Thursday, August 31, 2023

A Modern History of Gothic Vestments, 1838-1957 (Part 3): Guest Article by Nico Fassino

This is the third part of Mr Nico Fassino’s article on the history of the revival of Gothic vestments; the first part covered the period from 1841-1863, and the second part from 1863-1925. Mr Fassino is the founder of the Hand Missal History Project, an independent research initiative dedicated to exploring Catholic history through the untold and forgotten experiences of the laity across the centuries. Learn more at or @HandMissals. Once again, we are very grateful to him for sharing his interesting and thoroughly well-researched work with us.

A chasuble made for Cardinal Odoardo Farnese, ca. 1590-1610, designed by the painter Annibale Carracci. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Sailko, CC BY 3.0.
The Vatican “Ban” of 1925
The use of Gothic vestments continued to spread in England and elsewhere. For example: by 1925, it was reported that every single Catholic church and chapel except one (the Oratory of St. Philip Neri) in the Diocese of Birmingham used Gothic vestments. [38]
That year was a momentous one for the story of Gothic vestments. Pope Pius XI had proclaimed 1925 as a Holy Year, and Rome was chosen as the host city for an International Exhibition of Modern Christian Art. During the exhibition, “newly-made vestments, according to the Borromeon proportions, were shown in a special audience with Pius XI, who approved their use and blessed them.” [39]
Afterwards, there seems to have been a desire by some in Rome to walk back any idea of increased Gothic permissions. On December 9, 1925, the Sacred Congregation of Rites responded to a question regarding vestments. The rescript was exceedingly brief, did not formulate any new regulations or details, and simply referred the question back to the well-known letter of 1863, which was appended to the response:
[Question]: In the making and use of vestments for the sacrifice of the Mass and sacred functions, is it permissible to depart from the accepted usage of the Church and introduce another style and shape, even an old one?
[Response]: It is not permitted, without consulting the Holy See, in accordance with the Decree or circular letter of the S.R.C., given to Ordinaries on August 21, 1863. [40]
This was the very first time that the text of the 1863 letter had been published in any official collection of decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. It is likely for this reason that the 1925 reply was commonly viewed as a ‘new’ or ‘updated’ Roman intervention on Gothic vestments, despite the fact that the reply merely pointed back to the original letter.
The Ecclesiastical Review, Dec, 1925, p. 626
The 1925 reply quickly raised questions around the world. It was reported in some quarters as an attempt to stop the widespread adoption of Gothic vestments. The editors of the Ecclesiastical Review answered several questions about it, discussed the original 1863 letter, and again did not interpret the decision to mean that ongoing use of Gothic vestments (or even the manufacture of new ones) was forbidden:
“Hence, while the use of the so-called Roman chasuble, in which the shoulder parts slightly overlap, is recognized as the prevailing approved custom, many churches in England, Germany, America, and even in Rome, adopt what is designated as the Gothic style to distinguish it from the purely Roman. It is certainly the more graceful of the two, and hence is commonly adopted in ecclesiastical art.” [41]
“The use of the Gothic chasuble in the modified form adopted by St. Charles and proposed by Bishop Gavanti, the Roman master of Pontifical ceremonies, is not forbidden. [...] The traditional right, which is not merely a privilege, of using Gothic vestments as described, was not abrogated by Pius IX or the S. Congregation, but continues wherever it has been regularly or accidentally adopted before that time.” [42]
As news of this reply from Rome spread in English-speaking lands, it produced a decent amount of confusion, and in some cases seems to have been met with barely a shrug. [43] Tongue-in-cheek commentary was offered in diocesan newspapers about the “battle of vestments” and the absurdity of attempting to define how ‘amply cut’ a vestment could be before it became forbidden.
The Catholic Transcript, April 15, 1926. p. 4
Gothic Vestments after the ‘ban’ of 1925
Given this reception and interpretation of the 1925 rescript, it will not be surprising that Gothic vestments continued to be used and continued to spread in the years which followed. In the decade following the 1925 document, they were discussed as normal and licit things by diocesan newspapers and the US Bishops’ news service; they were manufactured and advertised by church goods retailers, they were used in the presence of bishops and by bishops themselves; they were even used by papal legates and by the pope himself!
Gothic Chasuble commissioned in 1929 by Cardinal Francis Bourne. From Dom E.A. Roulin, Vestments and Vesture: A Manual of Liturgical Art (London: Sands & Co, 1933), page 94.
  • In 1926, Gothic vestments were used at the Solemn Midnight Mass at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, DC. [44]
  • In 1927, the US Bishops’ news service praised Sacred Heart church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for fostering a liturgical revival and specifically commented upon the exclusive use of Gothic vestments. [45]
  • In 1929, a special set of Gothic vestments was worn on the feast of St. Ignatius and Golden Jubilee of Rev. William Cunningham, SJ at the Church of the Gesù in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. [46]
  • In 1929, Cardinal Francis Bourne commissioned Gothic vestments for Westminster Cathedral during the celebration of the centenary of Catholic Emancipation. [47]
On March 19, 1930, Pope Pius XI used Gothic vestments during mass at St. Peter’s, and allowed himself to be photographed while doing so. [48] Gothic vestments were widely used throughout Rome during these years, including by cardinals in the catacombs, at the Basilica of St. Sebastian, and in celebrations organized by the Pontifical Academy of Martyrs and presided over by the papal master of ceremonies. [49]
Pope Pius XI celebrating Mass in a Gothic chasuble made for him by the Poor Clares of Mazamet, France. Source: Raymund James, “The Origin and Development of Roman Liturgical Vestments” (Exeter: Catholic Records Press, 1934), page 2.
In 1934 the Catholic Church in Australia held a National Eucharistic Congress in Melbourne, celebrating the centenary of the church in that country and featuring “unprecedented” spectacular ceremonies and vast numbers of clergy and laity. On November 30, following the opening ceremonies for the congress, pontifical high mass was celebrated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral by papal legate Cardinal Joseph MacRory in the presence of 60 bishops and 450 priests from around Australia. The cardinal and celebrating ministers wore Gothic vestments. [50]
