These days find one of their principal Scriptural warrants in the Book of Revelation which offers a vision of life with God that dazzles all the senses. Consider the passage from Chapter 7 chosen for the first reading at the Mass of All Saints. St. John writes, “…I had a vision of great multitude, which no one could count, from over nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb. ‘”
It staggers the imagination to imagine the holy men and women of every time and place standing in serene worship before God. The image captures the joy and freedom God’s beloved will know at journey’s end. Not only have these men and women overcome sin’s damaging effects, but they have transcended the barriers human society erects between people in every age.
We could dismiss this imagery as so much wishful thinking if the reality of it was not under our noses. As far away as the saints in glory might seem to us, we can spy them becoming themselves in the next pew, even in our own pew. Is that luminous throng standing before the Throne so entirely different from our crowd at Sunday Mass? The terrestrial church we see on Sundays is also gathered from all kinds of tribes, and pocketbooks, addresses, and agendas. We also stand before God and sing His praises, even though we lack the understanding we hope for in the Day of the Lord. In fact, the worship we offer now does prepare for that which will be eternal.
We can make the connection most easily when we are singing, and singing for its own sake.
Oftentimes we sing to accompany an action, and that may give the impression that somehow we are filling an otherwise awkward silence. I remember the invitation from my childhood, “Let us stand and greet our celebrant, singing hymn #206.” This was an erroneous way to think of the entrance song, but it gave the impression of utility, even if it made the celebrant feel like a head of state. Sometimes our singing in such moments gives important definition and interpretation to what is taking place, whether that be the ministers approaching the altar, or the faithful walking to Holy Communion. This correlation of word and action could fill its own bulletin letter.
But there are other times when we sing for the direct praise of God and His works. The pre-eminent place in the Mass for this ministry of ours is the Gloria. At this point in the Mass we stand still and sing this ancient hymn, or in the Solemn Mass, the choir may sing it for us. The Liturgy here tasks us with concentrating on a text. As we sing it, the text, passing inside us week after week, forms our perception of the dynamic and unfailing love connecting the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the love that shapes us now and will welcome us eternally.
The Mass offers another instance of such common singing, and this is the Hymn of Thanksgiving we sing together at both churches, upon the completion of Holy Communion. Here again, the Congregation, having tasted and seen that the Lord is good gives voice to a common text that interprets the shared experience of Communion on that day, whether it be in Lent, or Easter, or a Feast like All Saints. Obviously, we also need to give room for the individual experience of Holy Communion proper to each one of us. Silence will be the irreplaceable setting for that, but silent prayer itself gives rise to the hymn which follows.
Since we are not distracted at this point by a procession, we have the opportunity to follow the significant texts of the hymns as they develop from verse to verse. The hymns often present beautifully articulated imagery for the mystery of the Eucharist and for the seasons of the Church year. In so many ways Scriptural texts have pride of place in the Liturgy in their capacity to shape us morally and spiritually. But in the hymns we also give scope to the non-biblical perspectives on our intimacy with Christ.
Liturgically, and otherwise, may these days leave us grateful for having been pulled by the Spirit into the crowd of Christ’s Body and to find in its singing a wonderful solidarity with the crowd on high, and the crowd on the way.
The summons to growth never relents. I write you these lines on Sunday evening, a week in advance of your reading them. Of such preparedness I have never dreamt of; writing for the bulletin has come as a rare triumph at mid-week and a more frequent scramble on Friday morning. However, we have adopted a new bulletin regimen which will necessitate our sending the whole affair off to the printer on Tuesday, so circumstances demand new foresight.
Actually, the adjustment fits the season, which takes foresight and vigilance as its liturgical watchwords. Looking ahead from this Sunday, we behold the vista of days from All Saints to Thanksgiving. Here the liturgy offers a startling counterpoint to the gathering gloom of November, and celebrates the brightness of Christ’s Kingdom, the happiness of those who share its fullness, and the hope of those who are on the way there. The faith of the Church does not so much defy darkness as see through it. Those who pray Evening Prayer celebrate Christ as the Light in their darkness at each twilight. The sun is setting on nature’s year and we look beyond the cycle of seasons, believing that at our core, we were made for a place beyond winters.
Our trail of evidence for this conviction begins at the Empty Tomb and follows the history of those men and women who have lived free lives in this world, seeing through its darkness to the truth that Jesus lives. These are the Saints, canonized or not, who lived in grey cities but always perceived the new Jerusalem just over the horizon. For them the “New Heavens and a New Earth” promised by the Book of Revelation offered no escape from reality, but rather the license to live an undefended life in the presence of God and of their companions.
