August 2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the death of John Lancaster Spalding, first Bishop of Peoria. The cathedral in Peoria had for some time been in need of repair and restoration, which was completed in time for this anniversary. The cathedral looks better than I’ve ever seen it, a beautiful mother church for the diocese and an offering to God.
I also sing and direct Gregorian chant, and was asked to come with a choir to Peoria on the evening of August 24, 2016, for a Solemn Requiem Mass celebrated for Archbishop Spalding. Mass was celebrated in the Extraordinary Form, or “Tridentine” or “Latin Mass” as it is sometimes called, the way Mass was celebrated before 1964.
In the Extraordinary Form, funerals and memorial Masses without a body require a symbolic casket or platform, called a catafalque, surrounded by six candles as an actual casket with a body would be. The picture above depicts the catafalque for Archbishop Spalding: a simple black-draped pillar on which is placed a bishop’s mitre. Simple yet dignified and in keeping with the occasion.
Last November I was asked by a student group at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center to document a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, sometimes also known as “Tridentine” or “Latin Mass,” that they were sponsoring. Occasions where my faith and my photography intersect excite me, so I gladly agreed.
St. John’s Catholic Chapel is a gorgeous church and well-arranged for both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass. Thankfully, they left the high-pressure sodium lights off, with everything lit by candles and a few incandescent spots; the resulting atmosphere was much to my liking and reminded me a bit of Yousuf Karsh’s photographs for a book by Venerable Fulton Sheen.
I managed a detail shot of the altar all set up, but I was sadly unable to capture the vestments.
In May of this year they asked me to photograph another Mass. My favorite shot is this picture of the priest celebrant, praying beforehand in the vestibule:
I made many more images, of course, but I don’t feel that they are quite as good as the three shown here. I’m still learning how to photograph the decisive liturgical moment without disrupting the liturgy, so while the other images are a faithful record of events, I don’t think they convey the mood or emotion as well as they should.
I’m looking forward to the next liturgy I get to photograph.