In August, 1909, the vestry extended a call to the Rev. William Brewster Stoskopf to become rector of the Church of the Ascension. Fr. Stoskopf was born in Freeport, Illinois, on July 26, 1878, attended public schools there, and following a year at Beloit College, matriculated at Yale University from which he graduated in 1900. A candidate from the diocese of Chicago and graduate of the General Theological Seminary in New York, Fr. Stoskopf was ordained deacon by Bishop Anderson in 1903 and priest in 1904 at Grace Church, Oak Park. He was a curate at Grace Church from 1903 to 1904 before receiving a call to become curate of the Church of the Advent, Boston, where he served from 1904 to 1908.
In 1908 Fr. Stoskopf accepted an invitation to become rector of Trinity Church, Bridgeport, Connecticut. Although Matins had been the chief service twice a month before he arrived, Fr. Stoskopf immediately began a late Mass on each Sunday. Further, he instituted a daily Mass and stopped communion at the Sunday Mass. The altar was provided with a tabernacle, and devotion to the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament was taught and fostered. During his last visit before Fr. Stoskopf's departure, the bishop confirmed 50 candidates presented by the rector from a parish about the size of the Ascension.
After deciding to accept the post at Nashotah, Fr. Larrabee met with Bishop Anderson to discuss the future. The bishop inquired, "Have you thought of Stoskopf?" Fr. Larrabee responded at once: "He is the very one we have thought of." The only candidate considered for the rectorship and invited to serve, Fr. Stoskopf wired his acceptance on September 14, 1909, noting that he would begin on or about the first Sunday of Advent.
At the rector's installation in November, 1909, Bishop Anderson used as the text of his sermon: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." The bishop commented that he knew of no other clergyman who could carry on the work of the Ascension "with so little shock to the traditions and to the customs of the parish as he will."
Of all the priests that I know, I know of no one who is so much in accord with your late rector. He has the same point of view, the same unswerving loyalty to the Church, the same absolute feeling of security in her Catholicity and Apostolicity, something of the same graciousness of manner, the same deep seriousness and the same sweet reasonableness.
In a letter to the congregation, Fr. Stoskopf stated the objectives of his rectorate. "After a necessarily hurried survey it appears plain," he wrote, "that in addition to the great internal work of the Parish, the ministry of God's grace to individual souls, the external work must be continued and pushed on vigorously in two very essential efforts."
First, this Parish must stand in the future as it has so valiantly stood in the past as a great leader in the restoration to all the children of the Church of the fullness of their Catholic heritage, ever preserved and taught by the Church Herself, but so sadly forgotten by many of Her children. When we realize the tremendous influence which this Parish has exerted far beyond its own borders in the dissemination of the Catholic Faith and Practice, I am sure that all of us must feel a responsibility mingled with enthusiasm and joy in undertaking the continuation of this glorious missionary work until the little leaves have leavened the whole lump.
The second work to which this Parish is called, in its sphere no less important, is to bring within the Church the men, women, and children of the large and constantly increasing population surrounding us, many of whom are now without God in the world. The problem is how to reach them and this question, which must be answered, I can hope to answer only with your sympathetic aid.
Throughout his entire rectorate of nearly 42 years, Fr. Stoskopf's views of the internal and external works of the parish remained unchanged. These views were embedded in a conviction that those who profess the Catholic Religion must first hold and adhere to the whole Catholic Faith as accepted by East and West. Fr. Stoskopf professed what he believed was a uniquely Anglican conception of the Church. While the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox each held his communion to be the whole Catholic Church, the Anglican Churchman recognized his own communion to be only a part of the whole. For him the Catholic Church consisted, as organized, mainly of three communions: Anglican, Roman, and Eastern Orthodox.
