The Archivist’s Nook: Pre-Vatican II Pamphlet Spotlight – Getting into the Christmas Spirit!

As we approach the Fourth Sunday of Advent, many of us are preparing for Christmas in a variety of ways. Everything from putting up decorations and baking cookies to attending Mass more frequently and receiving the Sacrament of Confession on a more regular basis. This is a season of penance and abstinence, joy and hope! To celebrate this most holy season, the Catholic University Special Collections would like to share a number of beautiful items from our Pre-Vatican II Pamphlet Collection! These small yet stunning pieces give us a glimpse into Christmas past, a peek into the traditions and observances of Catholics before the Second Vatican Council. Although I will only be focusing on five of our pamphlets, this post is in no way exhaustive of our collection. I invite you to take a look through our online database, which you can browse through our over 12,000 pamphlets: https://libraries.catholic.edu/special-collections/rare-books/pre-vatican-ii-pamphlets.html

Christmas – the Gift of God!

Christmas – the Gift of God!, 1951. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

The first pamphlet that I would like to feature is from the Paulist Press. Written in 1951 by Rev. James M. Gillis, C.S.P., this brief booklet packs quite the punch! Fr. Gillis outlines the historical and theological background of Christmas, with each section addressing a particular question or controversy. He answers hard-hitting questions such as “Is Christmas Pagan?”, “Christ or Bacchus?”, and “Is God a Sphinx?”[1]. Each section is not terribly long, but Fr. Gillis is able to address common misconceptions regarding the holy-day with deft and depth. Theologically hefty, this little pamphlet explains Christmas within the Catholic context, drawing on the Church Fathers, writings of the Saints, and the teachings of the Magisterium. The pamphlet concludes with the lyrics to a number of popular Christmas songs hymns, the majority of which are still enjoyed today, including “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, “O Holy Night” and “The First Noel”.

The Gifts of Christmas

The Gifts of Christmas, 1943. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.
The Gifts of Christmas, 1943. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

The second pamphlet that I would like to draw to your attention is from our sub-collection of pamphlets for children. This one was written by Rev. Daniel A. Lord S.J., who features heavily in our pamphlet collection, in 1943. This pamphlet is downright gorgeous, filled with full-color illustrations and pop-outs that are surely engaging for children (and this technician!). The pamphlet recalls the Nativity story in an easy to understand way, while also pointing to Christ’s presence in the Mass and the story of St. Nicholas. The illustrations make use of paper windows and a three-dimensional Christmas tree, making it seem almost like a picture book!

The Christmas Lamb

The Christmas Lamb, 1942. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

This pamphlet is another work of Fr. Lord’s, being published in 1942 by The Queen’s Work. Although this one is not as colorful as the last pamphlet, the cover is richly decorated with gold ink, and depictions of the Blessed Mother and Baby Jesus surrounded by lambs and angels. Fr. Lord retells the Nativity story, but in a very poetic way, almost lyrical. It seems that this pamphlet was meant to be given as a gift to someone, as there is space to write one’s name in the front cover after “That the Lamb of God may be The Joy of Your Christmas is the sincere hope of:” [2]. What a wonderful alternative to a traditional Christmas card!

Devotions for the Christmas and the Epiphany Season

Devotions for Christmas and the Epiphany Season, 1954. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

This fourth pamphlet was written by Rev. Philip T. Weller in 1954 and published through Saint Pius X Press in Berwyn, Maryland. A slightly less ornate pamphlet than the previous three, but nonetheless, still beautiful with a green cover featuring a delightful rendering of the Nativity. Inside, the text is more technical than our other examples, this being a prayer service outline with the words spoken by the priest celebrating and the responses of the congregation. It also includes instructions for the congregation as when to stand, kneel, and sit, along with instructions for the priest. The pamphlet directs the Celebrant to “place[s] the image of the Infant in its place, kneels and incenses the Crib, and says the following prayer:”[3]. The pamphlet ends with the Magnificat, O Salutaris, Tantum Ergo, the Divine Praises, and finally the Star of the Sea prayer.

