Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter - 1896

Today's season of Lent varies greatly from a century ago.  At that time the mandatory dietary restrictions were far more severe.  There was abstinence from meat on Wednesdays as well as Fridays. and even included eggs and butter.  Marriages could not be performed.  Many parishes had extended parish missions which required the faithful to often walk through ice and snow to keep their Lenten promises.  On Holy Thursday was the visitation of the 7 churches.  Secretly each competed with its neighbor to who could have the most candles and flowers.  On Good Friday were the 3 hours of silence from noon until 3.  At the Exaltation of the Cross service the clergy would walk in barefoot and lie prostrate on the altar area.  Early on Holy Saturday was the blessing of the Easter water.  Crowds would line up to bring the water home to bless their houses.  The churches would close after the Saturday morning service, and at St Patrick's the Sisters of Notre Dame were in charge of decorating the church.  This practice stopped when the Sisters became semi-cloistered.  The job was taken over by the young ladies of the parish.  But Easter is the major Christian feast, and on Easter the Church calls us to share in the Resurrection story through song, liturgy, and the beauty of Creation. 

Taken from the Lowell Sun, 1896

The principal Easter service at St. Patrick's church yesterday was indeed grand and impressive. At every mass the church was crowded but at the celebration of the solemn high mass the attendance taxed the seating capacity of the magnificent edifice. At 10.30 sixty sanctuary boys gowned in cassocks of black and white surplices emerged from the vestry to the main altar preceding the priests dressed in their vestments of gold and yellow.
From the white marble altars sparkled hundreds of lighted candles while the sweet fragrance of flowers which decked the altars, permeated the church. The celebrant of the mass was Rev. Fr. Leonard with Rev. Fr. Burke deacon, Rev. Fr. Gleason, sub-deacon and John J. Sullivan master of ceremonies. The venerable pastor, Rev. Michael O'Brien, occupied a seat in the sanctuary.
The sermon was preached by Rev. Fr. Burke. The musical portion of the service was under the direction of E. P. Faulkner, and nothing equal to it has ever been heard at St. Patrick's. A choir of 60 voices, accompanied by Hibbard's orchestra and Mr. M. J. Johnson, organist, rendered the mass with the utmost precision. Every solo was sustained in excellent style, and the difficult portion of the mass was handled in a masterly manner by the grand concert.
At the evening service the altar was one perfect blaze of lights. The incandescent effects were grand. Over the main altar extended strings of numerous incandescents in semi-circular shape, formed a brilliant arch over the altar.

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