I know we’re all sick of the apocalypse jokes, but how about one more? Well, it’s not really a joke but it sounds like it should be. If you ever find yourself thinking about the Carmelites, then you should probably know on the grounds of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Monastery in Munster, Indiana are several shrines that are worth checking out. This isn’t your everyday prayer spot. Because a number of the buildings are made of sponge rock with random semi-precious crystals set in the walls, it’s like stepping into a giant ball of candy popcorn. The friars began work in 1954 when they imported 250 tons of the material from a mine in Arkansas with help from Chicagoans who came down to clean it and glue it into place. Carmelite religious shrines are popular with the local Polish-American community and we all know Chicago is just another word for Polack. Therefore, many citizens of the Windy City make the annual pilgrimage to the place, some on foot, believe it or not.
Not surprisingly there’s a memorial to the Polish Underground and statues of the martyr priest of Auschwitz, Maximilian Kolbe, and Pope John Paul II (Hey, is the Pope Polish? Nie!). When entering the first chapel visitors go down a series of hallways leading to different shrines and grottoes. One altar, made of glowing crystals to resemble a heart, depicts Jesus on his deathbed flanked by two Roman soldiers. Nearby is the “Flagellation Chapel” with a marble Jesus tied to a pillar and colorful glass windows. But the best part is near the end of the journey. One of the small, dark alcoves, called the “Ultraviolet Apocalypse Grotto,“ is like a really bad Pink Floyd light show, with day-glow statues of Jesus and archangel Gabriel raising the dead. There’s even glow-in-the-dark crosses in the ceiling! Who knew religion was so much fun when it’s lit by fluorescent black light tubes and backlit crystals? Why didn’t I have this growing up in Catholic School? Considering this place isn’t too far away from me, it has now moved to the top of my to-do list. Jesus Saves! Or more like Black Light Saves!