The King’s Jongleur: A Medieval Christmas Play in Three Acts

The King’s Jongleur, 1936. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.
The King’s Jongleur, 1936. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

The last pamphlet that I will be featuring is different from the rest, but that is why I think it is worth mentioning! Written by Sister Mary Donatus in 1936 for The Catholic Dramatic Movement, this pamphlet is a script of a short play. The play focuses on an Abbey preparing for its Midnight Mass, but they are visited by a jester, who although at first seems to be causing trouble, is later revealed to have the purest heart and receives a blessing from the Infant Jesus. A short yet sweet play about charity and belief during Christmas, this is just one of the many plays in our pamphlet collection. 

This is just a small taste of thousands of pamphlets that we house in our collection, we have an assortment of material ranging from prayer and the Sacraments, to Catholic dating and perspectives on social issues. If you would like to know more, or would like to schedule an appointment to come visit our collection, please contact us at (202) 319- 5065 or lib-archives@cua.edu

 

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays from our families to yours!

 

 

[1] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, American Catholic Pamphlets and Parish Histories, Paulist, 501.

[2] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, American Catholic Pamphlets and Parish Histories, Lordy, 70.

[3] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, American Catholic Pamphlets and Parish Histories, 1902, 88.

The Archivist’s Nook: A Garden for Catholic Girls – The History of St. Rose’s Technical School

A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the property of St. Rose’s Technical School, 1939. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

In the north-west part of Washington DC, there was a school that educated and housed girls who had nowhere else to turn. Founded in 1868 by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the school’s focus was girls from the ages of 14 to 18 who were orphans and in need of educational and spiritual guidance. In 1928, the head of the school, Sr. Mary Gabriel, said that “children from 14 to 18 years of age need loving care and supervision more than at any other period in their lives. Their lifetime habits and characteristics begin to crystalize during this formative period”[1]. The Sisters of Charity directed every aspect of the girls’ lives, from their studies to their spiritual growth to their recreational activities. This guided approach was implemented in order to “make of them capable self-respecting Christian women”[2]. When the school year was not in session, the Sisters would take the girls to Camp Saint Rose in Mayo, Maryland. The students would be able to go to the beach, play games, and enjoy some well-deserved rest.

Pictures of Camp St. Rose, 1936. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Celebrating Mass in their chapel, Rosa Mystica, a number of chaplains served the community and school until its closing in June of 1946. The first chaplain was Cardinal Bonaventure Cerretti, who started his service at the school in 1910 until 1916 when Archbishop John A. Floersch, D.D. took over. The student newspaper recounted an amusing anecdote from the inaugural cleric, quoting “that Monsignor C[h]eretti confessed his real motive in stopping to offer his services was an ‘honest-to-goodness’ breakfast”[3]. Other chaplains who served the school were Bishop George Leo Leech, D.D., J.C.D., Rt. Rev. Msgr. Francis Edward Hyland, Bishop Leo Binz, and Very. Rev. Msgr. Donald M. Carroll, J.C.D. Not only would the priests celebrate Mass for the students and Sisters, but they would also celebrate the sacrament of marriage for students who had found love. 

The Chapel of St. Rose’s Technical School, photo taken between 1935 and 1940. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Many of the girls who attended St. Rose’s Technical School went on to lead successful personal and professional lives! Some got married, so entered the religious vocation and some continued their education. Examples of the schools that St. Rose’s graduates went on to study at St. Joseph’s, Dunbarton College, and Trinity College. Many of the students also went on to become nurses at Providence Hospital, St. Agnes Hospital, and Jenkins Hospital[4].

St. Rose’s Technical School Library, n.d. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

