A gift for the Lord

Rob Quagan, a parishioner of the Latin Mass community in Boston’s Indult parish, Holy Trinity, sends along a note regarding some recently re-discovered treasures of the parish.

I had an opportunity to see the contents of Holy Trinity’s Sacristy Safe after Stations of the Cross on Friday, 3/9 with the head sacristan, Carl Camelo. I was shocked to discover that it contained many, many relics (perhaps 100), that we (the Latin Mass congregation) have never been made aware. I wondered if the Administrator(s) was even aware of their existence since there was never any suggestion for veneration on particular feast days. In recent decades Holy Mass has been only a weekly occurance at Holy Trinity. I suspect their existence was held over from the days of Jesuit control and daily Mass. I was also stunned to find a very beautiful chalice that is often used on special feasts such as Christmas, Easter and Trinity Sunday. The following was in the January 2007 Monatsbote (Parish Newsletter, published continuously since 1899). It is a reprint from the November 1945 issue of The Monatsbote which provides interesting details about this remarkable sacred vessel:

“When the Golden Jubilee of the new church was approaching (1927) it was felt that for this occasion the parish should have a new chalice. From the start, the
parishioners were told that it was not to be a gift of a single individual or a
church society, but of the whole parish. Consequently all were invited to
contribute gold, silver and precious stones, or cash. In the course of time,
hundreds of gold rings, gold watches, chains and other gold ornaments were sent
to the rectory, and, above all, gold pieces. All these things were melted and
sent to a first-class firm in Germany, Messrs. Koesters & Seegers, Kevelaer, who
at the request of Rev. Bernard Wildenhues, SJ had submitted an original sketch of
a chalice, which was accepted by the pastor (Rev. Charles P. Gisler, SJ).

“At first it had been the intention to buy a chalice of solid silver only, but of exquisite workmanship, to cost about $600. But as gold, precious stones and money began to pour in from all sides, it was decided to have a chalice of solid gold, with a large number of jewels. It is of Roman design, of exquisite workmanship--no factory work; everything made by hand requiring months of labor.

“The cup is ornamented with six pictures, representing Christ the King, the
Annunciation, the Blessed Trinity in Heaven, the Baptism in the Jordan, the
Blessed Trinity with Jesus Christ Crucified, and the Transfiguration. The base
contains six pictures of saints, in delicate enamel: St. Ignatius, St. Charles
Borromeo, St. Peter Canisius, St. Francis Xavier, Blessed Nicholas von der Flue
(the Swiss national saint) and the Little Flower. The artist had been expressly
told not to put the picture of the Little Flower on the chalice, but he seems to
have misunderstood the order.

“The chalice contains about one hundred fifty precious stones - pearls, rubies, amethysts and diamonds. Stem and base, and also the lower part of the cup, are made of the most delicate filigree work. The whole chalice is a masterpiece of
workmanship, a worthy gift of the parishioners to the Blessed Trinity, to whom
the church is consecrated. May the blessing of the Blessed Trinity rest upon all
who have contributed toward the chalice.”

What struck me about this story is not that an expensive gift was given to the parish—even today there are many generous people who leave gifts to their parishes—but that it was gift of the whole parish, not just of money, but of precious objects. It’s not like the people of the era had lots of gold rings and jewelry hanging about. I’m sure that much of what was donated were the personal belongings of the parishioners given not out of their excess, but out of their need. It reminds me of the story of my own parish, whose current church was built 149 years ago with the pennies and donated labor of its Irish immigrant people.

There was a different sensibility then, which isn’t to say that people aren’t generous today. For one thing, there are a whole lot more charities asking for money: colleges, kids’ schools, poor charities of local, national, and international flavor, hospitals, you name it. Also, folks today usually have more disposable wealth than free time. And their wealth is more likely to be in liquid assets, like cash and stock, than in hard goods like precious metal and jewels.

Still, there may be a lesson to be recalled from the example of our grandparents’ generation that thought nothing of such sacrifices if only for the greater glory of God through a precious chalice to hold the Precious Blood of Our Lord (and not some glass or ceramic goblet bought at Crate & Barrel.)

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  • While it’s not quite the same level of sacrifice today that it was then.. people are making donations of jewelry for things like this still.

    At St. John Cantius in Chicago the Pastor is collecting donations of jewelry to make a chalice to be presented to the Holy Father when the children’s choir goes to Rome next year.

    I seem to recall that donations were taken for the creation of the Millennium Monstrance as well.

  • Isn’t bringing a jewel-encrusted chalice to Rome a bit like bring coals to Newcastle?

  • They didn’t bring it to Rome. It was designed in Rome for a parish in Boston.

    The jewels and precious metal were gifts of the parishioners, brought to Germany to be fashioned into a chalice and then returned to the parish.

  • Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I was responding to Mary Martha:

    “At St. John Cantius in Chicago the Pastor is collecting donations of jewelry to make a chalice to be presented to the Holy Father when the children’s choir goes to Rome next year.”

    That’s what I was referring to as “carrying coals to Newcastle.”