Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Photopost Request: All Saints and All Souls 2017

Our next photopost will be for the feast of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls, tomorrow and Thursday. We welcome pictures of Mass in either Form, as well as celebrations of the Divine Office / Liturgy of the Hours for both of these days. Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important; email them to photopost@newliturgicalmovement.org. (Zipfiles are preferred.) Evangelize through beauty!

From last year’s All Saints and All Souls photopost - the OF done right at the church of the Sacred Heart in Clifton, New Jersey.

St Wolfgang of Regensburg

Traditionally, the vigil of All Saints was kept in much of Germany as the feast of St Wolfgang, who died on October 31st of the year 994. Our thanks to our friend Jordan Hainsey for providing us with this brief article, as well as the photos, and the recording of an antiphon from the Office of St Wolfgang used at Regensburg, given below.

Saint Wolfgang (934-994) was born in Swabia, a region in the southwest of Germany, and studied at the Benedictine Abbey of Reichenau before taking up studies in Würzburg, where he became a teacher at the cathedral school of Trier. His ascetic tendencies led him to join the Benedictines at Einsiedeln, Switzerland, where he was appointed head of the monastery school. Wolfgang was ordained in 968 by St Ulrich, who sent him with a party of monks to preach to the Magyars of Hungary, whose resistance to the faith was a threat to the Empire. In 972, the Emperor Otto II appointed him Bishop of Regensburg; he immediately initiated a reform of the clergy and religious life, preached with vigor and effectiveness, and demonstrated special concern for the poor. As his life drew to a close, Wolfgang became a hermit. He retreated to the Salzkammergut region of Austria, where he dwelt in caves wearing his episcopal ring and carrying his crozier. Inspired to build the first church there, he threw his axe and vowed to build a church on the spot it landed. Three days later he found the axe and built the church on the rocky hill next to the lake, today know as Wolfgangsee. His time as an ascetic life was cut short however; he was so beloved by the Regensburg people that they came and carried him back to be their bishop again. In 994, while traveling in Austria, Wolfgang became sick and died in the village of Pupping. Miracles associated with his tomb, including many healings, led to his canonization in 1052. Several of St Wolfgang’s devotees experienced relief from stomach ailments, and he remains a patron saint of such troubles today.
St Wolfgang with his axe
History of the Office of Saint Wolfgang
Much of the excellent historical research on the early Offices of Regensburg’s Saints, including that of Saint Wolfgang, has been undertaken by Dr David Hiley, an accomplished scholar in music history and theory, who serves as a professor at Universität Regensburg. The earliest extant copy of the Office of St Wolfgang is found in a 15th century manuscript from St Emmeram’s Monastery in Regensburg. During St Wolfgang’s episcopate, there was a renaissance in the production of liturgical manuscripts and music books in Regensburg, including a famous gradual now in the Bamberg Staatsbibliothek.

In the 11th century, St Wolfgang’s remains were translated to a new crypt in St Emmeram (both pictured below), and it is likely that a new vita and liturgical Office were composed for this occasion. The author is likely Otloh, a monk of St. Emmeram who was a prolific writer of Saints’ lives, and a music theorist. Musicologists have also speculated that it may have been composed by a student of Otloh’s at St Emmeram, William of Hirsau, or a monk from the Abbey of Reichenau where Wolfgang studied.

Arranged in modal order, the Office’s melody employs a Gallican cadence, the liturgical plainchant of the Gallican rite of the Roman Church prior to the advent of Gregorian chant. While the antiphon adheres to a clear tonal structure, it expresses an extraordinary freedom of movement, with quick leaps from one scale segment to another, scale passages through them, and even oscillations.

Antiphon - Office of Saint Wolfgang
for the Magnificat at First Vespers
Gaudeat tota virgo mater ecclesia, egregii presulis Vuolfgangi meritis insignibus iocundata; letetur foelix Sueuia, tam suaui prole fecundata. Exulta precipue ciuitas Ratispona, tanti pontificis tui doctrina patrociniis et corpore sacro gloriosa. Cuius sacratissimum votis omnibus recolentes transitum, ejus pium apud dominum deum nostrum iugiter sentire mereamur suffragium.

