Thursday, April 12, 2007

Holy Trinity in Boston: An Architect's View

Update: According to this Boston Pilot story, the Latin Mass will be moved from Holy Trinity as of April 22, 2007.

Boston's Indult: An Expensive Move
by Robert R. Quagan, Architect

BOSTON – April 11 – The Archdiocese of Boston announced on Sunday, March 25th that beginning Sunday, April 22, that the traditional Latin Mass will move from the historic Holy Trinity Parish in Boston's South End. Parishioners plan to appeal the move.

At this time, the plan approved by His Eminence, Sean Cardinal O'Malley appears to be proceeding. The March 25th announcement calls for removal of the Latin Mass parishioners of Holy Trinity (German) Church ( in Boston's South End, which represents three quarters of active parishioners to be transferred to Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church ( in Newton Uppe r Falls, a suburb west of Boston. This will be the first phase of a plan to merge Holy Trinity’s assets and remaining German congr egation with the nearby Cath edral of the Holy Cross facilitating eventual liquidation of the property.

Recently it was revealed that Holy Trinity's Sacristy Safe, contains numerous priceless patrimonial artifacts. Nearly one hundred relics were discovered having never been made available for veneration by recent Administrators. In recent decades Holy Mass has been only a weekly occurrence and it is suspected their existence were a hold over from the days of Jesuit control. Also discovered was a chalice that apparently was used for generations on special feasts such as Christmas, Easter and Trinity Sunday. The following description is a reprint from the November 1945 issue of The Monatsbote (Parish Newsletter, published continuously since 1899) which provides interesting details about this remarkable sacred vessel:

"When the Golden Jubilee of the new church was approaching (1927) it was felt that for this occasion the parish should have a new chalice. From the start, the parishioners were told that it was not to be a gift of a single individual or a church society, but of the whole parish. Consequently all were invited to contribute gold, silver and precious stones, or cash. In the course of time, hundreds of gold rings, gold watches, chains and other gold ornaments were sent to the rectory, and, above all, gold pieces. All these things were melted and sent to a first-class firm in Germany, Messrs. Koesters & Seegers, Kevelaer, who at the request of Rev. Bernard Wildenhues, SJ had submitted an original sketch of a chalice, which was accepted by the pastor (Rev. Charles P. Gisler, SJ).

At first it had been the intention to buy a chalice of solid silver only, but of exquisite workmanship, to cost about $600. But as gold, precious stones and money began to pour in from all si des , it was decided to have a chalice of solid gold, with a large number of jewels. It is of Roman design, of exquisite workmanship – no factory work; everything made by hand requiring months of labor.

The cup is ornamented with six pictures, representing Christ the King, the Annunciation, the Blessed Trinity in Heaven, the Baptism in the Jordan, the Blessed Trinity with Jesus Christ Crucified, and the Transfiguration. The base contains six pictures of saints, in delicate enamel: St. Ignatius, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Peter Canisius, St. Francis Xavier, Blessed Nicholas von der Flue (the Swiss national saint) and the Little Flower. The artist had been expressly told not to put the picture of the Little Flower on the chalice, but he seems to have misunderstood the order.
The chalice contains about one hundred fifty precious stones – pearls, rubies, amethysts and diamonds. Stem and base, and also the lower part of the cup, are made of the most delicate filigree work. The whole chalice is a masterpiece of workmanship, a worthy gift of the parishioners to the Blessed Trinity, to whom the church is consecrated. May the blessing of the Blessed Trinit y rest upon all who have contributed toward the chalice."

The Jesuit order ran the Parish from shortly after its establishment in 1844 (1848). The present church was dedicated in 1877 and Jesuit administration continued until 1961, when it reverted to diocesan control. It was at that time that the parishes other facilities (Convent, Hall, School) were taken by eminent domain during the height of the urban renewal campaign by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) when the rest of the 19th neighborhood of brick row houses was reduced to rubble. Subsequently, low income housing (projects) replaced the old neighborhood. The then Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cardinal Cushing successfully worked a deal with the BRA to save the church building; hence it has remained since tha t time.

