Monday 31 December 2012

Living Tradition

The Dunstan Vestment at Stonyhurst College - 
still used at the Feasts of the Ascension and Immaculate Conception.

A Reluctant Sinner has a post about items of Catholic liturgical heritage being displayed in secular museums. He thinks it would be better if they were displayed in Catholic ones so that there would be some opportunity to explain them properly and even evangelize through them.  He acknowledges that these things would be best kept in a church rather than a museum.  I completely agree.  While I think it would be good to have such things displayed in a Catholic context. I would also hope that many of them could still be used - not all the time if they are fragile and of historical importance but certainly sometimes used for their original purpose.

I heard some talk of turning part of the former seminary at Ushaw into a centre for the study of Catholicism but (depending I suppose on how it could be done) this had the aura to me of relegating the Church to an historical item of interest to be studied but no longer a living thing.  Like the Yorvik Viking Centre in York or the Dewa Roman Centre in Chester, with street scenes set up, complete with sound effects.  I could picture the Ushaw chapel with manikins set out for High Mass, chant playing in the background and incense being wafted through like dry ice to show how the mighty empire used to look and feel!

Liverpool cathedral has a museum in the crypt with quite a number of beautiful things and I think some of them do get used sometimes.  I think this is the way to go.  If we have dozens of chalices, mitres, monstrances and crosiers already in our possession, why not use them, instead of paying out for new ones?  I think there is sometimes a desire to deliberately relegate anything that looks old - (i.e. traditional and therefore part of our Tradition) to the museum and therefore to the past.  This seems so odd when in our homes and every other sphere of life there is a strong desire to connect with the traditions of the past in everything from royal ceremony to retaining period features in our homes.

This should  include vestments as well.  I recall at seminary in Ushaw, an ancient chasuble worn by one of the English  martyrs being brought out once a year to be worn by the visiting bishop offering Mass.  It was no longer a thing of great beauty but it was very evocative and so much more important than just surface beauty that it was still being worn.  Visiting Stonyhurst College with a pilgrim group, I was able to wear an ancient but splendid cope.  Many of their conserved vestments are still used on major feast days.

I visited the shrine of Ladyewell at Fernyhalgh just recently and after the fire they had there some time ago the relic room has been remodeled in a very sympathetic way so that it has the feel of a chapel - even though the relics are displayed and described.  It manages to keep a prayerful and devotional feel rather than just a museum.  There is a recusant altar there as well which I do hope is used sometimes.

Let's not relegate our living tradition to dusty museums as something to be looked at but not lived.  Isn't that what the world wants us to do with the whole of our Glorious Faith?


Anonymous said...

Chasubles and monstrances are for sale on Ebay!

Leo Darroch said...

And what happened to the alb of Pope St. Pius X that was given to Ushaw College by Cardinal Merry del Val, his Secretary of State, and a former pupil at Ushaw? I heard some years ago that one of the priests in the diocese had taken it but no one seems to know where it is. Is anyone in authority bothered about the disapearance of such a relic?

I have a Graduale Romanum of 1908 which has the handwriten message Instaurare omnia in Christi - Pius PP X'. However, even though I would like keep it within my diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, there is no way I would donate it at the moment because there is nowhere it could be safely, securely, and respectfully displayed. If Ushaw College had still been a thriving seminary then I would have had no hesitation in placing it there but until things change for the better then I will hold on to it.

David O'Neill said...

Regarding Leo's comment; when I was at St Cuthbert's Grammar School in Newcastle, we were told it was a cassock of Pope St Pius X given by Cardinal Merry del Val. The story went that it had ink on the cuff &, instead of cleaning his cassocks, new ones were made

James Scott, STB MA said...

I must agree. I have found often that people, supposed historians on radio and in academia, discuss Saint Augustine or Saint Thomas in terms completely devoid of our faith. To understand things Catholic, one must be aware of our patrimony. To be European is to be Catholic in insight and philosophy.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Interestingly many of the chasubles on sale on ebay are from Poland.

There is also a "mitra simplex" - a bargain for any budding bishop or Prot. Ap.!

Leo Darroch said...

On reflection, I think that David is correct and it was a cassock. This should make it much easier to find as I presume that not many priests in H and N will have a white cassock hanging in their sacristies. Perhaps this is one task that the bishop could make enquiries about and, once found, it could easily be displayed in a glass-fronted cabinet in St Mary's Cathedral. If this could be done then I would gladly donate my Graduale Romanum to be displayed also.

Kinga Grzeczynska said...

The chasubles from Poland are often very beautiful and very well made AND a fraction of the price that some firms sell chasubles in the North West

Why should they be so expensive and not as good or intricate needlework as the Polish ones, is a mystery to me but not a mystery to the till in certain shops.

The Nuns in Lagiewniki, St Faustina's Convent, make very beautiful chasuables. I recommend their work.

I think that all church property as in vestments, statues etc should be used on a regular basis and not stored in the vaults.

Let the people see the beauty of these items.
As for precious vestments or items, you could consider offering them in a Trust to the designated church or Religious Congregation. Please be aware that you have to make certain that if such a Trust is considered, you must make the terms of the Trust VERY clear.

Kinga Grzeczynska