Viewing the present condition of the Anglican Communion, however, Fr. Stoskopf saw a disintegration of doctrine and discipline unparalleled in the history of the Catholic Church. Restoration of the full faith and discipline of the Catholic Church everywhere was needed to counteract the prevailing license, lawlessness, and disorder. Those who were truly Catholics, the rector taught, not only professed the Catholic Religion but submitted to the discipline of the Catholic Church. The essential elements of that discipline were attendance at Mass on all days of obligation; confession at least once a year (preferably at Easter); observation of fasts of the Church; and fasting before communion.
Fr. Stoskopf was further convinced of the essential need for deepening the spiritual lives of Catholics. The outer unity of the Catholic Religion, he believed, would only exist as a reflection of its inner unity manifested in the inner life and outward devotion of each Catholic. Moreover, because they possessed the Truth, and not opinions or views, Catholics had a serious concomitant responsibility to act as missionaries for the Faith.
The rector's conception of the "great internal work of the Parish, the ministry of God's grace to individual souls," was founded on all of the above premises. Not only the meaning and significance of the great sacraments of the Church, but also the proper means by which they should be administered, were viewed as essential elements of faith and practice in the universal Catholic Church.
For Fr. Stoskopf the daily Mass was the very center of parochial life, an unspeakable blessing on the spiritual lives of parishioners who availed themselves of opportunities to attend and participate. "We earnestly hope," he wrote, "that the scores of persons who are never seen at the early Mass, and we mean literally never seen, not once during the year, will take the matter to heart and will strive to make a proper effort and to obtain the blessing which God has in store for them."
Parishioners might miss Mass during the week, though to the detriment of their spiritual lives; however, attendance at Mass on Sundays and other days of obligation was mandatory. The rule of the Church was not that it was an obligation for every Christian to attend Mass "upon one Sunday in the month, nor yet upon three Sundays in the month, but upon every Sunday. Any person who misses Mass upon one Sunday without an excuse which he can offer with seriousness to his Maker is guilty of grave sin."
Confirmation, Fr. Stoskopf insisted, was a definite prerequisite to the reception of Holy Communion. Each year the bishop visited the Ascension to administer confirmation. Well in advance of his visit Fr. Stoskopf urged the parish "to bestir itself in missionary activity," notifying the rector of persons who might be eligible for confirmation. Although the Sacrament of Confirmation was valid at any age, the rector noted, in accord with the Church's discipline a child must be old enough to know the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments, creed, and the difference between right and wrong. Both inquirers and persons firmly committed to preparing for confirmation were welcome to weekly classes which met for two months before the bishop's arrival.
Some parishes practiced "open communion," inviting all baptized Christians, confirmed members of the Church as well as members of other Christian denominations, to receive communion. To this practice the rector adamantly objected. The members of "foreign or dissenting bodies" (e.g., Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists) were separated from the Church of God while identifying with schismatical bodies which were more or less heretical in doctrine and practice. Insofar as such persons were baptized, they were indeed members of the Church of God, "yet as adhering to the aforesaid 'separated' bodies they are excommunicate members of the Catholic Church, and ipso facto, are barred from her altars until they accept her faith, do penance, and submit themselves to her rules."
The rector referred often to the "Easter Duty," consisting of Easter confession and Easter communion, as the minimum essential criterion of communicant status. The confession and communion at Easter were the greatest privileges and duties of the year. To receive Holy Communion but once a year was ungrateful, "but to refuse to receive it once a year at least is fatal." At Easter each parishioner submitted to the rector a card indicating where Easter communion had been received.
Fasting communion, Fr. Stoskopf taught, was an essential obligation. There was no question that the rule, well established from the earliest days, had the authority of the Universal Church. There was ample evidence that the rule was unquestioned and observed without exception from the days of the early Church to the Reformation. Even after that date, leading bishops of the Restoration period spoke of the practice as a "Catholic custom."
The reasons for fasting communion were clear. In the first place, it was doing something for God, in St. Augustine's words, "in honor of so great a sacrament." Further, fasting reminded us that the sacrament was a gift of God to our whole nature. Receiving communion was a physical as well as mental action in a sense in which prayer was not. It was fitting that the bodily organism, as well as the mind and spirit, should have its proper preparation. Fasting communion assisted us to guard against a casual, careless, or perfunctory attitude toward performance of the most holy act which we could undertake.