The significance of this church to our Sacred Patrimony cannot be understated to not only German Catholics but Boston Catholics at large. The utilitarianism an d lack of understanding of the role of the Domus Dei in Catholic theology among diocesan administrators in recent times has been all too apparent during the current diocesan reconfigurations. It has resulted in the loss of nearly 65 churches in just the last three years that have dated mostly from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church (MIL) the expected new home of Boston's Latin Mass was dedicated by Cardinal O’Connell on 24 November 1910. It remains an imposing edifice situated on a hillside in Newton Upper Falls. It was rendered in an Italian Romanesque brick style featuring a 135 foot campanile. Originally the roof was in a red terracotta tile and has unfortunately succumbed (long ago) to the utility of asphalt. The front elevation can be best described as a portico reminiscent of a Roman Temple with a vertical proportion expressed by columns of the Corinthian order supporting a pediment that has sculptural relief of figures th at repre s ent the apparitions of Our Lady to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, France in 1854. The focal point of the interior remains the High Altar constructed of white Italian marble. Originally it was set behind an altar rail of red Italian marble with bronze “corkscrew” uprights and gates. The apse was lavishly painted with gilded stenciling serving as a backdrop to the reredos, above which a half dome contained three paintings of the Blessed Virgin: The Annunciation on the left, The Assumption in the center, and The Coronation on the right.

Unfortunately under the pastorate of Fr. Michael F. Doocey (1970-1993), following the Second Vatican Council and the often iconoclastic tendencies that followed, the interior of MIL was generally obscured. The once beautiful sanctuary and nave has been generally white washed. Thi s includes a set of polychromed Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) rendered white. The altar rail was destroyed save about eight feet at the locati ons of the former S ide Altars of St.Joseph and Our Lady. Even these segments were relocated about six feet into the Nave. The marble flooring of the Sanctuary has been obscured by ubiquitous red wall to wall carpet. A new and immovable freestanding Altar was formed about six feet forward of the bottom step of the old High Altar salvaged from the two existing rectangular Side Altars oriented back to back to roughly form a square proportion. The Holy Tabernacle of the old High Altar was systematically plugged and removed to the location of the old St. Joseph Side Altar where a “new” shelf was constructed and enhanced with a marble relief of “The Last Supper” also removed from the lower section (antependium) of the old High Altar. The remaining void from the old High Altar was covered by blank slab of roughly matching marble. Also obvious are t he dozen rows of missing pews in the church's nave, assumed destroyed during renovations of the 1970's.

The Latin Mass co ngregation may face the d aun ting task of reversing and absorbing the cost of the destruction wrought over the last 35 years to even approximate the liturgical order of the sanctuary and nave that remain extant at Holy Trinity. At a very minimum, a temporary altar rail will need to be restored to the devastated Sanctuary of MIL. There is current concern regarding existing sight lines and blind spots encumbered by the permanent placement of an existing freestanding altar and its juxtaposition to the original High Altar. This relationship may especially be problematic with a large liturgical entourage typical during the celebration of a traditional High Mass. At this point, true restoration of the church sanctuary for dignified celebration of the Classical Roman Rite could cost several hundred thou sand dollars. This does not even begin to address the balance of deferred maintenance throughout the balance of MIL’s physical plant that also includes a significant deterioration of roof ing, masonry, exterior wood work and ornamental ironwork. The existing pipe organ, inoperative for years languishes with water damage and cracked bellows. Its restoration could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars to restore.

His Eminence fully expects Boston’s Indult Latin Mass community to invest Time, Talent and Tithe with absolutely no juridical guarantee that the Latin Mass Indult will remain permanently attached to the church of Mary Immaculate. There remains a concern of significant risk associated with the burden of any capital investment at MIL. This is particularly true given recent announcement regarding the Indult and the perception of an "at will" relationship to any given location. Without juridic protection, the ability to fully develop a rooted parish l ife, may hamper its full potentential. Should MIL ever lose its Indult (or its sympathetic Pastor) in the manner of Holy Trinity, trust among many of the Faithful, whose spirituality is formed around the Classical Lit u rgy and Sacramental life could be seriously undermined.

