The Eternal Gift: Revisiting An Excellent Resource to Learn the Latin Mass

On Easter Sunday 1940 a very special full-length sound motion picture of Solemn Mass was made for the ages.  It marked the first time in history a High Mass had been fully recorded on video.  It was recorded on ten reels of film and two years were consumed in the making.  The duration was one hour and forty minutes and the film was seen in cinemas, theatres and later shorter versions of it were sold on super 8mm reels.  

It was called "The Eternal Gift," produced with the cooperation of the Servants of Mary (Servite) Fathers of Chicago.  Mons. Fulton J. Sheen was narrator, Fr. James R. Keane, O.S.M. was celebrant, Fr. Hugh Calkins was deacon, and Fr. Frank Calkins was sub-deacon.  The two deacons were actual brothers.  The servers at the altar wore white cassocks - a Servite tradition.  

The Mass was celebrated in the magnificent Italian Renaissance Revival church on the West Side of Chicago, Our Lady of Sorrows.  Founded in 1874 by the Servite Fathers, the current church was dedicated in 1902 and has been described as a "foyer of heaven."  This precious church, today located in a rough neighborhood, was raised to the status of basilica in 1956 (an event commemorated by a beautiful painting of Pius XII above a side altar, crowning the church with the honor of basilica, with two Swiss Guards on either side).  Today the basilica houses the National Shrine of St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer victims.  I was privileged to visit here as a pilgrim in 1999 and was most impressed by the size and grandeur of the interior.   By God's grace the interior has been preserved and was never wreckovated.   

The choir in the video was augmented by 35 leading members of the Chicago Symphony orchestra with an accompaniment of 125 Holy Name Cathedral of Chicago choristers, 50 Gregorian Chant cantors and 1,500 extra vocalists, all composed entirely of male voices.  The work chosen was the "Mass of Christ the King" with the Proper chanted by the Schola Cantorum of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois.  

Fr. Keane was the founder of the once immensely popular Perpetual Novena to Our Sorrowful Mother, promoted with a booklet of prayers he authored.  The prayers were offered in a weekly service that took advantage of the newly furbished basement shrine of the church.  The Sorrowful Mother Novena was a major devotion at the parish and spread nationally and internationally, establishing Our Lady of Sorrows in Chicago as a significant Marian shrine.  

Many crowds came from across the city and beyond.  As the shrine grew in national and international fame, the novena filled the church weekly with up to 38 separate services.  Even carried by radio, the novena spread to over 2,300 additional parishes at the peak of its popularity just before the 1960's revolution and collapse of devotional life that coincided with Vatican II.  Today the novena is prayed at the shrine as a private devotion amongst a church of empty pews.    

The video of the Mass I highly recommend -- it can be seen here.

Visitors to the shrine can find more info here.  

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