In Your Midst


Nov 2002

In This Issue:
A couple of years ago, not long after we dedicated the bronze ceremonial doors and the Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy Millennium Organ, a number of people asked me if the work on the cathedral was now finished. An understandable question, to be sure. My answer may not have been the one they expected. The best cathedrals, I remember saying to them, are the living cathedrals — the ones where worship, prayer, education, and outreach are unceasing, and where the buildings themselves reflect that ongoing life and energy. I have seldom seen a cathedral in Europe — no matter how old or how beautiful — that was really “finished”. The few that are seem more like museums than places of worship. We at St. James can take pride in knowing that ours is most definitely a living cathedral!

And now let me share with you some exciting “living cathedral” projects that are now in process or on the near horizon.

STAINED–GLASS. During the summer, thanks to a wonderful and unsolicited gift from a generous couple in the parish, we were able to do repair work on some of the stained-glass in the cathedral chapel. That same gift allowed us to install two beautiful new stained-glass windows in the vesting sacristy, replacing two lovely old windows that were destroyed in the fire of 1992. The new windows incorporate some fine old glass from 1919 that was removed from the west fašade of the cathedral in 1999 in order to make room for the bronze doors. You are welcome to come by the sacristy some time and see the new windows. I know that Jason and Gerald, our sacristans, will be more than happy to show them off.

There is one other window project: the large black and gilt “I am the vine, you are the branches” window high above the bronze doors. Thanks to the same generous donors, the unsightly, yellowing plastic that has covered and partially obscured that window for many years has been replaced with clear, protective glass. For the first time in memory that window with its striking likeness of Christ and its unique northwest imagery can speak its message clear and unclouded.

SACRISTY and CHAPEL REFURBISHING and RESTORATION of the RENAISSANCE PAINTING. The sacristy has been re-carpeted and the chapel walls, dark from the accumulation of dirt and grime, have recently been cleaned and the cracked plaster up near the ceiling on the north wall repaired thanks to a generous donation from Mr. Gene Colin of Ferguson Construction. And something even more exciting is underway. The 15th–century Renaissance painting by Neri di Bicci on the north wall has been temporarily removed. For more than a decade it has been my dream to have that beautiful and valuable painting restored. Over the years some very poor quality restoration work was done on it and that work needs to be reversed. Once again, some generous donors, Dr. Alec Clowes and Dr. Susan Detweiler, have come forward with funds to make this possible. Alec and Susan are dear friends of mine and, although not even Catholics, they care greatly about the cathedral and its art treasures. Thanks to them and to the directors of the Seattle Art Museum, the painting has been removed and taken to the museum for careful restoration. For the time being, a full–size color photograph of the painting has been inserted into the ornate frame in the chapel. Perhaps only the more observant among you will even notice the change, but I am quite sure that all will notice the change when the restored painting returns! The entire restoration work will probably involve the better part of a year, at the end of which the museum may want to feature it in a special exhibit before returning it to the cathedral. I will keep you informed as details are finalized.

NEW TABERNACLE. Two generous gifts have made possible the commissioning of a new tabernacle for the reservation of the Eucharist in the cathedral’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The tabernacle currently in use, dating from the 1950 renovation, has served its purpose well but when it became possible to replace a mass–produced church catalog item with an original work of art, the decision was not a difficult one to make. German artist Ulrich Henn, the sculptor of the ceremonial bronze doors, has created a strikingly beautiful new bronze tabernacle for the cathedral. For his inspiration, Mr. Henn took the well–known passage about the Burning Bush from the Book of Exodus (“Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground!”). The new tabernacle, of highly polished gold bronze, will be much larger than the current one and will make a dramatic statement about our Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. I believe when people come into the cathedral they will have the impression of a fire continually burning in that beautiful, holy space that is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

The gifts which have made this marvelous new addition to the cathedral possible came from one of our generous and faithful benefactors, Roy Simperman, and from the estate of Genevieve Albers, a good friend of the cathedral who died this past year.

The plan is for the new tabernacle to be installed during the month of January. The work is expected to take as much as two weeks. A solemn blessing will follow. When the exact date becomes certain I will let you know. Meanwhile, I trust you will share my excitement for what promises to be one more magnificent treasure in our “living cathedral”.

Father Michael G. Ryan
Cathedral Pastor

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