The Featured item is a silver chalice belonging to Pope Leo XIII that he both used and gave as a gift to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his priesthood in 1887. It’s all silver with his papal coat of arms engraved on its base.
As precious an item as this is, it really is because it leads back to the Eucharist, having contained the Precious Blood of Christ. It all leads back to Jesus Christ, sacramentally. So, as spectacular as the chalice is, what’s more important is what has been inside of it.
So we can look at this and be amazed to think Pope Leo XIII used this, but what’s more amazing is that Christ shed his blood and gave it to us to drink, and this vessel contained it.
Because I am a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, I’m aware Pope Leo XIII established our diocese in 1889. So, it’s really special to have this tangible connection to our founding Holy Father.
Pope Leo XIII, until Pope John Paul II, was the second longest reigning pope in history. When elected, he was 68 years old. He actually followed Pius IX, who at present, is the longest reigning pope in history. Pius IX died in 1878. After a very long pontificate, they usually try to elect an older guy, so the pontificate will be for a briefer period of time. But he fooled them! He lived so long that he ended by being the second longest reigning pope in history, (until the reign of Pope St. John Paul II) dying in 1903. –Father Richard Kunst
Father Richard Kunst:
For a long time I have referred to Easter Monday (the day after Easter) as my favorite day of the whole year. When asked why, my tongue-in-cheek answer has always been, “Because it is the farthest away from Holy Week.”
At the risk of sounding scandalous, I used to say that all the time because I was so stressed by the Holy Week schedule. The Catholic liturgy for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil is a very different animal from all the other liturgies of the year, and for a long time I really had to re-learn what the heck I was doing for these important days of commemoration.
Now that I have several years under my belt, I have gotten to the point where I really get into Holy Week and the Triduum celebrations. They really are the most beautiful thing the Catholic Church does in its liturgy, and if you don’t normally make it a habit to go to your parish for these days, you are truly missing out.
Holy Week has been known by other names throughout history. It has been called “Major Week,” “Greater Week,” “Passion Week,” “Paschal Week,” “Authentic Week” and also “Painful Week.” All of them are accurate titles, but “Holy Week” captures them all.
As can be figured by the name, it is the holiest time of the year for all Christians, and for the Catholic Church the three days of the Triduum (which literally means “three days”) act as one single liturgy.
This is why at the end of the Holy Thursday Mass there is no final blessing and dismissal, and why Good Friday is technically not a Mass but a threefold liturgy of the Word, Adoration of the Cross and Eucharist, again with no dismissal.
And then of course the supreme day and liturgy is the Easter Vigil, taking place after dark, the day on which new members are added to the church by baptisms and confirmations.
Interestingly the early church believed that the second coming of Christ would happen on the evening of the Easter Vigil, and who knows? It could still happen.
One of the “apologetics”-type questions I have been asked over the years has to do with the three days Christ was in the tomb. The questioner will ask: “How do we figure it to be three days when we commemorate his death on Friday, and then on Saturday night we celebrate his resurrection? It seems more like 30 hours than it does three days.”
Liturgically speaking, the Catholic Church has adopted the ancient Jewish concept of the day. According to the Jewish concept, a day does not start at midnight, it starts at sundown. This is why since the Second Vatican Council we have had vigil Masses on Saturday evenings that count for the Sunday Mass. Ask any old-timers and they will tell you there was no such thing as a Saturday evening Mass when they were growing up.
So going back to the three days Christ spent in the tomb, he was buried on Good Friday soon after he died, he remained in the tomb Saturday, and after sundown on Saturday it was officially Sunday, the first day of the week. This accounts for the three days and for why the Easter Vigil starts late, to make time for the third day and allow for the darkness which is washed away by the light of the Paschal Candle and individual candles that we each hold during this most solemn celebration.
Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday, which is April 2 this year. I always try to cajole my own parishioners to go to as many of the Holy week liturgies as is possible. And here I do the same for you, the reader.
As I mentioned above, if you don’t traditionally make it a habit of taking advantage of Holy Week, you really do not know what you are missing. Easter has so much greater meaning for us personally when we do Holy Week right. Go to your parish and enter into these beautiful celebrations that have no parallel. I do not think you will regret it.
What follows are brief commentaries on the other chalices we are featuring on this Holy Thursday.
1. Leo XII & Pius VII:
The artifact presented here is a solid silver chalice featuring the coats of arms of two 19th century popes, Leo XII and Pius VII. A unique feature of the chalice is the depiction of their coats of arms on its base as well as a bishop’s coat of arms to the very right.
It is surmised that the recipient of the chalice may have been a bishop who was head of the papal household, probably serving for both popes, who reigned consecutively between 1800-1829.
2. Ornate Chalice with Maker’s Mark:
The chalice is a very ornate and beautiful artifact that dates between the years 1814 and 1870. Unlike the chalice belonging to Pope Leo XIII, it does not have a particular pope’s coat of arms. And so we can only surmise that it was used by a pope, but we know it was used in service of the pope because of the maker’s mark located on the lip of the chalice.
Every metal worker, jeweler, and medal maker or silversmith add maker’s marks to the items they create. This practice also allows us to identify the time period in which the item was created.
This chalice indicates it was made between 1814-1870 because it has a maker’s mark of the cross keys and tiara–a very, very tiny mark in this piece of metal. This was just to show it was made in service to the Holy Father. In the case of this chalice, it was added to the lip, the middle and the base. On the base, the name of the priest who gave this chalice to St. Charles’ Church is also included.
Beginning in 1814 fine metal artists in the Papal States used this particular maker’s mark. Napoleon Bonaparte had released Pius VII from custody after nearly four years. Jubilation was so great in Rome upon his release that the artists started putting this maker’s mark of cross keys and tiara on their works in honor of the Holy Father’s safety. That practice continued until 1870 when the Papal States were taken over by United Italy.
There is no indication that any one particular pope used this chalice, but the symbol of the cross keys and tiara maker’s mark deem this totally appropriate for this Collection.
It is interesting to speculate in whose hands and on what altars this 200-year-old chalice was used. It always goes back to the central source and summit of our faith, the Eucharist. It is part of the living history of the Eucharist and the priests who are its celebrants. It helps us to recognize that the Eucharist is a part of the living history of the papacy. Father Richard Kunst.
3. This is the base of the featured item–Pope Leo XIII’s 50th anniversary chalice:
The whole chalice is silver with his papal coat of arms engraved on its base.
4. A Chalice & Paten Used by Pope John XXIII: June 16, 1959:
This chalice & paten have the rare distinction of having been used by Pope (now Saint) John XXIII on June 16, 1959, during the celebration of Holy Mass at the Vatican.
A certificate authenticating this date is included.
They were purchased for the ordination of Gaston Rosaire DesHarnais, a Roman Catholic priest, who lived in Rome in the late 1950’s. The lapis lazuli cabochons were purchased and blessed at the Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
5. This chalice featured here is from the era of Blessed Pope Paul VI, specifically 1976.
The inscription on the bottom of the chalice states it was given as a gift by the Pontiff that year–just two years before his death in 1978.
It is incredible to have any item connected to one of the pontiffs of the 20th century who has already been created Blessed.