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This unboxing video is divine: A portable altar from 1937

the ultimate unboxing of irish dominicans

Instagram / irishdominicans

Les dominicains de la province d'Irlande ont de sacrées archives à dévoiler !

Aleteia - published on 01/24/24

On their Instagram account, the Dominican friars of the Province of Ireland shared an intriguing video. What could this large wooden box be hiding?

You’ve probably already seen the “unboxing” trend on social networks. “Influencers” reveal to their followers the contents of a package or parcel they’ve received — often sponsored products. The Dominicans of the Irish Province of Dominican Fathers seem to be experts in this field, although they’re not getting a paid sponsorship! 

On Friday, January 5, they posted what they describe as the “ultimate unboxing” on their Instagram account. And their unboxing is indeed particularly impressive, to say the least!

A Dominican friar presents a large wooden box, which we could well compare to Mary Poppins’ suitcase, seeing how much elegantly fits into it. It is in fact a portable altar, and its various compartments contain everything needed to celebrate Mass: a paten, ciborium, relics… and a chasuble. There are even bases for candles that attach to either end of the lid: everything’s taken care of!

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Official account of the Irish Province of Dominican Friars (@irishdominicans)

From the archives

While this beautiful object piqued the curiosity of thousands of internet users, the Dominicans didn’t let the mystery linger for long. The text accompanying the video explains the box’s nature and origin.  As the Dominicans explain, it was a gift offered in 1937 to Dominican friar Patrick Finbar Ryan, the archbishop of Port of Spain, Trinidad. It was presented to him by the clergy of his Irish hometown, Cork.

Some elements of the altar are now missing, notably the crucifix that would be mounted in a slot on the top of the box, between the candles.

This Mass kit was designed to celebrate Mass according to the rite in use in the first half of the 20th century (before the liturgical reform mandated by Vatican II). However, its owner also celebrated Masses with it in the Novus Ordo after the Second Vatican Council, as the Dominicans report in the comments. They now preserve the treasured Mass kit in their archives, and it hasn’t been used for many years.

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