Thursday, August 29, 2013


UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE: The following photo, circa 1956 in front of our apartment in East Point, GA next to the fence that separated it from the army post, Fort McPherson, is my father, mother, sister and brother and I in our Sunday best and ready to go to Mass at Cantonment Chapel!

On June 7, 2011, the Cantonment Chapel, also known as St. Micheal's Chapel at Fort McPherson, Georgia (bordering the West End of Atlanta and East Point, GA) was closed as has this army post since. My father was stationed there from July of 1956 until March 31 of 1960. We attended this chapel for Sunday Mass and it was in walking distance of our apartment, the entire complex now torn down. Oddly enough the Chapel was closed on the 31st anniversary of my priestly ordination.

In this chapel, I experienced for the first time cognitively the pre-Vatican II Mass and its glories that fascinated me to no end! The bells and smells of this liturgy and the army chaplain who was a good preacher and made us laugh by telling us moral stories of Mr. and Mrs. Spaghetti Bender. I remember especially Midnight Mass and bringing my best friend's mother to it who was a Protestant. She complained that there was too much kneeling and standing!

I also remember the pre-Vatican II reverence of those who attended especially those who after having received Holy Communion would return to their pew and place their head on the pew in front of them and cover their face. I asked my mom out loud what was wrong with them, were they sick or sad? My mom said they were sad that Jesus' died for them!

I also remember a woman fainting in the middle aisle and no one helping her. It was the consecration and no one could be distracted from this awesome moment at Mass!

I also remember the good choir they had which sang in the choir loft and sang the Mass in Gregorian Chant. What I remember too, oddly enough, was the choir coming downstairs first to receive Holy Communion and going up to the altar railing while the priest was having his Holy Communion rite. Then those standing in the aisle would fall to their knees when the priest turned around and proclaimed "Ecce Agnus Dei..." I was impressed that people would do that. Keep in mind I was 3 to 6 years old during this period!

So, maybe my vocation started there! Who knows but God?

It was a simple white frame building, very intimate and at that time with the pre-Vatican II altar and altar railing and I remember very beautiful lace altar clothes that glistened in the church's lights. The pews remain as does the crucifix above the altar and the stations of the cross. I think the stain glass windows were added much later after we moved to Augusta.

Unfortunately this Catholic chapel went through an iconoclasm or wreckovation a few times in the 1970's. The old high altar with the tabernacle was removed and the six candle sticks and the ironing board wooden altar replaced it and the Blessed Sacrament was placed in a side chapel. The choir and organ was brought downstairs next to the altar and the choir loft made into a cry room! Folk music reigned supreme.

Now it is closed...

The Baltimore Review picked up the story and you can read it here!

Great pictures of the building here which are copyrighted so I can't copy them, won't even let me! Look Here!

Read the Army's story on it HERE.


Henry said...

"Then those standing in the aisle would fall to their knees when the priest turned around and proclaimed "Ecce Agnus Dei..."

As we still do, of course. Who could do otherwise?

John Nolan said...

"Cantonment" (pronounced can-toon'-ment) is a word so closely and uniquely associated with British India that I am astonished to find it used in an American context.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

There is also a Cantonment, Florida in the Florida Panhandle near Pensacola.