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August 26, 2009
A priest’s chalice
By Roxanne King
Priests who would like to share the story of their chalice for publication consideration in the Denver Catholic Register may e-mail them (limit to 400 words) and a high quality photo to: email@example.com; or mail to: Editor, Denver Catholic Register, 1300 S. Steele St., Denver, CO 80210; or fax to: 303-715-2045. Questions? Call 303-715-3215.
The sacred vessel used at Mass to hold the consecrated wine is called a chalice. According to Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Almanac, chalices should be made of solid and noble material that is not easily breakable or corruptible. In addition, the cup of a chalice should be made of non-absorbent material and the interior of the cup should have a gold coating. A chalice should be blessed before use.
“A priest’s chalice is a something very personal,” explained Denver Auxiliary Bishop James Conley. “You might say a priest’s chalice is one of the most precious ‘tools of his trade.’”
A chalice is often given to a priest as an ordination gift. Chalices may be unadorned or highly embellished.
During the Year for Priests, the Denver Catholic Register is inviting priests to share the story of their chalice. Below, in their own words, are the stories of Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., and Bishop James Conley’s chalices.
Archbishop Chaput’s chalice: "In memory of Eric"
My chalice is a very simple silver cup, which I received when I was at Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, Colo. I was pastor there from 1977 to 1980.
What is unique about my chalice is the fact that it was given in honor of Eric Simpson, a 3-year-old boy who died of cancer when I was at Holy Cross. It was given to me by Eric’s parents, Fred and Patty Simpson. I became friends with the Simpson family while ministering to them during Eric’s illness. I was with them when Eric, a friendly and precocious child, died.
When I left Holy Cross, the Simpsons asked me to take the chalice with me because it was given as a personal gift. I carried it with me when I served as provincial of the Capuchins and when I was bishop of Rapid City, S.D. It’s important to me as a memory of Eric and his family, but I also like it very much because it’s both simple and dignified at the same time. It’s the chalice I use personally every time I celebrate Mass in my home.
Bishop Conley’s chalice: "History and Family"
My chalice was given to me by Msgr. Charles Walsh, who served as vicar general of the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., and rector of its Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The chalice is from the cathedral’s patrimony (estate). Msgr. Walsh was the first priest I contacted when I was thinking about a vocation to the priesthood back in 1979. He became a real mentor for me during my seminary years. I actually lived at the cathedral rectory in summers during my theological training.
Msgr. Walsh gave me the chalice in 1985, during my last year of seminary. He died in May 2008 one week before my episcopal ordination. I saw him the night before he died and thanked him again for my chalice.
The chalice is Romanesque in style, which means it is shorter in height and more rounded than a gothic style chalice. It is about 100 years old. It had belonged to a priest in the Diocese of Wichita and was made in Germany. It was tarnished when I received it so I had it re-guilded.
About six months before I was ordained a bishop, my mother gave me her engagement ring and my father’s wedding band (my dad died on Nov. 7, 2006). I had the diamonds from her ring set in the form of a cross on the base of the chalice encircled by my father’s wedding band to remind me to pray for my parents every day at Mass. I also had a blue lapis lazuli stone placed in the node (stem) of the chalice. The blue stone represents the Blessed Virgin Mary.
My chalice is simple in design and not ornate, except for the diamonds from my mother’s engagement ring, which have a very personal meaning. When I lift my chalice at Mass every day, I am reminded of those wonderful words from Psalm 116: “How can I repay the LORD for all the good done for me? I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD” (12, 13).