All blessed and holy

chrism mass

Clifton Diocese Chrism Mass, 2014, at Clifton Cathedral, Bristol, UK

There are specific instructions in Canon Law on the use of the Holy Oils blessed
and distributed by the diocesan bishop at the Chrism Mass.  However, it doesn’t contain explicit instructions for the disposal of the Holy Oils from the previous year that are being replaced.  The Book of Blessings (chapter 32), Order for the Blessing of a Repository for the Holy Oils, Introduction, paragraph 1127 states:-

“Each year when the bishop blesses the oils and consecrates the chrism, the pastor should see that the old oils are properly disposed of by burning and that they are replaced by the newly blessed oils.  Burning the old oils may be accomplished by burning them in the Easter 
Fire at the Easter Vigil Mass.  It is not fitting that the Holy Oils be burned along with trash or other non-religious refuse.”

Yesterday, I had a little fire outside the back door of the sacristy to burn the old oils, to make way for the new oils that were blessed by the bishop at the Chrism Mass this morning.  I sat on the bottom step of the sacristy and slowly trickled the oils into a metal dish that I had put lit cotton wool balls in.  It took a while.  There was no one else around.  But it was a nice sunny day, an enjoyable day.

oil stocks

Washed in hot soapy water and rinsed with cold water that was emptied into the sacrarium, they were eventually ready to go to the cathedral.

holy oils

And then this afternoon the new Oil of Catechumens, the Holy Chrism, and the Oil of the Sick, miraculously appeared in the sacristy safe.  All blessed and holy.

Holy Week Confessions

confessions in sacristy

Confessions during Holy Week in the sacristy of St Michael the Archangel Church, Argao, the Philippines

Father has been hearing Confessions after Masses this week.  It’s extra to the usual Saturday morning and Saturday evening.  He was kept busy after Mass this evening and I expect it will be the same tomorrow evening.

Pine needles and palm leaves

decorating the pashal candle

Sr Sacristan, of the Institute Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, SSVM, decorating the Paschal Candle in the Monastery Ecce Homo, in Valkenberg, The Netherlands.  Preparations for the Easter Vigil well under way then.  I’m afraid all I managed to do today after Mass was pick up as many of the stray and wayward palm leaves from around the church as I could.  Inside and outside.  I think they are a bit like the pine needles from the Christmas tree, I will be coming across them for months to come.      

From palms to palm crosses

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, the beginning of Holy Week.  Before Mass is the Blessing of the Palms, which includes an Antiphon, Psalms, and Gospel reading.  It;s followed by a Procession with hymns, when the palms are carried around the church or outside, weather permitting.Mass follows, which includes the recitation of the Passion.  Then comes the tricky part.  Changing the palms into palm crosses.  If you haven’t quite got the hang of it (as I haven’t), here’s some help.  Good luck.

How to make a palm cross

Concordia Supply –

You should end up with something like this.

palm cross finished

And who knows, as your confidence grows . . .

Palm cross large

Horse armour

I was in Tewkesbury today.  It seemed a good idea to park at the Abbey and have a quick look around before we headed into town.  We found the sacristy, hoping someone would be able to let us have a quick look.  No such luck.  The sacristy door is interesting enough though  . . .

Tewks Abbey 1

The sacristy is one of the seven chapels of the chevet at the east end of Tewkesbury Abbey and is entered through a door of oak, which is covered on its inner side by plates said to have been made from armour – thought to be horse armour – found in and around the Abbey after the Battle of Tewkesbury in May 1471.

Below, a close up of the well-used handle and lock.

Tewks Abbey 2

After all the ‘excitement’ of the sacristy door that couldn’t be opened, the inner side of the sacristy door that we couldn’t see but is more interesting than the outside we did see, it was time to head into town for a spot of lunch.  Tewkesbury Abbey sacristy?  Tomorrow is another day.

Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Angels

painted door

Part of the sacristy , with a painted door dating back to 1735, in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Angels, in Tytuvėnai, Lithuania.

The church and monastery at Tytuvėnai, once belonging to the Bernardines, is today considered to be one of the most valuable sources of sacred architecture in Lithuania.  Founded in 1614 by Andriejus Valavičius, the monastery complex was closed by tsarist authorities in the middle of the 19th century, though many of its architecturally distinctive buildings remain to this day.  Decorated with murals and other works of art dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, the buildings reflect Bernardine spirituality.  

Requiem for the Living / Jeevichirikkunnavarkku Vendiyulla Oppees

A compelling story that opens up the Kochi-Creole world to the reader, Requiem for the Living is a novella told through the eyes of a young sacristan.

Requiem for the Living

Paul Zacharia, at The Hindu, wrote the following review:-

“Set in the clutch of small islands that dot the backwaters off the bustling city of Kochi, Johny Miranda’s novella tells the compelling story of a Creole people haunted by their real and unreal pasts and by a present that is almost hallucinatory. Told through the eyes of a young sacristan, it is a gripping account of emotional, physical and spiritual isolation in a beehive-like community rooted in embroidered tradition and consumed by religiosity. It depicts an overpowering world of make-belief, a medley of religion, ritual, custom and superstition that solidifies into the life system of the islanders — a phantasmagoria of real and imagined pasts in which the ornamental inheritances of the Portuguese days and the harsh realities of a marginalised people are intermingled. Sacristan Josy Pereira’s lonely world floats in a Cloud of Unknowing that is chilling in its blindness, desolation and helplessness.