Let the whole Church, our virgin mother, rejoice, delighted by the distinguished merits of the excellent Bishop Wolfgang; let happy Swabia be joyful, made fruitful by so sweet an offspring. Exult especially, o city of Regensburg, made glorious by the teaching of so great a man, your bishop, by his patronage, and by his sacred body. Commemorating his most holy death in all our prayers, may we always merit to experience his holy assistance before the Lord, our God.

All Saints and All Souls Announcements: O. Praem. in California; St John Cantius in Chicago; Columbus, Ohio

Here are a couple of other announcements about liturgies for tomorrow’s solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed on Thursday.

Premonstratensian Rite in Wilmington, California
The church of Ss Peter and Paul in Wilmington, California, will have solemn Mass in the Premonstratensian Rite, celebrated by the Norbertine Fathers of St Michael’s Abbey, on All Saints’ Day and All Souls, both starting at 7:30 pm. The church is located at 515 West Opp Street; see the current parish bulletin here.

The deacon at a Premonstratensian Mass, wearing the almuce, which is donned only for the singing of the Gospel and the Ite, missa est. a unique custom of the Norbertines. 
Mozart’s Requiem in Chicago at St John Cantius
On Thursday, November 2nd, the annual All Soul’s Requiem Mass will be offered in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite at the church of St John Cantius in Chicago, Illinois. The Requiem Mass in D minor (K. 626) by W.A. Mozart will be sung by the St Cecilia Choir and Orchestra., as well as the Miserere of Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783) and Pie Jesu by Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. 1948). The Mass begins at 7:30 pm; the church is located at 825 North Carpenter Street.

Holy Family, Columbus, Ohio
The Latin Mass Community of Columbus, Ohio, will have Mass for All Saints will be at 5:30pm, a first Mass for All Souls at 9am, and a Solemn Requiem at 7pm. All three Masses will be at Holy Family Church, located at 584 West Broad Street.

Monday, October 30, 2017

“What Were They Smoking?”: On Liturgical Art from the 1970s

My liturgical library contains two types of books: ones that I look at because they are beautiful, edifying, or full of wisdom and piety; and ones that I keep precisely because they are the opposite. As I once said to a friend, “You need to know what people were thinking when they destroyed the liturgy. We can make all the guesses we want, but if we don’t actually read the authors of the fifties, sixties, and seventies, we won’t be able to get into their mindset and see what makes them tick.” In this latter category of my library would be such recently added gems as the collection of essays Secular Priest in the New Church (Herder and Herder, 1967), George McCauley’s Sacraments for Secular Man (Dimension Books, 1969), and Leonardo Boff’s Sacraments of Life, Life of the Sacraments (a translation of a 1975 book). Boff’s book is notable for the coffee cup, hunk of bread, and burnt-out cigarette on the cover, which allude to the chapter “My Father’s Cigarette Butt as Sacrament.”

Among these peculiar treasures is a smallish fake-leather-covered red book called The Sunday Missal, first published in 1975 by Collins in London. Here it is, in all its faded glory:
The book opens with a hauntingly melancholy Preface by the long-suffering John Cardinal Heenan, Archbishop of Westminster, well known to traditionalists for his correspondence with Evelyn Waugh, in which he repeatedly stated that the liturgical reforms were just about over -- right when they were going to get worse and worse. Heenan’s Preface is pathetic, as he palpably longs for a better past and half-hopes that this missal will half-match up to it:

The Introduction, while not heretical (unlike the original version of the General Instruction that was hastily rewritten after the Ottaviani Intervention), nevertheless displays the same sort of “theology lite” that was and still is characteristic of the post-conciliar period. Characteristically, “eucharist” is not capitalized. Jesus gives himself “under the eucharistic signs of bread and wine to be the life and food of the community.” (This could be straight from Boff, incidentally.) “When the priest greets the people with the words ‘The Lord be with you,’ he is stating a fact -- the Lord is with his people as they gather to celebrate the eucharist.” Curious how a blessing in the subjunctive has turned into a declarative statement. The second paragraph is actually pretty Tridentine. The third paragraph apologises for the length and number of the readings. In the fourth paragraph we see the conciliar tricolor waved from the barricades as the old city smoulders below: “The more the people enter into the mystery of the eucharist by conscious, active, and fruitful participation, the more they grow in holiness.”

The real wonders begin when we start to see the block prints that are, it is to be believed, meant to depict in graphic form the wonderful liberating energy, the controlled chaos as of split rocks, and the implicit but nearly emergent parousia brought to the People of God by the renewed rites.

