Thursday, July 6, 2017

Irish Archbishop Describes the Ceremony of the Dogmatic Definition of the Immaculate Conception


THE following account of the ceremony of the definition, from the pen of the late lamented Primate, the Most Rev. Dr. Dixon, Archbishop of Armagh, cannot fail to be acceptable to our readers. This simple but natural and truthful narration accords better with the subject, and makes a more lasting impression, than the most striking flourishes of rhetoric could produce:

          "It is time now to give some details of the history of the progress of that work for which we were assembled in Rome. As I have observed before, his Holiness[Bl. Pope Pius IX] took care that each bishop, on his arrival in Rome, should be furnished with a copy of the answers which he had received from the bishops of the world, whom he had consulted by an Encyclical Letter, when he was in exile at Gaeta, on the question of defining the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin. ... About the 18th of November, each of the bishops received a printed copy of a brief Narration of what Pius IX had done, up to that time, respecting the question of defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; and also a rough draft of the Bull, which in certain particulars was to be submitted to their deliberation.
Shortly after this time, the official notice was sent round informing the patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops present in the city, that they should meet on the Monday, the 20th of November, 1854, at nine o'clock in the forenoon, in the ducal hall of the Vatican palace, under the presidency of the Cardinal delegates of his Holiness, Brunelli, Caterini, and Santucci, for the business of which they were already aware, dressed in mantelletta over the rochet; but that the prelates of the eastern rite should appear in the dress usual to themThe Patriarchs, if any should be present, were to wear the mozzetta, and to sit in the first place, according to the dignity of their respective sees. The arch-bishops and bishops, in taking their seats, were to follow the order of the dates of their promotion; the archbishops, at the same time, all taking seats before the bishops. ... When the venerable assembly of prelates were seated, they presented a sight not easily to be forgotten. At the head of the great hall, sat the Cardinal delegates in their red dress. The bishops sat in six rows running lengthwise along the sides of the hall, three rows on each side of the Cardinals. The two front rows of seats were occupied by the archbishops; the Patriarch of Alexandria, the only one of that dignity present, occupying the first seat on the right of the Cardinal delegates.
The bishops, who were in the proportion of about two to one as compared with the archbishops, occupied the other four rows of seats. The theologians who had assisted in preparing the ball sat at the foot of the hall on the first day; on the other days they sat near the Presidents, at the head of the hall, for the convenience of being better heard by all present. This meeting was not a council; and yet the Churches of the world were never, perhaps, so fully represented in Rome. In addition to the many bishops who came from other parts of the world, and from other sees, almost every one of the great capitals of Europe had its bishops there, Paris, Dublin, Florence, Vienna, Milan, Turin, Genoa, Munich; and reckoning the Cardinals who came to Rome for the occasion, but held their meetings for deliberation apart from us, there were also represented, London, Naples, Brussels, Lisbon, Madrid, Prague. When the bishops took their seats, according to the date of their promotion respectively, without regard to the sees which they occupied, the combinations which resulted everywhere through the hall presented a striking idea of the Catholicity of the Church.
          Thus, for example, I had on my right, during those deliberations, the Archbishop of Halifax in Nova Scotia; and on my left, the Archbishop of Naxos in the Grecian Archipelago. Ireland had its full share in the representation of the world there present; for, besides the six prelates who came from Ireland, there were four other Irishmen whose sees lay in other parts of the world viz., the Archbishop of Halifax in Nova Scotia, and the Archbishop of Baltimore, the Archbishop of New York, and the Bishop of Pittsburg, in the United States of America. So that the Most Holy Virgin could count there, of the sons of Ireland, six archbishops and four bishops, all of whom had made a long, long journey to do her honour.
          At those meetings, the question simply turned on the prefatory parts of the bull; for the Chief Pontiff having before consulted all the bishops, by his Encyclical Letter from Gaeta, had already concluded, not only that the Immaculate Conception of Mary could be defined as a dogma of faith, but also that the time had now arrived for such definition. The prefatory parts of the bull, therefore, as I said, were alone submitted to the discussion of the bishops, who were to say whether those parts ought to be diffuse or concise, what they ought to state, and how they ought to be arranged; or in other words, they were to say whether, as regards all these points, they approved of the draft of the bull which was now submitted to them. The object of the meeting was most clearly stated by Cardinal Brunelli, who, as senior delegate of his Holiness, acquitted himself of his high function in a manner worthy of his exalted character, and far above any praise which I could bestow on it. The bishops most freely expressed themselves on the matter submitted to them; and when they spoke in favour of a change of any kind, in those prefatory parts of the draft of the bull which all held in their hands, then it devolved on the theologians, who had assisted in drawing up the bull, to reply to those observations; that thus, if any change were to be made, it might be made after due examination of all that could be said for and against.