For those who believe, it is never too late to join their company. Even the death of the body does not prevent it, because God’s purifying love completes what we have not. The teaching of purgatory does not frighten, but consoles believers who struggle with the Gospel in all kinds of ways. All Souls Day reminds us that God has made His love for the Faithful Departed everybody’s business. He makes us neighbors of the dead, and we, the living, learn to see through the ultimate darkness by interceding for them.
The foregoing comes to you as an invitation to embrace November as its own season, an opportunity to live faith deeply before the commotion that December surely will bring. Consider our program.
On Sunday, November 1, the Solemnity of All Saints. We will have Solemn Evening Prayer at St. Vincent’s at 4 PM, followed by a parish party. There will be special preaching this weekend at all the Masses.
The next day, Monday, November 2, All Souls Day, we will celebrate our Parish Requiem at St. Catherine’s at 6:30 PM. There will also be a procession to the Altar of the Holy Souls.
Parish Study returns to St. Vincent Ferrer on November 3 at 7 PM. On this evening we will study the history of the Dominican Presence in the Archdiocese of New York.
On Saturday, November 7, the Feast of All Saints of the Order of Preachers, the Friars of the Order begin the Jubilee of our eight-hundredth anniversary. There will also be special preaching this weekend at all the Masses.
On Monday, November 9, the Parish Council of our new parish will meet for the first time.
Parish Study continues at St. Vincent Ferrer on Tuesday, November 10. Come and ponder a question central to our situation, “What is a Parish?”
On Monday, November 16, we will host a Requiem Mass in the Dominican Rite at St. Catherine’s at 6:30 PM. This liturgy is jointly sponsored by the Society of Catholic Artists and the New York Purgatorial Society.
On Tuesday, November 17, Parish Study will take place in St. Vincent Ferrer’s Church and we will examine the history of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish and Church.
The weekend of November 21-22 brings us to the Feast of Christ the King. St. Vincent Ferrer’s hosts its annual all night watch in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
On Tuesday, November 24, Parish Study will take a Thanksgiving Recess.
Thanksgiving Day comes on Thursday, November 26. We will have Low Mass at St. Vincent’s at 9 AM and Sung Mass at St. Catherine’s at 10 AM.
This past Tuesday night at Parish Study, Fr. Innocent Smith spoke eloquently of the nature of Christ’s Universal Church of the Baptized. He made the beautiful assessment that the Church mirrors Christ’s hypostatic union of human and divine natures. She is a gathering of souls held in unity of faith, and in concert of gifts, by the Holy Spirit, and this communion of souls holds across the very boundaries of death. At the same time, the Church manifests Christ’s humanity, for she is subject to change as she moves through time toward her final and complete encounter with her Lord. With paradoxical beauty, she holds to a constancy of belief, but at the same time, and without inconsistency, she takes on aspects of each age though which she passes.
The paradox of constancy and change offers a way to look at the local Church, which seeks to live the Gospel within very specific boundaries of time and place. The Archdiocese of New York, passing through Making All Things New, bears in herself all the marks of the Universal Church in every time and place. By extension, since our parish forms part of the Church we will also expect to see among us what is perennial and what is changeable in her nature. We can expect that a moment of growth, such as our merger, will make our community become more truly “church.”
Our own move through time has been marked by many losses among our parish staff to retirement and new employment. It will be important then to register our newest gain and the growth it entails for the administration of our parish. This week, Lee Ann Rubino joined our staff as Business Manager. She will have charge of managing our two sets of church buildings. She will also supervise all the functions of our Parish Office and staff. Her work will be key to the in-fact merger which is unfolding bit by bit over the course of this parish year. I hope you will make her welcome as she works to establish the kind of working environment that brings empowerment and serenity to all who enter it for any length of time.
Those who look will find another great asset of the new parish in the Shrine of Saint Jude located near the entrance of the Church of St. Catherine of Siena. To St. Jude’s shrine have come countless sick, their families, and their caregivers seeking encouragement, solace, and renewal of the virtue of hope. The Apostle Jude has become the saint people seek out to pray for God’s intervention when all the obvious means of help have gone. Jude is the saint appointed by the faithful to counter despair.
Each year the shrine sponsors nine days of prayer and preaching before the celebration of the Apostle’s feast on October 28. Please consider the areas of life that challenge your hope and come bring them to prayer. We will have novena services at the noon and 5:15 pm Masses at the Church of St. Catherine from October 20 to October 28. The preaching will address the topic “The Practice of Justice and the Ground of Hope.” We will be speaking about how the work we do at perfecting human relationships gives us a deeper and more confident longing for the truly perfect relationship with God, which comes as His gift. By working with what human life can provide, we come to terms with what it cannot, and we look to Him who alone can make up the difference.
