The ceremony begins with the blessing of holy water, with the regular blessing found in the Rituale Romanum. (Some of the rites in the Pontifical have a special form for blessing the holy water which will be used in them.) The day before the blessing of the corner-stone, a wooden cross is set up in the middle of the site where the altar is to be built. Having blessed the water, therefore, the bishop sprinkles the place where the cross is, while the schola sings the following antiphon, and with it, Psalm 83 Quam dilecta.
Ant. Place the sign of salvation, Lord Jesus Christ, in this place, and permit not the slaying Angel to enter (2 Sam. 24, 16)The bishop then says the following prayer:
Let us pray. Lord God, who though Thou art not contained by heaven and earth, deignest nevertheless to have a house upon the earth, where Thy name may be ever invoked; visit this place, we beseech Thee, with the serene gaze of Thy loving mercy, through the interceding merits of Blessed Mary ever Virgin, and of Saint (naming the Saint in whose honor and name the church is founded), and of all the Saints, and purify it of every defilement through the infusion of Thy grace, and having so purified it, preserve it; and deign Thou to perfect what we desire in this work, Who didst complete the devotion of Thy beloved David in the work of his son Solomon; and let every spiritual wickedness flee from this place. (long conclusion)He then sings the following versicles and prayers.
V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who made the heaven and earth.
V. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
R. From henceforth, now and forever.
V. The stone which the builders rejected.
R. This is become the corner-stone.
V. Thou art Peter.
R. And upon this rock I will build my church.
V. Glory be etc.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who art the true almighty God, brightness and image of the eternal Father, and life eternal, Who art the corner stone, cut from the mountain without hands, and unchangeable foundation; strengthen this stone, which shall be laid in Thy name: and Thou that art the beginning and the end, in which beginning God the Father did from the first day create all things, be, we beseech Thee, the beginning, and increase, and completion of this work, which is duly begun to the praise and glory of Thy name. Who with the Father. (long conclusion)
Let us pray. Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God, deign Thou to + bless this stone as the foundation of a church in the name of Saint N. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, a tried stone, a corner stone, a precious stone, founded in the foundation. (Isaiah 28, 16) of Whom the Apostle sayeth: But the rock was Christ: (1 Cor. 10, 4) who with Thee and the Holy Spirit. (long conclusion)The bishop sprinkles the stone with holy water three times. Taking a knife, he then carves the sign of the cross upon it on each side, saying as he does so, “In the name of the + Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy + Spirit. Amen” (It is to be supposed that crosses are already carved into the stone by stonemasons, and the bishop traces the knife over them.) He then says:
Let us pray. Bless, o Lord, this creature of stone, and grant through the invocation of Thy holy name, that all who shall give help to build this church with a pure heart, may obtain health of body, and healing of the soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.A carpet is then laid down, and a faldstool set upon it, at which the bishop kneels for the singing of the Litany of the Saints. He then rises and says the well-known prayer Actiones nostras:
Let us pray. Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our prayers and our actions by Thy holy inspirations and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance, so that every work of ours may always begin with Thee, and through Thee come to completion. Amen.The bishop intones the following antiphon, which the schola continues, singing with it Psalm 126 Nisi Dominus.
Ant. Arising in morning, Jacob set up the stone as a title, pouring oil upon the top of it, and made a vow to the Lord: truly this place is holy, and I knew it not. (Gen. 28, 18 & 20)The bishop touches, and lays the stone (with the assistance of others, of course), saying:
In the faith of Jesus Christ we place this corner-stone in this foundation: in the name of the + Father, and of + the Son, and of the Holy + Spirit, that the true Faith, the fear of God, and brotherly love may flourish here, that this place may be given over to prayer, and to call upon and praise the name of the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father etc.A stonemason sets the stone in its intended place, and the bishop then sprinkles it once again with holy water, saying the antiphon “Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow,” and with it, Psalm 50, the Miserere.
|The corner-stone of the church of St. Brigid, in Ottawa, Ontario, laid by Bishop Joseph-Thomas Duhamel on May 5, 1889, the feast of Pope St. Pius V. Photo courtesy of Orbis Catholicus.|
The second part of this ceremony consists in the sprinkling with holy water of the foundations of the church, or, if they have not yet been dug out, the place where they will be, which is marked out on the ground. Before he begins the sprinkling, the bishop intones the following antiphon from the Office of the Dedication of a Church, which the schola continues, singing with it Psalm 86 Fundamenta ejus.
Ant. How terrible is this place! this is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven. (Gen. 28, 17)
When the bishop has sprinkled a third part of the foundations, he stops, and sings, “Oremus”; the deacon sings “Flectamus genua”, and the subdeacon, after a pause, “Levate”, after which the bishop sings this prayer.
Almighty and merciful God, who hast given to Thy priests above others such great grace, that whatsoever is done worthily and perfectly by them in Thy name, is believed to be done by Thee; we ask Thy immense clemency, that Thou may visit what we are now about to visit, and bless all that we are about to bless; and at the entrance of our humility, by the merits of Thy Saints, may the demons be put to flight, and the Angel of peace come in. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
The bishop then intones the following antiphon, which the schola completes, without the addition of a Psalm. (This antiphon is found in many medieval breviaries in the Office of the Dedication of a Church, but not in the Roman Use; for example, the Premonstratensians sing it with the Magnificat at Second Vespers.)
Ant. Eternal peace from the Eternal One unto this house; the Peace everlasting, the Word of the Father, be peace unto this house; may the Holy Consoler grant peace unto this house.
Having sprinkled the holy water on another third of the foundations, he stops and says the following prayer (without Oremus before it.)
Let us humbly pray almighty God, dearest brethren, in Whose house there are many mansions, that He may deign through His most serene mercy to + bless, sancti + fy, and conse + crate this place that shall be built unto His name. (long conclusion)
He then intones another antiphon from the Office of a Dedication, which the schola continues, singing with it Psalm 121 Laetatus sum.
Ant. The house of the Lord has been well founded upon a mighty rock.
Meanwhile, the bishop sprinkles the last third of the foundation. Returning to the cornerstone, he and the ministers sing “Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate.” as above, and he sings the following prayer.
God, who from the place where all Saints dwell together buildest an eternal habitation for Thy majesty, grant from heaven increase to Thy building, so that what is begun at Thy command may be completed of Thy bounty. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
The bishop then intones the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, which is completed by the schola, at the end of which he says:
Let Thy Holy Spirit descend, we ask, o Lord, our God, upon this house that shall be built, that He may sanctify within it our gifts, and those of Thy people, and worthily cleanse their hearts. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.Let us pray. O God, who of Thy clemency and kindness art present in every part of Thy dominion to dedicate it, hear us, we beseech Thee, and grant that henceforth, the building of this place remain inviolable: and may the society of all the faithful, which Thee imploreth, merit to receive the benefit of Thy favor. (long conclusion.)
The bishop may then exhort the people to contribute to the building of the church, or say whatever else he wishes. He then gives the solemn blessing and indulgences, and may then say Mass in honor of the Saint to whom the church will be dedicated.