Since the art speaks for itself, no more words are necessary. Enjoy!

Victoria’s Requiem for 4 Voices on All Souls in Littleton, Colorado

The FSSP parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Littleton, Colorado will celebrate High Mass on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, both starting at 7 pm. On All Saints, the music will include Mass II, the Gregorian propers of the day, and selected motets. On All Souls’ Day, the church will host both professional singers and members of the Vittoria Ensemble in Denver, joining with its own choir to sing Victoria’s Missa Pro Defunctis, along with several motets and the immemorial Gregorian Chants. The musicians will be performing the Victoria Requiem Mass for 4 voices, which is rarely used, since the 6-part requiem seems to have taken all the attention among Victoria’s works. The church is located at 5620 S. Hickory Circle.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sacred Music Workshop - Long Island, NY

On Saturday, December 2nd, Heitor Caballero, the director of sacred music at St. Agnes Church in New York City, will present a sacred music workshop at Our Holy Redeemer Parish in Freeport, New York. The workshop will serve as an introduction to reading and singing chant, as well as an understanding of the principles of sacred music given in Musicam Sacram. The workshop begins at 11:00 a.m. and concludes with participants singing a Mass at 5:00 p.m; the fee is $10, which includes lunch. More information about how to RSVP is included on the flyer below.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Prayers of Preparation and Thanksgiving for Mass

A reader from Slovenia, Mr Simon Kocjan, sent in this scan he made of a placard with the prayers of Preparation for Mass, and Thanksgiving after Mass. Once upon a time, these were very commonly kept in sacristies, although the prayers themselves were not mandatory. I have seen them printed out in various formats, large and small, framed and hung on the walls of sacristies all over the place. The same prayers are of course also traditionally included in the Missal, and for convenience, in the Breviary as well. Feel free to click on the image, download, print, as you will. The psalms and the canticle Benedicite are given in the version of the Bea Psalter; below it is another version from this website, with the Vulgate text, also available as a pdf. (This was the site’s last post, 4½ years ago, so I assume they also won’t mind what people do with it.)

Some of these prayers are included in the Missal of the Novus Ordo, but the antiphons Ne reminiscaris and Trium puerorum, and the psalms, versicles, and collects that go with them are omitted, only heaven knows why.

Mozart’s Requiem for All Souls’ Day at St Agnes in St Paul, MN

Now in its 44th season at the Church of Saint Agnes in Saint Paul, Minneapolis, the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale will continue its tradition of performing the Requiem of Mozart (K 626) with orchestra, at a Solemn Latin Mass, beginning at 7:30 p.m.on November 2. For more information, visit the website http://www.catholicchorale.org/. The church is located at 548 Lafond Avenue.

From last year’s All Saints and All Souls photopost, here are a couple of great pictures taken at St Agnes during the ceremony.

Icon of Blessed Karl of Austria Presented to the Pope

On October 14, the Emperor Karl League of Prayer recently presented to the Holy Father an icon of the Blessed, the work of Bulgarian iconographer Alexander Schelekow; this was done during a private audience in commemoration of the centenary of the initiative of Pope Benedict XV to end the First World War. Thanks to our friend Jordan Hainsey, who is very active in the League and consulted the iconographer, for sharing this with us.

Part of the description of the icon, from the League’s website: “Blessed Karl is shown in arrested movement. He is portrayed in stillness because he is becalmed by God. His eyes are shown in an open gaze because they are keenly and prayerfully aware of our world. His lips are closed, expressing true contemplation which requires total silence. Karl is surrounded by a halo of radiating light and is standing against a sheet of gold, showing that he is living in the light of God.

In one hand Karl bears a budded Cross. The four arms with four buds symbolize the four Evangelists and invite discipleship in Christ's ministry. The softness of the buds evoke peace and recall Karl's tireless work for peace during WWI. His left hand is open, inviting contemplation of Christ's salvific work through the Cross.

Above Karl, angels present two crowns. The angel on the left clothed in red, the color of royalty, presents the Crown of Saint Stephen, worn by Karl for his Coronation as King of Hungry on December 30, 1916. The angel on the right clothed in blue and green, the colors of life and heaven, bears a crown of thorns, recalling the suffering that Karl bore working for peace for his country and peoples. Together, both crowns recall Karl's view of his Kingship as Divine Right and the sufferings and sacrifice he was called to make throughout his office and life.”

