Tag Archives: basilica

The Tradition of Midnight Mass

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 23, 1895

Midnight Mass has been celebrated in the Basilica since 1895.

On December 23, 1895 the St. John’s newspaper The Daily News announced that:

 “His Lordship the Right Reverend Dr. Michael F. Howley  (Roman Catholic Bishop of St. John’s, Newfoundland) has decided to revive the custom of celebrating  the first Mass of Christmas morning  at the very opening of the ever glorious day.”

Bishop Howley was reviving the tradition of the celebration of Midnight Mass, a custom that has continued at the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) since that announcement in 1895.

Bishop Howley noted that midnight mass was “long in existence in the Roman Catholic Church though allowed to lapse for some years past in this country – Newfoundland.”

The article does not explain why the tradition of the midnight mass was dropped before 1895 in St. John’s.

The newspaper account went on to describe the elaborate decorations of the cathedral. 

Basilica Cathedral St. John's

Basilica Cathedral St. John’s

“The interior of the Roman Catholic Cathedral is already beginning to assume the festive garb which always marks the anniversary of the Nativity. The altars and the pulpit are artistically festooned with evergreen to which will be added extensive floral ornamentations interspersed with countless twinkling lights, before the joy bells ring out their glad peal at midnight, to proclaim the birth of the God Man.”

Many theologians say that the Midnight Mass evolved from individuals making pilgrimages to the Holy Land and the actual birthplace of Christ. Because the Bible states that Jesus was born at night and in a manger, to fully immerse oneself in the story and the liturgical significance of the moment, a Midnight Mass seems the best place to achieve these goals. The darkness and the gentle hush that nighttime helps set the scene and enhance the spiritual component of Christmas.

On the Christian calendar – Midnight mass has been observed since at least the year 381. In  381 a Christian woman named Egeria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, observing for three years and keeping a journal of the customs and liturgies she saw there. She witnessed the Christians celebrating the birth of Christ at midnight with a vigil in Bethlehem, which was followed by a torchlight procession to Jerusalemculminating with a gathering in Jerusalemat dawn.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese of St. John’s, Bishop Michael Francis Howley Collection.

Recommended Reading: The Daily News, December 23, 1895

 

Lived for his work after death of wife and child

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 16, 1852 

Photo Credit: Front facade, O’Dwyer Block, Water Street, St. John’s.

On December 16, 1852 the prominent Waterford, Ireland born merchant Richard O’Dwyer who had established himself as one of the more wealthy businessmen in St. John’s was in mourning over the loss of his infant daughter Mary Wilhelmina. The infant child was baptized immediately after birth with Reverend Kyran Walsh serving as both godfather and priest at the baptism.

The loss of his daughter was compounded five days later on December 21 by the death of his young wife Mary Frances McKenna O’Dwyer.

It is believed that the young mother (Mary Frances, age 26) and infant child (Mary Wilhelmina) are both buried in the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) that was still under construction at the time of their deaths.

There were in the 1850’s few public memorials in St. John’s but being a wealthy citizen of the town Richard O’Dwyer had the financial resources  to commission a memorial to celebrate the life of his wife and child. On the west wall in the Basilica Cathedral is a memorial that O’Dwyer commissioned that depicts an angel carrying a young mother and child to heaven.

O’Dwyer Legacy

With the death of his wife and child all of Richard O’Dwyer’s energy was directed to his business interests.  He is also responsible for at least three significant architectural contributions to the town (now city) of St. John’s.

He was responsible for the construction of the  O’Dwyer Block of Buildings at (295-301 Water Street, St. John’s. Built in the mid-nineteenth century, the stone and mortar O’Dwyer Block was one of St. John’s earliest major merchant buildings, not made of wood. The structure is a classical commercial block constructed after the St. John’s fire of 1846.  Richard O’Dwyer built the block of buildings for his offices and retail stores with sufficient space to accommodate other merchants.

O’Dwyer also built the nearby Murray Premises as a warehouse storage area.

He is also credited for building The Thompson Building  at (303-305 Water Street) For decades, the Thompson family owned the building and ran their family jewellery store business there until it closed in the mid-1990s. A store specializing in Newfoundland merchandise and the offices of the popular Newfoundland magazine The Downhomer, now operates in the building.

Recommended Reading:  Robert Mellin: A City of Towns: Alternatives for the Planning and Design of Housing in St. John’s, Newfoundland (CMHC Canadian Housing Information Centre, 1995: Ca1 MH 95C37), Residential Heritage Conservation in St. John’s (Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2005.