          Of course all the bishops did not speak; for, had they done so, many days would have been required for our meeting. However, a great many bishops spoke, at least once and many spoke often; of which latter, the principal were, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Archbishop of Baltimore, the Bishop of Bruges, the Bishop of Pittsburg, the Archbishop of Vienna, the Archbishop of Munich, the Archbishop of Genoa, the Archbishop of Tuam, the Bishop of Southwark, the Bishop of Montauban, &c. The most delightful spirit of harmony pervaded the assembly from first to last; and when, at the end of Friday's sitting, Cardinal Brunelli was about to dissolve the assembly, he was moved even to tears by the strong and universal expression, on the part of the bishops, of attachment to the Holy See, and of love for its present Pontiff, and applause for the great act which he was soon to consummate.
          After this, his Holiness signified his wish that bishops and all should pray for the benediction of heaven on the great work of the 8th of December, that so it might be the occasion of more abundant blessings to the world. That those prayers might be offered with greater fervour and greater effect, his Holiness ordered that the great relics of St. Peter's, St. Mary Major's, and the churches of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and St. Peter's ad Vincula, should be exposed to the veneration of the faithful on some altar of those churches respectively. The great relics of St. Peter's are a portion of the true cross, a portion of the lance, and the impression of the Sacred Face on the handkerchief of Veronica. The great relic of St. Mary Major's is the crib, which served as a cradle for the infant Redeemer. The great relic of the church of Santa Croce is, the large portion of the true cross preserved there. And the great relic of the church of St. Peter ad Vincula is, the chains by which the apostle was bound in Jerusalem and in Home, and which, having miraculously united together, now form one chain. I had the happiness of being able to offer the Holy Sacrifice at the altar of the relics in St. Peter's, and afterwards in St. Mary Major's.
          And now, with hopeful joy, all looked forward to the 8th of December. That was to be indeed a festive day for the people of Borne, who are greatly devoted to the Madonna. The Pope had ordered that the day preceding the festival should be kept a strict fast; but on the day itself, although a Friday, meat was to be allowed. The grand illumination of the cupola of St. Peter's was to come off on that day, and every street in the city was preparing for an illumination of its own. The people, however, felt great anxiety lest the weather on the 8th might be unfavourable for this display. The rain had been almost incessant for days before, and on the 7th of December it rained in torrents during the entire day.I still felt assured that the rain would cease at the approach of a day on which so much glory was to be given to God so much honour to Mary and so much joy and gladness to angels and men. I could not admit the thought that on that day, when Rome, the mother and mistress of truth, was to perform an act which might almost excite the envy of the angels in heaven, the sun would not shine upon her, and give to her streets and people the festive appearance of great joy, instead of the gloomy aspect of a city in mourning, which she had worn for some days previous. And hence, on retiring to bed on the night of the 7th of December, it was rather an ardent desire which I felt for the coming of a fine day on the morrow than any anxiety about the matter. On account of this desire, I got up repeatedly during the night, to look at the appearance of the sky ; and when, about four o'clock in the morning, I saw that my hopeful anticipations for the great day were to be fully realised, it delights me now to remember with what joy and thankfulness I repeated the Ave Maris Stella (Hail, Star of the Sea).
          Early in the morning, the cardinals and bishops offered up the holy sacrifice, that they might be ready to await, in the Sixtine Chapel, the forming of the procession which, about nine o'clock, was to move forward to St. Peter's by the grand staircase. A little after nine o'clock the procession of cardinals and bishops began to move, chanting the Litany of the Saints; and when it had entered St. Peter's, what an assemblage did that church, itself the wonder of the world, embrace within its vast limits! The Pope borne in his chair of state, wearing the tiara; the long line of the procession of cardinals and bishops, who, to the number of 200, walked two and two, wearing their mitres; the penitentiaries of St. Peter's who followed, wearing their chasubles; the long files of soldiers who lined the procession; the Swiss guard of his Holiness, in their quaint antique costumes; the noble guard of his Holiness in their grandest uniform; crowds of the clergy of the second order; the members of the religious orders in their various habits ; strangers from other lands; and, in fine, a vast portion of the Roman people. Never, perhaps, had St. Peter's witnessed such a number within its walls, and perhaps a thousand years will pass by before so large an assemblage shall be congregated there again. The Pope being seated, received the homage of the cardinals and bishops, and of the penitentiaries of St. Peter's, a long ceremony, by reason of the great number who were present. Then, after the chanting of terce, High Mass commenced; and when the Pope, after reading the Introit, saying the Kyrie, and entoning the Gloria in excelsis, took his seat on the throne prepared for him, it was delightful to behold the rays of an unclouded sun greeting him through the lofty windows of St. Peter's. For, let it be ever remembered and if I had only recorded this one fact, I should not have written this book in vain that, although the rain fell in torrents for days before the 8th of December, and for days after it, yet, on the day itself, from the earliest dawn of morning until twelve o'clock at night, not one drop of rain fell in Rome. After the gospel had been sung in Latin and in Greek, his Holiness stood up at the throne, to perform one of the most solemn and important acts which a Chief Pontiff can ever be called upon to perform.