The Pope’s address to the members of League: “With affection I greet you and all the members of the Emperor Karl League for Prayers for Peace Among Nations. I thank the president, Msgr. Fernand Franck, for his words.

Your annual assembly in Rome takes place in the context of the centenary of the initiative for peace undertaken by Pope Benedict XV and, among political leaders, supported only by Blessed Emperor Karl, with the strong desire to bring an end to the slaughter of the First World War. The three aims of the League for Prayers underlined by your president – to seek and observe God’s will, to be committed to promoting peace and justice, to atone for the injustice of history – were, so to say, the recurrent motif of the life of Blessed Karl as a statesman, as a husband and father, and as a son of the Church. Delivering himself to God’s will, he accepted suffering and offered his own life as a sacrifice for peace, always sustained by the love and faithfulness of his wife, Servant of God Zita.

The challenges of our time require the collaboration of all men of good will and, in particular, prayer and sacrifice. I invite you, therefore, to keep your promise to take part, with prayer and personal commitment, in the many efforts of the Pope in favour of peace. Without the support of the prayer of the faithful, Peter’s Successor cannot fulfil his mission in the world. I count on you too. I entrust you to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy and to the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl, and heartily impart my apostolic blessing to you and your loved ones.”

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ancient Sacramentaries in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

As a follow up to yesterday’s post of some historical Ambrosian Missals, here is a collection of illustrations and decorations found in early Roman Sacramentaries, from the endlessly useful website of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Some of the most famous and important liturgical manuscripts in the world are kept there, and can be downloaded for free in pdf format, since they are all in the public domain; this is no more than a tiny selection of their many treasures. I have cropped most of these images, eliminating the empty spaces on the pages. They are all from the Latin section of the Département des Manuscrits, so in the headers, I have put the name and date of each manuscript, and its number within that department, and then the folio numbers and brief explanations of the text in the small captions beneath. The illustrators tended to put their best efforts into the Preface, Sanctus and Canon, and the majority of the images are taken from that part.

Sacramentary of Charles the Bald, 869-870 (1141)
“Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare” (folio 4r)
The Sanctus (folio 6r)
The beginning of the Canon (folio 6v)
Gellone Sacramentary, 780-800 (12048)
The first page of text (folio 1v): “In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, here begins the Sacramentary.” The ancient Roman sacramentaries typically began as this one does with Christmas Eve.
Part of the Solemn Prayers at the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday (folio 54v)
Part of the Preface and the beginning of the Canon (folio 143v). The Sanctus is written in red letters, in Latin, but with Greek letters.
The Sacramentary of Nonantola, 9th century (2292)
The Preface (folio 7v). Part of the text on the other side of the page is visible through the parchment.

40 Hours at Holy Innocents in NYC, Oct. 27-29

The Church of the Holy Innocents in New York City will start its Forty Hours Devotion tomorrow evening, at 6 p.m., with a Votive Mass of the Most Blessed Sacrament, followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament a solemn Eucharistic procession inside the church, the Pange lingua, the Litany of the Saints; other special psalms and prayers will be chanted. On Saturday, October 28 at 1 p.m., the traditional Votive Mass for peace will be celebrated. The closing Mass on the third day, Sunday, October 29, will be that of the feast of Christ the King, starting at 10:30 a.m celebrated coram Sanctissimo (in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed throughout the entire Mass). At the end of the closing Mass, the Litany of the Saints and other special psalms and prayers will be chanted and we will have another Procession of the Blessed Sacrament inside the church. This Procession will end with Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Divine Praises, and the recitation of the Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Young People™

The least religious generation, you say? But we have art! Young People™ love art like this.

From the World Meeting of Families 2018 Twitter feed.
And it worked so well back in the 70s!

