Some interesting new came from a reader about one of my favorite groups of sisters in the USA, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, near Kansas City, MO.
The sisters make vestments rather more traditional Gothic and Roman designs, as well as altar cloths, albs, etc.
Here is the report from the WDTPRSer:
I was browsing the website of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, and came upon what I believe is the "Irony of the Day."
" Since establishing ourselves in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, we have been greatly blessed in our pursuit of this craft by the heritage we recently received from the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood in O’Fallon, Missouri. They have been making priestly vestments for over one hundred and fifty years. In fact, their distinctive style and the quality of their workmanship became well-known both in the United States and overseas. However, under the present circumstances of their community, the demands of the work have become too burdensome and they have decided to make us their successors in the craft, generously offering to assist us with personal instruction, patterns, materials and equipment. We are very happy to learn from their knowledge and experience! It is difficult to enumerate all the ways they have assisted us, but we would particularly like to acknowledge our gratitude for the motifs which they provided, viewable on our vestment pages."
I then went to the Precious Blood Sisters’ website where I found the following:
"After 150 years the Ecclesiastical Art Department (EAD) is going to enter into a new phase. Instead of taking orders for custom-made vestments and stoles, we will make stoles and vestments which will be sold through our gift shop and through the EAD website. We will discontinue taking orders for vestments at the end of 2008 and orders for stoles at the end of May 2009. For the time being we will continue to make custom sized altar cloths and altar linens and we will still take on a limited number of special projects, for example, a funeral pall. Because we have a backlog of vestments to complete, we will not have ready-made chasubles and dalmatics for sale until 2010."
This irony is only enhanced by the differences in styles of vesture between the two communities, and yet, here is the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, a LCWR-friendly order that is experiencing decline, passing on their work to a traditional order that is growing by leaps and bounds. Amazing!
But not a surprise.
Market forces work here, too. Younger clergy want traditional styles for their liturgical worship.
I looked around on the site of the Benedictines of Mary and found this statement about vestments:
As we stand in the place of Our Lady, we are anxious for the honor of the priesthood and for the great mystery of God’s love for man, which priests renew for us each day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Thus, our prayerful support of the priesthood has inspired us to make the hand-crafting of vestments, priestly apparel, sacred linens and altar clothes a special focus of our work. [I don’t think you would find that as part of the agenda of the LCWR.] We use the finest materials available, primarily pure silks and 100% Belgian Linen, because we believe that the beauty of the altar and the dignity of its sacred ministers signify in an important way the reality of the True Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] Carried out in the Benedictine spirit of contemplative silence, our stitches are interwoven with prayers as we strive to be worthy vessels in the hands of Our Lady, receiving the mercy and grace flowing from the heart of her Son and pouring it out upon His priests. In other words, each stitch is a prayer for the sanctification of the priest who will be using our vestments. [!]
I suspect the Benedictines of Mary will welcome with huge smiles the visitors appointed by the Holy See for the Apostolic Visitation of women religious.