Ecclesiastical Year for Catholic Schools - Andreas Petz



1. Consecration is the act of solemnly dedicating a person or thing to the service of God. Persons and things consecrated, are not only withdrawn from the influence of Satan, as through the exorcism, nor only are blessings and graces imparted, but besides all these they receive an impress of a special character, a stamp of higher rank whereby they are qualified for the service of God.

2. The effect of this consecration is twofold. A person or thing is consecrated for the service of God, and equipped for this purpose with higher power and at the same time qualified to procure grace and blessings for others. Consecrated persons impart these blessings by their effectual agency, consecrated objects, however, through their application.

3. Consecrations are divided into that of persons and objects. The consecration of persons is reserved to bishops. A great many objects may be blessed by the priest, such as Holy Water, the blessing of ashes and the blessings performed during Holy Week.

Dedication of a Church

1. When a Church is about to be built, a bishop, or priest appointed by him, must solemnly perform the laying of the corner stone; for the house of God must be blessed from the foundation throughout all its parts.

a) First, the place upon which the church is to be built, especially that place destined for the high altar is sprinkled with water blessed for the purpose, accompanied with prayer.

b) The corner stone is blessed in the same manner and marked on all sides with the sign of the Cross, it is then laid while the Litany of the Saints, and other prayers are said. This blessing of the corner stone extends to all parts of the foundation.

2. The dedication of a church is only a precursor of the consecration, in case the latter cannot take place, the bishop may delegate a priest to perform the dedication, but not the consecration.

3. The solemn blessing, or consecration of a church requires that

a) it be withdrawn from the influence of Satan,

b) that it should be elevated to a place of grace and prayer and

c) finally, that it shall be consecrated as the exclusive property of the house of God. This is expressed by the words of the bishop when he invokes God to bless, sanctify and consecrate the church and the altar.

4. The preparation for the consecration is as follows: The consecrating bishop, who should be fasting the day before, sets apart over night, in a proper place, the relics to be used in the consecration. Light burns before them and Matins and Lauds are said in honor of the saints whose relics have been procured. Twelve crosses are also marked on the walls of the church with candles attached to them. Next day these candles are lighted, and all things needed are prepared in the church which is left in charge of a deacon duly vested. The bishop goes in procession around the outside of the church three times sprinkling it with Holy Water, knocks three times at the church door with the pastoral staff saying: "Lift up your hands, ye princes and be ye lifted up, ye eternal gates, and the King of glory shall enter in." Three times the deacon asks: "Who is the King of glory?" Twice the bishop answers: "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle," and the third time, "The Lord of armies, He is the King of glory."

The bishop then enters with the clerics and others whose assistance he requires, leaving the rest of the clergy and people outside, and again closes the door. He forms a cross with the letters of the Greek and Latin alphabets, which he inscribes with his staff on ashes previously sprinkled upon the floor of the church—this rite symbolizes the instruction to be given to Catechumens in the elements of the faith.

The cross is made from one corner of the church diagonally to the opposite corner. Upon the Cross of Christ, the Church continues to flourish from one end of the world to the other.

5. Then the bishop proceeds with the consecration of the altars; he marks five crosses on each with his thumb, which he has dipped in a preparation of water, ashes, salt and wine, specially blessed for this purpose, and sprinkles them seven times with this mixture. He also goes three times around the inside of the church and sprinkles the walls as well as the floor. Later the relics are borne into the church, the bishop, clergy and people taking part in the procession. An address is made to the people on the event of the day, and the outside of the door is anointed with chrism.

6. The sepulchres of the altars, that is, the place where the relics are deposited, are also anointed with chrism, and the relics placed in them. The table of the altar is anointed in the same manner, then incensed and five crosses made on it with the Oil of the Catechumens as well as with the chrism.

Chrism is also used to anoint the twelve crosses which have been marked on the walls. Incense is burned on the five crosses previously made on the altar with the blessed water, oil, and chrism. Finally the bishop makes a cross with chrism on the front and four corners of the altars, then the cloths, vessels, ornaments, etc., are consecrated and the consecration of the church is complete. St. Thomas clearly states the meaning and use of this consecration (Summa iii, xxx) "The rite," says the Saint, "signifies the holiness secured to the Church by Christ's Passion, and which is also required of its members."

Consecration of a Cemetary

1. From the earliest Christian times it has been the custom of the Church to bless the resting places of her dead. What is more appropriate than that the bodies which have been so often sanctified by the body of our Lord, should be gathered in hallowed ground to await the general resurrection.

