Sunday, June 21, 2009

Renovation and Restoration Corner #1: Jesuit Martyrs' Shrine

Left: North American Martyrs' Shrine (pre-Renovation);
Right: Rendering of integration of Crucifix into Martyrs' Shrine 

In the 1947 romantic comedy The Bishop's Wife starring Loretta Young in the title role and David Niven as the Bishop, an angel played by Cary Grant responds to the Bishop's prayers for divine guidance as he struggles to build a new cathedral. The angel, Dudley, reveals his identity initially only to the Bishop.  The bishop's "renewal" is at the heart of the plot.  

By now you might be wondering why the synopsis of this particular movie and why the crumpled up copy of a newspaper ad that reads like pieces of a puzzle for this movie:

As part of our renovations and restoration work in the Church, the large crucifix will be integrated into the Jesuit Martyr's Shrine.  In order to repair the stone shrine in which the center panel was actually cracked in half we needed to take the entire shrine apart.  In the course of doing that, the stone masons found this crumpled up piece of newsprint in a crevice in the back of the shrine.  It didn't take long to figure out the movie and then find the date.  

A mystery solved!  

We now know that approximately 17 years after the canonization of the Eight North American Jesuit Martyrs by Pius XI in 1930, our shrine with its beautiful mosaics was erected. Its installation coincides perfectly with the 100th anniversary of the journey in the summer of 1847 that Fr. John Larkin, S.J., made from Fordham with only fifty cents in his pocket and an abundance of faith to found our magnificent parish.

Inside the altar of our shrine are the bones of some of these martyrs.  Bones were once kept inside the brass reliquary on top of the altar.  We have been using this for some years as an ambry, a place for the Holy Oils used at Baptism, Confirmation and for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  As part of our restoration/renovation we are designing a new ambry for our baptismal font.  We are also returning the reliquary to its original use. by placing the stone of the martyrs will be placed inside.  Additionally, a smaller plinth or pedestal will be built out of the stone of the larger altar upon which it will rest (see architectural sketch). 
This plinth and reliquary will be placed in front of the column between Crucifix/Martyr's Mosaic and the HIV/Aids Altar of Saints Aloysius Gonzaga, Stanislaus Kostka, and John Berchmans.  Our hope is to preserve all the important elements in our Church's layered history.

The generosity of each of you will help to make our ongoing restoration and renovation possible and keep us moving forward.  Actually, our first named gift of a 5 year pledge for $125,000 was received for the Martyr's Shrine.  All gifts no matter what the size are most welcome and very necessary. We need your help. 

Please consider and make a pledge today! 

-- Fr. Joe