Month: November 2016

Baldachin and Blend

In 2007, Most Blessed Sacrament and Saint Francis de Sales parishes officially merged as one parish, known as “Saint Francis de Sales Parish United by the Most Blessed Sacrament.” The somewhat cumbersome name turns out to be peculiarly appropriate, due to an original design element in our church.

Specially-chosen Ushers, long ago, carried a richly-brocaded portable cloth canopy, called a baldachin, raised above  the Most Blessed Sacrament in processions. The canopy, decorated with symbols of the Passion and Resurrection, sheltered and drew attention to the monstrance — the magnificent golden sun-shaped vessel with the round window displaying the Holy Eucharist. At Benediction, the Priest then used a special folding footstool to lift the monstrance and place it, for solemn contemplation, in the little alcove atop the tabernacle in our church.

The word “baldachin”  is said to be derived from “Baghdad,” the ancient city in Iraq where the ornate canopy fabric, opulently embroidered with silk and gold thread, was first produced. The term is also used in architecture to describe a stone arch or canopy supported on a framework of columns, that protects and highlights an important place in a church. The most famous of all architectural baldachins is a sculptural masterpiece by Bernini, which stands above the High Altar and the Tomb of Saint Peter, at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

In our church, marble columns and an arch form an architectural baldachin above our 1911 High Altar. The white marble arch is inlaid with golden tiles to resemble brocaded fabric, decorated with a crown, symbolizing Christ the King, and the flowing  “fountain of the living water.” The baldachin shelters and highlights our beautiful Byzantine-style glass mosaic Crucifixion mural. Look carefully at the mural and its golden tiles form the abstract shape of a monstrance, with the head of Christ framed in the  large round double halo “window”. On Holy Days, the actual monstrance, in the small arch at its base, would mirror the scene above, emphasizing the connection.

An alternate name for an architectural baldachin is a “ciborium” – the same term used to describe a lidded container for the Eucharist – yet another association. Thus, the Most Blessed Sacrament has always been  the central design focus of our church! And so we discover that from its very beginning, a hundred years before anyone could have anticipated, our church building was made a fitting future home for our blended parish.


Life Goes On: World War II at de Sales

First De Sales Night after the War, February 2, 1946, with flags and sailors

The parish provided stability, community, and continuity during World War II. Near Veterans Day, old Parish Bulletins offer a glimpse of neighbourhood life in wartime.

In September 1942, the Holy Name Society contributed a Service Flag with a star for each parishioner in the military (1027 stars by war’s end, including 39 dead). That Bulletin also noted: “Because of the exceptional amount of printed matter this month, we are unable to publish Collection Lists (the bulletin usually contained a long list of monthly sums contributed to the parish by each family). This is in keeping with the request of the Federal Government that we conserve paper.”

De Sales Night went on as usual:  “we mean to keep up the traditions of former years…,’ but the Parish Bowling League announced that  “Because some of our men have entered into the service and others intend to in the near future, we have a few vacancies….” New parish activities were added: “a Home Nursing Course, sponsored by the American Red Cross, will be given in our school building…primarily for the woman in the house, to train her to give intelligent nursing care, now that the number of doctors and nurses is so limited…

The School also had its role: “ your children may have told you about the preparations being made in our school regarding the possibility of an air-raid…It is merely an attempt to be prepared for any possible emergency…All of our Sisters have taken an intensive and exhaustive course in First Aid and are thoroughly capable of meeting any emergency.” At the same time, the Boys Battalion did its bit, “collecting old newspapers, rags, and scrap-metal, etc. to aid the National Defense.”

The war did  provide a handy excuse to curb generally annoying behavior:“The telephone…is a vital war-time essential. Keep the wires open…Do not spend long time in chats, etc. This applies also to the Rectory…Many inconsiderate souls call for information already proffered to them by the calendar and other means…

Recommended Air Raid Precautions for everyone included “If your conscience is not in order, go to Confession…” and “Always have Holy Water in the house…” Above all, there was prayer:“The eleven o’clock High Mass every Sunday in our Church is offered for the men and women who are in the armed forces…There is no better way for us to think of these dear ones and also to pray for the safety of our Nation than through the Holy Sacrifice.

Prayers for our Nation – and the world—still  seem like a good idea.