Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston, Massachusetts, USA


Info and corrections →

Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Cathedral of the Holy Cross
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Date of visit: Thursday, 9 April 2009, 7:30pm

The building

A Gothic Revival building of variegated Roxbury puddingstone with gray limestone trim. It dates from 1875 and is the work of the 19th century Irish-American architect Patrick Keely, who designed hundreds of churches in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Quebec, Nova Scotia and elsewhere. The cathedral is a large and impressive building, covering an area of some 46,000 square feet. The planned western spire was never completed. The interior is quintessentially Gothic, with arches, ribbing, transept, apse, impressive stained glass, and elaborate reredos. Richard Cardinal Cushing, archbishop of Boston from 1944 to 1970, did not care for the cathedral's original decor and had most of it painted over in drab green. However, a major restoration effort was begun in 1998.

The church

This is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. It serves an ethnically diverse community.

The neighborhood

The cathedral is in Boston's South End, at one time a very run-down section. Recent years have seen it transformed into a very trendy upscale area. Still, a large public housing development sits across the street.

The cast

The Revd David Taurasi, celebrant; Frank Doyle, master of ceremonies; John Salisbury, music director. Also assisting were about a dozen acolytes, both men and boys.

What was the name of the service?

Mass of the Lord's Supper in the Extraordinary Form (Latin Tridentine rite, 1962 Missal)

How full was the building?

Mostly full. The Tridentine mass was held in the cathedral's newly renovated lower church while His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop presided at a novus ordo mass upstairs.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

As we entered, an usher said "Welcome" and handed us a hymnal and a sheet with the readings for the day.

Was your pew comfortable?

Yes, very comfortable. Plenty of room for kneeling on new comfortable kneelers.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet and reverential.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam." ("I will go the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth.")

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Worship Resources, with the order of the mass in English and Latin, accompanied by a sheet with hymns and the readings.

What musical instruments were played?


Did anything distract you?

The smell of fresh paint. This was the first mass since renovations in the lower church were completed.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Very reverential, by-the-book Latin Tridentine mass, eastward facing, of course. Father Taurasi wore Roman style vestments, not Gothic, but entered in a biretta. It was notable that more than a few folks sang the hymns, which is rare in the Tridentine mass. After mass, the Blessed Sacrament was transferred to the altar of repose while young girls wearing white dresses and white chapel veils strew flower petals along the way. The service concluded with the stripping of the altar.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

7 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

9 – Excellent projection, strong voice.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Father spoke of how Holy Thursday prepares us for Easter.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The whole thing, particularly the stripping of the altar.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

People wandering around taking pictures during the mass.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

It cleared out pretty quickly, it being a "work night." One humorous moment came when we bumped into a television crew that had recorded the upstairs mass by the archbishop, who didn't seem to know there was another mass downstairs.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Not applicable.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 – Unfortunately the Tridentine mass isn't until 11.00am on Sundays and the parking is poor. I would not be interested in attending the regular services.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?


What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The little girls scattering rose pedals before the recessional as the Blessed Sacrament was moved to the altar of repose.

Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you’d like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.

Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Comments and corrections

To comment, please scroll to the end of this report and add your thoughts there. To send us factual corrections, please contact us. We also discuss reports on our Ecclesiantics bulletin board.

© Ship of Fools