin County, whose seat is the largest city in the state: Minneapolis.
The spirit of Father Louis Hennepin still dominates the city's history and founding. A Recollect friar born in 1640 in what today is Belgium, Father Hennepin was an early explorer who quite literally put Minnesota on the map, while bringing the Catholic faith from Belgium to Quebec and then down through the Mississippi valley.
Fr. Galtier and the first log cabin church in Minnesota
Most of the major hospitals were (or still are) Catholic, and our largest and most prestigious universities such as St. Thomas and St. Catherine were once the pride of the Catholic Church in America.
All this is ancient history today, of course, the Catholic Church having long since thrown open Pope John XXIII's famous window in order to let the Spirit of Vatican II prowl about the world, decimating the Catholic Church here as everywhere else.
But the Church here is not quite on life support. Aside from having become the epicenter of the Traditional Latin Mass movement back in the early 1980s, the faith here is stronger than in many other parts of the country (an example of what I mean by this is the Church of St. Agnes in St. Paul).
And this past week, the Catholic Bishops of Minnesota acted in the spirit of Archbishop John Gregory Murray and Mons Rudolf Bandas, and essentially said to the overreaching civil authorities: "Get thee behind me, Satan!"
In an episcopal shot heard ‘round the nation, the Bishops announced that they had no choice but to open their churches and begin public Masses in defiance of governor's order.
Rumors of retaliatory injunctions began to circulate; eager-beaver mayors promised to start locking up Catholics “caught going to Mass”; and many hearty Minnesotans began vying for the privilege of being the first arrested, in the hopes of turning persecution of the Church in Minnesota into an international incident.
And then something wonderful happened.
Perhaps partly inspired by the Bishops of Minnesota's display of courage in the face of oppression, President Donald Trump held a press conference, telling the nation's governors to back off and open the churches or he would do it for them.
At a moment when many Americans are beginning to sense that only an act of God Himself can bring an end to this draconian lockdown, the President of the United States—the leader of arguably the strongest nation on earth—looked directly into the cameras and said: "In America we need more prayer...not less. Open the churches now!"
It was a moment I suspect history will not soon forget.
Proving Orwell wrong, today the governor of Minnesota was forced to bow to Catholic resistance, reversing his “lifesaving order” and giving the Bishops nearly everything they’d demanded.
For comment on this precedent-setting development, we reached out to Father John Echert—the Parking Lot Priest:
We pastors of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul - Minneapolis have just received official word from our chancery that the Governor of Minnesota will be substantially relaxing his restrictions upon religious gatherings to allow for up to 250 persons to gather in churches. The Governor will announce this on Tuesday and Catholic Masses will begin in churches the following day. Without doubt this significant compromise on the part of the Governor is due to the heroic efforts of the Catholic Bishops of our State and the equally heroic directive of President Trump to open up churches immediately. The State, our Nation and the entire Church and world should be grateful to these faithful Bishops and fearless President.
THE PARKING LOT PRIEST: Minnesota Bishops Defy Governor
Please keep in mind that here in Minnesota, the Covid cases are still on the rise. We have allegedly not yet reached our peak, so for the bishops to force the governor to back down now is no small victory. It directly confirms the vital point President Trump made yesterday:
Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So, I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential!
The Minnesota Bishops, God bless them, through their act of defiance, made it clear to the world that, pandemic or not, Churches are anything but nonessential.
Furthermore, the Parking Lot Priest and those good priests who followed his lead, stood out in the rain and snow every Sunday and Holy Day, sending the same message: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is absolutely essential, especially at a time when the flock is sick and dying.
A long time ago, the Catholic Church actually taught Minnesota how to care for the sick and dying. Her missionaries, her hospitals, her orphanages, her Catholic nursing orders, her retirement homes for over a hundred years have been keeping the souls and bodies of Minnesotans alive and well.
Meaning no disrespect, Governor Walz, but how dare you try to shut down the Catholic Church in Minnesota!
The takeaway is this: Faithful Catholic Minnesotans stand with our President, our priests and our bishops. We understand the importance of compromise, and we accept this one as part of the process of fully opening our country when—and I mean WHEN, not IF—Covid passes.
In all due respect to rightful authority which is derived from God Himself, let the governor take notice: Faithful Catholics will not go quietly into the night. Our Church is as essential as the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. Resistance is clearly not futile… so count on ours now and for however long it takes.
For more on the growing evidence of the futility of the national lockdown: