Ink drawing by Gloria Tuccio
You may have recently noticed two differences in the sanctuary at St Mary’s Basilica. First, after years of sitting bare, the “old Altars” now are covered with Altar cloths. I felt it to be fitting that we keep those Altars covered with Altar cloths since they are still consecrated Altars.
One reason is that Father Mark and I use the St Joseph Altar from time to time to offer the Holy Mass privately, if we don’t have one of the scheduled Masses of the day. For decades, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass took place upon those Altars, meaning that our Lord Jesus Christ rested upon their stones. How sacred of a space and structure those Altars are, then. And I believe they should be treated as such meaning that we should take special care about what we place upon them.
Which leads to the second difference—have you noticed that the flowers in the sanctuary (behind the presider’s chair) have not been on the mensa (table) of that Altar? There, again, is a stone enclosing a saint’s relic and the spot where many Holy Masses have been offered. I believe it is more reverent to place the flowers on the portion of the Altar that was actually made for them, that is, the shelf just beyond and above the mensa where the candles are.
While I do not currently plan to begin using these old Altars publicly anytime soon, they are still consecrated Altars and should be treated with reverence. And perhaps through that reverence we will give thanks to God for the many Holy Masses that were offered on them over the years for the salvation of our ancestors and ourselves.
Fr. Scott and Fr. Mark plan to trade months in offering a weekly reflection or catechesis in our future bulletins.
Be sure to check out what they have to share!
On August 14 the Roman Church celebrates St Maximilian Kolbe. Born in Poland on January 8, 1894, he was given the name Raymond. He was such a troublemaker as a child that one day his mother looked at him and asked, “What is to become of you, Raymond!?” In response, he ran to the local church and prayed hard to the Blessed Mother asking that very question.
She soon appeared to him offering a choice between virginity and martyrdom. His response was, “I choose both!” He would go on to become a Franciscan, taking the name “Maximilian” and being ordained at age 24. He would travel to China, Japan, and India, until his poor health forced his return to Poland. In February of 1941, he was arrested by the Nazi’s for the crime of being a Catholic priest and was sent to Auschwitz.
During his imprisonment, he fulfilled his priestly duties as best as he could (in secret, of course). This led to many beatings at the hands of the guards. One day in July someone escaped from the concentration camp. As a result, ten men were picked for execution. When one cried out for his wife and children, Fr Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to replace the gentleman.
Fr Kolbe was known to have led the other nine in prayer as they were being starved to death. When he was the last one alive, he was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid. St Maximilian Kolbe was canonized in 1982 by Pope St John Paul II, who was also a native of Poland. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, and families. – Father Scott Thomas
This Sunday, St Paul tells us, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). Holy Baptism is a participation in the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, those who pass through the baptismal waters are called to spiritually die with Christ and rise with Him as a new creation.
We baptized Christians are called to live for Heaven. This world is a passing world while the Heavenly Kingdom is eternal. Holy Mass and our church’s architecture should always remind us of this. That is one reason why we still use Latin and Greek in the Holy Mass instead of regular everyday language. We should also use music that is sacred.
If we just sing popular music you hear on the radio, what is so special about that? The same goes for why older churches have such high ceilings and ornate decorations made of the best materials. The high ceilings and steeples cause us to look up to higher realities, and the use of the best materials reminds us that we need to give our best to God.
Again, all of this and more is meant to draw our minds to higher, heavenly realities. After all, that’s the point of worship—to draw us closer to our goal of eternal union with God in heaven. So the next time you go to worship God, seek what is above and not what is below. – Father Scott Thomas