Here is Father’s commentary about this artifact:
This 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 has contained it.
I use this chalice on a daily basis. It’s a good way to stay connected to this Pope because as a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, I’m aware he established our Diocese in 1889. So it’s a real good connection to our founding Holy Father. But then, I also have that real tangible connection each day, using a chalice that our Holy Father used. While I could store this, it’s so spiritually significant that I want both to use it at Mass and in teaching situations.
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 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
Celebrating ‘The Source and Summit of Our Faith’
A Commentary from the Curator
Ever since I was a seminarian my personal spirituality has been focused on the Eucharist and Eucharistic adoration, or, as Bishop Fulton Sheen referred to it, the “daily holy hour.” As a member of the vocations’ team in our diocese, I was very happy to note that spending time with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is something most of our seminarians and recently ordained priests also practice. In stating that, of course, I know that Eucharistic adoration is common among our priests as a whole, and it is increasing in popularity among the laity as well, as evidenced in the growing number of adoration chapels throughout the country, not to mention the opportunities afforded the faithful in many of our parishes.
In the month of June, we have a feast day set aside to focus on Christ’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament. The second Sunday following Pentecost is the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or simply Corpus Christi. The feast day was established at least in part as a result of a Eucharistic miracle that happened in Bolsena, Italy, in 1263.
The story, which is infused with legend, has it that a priest who was on his way to Rome on a pilgrimage stopped to rest and say Mass at a church in the small town of Bolsena. Having for years struggled with faith in Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist, during his Mass at the consecration the host he held started to bleed.
After Urban V, the pope at the time, was notified of the miracle, he established the feast day inspired in part by the miracle. Today you can travel to Orvieto, Italy, where the bloody corporal (small altar cloth) that was used during the Mass of the miracle is housed in a beautiful reliquary in the town’s cathedral.
The real, true presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, something that we often take either too lightly or for granted, happens to be referred to by the Second Vatican Council as the source and summit of our faith. How often are we in the line to receive Communion without giving it much thought? When we go to Communion, we are doing the most important thing of our entire week: receiving the fullness of God’s divinity into our very selves!
Most saints in our history have had a deep and burning devotion to Christ in the Eucharist, and some of them in their devotion have left us some beautiful words on which to ponder and meditate.
My favorite quote about the Eucharist and the Mass comes from the great 20th-century mystic, Saint Padre Pio, who said, “It would be easier for the Earth to exist without the sun than without the sacrifice of the Mass.” Read that a couple times to have it sink in. If only we all had that faith in the Mass!
St. Ignatius of Antioch was likely an infant when Jesus was crucified, so we consider him one of the earliest church fathers. As a near contemporary with Jesus, what he says about the Eucharist gives us a good indication of the Christian faith in the first generations of the church. Ignatius said, “The Eucharist is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against dying.”
St. Alphonsus de Liguori writes extensively about the Eucharist. A couple of thoughts he brings up are not dogmatic but good to think about in how we prepare to receive Communion and how we pray after having received it. He said that if we did not receive our first Communion until our 100th birthday, we would not have sufficient time to properly prepare ourselves. That is something to ponder if we are repeatedly late to Mass. We should arrive in the church early enough to try and properly dispose ourselves to the important thing we are about to take part in. And for those who tend to leave Mass after going through the Communion line, Liguori said that after we receive the Eucharist, twelve angels surround us, worshiping what we just received. Needles to say the parking lot is not the appropriate place to give thanks to God for the great gift he has just given us. Leaving Mass early is a bad idea.
St. Jean Vianney, the patron saint of all priests, also speaks eloquently about the Eucharist and the priesthood when he writes: “How great is the priest! The priest will only be understood in heaven. Were he understood on earth people would die, not of fear but of love.” He also said, “There is nothing as great as the Eucharist. . . . If God had something more precious he would have given it to us.” Vianney also said, “All the good works in the world are not equal to the holy sacrifice of the Mass, because they are the works of men, but the Mass is the work of God.”
And although not a saint, there is a tabernacle in a church in La Crosse, Wisconsin that sums up the Eucharist. Etched right onto the doors of the tabernacle are the words: “What the world could not contain, love imprisons here.”
