|Archbishop John Bede Polding OSB circa 1860|
Image : The Saint Bede Studio
On 3rd December 1868 -150 years ago - Archbishop John Bede Polding OSB issued a pastoral letter to the Faithful of the Archdiocese of Sydney, calling them to attend the laying of the first stone of their Cathedral. We are pleased to give a lengthy extract from this Pastoral Letter, as follows :
The work of Faith is a nobler thing than the work of sight and, therefore, now that the foundations of dear Cathedral are once more laid, and laid in such magnificent measure and mass, I have a great confidence and joy, as if the whole grand structure were well-nigh half complete. We have buried a mountain of stone, at a cost of more than a year of time, and thousands of pounds in money. Yes, indeed, and we have only just risen above the surface; the edifice as it will, by and by, live in men’s eyes, and as it will raise their hearts, is only now - it may be said -beginning. Is only now beginning: quite true. But then, dear children, it is the foundation, the work of Faith, that is finished and secure …
We must wait yet two or three years until we shall have completed enough to enable us, by the good blessing God, to celebrate the Holy Mysteries on that broad, strong sanctuary, that, even now, risen from the living rock on which reposes below, suggests thoughts of the grandeur and stability of our most holy Faith ...
When our dear old Cathedral, that was so full of many happy, sad, sacred memories - of the times in which it was first planned, of the ornamentations and enlargements that came from time to time; of the faithful, bountiful men of simple, manly hearts that worshipped in it so many years, and are now passed away; of the devoted missionary priests, the Therrys and McEncroes and many others that laboured within it – when that Cathedral had been burnt down to the ground, and lay before your eyes a heap of ruin, then, at that moment, God kindled a flame of zeal in your hearts, and you made an effort that was never surpassed.
Thank God for it, and to thanks to those many kind hearts, who are not with us in visible communion, but who sympathised with us in our distress, and helped us well in word and deed. Now, dearly beloved, it is to revive that flame of zeal, if God Grant me such grace, that I am now addressing you. We have still a noble sum left of the contributions, that on that occasion, amid tears and prayers, you poured into God’s Treasury for the rebuilding of his house; and we have spent too, a noble sum in those grand foundations, which I have specially called the work of Faith.
On Tuesday next, 8th December, the day ever gloriously memorable in the annals of the Church for the Definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the patroness of our Cathedral, we invite you to be present at the ceremony of laying what is technically called the foundation stone. In truth it will be a foundation stone, a cornerstone of the portion of which begins the new era when the beauty and magnificence of the edifice will be visible and comprehensible to all eyes. On that day when we shall begin to realise something of the entire work, I must ask you also to begin a new your contributions to renew them according to your zeal and strength; to renew them in a measure befitting the occasion, and still to renew them as men prepared to continue them year by year after the old temper and fashion of our Catholic Faith …
A note on the image :
Carte-de-visite photographs of Archbishop Polding, vested in a Puginesque cope presented to him during a visit to England and a mitre in the Gothic Revival style, were used as a basis for this sketch of the Archbishop, published around the year 1860. It has been enhanced digitally for presentation on this blog.