Bear Anew the Wisdom
All that We Have: The Presidential Chair in the Daily Mass Chapel
Published on July 13-14, 2013 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
The presidential chair in the St. Andrew’s Daily Mass Chapel was built with cherry wood by William D. Fister (1941-2005) in 2001. It graced the main sanctuary of the Church from September 2001 to Lent 2013 until it was moved in Easter 2013 to its present location in the chapel where its size and style best complement that worship space.
The chair was built with eight sides, evoking the shape of the Church’s stone baptismal font in the narthex. Both allude to the ‘eighth day’ following the Sabbath: Sunday, “the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2174). The 24 arches beneath the seat call to mind the arches found in the Church’s windows and bell tower as well as the arched panels of the new Daily Mass altar. Their number—24—also evokes the enthroned elders in the Book of Revelation (4:4, 9-11) who worship the Lamb upon the throne.
There is a large Latin cross at the back of the chair as well as two smaller crosses at the front ends of its arms. The armrests, when lifted, reveal small shelves where hymnals or ritual books can be stored. The wooden bases for the cushions for the seat and the backrest were made by Bill Fister, James Lyons, and Deacon Richard Abbey. These can be changed according to the color of the feast or the season in the liturgical calendar. Mary Beth Lyons had done the upholstery on these cushions using materials from old vestments.
Beneath the seat is a stone from one of the first buildings owned by the parish. It came from the now demolished ‘White House,’ at one time the oldest brick home in Harrodsburg. That home was built around 1795 by Captain David Sutton (ca. 1770-1833) and his wife Sarah Fulkerson Sutton (ca. 1775-1862). Their son-in-law, Dr. Christopher C. Graham (1787-1885), sold it in 1857 to the Reverend Joseph Thomas Ryan, OP (1819-1877), along with the rest of the property on Chiles Street where the parish built its first two Churches. The house itself had been used throughout its history as a rectory for the priests, a convent for the nuns, a chapel for the faithful, and a school for the children. The stone from that house resting underneath this new presidential chair presents a veritable and tangible proof of the continuity of this parish from its origins in Mercer County to its present possessions.
This presidential chair rests beneath a copy of Jan Van Eyck’s painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary. One of the Blessed Mother’s many titles is Seat of Wisdom or Sedes Sapentiae. She is called by that name because she was the vessel of the Incarnate Word and on her lap she nursed the Wisdom from on high. Those who take their seat at this chair are thus reminded to invoke her intercession so that they might bear anew the Wisdom who is Christ to those who gather at this chapel to receive Him in Word and Sacrament.