Posts Tagged ‘Sv. Tomas’

11:06 am

sv Tomas and The Augustine

My parish here is sv Tomáš.

(The church is tucked into an alley, which makes it difficult to get a good shot.) It was established in the 13th century and there is an Augustinian monastery attached to it. The summer refectory and cloister gardens are used for such gatherings as hospitality after Mass and the annual parish festival:

Father William claims that the cloister garden figures in the carol "Good King Wenceslaus": this is where the poor man was gathering his winter fuel.

The monastery, though, was built for dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of monks, but is now home to only six. This is a common story in Prague: there are dozens of churches and monasteries for which there is little or no need in this era. Rather than demolish them, however, they tend to be repurposed. And so some, such as sv. Mikuláš (both the Jesuit-built one in Malá Strana and the Hussite one near Staroměstské náměstí), are used primarily for concerts, and others, such as Klášter sv. Anežky České (the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia) or Klášter sv. Jiŕí (St. George Convent) have become museums.

Part of the monastery at sv. Tomáš, though, has now become a hotel. The Augustine is Prague’s newest 5-star hotel. The hotel also bought the recipe to sv. Tomáš’s beer (the monks stopped brewing it in 1952, although some guidebooks still contain references to it), and they’re serving it in their bars and restaurants.

I visited on Saturday, after Mass (about 7 PM). This is not a good time to be opening a 5-star hotel, and the place was largely deserted. When I visited The Brewery, located appropriately enough in the former monastery brewery, there was only one occupied table, and they left shortly after I arrived. I enjoyed a pleasant chat with the bartender, who was understandably lonely, poor girl.

I had a glass of the sv. Tomáš beer, which was tasty: dark, but not bitter. At 55 Kc (approximately $3) for 0.3 liter, though, I don’t see it catching on.

I also wandered upstairs to check out Tom’s Bar which adjoins the restaurant. It’s a beautiful space, but again only one table was occupied. It looked as though there was only one occupied table in the restaurant as well. I don’t know if live music is a nightly feature or only on weekends:

I wonder what Václav II, who established the church and monastery, would think of this.

9:44 am

Svata Dobrotiva

Last year, I joined the pilgrimage to svatá Dobrotivá. This year, I did so again.

The experience was very similar to last year’s: the bus ride to Olešna, where we began our procession:

Then the cross-country procession. I remain amazed that the area surrounding Prague becomes so quickly pastoral on leaving the city:

The Augustinians (with the help of some of sv. Tomáš’s parishioners) are continuing to restore the monastery, with the view of turning it into a family retreat center. They’ve made a fair amount of progress since last year:

But there’s still a good deal more:

The church, too, is only partially restored. The main altar has been finished, of course:

But the side altars and aisles still need work:

12:39 pm

Corpus Christi

For the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (formerly known as Corpus Christi), sv. Tomáš again had one of these joint Czech / Spanish / English liturgies. The reason for the joint liturgy was to ensure that we would have enough time for a procession after Mass:

We processed from sv. Tomáš to sv. Josef, which we entered and had a brief prayer and hymn in Spanish. From sv. Josef we went on to the Order of Malta church of Panna Marie Pod Retězem (Our Lady Beneath the Chain), where we switched to English for our prayer and hymn.

Aside: I’ve never heard of a devotion to "Our Lady Beneath the Chain". On Googling, the closest I could find was a devotion to Our Lady of the Chain, which originated at the end of the 14th century in Sicily, but apparently made it Malta early on. So I think this is just a confusion of prepositions.

The story in brief is of three young men condemned to die on the gallows. While awaiting their execution, in the church of St. Mary of the Port, they were chained, kept under guard, and the doors of the church were securely locked. That night, the guards that were on duty fell asleep and the three condemned men found themselves at the foot of an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They prayed fervently for deliverance. While they were praying, the chains mysteriously fell to the ground. The doors of the church opened by themselves, and they heard these words coming from the image of the Blessed Virgin: "Go, you are free, do not fear. The Divine Infant Whom I hold in my arms has heard your prayers and has granted your freedom." The prisoners silently walked out of the Church.

When the guards awakened, they went after and, finally, caught up with their prisoners. The men would have been chained again and taken away for execution, had it not been for the people who interceded for them with the King. The King, having heard what had happened, granted them their freedom, saying: "The Blessed Virgin Mary has set them free, so will I."

The final stop on our procession was the Infant of Prague church of Panny Marie Vítězné (Our Lady Victorious), where we finished up in Czech.

As on previous occasions when we’ve had processions, we gave the tourists a thrill.

