Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Altare Privilegiatum

In January of 1844, the relics of Saint Martura, an unidentified first-century martyr (thus her name being Latin for "martyr") were taken from her tomb in the Catacombs of Saint Priscilla in Rome. In March of that year, on the Feast of the Annunciation, the Most Reverend John Baptist Purcell, Bishop of Cincinnati, solemnly placed her bones and a vase of blood underneath the high altar at the Church of Saint Mary in Cincinnati's predominantly-German "Over-The-Rhine" district. They have remained undisturbed from that day forward.

In September of 1879, His Holiness Pope Leo XIII granted a special privilege to the altar at "Old Saint Mary's." What we call a “privileged altar” is one to which the Holy See attaches a plenary indulgence to the souls in Purgatory. Whenever a Requiem Mass is offered on such an altar in memory of one among the deceased, that soul is released from the realm of purification, and is able to enter into eternal glory.

This evening, a Solemn High Requiem Mass was offered on that altar in memory of the father of this writer, the late Paul Andrew Alexander, on the first anniversary of his passing. The sacred ministers were; Reverend Father Laurence Juarez as Celebrant, Reverend Mister Nathan Bockrath as Deacon, and Brother Adrian Hilton as Subdeacon. They were attended by Mister Ashley Paver as Master of Ceremonies, who was joined by his fellow-Knights of the Altar of Old Saint Mary’s, which for this occasion included yours truly.

The Latin Mass Community Schola of Cincinnati, under the direction of Mr John Schauble, sang the Propers of the Missa Defunctorum, including the Sequentia Dies Irae ("Day of wrath, O day of mourning, see fulfilled the prophets' warning, heaven and earth in ashes burning ...").

During the Offertory, the faithful contemplated the singing of William Byrd's famous anthem Justorum Animae ("The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them ...") As they received Communion, they could hear the gentle sound of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina's glorious work Sicut Cervus ("As the deer longeth for running streams, so longeth my soul for Thee, my God ...").

The organist for the occasion was Mr Sean Connelly.

Near the front of the nave of the church sat the widow of the deceased, joined by her children. No one else was in attendance, save members of the schola and choir, and the company of angels and saints. Sadly, no photographer was available to record the event, but it appeared much as another such occasion shown in the image above, by (most of) the same functionaries, and in the same venue.

In the mid-1950s, Dad sang for the schola cantorum of Old Saint Mary's, having been pressed into service along with other fellow ex-seminarians, by the then-pastor and his one-time spiritual director, Father Charles Murphy. Nearly six decades later, this is the funeral Dad would have wanted. He got his wish, with a little extra.

NOTE: If you're visiting here for the first time, especially if directed here from Standing On My Head, my father's story can be found here.


Richard Chonak said...

I've wondered whether these privileges still exist, what with the reformulation and limiting of indulgences in recent decades. If you see any info from an expert, presumably a canonist, let us know.

Dad29 said...

What wonderful music for his soul!

Brahms set the same text (...the souls of the just...) in his Requiem, as the finale to the 3rd movement.

It is in D major (the key of joy), and a low-D pedal point runs throughout all the fugue of about 130 measures. Worth finding on YouTube...

Lynne said...

How beautiful. What good children you were to arrange this.