Mr. Emil Mallick, a former parishioner, recalled that as an acolyte at the Ascension in the 1930s he served Fr. Stoskopf at early weekday Mass. Seriously heeding the rector's injunction to fast, however, on two occasions he lost consciousness, knocking over the Sanctus gong while falling to the floor of the sanctuary. Each time, revived by a Sister of St. Anne and the rector, he continued to serve the Mass.
[The Order of St. Anne was founded in 1910 by the Rev. Frederick Cecil Powell, a member of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, at Arlington Heights, Massachusetts. The Convent of St. Anne in Chicago was established in 1921 in response to a call from the rector and vestry for sisters to do missionary work in the parish. For eight years the sisters lived in the second floor of the parish house and used the chapel of the church for their daily offices. Following the purchase by the parish of property immediately south of the church in 1927, the sisters were moved to the convent at 1125 N. LaSalle Avenue which they currently occupy. Since 1957 the convent's principal source of financial support has come from a bequest provided by the estate of Miss Alice Stoskopf, sister of the Rev. William Brewster Stoskopf.]
Fr. Stoskopf placed emphasis on reverent attendance at Mass. He noted that no one has properly heard Mass who has not been present and attentive from the time the priest begins his preparation at the foot of the altar until after the Last Gospel he retires from the sanctuary. People who live far from the church, as many do, should give care and forethought to arriving on time. If one were unavoidably late, he should enter the church noiselessly, slipping into the rear pew near the door. If one arrived during the Consecration, he should wait outside, kneeling in the vestibule until the priest raised his voice.
Mental attention and presence were most important. In most books of devotions, there were helps to the proper use of those silent moments in the great action going on at the altar. Comments, whispering, and particularly laughing were highly inappropriate. "What must our Lord think of that," wrote the rector, "and how must his holy angels, present and adoring at every Mass, resent it."
Young members of the parish, in particular, occasionally needed to be reminded that a reverential attitude was required not only while Mass was celebrated, but at all times in the House of God, particularly in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Mr. Mallick, who also served as assistant organist, one late afternoon amused himself and several choirboys by singing verses of "Pop Goes the Weasel" while accompanying himself on the church organ. Young Mallick was surprised by the sudden, unexpected appearance of the rector, who sternly rebuked him and refused Mallick access to the organ for an entire month.
Also important, Fr. Stoskopf taught, was the proper method by which communion was received. Some persons had the habit of keeping their heads bowed over at the moment the priest was trying to communicate them. This made it difficult for him to see the lips in administering the chalice. The difficulty was particularly great in the case of women and girls with hats that came down over the forehead. Each communicant should kneel with the head held in an upright position.
To receive the Sacred Body, if the custom was to receive it upon the palm of the hand, the right hand should be placed over the left forming a cross, a practice which Cyril of Jerusalem taught long ago. Those who received on the tongue should not protrude the tongue beyond the lips, but open the mouth sufficiently wide for the priest to place the host upon it.
Fr. Stoskopf urged laymen present at the offering of the Holy Sacrifice to make responses clearly and devoutly. "Responses are very significant things and very important things in the sacred liturgy. They are significant of the fact that what is done at the Altar is no merely personal action on the part of the Priest himself, but that it is a corporate act representative of the whole Church, the mystical body of Christ."
In 1908 shortly after accepting a call to become rector of Trinity Church, Bridgeport, Fr. Stoskopf had introduced major liturgical and devotional innovations. When he arrived at the Ascension in 1909 all of these same innovations, instituted years ago, were in place. However, in February, 1911, he did introduce the Preparation which was said by priest and server at the foot of the altar before High Mass during the singing of the Introit, immediately before the first censing of the altar.
