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Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Tuesday, March 30, 2004 If ever I have my own magazine, essayists I'll want on my pages include Matthew Alderman of the Shrine of the Holy Whapping and Amy Kane of Ever So Humble. They have enchantment in common.
Matthew writes from Rome of hearing morning Masses in stereo offered simultaneously at side altars at San Gregorio:
Concelebration, the rite of several priests consecrating together the sacred Victim at mass, was virtually unheard-of in the days of Pius V, when the old mass was first fully codified as a weapon against the religious strife that then wracked Europe. Before the Council fathers had sat in snowy Trent, the custom had died out, but not before St. Thomas could defend it and Durandus deny it. By the sixteenth century, it had been reduced to a peculiarity of the Ordination mass, the one time that the words of Consecration were said in anything more than a whisper. By necessity—to keep the newly-chrismed priests, their chausibles still folded up on their backs, in time with their leader, the bishop.
But otherwise, for better or worse, for all its ubiquity today, it was unknown then. The endless ranks of splendidly-marbled side-altars in so many churches are a testament to this liturgical quirk, allowing every priest to have his private mass every day of the year. Churches rang with the staggered sound of sacring bells, one Consecration coming after the other with imprecise precision. Priests even complained, as the golden sky of the Middle Ages slowly rolled up into the apocalyptic scroll of the Reformation, of pious laymen rushing from chapel to chapel to adore the upraised host in mass after mass.
And here was I, living on a page of liturgical history and trying to pray and not to gawk.
North American College alumnus Fr. Tucker comments:
Being in the crypt of St Peter's Basilica early in the morning produces a similar sensation. If you go downstairs around 7:15 am, all the myriad chapels and altars are occupied by scores of priests offering the Sacrifice. As you wind your way through the tortuous passages, you catch the bits and pieces of all those Masses being said and sung at once, in the Mother Language and all the vernaculars the books allow. Anyone visiting Rome should go early to the Vatican at least once to experience this.
Describing the opening of St. Mary's Chapel on the Boston College campus in 1917, the late University Historian, Fr Charles Donovan, SJ, told how the school's Jesuit priests fanned out to say their morning Masses on the side altars. I've always liked that image, and it was brought to mind by Matthew's dispatch from Rome.
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Amy offers an exquisite account of a recent visit by the Tooth Fairy:
The child slept deeply and the fairy rode a moonbeam through her window. (Fairies pass through glass by becoming part of the light.) She burrowed under her pillow like a field mouse in snow and pulled out one, two, three white teeth. The hoarding of two of the teeth amused her so much, her laughter chiming like bells, that she left a $10 bill and something else she quickly made before flying off to visit the next child.
In the morning, the girl was delighted with her $10 bill. "And look what else she left me!" She showed her mother a pink construction paper heart that had been tucked under her pillow. On it, in glitter-pen letters, were the words, "I will always love you."