THE “DE PROFUNDIS” BELL

Archival Moment
2 November

THE “DE PROFUNDIS” BELL
FOR THE HOLY SOULS

November 2

The parishioners of the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) in St. John’s were informed at the end of every Sunday mass in November of 1902 that: “During the month of November the “De profundis bell” will be tolled at nine o’clock every evening for the Holy Souls. All people who at the sound of the bell shall recite, on their knees (if possible) the Psalm De profundis with the verses and responses.”
The De Profundis is found in scripture – Psalm 130. Upon hearing the sound of the church bell wherever Catholics were at 9:00 p.m. they would fall to their knees and recite Psalm 130.

The Roman Catholics in the city of St. John’s were also informed that: “Those who do not know the De profundis may say instead an Our Father and Hail Mary for the repose of the faithful departed.” (Source: Basilica Cathedral Publication Book, October 26, 1902.)
By tradition, the Catholic Church dedicates each month of the year to certain devotion. In November, it is the Holy Souls in Purgatory, described in Catholic theology as “those faithful Christians who have died and gone before us.” Praying for the dead, especially for those we have known, is a requirement of Christian charity.

New Word: De profundis (Latin) “out of the depths of misery or dejection” (from the first words of Psalm 130

Recommended Archival Collection: Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese of St. John’s, NL (ARCASJ).
Recommended Reading: Psalm 130

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The Pope in Newfoundland 30th Anniversary

Photo Credit: Pope John Paul II holding Monica Walsh daughter Des Walsh and Eleanor Dawson. In the background is their son Brendan Walsh. Papal Mass, Pleasantville, St. John’s, NL, September 12, 1984.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

September 12, 1984

On September 12, 1984, Pope John Paul II made a “pastoral visitation” to Newfoundland and Labrador, a milestone in the history of Catholicism in the province. The Pope came to help celebrate the 200th anniversary (1784-1984) of the establishment of the Catholic Church in Newfoundland.

While in the province he maintained a hectic schedule.  His itinerary included: The Blessing of the Fishing Fleet at Flatrock; Meeting with the Handicapped at Memorial Stadium, St. John’s;  Celebration of Mass at  Pleasantville,  near Quidi Vidi Lake; Meeting with Youth at Memorial University of  Newfoundland and a Meeting with Catholic Educators  at the Basilica Cathedral.

John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84, after leading the world’s 1 billion Catholics for 26 years.

He is remembered as a “champion of human freedom,” a “tireless advocate of peace” and a man with a “wonderful sense of humor” who was easy to talk to. (The latter can be attested by the young men who served the mass at Pleasantville – breaking with protocol – the Pope broke away from the formal procession to the altar to the chagrin of security to greet those who were serving the mass. (We chatted for a very short time!)

On May 1, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI beatified the late Pope John Paul II. Beatification means that a person’s life has displayed certain qualities that are worthy of imitation by other Christians. He was canonized a saint in the church on April 24, 2014. (I can now say that I spoke and shook hands with a saint!)

Recommended Archival Collection: To read the addresses and homilies given by the Pope go to:   http://www.cccb.ca/site/Files/Pope_speeches_1984.html 

To view video clips go to: http://archives.cbc.ca/society/religion_spirituality/topics/242-1217/

Recommended Publication: Upon this Rock the Story of the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador, Paul O’Neill, Breakwater Books (1984)

 

Grand Organ for the Cathedral of St. John’s, Newfoundland

An organ built by Thomas J. Robson organ builder to her majesty. Likely like the first organ in the Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

August 12, 1852

On  August 12, 1852 the local newspaper The Newfoundlander copied an article from a London newspaper The Sun that made reference to a grand organ that was destined for Newfoundland

The article reads:

 “A magnificent organ, destined for the above Cathedral, (the R.C. Cathedral) as just been completed by Mssers Robsons of St. Martin’s Lane, where, prior to its transmission across the Atlantic, a numerous and fashionable assemblage of ladies and gentlemen, including many amateurs and professors, have for several days past  attended to hear the merits tested by Messer’s, Rea, Noble, Pritchard, Nottingham, and other eminent artists. The whole cost, amounting to 1500 has been defrayed by the Right Reverend Dr. (Bishop John  Mullock),  who presents this stupendous and brilliant instrument to the Cathedral in St. John’s, Newfoundland.”   – Sun

Thomas J. Robson  was no ordinary organ builder,  he carried the title “organ  builder to her majesty.”