Of greater significance, in 1920 the rector considerably revised the form of Low Mass said at the Ascension. He added the Benedictus and Agnus Dei, which previously had been sung at High Mass, as well as the Introit and Gradual. He also appended the Preparation at the beginning of the Mass and the Last Gospel at the end. In justification of other even more marked changes, Fr. Stoskopf noted that for years in the parish each High Mass had been "said short," viz., the Communion Office was omitted because no communions were made other than the priest's. A problem at Low Mass was that on occasion no one communicated. For this reason, Fr. Stoskopf now said the Low Mass "short," omitting the Exhortation, Confession, Absolution, Comfortable Words, and Prayer of Humble Access. After the priest made his communion, he turned; if people were at the altar rail, he said the Communion Office.
This rearrangement of sections of the Communion Office had, in Fr. Stoskopf's opinion, a number of advantages. First, the Sursam Corda, Preface, Sanctus, and Benedictus now stood as an introduction to the Consecration. The "unfitting" prayer book practice of breaking the sequence by placing the Prayer of Humble Access between the Benedictus and Consecration was avoided. Further, the priest now said the Our Father immediately after the Consecration, in its proper place, omitting the prayer after the communion of the people. Finally, because the Prayer of Thanksgiving was said at the corner of the altar, the priest avoided standing at the center of the altar after the ablutions, a practice which Fr. Stoskopf noted was foreign to all liturgies, East and West. "Some of these changes are even contemplated by General Convention, and after all we prefer to appeal for our practice to the Catholic customs of God's Church than to the opinions of the erudite laymen of that august body, who possess a scandalous veto over bishops."
Throughout Fr. Stoskopf's rectorate, as in the rectorates of his two immediate predecessors, continuing emphasis was placed on devotion to the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. With the Sacrament reserved, the church remained open each day providing opportunities for the faithful to pray in the Divine Presence. The service of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was conducted weekly and on appropriate feasts. The parish actively participated in the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament.
Fr. Stoskopf urged parishioners to exercise due respect to the Blessed Sacrament. Parishioners in church commonly genuflected in recognition of the presence of the Sacrament. However, the rector realized, and much regretted the fact, that when carrying the Sacrament from the church to a sick bed, he would of necessity be obliged to move through the streets of a secular city in which reverence to the Sacred Presence was hardly the norm. An anecdote, perhaps apocryphal, suggests the possibility that at least on one occasion he may have been pleasantly surprised by respect from an unexpected source.
On his way to communicate a sick parishioner, Fr. Stoskopf was seated in the back of an automobile driven by a sister of the Order of St. Anne. Committing an inadvertent but egregious traffic violation, the sister was directed to the side of the street by a police officer. As the officer began to comment sternly on the violation, he was interrupted by Fr. Stoskopf, who reminded him that he was a priest and had in his possession the Blessed Sacrament. The officer immediately genuflected and motioned the automobile to proceed.
Fr. Stoskopf provided detailed instructions concerning the reception of a priest carrying the Sacrament to a sick person. The rector noted that certain arrangements should be made in the sick chamber before the arrival of the priest. A small table was to be placed in position so that the patient, as he lay in bed, could see it to best advantage. The table, covered with a white cloth, should have on it a glass of water with a teaspoon and a small napkin. The priest brought with him crucifix, candlesticks and candles. To prevent awkwardness and promote reverence to the Blessed Sacrament, it was necessary to watch for the priest's arrival, so that there would be no unnecessary wait before the house or apartment.
It is a pious custom to meet him at the door with a lighted candle, genuflecting at once and making no verbal salutation, but as the priest says, 'Peace to this house' making the answer, 'And to all that dwell in it.' This point should be carefully remembered. Nothing is more out of place than for the person who opens the door for the priest, forgetting that he carries the Blessed Sacrament on his person, to greet him with some remark about the weather, or some other commonplace.