As time went on though, enrollment dropped. There was an effort to bring in “day students” who would not be living at the school, but who could participate in the institution’s stellar academics program. In a letter written to Archbishop Curley of Baltimore in 1945, Sister Serina, the President of St. Rose’s Technical School, laid out the predicament that faced the school: “At present, however, our registration is much smaller than in former years, people are better able to provide for their children and demands for total care of adolescent girls are fewer. In light of these and other impinging factors, superiors of our community have suggested that we offer our excellent school facilities to other girls who could not afford the higher tuition elsewhere”[5]. Although this plan was approved by Archbishop Curley, it did not last very long. The Community Chest, the organization that helped fund the school, approved the plans to accept day students (for the price of $10 a month!) but soon expressed concerns about the growing cost to fund the burgeoning student population. At a special meeting held on January 21 of 1947, it was decided to shut down the school and transfer the property to St. Ann’s Infant Home. In a letter to the Director of the Community Chest, the Sisters echo the reasons for the decline in attendance and the closure of the school, “due largely to Social Security and other forms of government endowment, combined with the fact that girls today are equipped at an earlier age to meet life’s problems”[6]. With these daunting social and economic changes, the school was officially shut down on July 25, 1947. The Sisters who worked at the school were sent to serve in other ministries and the remaining girls who could not support themselves were transferred to Saint Vincent’s Home.

A room within St. Rose’s Technical School, n.d. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

St. Rose’s Technical School operated for less than 80 years, but in that time the Sisters made a significant impact on the lives of young orphan girls. With no other place to go, the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul nurtured and taught generations of future nurses, professionals, Sisters, wives, and mothers. To learn more about the impact of St. Rose’s Technical School, please read Dr. Maria Mazzenga’s blog post on the scrapbook that the students put together during World War II.

For more information, check out our Finding Aid on Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC!

 

 

 

Citations:

[1] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2 

[2] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2

[3] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2

[4] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2

[5] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2

[6] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: CUA’s Patriarch of Patristics

Photo courtesy of The Catholic University of America School of Theology and Religious Studies

As indispensable and central to Catholic University as Caldwell Hall, the School of Theology and Religious Studies has been an inseparable part of the identity of the University from its first days. But what makes up a good Theology School? The only way to ensure the proper cultivation of our future scholars and clergy is to provide them with the most distinguished professors.

The Johannes Quasten Medal for Excellence in Scholarship and Leadership in Religious Studies is awarded to those who dedicate their lives to the study of religion and who demonstrate unparalleled leadership within their respective fields, both within Catholic University and in the wider theological world, It is only fitting to explore the life of the man behind the award to fully understand the impact that he has had both on the School and the study of Christianity. 

Johannes Quasten was born on May 3rd, 1900 in Homberg-Niederrhein, Germany. After his years in primary school, Monsignor Quasten attended the University of Muenster where he earned his Doctorate in Christian Archaeology in 1927. Only the year before, in 1926, Msgr. Quasten was ordained a priest, thus beginning his scholarly and priestly journey all at once. Ever the jet-setter, in 1929 Father Quasten trekked to Rome to study at the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology. It was this further specialization that allowed him to go on research digs and participate in projects in Italy, North Africa, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Holland, and Croatia.

Msgr. Quasten at his desk, enjoying some conversation! ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

It was during an archaeological dig in North Africa that Msgr. Quasten was approached about joining the faculty of The Catholic University of America. In 1938, our intrepid globe-trotting priest joined the Catholic Cardinal family! A tough but fair professor, Msgr. Quasten wrote prolifically about his specialty — early Christian history, liturgy, and patristics. He churned out book reviews, articles, and papers, but none compared to his magnum opus Patrology. Showcasing his expert knowledge and years spent in the field, this three-volume mammoth outlines the writings and contributions of the Early Church Fathers.

The first courses that Msgr. Quasten taught at CUA in 1938. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Msgr. Quasten served as the Dean of the School of Sacred Theology from November 1945 until 1949. He was also awarded a Cardinal Spellman Medal in 1960 and was granted a Doctor of Humane Letters in 1976 from The Catholic University of America. It was this same year, 1976, that he was promoted to “Monsignor” with approval from Pope Paul VI. He later returned to his native Germany where he died on March 18th, 1987. 

Msgr. Quasten’s adventures took him all around the world, but his legacy is very much alive here at The Catholic University of America. He has made his mark by teaching countless academics and clergy, but the most tangible result of that legacy is the Johannes Quasten Medal which is given out each year. First established in 1985, the Medal is “the only academic award given by The Catholic University of America’s School of Theology and Religious Studies” (trs.cua.edu). On January 27th of this year, the School held the annual ceremony, granting the Medal to Dr. Mark Smith of the Princeton Theological Seminary.