A wonder worker

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Today is the feast day of St John Bosco (1815-1888), founder of the Salesian Society, and a patron saint of children and young people.

“It is an embarrassing problem when there are not enough hosts to give everyone Holy Communion. Possibly it was Fr. John Bosco’s fault, but more likely it was another priest who said Mass before him and left an almost empty ciborium in the tabernacle. There should have been a note taped to the door of the sacristy.

If there was a note, Fr. Bosco did not see it. He was a busy man. When he went into the sacristy that morning, he saw the vestments neatly arranged, and he assumed that everything was under control. It was only at the time of Communion, when he opened the tabernacle, that he found the nearly empty ciborium. There were 500 boys in the pews and only a few hosts.

If a priest is aware of the need, it is not hard to set an extra ciborium on the altar, to be consecrated during Mass. However, if this is not done, there is one option. The hosts that are in the ciborium may be broken once or twice. Jesus is really present in the smallest particle, but there is still a need for reverence. The hosts could not be broken enough to satisfy this crowd.

Fr. Bosco bowed his head and offered a silent prayer of resignation. This was not something he could deal with at the moment. It would be best to give Holy Communion to a few boys and then tell the others to wait for another priest to offer Mass. As he walked along the communion rail, Fr. Bosco kept his calm. He gave Holy Communion to the kneeling boys, and then he walked back across the church to start on another row until the hosts ran out.

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Fr. Bosco looked into the ciborium. There were still some hosts left, so he continued to distribute Holy Communion. Each time the priest reached the end of the row he looked down and made a quick count. It looked like there were enough, so he kept going. It takes half an hour for one priest to give Holy Communion 500 times. As the minutes passed, the altar boys became aware that the ciborium should be empty.

John Bosco smiled. Jesus was working a miracle, just like the multiplication of loaves and fishes. The crowd had come to be with Jesus and to honor Him. He was not willing to send them away hungry.

Only at the end of the line did the number of hosts really begin to diminish. When the last boy had received Holy Communion, there was one host left. With joy in his heart, Fr. Bosco went back to the altar and finished Mass.

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Later, the boys in the sacristy asked him how he did it. Again, he just smiled. There really was no way to explain what had happened. He had not done anything; God had worked the miracle in front of his eyes.

The boys were not too surprised at this. They seem almost gullible in the accounts, but that is what happens when miracles take place too frequently. The human mind can accept almost anything as normal if it happens often.”  (The Angelus Online)

St John Bosco, pray for us

Lego pallium

Lego pallium

Source: www.grandfatherstales.blogspot.co.uk

From left to right.  A priest wearing a cope.  A metropolitan archbishop wearing a pallium and a deacon wearing a dalmatic.

Lego pallium 2

Source: www.grandfatherstales.blogspot.co.uk

Left to right from behind, the deacon’s dalmatic, the archbishop without his pallium so we can see the back of the chasuble, and the priest’s cope.


Pelican of mercy, cleanse me in thy precious blood

green chasuble

A green chasuble for Ordinary Time with an image of a pelican feeding its young.  Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), whose feast day it is tomorrow, mentioned pelicans in his Adoro Te Devote: ‘Pelican of mercy, cleanse me in thy precious blood.’  

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The most famous English translation of this hymn of thanksgiving and adoration belongs to Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889).

Hidden God, devoutly I adore Thee,
Truly present underneath these veils:
All my heart subdues itself before Thee,
Since it all before Thee faints and fails.

Not to sight, or taste, or touch be credit,
Hearing only do we trust secure;
I believe, for God the Son hath said it–
Word of Truth that ever shall endure.

On the Cross was veiled Thy Godhead’s splendour,
Here Thy manhood lieth hidden too;
Unto both alike my faith I render,
And, as sued the contrite thief, I sue.

Though I look not on Thy wounds with Thomas,
Thee, my Lord, and Thee, my God, I call:
Make me more and more believe Thy promise,
Hope in Thee, and love Thee over all.

O Memorial of my Saviour dying,
Living Bread that givest life to man;
May my soul, its life from Thee supplying,
Taste Thy sweetness, as on earth it can.