(Shamelessly stolen from KP and MTK!)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Three Historic Ambrosian Missals

Three historically important Ambrosian missals were recently on display at the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana in Milan; the first two as shown here are the oldest complete missals of the Ambrosian Rite. The Missal of Biasca is dated by scholars from the end of the 9th to the middle of the 10th century. It was written for a parish outside Milan, and long kept at Biasca in the Val Levantina region of the Swiss Canton Ticino; parts of the canton were formerly owned by the cathedral of Milan, and still use the Ambrosian Rite to this day. It was donated to the Ambrosian Library in 1776. The typical edition of the Ambrosian Missal published in 1902 was made partly in reference to this manuscript.
The Missal of Lodrino dates to the first half of the 11th century; it was originally written for the church of St Stefano in Brolio in Milan itself, but was long kept in the town of Lodrino, also in Canton Ticino.
The Missal of Robert Visconti is named for a member of Milan’s ruling family who was the archpriest of the Duomo from 1293-1312. The Bibliotheca Ambrosiana also preserves his will, in which he left the missal to the Duomo, together with his chalice, and a legacy to pay for the solemn celebration of the then relatively new feast of Corpus Christi, which is first attested in the Ambrosian Rite in this book. Under the figure of Christ in majesty, he is shown celbrating Mass, the inscription says “The Lord Robert Visconti, archpriest of the major church of Milan, had this missal made.” The other side of the page shows the Preface Dialogue and the common form of the Preface, which varies far more in the Ambrosian Rite than in the Roman.

EF Christ the King at St Agnes in New York

On Sunday, October 29th, the Church of St Agnes in New York City will celebrate the feast of Christ the King, starting with Mass in the Extraordinary Form at 9 am, followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart, the Litany of the Sacred Heart, and Benediction. The Missa Ave Virgo Sanctissima by Juan Esquivel will be sung, along with music by Monteverdi, Handl and Vierne. The church is located at 143 East 43rd Street.

Liturgical Linens: Making Purificators, and Completed Projects

Following on from yesterday’s post about the creation of altar linens, written by one of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa, here are photographs which show some of the details of her work. I must admit that I have barely given a second thought to altar lines, and had no idea of care and attention that is given to them. The comments are hers.

Hemming a Purificator:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Photopost Catch-Up: October 2017

Here are photos from a variety of events which have taken place over the last few weeks, with our thanks, as always, to everybody who sent them in! We have a nice mix of Masses and processions held for particular events, and a follow up on our last photopost, since someone asked to see more of a certain church in the Philippines.

The Marie Reine du Canada Pilgrimage
Around 100 people participated, walking on foot over 60 miles to the miraculous shrine of Notre Dame du Cap in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, from September 2-4. This is the 14th pilgrimage, organized by members of St Clement Parish in Ottawa, Canada (FSSP). The pilgrimage culminated with a Solemn High Mass in the historic shrine. (Photos from Mr Ian Gallagher.)

Summorum Pontificum Conference in Chicago
Veritas Bonitas Pulchritas Chicago, a young group that organizes traditional Latin Masses at various parishes, chapels, and shrines in the Chicago area, presented the “Ever Ancient, Ever New” Conference on September 16th to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum. Following the conference, Mass was offered at the Benedictine Monastery of the Holy Cross by Bishop Perry on the External Solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. (1st photo, courtesy of the Monastery of the Holy Cross, the rest from VBP and Xavier Boudreau.)

The Art of Making Altar Linens - As Described By A Marian Sister of Santa Rosa

And taking him down, he wrapped him in fine linen, and laid him in a sepulchre that was hewed in stone, wherein never yet any man had been laid. (Luke 23:53)
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath prepared herself. And it is granted to her that she should clothe herself with fine linen, glittering and white. For the fine linen are the justifications of saints. And he said to me: Write: Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith to me: These words of God are true. (Rev. 19:7-9)

The following is a description by a Marian Sister of Santa Rosa of the art of creating and preparing linens for the altar. I asked her to this as an essay for a class she is taking with us at Pontifex.University, and I was so taken with what she presented to me, I thought you would enjoy reading this too. One point that struck me particularly, was the importance to her of the symbolism of using linen; there might be other fabrics with properties that create the same aesthetic, but the use of linen connects the altar with Scripture in a special way. It is a long essay, but I hope you will feel it is worth reading; tomorrow I will post more pictures of her work.

Linen: The Liturgical Fabric

In the Sacred Liturgy, we worship God with our whole beings, our bodies as well as our souls. Each physical element of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has a role in drawing us closer to God. This involves many things that affect our senses, including the choice of fabrics to be used in the Liturgy. Since the beginning of the Church, the linen fabric has had a special place in the worship of God. In my experience of making the Altar cloths and other cloths needed for Mass, I have come to appreciate the particular role of linen in serving the Liturgy.