The Kochi-Creole community is today almost indistinguishable from the coastal world around it except perhaps for its underpinnings of rituals, prayers and the remnants of a patois — and, of course, the Portuguese surnames that brand them. Even though they are officially enumerated as ‘Anglo-Indian’ and people used to refer to them as paranki (Portuguese), according to some studies they have no ascertained component of miscegenation. They are an indigenous coastal community of artisans and workers — potters, carpenters, boat-builders, tailors — proselytised by the Portuguese in the 16 and 17 centuries and drawn into the spell-binding world of the mythology and dogma of the Catholic church. Along with the new faith they received another dubious gift: Portuguese names that stamped on them the paranki identity. The Portuguese were ousted by the Dutch in the late 17 century and the Kochi-Creoles continued to traverse history immersed in the fairy tales of their faith and battling hard for survival. To Kerala’s Catholic mainstream moored in the mainland and dominated by the Syro-Malabar Church, they are eternal outsiders — the Latin low castes.

Johny Miranda’s novella is perhaps the first insider-fiction to emerge from the Kochi-Creole community. The very fact that it received little notice in Malayalam when published a decade back and remains out of print exemplifies the sectarian attitudes referred to by J. Devika in her scholarly introduction to the book. One would only like to add that such mindsets are not restricted to the Hindu upper castes of Kerala but also the Christian and Muslim. The fast-flowing, lush narrative of Miranda’s novella opens up for the reader the Kochi-Creole world with its raw passions, unfathomable violence, impotent rebellion, all-encompassing religiosity and insufferable loneliness. It is ably translated by Sajai Jose and supported by an excellent introduction and an author’s note that speaks from the heart.

Oxford Novellas’ series editor Mini Krishnan is to be congratulated for discovering and bringing into the Indian mainstream such gems of bhasha literature.”

Requiem for the Living is written by Johny Miranda, translated by Sajai Jose, published by the OUP (2013), and is available from Amazon.

The Lazarium

Lazarus tomb

The reputed tomb of Lazarus in al-Eizariya, Bethany, the Holy Land

There is no mention of a church in al-Eizariya, traditionally identified as the biblical village of Bethany on the slopes of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, until late in the 4th century AD.  The first mention of a church dedicated to St Lazarus, called the Lazarium, is by Jerome in 390.  The church is thought to have been built between 333 and 390.  

The Lazarium consisted of the church (to the east of the site), the tomb of Lazarus (to the west), and an open space between the two which probably served as an atrium.  The church was in the form of a three-aisle basilica with the apse at the east end.  A sacristy on each side opened into the aisles.

The Lazarium was destroyed by an earthquake in the 6th century, and was replaced by a larger church.

Current structures on and around the site include the Mosque of al-Uzair built by the Ottomans, the Catholic Church of St Lazarus built under the auspices of the Franciscans, and the Greek Orthodox Church of St Lazarus.

It’s a cover up


Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel / Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Luc-en-Provence, France

The Roman Missal says that on the fifth Sunday of Lent:-

“The practice of covering crosses and images throughout the church from this Sunday may be observed, if the Conference of Bishops so decides. Crosses remain covered until the end of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.” (ZENIT, 26th February, 2013)

Done.  Took a while.  

lent purple 5

St. Adalbert Church, Berea, Ohio, USA

“The custom of veiling the images during the last two weeks of Lent hails from the former liturgical calendar in which the Passion was read on the Fifth Sunday of Lent (hence called “Passion Sunday”) as well as on Palm Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, and Good Friday.

For this reason the period following the Fifth Sunday of Lent was called Passiontide. A remnant of this custom is the obligatory use of the first Preface of the Lord’s Passion during the Fifth Week of Lent.” (ZENIT, 8th March, 2005)

That explains it.

lent purple 6

St Albert the Great Priory, Western Dominican House of Studies, Oakland, California, USA

In Queen news elsewhere . . .

The Queen met Pope Francis today for the first time at the Vatican.

Queen and Pope Francis at the Vatican

The Queen and Pope Francis at the Vatican / Photograph: AP

In Queen news elsewhere . . .

In the south aisle of the Granada Cathedral is the entrance to the Capilla Real, the Late Gothic burial chapel of the Catholic Monarchs, built on to the cathedral in 1506-21.

The Capilla Real Sacristy Museum contains some fantastic art, including pictures by Botticelli (Christ on the Mount of Olives), Rogier van der Weyden’s Pietà, and Hans Memling’s Descent from the Cross.  There are also polychrome wood figures of the Catholic Monarchs in prayer by Felipe Vigarny, Queen Isabella’s (1451-1504) crown and sceptre, and a missal which belonged to the Catholic Monarchs.  Phew, that’s a list.


Portrait of Queen Isabella in the Capilla Real Sacristy Museum, Granada, Spain


Lavender fields

Senanque Abbey

A view of the beautiful 12th century Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque from the north.  The sacristy is the rectangular structure, right of centre.  Nestled in a valley in Provence, France, famous for its lavender fields, the Cistercian Abbey of Sénanque was founded in 1148.  Built in the Romanesque style, the church was consecrated in 1178.

Lent can be a long time

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta) 

sacristy clock

A 17th century clock carved by Francesco Pianta the Younger containing allegories of Time.  The clock is in the sacristy of the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, usually referred to as the Frari, in Venice, Italy.

clock in sacristy 2

Not a Pink Sister or a rose biretta in sight

Laetare Sunday.

pink roses 4

So, lots of pink roses.


And rose vestments for Father and deacons.

pink sister

Sister Servants of the Holy Ghost of the Perpetual Adoration, also known as the Pink Sisters

But not a Pink Sister to be seen.  Not even one.

Biretta rose 1

Rose biretta from The Philippi Collection

And no rose biretta either.  With or without the wearer.

Still, it was a good day.  Laetare Sunday always is.

pope francis laughing

“. . . walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true) . . .” (Ephesians 5: 8-9).