Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Way We Really Were

Thanks to Mr James Card for sharing with us this item from the Boston Globe, printed on Good Friday, April 1, in the year 1904, a brief account of the Tenebrae service held the previous evening at the cathedral of the Holy Cross, with Archbishop John Williams in attendance.

No reasonable or well-informed person would claim that everything about the Church’s liturgical practice before the most recent ecumenical council was perfect, or everything it should be. But the liturgical reform enacted in the wake of that council, and in betrayal of it, is not infrequently defended on the grounds that fruitful participation by the laity in the traditional liturgy is per se impossible, and that a radical, top-to-bottom reform of every part of it was the only way to bring about such participation. It is helpful to remind ourselves from time to time that this is a falsehood, and always was.

As an interesting aside, you may note that the subheader describes Abp Williams as “aged”; at the time this was written, he was 82, but still had a “deep, rich” and easily recognizable singing voice. Since it was established in 1808, Boston has had only nine bishops, which makes for an average of 23 years and 8 months each; this statistic is skewed in no small measure because Williams’ episcopacy lasted for 41 years, from 1866 to 1907. It was during his tenure that Boston was raised to an archdiocese, and the cathedral of the Holy Cross built and dedicated.
Archbishop John Williams (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)
The cathedral of the Holy Cross as proposed in 1871; the spires of the bell-towers were never completed, for fear that their weight would cause the façade to sink, since the cathedral is built in the area of a filled-in tidal marsh. Abp Williams dedicated the church on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1875. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)

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