Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Veiled in Lent at St. Mary's, Pine Bluff

Veiled in Lent?  What does this mean?  One does not simply cloak themselves literally with a liturgical season.  Heck, how often does the average person hear the term "liturgical season?"  

Take a closer look at the altars folks.  Where are the statues?  Aha!  Cloaked in purple, the representative color for the Lenten season.  Not every church follows this tradition.  In fact, I have only heard of a few. However, just fifteen miles west of downtown Madison, St. Mary's in Pine Bluff puts their statuary under wraps for the last weeks of Lent.

I do not know the history of St. Mary's yet, but the set of vintage-looking Gothic Revival altars look like they could be quite new.  From a smattering of blog posts I've run into, this parish community seems very active in its religious life, including in their care of the sanctuary.

These impressive altars should be getting all the more attention from the parishioners as the commonplace "table altar" is absent.  At St. Mary's, Mass is offered ad orientum, with the priest facing "liturgical east" (towards the high altar).  This is definitely a step toward older traditions in the Catholic Church, mostly before the Vatican II council of the early 1960s.


Left: Side altar featuring St. Mary under the larger veil.
Right: Detail from the base of St. Mary's side altar.

The tradition of veiling statues and other artwork within churches late in Lent appears to have murky origins possibly tied to the Lenten veils[1] which have been used in some Old World churches as far back as the 7th Century[2].  The sources I have included at the end of the post offer more insight into the history behind the use of Lenten veils in St. Mary's and elsewhere.

St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Parish
3673 County Highway P, Cross Plains, WI 53528

Thanks to the parish priest and a few of the parishioners who let me take these photos and provided some context about the parish during my short visit.  Hopefully I can make another photo visit soon!

Additional Sources

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