The Telegraph (Brisbane), Nov. 30, 1934, p. 7 
The following day Archbishop Filippo Bernardini, papal nuncio to Australia, celebrated another pontifical high mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a crowd of more than 7,500 people, wearing Gothic vestments, which were frequently used throughout the Eucharistic Congress. [51]
Full approval of Gothic Vestments
In the years which followed, various members of the hierarchy of Australia continued to use Gothic vestments in high-profile settings, as in 1937, when Archbishop of Adelaide Andrew Killian used them during the consecration of Francis Henschke as Bishop of Wagga Wagga. [52]
They continued to receive official approval and use around the world during these years, for example, being authorized for the Archdiocese of Malines by Cardinal Jozef-Ernest van Roey in 1938, and by the Second Diocesan Synod of Quebec in 1940. [53]
Gothic vestments even reached the literal ends of the Earth during this period. During the US Navy’s Antarctic Expedition, on January 26, 1947, the first ever Catholic Mass offered in Antarctica was celebrated in extremely rustic conditions in the mess hall of camp ‘Little America IV’ on the Ross Ice Shelf. Rev. William Menster, chaplain of the flagship USS Mount Olympus, used green Gothic vestments. [54]
At left, Rev. William Menster; at right, the USS Mount Olympus (AGC-8) in Antartica, 1947. (Sources: left and right.)
Finally, on August 20, 1957, the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued a decree which gave bishops the right to permit the use of Gothic vestments in their own dioceses. From this point onward their use, which had been regular throughout the world by priests and bishops alike since 1925, only further increased.
NCWC News Service, Aug. 31, 1957, wire copy p. 8
This concludes our survey of the use of Gothic vestments between 1841 and 1957. It is a story far more complex and fascinating than that depicted by conventional narratives. What can we make of all this? I think there are several key points which are worthy of summary and further discussion.
First, it is abundantly clear that the ‘revival’ of Gothic vestments in the modern period was much more widespread throughout Europe–particularly in England, France, and German-speaking lands–much earlier than commonly thought. By 1849 it was authorized by multiple bishops (in some cases on a diocesan-wide basis) across the continent.
Second, it is also clear that from the very early days of the Gothic revival, there were some officials in Rome who were skeptical and disapproving of the use of these vestments. The number of those who disliked the Gothic, as well as their roles and the intensity of their opposition, varied over the years. On multiple occasions, the popes themselves directly gave approval for and/or approving remarks about Gothic vestments. But in general, there was consistently more opposition than support from various members of the curia.
Despite this, it is also evident that Rome did not ever unequivocally condemn or actually attempt to stamp out the practice, and that there was widespread toleration of Gothic vestments, which evolved into permission to the local bishops. [55] There were no formal restrictions against Gothic vestments until the circular letter of 1863, and even then it was not viewed by chanceries and clerical journals around the world as a strict ‘ban’. The text of the letter was not published for more than 60 years afterwards and not a single different or clarifying statement was ever issued by Vatican officials.
It’s obvious that there was a persistent lack of clarity on what Rome permitted, tolerated, or forbade, as is evident from the number of times the question was raised in clerical journals and Catholic periodicals). There was also a widespread interpretation that Gothic vestments could continue to be used with the permission of the bishop. Because of this, the situation varied from diocese to diocese and region to region. In some cities or dioceses, the use of Gothic vestments was fully approved; in others, it was forbidden or limited.
All of this demonstrates how difficult it would be to claim that there was a clear message from Rome or to assign the label of disobedience to those many priests, bishops, and laity who produced, purchased, and used Gothic vestments for decades even after the 1863 letter. They were discussed approvingly in diocesan newspapers, permitted and used by the bishops and cardinals of the region, and routinely sanctioned by canonical and clerical journals. If the use of these vestments was in fact disobedient or forbidden during these decades, could the common priest or member of the laity have been expected to discover that fact with any certainty? [56]
Even after the Vatican rescript of 1925–which merely pointed back to the 1863 letter, and again, was not interpreted as a ban–the use of Gothic vestments did not slow or diminish. Just 5 years after the rescript, the pope himself was photographed in Gothic vestments. Within less than a decade, multiple papal nuncios and legates were regularly using them in the most high-profile and public ceremonies possible.
Photograph of the Gothic vestments blessed by Pope Pius XI in 1925. Source: Dom E.A. Roulin, Vestments and Vesture: A Manual of Liturgical Art (London: Sands & Co, 1933), page 82.
Because the use of Gothic vestments was so widespread before 1900 (and was desired and encouraged by so many different priests and bishops in so many different countries for so many years) it seems clear that it would have been essentially impossible to avoid the trend even without the advent of the modern Liturgical Movement in the 1920s.
If Rome truly viewed the ongoing use of Gothic vestments as a clear abuse or explicitly forbidden, it must be said that they handled it in one of the worst and most ineffective ways possible. Furthermore, once papal representatives and the pope himself began to even occasionally use them for public masses, any remaining doubt about their permissibility was eliminated in the mind of Catholics around the world.
Following the decree of 1957, Gothic vestments came to dominate the ecclesiastical landscape and their use for the last several decades has been essentially universal. Contrary to the expectations of the writer in America in 1910, it seems that the vast majority of priests in the mid-20th century did not adopt the Gothic with “heavy hearts” after all. It is also interesting that the lighthearted commentary from 1926 now appears to be extraordinarily prescient:
“The question of amplitude or non-amplitude in vestments will never, let it be hoped, rise, or descend, to schismatical proportions. There was a long dispute over the date of Easter. The war of the Vestments ought to be settled within a generation or two at the utmost.” [57]
And indeed it was.
NOTES (numeration continued from previous article):
[38] The Advocate (Melbourne), June 4, 1925, page 15.

