Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Consecration of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary Chapel - An Account of the Ceremonies (Part 1)

A truly complete description of a ceremony such as the solemn consecration of a church would require a website all to itself, so for the sake of brevity, I am going to keep this description as simple as possible. Let me start by saying that I have had years of experience as a master of ceremonies myself, and I am incredibly impressed by work of Our Lady of Guadalupe seminary in putting together this uniquely important event. The acolytes, MCs and the various ministers of the ceremony, major and minor, were all well-rehearsed and perfectly calm at all times. This is a logistically complicated ritual where a hundred things could potentially have gone wrong at any moment, and none of them did; the schola was very impressive; and it was all done in an atmosphere of great tranquility, despite the large number of things to do, and guests to take care of.

The celebration began the evening before with Solemn Vespers, celebrated (for the last time!) in the large lecture hall, or Aula Magna, which has hitherto served as a chapel for the seminary; this room is small enough that a significant part of the community and its guests had to attend the Vespers standing outside in the hallway. The Superior General, Fr. John Berg, was assisted in the celebration by two members of the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart in Wyoming, who are studying for the priesthood alongside members of the Fraternity. It is perhaps not widely known that members of other usus antiquior communities have studied for the priesthood at Fraternity seminaries; in addition to the Carmelites, there are currently five members of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (formerly the Transalpine Redemptorists) at Our Lady of Guadalupe.

After Vespers, the relics of the Saints which were to be laid in the eight altars of the chapel were sealed into their metal boxes; among them are relics of the Apostles Ss. Peter and Paul, Pope Saint Clement I, Ss. Cosmas and Damian, Saint Vincent of Saragossa, Saint Thomas of Canterbury, and Saint Lawrence. Each of the eight altars also contains a relic of one of the Sainted Martyrs of the Cristero War, priests who were killed during the anti-clerical persecutions in Mexico, the land brought to Christ in great measure by the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They were canonized as a group by Pope John Paul II in 2001, and are celebrated with a common feast on May 25th; may they bless and keep the seminary named for the patroness of their native land! The sealed boxes were then placed in a wooden ark, and carried though the seminary building, outside into the central courtyard, around, and back to the Aula Magna.

The entire community followed, singing the Litany of the Saints along the way; to the names which have been sung in the Litany since at least the time of Saint Gregory the Great were added those of the more recently canonized Saints whose relics we accompanied in procession. So many people were present for this that on more than one occasion, the celebrant at the end of the procession, and the laity behind him could no longer hear the cantors leading the litany!

On returning to the temporary chapel, Fr. Berg blessed the so-called “Gregorian” water; this is a special form of holy water used particularly for the Consecration ritual of a church. The water is mixed not only with the usual salt, but also with ashes and wine, to symbolize that the church is a place where we come to do penance, as well as to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Each of these elements is blessed with a special prayer, as is the incense which would be used for the consecration of the altars the next day. The relics were left on the altar of the chapel thought the night, so that the celebrant bishop could begin the ceremony there the next day.

Part 2 will focus on the Consecration and Pontifical Mass.
Photos courtesy of the FSSP.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: