Cemetery Stole

Many priests would like to wear black vestments for funerals – the traditional color for mourning (and historically the traditional liturgical color) – but for a number of reasons it is often difficult to do so. I do not intend to address those reasons here.

A good way to make some use of black, even if it is not possible or opportune to do so in church for the ceremony/Mass, is at the cemetery. I have used a black cemetery stole on a few different occasions (over my cassock/surplice) at the graveside with no difficulty. It’s usually a sadder time than the ceremony in church, and the black just makes sense.

Here is a nice example of a black cemetery stole. Interested priests can contact me for more info. (It is not for sale but I can tell you where to get one.)

image

With gold details, symbolizing that amidst our grief there is always the hope of the resurrection and eternal life.

Hopefully, through greater catechesis on death and funerals, people will start to have a better appreciation of healthy mourning and the symbols that support it. Where that is not yet the case, it is still possible to make some use of these traditional symbols and so move things in the right direction.

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St. Thomas More: His Cell and His Tomb

During my recent trip to London I had the chance to visit the cell where St. Thomas More was imprisoned in the Tower of London, before he was beheaded. I believe he lived in the cell for some seven months. As an added bonus, I got to see his tomb as well, also within the Tower of London complex. The Tower is a relatively costly place to visit, but it’s well worth the money and I recommend it if you are ever in London.

Since neither More’s cell nor his tomb are open to the general public, I had to make special advance arrangements. His cell is located within a private residence (there are various people who live inside the Tower complex), and his tomb is located in the crypt of the Anglican church that is within the Tower. While visitors can go inside that church, they are not ordinarily able to go down to the crypt.

Here is the block of houses attached to the tower where the cell is:

Note the guard station – to the right of the guard there is a black door; that is the one we went in.

Note the guard station – to the right of the guard there is a black door; that is the one we went in.

The door we went through:

The lettering above the door says "QUEEN'S HOUSE", but I'm pretty sure that the Queen doesn't live there...

The lettering above the door says “QUEEN’S HOUSE”, but I’m pretty sure that the Queen doesn’t live there…

From what others had told me, I imagined walking through someone’s sitting room and going down a secret passageway or something to get to the cell. Actually, it was just a brief walk down a normal hallway. Here is the view of the cell:

It was fairly spacious (because More had a lot of money), but that doesn't mean that it was comfortable. It was probably infested with vermin and during the winter would have been quite cold.

It was fairly spacious (because More had a lot of money), but that doesn’t mean that it was comfortable. It was probably infested with vermin and during the winter would have been quite cold.

The “Beefeater” who gave me the tour reminded me of the scene in the movie “A Man for All Seasons” when through the window of More’s cell you can see the changing of the seasons, with the autumn leaves etc. He said that that shot would have been taken through the window on the left there. Here is a shot through that opening:

Who knows if there were really trees out there during More's time. In any case, he would have been able to look through this opening and see people outside and the Thames River.

Who knows if there were really trees out there during More’s time. In any case, he would have been able to look through this opening and see people outside and the Thames River.

Here are the trees that are currently visible through that opening:

Clearly not 479 years old.

Clearly not 479 years old.

Back in the cell, here is another corner:

Comfy, huh?

Comfy, huh?

Since it is not open for general visitors, they haven’t put a lot of effort into making it a museum-quality exhibit. For example, the image of More on the wall is cheaply-framed poster:

Remember my previous post about this image, here?

Remember my previous post about this image, here?

The “Beefeater” was kind enough to leave me alone for some minutes in the cell, so that I could say some prayers and reflect. I prayed for all my Facebook friends and all the readers of this blog, along with a few other special intentions. Afterwards, the guide surprised me by inviting me to go to More’s tomb also. Here is a shot of the side of the church, in the crypt of which is found his tomb:

Directly across from the residence in which is found More's cell.

Directly across from the residence in which is found More’s cell.

As I mentioned above, you can visit the church (which is dedicated to St. Peter in Chains) when you take your tour of the Tower. Anglican worship is still held there on Sundays as well. Anyway, we went down a separate entrance into the crypt, and here is his tomb as I found it:

Even though it says on the tomb that he was buried "here", the Beefeater told me that he had originally been buried in the nearby church of All Hallows, but his tomb was moved after that church was bombed during the war. Perhaps they simply moved the original tomb inscription instead of having a new one made reflecting the translation of his relics.

Even though it says on the tomb that he was buried “here”, the Beefeater told me that he had originally been buried in the nearby church of All Hallows, but his tomb was moved after that church was bombed during the war. Perhaps they simply moved the original tomb inscription instead of having a new one made reflecting the translation of his relics.

So I knelt there and prayed for a few minutes as well. From there, I took my leave of my guide and exited the Tower (I could have stayed to see everything else, but I had to catch a train). As I left I took these photos of the outside of the tower of More’s imprisonment:

Those middle windows, sort of cross-shaped, are where his cell is, which takes up that entire level of the tower. Apparently St. John Fisher had been imprisoned at the top of the this tower, in an even more spartan cell.

Those middle windows, sort of cross-shaped, are where his cell is, which takes up that entire level of the tower. Apparently St. John Fisher had been imprisoned at the top of the this tower, in an even more spartan cell.

That above photo was taken from within the Tower walls, while this one is taken just outside; you can see that More’s windows were just high enough to see over the wall:

Though I'm not sure if, during his time, the walls were the same as they are now.

Though I’m not sure if, during his time, the walls were the same as they are now.

St. Thomas More, pray for us!

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Handel’s Messiah

This evening I took in a concert of Handel’s Messiah at the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London.

Statue of G.F. Handel in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Photographed by Fr. Bryan Jerabek.

Statue of G.F. Handel in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Photographed by Fr. Bryan Jerabek.

I enjoyed reading in the program this account of the success of its inaugural performance, in 1742:

“Messiah was well received in Dublin. The level of interest shown by the ‘most Grand, Polite and crouded Audience’ that attended the public rehearsal preceding the first performance was such that the charity organizers issued a request in the newspapers that for the performance the ladies of the audience should not wear hooped dresses, nor the men swords, in order to make more room.”

I can assure you that there was no one there with a hooped dress or a sword this evening.

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Happy 2,767th Birthday!

Today is the 2,767 anniversary of the founding of the city of Rome!

The famous statue of the she-wolf feeding Romulus and Remus, the founders of the city of Rome. The statue is in the Capitoline Museum. image source

The famous statue of the she-wolf feeding Romulus and Remus, the founders of the city of Rome. The statue is in the Capitoline Museum. image source

Read the Wikipedia version of the story at this link. Of course, people are divided over whether Romulus and Remus were historical figures, and if so, whether they were brought up by a she-wolf, etc. etc. etc. The fashion of the day is to be skeptical towards all such things. Against this, my Roman Law teacher insisted that the story was not a legend, but real history. Not that she gave us any evidence or reasoning to support her own claim! So: you decide!

If you’re in Rome today, many of the city’s museums are open with no entrance fee!

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Two Pope Saints

In the lead-up to next Sunday’s canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, be sure to check out the official site for the canonization, 2papisanti.org. (The URL is in Italian, but it will load the English page.)

In fact, I translated the brief biography of John XXIII into English.

I will not be in Rome for the event; huge mobs are expected and I would like to avoid it, at least to an extent – the day after is a school day, so I’ll be back in time for it and there will still be large crowds around, as many people will want to stay until at least the Wednesday Audience of that week after and enjoy the other sights that Rome has to offer!

To all who are coming to Rome for the occasion: brace yourselves and strive to be patient!

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The Sign of Jonah

Stained glass of Jonah and the whale, that I photographed in a Chicago church.

Stained glass of Jonah and the whale, that I photographed in a Chicago church.

An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
(Matthew 12:39-40)

Stained glass of the Resurrection, that I photographed in London.

Stained glass of the Resurrection, that I photographed in London.

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Another Paschal Candle

Here is the Easter candle at the church of St. James, Spanish Place:

Apparently painted by the same person as the one at Westminster Cathedral – but obviously in something of a different style. Very nice.

Apparently painted by the same person as the one at Westminster Cathedral – but obviously in something of a different style. Very nice.

See my previous post about hand-painted candles.

