Dedication of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel
Northfield, MA, March 7, 2022
On a gloomy day in early March, a fire lit from within brought joy to the day at Thomas Aquinas College’s New England Campus. It was on March 7th, the Traditional Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas, that the College held a dedication Mass for the Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel. Over the last few years, Canning has had the privilege of working with the College, Harrison Design Architects and many talented craftsmen to revive and beautify the interior of the chapel. During this time, Canning designed and executed the interior decoration pertaining to the color palette, stenciling and gilding. The project concluded in the most remarkable manner with the dedication Mass. Our work may be done but it is clear that the ministry of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel has only just begun.
The reverent formality of religious tradition intermingled with academia, though perhaps foreign to the world, has found a safe haven on this campus. The Most Revered William D. Byrne of Springfield, MA administered the Rite of the Dedication of a Church and Altar followed by Holy Mass. The College choir reminded the faithful of things worth believing in, complementing the Mass with their heavenly song. The faculty in full academic regalia honored their robes as true representations of Catholic liberal education. Filling the pews were students, professors, religious, families, donors, architects and craftsmen proudly joining together to share in their faith and the triumph of beauty emanating from the little chapel.
In his homily, Bishop Byrne recalled a segment from Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited, when the chapel on the estate is closed. Cordelia tries to explain to Charles what she feels when the sanctuary candle is blown out and the tabernacle door left open but she is left without words and instead, compares the loss of her family chapel to Tenebrae. However, Charles is an atheist; he has never been to Tenebrae, he does not know the pain of Good Friday or the lamentations of the Jews. These parallels are lost on Charles; at that moment, he cannot begin to comprehend the loss she feels.
The bishop then lamented the sad reality of the numerous church closings and deconsecrations of our day. Most people in the world are oblivious of this pain; for what society does not hold dear is all the more easily taken away. However, the bishop did not dwell on this sorrow long; afterall, it was a joyous day. In contrast to the church closings, Bishop Byrne went on to say that the lovely Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel, “blooms like the first flower of spring” as “a sign of hope and trust.” He later remarked the unique privilege of presiding over a dedication Mass; though they are few, they are no less extraordinary!
With great confidence Bishop Byrne reminded the faithful in the closing words of his homily that truth and goodness shall always prevail: “The world may try to snuff the lights of the sanctuary, but it will never succeed. We must burn anew amidst these stones fed by Jesus in the Eucharist, Whose presence the light proclaims. We players in this great tale of grace are called in our world’s darkness to be the light. We must be emissaries of hope, living in the Way, the Truth, and Life of Him Who will never die.”
Not unlike Cordelia, it is equally difficult to put together the proper words in order to describe the wonder of the ancient dedication ceremonies. The freshly painted room swelled with sweet smelling incense and hushed prayers as the entrance hymn resounded and the relics of St. John Newman and St. Thomas Aquinas were carried to the sanctuary amidst garlands of flowers. Several priests, religious and altar boys prayed and assisted in the Mass making for an impressive picture of solemn and united prayer. During the consecration of the altars, perfumed oil was poured over the pristine marble altars and lit aflame. Shortly thereafter, altar boys swinging thuribles filled the chapel with a haze of incense that rivaled the New England fog settling in the hills just outside. The medieval and mystique, all too often dispelled in modern day, settled deeply into the hearts of the faithful, conveying an indescribable understanding of purpose and setting aflame a fire of love and devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
Since the chapels on both campuses share the same dedication day, at Thomas Aquinas College, March seventh will forever be a day that marks great celebration for the jewels blessed and dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the East and Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity in the West!
More on the Dedication:
Read Most Rev. William D. Byrne's homily here.
Read the College's press release and see photos of the Dedication here.
Read the Greenfield Recorder's article on the Dedication here.