Tuesday, March 14


Vatican Art Exhibit

The Milwaukee Art Museum is hosting the "St. Peter and the Vatican: Legacy of the Popes" art exhibition. The Shrine visited the exhibition in two phases, actually; some of us went up to Milwaukee a week or two earlier, others went this week.

Interestingly, when the second group went to the exhibit, all the adults were strictly warned not to touch a thing. "We've had problems with adults... touching...," explained the docents. They seem to have begun giving this warning after the first group from the Shrine visited the exhibition... and attempted (unsuccessfully) to venerate a relic or two.

The exhibit is a boon for Christianity.* I've been to similar events, and often the guides tell you little more than the artist, date of creation, and medium of the art. But, in stark contrast, this exhibit was very well presented: each audio entry made a clear theological point, and the constant Apostolic succession of the papacy from Peter to Benedict was strongly emphasized. Biblical evidence for the papacy ("Tu es Petrus," "To you I give the keys to the kingdom of heaven") was cited. The doctrine of the Eucharist, the history of the early Church, the actions of various laudable (and less laudable) pontiffs were explained... I was very pleased with the accuracy and catechetical value of the audio guide. The docents, though not Catholic, were nonetheless very well trained: I heard one lady explain the proper use of the faldstool.

- Faldstool of John XXIII
- More tiaras than I could shake a stick at
- An ancient mosaic of Peter that looks eerily like Benedict XVI
- The Jubilee Cope (of which I am a fan)
- The famous Pastoral Staff of JPG
- The very urns used to count the ballots at the last papal election
- The candle formerly burned at papal coronations**
- The Mandylion of Edessa
- The protodeacon's bachalus
- The Keys of St. Peter!!!!***
- A Liturgical "Pax" (osculatorium)****
- An original of St. Xavier's writings, translated to Tamil
- Chair from the sedia gestatoria (port-a-throne)
- FLABELLA!! (liturgical fans)

If you can drive within a day to go to this exhibit, do it.

One question, though: We saw the "Eucharistic Casket of Pius XII." What does that do that a tabernacle wouldn't do?

* The gift shop was wonderfully stocked with catechisms, introductions to Catholicism, holy cards, rosaries, biographies of John Paul the Great, crucifixes... at a public museum! I saw at least one lady buy "Why do Catholics Do That" (a fine, fine tome) at my recommendation, saying "I've forgotten a lot."
** "Sicut transit gloria mundi"
*** I was formerly unaware that an official, liturgical set of keys (one gold, one silver) actually existed! They were given to the pope at his coronation, recalling when Christ (verbally) did the same to Peter, of course. These were particularly awesome to see.
****Read about these: they are one of those Catholic customs that you just can't make up. I was surprised to learn that they were still in use for prelatial low Mass until the 1965 reforms!

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