Beatification of Blessed Dominic

The Beatification of Blessed Dominic

From ‘The Passionist’, Winter, 1964



NOWHERE in the world are church services so lavishly conducted as in St. Peter’s Basilica at Rome. The great edifice begun by Bramante in 1506 and carried to completion by Michelangelo and Bernini, is a magnificent setting for ecclesiastical functions. When you add to this the panoply of church and civil dignitaries, and give it the final touch of the music of the Sistine Choir, the combination is an experience never to be forgotten. On October 27, 1963, the feast of Christ the King, His Eminence Cardinal Paul Marella, Arch-priest of St. Peter’s Basilica, pulled out all the stops. The occasion was the beatification of the Passionist priest and missionary to England, Dominic of the Mother of God.

In the morning, at ten o’clock, there was a solemn Pontifical Mass celebrated in the Chapel of St. Peter’s chair. In the afternoon, at 4:30, His Holiness, Pope Paul VI, came to venerate the relics of the new Beatus. For the five Passionists that acted as delegates to the beatification from Holy Cross Province the day started at 7:30 a.m. Father Casper Caulfield, General Secretary for Foreign Missions, appeared at Residence Palace Hotel to escort the visitors to St. Peter’s. By 9:00 o’clock they were in their seats in the Postulation Tribune from which they had a perfect view of all the proceedings. They watched the seats fill up, saw the candles on Bernini’s vast altar piece lit, the lights of the Basilica come on, and finally at 10:00 o’clock the procession of dignitaries entered the chapel. Leading the procession was Paul Cardinal Marella. With him were the Cardinals that composed the Congregation of Rites: Cardinal Alota, Prefect, and his associates, Gonsalves Cerejeira, de Barros Camara, Arriba y Castro, Giob-be, Cento, Richaud, Concha, da Costa Nunes, Bea, Albareda.

WHEN these eminent ecclesiastics had taken their places in the Tribune on the Epistle side, Father Frederick Menegazzo, C.P., Postulator of Father Dominic’s cause, and Monsignor Enrico Dante, Secretary of the Holy Congregation of Rites, came for-ward carrying the Brief of the Beatification. Permission was asked and granted for the reading of the Brief by Paul Cardinal Mardis, Arch-priest of the Basilica. The Vatican Canon, Monsignor Michele Maccarrone, read a digest of the Brief. Up to this point, everything had been conducted with restrained solemnity. As soon as the Proclamation had been made by Monsignor Maccarone, however, the function exploded in a jubilant crescendo. Additional lights came on in the great Basilica, the curtain before the picture of Blessed Dominic, in Bernini’s magnificent Gloria, fell and the Sistine Choir broke into exultant song with Antonio Allegra’s “Ts Deum” in four voices.

BLESSED Dominic, looking down on the scene from his throne in heaven, must have smiled. The magnificence and splendour of the occasion was so much in contrast with his humble, poor and laborious life. The farm boy of Viterbo, who had entered the Passionist Congregation to be a lay brother, had come a long way. The Passionists present thrilled with the realization of the great things that God had done for them. Possibly even more thrilled, because he was so intimately involved with the event taking place, was Hector Chianura. This man had been miraculously cured of a fatal lung condition by imploring the intercession of Blessed Dominic. He sat in the first row of the Postulation Tribune, on the Gospel side of the altar, surrounded by his Passionist family. At the end of the “Te Deum” Paul Cardinal Marella sang the first public prayer to the new Beatus. Then, taking off the cope and putting on the Mass vestments, the Arch-priest of St. Peter’s Basilica, celebrated Mass. Mass was over at 12:30 and the visiting Passionists went out for lunch. They returned to the Basilica at 2:30 and had a two-hour wait before the beginning of the afternoon function. Again, the visitors had ideal seats in the Postulation Tribune. At 4:30 Pope Paul VI entered the Basilica in the Sedia Gestatoria. When he came to the main altar he dismounted and walked down the broad aisle to a prie-dieu arranged before the altar.