Deign, O Jesus, pelican of heaven,
Me, a sinner, in Thy Blood to lave,
To a single drop of which is given
All the world from all its sin to save.

Contemplating Lord, Thy hidden presence,
Grant me what I thirst for and implore,
In the revelation of Thine essence
To behold Thy glory evermore.

St Thomas Aquinas, pray for us

Gregorian Chant “springs from the depths of the soul where faith dwells and charity burns” (Pope Paul VI)

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We get our altar breads from St Cecilia’s Abbey, in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight.  The Benedictine nuns make a few more than we need . . .

In 2013, the nuns used an average of 850 kilos of flour per month to make both white and brown hosts and produce annually over two million thick brown and medium ivory small hosts, nearly 150,000 thin white small hosts, and nearly 50,000 priest’s hosts.

If you’ve ever wondered how they are made . . .

But before you scroll down, here are some images of their way of life and their beautiful Gregorian Chant, “which springs from the depths of the soul where faith dwells and charity burns” (Pope Paul VI).

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Therefore are they before the throne of God

and serve him day and night within his temple

and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. (Revelation 7: 15)

St Cecilia, pray for us

Great moustaches


Source: taken from Ricordo di Milano. Milan, c. 1900 (no photographer information provided)

Il Duomo, Milano, Porta della Sacrestia coi Mazzieri dell’Arcivescovo e del Capitolo (circa 1900).  

The entrance to the sacristy in Milan Cathedral, Milan, Italy.  Great moustaches!

Dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente (St Mary Nascent), the gothic cathedral took nearly 6 centuries to complete and is said to be the fifth largest cathedral in the world.

St Mary Nascent, pray for us

The Chantry Owl

chantry owls

Sculpted rebus of owls on wall of chantry chapel of Hugh Oldham (d.1519), Bishop of Exeter

“The Sacristan could lift the can, Tu-whit! Tu-whoo! his nose was blue, His girth no hogshead’s hoop could span, And, when a kirtle came in view With neat-laced shoon and fine-spun hose, And a cheek redder than a rose, Loud as the thrush that sings on tree Would ring his Benedicite!

Tu-whit! that with and without cowls Men are alike I long suspected, Ajid much less strict than doves and owls, Who peck’d to death are when detected.

Tu-whoo! One Shrovetide on the Rood Musing I sat in solemn mood, When near the tower there was a noise Like chuckling ” not from censer-boys.”

An extract from The Chantry Owl (The Chantry Owl and Other Verses, Being: Revised Edition of Poems of Later Years, by Henry Sewell Stokes, 1881).  A chantry owl?  A chantry sacristan?  A chantry priest?

chantry owl

The complete poem can be read here.  Or bought here.

Papal Sri Lankan altar cloth

I’ve just finished doing the next altar cloth rota that will take us through to August.  I’ll email the rota to the 7 lovely ladies who kindly take a turn in collecting the altar cloths and credence table cloths from the sacristy each week, returning them beautifully washed and ironed the following week.

I found a great picture of the altar cloth made especially for the Mass Pope Francis celebrated earlier this week (14th January) in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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Pope Francis celebrating Mass at Galle Face Green (Image by M.A. Pushpa Kumara)

It looks as though it could be a bit tricky to put on the altar.  And even more tricky to iron!

working on the altar cloth

The altar cloth in the making.

St Anthony’s crossed staff and neatly cut book

St. Anthony Abbot

Image by Richard Stracke

An oil painting of St Anthony of Egypt (circa 19th / 20th century) in the sacristy of the Oratory of St John the Baptist, in Urbino, Italy.

St Anthony is is usually depicted holding a tau cross, a bell, a pig and a book.  This painting shows St Anthony holding a crossed staff and a book the pages of which look to be very neatly cut given the saint holding it lived from 251 to 356!

St Anthony, abbot, pray for us

Temporary sacristy for Pope Francis

Pope Francis has arrived in the Philippines for a 5 day visit (15th to 19th January).

pope francis smiling in manila

The Philippines’ 80 million Catholics have always given visiting popes a warm welcome!

On Saturday 17th January, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in Tacloban in the morning before having lunch at the Archbishop’s Residence in Palo, Leyte, with some of the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, the typhoon that killed about 6,000 people in 2013.


