Dedication of Immaculate
Conception Old Roman Catholic Church
Editor's Note: This edition of The Old Roman Catholic Guardian centers around the activities of the priests and people of Immaculate Conception Old Roman Catholic Church, Hudson, Florida. On May 20th of this year of our Lord, 1995, their new church building was dedicated to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Blessed Virgin Mother. Herewith, we present several articles which we hope will help our readers to join the Immaculate Conception's parishioners in the joy of having their own new church building.
on the Day of Dedication:
Your Excellency, Bishop Greed, Right Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Clerics, dearly beloved in Christ:
"Lætatus sum in his, quæ dicta sunt mihi, in domum Dómini ibimus: I rejoiced because they said to me, we will go into the house of the Lord" (Ps. 121).
Some of you here today have probably been hearing those words in the mind's ear for twenty years or more those of you who go all the way back to your predecessor church, Saint Joseph. And at last! Here you are.
Such a joy!
You sit here today with a certain sense of satisfaction and contentment, And I pray the Lord allows you to feel it ever so deeply, especially those of you who have made the deepest sacrifices to arrive at this occasion.
Let me warn you, however, your journey is hardly complete. Indeed, it is a journey just begun. And in making this giant leap toward the sanctuary of the Most High God, you will in fact lose something in your transition. Never again will you feel quite the intimacy that you have known as that small and special group coming from what was Saint Joseph and, more recently, from your Civic Club sojourn at Seapines. Never again will you merely tuck away a makeshift altar and enter into your little circle of laughter and merriment following Mass. Now you must grow. You must grow because you believe with all of us that our Blessed Lord has also sent you to do His work. You must reach out to others to share with them the great Faith that you have inherited and which has been nourished at your infant church here in Hudson. You cannot keep to yourselves what it is that you have found. It belongs to all of God's children who are willing -- like you -- to take up the Cross of the Divine Master and follow Him.
Why do we follow Him? We follow Him with love and devotion. We follow Him by re-confirming in our actions and words His Gospel message that He has preached to us through His Apostles and through the Tradition preserved for us through Holy Church. We as Old Roman Catholics, have a unique tradition to treasure and hand on, for we have attached ourselves to one of the smallest "minorities" that one can find upon this earth. We have dared to retain our tradition in the face of the millions who have opted for they know not what: A church of change, without knowing the extent to which that change is beneficial for their immortal souls; a sacrifice of ambiguity, without the assurance that this is in fact what Holy Church has preserved since the first act of sacrifice anticipated by our Divine Lord and His apostles in that Cenacle on the night before He shed His blood for us; a theology which speaks a language unknown to Saints Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Thomas Aquinas; indeed a change that has almost delighted some with child-like glee in breaking from the very Tradition that has come from our mothers and fathers since time immemorial -- almost as though such a Tradition is looked upon in regret and shame.
For us, none of this is true. For us, the Gospel is the same, the Tradition is the same, the theology is the same, the liturgy is the same; indeed, even most of the Canons are the very same as those handed down to our predecessors over the centuries. Now is the time to re-commit ourselves to that tradition -- as we dedicate this House of God, not as a kind of deification of man that we see encroaching in those places where once there was a God-centered Faith.
Now is the time for us to re-examine our purpose, not simply with a sense of nostalgia (which is not always bad), but with a sense of belonging to the very Church established by our Divine Lord those many centuries ago, when He told his Apostles to "do THIS in commemoration of Me." THIS, not THAT! Indeed, let us call to our minds those very words of St. James' Epistle upon which some sermons were preached just last Sunday: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with Whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration." (James, 1: 17.) As you begin to feel comfortable and "established" here in your own little church -- coming of age, so to speak, let me remind you that you will continue to face humility, if not humiliation, from some quarters. You will be asked, as so many of us often have, "Are you recognized by Rome? Does the Holy Father approve of your work and your activities?" Let me tell you emphatically -- but without defiance and with much charity, I pray: we are the envy of many in Rome; we are the envy of many in [the Diocese of] Saint Petersburg; and we are the envy of millions of Catholics who have abandoned the bosom of Holy Church because they cannot find their Mother in the places in which they have heretofore bent their knees and offered adoration to their Creator.
You are the Church of Jesus Christ -- whole and entire. You possess everything that Jesus Christ intended His spotless bride to carry in to the twenty-first century. Your priests are true priests, your bishops are true descendents of the Apostles upon whom Christ built His Church. Your Faith is the "Faith of Our Fathers," about which Cardinal Gibbons so eloquently wrote a hundred years ago from his See in Baltimore, when so many of our forebears in the Faith were so often humiliated and persecuted by the "no-nothings" who burned our churches, convents, and rectories because they thought their contemporaries would dig a tunnel from Washington to Rome to convert all Americans to Catholicism.
You will be mocked and ridiculed, perhaps even spat upon. Do these words sound familiar? Yes, we read them in the 18th chapter of Saint Luke. Christ foretold all that we would be exposed to during these past 25-35 years. Why is it that so many are unable to recall these words of Christ so clearly expressive of our time? "They will put you out of the synagogues," He tells us. "Indeed, the hour is coming that whoever kills you will think he is doing a service for God." (John, 16:2) "These things I have told you, that when the hour has come, you will remember that I told them to you." Indeed, these are the very words which precede the words spoken to us by Christ in last Sunday's Gospel. Jesus is talking not so much about His need to send us the Holy Spirit, but of our need to brace ourselves, through the Holy Ghost, against the scandal that will come to us for Jesus' sake.
Why? "Because they have not known the Father nor Me." That is the crux of it all. How well do you know the Father? How well do you know His divine Son, to Whom you have erected this tabernacle in His honor and to that of His holy Mother? How well do you know them? And is that not precisely why you have come together to set aside this temple of God? To know, love, and serve God in this world, that you might be forever happy with Him in the world to come? Your consciences must enable you to suffer many of these things for His sake because you believe what He has taught from His own lips and what you have learned from your holy mother which is that Church that transcends the Romes, and the Jerusalems, and the Alexandrias, and the Antiochs, and the Hudsons. She is that spotless bride of Jesus Christ that beckons you to remain Faithful to all that holy Church has taught you. That you use your church as the means of nourishing your Faith, not as some kind of an ego trip because you have personally placed here the wares that help you to make this appear to be a true temple of God, or because you have provided the key -- which key your Pastor alone now clutches, as rightfully he must -- to the very entrance to this building. For today, following this Mass, this building will become the permanent home of our Lord, sacramentally dwelling here in your tabernacle. And let us turn our thoughts to this very special title for which your church has been named: The Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. We should recall that it was that very title by which our Lady called herself when she appeared to that very humble peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous in that quaint little grotto of Massabielle in France. Her local pastor, Abb‚ Peyramale, had demanded that he first know with whom he was dealing before he would put into practice any of the requests Bernadette had brought to him from her "lady." "Je suis la conception immaculé: I am the Immaculate Conception," was the reply to be carried back to him by Bernadette. That peasant girl -- so unschooled, but so simple and strong in faith and trust in the Lady whom she knew to be real, not simply a "vision." Such a patroness you have in our holy Mother. May you here in this church reach out to her under that very special title to beseech her intercession for the many in our time who refuse to heed the obvious signs that beckon us to return to the bosom of our God. "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me a poor sinner." These were the words Bernadette prayed with her very last breath here on earth; she had made known to the rest of Mary's children the special grace with which God had preserved His Mother immaculate, whose sins [Bernadette's] in comparison with our own must appear as nothing before the judgment seat of God. If this poor child of God could see herself as such a wretched sinner, how much more we -- who have in our time been almost indifferent to what our Lady's grace means to the children of this world! There can be no greater unity within any church than to be the repose of the tabernacle of the Most High -- Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity -- of our Lord Jesus Christ, dedicated to our Blessed Lady, Mother of the Church, under her title: Immaculate Conception.
May she be your special intercessor in all you do. May you never lose sight of her awesome place in your lives. May your devotion to her be without pretense. May her mantle remain about you and your spiritual leaders for as long as this church shall exist.
May God bless us all.
+ John. J. Humphreys,
The Old Roman Catholic Guardian contacted Bishop Greed about his recollections of the history of Immaculate Conception parish. His Excellency responded as follows:
Pentecost Thursday, 1995
This is the very sketchy history of the parish as best I can reconstruct it from memory. The parish came together in 1989 with the informal approval of the diocese. After many discussions with Archbishop Humphreys, who was most supportive in this endeavor, it was decided to postpone petitioning the diocese to form a parish until it was certain that such action was needed.