The priest was next conducted silently to the place where he vested. No conversation at all was permitted until the priest invited it after the service. The priest would wish to speak to the sick person privately before administering communion and should be given an opportunity to do so, persons in the room retiring without the necessity of his requesting it. The priest gave the signal when he was ready for others to return. They should kneel facing the communion table. The priest placed the pyx containing the Blessed Sacrament on the corporal which he had spread; all then adored with him and remained kneeling until after the blessing, with which the service ended.
When appropriate, the Sacrament of Extreme Unction was given following the communion. On such an occasion, those persons remaining in the room with the sick person would stand until after the annointings; all knelt when the priest began the suffrages with "Christ have mercy upon us," which followed the last of the annointings.
In ministering to the dying, Fr. Stoskopf witnessed last moments of life which he perceived as moving and truly sacramental. In 1914, for example, Miss Florence Hutton, the adopted daughter of parishioners, died at the age of 23. When it became evident that Miss Hutton was desperately ill, the rector hastened to her home to administer the Last Sacraments. In administering the viaticum he employed a set for the communion of the sick which was presented by the Young Women's Bible Class of which she was a member.
Miss Hutton requested the rector to have the crucifix left in her sick room, where it remained until placed between the candles at her coffin's head. She remembered that the following Thursday was the anniversary of her confirmation and desired to receive Holy Communion that day. The Nicene Creed was Miss Hutton's favorite devotion. After its recitation, when asked her view of death, she replied, "No one who believes the Catholic Faith can be afraid to die."
Upon the following day she was taken to the hospital where she rapidly grew weaker. Upon Sunday she was somewhat delirious. There was no fear for herself in her fever, only lest some slight should be done to God. She imagined that some wicked men were offering insults to the Blessed Sacrament. This gave her great mental pain. Monday found her still weaker and upon Tuesday morning she could only attempt to cross herself at the recitation of the Creed. The prayers for the dying were recited and in the afternoon she passed away.
This, the rector commented, was a holy death, the fitting climax of a holy life. Miss Hutton's death bed served as a benediction to those who ministered and watched beside it because "it was a Christian death bed, it was sacramental, it was the fruit of that regular and faithful reception of the sacraments which had preceded it in life."
To those who inquired about the state of the blessed dead, Fr. Stoskopf responded that the teachings of the Church, founded on belief in the Communion of Saints, were clear. Each soul at the moment of death was judged and knew immediately her eternal fate.
If she has died in a state of mortal sin, she is forever exiled from her God and heaven is lost. If, however, she has died in a state of Grace, one of two immediate futures is before her. If she is perfected already she is admitted immediately to Heaven. If she is still imperfect, Heaven is still assured her for she has separated from the body in a state of Grace, but because of her imperfections she cannot immediately possess God and Heaven. She is detained in Purgatory until all her imperfections are burned away by the purifying fires of God's love ... Is there pain there? Riddance from sin is ordinarily painful, but it is a joyful pain. Day by day the happy soul, more and more purified, recognizes that she is nearer and nearer to her Great Reward.
Such a soul, safe in the sense that the loss of Paradise was now impossible for her, remained passive in the hands of God, unable to aid herself. Of great significance, however, was the fact that we ourselves could help her. We did so by means of prayer, the offering of good works done by us for her progress, but primarily by participating in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, offering before God our intentions for such progress.
Prior to each November 2, All Souls Day, members of the parish submitted names of faithful departed which were "spread before God upon His Altar" at Requiem Masses celebrated on All Souls Day and on each successive day permitted by the Church calendar during the remainder of the month.
In addition to attending to the progress of souls of the faithful departed, the rector more particularly urged parishioners to consider the spiritual condition of their own souls. Lent provided each year a call for self-examination, sacramental confession, and the performance of penance for sins. Fasting, abstinence and self-denial did not themselves, Fr. Stoskopf reminded, remit sin. The remission of sin was accomplished only through the merit of the Cross. That merit was transmitted to the soul through the Sacrament of Penance. "But after sins have been remitted, after the eternal penalty has been paid, there yet remains the temporal penalty which must be paid either before death, in this world, or after death, in Purgatory."