Linen is a natural fabric made from the flax plant. Through a long process, parts of the flax stems are separated from the roots, seeds, and woody outer stems. The result is long strands of “flax strick” which are spun into linen thread, then woven into fabric.(Footnote 1) Depending on the thickness of the thread and the tightness of the weaving, linen material can be of higher or lower quality. New linen may be stiff at first, but over time and with wear it becomes a beautiful soft fabric that is useful for many purposes.

In the Old Testament, linen was used as one of the fabrics approved for use in the Temple. The priests’ holy garments were to be made from fine linen and not from wool or other material.(Footnote 2) After Christ, the tradition of using linen in the worship of God was continued, but with a new significance. All four Gospels record that Our Lord was wrapped in a linen cloth for burial. (Footnote 3) Since the essence of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary (Footnote 4), it is significant that the only fabric which is associated with Jesus’ death is linen. In addition, linen is mentioned in Revelation as the “righteous deeds of the saints” which clothes the Bride of the Lamb, the Church. (Footnote 5) Throughout the history of the Church, writers have referenced these facts as the reasons for linen’s use in the Liturgy. (Footnote 6).

Until the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass by Pope Paul VI and the new General Instruction for the Roman Missal, linen or hemp were the only two fabrics allowed for the Altar Linens, the Corporal, the Pall, and the Purificator.(Footnote 7) If the Corporal or Pall were not made of linen, or the Altar was not covered with three linens, it could be matter for sin for the priest who celebrated the Mass.(Footnote 8) Other fabrics such as silk were approved for vestments and other liturgical items. In the current General Instruction for the Roman Missal (1969), the type of fabric for the one required white cloth covering the Altar is not specified (para. 304), nor the type of fabric for the Corporal, Pall, or Purificator. The only mention of types of appropriate fabrics is in reference to the sacred vestments, which requires that the materials, either natural or artificial, be in keeping with the dignity of the sacred action and sacred person.(Footnote 9)

The invention and common use of artificial fabrics is relatively new in the history of the world, and materials such as rayon and polyester are very accessible and can be made into exquisitely beautiful fabrics. Even though Holy Mother Church has allowed for the use of other fabrics, the significance of linen as related to Christ’s Passion and its Scriptural basis should not be overlooked when choosing material to use for the Sacred Liturgy.

Besides being the primary fabric in the history of the Church to clothe the Altar and come into contact with Our Lord and the Sacred Vessels, linen is practically a superior choice. In my fifteen years of experience in working with fabric and the few years I have served in the sacristy, I have seen everything from polyester to rayon to cotton as an alternative to linen. There are some advantages to an “easy-care” fabric such as polyester. It does not wrinkle as badly as linen, it can be dried in the dryer instead of by ironing, and it is durable. For an Altar cloth, it can seem like a good choice. However, it is not a natural fiber and melts, becoming plastic easily. If it is left in the dryer too long or too hot, it becomes permanently wrinkled. Wax stains do not ever fully come out, and it cannot be bleached or it will turn yellow. Rayon is similar in its advantages and detriments, but it is not as durable as polyester. Both of these fabrics are not useful for the smaller linens, such as Purificators and Lavabo towels because they do not absorb moisture well.

Cotton also seems like an advantageous choice because it is more readily available. It is a natural fabric and absorbs moisture better than polyester and rayon, although not as well as linen. Stains do come out of it and bleach can be sparingly used on cotton. To make it as unwrinkled as possible, it can be partially dried and then ironed, but it will never have the crisp, precise, and smooth effect that well cared-for linen can achieve. In working with all of these fabrics, it became clear to me that God chose linen as the liturgical fabric for a reason. Wax and other stains come out more easily, it meets the needs of absorbing moisture efficiently, and is durable when cared for correctly. Linen takes a little bit more work to launder and iron, and needs ironing more often, but when finished, is more beautiful and satisfying than any other commonly used fabric.

I started to work with linen a couple of years before I entered the convent when a priest asked me to make him a few amices. Since this was the first time I had worked with linen, I had difficulty finding suitable fabric. The linen I bought was a large weave, and not of the highest quality, but adequate for my project. I learned that linen moves quite a bit as it is being measured, cut, and sewn, and even if it looks straight when it is cut, it may not be after it is hemmed. However, the weave is a very nice grid for embroidering a straight cross. I was thankful to start with amices, because they do not need to be as precise as other linens.

