Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 17, 2014

HIGGS: Historical treasures inside St. Mary of the Cataract

Niagara Gazette — This week we take a look at the interior of St. Mary of the Cataract and some of its treasurers referred to in the document prepared by the Rev. Michael H. Burzynski, PhD a recent pastor. Father Burzynski notes the similarity of the gold and blue crosses on the ceiling are duplicates of the dedication crosses on the exterior of the church towers. His writing refers to the nave of the church as representative of the universe. He describes the symbolic references under each of the arches as symbols of Christ but taken as a whole these images represent the ancient elements (earth, air, water and fire) and the seasons (spring, fall, summer and winter). They are depicted under the interior arches on the right. The front nave arches represent God the Father and the Blessed Mother but together they represent night and day; hence the references to the nave of the church representing the universe. Symbols around the sanctuary show ancient symbols of pilgrimage which Father Burzynski notes is “appropriate for Saint Mary’s being the premier church for visitors to Niagara Falls.”

Michael Parsnick, a local historian who collected many documents relating to the history of this church, made specific reference to me that the tabernacle located in the main altar was donated by the heirs of General Lafayette, the hero of two worlds. We all know that Lafayette was a French aristocrat and became a general in the American Revolutionary War. The left nave altar honors the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the one on the right is in honor of Saint John Neumann who we learned in an earlier column was the founder of the Niagara Falls mission station back in 1836 which later became the church as we know it today.

Statues in the niches represent Mary and Saint Joseph. Beneath the altar of celebration is a wooden box containing the relics of three martyrs and St. John Neumann founder of the local church. Along the side walls of the church are the Stations of the Cross.

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