Sunday, 27 March 2016

Record of the Week: Happy Easter!

This week's Record of the Week is a 1960s photo from St. Ann's Parish in Penetanguishene. We wish you a blessed and happy Easter!

St. Ann's Parish, Penetanguishene, Early 1960s
PH 0170/26CP

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Record of the Week: St. Patrick's Day Ephemera

This St. Patrick's Day we offer a most unique example of ephemera from the archives.

It is an event programme for the St. Patrick's Day Fifteenth Annual Musical Soiree, 1871. 
Though the location of the venue is not explicitly mentioned, addresses given by Alderman Hearn, M.P.P for Quebec, and Revd. J. S. Lonergan of Montreal suggest somewhere in la belle province, specifically Quebec City (see Comments below for that deduction).

The gold metallic text is printed on a piece of kelly green raw-edged silk.  That pairing, combined with the minuscule font, which has bled through the fabric, results in one of the most unusual and illegible pieces of textual material we have.

The item is part of Archbishop John Lynch's fonds.

Archbishop Lynch fonds, L AE 20.01

Saint Patrick's Day, 1871,
Fifteenth Annual Musical Soiree
Under the auspices of the
St. Patrick's C. and L. Institute,
Music Hall,
Friday Evening, March 17th.

The programme's title features the triangular Celtic harp, a national symbol that appears on the Republic of Ireland's coins and coat of arms. Under the harp is the banner Erin Go Bragh (an anglicization of  Éirinn go Brách), used to express allegiance to Ireland. It is most often translated as "Ireland Forever."
A scan of the programme does not improve decipherability. Nor do the multiple stains - do you reckon they're Guiness or whiskey?

"Part First": songs include Ode to Pope Pius IX (Rossini); Exile of Erin (Campbell); Les dragons de Villars (Maillart); O'Donnell A boo
"Part Second": songs include Dear Old Ireland (Sullivan); The Green Little Shamrock (Cherry); I saw form the beach (Moore)

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Lady and Queen and Mystery Manifold

Mary, the mother of Jesus has inspired prayer, poetry, artwork, and devotion for centuries. Pilgrims travel thousands of miles to places where her presence has manifested. To Polish Catholics, the most important of these places is the shrine at the Jasna Góra Monastery which houses the icon of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa.

In 2014, a copy of the icon was blessed and started a pilgrimage among the parishes of the Society of Christ priests of the United States and Canada. Earlier this month the icon visited St. Hedwig Parish in Oshawa, and a pilgrimage vigil will take place with the icon at Our Lady Queen of Poland Parish on Sunday, March 13th. 

This week we are featuring two images from the archives, and below you will find the story of the famous icon.

A print of the icon of Our Lady of  Częstochowa
ARCAT Special Collections AW12

Cardinal Carter speaking to the congregation at the Jasna Gora Cathedral in 1977. The icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa is visible above him.
PH 18P/21P

From Cardinal Carter's diary written during his 1977 tour of Poland: 

"All through mass there was a stream of pilgrims. First of all, the chapel itself was jammed packed. The people were so tightly put together that when one moved, others had to move. This was in the centre of the chapel, and on the side a constant stream of pilgrims were herded up. They were not allowed to stop in front of the image of the Blessed Virgin but they rapidly made a genuflection and a prayer. 

"I watched them very carefully during the moments that I could ... and I have never seen such faces of suffering ... but with their obvious background of suffering, there was a gentle peace and above all a tremendous sense of devotion to the Madonna. Many of them had tears in their eyes."

As described by Zsolt Aradi in his 1954 book Shrines to Our Lady, the legend of the icon is quite a story:

"The history of the Polish national shrine of Częstochowa is a mirror of the tormented and troubled history of the nations of Central and Eastern Europe and a key to the understanding of their spiritual resistance during their present trials. According to the legend, St. Luke painted a portrait of the Blessed Virgin on the table made by Jesus Himself when He was an apprentice carpenter under the paternal guidance of St. Joseph. After the Crucifixion, this table was brought to Jerusalem; when the Holy City had fallen to the Romans the disciples kept it hidden during their wanderings. It was St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who while searching for the Holy Cross found the picture of the Mother of Christ and took it to Constantinople. The venerated portrait of the Virgin thus remained from the third to the eighth century in Constantinople in a church built for the purpose of housing the precious relic. In the troublesome eighth century the picture was again in great danger and was carried to the wilderness to be hidden in remote places like the forests of Belsk, in Eastern Poland. Even in that part of Europe there was no real peace, because of the migrations from the East, which constantly moved westward. During the first Tartar invasion of Europe the picture escaped harm. In 1382 the Tartars occupied Belsk, murdering and looting, but the portrait of the Holy Virgin was not discovered by the heathen invader, for a mysterious cloud enveloped the chapel. After the Tartars returned to their Asiatic homeland the Prince of Belsk was ordered in a dream by an angel to take the picture to an insignificant, obscure village named Częstochowa. There it was confided to the custody of the monks of St. Paul of the Desert who have guarded it down to the present day.

"Comparative calm reigned around Częstochowa until 1430 and the renown of the miraculous picture grew. During this time King Jagiello united Poland and Lithuania and himself became an ardent Christian. He built a great Gothic cathedral around Our Lady's chapel and kings, princes, noblemen and peasants provided the sanctuary with precious and priceless votive offerings. In 1430 a new danger appeared on the horizon as religious wars began to ravage this part of Europe. These were first the wars between the followers of Jan Hus and the Catholic princes. The Hussites attacked Częstochowa, murdered, burned, robbed and took the Holy Picture. There is a story that as they bore it away their horses stopped at the limits of the village and no beating could incite them to move forward. Thus the picture of the Virgin was saved. When the pious monks found the picture, retaken from the Hussites, it lay in the mud covered with earth and blood. They immediately wanted to clean it but found that all wells had gone dry in fighting the fire. It was at this time that a miraculous fountain sprung up, a spring that has since healed thousands and thousands of sick and has supplied water to millions of pilgrims.

"The Polish nation attributes its very existence to the help of the Virgin of Częstochowa. The veneration of the picture of the Madonna is the expression of the Polish nation's faith and gratitude. After the Hussite invasion the Poles fought for three hundred years with the Teutonic Crusaders, and all the decisive victories won by the Polish nation in these battles are attributed to the miraculous help of the Holy Virgin. Thus the safety of the shrine of Częstochowa is identified with the very safety and independence of the whole nation. During the wars with the Swedes in the seventeenth century Częstochowa was besieged by the whole Swedish army for more than six weeks, but the army of the enemy was defeated and the invader driven from Polish soil. Thus Częstochowa again defended Polish unity and independence. The following year, 1656, the Holy Virgin was acclaimed Queen of Poland and Częstochowa became the spiritual capital of the nation. But there was little peace around Częstochowa for warfare continued first against the Princes of the Reformation and then against the Turks who, having enslaved the whole Balkan Peninsula and the greater part of Hungary, had arrived at the very doors of Vienna. It was the last minute help of the Polish king Sobieski that saved Vienna and the West. Before Sobieski and his army undertook their crusade he and his knights gathered at Częstochowa and dedicated themselves to their Mother in Heaven."

Note: The title of this week's entry is from Hilaire Belloc's poem entitled Ballade to Our Lady of Czestochowa.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Archiving Altar Stones

Some of the most challenging materials that diocesan archivists encounter are those that contain relics.

Every Catholic church has a relic sealed in its altar as sign of honour to the saints. The practice evokes early Christianity, when Mass was celebrated in secret over the tombs of martyrs. The sacrifice of that saint is associated with the sacrifice of Christ, celebrated on the altar during the Eucharist.

We think of altars as permanent fixtures within a church. However, in the early 20th century, Canon Law (1917) required that Mass be said over a properly consecrated altar, so movable altar stones were created in order to allow priests to celebrate Mass outside of a church. Their portable size meant the stones could be carried to any location and placed on a table or other support, creating a lawfully acceptable place for Mass.

Altar stones are book-sized blocks of marble consecrated by episcopal authority using the same ritual as a fixed altar. This included sealing first class relics (pieces of the saints' bodies, usually bones) of at least two martyred saints into a cavity in the stone.  A testimonial document witnessing the stone's consecration would be sealed inside with the relic, or attached to the surface of the stone.

Altar Stones Collection, AS14

Altar stones are usually made of Carrara marble.  The relic is cemented into a cavity along the bottom edge.

Altar Stones Collection, AS40

Example of a testimonium or consecration document which is often attached directly to the back the stone. This altar stone was consecrated in 1937 and contains relics from the bones of St. Concordia and St. Clarus, martyrs:

 Testimonium Consecrationis Tabulae Altaris. Haec tabula complectit reliquias de ossibus Ste. Concordiae M. et Sti. Clari M.; consecrata est Toronto die 18 mensis augusti A.D. 1937 per Rt. Rev. E. M. Brennan. Jacobus Carolus McGuigan, Archiepiscopus Torontinus de mandato. Excmi ac Revmi. Archiepiscopi Torontini [signed] E. M. Brennan Vicar Generalis per M. J. Nealon.

Falling out of use
Following Vatican II and the resulting revised edition of the Code of Canon Law (1983), the practice of using altar stones ceased and relics were required to be sealed in permanent, fixed altars only. Currently, Canon Law requires simply that an altar cloth and corporal be placed on a surface in order for Mass to be celebrated off-site.

Since portable altars were usually used by cardinals and bishops, the Chancery Office at the Archdiocese had accumulated a number of stones over the years. When altar stones went out of use, the Chancery's collection was placed in the archives. Others were donated by parishes and religious orders who no longer had need of them.

Challenges of archiving altar stones
Altar stones are different than most of the material we keep in the archives because they contain relics, which are holy items intended for a spiritual use. Relics are meant to be venerated rather than stored indefinitely. Therefore, over the years, we have redistributed the altar stones to parishes and religious communities who were dedicating new altars and needed first-class relics. These "recycled" altar stones would have been permanently affixed or encased in their altars.

On a practical level, the stones are large and heavy, about the size of a textbook and made of marble. Their weight must be considered when housing, storing and accessing them.

Some of the stones are not appropriate for reuse because they are damaged, the seal on the relic is loose, or the stone is missing the testimonial document that identifies the relic. It is challenging to respectfully dispose of damaged altar stones. Proper disposal includes burial on consecrated ground, since they contain holy, human remains.

We now preserve only a small sample of altar stones for posterity, as evidence of Catholic ritual practice in a certain place and time.

Newly discovered altar stone 
In a previous post, we wrote about the Paulist Fathers leaving the archdiocese and the Catholic Information Centre that they founded. 

While cleaning out the basement chapel of the Centre, an altar stone was discovered in a drawer and sent to the archives.  It was consecrated by Archbishop Neil McNeil in 1924 and contains relics from the bones of St. Victoria, St. Innocent and St. Propser.  

Read about the newest addition to our collection in this Catholic Register article, "Long forgotten altar stone a relic of Church’s past."

Altar Stones Collection, AS44

Altar stone found at the former Paulist Centre at St. Peter's Parish, Toronto. The consecration document attached reads,

Head of Wellesley Place March 26/24
The Relic of the following martyrs are entombed in the sepulchre of this altar-stone: Stae. Victoriae, Sti. Innocentii, Sti. Propseri [signed] +N. McNeil Archbishop of Toronto per T. J. Manley, Secretary