Saturday, November 01, 2008

FSSP: All Saints Day in Rome...

Quality. Machines didn't make this lace, but likely nuns. Quality matters, keep it alive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There was a time when these lace surplices and albs were created by dozens of Orders of cloistered nuns, principally in Italy, Belgium, France but also in Germany, Spain, and Ireland. Not so much in the USA. In the USA, the cloistered nuns took up the holy task of making altar breads (hosts), for thousands of parishes.

Before Vatican II, there were in Belgium still half a dozen flourishing communities of pious women known as "Beguines"(who dressed like cloistered Benedictine nuns except that they wore elaborate white veils) who were famous for their lace. They were a movement of pious laywomen, who chose to withdraw from the world and live in community, and also in small enclosed "villages" called "Beguinages". Those in Antwerp, Ghent, and Brugges in Belgium were the largest, but their were also Beguinages in France, Netherlands, and Germany.
The Beguinages began in the early 12th century, and survived up until right after Vatican II. Their time of greatest flowering was between the 13th-17th centuries. There were for a time, even Lutheran "Beguinages" because since the Beguines had never really been nuns, buth rather communities of pious laywomen without solemn religious vows, it was seen as not specifically a "Catholic" thing, and also became popular in some parts of Lutheran Germany.
Beguinages started to decline as the Industrial Revolution in the mid-19th century took off. Just as the pious communities of Protestant Shakers in the USA suffered with the Industrial Revolution (when they could not compete for a livelyhood with mass production), neither could the Beguines when large mills and other factories started mass production of lace, pottery, etc. that the Beguines had become famous for.
But before Vatican II, some Beguinages still were fairly flourishing. The Brugges and Ghent Beguinages still had 200 Beguines, and the communities still were recieving vocations.
After the disaster of Vatican II, when the Mass was warped into what we now know as the Novus Ordo, and after 90% of the liturgical ornamentation, lace altars, albs, surplices were discarded, not to mention the massive revolution in religious life when thousands of priests and nuns quit rapidly liberalizing Orders, the Beguines also suffered like communities of nuns....even though they were not nuns. They were ridiculed as obsolete in a new "protestantized" and "reformed" Vatican II Catholic Church. Never nuns, and not bound by solemn vows, dozens of Beguines quit. And vocations dried up. A heritage of close to a thousand years of pious lives for generations of holy laywomen was destroyed in less than 10 years (1965-1975).
Today, there are no active Beguinages or Beguinages, and the few Beguines still living are now living in homes for aged nuns in Belgium. Like the USA, the average age of nuns in Belgium (in the radical liberal Orders), is 73or older.
IN Europe, lace albs and surplices were usually made in Benedictine, Trappistine, Discalced Carmelite(especially in France and Spain), and Visitation cloisters. Though some were also made in Poor Clare and Dominican houses. Also, many active Orders of nuns in Europe addition to teaching, nursing etc. also had at the Motherhouses -which were usually very large communities of 200+, a large core group of sister volunteers who made lace albs and surplices.
There were even a handful of active communties of nuns in Europe who had as their sole apostolates the prayerful support and glorification of the priesthood. And this took active expression by working as domestics in seminaries, in rectories, staffing homes for aged priests, and in the making of lace for the altar and albs and surplices. Most of this wonderful apostolate has been discarded by these Orders since Vatican II, because they considered it "sexist" to serve male priests. Their Orders have collapsed accordingly.
Today, thanks to the radicalization and liberalization of religious life in most active Orders of nuns in Europe, the making of lace is confined to the few cloisters which have a fairly large community, and enough young cloistered nuns to continue this noble apostolate.
It will die out in some places thanks to Vatican II, but there is some home in newer Orders and cloisters which have a traditionalist orientation and are resuming this beautiful work.