Although any Christian should be eager to do penance for sins here and now, the Church, understanding human frailty, appointed the great season of Lent during which she imposed the doing of penance by commandment. Not to do penance for one's sins in Lent was to incur the guilt of a fresh sin by disregarding the Church's command. The rector often translated the Lenten commandment into a specific rule. In 1915, for example, he urged each parishioner during Lent to (1) attend at least one church service each day; (2) receive Holy Communion at least once during the week; (3) say a short prayer daily at noon time; (4) go to confession before Easter; (5) abstain from food on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; (6) deny oneself something pleasant each day; (7) abstain from all parties and places of public amusement; (8) try to save some money each day, by self-denial, for the Easter offering; and (9) do something each day (if only to say a prayer) for some poor, sick, or troubled person.
That regular and faithful reception of sacraments, which Fr. Stoskopf viewed as the very cornerstone of life in Christ, pertained to the Sacrament of Penance as well as to the Holy Eucharist. Confession at least once a year at Easter was a strict requirement imposed on Catholic Christians. "To go to Confession once a year only is a shameful minimum, but it is infinitely better than not to go at all."
According to the rector regular reception of the Sacrament of Penance was most important simply because Christ demanded that we should correspond to His institution of the Sacrament; the steady and continuing practice of the Church showed that when our Blessed Lord bestowed the power of absolution upon His apostles, He manifested His holy will that every mortal sin committed after baptism by any Christian should be submitted to the power of the keys in the Sacrament of Penance.
For parishioners intending to receive the Sacrament of Penance, Fr. Stoskopf proposed an "etiquette of the confessional." When many persons were waiting in church to make their confessions, as far as possible each individual should approach the confessional in turn. If one were in a great hurry, he should ask permission of those in the church before him to precede them to the confessional. However, if the door of the confessional was open, only a moment should be given to any one whose turn came. If the person did not start immediately toward the door, it was the turn of the next in order to approach. When the door was open, and no one was approaching, any one ready to make his confession should enter the confessional without delay. "It is far more important that the Priest should not be kept waiting and that all who are coming in later should not be unnecessarily delayed than that some one should be waited for who has already forfeited his turn by his own delay. When the door is open and no earlier comer is approaching, it is your turn. Enter at once."
Parishioners and others approaching the Sacrament of Penance were not often aware that Fr. Stoskopf's dog, Bob, who was devoted to the rector, frequently accompanied him into the confessional. A parishioner reported that while confessing his transgressions, he was startled and perplexed to hear the distinct sounds of panting. On a separate occasion, as Bob scratched himself and his metal harness clanged against the wall, another penitent parishioner reportedly was reminded of the chains of Hell.
For confirmed communicants, regularly nourished by the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Penance, the exchange of marital vows and solemnization of marriage within the context of a celebration of the Holy Eucharist was a most appropriate and desirable practice. In the summer of 1915 a first Nuptial Mass was celebrated at the Ascension. "The wonderful fittingness of a Nuptial Mass," wrote the rector, "is not alone that it applies the merit of the all prevailing Sacrifice to the marriage union and furnishes prayers of special nuptial blessing, but also because it provides that the newly wedded pair shall have the privilege of receiving the Holy Communion as the first act of their married life."
Although the administration of the sacraments of the Church provided a focal point for the "great internal work of the parish," Fr. Stoskopf also taught and inculcated modes of private meditation and prayer, particularly those appropriate to Catholic practice, which provided individual souls with potentially significant means of access to God's grace. The celebration of the Mass was viewed by Fr. Stoskopf as a corporate act, involving both the priest and participating laity in an act representative of the entire Church; however, the Mass was also seen as a uniquely appropriate occasion for private devotion and prayer offered by members of the congregation during quiet moments as well as during musical interludes at Solemn High Mass while the choir sang segments of the Mass setting.