After I entered the convent, one of the first tasks I was given as seamstress was to make an Altar cloth for the new convent Altar. I had not received additional education on the construction of linens, but I realized that linen can be cut along one thread of the weave to make the edges straight. Since I did not know how to do this most efficiently, it took me many hours just to cut out the very long linen. Then, I painstakingly pinned a one-inch hem with a half-inch turn-under, again following the weave of the fabric. On the sides, I made the hem three inches deep with a half-inch turn under. I then machine stitched the entire hem. Since I had not learned the technique for mitering corners, I hand stitched the corners to make what looks like a normal mitered corner. The result of this process was a fairly accurate and even hem. The two long sides, called falls, were supposed to reach to just above the ground, and I measured accordingly. However, I did not realize how much linen can stretch and move depending on anything from the weather to how it is ironed. The finished linen drapes on the floor about a half-inch on each side, which makes it hard to keep clean, but it fulfills its purpose to clothe the Altar.

After I constructed this first large linen, the convent acquired a wonderful resource in a book called Sewing Church Linens. Elizabeth Morgan, its author, was very helpful in sending us her instructions and pictures of how to work with linen. From her, I learned to cut linens along the drawn thread, but in a much faster way than I had done it before. She also encouraged us to buy her “Golden Ruler”, which is an invaluable tool for marking hems in linen. It is a straight piece of clear plexiglass with a few lines drawn along its length for the different hem widths. Once the fabric is cut and ready for hemming, the edge of the Golden Ruler is laid over the fabric at the correct hem marking, and then the linen is creased along the ruler with a dull blade that does not harm the fibers, such as a butter knife. That crease in the fabric makes it very easy to fold the hem and pin it accurately. This method only works well on linen, because not many fabrics can hold a crease like linen does. The same property of linen that makes it wrinkle so easily, is one of its greatest assets when a straight hem needs to be folded and sewn. Morgan’s instructions and pictures also showed me how to hem linens by hand so that the stitches are invisible on the right side of the fabric, to hem corners on small linens in an unbulky way, and to correctly miter corners on larger linens.

Using these newly learned techniques, I made Purificators for our convent Chapel as well as for St. Eugene, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Santa Rosa. I was able to take the time to hem the convent Purificators by hand, and became proficient in sewing the invisible hems and small corners. For the larger number of Cathedral Purificators, I neatly machine stitched the hem. On both sets of linens, I hand embroidered a simple red cross, counting threads and using the weave of the fabric to make sure the cross was straight and even.

After this, I received permission to make a set of linens as a gift from our community for the ordination of a priest of our diocese. One aspect of our charism as Marian Sisters is to support our priests, especially in beautifying the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, so this project was perfectly in concord with our life. From working in the sacristy and studying various linens, I noticed a beautiful way of stitching the hem to form a pattern in the threads along the edge. With little trial and error, I figured out a way of achieving this design on my linens. Once the hem is creased, the thread in the fabric that is directly above and parallel to the edge of the hem is pulled out. A few more threads above that one are pulled out of the fabric as well. (The number of pulled threads depends on the size of the linen and the size of the desired pattern.) This results in a very narrow strip of fabric that has nothing but perpendicular threads in relation to the hem. Then, the sides which do not have pulled threads are hemmed as usual, omitting the corners. The other hems with the pattern are finished by securing the hem and making the pattern at the same time. To do this, first, with the wrong side of the fabric facing up, one small stitch is taken in the topmost edge of the hem. The needle then separates a specific number of the perpendicular threads in the fabric, securely wraps around them twice, and returns to the hem. A very small stitch of the same number of threads as taken in the fabric is taken in the hem, and then the perpendicular threads are counted and wrapped again. This process continues until the end of the hem. The result is a border of bound fabric threads along the hem. If desired, this can become a double or triple row design by sewing a second time over the pattern, binding half of one set of bound threads with the half of the adjacent set of bound threads at a point above the initial pattern (see figures 1 and 2).

This same technique can be used to form patterns not immediately along the hem as well. For the set of linens for the newly ordained priest, I made a single pattern around the entire Corporal, a double pattern along the two short ends of the Purificator, and a double pattern plus an extra double pattern about a half-inch above it on the two short ends of the Lavabo towel.

