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Catholic Piety

Stonyhurst College guards a remarkable collection of objects of piety cherished by Catholics during penal times. No aspect of piety was more crucial that the Sacrament of the Eucharist. St. Edmund Arrowsmith (1585-1628) was educated at the seminary in Douai and ordained in Arras (France). At this time anyone wishing to be educated as a Catholic had to seek schooling outside England. Arrowsmith worked clandestinely as a priest in Lancashire from 1613 to 1624 and in 1624 entered Society of Jesus. He was arrested, confined in Lancashire Castle, and hanged August 28, 1628.

He traveled with his mass vestments, altar frontal, and chalice veil, then required for the valid celebration of the Eucharist. His peddler's trunk of wood covered with horsehair with its vestments stash was walled up in a Lancashire cottage and only discovered in the 1880s and the contents labeled as "fancy dress". When discovered it showed a lady's hat covering the vestments, obviously a ruse to distract attention for the illegal Catholic ritual garments. The trunk contained several chasubles, the outer vestment of the priest, with matching maniples, the small piece of fabric over the arm, and stoles, a long piece of fabric worn around the neck. The garments are placed over the alb, a long white garment that signifies purity.

Arrowsmith also had a rosary bracelet, thus allowing less conspicuous prayer aides than rosary beads. The rosary is a recitation of prayers aided by the use of a string of beads placed as designated intervals encouraging the meditate on one of the subjects called either the Joyful, Sorrowful, or Glorious Mysteries taken from the Life of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

A corporal, dating about 1590-1600 is embroidered with the letters IHS and pomegranates, symbolic of eternal life. A corporal is the cloth laid on the altar over which the priest places the host and chalice of consecration. The IHS are the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek. In the absence of a priest to celebrate the Eucharist, the corporal that had touched the consecrated host, the sacramental body of Christ, was seen as a relic. The meticulous mending of the fabric, in detail, below left, is an indication of its preciousness.

Lay Catholics might carry a pocket devotional object. Thomas Lusher, 1593-94 a pupil at St. Omers, the English-speaking Jesuit school in France carved a shrine 2 1/2 inches in height. When open it allowed meditation on Christ's suffering and death by showing Instruments of the Passion (ladder, hammer, nails, crown of thorns, etc. ) On the base is incised Ora pro Tho Lusher qui fecit 1623 (pray for Thomas Lusher who made this in 1623). See English 15th-century manuscript with the Instruments of the Passion from the Huntington Library.

With the production of martyrs, Catholic tradition encouraged the veneration of their relics. A hand-made wooden box with silk covering embroidered with silk thread and glass beads may date from the 1590s. Its treasure is an arm bone presumably of one of four priests, Edmund Duke, Richard Hill, John Hog and Richard Holliday who were together at Durham in 1590. In pearls the inscription reads: CUSTODIT DNS OIA OSSA FORUM PS 33:21 This is probably a reference to Psalm 34 (33): 20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

A series of liturgical vessels brought with the Jesuit missions to Maryland include a chalice secretly produced in Elizabethan times after the pre-reformation forbidden models. It was used to celebrate Mass in Lancaster plantation in Rock Point, Charles County, Maryland in the early 18th century.

Catholics still produced ritual objects under penal times. Dating between 1640 and 1660, a series of eighteen Jesuit missioners in East Anglia were provided chalices by William, the fourth Lord Petre (1627-1683). One of these chalices was taken to the Maryland colony where Jesuits were almost the exclusive priestly representative. The exhibition will contain not only the Georgetown Petre Chalice, but another from this series now at Stonyhurst College . The heritage of Jesuit history was the subject of a major exhibition by the Special Collections Division to honor Georgetown University 's celebration of the bicentenary of the American Revolution in 1976. A chalice, silver with gilt interior of the cup, on the left, was made in 1684. It is inscribed with the donor's name, Elizabeth Rookwood but the maker stayed anonymous. (Martin D'Arcy Gallery)

For expedience, base metals rather than the traditional silver and silver gilt were sometimes pressed into service. A pewter chalice and paten of presumed Maryland manufacture long associated with the missions date to about 1650-1700. They are now in the Georgetown University Special Collections.

Embroidery continued to be an expression of piety. Helena Wintour in 1655 worked a highly elaborated set of red and white vestments, including chasuble, chalice veil, and burse to hold the corporal Wintour's father and uncle were executed as part of the Gunpowder Plot to assassinate James I, a supporter of Calvinists and build a more Catholic-friendly monarchy.

An unusual form of prayer book is the Middle English poem on the Passion called an Arma Christi scroll. Meditations in the Passion are written on vellum and decorated with images of Christ laid out on the grave and the instruments of the Passion that were a part of his suffering, such as the nailsthat pierced his hands and feet, and the spear that pieced his side are illustrated in a series. There are over 15 surviving examples the poem which was most probably made for public use, to be displayed in churches to stimulate the devotion of the unlettered parishioner.