The Feast of Bl. Ildephonse Schuster 2023

Normally, we would never let August 30th pass without remembering the Blessed Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, who went to his eternal reward on that day in 1954, after serving as Archbishop of Milan for just over a quarter of a century. Yesterday, however, my wifi router went on strike, and I was unable to post anything, so better a day late than never. We have written about him many times on NLM, partly in connection with our interest in the Ambrosian liturgy, of which he was a great promoter, but also as one of the most notable scholars of the original Liturgical Movement. His famous work Liber Sacramentorum, known in its English translation as The Sacramentary (republished in both paper and cloth by Arouca Press), was written while he was still a Benedictine monk of the Roman Rite, and although inevitably dated in some respects, it remains an invaluable reference point for liturgical scholarship.

Upon his transfer to Milan, he embraced the Ambrosian liturgy wholeheartedly, and as the ex-officio head of the Congregation for the Ambrosian Rite, strongly defended the authentic uses of the Milanese tradition. He also oversaw important new editions of the Ambrosian musical books, which are still used in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form of the Rite to this day. Our dear friend Monsignor Amodeo, a canon of the Duomo of Milan who was ordained a subdeacon by the Blessed Schuster, told us many stories about him over the years, among which one has always stood out in my mind in particular; in his lifetime, even the communist newspapers noted his continual presence in the Duomo at all of the most important functions of the liturgical year. Nicola de’ Grandi, our Ambrosian writer, once showed me a video of Cardinal Schuster giving Benediction from the façade of the Duomo, to a crowd that completely filled the huge piazza in front of the church. (Thanks to Nicola for these photos.)

Pontifical Mass on the feast of St Charles; the mitred canons sitting on the steps of the altar are the deacons and subdeacons who serve the Mass, apart from those at the throne.
Preaching from the great tribune pulpit of the Duomo.
Lighting the faro on the feast of St Sebastian.
During the difficult years of his episcopacy, the years of Italian Fascism and World War II, during which Milan was one of the hardest hit cities in Italy, the Bl. Schuster showed himself in every way a worthy successor of St Charles Borromeo, shepherding his flock in much the same way, visiting every parish of the diocese five times (occasionally riding on a donkey to some of the more remote locations), holding several diocesan synods, and writing innumerable pastoral letters.
Pastoral visit to the village of Valsolda.
Praying at the tomb of Card. Andrea Ferrari, archbishop of Milan from 1894-1921. Card. Ferrari was beatified on May 10, 1987; his relics are now in an altar in the right aisle of the Duomo, right next to that which contain the relics of Bl. Schuster. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Beheading of St John the Baptist 2023

A righteous man is murdered by adulterers, and a death sentence is pronounced by the guilty upon their judge. Then the death of the prophet was the fee of a dancing girl. Last of all (something which even savages are wont to shun), the order to perpetrate this cruelty was given amid feasting and merriment, and the servants of this brutal crime run from banquet to prison, from prison to banquet. How many crimes within this one evil deed!

The Head of St John the Baptist Presented to Herod, by Donatello, 1427; one of six decorative panels on the baptismal font of Siena Cathedral.
Look, most grievous king, on these sights well worthy of thy banquet. Put out thy hand, that nothing may lack from thy savagery, and let the streams of sacred blood run between thy fingers. ... Look at the eyes, which even in death are witnesses of thy crime, even as they turn away from the sight of thy pleasures. Those eyes are closed, not from the necessity imposed by death, but from horror at thine excess. That golden mouth, now bloodless, whose sentence thou couldst not bear, groweth silent, and is still feared. (St Ambrose, On the Virgins, book 3; the sermon at Matins for the feast of the Beheading of St John the Baptist in the Breviary of St Pius V.)

A Contemporary Hiberno-Saxon Style Illumination of the Chi-Rho

Work from a Graduating Student at the Pontifex University Master of Sacred Arts Program

I am excited to show you the work of one of our students, Daniela Diz, who submitted this for her capstone portfolio, the final stage of the Masters program. Daniela specializes in illumination and decorative and geometric patterns in the Christian tradition.

She based this work on the Chi-Rho of the Book of Kells, a manuscript which was created in the 7th century in what is referred to as the “Hiberno-Saxon” style. Chi and rho are the first two Greek letters of the word for Christ, ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (Christos).

The Master of Sacred Arts program capstone gives students a choice of either a research and writing option, or the submission of a portfolio of art work. The goal of the MSA overall is to offer to students the formation and Catholic inculturation that might have been offered to artists in the past. This is of interest, therefore, to artists in any creative discipline; to potential patrons of the arts who wish to understand Catholic tradition and how artists work; as well as the many people who have a deep interest in Catholic art and culture and want to know more. 
The practical content is not high. Aside from the option of submitting an art portfolio as part of the capstone, there other practical requirement is to create some geometric constructions as part of my Mathematics of Beauty course. As you can probably guess, Daniela came to us already equipped with a high level of skill, but enrolled with us because she wished to know more deeply how to direct her talents to the service of the Church. Some readers may remember, incidentally, that I featured the same student’s work for that Mathematics of Beauty course, a beautiful intricate floor designs in a Romanesque style.
Here are more photographs, showing the work in progress on the Chi-Rho. Note that she gilds the page as well as drawing and inking it.

Monday, August 28, 2023

A Visit to St. Patrick’s Church in New Orleans, Home to the Latin Mass Since 1965

In terms of the history of the traditionalist movement, one of the most interesting places I had the opportunity to visit in Louisiana was St. Patrick’s in downtown New Orleans.

