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Going to the Chapel

Catholic Review Column: Charity in Truth

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville where I gave a talk on religious liberty during the Fortnight for Freedom.

Charlestown is located on the site of the former St. Charles College, the first minor seminary in the United States that closed in 1977 after educating seminarians for nearly 130 years. The Sulpicians, which operated St. Charles, sold the property for the building of the retirement community. Fortunately, they retained St. Charles’ crown jewel, Our Lady of the Angels Chapel, where I was fortunate to offer my talk and meet many of the residents after receiving an impromptu tour from the pastor, Fr. Leo Larrivee, S.S.

If you have never been to Our Lady of the Angels or if it has been a while since you visited, I strongly suggest you go there for Mass one day soon. It is magnificent. It is easily among the most beautiful chapels I have seen in this country or any other. From floor to ceiling, the Chapel is an awe-inspiring monument to our Blessed Mother.

Stunning mosaics grace much of the chapel, including its ceiling, where a depiction of Mary, Our Lady of the Angels, appears high above the main altar.

The stained glass windows are equally impressive, with each set of windows telling their own story, much like so many other design elements of the chapel. From the virtuous lives priests are called to live to the various steps along the journey of a priest’s life, the chapel windows are beautiful, provocative, and instructional.

During my tour, Fr. Larrivee pointed out that much of the chapel is designed to complement the priestly formation being offered at St. Charles. This is especially true for the altar, whose mosaics depict Abraham and Melchisedeck, the High Priest, and their sacrifice of bread and wine. The altar’s base features Moses and Elijah adorning either side of the tabernacle, a powerful reminder of Christ’s death and resurrection and of the priest’s most important role as celebrant of the Eucharist.

As a seminary chapel, the imagery found at nearly every turn brought the lessons of the classroom into profound clarity for the aspiring priests who prayed there—lessons many of us can still benefit from today thanks to the stewardship, generosity, and vision of the Sulpicians and so many others.

In addition to weekday Masses, Our Lady of the Angels offers Masses on Saturdays at 3:45 and 7 p.m. and Sundays at 9:30 and 11:15 a.m.