10:08 am

St. John of Nepomuk

Legend has it that St. John of Nepomuk was martyred by Václav IV of Bohemia (AKA Václav the Drunkard) because the king, believing that his wife was cheating on him, tried to force her confessor, John of Nepomuk, to violate the seal of the confessional. Most reputable sources think that the real reason had to do with a power struggle, with John of Nepomuk thwarting the king’s attempt to hand over the abbacy of a wealthy monastery to a candidate of the king’s choosing. A much less interesting story. According to Wikipedia, "John of Nepomuk is seen by Catholics as a martyr to the cause of defending the Seal of the Confessional, by romantic nationalists as a Czech martyr to imperial interference, and by most historians as a victim of a late version of the inveterate investiture controversy between secular rulers and the catholic hierarchy." He is at any rate very popular, and there’s scarcely a (Catholic) church in Prague without a statue or altar dedicated to him.

His feast is May 16 and it’s celebrated by a joint vesper service with the church of sv. Tomáš and the church of St Francis on the other side of the river, and I attended this year’s service. After vespers at sv. Tomáš, the two congregations made a solemn procession across Charles Bridge:

The procession stopped at the statue of St John of Nepomuk to commemorate his martyrdom:

We ended up at the church of St. Francis for a closing benediction.

As at Palm Sunday, the tourists were fascinated by this quaint custom and pictures aplenty were taken.

1:59 am

Pilgrimage to Svata Dobrotiva

While the Augustinians have been at sv. Tomáš since the end of 13th century, svatá Dobrotivá, near Zaječov, was the first Augustinian foundation in the Czech lands. The church and monastery are named for Saint Benigna (and how you get “Dobrotivá” from “Benigna” is a mystery to me), whose relics are kept there. sv. Tomáš holds an annual Marian Pilgrimage there the Saturday of the 6th week of Easter. This year was the 11th such pilgrimage since the practice was resumed.

The Story behind the Pilgrimage

Quoting from the program:
“According with the oldest legend, in the year 1262 Oldrich of Valdek, who was devoted to the Blessed Mother, one night heard in his room a certain whispering, or slight movement, and while still in bed listened to a voice that said:

“Oldřich, this is the will of both my Son and myself that in this place in which you see me standing you would as soon as possible build in his honor and in my name a church and a monastery for my servants and you will receive from my Son whom you willingly serve an ample reward…”

“The tradition said that everybody who went to the sactuary and left their problems at the feet of Mary, she would take them upon herself. Let us go to Mary. Do not forget our petitions. O holy mother.”

The Pilgrimage

I’m told that there were about 85 of us; I’m guessing that roughly 2/3 were Czech and (most of) the rest were English-speakers. (There was one girl who was pointed out to me as being from the Spanish-speaking community, but for the most part, the Spanish-speaking community was not represented. I don’t know why not.) We left Prague at about 8:30 and arrived at Olešna, the starting point for our walk, at about 9:30:

The buses were available to transport those who felt themselves unable to walk the 2 km or so, but the rest of the group set off for Zaječov. The walk took us through some lovely, open countryside:

As we walked through some of the villages along the way, the residents turned out to watch us and even to take pictures. We apparently introduced a marked note of novelty into their day!

There was a little chapel at about the midpoint, where we stopped for the Litany of Loreto:

The monastery complex came into sight a little bit past the chapel:

The cemetery en route is where the priests, parishioners, and benefactors of sv. Tomáš and the Augustinians are buried, and so we paused to pray for their souls:

There is what I think is a war memorial along the side of the monastery as we approached:

And a closer view:

When we reached the church, we processed around the altar to see the place where Our Lady is said to have appeared to Oldřich of Valdek and then sang the "Salve Regina"

The local parishioners turned out to welcome us. While we had been instructed to pack lunches, this turned out to be completely unnecessary: our local hosts were ready for us. Tray upon tray of open faced sandwiches, cookies, seriously addictive baby tarts and more were waiting for us in the refectory. They were extremely gracious in their hospitality, and it seems that this pilgrimage is a high point in the parish’s year.

After lunch, we had free time for exploring the monastery and for the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Mass at 2 PM. We headed back to Prague at about 4 PM.

The Augustinians had been turned out of sv. Dobrotivá by the Communists in 1950, and the monastery subsequently used as an internment camp, refugee asylum and finally a sports museum before being returned in 1998. The Augustinians have been working on its restoration since then, and the church has been largely restored:

Restoration of the cloister, on the other hand, remains an ongoing project and clearly has a long way to go:

(Once a month, on the third Saturday, sv. Tomáš sponsors a "work party" to go down to sv. Dobrotivá to help with the restoration.)

The parish website had a slideshow of last year’s pilgrimage, but apparently it’s no longer available.

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