This church is a glorious artistic monument, built in 1833, and boasting an inspiring history. It is one of the few places anywhere on earth that kept the chanted Latin liturgy going from 1965 all the way to the present. There was a period (from ca. 1970 to 1984) when the Mass was the Novus Ordo in Latin, but before that period, and after it, the Roman Rite has held sway. All of the pastors from 1965 onward have been committed to keeping this tradition going; the archbishops have supported it, and the congregation is strong and healthy.

The parish is “bi-formal”; each day there is both the TLM and the NOM, and on Sunday the Novus Ordo is also celebrated ad orientem. The very sign announcing the Mass times is like a silent testament to Benedict XVI’s vision of paix liturgique, now shattered by his successor:

The Sunday 9:15am Solemn High Mass I attended filled the pews, with a high proportion of young adults and big families. The congregation sang the Ordinary and responses with gusto.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

A Modern History of Gothic Vestments, 1838-1957 (Part 2): Guest Article by Nico Fassino

This is the second part of Mr Nico Fassino’s article on the history of the revival of Gothic vestments; the first part was published on Wednesday. Mr Fassino is the founder of the Hand Missal History Project, an independent research initiative dedicated to exploring Catholic history through the untold and forgotten experiences of the laity across the centuries. Learn more at or @HandMissals. Once again, we are very grateful to him for sharing his interesting and thoroughly well-researched work with us.

Reception of the 1863 letter

Despite the 1863 letter from the Sacred Congregation of Rites, the use of Gothic vestments did not seem to be much changed in the years which followed. Records demonstrate the widespread and uncontroversial use of Gothic vestments around the globe during these years, including:

  • In 1870, a magnificent set of Gothic vestments worth approximately $50,000 in modern valuation was given to Bishop Richard Roskell of Nottingham for use in the cathedral. [15]
  • In 1873, Archbishop of Sydney John Polding wore “rich” Gothic vestments as he ordained Christopher Reynolds as Bishop of Adelaide in a large ceremony attended by at least four other Australian bishops. [16]
  • The 1867, 1879, 1883, and 1885 retail catalogs of Benziger Brothers, the premier Catholic publishing house and church goods retail in the United States, offered Gothic-style vestments. [17]
  • At his ordination by 1887, newly-consecrated Bishop of Wilcannia John Dunne wore “a superb and costly” set of white and gold Gothic vestments. [18]
  • By 1895, one account observed: “… there is a great diversity in this respect [of vestments] in the Roman Catholic Church. In England, the Gothic, French, and the Italian chasubles are all freely used by the Roman Catholic Clergy. [...] The Swiss Roman Catholic clergy and those in many parts of Germany use Gothic vestments, not those of Renaissance form”. [19]
Archbishop of Sydney John Bede Polding in Gothic vestments, 1866
Another summarized the situation thus: “[a]s in England, so also on the Continent, the advance of the ample chasuble was notable. By 1900 many dioceses in Western Europe could show churches where it was in use. Some of them had secured indults, some had simply accepted a growing custom, and all could cite the example of Rome itself, where several cardinals and at least two popes (Pius IX and X) encouraged the ample chasuble and used it themselves.” [20]
Helene Stummel, ca. 1890
Helene Stummel, wife of the famous artist Frederick Stummel, was a vestment maker, and a passionate advocate for the revival of Gothic vestments during these years. She was sought after by many bishops, taught regularly across Europe, and published books on recommendations for the design of vestments:

“Madam Stummel has lectured before cardinals, bishops, and the clergy in Rome, before the Congresses of Cologne and Dusseldorf. Recently a number of the Bishops of England have invited her to speak before the conferences of the clergy and in their seminaries to the students of theology. She possesses a singular mastery of the subject, and has the means to illustrate her clear and erudite expositions from a rare collection of paramentics gathered and disposed with artistic skill and a thorough realization of the dignity of the subject.” [21]

One may wonder how such a situation could exist following the circular letter of 1863. It seems exceedingly implausible that significant numbers of bishops and priests of multiple countries throughout the world were deliberately disobeying Roman directives. What then is the explanation?

Interpretation of the 1863 letter
First, it is interesting to note that the 1863 letter was not published or included in the official collection of decrees and decisions of the Sacred Congregation of Rites for more than sixty years after it was written. It is possible that, because of this, in some isolated cases the letter went unheeded due to lack of awareness, or because it was viewed as less authoritative than a formal decree. [22]

The letter was widely known in general, however, and regularly cited in clerical journals or similar interpretive authorities. These discussions demonstrate how the 1863 letter was understood and applied over decades and suggest an explanation for why the use of Gothic vestments continued: in short, the letter was not considered to be an unequivocal or totally restrictive ban.

Writing in 1884, the editors of the Irish Ecclesiastical Record explained that this letter permitted Gothic vestments to continue to be used but prevented any new vestments from being produced: “[i]n the face of this decree, it is not lawful to manufacture new vestments of this pattern. The bishop may allow the use of those already made, till they are worn out.” [23]
Painting of Rev. William Lockhart, from the cover of “William Lockhart: First Fruits of the Oxford Movement” (Herefordshire: Gracewing, 2011).
Rev. William Lockhart, a convert and friend of John Henry Newman, offered extensive commentary on the 1863 letter in the pages of the Irish Ecclesiastical Record in 1890, stating that, among other things, the manufacture of ‘Borromean’ chasubles (in the size and shape prescribed by St. Charles Borromeo) remained fully permitted without requiring any special permission, as did the ‘Galway’ chasuble in Ireland. [24]

Despite the continuing use of Gothic vestments and the prevailing interpretation that the 1863 letter permitted this (but not the manufacture of new ones), Rome did not issue any further instructions, clarifications, or restrictions. [25]
The hated modern ‘French’ style
It is also worth noting that there were a number of prominent clerical and lay figures during these years who regularly wrote about their preference for the Gothic style in clerical journals and Catholic periodicals. Ernest Gilliat-Smith, for example, wrote in 1890, “... to my mind, Gothic vestments are preferable to Roman, both from an artistic and symbolic point of view, and I hope and trust that one day their use may be universal.” [26]

