1940's Crosier of Bishop James J. Byrne, S.T.D.

Image of the 1940s' crosier (baculus pastoralis) of Bishop Byrne.

A simple contemporary crosier, symbolic of the shepherd's crook.  Today it is part of the treasury of the Cathedral of Dubuque, Iowa.  It was the crosier given to Bishop James J. Byrne, S.T.D. when he was consecrated bishop on July 2, 1947 in the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The Bishop was consecrated at age 38.        

Needless to say, the Bishop was very proud of his Irish ancestry, and thus the Celtic motif cross on the knob in the form of a monstrance.  The silver statuette of Our Lady of Lourdes on the crook is in reference to the Bishop's devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes.  He had studied in Louvain (Leuven), Belgium and had visited Lourdes as a pilgrim in France.   

Further, there are three common monograms in the gilded gold of the crook that show the combining and overlapping of letters to form one symbol.  The symbol for Christ is at the top, with St. Joseph on the left and Our Lady on the right.  The Bishop was well known for his Marian devotion (his episcopal motto was "Ad Iesum Per Mariam").   

Bishop Byrne was the first Minnesota native named Archbishop.  He was Professor of Philosophy and later Dean  of the College of St. Thomas (later the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN).  He was the seventh bishop of Dubuque from from 1962-1983.  He was a Council Father.  When he confirmed both my parents in the 1950's at the church of the Nativity in St. Paul he carried this crosier.  The crosier itself is made of one piece (the crook and long staff are permanently attached).  It is light weight and easy to manage.  The staff is pointed at the bottom with a rubber or cork end.      

I am always impressed by an attractive looking crosier.  Outer elements in the liturgy parallel the inner experience of worship.  Each crosier reflects something about the bishop who uses it and the simple while artistic postwar brilliance of this example reflects a beautiful devotion to Our Lady and a harmonious faith in the Holy Family of Nazareth.  

The arts have each a proper place in the fostering of the supreme experience of worship, and this includes the crosier.  Not a few contemporary crosiers, ugly as they are, reveal a cleft between religion and art as they lack the ability to bestir the imagination and are devoid of a feeling for beauty or force for artistry.  Wherever there is degeneration and apathy, there is a decline in the arts, indifference to beauty in all its forms.  

"Wonder makes us fall to our knees" is a quote from St. Gregory of Nyssa.  Teach the Faith with beauty.  The  faithful will be attracted by beauty to the source of all beauty, the heart of Jesus.        

Image from the Dubuque Cathedral.

Image of a plaque in the Dubuque Cathedral.

Bishop Byrne holding his crosier at the blessing of a convent in 1953.  

Image of the young Bishop Byrne at the time of his consecration.

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