A temporary sacristy being built at Tacloban airport for Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines from 15th to 19th January.  Let’s hope it’s finished by the 17th.


Photo by Wally Santana (Associated Press)

Valle Crucis


This is an embroidery of the sacristy at Valle Crucis Abbey by Alison Corfield (one of a group of 12 embroiderers called Chimera Textiles who meet in North Wales).  Impressed?  I am.

valle crucis

Here’s a photograph of the same sacristy.

Valle Crucis Abbey (Valley of the Cross) is a Cistercian abbey in Llantysilio, in Denbighshire, Wales.  More formally known as the Abbey Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Valle Crucis, the abbey was built in 1201, then dissolved in 1537 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries before falling into serious disrepair.

Chimera Textiles are having an exhibition, Beyond the Boundaries, from 17th January to 14th March, 2015, in Denbigh.  All the details are on their website.

Sacristy window of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Mission window

The sacristy window of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, circa 1906.  Thick walls are evident from the deep window sill and bars criss-cross the sash window.  The Spanish mission was founded on 1st September, 1772, in the present-day city of San Luis Obispo, California, USA.  The window looks as though it wasn’t maintained in the 134 years that followed!

The photograph was taken by Charles C Pierce (1861-1946) and is in the California Historical Society Collection, 1860-1960, in the Doheny Memorial Library, Los Angeles, California, USA.

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The Mission today.  Happy days.

Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist

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Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist (1485), by Vincenzo Foppa (born 1427/30, died 1515/16).  Fresco transferred to canvas, 170 x 190 cm.

The fresco was originally in the sacristy of the Church of Santa Maria in Brera, in Milan, until it was removed in 1808 before the church was demolished.  The canvas is now in the Pinacoteca di Brera, the main public gallery for paintings in Milan, Italy.

St John the Baptist, pray for us

St John the Evangelist, pray for us

Painting of the Coronation of the Virgin

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Inside the sacristy of San Pedro Church (Iglesia de San Pedro), in Lima, Peru.  The Coronation of the Virgin by Bernardo Bitti (1548-1610), who worked with Michelangelo in Italy and supervised the construction of San Pedro (built in 1636), hangs in the beautiful tiled sacristy.

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One of those understated sacristies.

O Deus Ego Amo Te

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Sr Sacristan, flower arranging.  The community of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles is in Gower, Missouri, USA.

Each day the nuns sing the DIvine Office in Latin.  I couldn’t find a sample on their website but here’s a Youtube link to them singing O Deus Ego Amo Te, the 18th century prayer of St Francis Xavier.  A website link to their CD catalogue is here.

Fr Solanus Casey

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Fr Solanus Casey (on the right)

From the world of a papal sacristan yesterday to the world of a Capuchin sacristan, Fr Solanus Casey (1870-1957).

“After his ordination, Fr. Solanus spent 20 years in New York, Harlem, and Yonkers. He was assigned to St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit where he worked for 20 years, August 1, 1924 – July 23, 1945.  Solanus’ first assignment at Sacred Heart in Yonkers NY caused his pastor to question how a “simplex priest” might fit in. Solanus first served as sacristan, then director of the altar servers, then porter or “doorkeeper,” answering the bell at the monastery door. These were minor jobs for rookie friars, but Fr. Solanus took great pride in it. How could it be demeaning to care for the church and the altar? His intense devotion to the Eucharist was fostered in the hours before the Blessed Sacrament.”  (Doorway to Solanus Casey)

Pope Pius IX et al

papal sacristan

Source: www.ikomutoprzeszkadzalo.pl

“Pius IX surrounded by the Papal (Secret) Anticamera.  Mons. Pacca (the second on the right) holds the aforementioned papal hat.  Near him stands the Prefect of the Papal Chapel, a papal sacristan, Mons. Martinelli O.S.A. (the sacristans had the privilege of wearing a rochet, but used it rarely; they always wore, however, a mantelletta and a mozzetta) next to whom lies an old, tri-corner, Roman hat.” (Source: www.ikomutoprzeszkadzalo.pl)