There was also widespread and long running disdain for the cheap, mass-produced French (modern fiddleback-style) vestments. These had undergone rather significant changes in style – described by some as “cutting and clipping” and others as “mutilation” – both before and after the French Revolution. These new forms were not forbidden by Rome and had quickly spread throughout Italy and elsewhere. [27]
Example of French-style clerical dress, 1776
The trend was described by the editors of the American Ecclesiastical Review as “[t]he growing abuse of the viol- (fiddle-) shaped chasuble, forced on the ecclesiastical market by the French makers of paramentics and silk merchants.” [28] Commentary in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record in 1890 is at turns both comical and illustrative, and seems worth quoting at length:

“Who can describe the abortion of the chasuble that pervades France at the present day? Fiddle-shaped in front, not coming down to the knees, stiff with buckram, or paper pasted on the poverty-stricken half-cotton-half-silk material of Lyons manufacture. They are as stiff as tea-boards, and crack if they are bent.

“I was told a story lately in Belgium, of a priest who objected to the stiff paper pasted between the flimsy silk and cheap cotton lining. The manufacturer [...] misunderstanding the objection of the priest, replied: ‘Yes, M. l‘Abbe, we always use paper, in order that they may wear better, and to add to the substantial appearance of our vestments; but I assure you, on this point I have a delicate conscience, and I never put into vestments anything but des bons journaux Catholiques [good Catholic newspapers].”

“These Lyons vestments are going every day all over the world. They are cheap, and Les Dames pieuses can thus make their collections go a good way in providing vestments for Les Missions Etrangeres. [...] We need not wonder that Pius IX intimated in the letter of Cardinal Patrizi that there might be good reasons (rationes alicujus ponderis), in favour of a return to the more ancient form of the vestment.” [29]

Even the noted authority Bishop Josephus van der Stappen commented dismissively on the French corruption of the chasuble:

“Hence, when the ancient chasuble had, in the course of time, been cut down from its generous proportions of old, to the skimp reduction of modern times, and the evil had found its way from France into the neighboring countries, there arose in England, France itself, Germany, and Belgium men who, animated by a zeal for Christian art, sought on their own account to restore the ancient practice by adopting the more beautiful style of Gothic vestments...” [30]

American Gothic (Vestments)
In America, by the turn of the century, there was some regular use of Gothic vestments and clear clerical support for more. Even the editors of the Ecclesiastical Review, nobody’s idea of progressive innovators, routinely featured pieces and editorials supporting their adoption.
Excerpt from the Ecclesiastical Review, April 1910
Beyond mere support, the Review was considered to be a driving force behind a movement pushing for the change in vestments. A letter from 1910 begins: “To the Editor, The Ecclesiastical Review. My hearty congratulations upon the movement you have started for the very desirable reform in our church vestments. Enclosed is a typical letter showing that you have many well-wishers with you in this matter…” [31]  Multiple examples of proposed Gothic designs were published in the Review, along with example measurements of what was permissible.
Model of proposed Gothic chasuble in the Ecclesiastical Review, December 1909, page 687.
The use and permissibility of Gothic vestments were widely discussed in various Catholic publications of the time. Some discussions even considered the potential future of a Roman decree to abandon fiddlebacks and exclusively adopt the Gothic! A 1910 editorial in the Jesuit journal America commented on the matter in a rather cheeky fashion:

The proper form and colors of vestments is being discussed in the Ecclesiastical Review[…] they represent a school long in existence in Germany and England, and are strong in art and aesthetics. We fear the faithful are largely Philistines [regarding which style of vestments they prefer]. Moreover, the Latin races are not likely to submit gladly even in this matter to the Teuton. [...]

If the Holy See so ordains, priests will all exchange our aniline-dyed, fiddle-shaped vestments for modified Gothic of subdued, esthetic hue. But many will do so with heavy hearts and there will be heavy hearts, too, among their people. It is hard to part with old friends, and the modern form and the bright colors have many to love them. For, after all, as Andrew Lang, singing in ‘The Galleries’ the charms of the two schools of art, confesses: ‘You still must win the public vote, Philistia!’ ” [32]

Examples of a proposed three-tiered system of vestments, in the Ecclesiastical Review, March 1910, page 351. This system was devised by Bishop Wilhelm von Keppler of Rottenburg, Germany. [33]
Through the first decade of the twentieth century we find records of the use of Gothic vestments across America. In 1910, Gothic vestments were in use in St. Mary’s church in Portland, Oregon. The Tabernacle Societies of the cathedrals in Baltimore and Cincinnati, which funded supplies and furnishings for parishes too poor to afford them, regularly produced Gothic vestments during these years. [34]

In 1914, the general American situation was summarized as follows: “[d]uring the last few years there has been a steady advance, especially in our larger city churches, towards a more exact observance of the rubrics and the carrying out of the solemn services of the Church. One of the notable features has been a closer approach, in the matter of vestments, to the old Roman usage, and many churches have adopted altogether the use of the so-called Gothic (old Roman) chasuble in place of the violin-shaped garments introduced by Gallican enterprise.” [35]

Example of Gothic vestments being given to bishops as gifts. Source: NCWC News Service, May 28, 1923, wire copy page 15.
Parishes were proud to own fine Gothic vestments and hefty sums were paid out for the best sets from American and European retailers. They were also frequently given as gifts by various parish or diocesan groups to their priests and bishops. For example, in 1922 the St. Anne Married Ladies’ Sodality at St. Mary's parish in Dayton, Ohio paid $900 for an imported set as a Christmas gift to their pastor (equal to $16,345 in 2023 when adjusted for inflation). [36]

By 1924 they seem to be in widespread and regular use, at least in certain parts of the country. In Cincinnati alone there are multiple examples of Gothic vestments mentioned in less than 12 months: at the Student’s Crusade Castle chapel, at the parishes of St. Margaret of Cortona and St. Agnes, and even at the Cathedral. [37]

This concludes the second article in this series. The third and final article will explore the use of Gothic vestments between 1925 and 1957 and offer conclusions concerning the whole series.
NOTES (numeration continued from previous article):
[15] The Nottinghamshire Guardian, April 22, 1870, page 2. The set was donated by nuns of Cologne, Germany and was valued at between £400-500 in 1870, or £39,180 adjusted for inflation as of June 2023.