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Hand-Painted Easter Candle… and other photos

Be sure to take a glance at the photos of the Easter Vigil in the exceedingly beautiful (and yet unfinished!) Westminster Cathedral, London, where the liturgy daily is celebrated with reverence and beauty, and especially on the greater feasts. Perhaps you can spot me in a few of the photos.

You can view the photos by clicking here for their Flickr gallery.

Here is some detail from one that I wish to highlight, showing the beautiful Easter candle that Cardinal Nichols blessed for the Vigil and for continued use during the coming year. Comments follow:

During the preparation of the Baptismal Water

During the preparation of the Baptismal Water

In various places that I have been in London, whether on this visit or on past stops, I have seen beautifully hand-painted Easter candles like this one. Usually the paintings are in the style of icons, including gold leaf paint. Here at the parish that I am visiting – St. James, Spanish Place – they also have a hand-painted Easter candle.

In the United States, by comparison, our Easter candles almost always come from catalogs, according to whatever designs are being offered that year by the manufacturers. Many of them are quite nice, done in wax with beautiful details (others are really cheap-looking), but none of our catalog candles are quite as vibrant and impressive as these hand-painted ones that I’ve seen on various occasions here in London. I believe this is done in other parts of Europe as well. It seems to me that the candle that Pope Francis blessed yesterday in Rome was also hand-painted.

Maybe this is something for you artistically-talented types to consider: talk to Father about ordering a plain candle a few months in advance next year, which you can then paint with vibrant iconographic representations of the Resurrection and related symbolism.

I’ll see if I can snap some photos of the one here at St. James this evening, if the lighting is sufficient – I am celebrating the 7pm Mass.

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The Empty Tomb

One of the feet of St. Mary Magdalene, the first to enter the empty tomb, on display in the church of St. John the Baptist (just across the Tiber from St. Peter’s) in Rome.

THE PASCHAL SEQUENCE

Christians, to the Paschal victim
offer your thankful praises!

A lamb the sheep redeemeth:
Christ, who only is sinless,
reconcileth sinners to the Father.

Death and life have contended
in that combat stupendous:
the Prince of life, who died,
reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring
what thou sawest, wayfaring:

“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
the glory of Jesus’ resurrection;

“Bright angels attesting,
the shroud and napkin resting.

“Yea, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he will go before you.”

Christ indeed from death is risen,
our new life obtaining;
have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia!

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Exult! Rejoice!

Detail of the Risen Christ appearing to his holy Mother, in a tapestry at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Photographed by Fr. Bryan Jerabek.

Detail of the Risen Christ from a 15th-century Netherlandish tapestry altar frontal at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Photographed by Fr. Bryan Jerabek.

Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia! The Lord is truly risen, alleluia!

I hope that many of you were able to participate in the Easter Vigil earlier in the evening and hear the beautiful chant, the Exsultet. Here is the Latin version as it was sung in St. Peter’s Basilica a few years back. Even if you don’t understand Latin, it’s beautiful to listen to:

 
I pray that you all have a holy and happy Easter!

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Christ in the Tomb

The city of Naples, Italy leaves much to be desired; however, should you ever find yourself there, you must go to the Sansevero Chapel museum to see this life-sized sculpture of the Veiled Christ. I visited it several months ago. It is one of the greatest pieces of art of all time. The rest of the chapel is quite beautiful as well.

Images found through Google Image Search – photography not allowed in the chapel.

Side view. (It sits on a low-ish pedastal in the center of the chapel, so you can walk around it). The background is not black – this aspect of the photo would have been done via computer in order to remove background distractions from the photo.

Side view. (It sits on a low-ish pedastal in the center of the chapel, so you can walk around it). The background is not black – this aspect of the photo would have been done via computer in order to remove background distractions from the photo.

View from above.

View from above.

Detail of the head.

Detail of the head.

May this thing of beauty from our great Catholic artistic patrimony help us as we meditate today on Christ’s lying in the tomb before his glorious resurrection.

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Getting Ready to Celebrate

I picked up some provisions today…

Cadbury products are an essential part of every proper celebration of Easter. In the Turkish Deli package is turkish delight.

Cadbury products are an essential part of every proper celebration of Easter. In the Turkish Deli package is turkish delight.

…If it’s not too late after I get home tonight from the Easter Vigil, I might dive in. Otherwise, they’ll be waiting for me tomorrow!

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