The parish began to grow and it became clear that there was a need, and the Archbishop was asked to establish Immaculate Conception parish, which he did on June 13, 1989. The parishioners then submitted their constitution to the diocese and it was approved on August 11th, after which the parish was incorporated with the State of Florida on September 21, 1989.
The priests served the parish, commuting from Tampa to the Brooksville area each Wednesday, First Friday, Holy Day, and Sunday. At first, Mass and novenas were held in various private homes.
When the parish had grown enough that private homes were no longer feasible, the Shady Hills Community Center was secured for Sunday Mass. Later on, the more centralized Community Center at Kenlake was engaged, and finally in October of 1992, the Seapines Community Center was available. At this time the priests took up residence in the Seapines area to better serve the parish.
The Seapines Community Center was most satisfactory, a central location, clean, quiet, and comfortable. The Community Center Board went "the extra mile" to make the parish feel at home. The parish continued worshipping at the Seapines Community Center. On Sunday, May 15, 1994 we began a novena to our Blessed Lady asking her intercession in our search for a church building. On August 23rd we learned that a church occupied by All Saints Lutheran Church was to be sold. They would be moving into their newly constructed building.
We looked at the building on August 29th and found it to be exactly what we were looking for. On Wednesday, August 31st, the parish sent in its bid. We held off informing the Archbishop until there was something concrete to tell him. The bid and the "good faith" check to the seller was concrete and the diocese was informed on September 1, 1995.
The closing on the church took place Thursday, October 13th, but one of the terms of the sale was that we would wait until the All Saints congregation could move and occupy their new building.
On Low Sunday the parishioners of Immaculate Conception were able to see their new church for the first time. After Mass at the Community Center we all went over to the building together. The joy of this week was tempered by the deaths of two loyal members of the parish: Ann Bennett on Low Sunday, and Tom Ritchie on April 27th. Both of them were looking forward for years to the time when we would have our very own church. The first Mass was celebrated on the third Sunday after Easter, at which Tom and Ann were remembered.
Everyone set to work getting the church ready for the dedication - our own parishioners as well as members of Our Lady of Good Hope in Pinellas Park. At about five in the afternoon on the day before the dedication the work was completed.
The church was solemnly dedicated on Saturday, May 20th by Archbishop Humphreys and clergy from Immaculate Conception, and Our Lady of the Rosary, together with clerics and servers from Our Lady of Good Hope. The music for the Pontifical Mass of Dedication was provided by the organist and choir of Our Lady of Good hope, who were accompanied by a bus-load of their parishioners who joined us for this very happy day.
+ John J. Greed
Ceremonies of Dedication
In the earliest days of the Church, while Catholics endured persecution, first from the Jews and then from the Romans, the churches of the faithful were inconspicuous if not positively secret. During good times Mass might be celebrated in the home of someone fortunate enough to have adequate space and indifferent neighbors. In more difficult times Catholics worshipped in the catacombs, the underground burial vaults of the patrician class, protected from disturbance by Roman law.
Early in the fourth century, under the Emperor Constantine, Christianity became first legally recognized, and then the subsidized religion of the Roman state. Hitherto the persecutors of the Church, the emperors became some of its greatest benefactors, endowing many sumptuous buildings throughout the empire.
Constantine gave his own Lateran Palace over to sacred use in the care of Pope Saint Sylvester (314-336), who dedicated it under the title of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior; the first public consecration of a Catholic Church. Later he would consecrate another church in honor of the Prince of the Apostles, and decree that henceforth altars should be made of stone. The custom of enclosing the relics of several martyrs in a cavity within the altar stone harkens back to the time of the catacombs when Mass was offered quite literally on the tombs of the martyrs.
Until the seventh or eighth century the rite of dedication consisted primarily in the celebration of Mass following a procession with the relics and a ceremony in which they were deposited beneath the altar. By the ninth century, the rite currently in use had fully developed.
A church may either be simply blessed or solemnly consecrated. In practice, a ceremony more solemn than a blessing and simpler than the full rite of consecration may take place.
The simple blessing may be performed by a priest with the bishop's permission. The church is sprinkled with holy water inside and out, the litany of the saints and several psalms are chanted, the blessing proper is imparted, and holy Mass is celebrated. This simple ceremony is performed before Mass may be routinely celebrated in the new building. It takes the place of the more elaborate consecration if the building is made of wood, is under mortgage, or is of a more or less temporary nature.