Next to the Church no place should be more sacred to the congregation than the cemetery, and, if possible, it ought to be consecrated, but as long as this cannot be done the individual graves ought to be blessed.

2. The cemetery, being a holy place, should be kept in good condition and often visited by the living to pray for their friends and relatives. It is an instructive school which vividly places before our eyes our own transitory life, and impresses upon us the fact that in death, we shall all be alike equal, that riches, honor, and worth disappear, and that we are not made for this earth but for eternity.

The Blessing and Baptism of a Bell

1. In the first centuries church bells were not used. During the Christian persecutions it was the duty of the doorkeeper to inform the faithful of the time and place of Divine Service. Later wooden instruments were used, our clappers in Holy Week remind us of these. Now and then, trumpets were used for the same purpose. We do not know exactly when bells were introduced; they were used at Nola in Campania and gradually introduced into the churches in the seventh century.

2. On account of their importance in connection with the Divine Service, bells have been solemnly blessed since their first introduction. They are, as it were, messengers from a higher world, calling to the faithful not to forget their heavenly home.

3. The form prescribed in the Pontifical is entitled, "The Blessing of a Bell," though it is popularly called the "Baptism of a Bell," a title by which the Office is mentioned as early as the eleventh century. The bishop or priest delegated by him washes the bell with Blessed Water, anoints it with the Oil of the sick on the outside, at first in silence, then he prays that its tone, like the voice of God, may ward off everything injurious or deadly. He then makes seven crosses with the same oil on the outside, saying each time, "Blessed and sanctified shall this bell be! In the name of the Father," etc. The seven crosses are typical of the sevenfold source of sin and death, against which the bell, sanctified by the sevenfold strength of the Holy Ghost, shall grant assistance to the faithful. He makes four crosses with chrism on the inside it shall call the faithful from all parts of the heavens, and inspire them with zeal for God and His Holy Word.

4. Under it he places the thurible with incense and fragrant herbs, to denote the love of God which should inflame Christian hearts in work as well as in prayer; this is denoted furthermore by the Gospel of St. Luke, in which reference is made to the one thing necessary by our Lord when conversing with Martha and Mary. He prays repeatedly that the sound of the bell may avail to summon the faithful and excite their devotion, that it may drive away storms and terrify evil spirits; this power, of course, is due to the blessings and prayers of the Church and not to any efficacy superstitiously attributed to the bell itself.

Coronation of a Pope

1. On the tenth day after the demise of a Pope, the Cardinals assemble in the same place where he died, to the so-called Conclave. After a solemn High Mass, to implore the light of the Holy Ghost, they retire to a part of the palace where they are entirely secluded from the rest of the world. A suite of rooms is given to each cardinal and his attendants. Then all the windows and doors that open outward are walled up, and no Cardinal dare leave his quarters until after the election, except in case of sickness, and even then if he leaves the palace he loses his right of vote. Food is sent in to them under the greatest supervision, by means of a turn. By this strict seclusion every external influence that might be brought to bear on the papal election is prevented. The Cardinals meet in the chapel every day to vote, this is repeated until some one Cardinal has received at least two-thirds of all the votes. If the election is successful the Cardinal dean asks the one elected if he accepts the office; if he consents, the fisherman's ring is placed on his finger and he must give the name, which he wishes to bear as pope. Then the oldest of the Cardinal deacons opens a window facing the street and announces the result of the election to the crowd of people waiting below in the following words: "Romans, I announce to you good tidings of great joy. We have a Pope, the most eminent and most Rev. Cardinal N. N., who has taken the name N. N."

The fisherman's ring is that small papal seal which represents St. Peter in a boat drawing in his net. With this the Pope seals Decretals of minor importance written in Latin and signed by the cardinal secretary.

The Pope takes a new name, because when Christ made Simon head of the Church He gave him the name Peter. Besides this, the changing of the name indicates that he has been consecrated for the welfare of our Holy Church exclusively, and therefore must sever family ties, or at least not consider them to the detriment of the Church.

2. The newly elected Pope now receives the homage of the Cardinals. They kiss his right foot, that is the cross embroidered on the slipper, as a sign of their allegiance, then they kiss the right hand as a sign of filial veneration. This homage is repeated three times—in the Conclave, in the Sistine chapel, and in St. Peter's church. This may be to denote the threefold power of the Pope. At the last named homage, besides the Cardinals, inferior prelates and persons of rank take part, whereupon the Pope gives the people the Apostolic blessing.