Upon the arrival of the fine instrument in St. John’sthe first organist appointed to the R.C. Cathedral and to the care of the organ was Thomas Mullock an accomplished organist in Limerick, Ireland, he came toSt. John’s at the invitation of his brother (the bishop). He stayed inSt. John’s and remained as organist for about fifteen years.

For much of his life, Thomas remained in the shadow of his brother. He lived quietly supplementing his income by teaching music and raising his young family. In December 1854 he was devastated when his only child Charlotte Mary died at the age of 2 years,10 months.

Upon returning toIrelandhe was employed as the organist at St. Mary’s,Irish Town, Main Street, Clonmel. He knew the town well as he was married to Charlotte Frances O’Brien daughter of Daniel O’Brien of Clonmel.

Due to deterioration this “Grand Organ” over the years, it was dismantled in 1938 under the direction of (Sir) Charles Hutton and was replaced by a Hammond electronic organ.

This, in turn, was replaced in 1954-55 by the organ that is presently used in the Cathedral Basilica. The new organ has 66 stops and a total of 4050 pipes.

The installation actually comprises two organs; the main organ of 51 stops located in the organ gallery, and the sanctuary organ of 15 stops arranged behind the main altar. Each organ may be played from the main organ gallery either separately, or, if desired, simultaneously with the main organ. The organ was built and installed by Casavant Freres Limited ofSt. Hyacinthe,Quebec.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Take some time to explore MG 590 at The Rooms Provincial Archives; MG590 is the Charles Hutton and Sons fonds. It consists of textual records relating to the business interests of Charles Hutton & Sons in St. John’s 1930-1938.  The collection consists of correspondence between the company and patrons inNewfoundland andCanada, requesting songs, musical instruments and other enquiries.

Recommended Reading: An introduction to the Pipe Organs in Newfoundland and Labrador by Dr. David Peter’s, 2012 (unpublished)

Recommended Reading: The British Invasion Lives on! Pipe Organs of Newfoundland and Labrador Canada by Lester Goulding and William Vineer : The Diapason, July 2013.

A tiff over fashion, what to wear to church on Sunday?

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

July 23, 1854

What will I wear to mass?

Edward Morris, the Manager of the Newfoundland Savings Bank in St. John’s, Newfoundland in his diary for July 23, 1854 wrote that he had a wee tiff with his wife  (Katherine Howley) it appears she was not happy with him, she was in fact so displeased with him that she refused to go to church with him.

Edward wrote in his dairy:

“Mrs Morris went to 8 o’clock mass at the Cathedral (now Basilica) giving as a reason for going early that she had no decent dress to appear in at a more fashionable hour.”

The 8 o’clock mass tended to be the mass that the kitchen maids, scullery cooks, chamber maids, house maids, sewing maids  and  the other servants attended.  The staff would all  get up early,  attend the mass, and be home before their employers and their families got up.

There was no compromise, Edward insisted that he was going to the regular 10 o’clock mass, he was not concerned about the latest clothing fashions.

Edward was quite pleased that he did attend this particular mass and no doubt delighted in reminding his wife  that  during the celebration he was  witness to a great deal of history.

THE CATHEDRAL BELLS

He wrote:

 Went to mass myself where the Bishop  (Mullock) consecrated two Bells part of the intended chime one the largest dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The other & smaller to St Patrick the Patron Saint of Ireland …The Bishop having consecrated the Bells ascended the pulpit and explained the ceremony.”

A PLACE FOR THE EVANGELISTS

Edward also observed that:

“Today (July 23, 1854) the figures of the four evangelists were all fixed up in their places.”   

The statues of the four evangelists, St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke andSt. John are located some thirty feet above the floor  of  the Cathedral. These are of Italian workmanship. They are of marble and are slightly larger than life-size. Each evangelist is shown with his appropriate symbol: St. Matthew with a child; St. Mark with a lion; St. Luke with an ox; and St. John with an eagle.

A PLACE FOR THE NUNS

It was not only the evangelists that found their place in the Cathedral on July 23, 1854. Mr. Morris also noted:

“And the nuns (Presentation Sisters)  for the first time occupied the gallery appropriated to them behind the high altar.”

The  gallery is now  situated  behind a grilled window set in the east wall of the apse. From the small room behind this window, the Sisters of the Presentation can participate in the Parish Masses.