For many years prior to Fr. Stoskopf's rectorate at the Ascension, devotion to the Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament had been a leading theme of Catholic worship. In addition to participating in corporate acts of adoration associated with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the rector also urged parishioners to "visit" the Blessed Sacrament regularly, in order to offer private prayers and acts of adoration before the Sacred Presence.
When properly planned and executed, Fr. Stoskopf taught, meditation could also provide spiritual benefits of significant value. During Lent, 1912, he delivered Wednesday evening addresses on the Ignatian method of meditation, which consisted of three distinct but integrally related parts: a preparation, the meditation proper, and a conclusion. During the preparation careful attention was given to selection of the subjects of meditation, organized into major and minor topical headings; further, prayerful recognition was made of the presence of God, contrition for all sins, oblation, resignation, and invocation of the Holy Ghost. During the meditation proper the three faculties of the soul (memory, intellect, and will) were applied to each of the headings previously prepared. The conclusion consisted of a series of brief, prayerful colloquies addressed to One of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, offering thanks for benefits derived from the meditation and committing the supplicant entirely to God's providence.
In addition to meditation, rosary devotions provided, in Fr. Stoskopf's opinion, a singularly excellent means of private prayer. The doctrine of the Communion and the Fellowship of Saints implied for the rector, as well as for his three predecessors, the efficacy of intercessory prayers offered by the Saints, particularly those addressed to God the Father by Mary, the Mother of God. (Marian feasts of the Conception, Annunciation, and Assumption had been specially observed since the beginning of Fr. Stoskopf's rectorate.) Implicit understandings and tacit beliefs concerning the primacy of the Virgin Mary among all the Saints, as well as her pre-eminent intercessory role, became increasingly explicit in practices at the Ascension during the 1920s.
A Lady statue, placed in the church by Fr. Larrabee in memory of his mother, was unveiled and blessed at the 7:00 A.M. Mass on November 21, 1922, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady. The statue was placed against the outside of the iron rood screen on the Gospel side of the nave, where it is situated today. "The shrine converts the corner by the organ into a sort of side chapel," commented the rector. "The votive lights always burning before it extend a welcome the moment one enters the church, and invite, as it were, to a hearth where one can warm his devotion to Our Lord at the feet of His Blessed Mother. . . . There are different ways of using the shrine. Sometimes one will think of the Blessed Mother, and, lifting his heart to her in heaven, ask the help of her prayers in the rosary, or in some Litany in her honor."
Shortly after their arrival in Chicago, the Sisters of St. Anne made available to parishioners at the Ascension specially designed rosaries. The Angelus was regularly said in conjunction with the morning and evening offices, and the recitation of "Joy to thee, O Queen of Heaven. Alleluia!" replaced the Angelus during Eastertide. Rosary devotions were included in midweek services in May, 1923, and accompanied instruction on Wednesday evenings during Lent, 1924.
Commenting in 1926 on the particular efficacy of rosary devotions, the rector drew an analogy from music.
The accompaniment to a song may be swift while the melody is slow; the vocal prayers of the Rosary are closely related to the song of the mind. In the Rosary we are both soloist and accompanist, and thereby do two things at once. Our commonest actions are complex. We can say our Rosary and be thinking of our joys and sorrows, and these are distractions; we can say our Rosary and be thinking of our Lord's joys and sufferings, and such meditation is the highest form of personal prayer. It is this essential meditative character of the Rosary that makes it perhaps the best of all private devotions--the Divine Office of the Laity.
Mother! When the day is dawning
When night lifts her sable awning
Mary, pray for me.
The month of May, the rector noted in 1924, was dedicated by the Church to Mary. At the Ascension on the first Sunday of May a procession of little girls in white followed the choir; afterwards, one of the girls designated as the May Queen crowned a statue of our Lady with flowers, while the following hymn was sung:
Sing gaily in chorus
The bright Angels o'er us
Re-echo the strains we begin upon earth.