THE visitors were impressed by two things in the Holy Father. Paul VI is short and is most intense. He has the ascetic look of Pius XI, without having his height. What he lacks in bearing, however, he makes up by a certain concentrated intensity. He knelt at the prie-dieu and folded his hands before his breast and prayed with a concentration that seemed to shut out everything from him but God. The “Ave Verum” was sung while the Blessed Eucharist was exposed. Concalves Cardinal Cerejeira brought the censer to the Holy Father who incensed the Blessed Sacrament from the Prie-dieu. The Choir sang Renzi’s “Iste confessor” in five voices and, following the hymn, the Holy Father sang the Oration to Blessed Dominic. When Monsignor Igino Cardinale gave the blessing with the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Father made the sign of the cross three times. After the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament the Holy Father met notables present and received symbolic gifts. Foremost among the gifts presented to His Holiness was a beautiful cruciform reliquary containing the relics of the new Beatus. This part of the ceremony took about twenty minutes. The superiors of the congregation, the man who had been cured by Blessed Dominic, ecclesiastics and civil dignitaries waited their turn to greet and to be greeted by His Holiness.

AFTER the presentation of gifts the Holy Father went in procession to the main altar where he delivered his allocution. Out of deference to the English delegation, and the many other English-speaking visitors present, His Holiness spoke the following words of tribute in the adopted language of Blessed Dominic: “He had a great love for England.” Thus did Newman write of this new Beatus, Father Dominic of the Mother of God. This phrase would seem to define the figure of this humble but great follower of the Gospel of Christ; it seems to sum up the historical current of the sentiments of the Church of Rome, towards that island of high destiny; it seems to give expression to this present spiritual moment of the Apostolic See which now raises to the glory of the blessed this generous missionary whose arms are  open wide towards all that is most venerable and most significant in that blessed country’s present portion of its magnificent Christian heritage; and it seems today to rise up from the heart of the Ecumenical Council, being celebrated in this Basilica, like a sigh of still suffering, but always confident, Catholic brotherhood. “He had a great love for England.” Newman’s phrase, if properly meditated upon, means that the love of the pious Religious, the Roman missionary, was directed to Newman himself, the promoter and representative of the Oxford movement, which raised so many religious question, and excited such great spiritual energies; to him who, in full consciousness of his mission—”‘ have a work to do”—and guided solely by love of the truth and fidelity to Christ, traced an itinerary, the most toilsome, but also the greatest, the most meaningful, the most conclusive, that human thought ever travelled during the last century, indeed one might say during the modern era, to arrive at the fullness of wisdom and of peace. And if that phrase was true and salutary for so distinguished a representative of a great people, so high an authority of a time like ours, will it not be still true and salutary today, in heaven, in the heart of this beloved Beatus, and here below, in the hearts of all those who celebrate his glory, and wish to imitate his example? In regard to this also, We shall nourish great hope and raise long supplication in prayer.”

WHEN Paul VI had finished his allocution he blessed the people and there was much enthusiastic clapping. It would be difficult to estimate the number that attended the beatification ceremony. The Chapel of St. Peter’s Chair was crowed but, beyond this, around the main altar in the Central Basilica, there were many hundreds of people standing and watching from afar. The Holy Father was assisted into the Sedia Gestatoria, and amid the prolonged clapping of the people made his way from the Basilica. The morning star of the Ecumenical Movement that had been risen in the missionary apostolate of Dominic of the Mother of God at the reception of John Henry Cardinal Newman into the Church, in 1845, had been placed by Pope Paul VI in the galaxy that surrounds the brow of the Spouse of Christ.

Conleth Overman, C.P.



Atr 9:15 a.m. on Monday October 14th 1963, the following assembled in the Sacristy of St. Anne’s Church, Sutton St. Helens, Lancs, for the Canonical Recognitio of the remains of Venerable Dominic of the Mother of God:  Rt. Rev. Mgr. John Bennett (Vicar- It Capitular) Rt. Rev. Mgr. Thomas Adamson (Vic-ar General) Very Rev. Mgr. Laurence Curry V.F. (Notary) Mgr. T. Barry (Chancellor) Very Rev. Fr. Philip Hay. C.P. Provincial Very Rev. Fr. Hubert Condron C.P. Consultor, Vice-Postulator Very Rev. Fr. Alfred Wilson CP., Consultor, Witness. Very Rev. Fr. Martin Dougherty C.P., Rector, Witness to Tomb. Rev. Fr. Hilary Culhane CP., Vice-Rector, Witness to Tomb. Rt,. Fr. Camillus Nolan C.P., Master of Ceremonies Rev. Fr. Austin Smith C.P. Witness Mr. Philip Hawe, F.R.C.S. Surgeon Dr. G. Sanderson, Dr. T. Sutton Dr. G. O’Brien, Medical Officier of Health, St. Helens Mr. A.J. Marsden, F.R.C.S. Surgeon Mr. T. Hamiliton (worker in cement and brick) Mr. E. Burrows (worker in cement and brick) Mr. S. Doyle (worker in marble) Mr. T. Carey (worker in marble) Mr. E. Fynes and Assistant (under-taker and worker in metal). After Fr. Rector and the M.C. had attended to the locking of the doors, all proceeded to the High Altar, where the Veni Creator was sung. Returning to the Sacristy, the Notary read the letter and instructions from the Sacred Congregation of Rites and the oath was administered to the Doctors, the Workers and the Witnesses to the Tomb. The Vicar Capitular, Mgr. Bennett then questioned as to the position of the Tomb and all proceeded to Crypt of the Church where the Tomb is situated. After the witnesses had pointed out the exact locality of the Tomb, the Notary read out a full account of the last Recognitio, which took place in 1936. Mr. T. Hamiliton and Mr. E. Burrows then came forward and opened the Tomb and extracted the Coffin of Fr. Dominic together with the accompanying phials, and these were carried to the Sacristy and placed on a table; the coffin was measured by the Notary, to see if it agreed with the measurements given at the last recognitio and so confirming its identity. The Notary then read the excommunication incurred by those who would remove anything from the body, except part of it removed for the purpose of relics.

AT the direction of the Vicar Capitular, the coffin was opened and the documents, extracted from the metal cylinder found in the coffin, were read by the Notary. The Doctors first removed the habit and linen, which were carefully set aside to be authenticated later as relics; they then removed the remains, examined them carefully, and then cleansed and treated them with conserving process. (This was all stated clearly in the Instructions from the Congregation of Rites.) The Notary, who had already written a short record of the proceedings, now read this in public and all signed the document; this was then inserted into a metal cylinder and sealed and would afterwards be placed in the coffn at the direction of the Doctors. When the medical treatment was finished, the remains were placed on a coffin board, arranged carefully by the Doctors and tied with silk ribbons and then lowered into the coffin; a new Habit was arranged over them and the Doctors arranged the metal cylinder in position. The coffin itself was of English oak, and inside this there was a metal coffin, lined with white silk; the coffin-board was reverently lowered into this, a metal lid was soldered on and then the coffin was closed with its own oak lid and sealed by the Notary, who used silk ribbons for the purpose.

A PROCESSION was then formed, and the coffin was then carried to the new Tomb in the Church, and as it was most reverently lowered into its last resting place, the Angelus Bell rang out, truly Dominic of the Mother of God. The two marble workers then came forward and the Tomb was sealed with a large slab of white marble and all returned to the High Altar, where at the direction of the Vicar Capitular, the Te Deum was sung and the recognitio came to an end. It had been a long process, beginning at 9:15 a.m. and now concluding at 6.40 p.m. with no break for meals. Coffee and sandwiches only were served during the day. It had been a labour of love for all concerned, who were evidently very moved and deeply conscious of the privilege that had been theirs.

Camillus Nolan, C.P.