The more solemn rite of consecration permanently sets aside a building for divine ÿworship. It begins on the previous evening, observed as a fasting vigil, with an all night public exposition of the relics that will be enclosed in the altar(s). Exposition concludes with Matins and Lauds of the martyrs.
At the church the penitential psalms are chanted, and the outside of the church is sprinkled three times. Inside, the Litany of the Saints and the canticle of Zachary are chanted while the bishop traces the Latin and Greek alphabets in sand placed on the floor of the church. As to the altar, the bishop anoints the cavity for the relics, directs their being cemented into the cavity, and anoints the top slab. The altar is incensed, anointed with a mixture of Holy Chrism and the Oil of the Catechumens, and incensed again. Incense is formed into five crosses which are burned in the center and each of the corners. Finally the altar is anointed with chrism where the table joins its support pillars. Following the consecration of the altar, it is covered with the appropriate cloths and furnished for the Mass which always follows.
The Mass and Office of dedication is celebrated each year on the anniversary by the priests and clergy of the parish. If, through necessity, the dedication takes place on a major feast day, the bishop may designate another day for the observance of the anniversary. The anniversary of the dedication of Immaculate Conception Old Roman Catholic Church will take place each year on May 20th
am the Immaculate Conception"
In the fourth year after the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the blessed Virgin vouchsafed to appear on several occasions to a poor but pious and innocent child named Bernadette, in a rocky cavern overlooking the grotto of Massabielle on the banks of the Gave near the town of Lourdes in the diocese of Tarbes in France. She showed herself as a young and gracious figure, robed in white, with a white veil and blue sash, and golden roses on her bare feet. At the first apparition on February 11th, 1858, she taught the child to make the Sign of the Cross correctly and devoutly, and, taking a chaplet from her own arm, encouraged her by example to say her rosary. This was repeated at subsequent apparitions. On the second day, Bernadette, who feared an illusion of the devil, in all simplicity cast holy water at the apparition, who smiled more graciously than before. At the third apparition, Bernadette was invited to repeat her visits to the grotto for fifteen days, during which the Blessed Virgin conversed with her, exhorted her to pray for sinners, kiss the ground and do penance, and finally commanded her to tell the priests that a chapel was to be built in the place and processions held. She was also bidden to drink and wash in the water, and then a spring, until then invisible, gushed out of the ground. On the feast of the Annunciation, the child earnestly begged the Lady who had so often visited her to reveal her name, and the Blessed Virgin, joining her hands and raising her eyes to heaven, said: "I am the Immaculate Conception."
Rumors of favors received at the holy grotto spread rapidly, and the crowds of devout visitors increased daily, so that the Bishop of Tarbes, who had been impressed by the candor of Bernadette, found it advisable to hold a judicial inquiry into the facts. In the course of the fourth year he gave sentence, recognizing the supernatural character of the apparition, and permitting devotions to our lady under the title of the Immaculate Conception to be held in the grotto. A chapel was soon built and since then every year has witnessed innumerable pilgrimages from France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and all parts of Europe and America. The name of Our Lady of Lourdes has become famous all over the world, and cures are obtained everywhere by the use of the water of the spring. Lourdes has been enriched by a grateful world with splendidly decorated churches, where countless banners bear witness to the favors received, and to the desire of peoples and cities to adorn the house of the blessed Virgin, who is honored there as in her own palace. The days are filled with prayers, hymns, and solemn ceremonies, and the nights are sanctified by the pious supplications of countless people who walk in procession carrying torches, and singing the praises of the blessed Virgin Mary.
All men know, in spite of the coldness of the world, these pilgrims have received faith, restored the observance of the Christian religion, and increased devotion to the Immaculate Virgin. The Faithful are led by their priests in this marvelous development of faith and devotion. The Roman Pontiffs have shown their devotion to our Lady of Lourdes, and have bestowed remarkable favors on her sanctuary. Pius IX enriched it with indulgences, gave it the privilege of an Arch- confraternity and the title of minor basilica, and delegated the Apostolic Nuncio in France to crown in his name the statue of the Mother of God. Leo XIII also granted many favors, including the jubilee of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Apparition. He encouraged pilgrimages and ordained that the consecration of the Rosary Church should be performed in his name. Moreover, he crowned all of these favors by conceding, at the request of many bishops, the celebration of a solemn feast under the title of the Apparition of Our Lady Immaculate, with a proper Office and Mass. Finally, Pius X, out of devotion to the Mother of God, granted the petition of many prelates that extended this feast to the Universal Church.