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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Consecration of St Chad`s, Birmingham


Barely two years after the laying of the foundation stone, on 21 June 1841 Bishop Thomas Walsh, the Vicar Apostolic of the Central District. consecrated the Church of St Chads (now the Cathedral) in Birmingham.

St Chad’s was the first Catholic cathedral erected in England since the Reformation. It became the Cathedral formally in 1850 when Pope Pius IX restored the Catholic hierarchy of England and Wales.

It was designed in north German 13th century style by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852)

At the consecration the then Bishop of Melipotamus, Wiseman (later Cardinal) dellivered the sermon at the Vigil of St John the Baptist:

He explained why consecration of a church was important. But he also delivered a warning.

"The erection and dedication of a new Temple to the Living God, is not a detached, unconnected event ; it is not an interest of one place, of one diocese, of one country ; it is a link in a chain, nay rather in a lengthening, and widening web, of providential dispensations : it is but a new germ, or flower, or fruit upon the ever living and ever spreading Tree of Life, the Church which Christ hath planted upon earth ; it is a new manifestation of its vigour, its health, its growing beauty and might : it is a new chord added to the harmonious instrument wherewith the Spouse of the Lamb sounds forth his praises ; it is a new point of contact between earth and heaven, a new Tabernacle of God with men. And therefore must every event like this, thrill with more or less of power and feeling, through the entire body to which it belongs; and excite an interest, far more than commensurate with any apparent claim it may have upon general sympathy.

And in fact, what is the opening of a new Church to the ministration of religious offices, save the opening of another entrance, of a new gate, to that great and universal Church, which on every side, invites men to enter, unto the enjoyment of those blessings which are deposited within it.

It hath no court of the Gentiles, beyond which no proselyte that belongs not to a favoured race may enter ; but to the North and South, and East and West it opens wide its apostolic gates, like that heavenly Jerusalem of which it if the fittest type and emblem, to welcome all that will enter into its holy precincts, and become its children. To it or of it are spoken all the glorious things of God's inheritance, to it is given majesty and power, and glory and beauty, a wide stretching dominion, and an unfailing rule. Wherever men are, they must see its glorious form reared upon the mountain's top, and be able to say : " come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob."

And in every time must be addressed to it words of future comfort, hopes and blessed prospects, even those which fell dull upon the ear of Judea, and which when fulfilled seemed but prognostics of a fuller accomplishment. ...

But this is, after all, only an outward improvement, a type, a symbol of our duly towards the spiritual Temple of God, his Church. If we try to stir one another to emulation in ihis material order of perfection, if we strive feebly to imitate our forefathers in this their zeal, let us be rivals with them and among ourselves, for the restoration of that virtue, of that system of ecclesiastical perfection, which formerly accompanied the other Catholics of England, do you wish to see your fellowcountrymen, now severed from the faith, brought back to your love, and in multitudes pressing forward to fill the Church, to surprise and enlarge her heart ? Be as the little flock, to which it pleased the Father to grant the kingdom, fearless and unwearied in doing good.

Let others see you one in faith, but by charity many; exerting an influence over others by the multiplicity of its acts. Revive all those institutions by which human benevolence used to be elevated to the class of the sublimest christian virtue ; shew that our Church is that in which men love one another, and they will recognize in you the true disciples of Christ.

Let the rich see that amongst us alone are to be found existing those generous sacrifices for God, those nobler virtues which in past generations astonish them : let the poor find that in the bosom of the Church is laid up for them comfort and sweet compensation for all their earthly trials. In fine, let all men see, that being a catholic, implies that a man is distinguished by every gospel virtue; is not only honest but charitable ; not only gentle but meek ; not only quiet but humble ; not only chaste but pure ; not only religious but devout ; not only virtuous but holy : and then shall we see how many will run on every side to seek participation in so glorious and so perfect a Church.

But if we study not to acquire this state of religious improvement, if we trust to impressions being produced by our erecting vast and splendid edifices for our worship, and by our more solemn and magnificent celebration of our religious rites ; nay, if we even rely upon the most eloquent explanations or inculcations of our doctrines to the crowds we may attract, not only, be assured, shall ye be deluded of your hopes, but the very stones of God's sanctuary will cry out for vengeance against you, because the more you receive, the more you must yield,—and ye do not, because the more singularly God goes on blessing you, the more singularly he expects fruit, and he finds it not."


There is an interesting sidenote to the ceremony referred to in William Bernard Ullathorne, 1806-1889: a different kind of monk by Judith F. Champ: