Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sacred Heart Basilica/Conewago Chapel

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Basilica of Sacred Heart of Jesus is the first church in the Americas dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Finished in 1787, the building itself is the oldest Catholic stone church in the U.S. and is the oldest stone church of any denomination in use in our country. Originally the parish, founded by Jesuits in 1741 was dedicated to St. Mary of the Assumption, but from the beginning was called Conewago Chapel. In fact, the local population often still refers to the Basilica by that name. We hard nosed Germans don't give up on much.

In that this church existed before the Church in America officially existed, the parish originally was under the authority of the Bishop of London.

The Diocese of Baltimore, the U.S.A.'s first, was established in November of 1789. John Carroll, the first Bishop of Baltimore, was ordained mid-August of the following year.

It was Bishop Carroll who ordained Prince Dimitri Gallitzin. Gallitzin had been served as envoy of Catherine the Great at the Hague before traveling to the states. Prince Gallitzin's first assignment as a priest was Conewago. He spent four years at that post before taking on the missionary post in Loretto, PA, where he earned the moniker the "Apostle of the Alleghenies." If you look in the sidebar area on the right side of this blog, you'll find a link to his canonization cause.

In April of 1808 Philadelphia became a diocese. At that time the diocese's territory was defined
as all of Pennsylvania and Delaware, plus portions of New Jersey. Due to a delay caused by political unrest in Europe at the time, the official paperwork directing that Franciscan Fr. Michael Egan was to be the first to ascend to the Philadelphia bishopric did not reach Baltimore's Bishop Carroll until 1810. In the interim Fr. Egan served from Philadelphia as Bishop Carroll's vicar-general.

At one point, while part of the Philadelphia Diocese, Conewago's parish was the largest in the country.

Notable also of this period is the fact Bishop John Neumann, bishop from 1852 to 1860, visited the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church five times. In 1977, Neumann became the second U.S. saint, the first male.

In 1868, the Philadelphia diocese was pared down for the third time, the present day diocese of the church, the Harrisburg Diocese, was established.

The Bishops of the Harrisburg Diocese:
Bishop Jeremiah Shanahan
Bishop Thomas McGovern
Bishop John W. Shanahan (brother of the Hbg's first bishop)
Bishop Philip R. McDevitt
Bishop George L. Leech
Bishop Joseph T. Daley
Bishop William H. Keeler (later appointed Archbshp of Baltimore, now retired Cardinal)
Bishop Nicholas C. Dattilo
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

Bishop Rhoades, current bishop, blessing an assemblage of roughly 3000 outside of the Basilica for Eucharistic Adoration. This followed what I believe was a 1 1/2 mile Eucharistic Procession.
As you approach the basilica, the spire captures your attention. It draws eyes skyward. Sitting high upon a hill, once eyes are drawn upward, there is nothing else to see besides the heavens.

Returning focus to that which is immediately before you, you'll find yourself welcomed by the angels peering at you from the four larger stained glass windows of the front of the building.

There is one other angel stained glass window at the basilica, but it is one that could easily be missed for it is on the side at the top of one of the staircases leading to the choir loft.

It isn't any ol' angel though, it is a St. Gabriel the Archangel.

Gabriel's window is opposite one of St. Rose of Lima.

The Gabriel and Rose of Lima windows are part of a series of windows of the saints, along with an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that are on each side of the church apse.
Pious charitable visionary

Patron of Harrisburg Diocese
Spiritually gifted ascetic
Trained skillful missionaries
Our Merciful Salvation
Nursed people unto death
Founder and educator
Patron of altar servers

As the windows of Rose of Lima and the Archangel Gabriel are at the choir loft level, so too are those of the other saint windows. Beneath each is found another stained glass window.

These lower windows illustrate important biblical moments.
Jesus Found in the Temple

And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father's work." (Luke 2:49)

The Flight into Egypt

...behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him."
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.
(Luke 2:13-14)

The Presentation of Jesus
He (Simeon) came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
"Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."
(Luke 2:27-32)

The Visitation
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,
"Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." (Luke 1:41-45)

The Annunciation
Then the angel said to her,
"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." (Luke 1:30-33)
The Nativity
"...For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:11-12)

The Last Supper
While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said,
"Take it; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
He said to them,
"This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." (Mark 14:22-25)
The Ascension of Jesus
So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. (Mark 16:19)
Descent of the Holy Spirit
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit
(Acts 2:1-4)

Jesus Buried in the Tomb
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body.
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. (John 19:38-40)

Sermon on the Mount
When He saw the crowds, He went up the mountain, and after He had sat down, His disciples came to Him.
He began to teach them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:1-12)

The Wedding in Caan
His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5)

In the narthex of the basilica is a stained glass window of the Holy Family.

Individual stained glass portraits of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph are in the church itself, seperate from the collection of saints - yet at the same level.

This iconographic image of the Virgin Mary is located across from a Marian altar. Beneath it, immediately above the doors, is a stained glass window of colorful design.

The window between the St. Joseph's stained glass portrait and the doors on the other side of the church is relatively similar.

In keeping with the traditional balance found in most Catholic churches, one might imagine that the St. Joseph window would be facing a St. Joseph altar, but that is not the case. Instead, the other side altar is a St. Francis Xavier altar.

On each side of the painting of Our Lady's Assumption, which is placed on the left side of the main altar, are the statues of two Jesuit saints. Their relics rest below. The Sacred Heart above.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who died as a fourth year Jesuit seminarian, is the patron of Catholic youth.

A former military man, St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, is the patron saint of soldiers.

On the other side of the main altar, across from the stained glass image of St. Joseph, is the painting "Dying of St. Francis Xavier." This painting is also surrounded by statues of luminaries of the Society of Jesus. The Sacred Heart is above.

St. Francis Xavier, a zealous missionary while on earth, is the patron saint of foreign missions.

St. Peter Claver, patron saint of slaves, was a defender of human rights.

There is a reliquary of each on the side altar.

From the picture below an idea of the positioning of the statues with relation to the portaits and main altar may be ascertained. The photograph was taken when a pilgrim image of Our Lady of Guadelupe visited the basilica in April of 2005. It is the pilgrim image that is in the center of the aisle, near the communion rail.
Behind the tabernacle is the painting "The Appartion of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary." St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was a cloistered French sister of the Visitation Order in the 17th century. The Jesuit priest included in the picture is Blessed Claude de la Colombiere who was instrumental in the decernment of the validity of the visitations experienced by St. Margaret Mary and dissemination of the revelations.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus did not begin with St. Margaret Mary. It could be said that St. John the Evangelist resting his head on the Sacred Heart during the Last Supper was the beginning of the gradual advancement of the devotion.

Of the timing of His apparitions to her, Jesus told St. Margaret Mary, "My divine Heart is so inflamed with love for mankind ... that it can no longer contain within itself the flames of its burning charity and must spread them abroad by your means."

The ceiling directly above the main altar is a chalice like representation of the Sacred Heart.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion was approved by Pope Clement XIII in 1765 with the purpose that it would "renew the memory of that divine love."

Pius IX instituted the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1856

The transept ceiling is adorned with three Trinitarian frescos

All three of the paintings not only feature the Father Son and Holy Spirit, but also contain adoring angels.

At each corner of the central apse painting is a portrait of a Gospel author.

St. Luke
St. John

St. Mark
St. Matthew

Between the Evangelists is a grant depiction of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.
This picture shows the positioning of Luke and John with relation to the Assumption. Though you cannot see them, Matthew is opposite of Luke and Mark is opposes John.

One might assume that there is an incredible amount of molding in the basilica, but that isn't the case. Most of what seems to be molding is actually skillfully executed trompe l'oeil.

All of the statues in the basilica are located in the transept, save one of the Sacred Heart that is in the rear of the church. That statue rests above the main entrance from the vestibule.

On the right side of the rear of the church is an entrance to a side room which was once used as a library. It has since been converted to Our Lady's Chapel.
Although it is a functional chapel, Our Lady's Chapel also serves as a museum of sorts in that it contains three relics and in that pictures of Sacred Heart's history line its side walls. Below are but three of the many pictures

The first shows the church decorated in a manner radically different from the present. The differences are so thorough that even the communion railing is different. The current dual gates bears the Twin Hearts - the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary - and the railing itself is simpler, no angels. The pews remain the same.

The second photo shows progression toward the present appearance. Gone is the Last Supper mural. In its place it the current painting. Two items that may not be immediately recognizable in the picture, but that are interesting features are:
The gas light that is suspended from the ceiling that is slightly off center, toward the bottom
The picture that is hanging on the far left is one of the old stations of the cross paintings. In that the present stations were erected in 1901, this picture must have been taken before then

The last one shown here is from the 1950's. For the most part, it is close in appearance to the present church. It seems that, if in addition to moving the Sacred Heart statue and the Papal umbrella, you added the present altar, you could take the same picture today.
At the rear of Our Lady's Chapel is hung one of the hand painted stations of the cross that used to be in the main church. All of the stations are still held by the basilica, but this is the only one accessible to the public.Mentioning that there are stations of the cross paintings that aren't readily available for public viewing reminded me of a picture that I didn't want to forget to share with you.

It is hung in the sacristy. I find this Madonna and child to be somewhat entrancing. The fanciful side of me imagines it to be like a semi-private gift from Our Lady to her son's priest that he see such a lovely image everyday. I hope it reminds him that as she was always there for Jesus, she is always there for him.

If you ever make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, after you've soaked in its splendor, rested your soul, refreshed your spirit and offered a prayer of thanksgiving, please be sure to look up before you go through the last door.

It is there that you'll see this final image of the Sacred Heart in stained glass. As you go beneath it, consider offering the ejaculation, "Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in you."

Sacred Heart Basilica, 30 Basilica Drive, Hanover, PA 17331-8924, (717) 637-2721

Entered on the National Register of Historic Places January 29, 1975, the basilica also has shrine status with the Catholic Church. It is open to visitors from dusk to dawn. Click on the final exterior picture of the basilica to be redirected to the diocesan web site's listing of Sacred Heart's Masses.

Pius XI: [Sacred Heart devotion] "leads our minds to know Christ the Lord intimately and more effectively turns our hearts to love Him more ardently and to imitate Him more perfectly."

Be aware that my pictures do not do justice to this gorgeous church. Even if I had better equipment and the best lighting, I don't think it is possible to capture its beauty. Once you've been there, you'll know what I mean.


Micki said...

Oooooh....just stunning, magnificient, worthy of His honor.
I particularly love the statue of St. Anthony (his face is so beautiful, probably because he is stareing at Jesus)
Thanks for all the time spent in doing this.

Joey's Brigade said...

This is a work of art Mary. You are truly blessed with a gift!!!!

Gina Elizabeth O.C.D.S

Hi Micki!!!

Mary B said...

Mary, this is beautiful! Thanks for telling me.