Friday, August 25, 2023

The Vigil of St Augustine, According to the Order Formerly Known as the Hermits of St Augustine

St Augustine, attributed to Gerard Seghers, 1600-50
Lost in Translation #83

Saint Augustine of Hippo, whose feast day falls on August 28, left an indelible mark on the theology of Western Christianity, as well as on the priesthood and religious life. Augustine was one of the earliest bishop to establish what were later called Canons Regular, originally, priests that live with their bishop and share a common life, and his Rule led to the formation of several religious orders. The largest and most familiar of these is the Order of Saint Augustine (OSA), founded in 1244 and originally known as the Hermits of Saint Augustine (OESA).

In addition to the universal feast on August 28, the old Augustinians kept proper several feasts of their own, including a vigil on August 27 and an octave, which ended on September 4. Today, we look at the vigil and its orations.
The Collect is:
Da, quǽsumus, omnípotens, Deus: ut beáti Patris nostri Augustíni Confessóris tui Pontíficis, quam prævenímus, veneránda solémnitas; et devotiónem nobis áugeat et salútem. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God: that the solemnity about to be celebrated for our Blessed Father Augustine, Confessor and Bishop, which we anticipate, may increase in us devotion and salvation. Through Our Lord.
The one verb (besides “we beseech”) that runs throughout all three Orations is praevenimus. The Douay-Rheims translates this word as “prevent,” but English has attached new meanings to this word in the ensuing centuries. The safest way today to translate prae-venimus, or “come before,” is “anticipate.”
The Secret is:
Ut accépta tibi sint, Dómine, nostra jejúnia, præsta nobis, quǽsumus, beáti Patris nostri Augustíni suffrágiis, cujus natalítia prævénimus, purificátum tibi pectus offérre. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
In order for our fasts to be accepted by Thee, O Lord, grant us, we beseech, to offer Thee a purified heart through the supplications of our blessed Father Augustine and whose birthday we anticipate. Through Our Lord.
The Secret draws attention to the fact that the Vigil was--as traditional vigils usually are--a day of fasting. The Augustinians kept this practice, and so did the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Consolation, which was aggregated to the Hermits in 1575. But fasts mean little without a humbled and contrite heart behind them (a subject on which Augustine was a master), and so the Augustinian community asks for such a heart through the intercession of their patron saint. Curiously, no reference is made to the Eucharistic offering, which is the most common theme of a Secret.
St Augustine, by Sandro Botticelli, 1490 
As for the reference to Augustine’s “birthday,” we turn to the Postcommunion:
Sancti Patris nostri Augustíni Confessóris tui atque Pontíficis, cujus natalítia praevenímus, quǽsumus, Dómine, supplicatióne placátus; et véniam nobis tríbue, et remédia sempitérna concéde. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Being pleased, O Lord, we beseech, by the supplication of our Holy Father Augustine, Thy Confessor and Bishop, whose birthday we anticipate: that Thou wouldst grant us pardon, and concede to us sempiternal remedies. Through Our Lord.
The prayer relies, perhaps boldly, on Augustine’s intercession or supplication and not on the Sacrifice just offered. But we should not dismiss this petition as a lack of faith in the efficacity of Holy Mass; rather, it directs our attention to the Saint, who prayed, and who continues to pray, for his spiritual sons and daughters. On this vigil, we anticipate his birthday—not his earthly birthday, which is on November 13, but on his heavenly birthday, when he passed away on August 28 while the barbarians (the Vandals) were literally at the gate of his beloved city of Hippo and as he prayed (successfully) for their deliverance.
It is, still, a somewhat cheeky assumption. Normally, only the martyrs were granted the privilege of having their “birthday” on the day that they were martyred. But these sons of Augustine are confident that the same privilege applies to their Holy Father who, they believe, went from this life to the next without any stay in Purgatory.
In 1965, the Hermits of Saint Augustine eliminated the vigil of St. Augustine, and in 1969, the General Calendar moved the feast of St. Monica from May 4 to August 27, which further cemented the fate of this Vigil, since it is not easy to fast on the feast of St. Augustine’s mother.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Gone on Pilgrimage 2023

I just wanted to let our readers know that Peter and I are both in St Louis, Missouri, this weekend, for the celebration of the city’s patronal feast, so I wont have a lot of time for posting, and things will be a little slower than usual here for the next few days. Hopefully we’ll have a lot of pictures of the liturgical events to share with you afterwards.

After Mass this morning at the ICRSP Oratory of St Frances de Sales.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

A Modern History of Gothic Vestments, 1838-1957 (Part 1): Guest Article by Nico Fassino

Last November, we published a research project by Mr Nico Fassino on the 1954 English Rituale. He has now graciously shared with us a new project, this time on the history of the revival of Gothic vestments, which will be published here in three parts. Mr Fassino is the founder of the Hand Missal History Project, an independent research initiative dedicated to exploring Catholic history through the untold and forgotten experiences of the laity across the centuries. Learn more at or @HandMissals. Once again, we are very grateful to him for sharing his interesting and thoroughly well-researched work with us. 

I recently saw a question about the modern history of ‘Gothic’ style vestments in the Roman Catholic Church. How and when were they re-introduced? At what point were they fully authorized for widespread use?