Once I finished the hems, I embroidered the red crosses in the correct place. For a Purificator, the cross is centered on the fabric so that when it is folded, the cross appears on or just below the top fold in the center of the linen. On a Lavabo towel, the cross is placed in one of the corners. For a Corporal, a simple cross can be positioned near the front edge, but in such a way so that the priest will not have trouble collecting any Particles of the Blessed Sacrament with the Paten.

The cross pattern I designed was symmetrical, with the tips flaring out a few threads wider than the beams, then tapering in to a point at the end. I used a variation of the satin stitch, which enabled the cross to be clear and neat on both sides of the linen. While embroidering the crosses, I discovered that the distance and thickness of the linen threads of the warp is slightly different than those of the weft. As a result, I had to count the threads differently depending on the direction of my embroidery to make sure the finished appearance was uniform both vertically and horizontally. The competed linens were beautiful, simple, and fit for use at the Altar.

A recent project has been to alter the Cathedral’s new High Altar linens. This Altar is one hundred forty-six inches long, and twenty-five inches deep. However, the Tabernacle extends four inches from the gradines into the mensa. Because of this, the Altar linens cannot be strictly rectangular. In the center of the linen on one side, there must be a cut-out for the Tabernacle. We ordered the primary set of linens from a lady named Lynne Smith before the Altar was actually completed, so our measurement for the width of the Altar was incorrect. When we received the beautifully hemmed linens, made exactly to the size we ordered, they were four inches too wide for the mensa at the center, where the Tabernacle is placed.

To fix this, I devised a way of sewing the cut-out in the linen to make it fit the Altar correctly. Even though I could have used a variety of materials and methods of doing this, I wanted to use the linen’s own fabric to bind the edge of the cut-out so that it would shrink and stretch in the same manner during washing, ironing, and general use as the rest of the linen. First, I cut a rectangle from the center of the linen one half-inch smaller in dimension than the finished need. The Tabernacle needs a four inch by twenty-three and one-half inch area, so I cut a rectangle three and one-half by twenty-two and one-half inches. This allowed for one half-inch seam allowance on each side.

Then, I took out the hem in the piece that I had cut, ironed it flat, and cut two “L” shaped pieces to be a facing for the cut-out. Each “L” was six inches in depth, thirteen and three-quarters inches in length, and two inches wide along the entire piece. After sewing the two facing pieces together at the long ends of the “L” to form a “[” shaped piece, I stitched the facing to the linen with the right-sides together. I then turned the facing to the inside, ironed the seam so that it lay flat, and turned under the raw edges of the facing to sew them down on the linen. On the right side of the linen, all that is visible is a line of stitching one inch from the edge of the cut out. The finished product was a linen that fit the Altar and Tabernacle perfectly.
It is truly a privilege and a duty to use the talent God has given me for His greater glory. As Mary made Our Lord’s clothes, now I, too, have the honor of making the beautiful linens which serve Him and even touch His Sacred Body and Blood. The worship of God should use the best and most beautiful elements of His creation to reflect His majesty and beauty and to draw us closer to Him through our senses. In using linen as a primary fabric for the Sacred Liturgy, it is not only continuing the tradition of the Church, but also offering to God one of the finest fabrics for His greater glory.

Works Cited
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church. With Modifications from the Editio Typica, Doubleday, 1997. 
  • Fuller, Deb. “A Brief History of Linen.” The Thread, Fabric-store.com, April 2, 2015, www.fabrics-store.com/blog/2015/04/02/a-brief-history-of-linen/ . Accessed on September 22, 2017 
  • Missale Romanum 4o. Editio Iuxta Typicam. Benzinger Brothers, Inc., 1962 
  • Morgan, Elizabeth. Sewing Church Linens, 1997. ---. Church Linens and Vestments. www.churchlinens.com
  • Smith, Lynne. Altar Linens by Lynne Smith, 2017. www.altarlinens.com
  • The Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume I, www.books.google.com/books?id=THEqAAAAMAAJ . Accessed on September 22, 2017. 
  • The Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume IV, www.books.google.com/books?id=u08sAAAAIAAJ . Accessed on September 22, 2017. 
  • The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition, Ignatius Press, 2006. 
  • The Roman Missal. Amended Third Latin Typical Edition, 2008. Magnificat, 2011.
Part 2, tomorrow, will have a series of photographs of her work.

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