The following excerpt is from the biographical information about Pope Leo XIII featured on Papal History/Leo XIII . His is an interesting story we invite you to read:
The Popes: Histories and Secrets, quotes Giancarlo Zizolo regarding the man chosen to succeed Pius IX. He had lived all those years in exile in Perugia where he had created a little Vatican, frequented by intellectuals and artists, and where he wrote pastoral letters in direct contrast to encyclicals of (Pius IX), facing up to the problems of the day with a positive attitude.
Nevertheless, the new pontiff, who chose the name of Leo XIII in honor of Leo XII, did not deviate initially from Pius IX with regard to Italy. He, too, remained imprisoned in the Vatican and expected Italian Catholics not to participate in political life. Anti-Catholic sentiment was so strong in Rome that when Pius IX’s remains were moved in 1881 from St. Peter’s Basilica to St. Lawrence Outside-the-Walls and was attacked along the route, Leo tried to make arrangements with Franz Josef of Austria to leave the Vatican to live in Austria. All hope of this ended when Austria became part of the Triple Entente with Italy and Germany. Leo remained a self-imposed prisoner of the Vatican and opposed everything that he viewed as anti-clerical.
Meanwhile, Catholic life flourished. Leo was considered highly intellectual and much more diplomatic than his predecessor was, and in this vein he worked tirelessly and unsuccessfully within a hostile, anti-clerical environment to restore temporal power to the Vatican. In France, where Catholic royalist factions opposed the republic, he worked to encourage leaders towards agreements in the interest of the church’s missions. In Germany, too, he urged reconciliation through the work of his nuncios with Protestant Prussia where Catholicism was flourishing.
Leo XIII was the first pope of whom a sound recording was made and the first pope to be filmed . He also canonized many saints, among them John Baptist de la Salle (1651- 1719), Benedict Labre (1748-1783) and Lawrence of Brindisi (d. 1619). The future Saint Therese of Lisieux, while on pilgrimage with her father in 1887, met the pope and asked for permission to enter the Carmelite order while still fifteen years of age. He granted her request. Widely known for his cheerfulness and gentle sense of humor, many stories exist that attest to this trait.
The face of the modern Church took shape under Leo XIII. He expanded the role of nuncios, giving them precedence over local bishops. He exercised tight control over bishops’ conferences. Most importantly he came to be seen as the chief teacher of Catholicism, publishing eighty-six encyclicals, eleven alone on Mary and the rosary which lead him to be known as the rosary pope. The most famous of his encyclicals, Rerum Novarum in 1891, established him as the worker’s pope as he examined the evils of capitalism and insisted upon a just wage, dignity for workers and families and workers’ rights to organize. Rerum Novarum was considered to be the best Catholic social teaching of its time, a serious effort to articulate a Christian ethic for an industrial era, (becoming and remaining) the starting point for all Catholic social teaching.
Equally impressive was Leo’s renewal of Catholic theology with the study of St. Thomas Aquinas. He insisted there was no conflict between true science and true religion. He encouraged astronomy, natural sciences and Biblical research and opened the Vatican archives for research for serious scholars. He extended an invitation to orthodox Christians and Protestants to reunite with Rome.
In 1899 he suppressed attempts in America by liberal US Catholics to accommodate their culturally democratic heritage with their Church’s authoritarianism. However, the United States also attracted his attention and admiration and he confirmed the decrees of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884. He made Archbishop James Gibbons cardinal in 1886.
The centrality of the papacy and renewed prestige were firmly in place by the time of Leo’s death in 1903. He had restored intellectual, spiritual, diplomatic and secular guidance to the papacy during a pontificate spanning twenty-five years. To his successor, St. Pius X (1903-1914) he left an institution that had endured revolutions, loss of temporal power and increased industrialization. The papacy was traditionally fearful of modernism and democracy and would continue to deal with these issues throughout the reign of the future pope.
Leo XIII died in the summer of 1903. He was ninety-three years of age and was buried in the Vatican but transferred in 1923 to the basilica of St. John Lateran.
In addition, his death was the reason for the Conclave in August, which elected Giuseppe Sarto despite another candidate’s proven lead. We will have more of that story in the near future and exciting new additions to the Collection to share with you.
Papal Artifacts honors the life and gift to our Church of Pope Leo XIII, the Rerum Novarum Pope.
This is the oldest known footage of a Pope in existence. This film of Pope Leo XIII was created in 1896. The audio portion is the oldest known audio recording of Pope, also of Pope Leo XIII recorded in 1903. The audio is Pope Leo XIII chanting the Ave Maria in Latin.