Peregrinus goes to the Eucharistic Congress
Peregrinus Gasolinus: Wandering Notes on the Liturgy
The incidents in this chapter are based upon the International Eucharistic Congress held in Chicago, Illinois in 1926, the first such event held in this country. A brief and interesting video about this important event, the first of its kind in this country, can be watched here.
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The Antiquary tossed some proof sheets across his desk to the waiting Liturgiologist with: “Well, Pere, it’s your turn to work now. Hurry up and get these read, for the Composing Room is waiting, and George won’t like it if we’re late.”
“Don’t rush me,” pleaded the Liturgiologist, “especially after keeping me waiting all morning. I know why you’re in a hurry—going to drive out in the “Scoot” all by yourself and gloat over Fr. Torculus’ new Gothic cope, while I fight with beasts at Ephesus. All right, run along, and I’ll join you for supper with the first run in my pocket.”
“Bene, benissime (sic),” smiled the Antiquary, as he left the study, and shortly could be heard the sharp explosions of his laborious efforts in the driveway below.
The Liturgiologist settled himself to his task of proof reading, muttering to himself as his blue pencil was brought into play. Once he reached for extra sheet of cuts which had been sent from Chicago to accompany the articles, and these brought forth sotto voce comments. “Umph, ferraiolo, watered silk, very nice indeed.—Chapel, unusual, but evidently quite regular!—Bishop Hoban, large cross, habitus pianus, commonly called ‘house cassock’—isn’t a cassock at all, Simar is the proper word, good English word, much better than Zimmara.” A prodigious yawn disrupted the placid countenance of the old priest—another, and yet another, as he rustled the proof sheets as if they had been the pages of an old breviary. Somehow the words seemed to run together oddly, and phrases here and there began to detach themselves from the columns.
“All read, Pere? Then we’re off at last,” said the Antiquary, stepping on the self-starter. With a roar the new “Scoot” took the road. Almost as soon as they were out of the rectory driveway, the Liturgiologist remarked that the traffic was unusually heavy, and seemed to be all going in one direction. “When was this boulevard made a ‘One Way Street’?” he growled.
“All roads lead to Mundelein,” replied the Antiquary, “and they’re all One Way Streets today, going out in the morning, and back in the afternoon.”
“Odd,” muttered the Liturgiologist, “I had an idea that wasn’t to be till the summer.” Then, with a gasp of surprise, he noted that it was summer, and the broad street lined with people, while from every lamp-post fluttered the papal flag. Glancing down, his surprise was enhanced by observing that both he and the Antiquary were vested in alb and dalmatic, his own a terribly abbreviated affair, which seemed to have pockets in the orphreys, while the Antiquary was draped (that’s the word) in the voluminous folds of a rose-colored vestment with huge closed sleeves adorned with gold tassels and thickly studded with gems. “Gothic,” chuckled the Liturgiologist, “and probably swiped from Fr. Torculus’ sacristy. But isn’t it just like him to be driving the flivver totus paratus.” For the new “Scoot” had strangely changed to the semblance of the old and still lamented Elizabeth, yet, in spite of a certain sense of strangeness, that seemed quite the proper thing for a “Scoot” to do.
From time to time larger machines flashed by the two old friends, and one or the other would exclaim, “Look, Pere! Isn’t that Cardinal Rutilus? Who’s that with him—looks like Archbishop Ireland—no, of course, it can’t be—he’s been dead these long years, God rest him.”
“Not a bad road,” remarked the Antiquary, as the little car careened into a smooth lane walled with tall oaks, every one of which was lighted with candles like a Christmas tree. “We must be getting near, yet where’s the crowd?”
“Crowd enough,” shouted the Liturgiologist, as the machine swung out of the lane and without pausing slid over a high embankment, and floated away over the surface of a large lake, without either of its occupants experiencing even the slightest jolt. All around the lake, enormous crowds of people were gathered, and from the far shore came the sound of singing. In the distance, a Cross gleamed in the sunlight, and suddenly the Liturgiologist found himself in the water (which was warm and delightful) swimming vigorously towards the shore, while the Antiquary pursued him in the floating “Scoot.”
It did not seem peculiar, when he climbed up the bank of the lake, that his alb and dalmatic were perfectly dry (tho the latter had somehow changed from white to green). Someone put a lighted candle into his hand, and he noticed that the throng about him was kneeling. Then the old priest, overcome with fear lest he should be too late to take his place in the group of clergy, of which he had somehow become a part, saw, coming slowly down the path that skirted the lake, a procession the like of which he never had seen before.