3. Some days later the coronation of the Pope takes place in the following manner:

a) He is carried into St. Peter's church under a rich canopy as a sign of the respect due to the Head of the Church. In the Chapel of St. Gregory he again receives the homage of the Cardinals and prelates. When leaving the chapel in solemn procession, the master of ceremonies kneels near the door and burns on a plate, castles formed of oakum, saying in a loud voice: "Holy Father, thus the glory of the world passes away." This is repeated three times with a short pause between each. This warning on the vanity of everything earthly is all the more impressive, as in the Chapel of St. Gregory are found the graves of the Popes.

b) When the Pope reaches the altar of St. Peter, the solemn Mass begins; after the Kyrie has been sung, he sits upon the throne, and the three first cardinal bishops, stand before him and implore Almighty God to pour upon him, who has been raised to the highest Apostolic dignity, the fulness of His blessings. Then he receives the Pallium, and thus equipped with the full dignity of the episcopal office ascends for the first time as Pope the altar of St. Peter and continues the Mass. A part of the clergy go now to the tomb of St. Peter to pray for the happy reign of the new Pope, the successor of St. Peter.

c) At the close of the Mass, the Pope goes to the balcony of St. Peter's church, where the first Cardinal deacon places the triple crown—the tiara —on his head with the words: "Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns, and know that thou art Father of Princes and Kings, Ruler of the world; Vicar of our Savior Jesus Christ to whom be glory and honor forever! Amen." In the name of the most Holy Trinity, the new Pope shall rule as teacher, priest and shepherd. After the coronation, the Pope gives the solemn Benediction,. with a plenary indulgence.

d) In grand procession he proceeds to the Lateran church, which is the chief or Cathedral church of Christendom—the mother of all churches—therefore he solemnly takes possession of it; on the way he is handed the keys of the city. He is solemnly received into the Lateran church, where the Prefect of Rome hands him two keys, one of gold, the other of silver, as a sign of his power to bind and to loose After he has been seated upon the throne, he receives the homage of the Chapter of this church; he is then led into the council hall of the Lateran palace, where he gives to each of the Cardinals and the most distinguished prelates, a gold and a silver memorial coin. From the gallery he bestows his blessing upon the people, and has some small silver coins thrown among them, with the words: "He divided with the poor, his justice shall last forever."

Throughout the entire ceremony of the coronation, the papal dignity is shown to be the highest upon earth, but it must be united with humility and a love of sacrifice.

Consecration in the Religious State

1. The spirit of Christ is a spirit of sacrifice; this spirit Christ bequeathed to His Church, where it continues to grow in the priesthood, and reaches its highest point in the religious state. This state forms, by the more perfect practice of the virtues and its consequent external activity, a powerful spiritual ally of the Church. Therefore the Church has taken this state particularly under her protection and instituted different consecrations for its various Orders. We find, even in the first Christian centuries, a solemn blessing and consecration of virgins, who dedicated themselves to perpetual chastity and to the service of God. Out of the lives of the hermits and these virgin souls developed the Religious state. The Church not only regulated this state but blessed and sanctified it; she appointed a time of probation—a novitiate—for those entering the Order, which must last at least one year. During this year the novices must be proved and if they find that they are called to this state of life, they must earnestly prepare for the profession of their vows.

2. Entrance into the novitiate, the so-called Reception, preceded by a longer or shorter period of trial, is made by the solemn reception of the religious habit. The prescribed ceremonies differ according to the object of the different Orders and their respective rules. The essential part is the solemn blessing and investing with the habit.

As levity is generally shown in the dress, so the long, modest dress of Religious should show earnestness, modesty and virtue; therefore the novice is usually reminded at Reception to lay aside worldly sentiments with the worldly garb, and to strive to acquire virtue and modesty. Unless in case of necessity, as long as they remain in the Order, the Religious is never permitted to wear worldly dress again.

3. When the prescribed time of probation has passed, and the novice has reached the required age, then the profession of vows may be made. Until then the novice may leave the novitiate at any time, and the convent may likewise dismiss him when it is seen that he has no vocation. With the profession, however, he belongs, forever to the Order, as a return to the world is not permitted without a dispensation.

As the ceremonies of Reception vary so do the ceremonies of Profession. What is essential to all, are the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, which are the foundation of the whole Religions State.