|Interior, St Patrick Church, c. 1900|
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Ecce Lignum Crucis: Behold the Wood of the Cross, 1900
The April 1900 issue focused on the rites and rituals of Holy Week. It was assumed every adult would show up for each of the liturgies. It began with the procession of palms around the church on Palm Sunday, continued with daily Mass and Tenebrae on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and the Triddum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday services. If one attended each of the expected liturgies it could amount to 10 or more hours in church. A special note was made to the male parishioners. The parish priests had addressed certain male congregants about not fully participating in the ceremonies. They often stood down the back of the church or even outside the doors. The writer advised that males show follow the good example of the women by being more active participants. He continued that men should be taking the leadership role here and to not allow the women to outdo the men in piety. Warning was also given to some of the faithful who were arriving late and leaving early. Their comings and goings had been duly noted by the priests.
The Catholic bookstores were well stocked with small prayer books that contained all the prayers for each of the services. The price was a mere 50 cents and each parishioner was encouraged to bring his/her copy to church each day. Parishioners were also encouraged to bring their Protestant friends to services, but wait to answer their questions until later. The writer knew with certainty that many Protestants were just waiting for a personal invite to attend one of the services. It was the Catholic’s duty to remind their Protestant friends to keep silence and to forego answering questions until they are outside.
The tradition of visiting 7 churches on Holy Thursday was expected of Catholics. Each church would decorate an altar of repose where the Blessed Sacrament would remain overnight. Men from the Holy Name Society would keep vigil until dawn when the Good Friday prayers would begin. It became an unspoken tradition that each church would try to outdo the other with a bit of extravagance. The faithful were reminded when visiting not to just look at the flowers and candles, but remember that this was an opportunity for prayer. The writer also noted that some had begun taking carriages form church to church and that walking was the preferred way of traveling on such a sacred night. And not to forget that visitors should always approach the altar on 2 knees on such an occasion.
A last entry reminded parishioners that they were honored to have a piece of the True Cross imbedded in the altar stone of the main altar. It was an honor not given to many churches and was installed with other relics when the altar was dedicated in 1854. Its presence made being at St Patrick’s during the Triduum take on a special meaning. (Note: the altar of which the writer speaks is the altar presently located in the lower church. It once was in the upper church, but relocated after the fire of 1904.)