I am not an expert on vestments and have never studied their history. I was only casually familiar with what I would call the “common” narrative: that Gothic style vestments were illicitly adopted by some members of the Liturgical Movement in the early 1900s, forbidden as an abuse by Roman authorities, and only authorized in 1957 after which they became increasingly popular.

I was curious. Was this an accurate account or was there more to the story? I decided to explore historic Catholic newspapers and other contemporary material to see what I could find.

English Revival: Origins & Debate
The modern history of Gothic vestments largely begins with Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-52), at least for English-speaking lands. Pugin was a convert to Catholicism and an extraordinarily prolific ecclesiastical designer and architect. It is impossible to overstate his role or influence in launching the Gothic Revival movement.

Augustus Welby Pugin, by John Rogers Herbert, 1845 (source)
Bishop Thomas Walsh, Vicar Apostolic of England’s Midland District (one of the administrative regions of the English Catholic Church before the restoration of the hierarchy in 1850 - editor’s note), was a strong supporter of Pugin and “gave him almost a free hand in attempting to revive the old Gothic vestments of pre-Reformation days, besides encouraging him to build and restore churches in the Gothic style.” [1] This revival was not limited to England, however. On the Continent at this time, other figures were likewise involved in efforts to revive the use of Gothic vestments, including Dom Prosper Gueranger, abbot of monastery of Solesmes, and Canon Fanz Bock of the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle. [2]

Pugin’s efforts were quite successful and Gothic vestments were widely adopted by English clergy in these years. One notable public use of these vestments was at the opening of St. Mary’s College, Oscott in 1838 which was attended by several bishops and over 100 priests.

H.E. Bishop Antonio Mennini (then nuncio to Great Britain) wearing a Pugin vestment at St Mary’s College, Oscott, during a vocations conference held there in 2011.
But not all members of the English clergy were enthusiastic about these trends. Some, like Bishop Augustine Baines of the Westland District, opposed Pugin’s vision for vestments, church ornamentation, the restoration of Gregorian Chant, and other parts of the ‘English Catholic Revival’. Baines forbade his clergy to wear Pugin’s vestments and complained to Rome about them. [3]

In 1839, Bishop Thomas Walsh of the London District received a letter from the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith which expressed displeasure with what he was permitting in his diocese. The letter also referred directly and dismissively to Pugin as “an architect converted from heresy” who was behind these innovations. Pugin corresponded about this with his friend and fellow convert Ambrose Phillipps De Lisle. De Lisle later wrote to another shared acquaintance and patron–John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury:
… that the College of Propaganda is to regulate even the minutest details of our ecclesiastical dress, is to assume for a foreign congregation a degree of power that has never yet been claimed by any Pope, no nor even by any General Council of the Church.

An uniformity of vestments or even of rites and Liturgies has never yet been enforced in any period of the Church [...] Italy has her Chasubles very different in many respects fm. those of France, of Germany, and of modern England [...] ; it is therefore idle to say that the restoration of the old English Chasuble hurts the uniformity of the Church, seeing that no such uniformity exists: it is equally idle to say that it infringes upon the rubricks ; when the rubricks were composed most assuredly the modern form of vestments existed not, and therefore if either offended against them, it wd. be the latter, not our glorious old English form. [...]

No, deeply do I deplore this lamentable business: its consequences if persisted in, will be most disastrous, the very idea of them fills me with horror and alarm. [4]
Despite the 1839 letter from Cardinal Franzoni to Bishop Walsh, and the initial despair of Pugin and De Lisle, no formal restrictions to the use of Gothic vestments were issued from Rome, and their use continued to spread throughout England, and in France, Belgium, and Germany.

English Revival: Continued Use
In June 1841, the new Cathedral of St. Chad in Birmingham–commissioned by Walsh and designed by Pugin–was opened in an extraordinarily grand ceremony attended by thirteen bishops from around the world (two from Scotland, one from the United States, and one from Australia) including Bishop Baines. [5] For this Mass, Bishop Nicholas Wiseman and the celebrating ministers wore a set of gold Gothic vestments which had been designed by Pugin. [6]

Illustration of the original interior of the Cathedral of St. Chad in Birmingham. From Robert Kirkup Dent, “Old and New Birmingham: A History of the Town and Its People” (Birmingham: Houghton and Hammond, 1880), page 458.
In the decades which followed, Wiseman would be appointed as the first Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and become the driving force for trends within the newly re-established Catholic Church in England. He would continue to use Gothic vestments regularly. [7]

After the re-establishment of the Catholic Hierarchy and the First Provincial Synod of Westminster in 1852, now-Cardinal Wiseman traveled to Rome to submit the synodal decrees for Vatican approval. So widespread was the use of Gothic vestments at this time, it was rumored in the secular press that Rome intervened to edit the decrees in an attempt to regulate or ban them.

4. Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Advertiser, November 2, 1853, page 2.

A Sermon on the Assumption, by Fr Robert Pasley

Our thanks to Fr Robert Pasley, rector of Mater Ecclesiae church in Berlin, New Jersey, and chaplain of the Church Music Association of America, for sharing with us this sermon, which he delivered last week on the Assumption, at the Mass which his church organizes for the feast every year at the cathedral of Ss Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Our thanks also to one of our favorite photographers, Allison Girone, who sent in these pictures of the Mass, taken by herself, Regina Jelski and Collette Jemming.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

Venerating the image of the Assumption in the chapel to the side of the main sanctuary before the Mass begins.
Today we celebrate the glorious Assumption of Our Lady into heaven. She who was immaculately conceived, who remained ever sinless, does not suffer the ravages of death which are the result of Original Sin, but is taken body and soul into heaven by the power and love of her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Alleluia verse proclaims, “Mary has been assumed into heaven: the angelic host rejoices. Alleluia!”
Our Lady’s Assumption into heaven is the beginning of her heavenly intercession for us and her constant assistance. She watches over the Church – she watches over you and me – until all is brought to completion in Christ. Throughout the ages Our Lady has sent us heavenly messages. So many shrines exist because of her miraculous help. We think of her shrine in Poland – Our Lady of Czestochowa. We cherish the gift given to us by Our Lady of Mt Carmel – the Holy Scapular. We remember her apparition in Mexico and the thousands of conversions that took place because of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We rejoice in her gift of the Holy Rosary given to Saint Dominic and to us.~~~~ In the modern era she has appeared at La Salette, in Paris to Saint Catherine Laboure, in Lourdes to Saint Bernadette, and at Fatima.