First came a tall priest carrying the processional cross. The Liturgiologist’s quick eye, always ready to pick flaws in ecclesiological arrangements, for the help of his brethren, noted, without wonder, that the Crucifer was semi-nude, a rough garment of some sort of fur or skin about his waist and over one shoulder, while from the golden crucifix in his hands a small banner fluttered, on which were inscribed the words “Ecce Agnus Dei.” On either side walked young men carrying torches, and these were arrayed, not in the proper cassock and surplice, but in long robes like albs, but embroidered with purple bands. One of them had a red scar around his throat, while the other seemed to have something the matter with his hands. But they passed so quickly that the old priest could not be sure who they were. Behind them marched a great company (which no man could number) apparently of various nationalities, if one might judge from their costumes: bishops in all sorts of antique vestments, here and there a cardinal, whose face seemed vaguely familiar, then (and now for the first time, the Liturgiologist felt a thrill of wonder) a group of popes, coped and tiaraed, behind which (and there was no sense of surprise at this in the old man’s heart) hundreds of angels floated just about the pathway, their hands grasping black-lettered scrolls, and from their lips cane the mighty rhythm of the Pange Lingua.
The Liturgiologist sank to his knees, for he saw advancing golden shrine, singularly solid and substantial, fashioned like a small Gothic church, but apparently carried by twelve men, each supporting it by one hand, while in the other he displayed symbols of silver. One carried a book, another a battle axe, a third a sword, while another bore a small cross of singular shape, and one (the old priest gasped with sudden realization) held two large keys. And in the midst, under the golden battlements of the canopy, walked One in priestly vestments, crowned with a jeweled miter, and carrying a monstrance which, somehow, did not seem a monstrance at all, but more like a blazing heart.
The Liturgiologist tried to catch the words which all about him were singing, but they seemed new and unintelligible. Someone thrust a book into his hands, and took away his candle, and his trembling hands began searching through the illuminated pages of the book, to find the Sequence of the Unutterable Words. And so the procession passed, and he was left alone on his knees, turning the pages of his book. Gradually a word emerged here and there from the lines of strange characters, “Legate a Latere”—“The Cardinal Archbishop”—“One Way Traffic Only”—
A bell shrilled somewhere near—the shaded lane quivered and vanished. Again the bell. The calm surface of the lake changed quietly to the top of the Antiquary’s desk. The Liturgiologist reached for the telephone—
“No—I can’t come—make my excuses to Fr. Torculus—I’ll have it all read and corrected by five—don’t say cope to me—you simply don’t know what a vestment is!”
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For more details about commonly-seen issues with Eucharistic Processions, see this article.
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1 Referring to Cardinal George Mundelein, the archbishop of the Chicago, Illinois archdiocese.
2 A reference from St. Paul’s I Corinthians 15:32 concerning the bodily resurrection of those faithful to Christ—the Liturgiologist was probably working on a sermon.
3 Latin for “good, most good [even better]”.
4 An Italian phrase referring to not only speaking under one’s breath, but also in a sarcastic manner.
5 A long decorative cape worn by clerics.
6 Silk that has been specially-treated with a moiré pattern; this fabric type is reserved to prelates.
7 A reference to Bishop Michael Hoban (+1926), a rather popular American bishop during the mid-1920’s, who served as the second ordinary of Scranton, Pennsylvania diocese for 27 years until his death.
8 Latin nickname meaning "the Pian habit" after Pope Pius IX. It is the non-liturgical dress that bishops wear today.
9, 10 Both terms for a type of "house cassock". The aforementioned references to clerical vesture are explained in detail within Rev. John Nainfa's classic, Custom of Prelates of the Catholic Church: According to Roman Etiquette.
11 The engine starter in this case was activated with a pedal, not an ignition key (which would have been a switch or pull-stop).
12 A quip on the axiom "all roads lead to Rome"—in the 1920's, Chicago was quickly becoming a Catholic center in the United States.
13 The streets of Chicago were specially directionally assigned to accommodate the vastly increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
14 Referring to voluminous folds of the gothic-style dalmatic.
15 A Latin term for "completely clothed in vestments".
16 Another nickname for the Ford Model T, whose popular moniker was “Tin Bessy”.
17 Another Latin word for "red" (such as "rudy") thus a tongue-in-cheek reference to cardinal red.
18 John Ireland, archbishop of St. Paul, Minnesota (1888-1918).
19 This is St. Mary's Lake adjacent to Mundelein.
20 This scene refers to the condemned abuse of dressing up participants as angels, biblical figures (the crossbearer is St. John the Baptist), saints or martyrs (cf. Fortescue, p 325 with reference to SRC 13617).
21 Latin for "legate from the side" (of the pope) referring to a papal legate of the highest degree whose mission is often highly and uniquely confidential.