Recommenced Reading; Biographical Sketch on Edward Morris:  http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=39843

Recommended Archival Collection:   At the Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese: The Edward Morris Diaries:  Edward Morris was a businessman, politician, and office-holder; born in 1813 in Waterford (Republic of Ireland), son of Simon Morris. In  1852  Edward married Katherine Howley ofSt  John’s.

Recommended Virtual Exhibit: From Cornerstone to Cathedral- History of the Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s.  http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/basilique-basilica/en/index.html

The Great Fire of 1892.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

July 8, 1892   

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: B4-49; St. John’s East in ruins folloing the Great Fire. (note the Basilica in the background)

Late in the afternoon of 8 July 1892, a small fire broke out in a St. John’s stable on Freshwater Road after a lit pipe or match fell into a bundle of hay. Although containable at first, the flames quickly spread due to dry weather conditions.  Within hours, the fire had destroyed almost all of St. John’s.

The fire burned into the night and did not end until about 5:30 the following morning.  Many people camped out in Bannerman Park or on property surrounding the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica), which was one of the few buildings the fire did not destroy.

As the sun rose on 9 July, more than two-thirds of St. John’s lay in ruins and 12,000 people were homeless; many had lost everything they owned, except the clothes they were wearing.

One of the accounts written about the fire was penned by W.J. Kent   who wrote:

“All the arteries which led from the water to the higher portions of the town were crowded with the terrorised mob and the screams and cries of the women mingled with the wailing of children, the shouts intensified by the ever-freshening masses of livid fire and the glare of the burning buildings, contributed to make a scene the like of which it is not often given to the lot of many to witness…. Few there were who closed their eyes that night.”

Four persons were burned to death.  The devastation that struck the city was recorded by one of the priests on staff at the R.C. Cathedral (the Basilica) who wrote on Sunday July 10, 1892”

 “There was no publications today in consequence of the great calamity that has happened in our city on Friday evening and night, when the best part of St. John’s east was entirely destroyed by fire which caused such a panic that everyone is excited and frightened and nearly 12, 000 persons are left homeless, over 2000 houses were burned besides stores, wharfs…”

At the Last Mass, Father Scott preached a very touching sermon about the fire and those who were its sufferers from its effects.  Four persons were burned to death, namely:

Mrs. Catherine Stevens    }lived on Meeting House Hill

Her daughter Louisa Stevens

And the servant girl – name not known

Also Miss Catherine Molloy, Bulley’s Lane, and elderly girl not married

RIP

 

The Great Fire of 1892

Rev. Moses Harvey at  St. Andrews Free Presbyterian Church on the day following the fire walked about the city, he presents a similar description of the devastation and plight of the victims of the fire.

“The next morning I took a walk around the awful scene of devastation. It was heart-rending. Nothing visible for a mile from Devon Row but chimneys and fallen and tottering walls. The thick smoke, from the smouldering ruins still filled the air… The wrecks of the fanes of religion stood out, then [sic] broken walls pointing heavenward, as if in mournful protest against the desecration that had been wrought.

And the poor inhabitants, where were they? It made the heart ache to see the groups of men, women and children, with weary, blood-shot eyes and smoke begrimed faces, standing over their scraps of furniture and clothing — some of them asleep on the ground from utter exhaustion — all with despondency depicted on their faces. They filled the park and grounds around the city. Many hundreds escaped with nothing but the clothes they wore… .”

Recommended Reading: St. John’s, City of Fire, by Paul Butler, Flanker Press,  St. John’s. 2007.   

Recommended on line account: The St. John’s Fire of July 8, 1892: The Politics of Rebuilding, 1892-1893 by  Melvin Baker (c)1984. Originally published in the Newfoundland Quarterly, vol. LXXIX, no. 4 (Winter 1984), pp. 23-30.  http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~melbaker/1892fire.htm

Recommended Archival Collection:   Take some time at the  Archives Division of  the Rooms to look at MG 596  this item consists of map showing area of city affected by the 1892 fire. A number of photos of the Great Fire of 1892 that document the extent and devastation of the fire are also held in the photograph collection of The Rooms Provincial Archives Division.

Recommended Walk: Walk St. John’s takes you back in time to explore some of St. John’s most historic structures. Select one of the round-trip walking tours which take you through the streets of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, where much of the city was destroyed by fire on at least three occasions. Experience the alluring streetscapes and heritage architecture, which stand as a testament to the resilience and perseverance of its citizens who rebuilt time and again over the ashes of its past structures. Celebrate one of the oldest cities in Canada by exploring each of these unique walking tours in a city where walking and exploring is encouraged. Read More: Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tpled.walkstjohn4.app&hl=en