I would like to take a few moments to reflect upon her appearances at La Salette and Fatima.

La Salette is a stunning place in the French Alps which was the scene of an apparition of Our Lady to two very simple cattle herders, Melanie Mathieu, aged 14, and Maximin Giraud, aged 11. It took place on Saturday afternoon September 19, 1846.

While they were keeping watch of the cattle, the children saw a large circle of brilliant light, vibrant and outshining the sun. The light was intensified and dazzling. They were stricken with fear. She said to them, “Come to me my children, do not be afraid. I am here to tell you something of the greatest importance.” She continued, “If my people will not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son’s arm. It is so heavy, so pressing, that I can no longer restrain it. How long have I suffered for you! …I entreat Him without ceasing. I beg you to:
Keep Holy the Sabbath and always attend Mass.
Cease blaspheming God by your horrible swearing.
Pray every day.”

Our Lady’s message at La Salette was a call to obedience, reverence, prayer, repentance and placing God at the center of our lives. Her message was an indictment of man’s disobedience to God, of man’s forgetfulness of God. It shed a clear light on society’s drift away from faith and decent living, to worldliness and a disdain for all that is sacred.

And this was 1846.

Seventy one years later, on May 13, 1917, Our Lady appeared at Fatima. The world was in the midst of the horrors of World War I. The evil of communism was about to be unleashed. Millions of people were about to die horrific deaths.

We all know the story of Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia. While tending sheep Our Lady appeared to them in the Cova da Iria. She gave them very strong warnings about what would happen if men did not repent. Of the many messages they received I would like to summarize just a few: Offer yourselves to God in order to accept all the sufferings He wishes to send you in reparation for sin and the conversion of sinners. My children always say the Rosary.

She then revealed to them a vision of Hell – The children looked but the earth was no longer there. They were gazing into a veritable ocean of fire. Even the earth seemed to vanish. They saw huge numbers of devils and lost souls in a vast and fiery ocean. The devils resembled grotesque and hideous animals. They filled the air with despairing shrieks. The lost souls were tumbling about in the flames and screaming with terror. She told them, ‘You have seen a vision of Hell where the souls of sinners go’

Her message continued, ‘To save sinners God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I ask that Russia be consecrated to my Immaculate Heart. I ask you to make communions of reparation on each first Saturday.’

She ended by saying, ‘In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.’

On October 13, 1917 the Miracle of the sun took place. A year later one of the worst flu epidemics in the history of the world began to spread. Vladimir Lenin started a violent communist revolution in Russia. By the 1930’s Adolph Hitler would enter the scene and World War II exploded. Mao se Tung began the deadly Communist revolution in China. The nuclear bomb was invented, the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam followed. Terrorism and instability became a constant part of society. Atheism, apostasy, sacrilege, heresy, and communism have continued to spread. And the Church, which is horribly weakened, faces challenges from within and without.

After all of this, the world continues to tumble far away from God and does not heed Our Lady’s message.

I conclude where the Mass began: Signum magnum apparuit in caelo: mulier amicta sole, et luna sub pedibus ejus, et in capite ejus corona stellarum duodecim. A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

This sign, described in chapter 12 of the Book of Apocalypse, is the beginning of the final confrontation between God and Satan. Three figures will be involved: the Woman with her offspring, the Dragon – Satan, and St. Michael the Archangel.

The mysterious figure of the woman has been interpreted ever since the time of the Fathers of the Church as referring to the ancient people of Israel, the Catholic Church and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The text supports all of these interpretations. Yet, the Sacred Liturgy has clearly connected the Assumption of Our Lady, the Woman clothed with the sun, and the end battle with the Dragon – Satan and his human ambassador the Anti-Christ.

From the moment of her glorious Assumption, the Blessed Virgin Mary has watched over us, Her Son’s mystical Body. She has miraculously healed people throughout the ages. She has appeared many times to her children and in the last 170 years she has given very stern warnings for the world to repent.

The war of rebellion against God certainly seems to have intensified in unimaginable ways. The story continues in Apocalypse 12, 13-17,

“And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman, who brought forth the man child: And there were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert unto her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time,…... And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman, water as it were a river; that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river, which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angry against the woman: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and bear testimony to Jesus Christ.”

Wage war on the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments and bear testimony to Jesus Christ!

We, who offer sacrifice in this Cathedral Basilica on this feast of Our Lady’s victory are on the front lines of this raging war. We should not be surprised, however, or give in to fear, or be filled with dread, or strike out in an un-Christ like way.
No, we must prove even more that we are faithful children of the Lord who will employ every spiritual weapon at our disposal.

– We will obey the commandments more fervently.
– We will bear testimony to Our Lord, especially in public.
– We will never cease to hand down to our children the great treasures of Tradition we have received.
– We will attend Mass every Sunday and pray at all times, especially the Holy Rosary.
– We will constantly repent, go to confession and grow in holiness.
– We will rejoice in the Truth and never fear proclaiming it from the housetops.
– And we will fight fearlessly against Satan and his vicious lies and those who propagate those lies.

The Lady, clothed with the brilliance of the sun, with the moon under her feet, and the diadem of 12 stars around her head, is the Lady Assumed into heaven who loves us dearly. She never ceases to help and protect us.

Remember her words at Fatima - MY IMMACULATE HEART WILL TRIUMPH!
Yes, of course, tradition will always be for the young!

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