St. Anne’s Retreat, Sutton, St. Helen’s is not exactly a romantic address. For the Englishman St. Helens Town has but one tale to tell, the tale begun in the dark days of the industrial revolution and continued, with ups and downs, into these days of relative prosperity. Pilkington’s Glass Works, The Sidac Paper Factories, Bold Power Station, these could be the chapter headings of that tale. Smoke and fumes, industrial toss’s prayer, rise into the sky and pollute the air. If you are coveting a ‘nice, respectable address, and this is a contemporary time, you would hardly go after Sutton St. Helens. Yet if you were seeking a Christian environment, a strong well-tried Catholic Faith, a human warmth in hearts cherishing and guarding the Faith, Sutton, St. Helens is your destination. For the people round about and for the Passionist, ‘the Sutton folk’ has a ring about it calling up so much that is wonderful and cherished in Christian life. The Monastery, a peaceful island of green in the midst of all the industrialism, has been the great support of that Faith for well over one hundred years. If a Sutton wife says of her husband, “He’s doing a job at Monastery” (the indefinite article is more often than not left out), Monastery means more than a place or even a Church to her, it is a spiritual centre identified with her social and spiritual history. And there is no doubt that the remains of Blessed Dominic Barberi C.P. must take a good deal of the credit for this strong link forged and substance given to the Christian life of these people.

ON the Feast of Christ the King, 27th October, 1963, Sutton’s day of glory dawned, romance, divine and human broke through, factories were ignored, years of patient waiting came to an end. For a full two weeks into the late hours of the night the men and women of the parish had worked themselves almost to death. The ring of hammers, wood being sawed, paint pots and paint brushes everywhere, lengths of rich material being stitched together, co-operation and companionship, plans sketched, then abandoned, then re-adopted; this had been the scene, the plan of campaign for the great day. “We are getting Dominic beatified,” (they seldom call him ‘Father’) so they told Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Then the day came. A massive marquee rose in the Monastery grounds. The posters around the district told the people that six thousand people would be covered for the celebration. And well you could believe it when you saw it towering over the Monastery itself. Inside there was an altar built by the men of the Parish, an altar with more than the air of the temporary about it. St. Helens Town Council made their contribution which consisted of all the floral decorations, and a magnificent finishing touch to the altar. By 3 p.m. on the Sunday all was ready.

AT 2:50 p.m. the procession moved out of the Monastery into the Church to bless the new shrine and tomb of Blessed Dominic, The blessing being imparted by Monsignor Bennet. It was a wonderful sight to see the lines of Passionists, secular clergy and religious brothers all paying honour to the man whom they would hear declared today as the Modern Apostle of England and Christian Unity. In the Marquee Solemn High Mass was sung by Very Reverend Father Martin Dougherty C.P., Rector of the Monastery, assisted by Father Ethrington of the Brimingham Oratory, and Very Rev. Father Fiszpatrick, Dean of St. Helens. The choir was combined one of the Parish of St. Anne’s and the Little Singers of the Wooden Cross. The thousands thronged about the altar and we will wait many more years before witnessing a more moving scene. The famous Father Agnellus Andrew, O.F.M. preached and after his sermon there was read a summary of the Brief of Beatification along with a telegram sent from the Holy Father to the priests and people of Sutton and all those gathered with them to honour the new Beatus. After the Te Deum Father Rector led the entire crowd in reciting the new prayer to Blessed Dominic. Gone now the secret prayer. Here was the public appeal from children to a Father! The ceremonies came to an end about 5 p.m. but the visits to the New Tomb continued and in fact it was 10 p.m. that night before the Church could be closed. One had to see the faces of the local people to understand the pride in their hearts. And, please God, the same pride has been felt in more parts far from Sutton itself.

HE lies now in his new resting place making Sutton a public landmark in the spiritual life of this country. He has come into his own just at the right time bringing before the world a message needed in our times: charity never compromises principles, yet when lived to the full can become the wind from heaven bringing Christ’s peace and unity to men.

Austin Smith, C.P.

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