Their harps are repeating
The notes of our greeting.
For Mary herself is the cause of our mirth.
O Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
Throughout Fr. Stoskopf's rectorate of nearly 42 years, consistent with the practice of his predecessors, the penitential season of Lent was followed each year by solemn liturgical observances of our Lord's Passion, death, and Resurrection during Holy Week and Easter. These observances, commemorating events associated with the principal feast of the Church year, originated in the rectorates of Fr. Ritchie and Fr. Larrabee. They have continued to the present at the Ascension, unchanged in most essentials from the description offered by the rector in 1917.
Following the traditional blessing of the palms, procession, and Eucharist on Palm Sunday, Low Masses were celebrated at 7:00 A.M. and 9:30 A.M. on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week. On the evenings of Wednesday and Maundy Thursday the service of Tenebrae was sung. This office, a combination of Matins and Lauds, represented, in the displacement of her offices, the Church in confusion as the Passion of the Redeemer approached.
Fifteen candles were set in a triangle or "tenebrae hearse" at the Epistle side of the sanctuary. They were extinguished after the psalms and at the end of the Benedictus at Lauds, only the topmost candle, representing our Lord, remaining lighted. This candle was taken down and hidden behind the altar during the singing of the final miserere and collect. At the end of the service a noise was made emblematic of the confusion of nature at the death of Christ, and the candle was restored to its place. Tenebrae, which means "darkness," refers to the gradual darkening of the church throughout the service.
On Maundy Thursday one Solemn Mass was celebrated in the morning with white vestments and joyous solemnity in honor of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament. Although bells were rung throughout the duration of the Gloria in Excelsis, at its conclusion bells remained silent until the Gloria in the Mass on Easter Even. This silence, like the ceremonies of Tenebrae, expressed the bereavement of the Church during the time of Christ's Passion and burial.
At the Mass a second consecrated host, not consumed at the priest's communion, was carried in solemn procession to the altar of repose in the chapel, adorned with lights and flowers. Here it was the center of eucharistic devotion until carried back in procession to the church on Good Friday before the Mass of the Presanctified. At the conclusion of the Mass on Maundy Thursday the altar of the church was stripped and washed. The remainder of the day provided an opportunity for silent devotion to the Blessed Sacrament upon the altar of repose. After Tenebrae, which was said at 8 P.M. in the church, the clergy and people returned to the chapel for an office of adoration.
On Good Friday stations of the cross were said at 7:00 A.M. and repeated at 9:00 A.M. for children. Matins and Litany preceded the Mass of the Presanctified at 10:30 A.M. On this occasion the Sacrifice of the Mass was not offered and there was no consecration; rather, there was a sacramental communion upon the Blessed Sacrament which had been consecrated ("presanctified") the day before. Lessons and prayers read at the altar were followed by the unveiling and veneration of the cross, during which the "Reproaches" or "Improperia" were sung.
Vested in black, the sacred ministers proceeded to the altar of repose from which they transferred the consecrated host to the high altar of the church. The Blessed Sacrament was placed upon the altar, wine was poured into the chalice, and an abbreviated Mass without consecration was said. Following the elevation of the sacred host after the Our Father, the celebrant received it in Holy Communion. The liturgy then abruptly ended. (A "Three Hours" service of commemoration which followed was viewed by the rector as good and useful, but not a part of the liturgical observance of the day.)
On Saturday, Easter Even, a Mass celebrated in the morning was preceded by blessing of both the new fire, representing the rising of our Lord to a new life, and the Paschal candle. Twelve lessons were read from the Old Testament, originally intended to prepare catechumens for baptism. The Mass of Easter Even, with its white vestments and joyous Gloria, during which bells were rung, proclaimed the fact of the Resurrection. At Masses on Sunday morning parishioners received Holy Communion, fulfilling their binding "Easter Duty," a solemn obligation which in every respect epitomized the ministry of God's grace in all the months which had preceded.