Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mary Chapel's Stations of the Cross

Ecclesial permission to have the Stations of the Cross
in the original Mount Chapel in 1932
WE BLOGGED THE OTHER DAY about some of the treasures that have surfaced this summer in storage in the Mary Chapel Sacristy, and now we're going to dig into a little more history about one of them.

A framed document in Latin is dated 1932, which would be within a year or two of when the Mount community finally moved up the hill to the new Brentwood campus (the future Chalon) from temporary quarters at St. Mary's Academy in Inglewood.

Brady Hall was the one and only structure until 1939 when Mary Chapel was built. It was a beautiful, multipurpose building into which were crammed the CSJs' convent, student dorms, dining facilities, classrooms, science labs, library, infirmary and of course a chapel. Mass was mandatory and celebrated daily in two converted dorm rooms with the dividing wall removed.

Every Catholic church is entitled to a Stations of the Cross, or Way of the Cross, an ancient devotion that relives Jesus' passion and death in 14 "stations," usually around the walls of the nave. The Latin is Via Crucis, and this document kept in the Sacristy is formal, written permission to stage them in the chapel at the new Mount campus.

These days, the Stations in Mary Chapel are barely noticeable, owing to their small size and decades of grime. In the tiny Brady Hall chapel, there was room for only 14 small pictures, but when the new Mary Chapel was consecrated in 1940, the old Stations were incorporated into the new architecture. The originals were photographed and enlarged, and then hand tinted by one of the Art Department faculty, Sister Ignatia Cordis, CSJ. The covering varnish has darkened and muted the original colors, but when you looks at them now, you are seeing part of the Mount's first chapel in 1932. (What became of the originals is unknown.)

Out of curiosity, we looked into why the Catholic Church had to give formal permission for the Stations.  If a devoted Catholic reverently "walks" the Stations using the appropriate prayers, he or she is entitled to have sins wiped away, called an indulgence. From medieval times, pilgrims following  Jesus' final footsteps in Jerusalem -- the real Stations of the Cross -- were granted a variety of indulgences, good for clearing one or two or a lifetime of sins. The popularity of the pilgrimage led it eventually to be extended to local parishes. A penitent praying the Via Crucis in her home church is essentially making a little pilgrimage and can discharge her sins without having to go all the way to the Holy Land. This approach was popularized in the 1600s by the Franciscans, who since 1217 have been the custodians of the original Way of the Cross through the ancient streets of Jerusalem.

It is the opportunity to receive an indulgence that explains why any installation of the Stations of the Cross has to be blessed by the local prelate; they have to be done in the proper form according to Church norms. (We have an artist's concept of the Stations in the J. Thomas McCarthy Library on the Doheny Campus, but they're not "licensed," so no indulgences.)

The Mount's Documenta Pro Erectione S. Viae Crucis -- "evidence for the building of the holy Way of the Cross" -- is signed in Latin by Sister Margaret Brady, CSJ (Soror Margarita Maria), the Mount's founding president; Father Ermin Vitry, OSB, a Benedictine monk who was Mount chaplain and a music professor; and Most Rev. John (Joannes) J. Cantwell, archbishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles (Angelorum) and San Diego (Sti. Didaci).

The Franciscans' 800-year-old custodianship of the Holy Land explains why it is also signed by two Franciscans. Head (guardian) of the Franciscan province at Mission Santa Barbara, Father Dominic (Dominicus) Gallardo, OFM, authorized as his local delegate Father John (Joannes) Otterstedt, OFM, to make sure everything was on the up and up.

Since the old Stations were incorporated into the new chapel, there was no need of a new  Documentum in 1939.  Those Stations and their Documentum are all that remains of the original  chapel except a couple of fuzzy photographs. 

The first Mount Chapel right before its final liturgy in mid-December 1939.
After that, Mass was celebrated in Mary Chapel. The room is opposite
the elevators on the second floor of Brady Hall, now a lounge.

Hidden treasures of the chapel

L.A. Archbishop John J. Cantwell and a cadre of other priests preside at
the Benediction liturgy dedicating Mary Chapel on May 2, 1940.
SUMMERTIME AND EVERYONE's cleaning out their desks. Or in the case of Campus Ministry at Chalon, the sacristy in Mary Chapel.

If one had the honor of being an altar server as a school kid, one will know what this means. Sacristy, from the Latin word for holy or sacred, is where the priest suits up before mass, known as vesting. It is a little liturgy in its own rite (sorry, that's a pun) with its own prayers. Other sacred objects are kept there for use during various celebrations in the church.

Since Mass is no longer celebrated daily at the Mount, the Mary Chapel sacristy has also evolved into something of a storage closet. From a historical standpoint, we're glad! One of the Campus Ministry student workers, nursing senior Chris Lorenzo '19, volunteered to clean it out. We helped with identification and in the process picked up some Mount history along the way. Check out the photos and captions below.

A set of candlesticks in two sizes, which originally number
six of each size. The complete array is visible on the
altar behind Cantwell in the picture at the top.
The picture above also shows Archbishop
Cantwell holding this monstrance at the dedication
of Mary Chapel in 1940. It's missing the
the part that holds the sacred Host.

Detail of the 1940 monstrance showing St. Peter carved
in ivory. Its size and weight suggest it might have been
intended for a permanent location in a side chapel.
A lighter monstrance of classic sunburst design shows
up in photos starting in the 1940s and was probably
used for regular Benediction liturgies.
The sacristy revealed a number of old altar cloths, like this one made
of linen with a handmade lace border.
Priest's amice, a small cloth wrapped around the shoulders beneath the white alb and secured with ties around the chest. This one probably hasn't been worn in more than 50 years.
Official church permission to have a Stations of the Cross in Mary
Chapel, signed by Archbishop Cantwell, the president and chaplain
of the Mount, and members of the Franciscan Order in 1932. It
actually pertains to the original tiny chapel in Brady Hall.