Few older parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston have escaped the iconoclasm of the last 35 years and remain a suitable venue for the Classical Roman Rite. Those that have survived until recent times now face the threat of reconfiguration. The historic Holy Trinity Church remains intact and arguably offers the best extant Sacred Space in the the Archdiocese of Boston for this purpose. Unfortunately, arguments regarding an intact physical patrimony, central location to both major highways and rapid transit and its urban mission continue to have not swayed His Eminence, Sean Cardinal O’Malley. If the Cardinal's plan is implemented as announced, the last Traditional Latin Mass will be celebrat ed at Holy Trinity on Low Sunday, April 15th, ending 16 years at one of Boston's most venerable Catholic landmarks.


Edward said...

Such an edifice is well worth the effort, to be sure.

I've been reading some of your archives, since I'm new to your blogspot.
You've got a great set-up, Mary. Wish I knew about you earlier.
You're now my number one choice.
God bless, carry on, and as the British military said during WWII:
'hold until relieved.'

Dust I Am said...

I pity the poor Catholics of Boston who live under such hardship caused by ..... Frankly, your only way forward is to vote with your feet and your pocketbook. Better to be at odds with those who helped this mess occur than to collaborate with them.

You didn't finish the story. What is going to happen to the relics and the solid gold, gem-encrusted chalice? I can picture the lip-licking chops of a few .....

Thomas Shawn said...

Wow, Mary, your post has been picked up by the Real Clear Religion newsfeed that runs on my blog.

Yes, what of the chalice? Is this part of the ongoing effort to bleed the TLM community dry? Apparently the last rector of the Holy Trinity was illegally sending funds to another (failing) parishing.

Both the Novus Ordo and the TLM will be offered in this Newton parish. Are the TLM attendees being forced into an unchangeable, wreckovated parish?

Why does the Cardinal only allow one TLM in the entire diocese? Why does he ignore the call of 'generous application' of the indult as called for by JII in his document Ecclesia Dei?

tradcatholic said...

thomas shawn said:
Why does the Cardinal only allow one TLM in the entire diocese? Why does he ignore the call of 'generous application' of the indult as called for by JII in his document Ecclesia Dei?

WHY? Because he is AFRAID - very afraid - they (bishops, cardinals, priests, even the Holy Father) - of the change back into the rules, regulations, instructions, rubrics, discipline,self giving, penance,solid preaching, quiet study, Latin, human respect, criticism of the masses of free and easy Catholics who like things just the way they are, who don't like to be told what to do etc. etc. etc. Pulling up bootstraps of the 'people of God' is mortifying - and, pulling up their own bootstraps first, by way of example is too much altogether.
Prayer - they all need prayer.

Anonymous said...

I read to the point where I learned the traditional latin mass congregation may have to expend the money to revamp the 30 years of post vatican II wreckovation...and I understood why the Newton parish is their new home. Typical.
PGR in Delaware

Rob Quagan said...


My article ends abruptly because it is indeed an unfinished saga. For the time being everything is intact save some items needed for the celebration of the Classical Roman Mass at Mary Immaculate. This includes some traditional vestments, Mass Cards, birettas, etc. The relics and the Jubilee Chalice remain for the time being but its disposition is uncertain other than the fact that it is the intention to merge all of Holy Trinity's assets into the Cathedral. It will be up to the current Cathedral Rector as to what is absorbed or divested.

I wish I had a more pleasant answer. I'll keep you posted.

Anonymous said...

I wonder who built the organ?

Anonymous said...

So, where can I attend A Latin Mass in Boston ? I'm planning to be there in april 2008 ????

M. Alexander said...

Dear Anonymous,
I wish you had left an email. Subsequent to this post, the Latin Mass has been restored albeit temporarily.

If you wish to find a Latin Mass please check Enter the zip code of where you will be staying on the right hand side where it says "Latin Mass Locator" and you should be given several locations.

Have a good trip.
Mary Alexander

Anonymous said...

Thanks for advice,
I will try to find.

Anonymous said...

I see only Trinity Church is in resonable distance, it means in Boston.
Andrzej, (as above)

Anonymous said...

Is this Roman Catholic Church at all ? or "german", e.g. national catholic church ?

Nick said...

Holy Trinity is not a "national" Catholic Church. (Various Polish national churches which have broken with Rome come to mind...)It is Roman Catholic and is called "German" because it was founded by German immigrants in the 19th century. Many parishioners (not all)are of German descent and honor German traditions and customs. All however are welcomed at Mass and other services and events.

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site
Is this possible?