Amidst the profound attention of the vast assembly present, he began to read, in a clear voice, the decree of the Immaculate Conception. Having read the prefatory parts, and arrived at the decree itself, his Holiness, who was ever remarkable for his tender devotion to the Holy Virgin, overpowered as if by the sense of the favour which God was conferring on him, in vouchsafing that he should be the instrument of rendering such an honor to this most beloved Mother, burst into tears. He went on to read with a faltering voice, which betrayed the deepest emotion, the word declaramus, but for some minutes could proceed no farther. The effect on the vast auditory may be more easily conceived than expressed. It may be safely said, there were but few present who were not profoundly moved, and many wept like children. The Pope, having recovered from his emotion, finished the reading of the decree, and almost immediately after, the booming of the cannon of Fort St. Angelo began to echo through the vast dome of St. Peter's, and the bells of the churches through Rome rang a merry peal. The great act was consummated.
          The High Mass being concluded in St. Peter's, all began to prepare for the festivity of the evening. And, in truth, it was a festive evening. The illumination of St. Peter's was grand, and it was delightful to witness what the piety of individuals had done in illuminating the city. The piazza of St. Peter's was crowded with spectators, to witness the illumination of the dome, and the wonderful change of lights; and here a large military hand was in attendance to add to the amusement. The streets were also crowded, for the weather was delightful.
          On that same evening, in one of the grand halls of the public buildings on the Capitol, one of the most distinguished of the academies of Rome the Arcadian Academy held a solemn meeting to celebrate the joyous event of the day. His Eminence Cardinal Wiseman presided. The large hall was crowded with a brilliant audience. The Cardinal, as president of the assembly, delivered the opening address, a most beautiful composition, in Italian. The applause from all parts of the room, which followed the conclusion of this address, was kept up for several minutes. Indeed I was never before present, in any assembly, at such an outburst of applause. Several speakers then, clerical and lay, ladies as well as gentlemen, addressed the assembly, some in prose and some in poetry; all judging by the applause which they received acquitting themselves admirably, as if inspired by their theme.
          On the next day, the 9th of December, about nine o'clock in the forenoon, a secret consistory was held, at which all the cardinals and bishops in Rome attended. Before entering the grand hall of the Vatican, in which the assembly was held, his Holiness sent by his Master of Ceremonies a present to each cardinal and bishop, consisting of 1). A gold medal in a handsome case; the medal having on one side an image of the Blessed Virgin, with the words Honorificentia populi nostri ("The honour of our people" Judith, xv 10); and on the other side, an inscription stating that it was struck on the 8th of December, in honour of Mary conceived without sin, by the order of Pius IX, from the first fruits of a present which had been made to him of Australian gold. 2). A beautiful print of the Blessed Virgin. 3). A beautifully printed list of the cardinals, with their titles and the order of their creation, and of the bishops, with their sees and order of promotion, who had been present at the definition of the Immaculate Conception. This list is subjoined to this volume, with the names of places, &c, in their English form. His Holiness having entered the hall, read for those present, in his fine, clear voice, that beautiful allocution which was soon after published. At the conclusion of it, Cardinal de Bonald, Archbishop of Lyons, rose, and on the part of all the prelates who had come to Rome, thanked his Holiness for the kindness and hospitality with which he had treated them a kindness of which they should ever preserve a most grateful remembrance. In truth, the Cardinal could not have used language too strong to express the grateful and affectionate feeling of all present for Pius IX. When the Cardinal had done, the Pope made a few observations, viva voce, declaring the happiness which it gave him to see them assembled in Rome in such numbers on this grand occasion.
          Then the aged Cardinal Archbishop of Capua, a most venerable and holy man, rose, and asked for all the bishops the privilege of granting a plenary indulgence to their flocks after their return from Rome. But it was with difficulty that he could be understood ; for, as if overpowered by the goodness of Pius IX., he wept like a child in making the request. And here we may observe how this meeting has tended to draw the hearts of the world closer to Pius IX. There was not a cardinal or bishop in Rome who did not leave the city with feelings akin to those of the good Archbishop of Capua. They all felt, more fully than ever in their lives before, the force of the words of St. Paul, Nam pro bono forsan quis aucleat mori (“Yet perhaps for a good man someone would die” Rom. v. 7). For it would be no exaggeration to say that they all went home determined to die, if necessary, for the good, benevolent Pius IX. The Pope having assented to the request of the Archbishop of Capua, and recited the prayer usual at the conclusion of such assemblies, retired from the hall.
          On the day following, a ceremony was to take place which, in the interest that it excited was second only to the great event which had brought the prelates to Rome; this was the solemn consecration of St. Paul's church outside the walls, which had now risen from its ashes more beautiful than before. To render the ceremony of its consecration more imposing, the Pontiff would avail himself of an occasion when so many prelates were assembled in the Eternal City. On Sunday, then, the 10th of December, the Pope proceeded to the church at an early hour, amidst a vast concourse of people. The cardinals and bishops had preceded his Holiness; and about half-past eight o'clock in the morning the grand ceremony commenced, and occupied all the rest of the forenoon. The following cardinals performed a part of the ceremony of the consecration, relieving his Holiness of a portion of the burden: Cardinal De Carvalho, Patriarch of Lisbon; Cardinal Falconieri Mellini, Archbishop of Ravenna; Cardinal Schwarzenberg, Archbishop of Prague; Cardinal Wiseman, Archbishop of Westminster; Cardinal Gousset, Archbishop of Rheims; Cardinal Scitowski, Primate of Hungary and Cardinal Bonnel y Orbe, Archbishop of Toledo. The ceremony having concluded about noon, a Low Mass was then celebrated by Cardinal Sixtus Riario Sforza, Archbishop of Naples. It was stated in Rome, I know not on what authority, that the names of all the cardinals and bishops who were present at the ceremony were to be inscribed in the church, ad perpetuam rei memoriam.
          On the day after the consecration of St. Paul's, that is, on the 11th of December, there was a grand meeting of the Academy of the Immaculate Conception in the church of the Santi Apostoli in the Corso, to commemorate the great definition. The church was splendidly illuminated with many hundreds of wax lights. A large number of singers and musical performers of the first celebrity in Rome attended, and executed a splendid piece, composed and set to music for the occasion by some of the great masters. Several beautiful compositions were delivered in prose and poetry, and in various languages, among which our ancient vernacular was heard the illustrious Archbishop of Tuam having delivered in Irish and in English a poem of considerable length, composed by His Grace for the occasion. The assembly in the church was most numerous in fact, the sacred building, although very spacious, was inconveniently crowded. It was said that his Holiness would have attended, but for the melancholy occurrence of the death of his sacristan.
          Another of these delightful academies came off some days after, in the great hall of the Eoman seminary, or Apollinari College. The students of the seminary, and the students of the new college of Pius IX, the Collegium Pium, combined to get up this display, which was most creditable to these young men, of whom we must say that an assembly of youth of more becoming appearance never met together in Rome ; their mild and modest looks reflected the innocence and purity of their lives. Their beautiful compositions in prose and poetry, and their exquisite delivery, were applauded to the echo by a very select and numerous auditory. The little seminary of St. Peter's at the Vatican, as well as the English and Irish colleges, and no doubt others also, had their academies, all to celebrate the glory of their dear Mother. And it would, indeed, be a tedious thing to relate in how many ways Rome testified its delight on this great occasion. In this grand exhibition of joy, each community in Rome, religious and ecclesiastical, and every church would have its share. A triduum, or three days' devotion, was celebrated in each church, on which occasion the church was beautifully decorated; and amidst a perfect blaze of wax lights, the holy mysteries were each day celebrated; and in all the larger churches sermons were preached, and crowds of the faithful thronged their precincts."
Written at Kome, in December, 1854, on the occasion of the Dogmatic Promulgation of the Doctrine of the
Archbishop of Tuam.

Mitre used by Bl. Pope Pius IX when declaring the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854

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