This weekend at St. Vincent’s, the Finance Council of that portion of the parish will give its report at all of the Masses. I would like to thank them in advance for their great diligence, skill, and very excellent collegial spirit. We hope to get the numbers for St. Catherine’s in the next few weeks. When we do, the St. Catherine’s Finance Council will make its report. The work of both groups will provide a foundation for the detailed work of the merger ahead.
Steadily, but gently I hope, we have been uniting aspects of Parish life. Since Pat Keegan has retired, Rachel Miller has been bravely producing two bulletins. Obviously, the time has come to craft a unified bulletin for us all. Fr. Innocent and Rachel are crafting a design, and we hope to have it ready to go by November 1. Details will follow.
We have already united the two prayer lists into one. If you would like to place a name on this list, either for the sick or for the dead, please call Rachel at 212.744.2080. Names put on the list will be read once at Mass and then be in the bulletin for the next three weeks. Please feel free to place the names of the sick back into the cycle.
P.S. Dates to Note:
November 1 Solemn Vespers of All Saints at 4PM at St. Vincent’s
November 2 Solemn Parish Requiem at 6:30PM at St. Catherine’s
November 3 Parish Study shifts to St. Vincent’s for the month.
Columbus Day weekend, for me, makes the real break from Summer to Autumn, which runs until the turkey is on the table. At this hinge in the year, let me try to situate us in the stream of events.
Last Sunday’s celebration of Confirmations by Bishop Walsh at St. Vincent’s was also the welcoming Mass for the freshmen class at St. Vincent Ferrer High School. With its celebration, it seems fair to say that this singular parish year is in full swing, and that the ritual aspect of our canonical merger is complete.
The administrative work of the in-fact merger has only just begun. It would only be candid to say that we begin this work in a stance of deficit. At St. Catherine’s Steven Picciano, Business Manager, and Kelly McNamee, Administrative Assistant, now serve as the newly formed administrative staff of the Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry of New York. In the whole wave of changes, I do not think we have thanked Steven and Kelly in these pages for the industry and skill they brought to their service in the parish. Fr Jordan Kelly and lay collaborators made it clear that their help was invaluable in the development of the ministry and culture of St. Catherine’s Parish. In particular, the parish benefitted enormously from their facility with technology. Br. Ignatius and the Chaplains, Fr. David Adiletta, Fr. Jonah Pollock, and Fr John Devaney are blessed to have their assistance.
When this change is set beside the retirements of Pat Keegan and Yvonne Scally after long service, as Parish Secretary and Receptionist respectively, at St. Vincent Ferrer, it makes for a major break in the continuity of the daily administration of the parish. I find it a great consolation that all those who have left our employ are well-situated, at the same time it comes as a hard realization that in a workplace one comes to take much for granted. Deacon Richard Cheu has been sent to us by the Archdiocese to help us work out the challenges of the merger. Rachel Miller at St. Vincent’s and Sister Padraic Mary have worked with grace and perseverance to deal with the loose ends and unexplained mysteries. I want to give thanks publicly for all this help, and for the forbearance of so many in the parish and in the Dominican communities.
I anticipate that next week I will be writing to welcome a new permanent Business Manager to our parish. With the filling of this position I hope that we will be establishing a new order and coherence to our administration of affairs, allowing for a more attentive pastoral practice.
The Finance Council for St. Vincent Ferrer will meet this week to review the financial report for the Fiscal year just ended on August 31. They will report to the parish at the Masses at St. Vincent’s on the weekend of the 17th and 18th. The Finance Council for St. Catherine’s will also plan to meet and report as soon as figures are available. Given the change in administration, that will probably take place in November.
As of this writing, Parish Study has met three times with three different Friar presenters. The results have been very gratifying, and we Friars are now speaking about the best ways in which to share the fruits of this work with the Parish.
Let me remind you that you are welcome to submit names of the ill and the deceased to Rachel Miller at St. Vincent’s so that we might pray for them. The names will be read once at Mass and then appear in the bulletin for three weeks. Feel free to renew the request for prayers at the end of this cycle.
At St. Catherine’s we are due to celebrate the Forty Hours devotion at this time, but frankly, we are not prepared to do it. So, this year, I would like to celebrate our annual period of Solemn Exposition around the Feast of St. Catherine in April.
What will proceed however is the annual novena of prayer and preaching sponsored by the Shrine of St. Jude the Apostle at St. Catherine’s in preparation for his feast on October 28. Some may not realize that his shrine in St. Catherine’s Church has proven to be a popular and effective place of prayer for the sick, their families, medical professionals, and many others. St. Jude is venerated as the saint who brings “visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired.” Thus St. Jude stands among the saints as a bringer of fresh hope. The Novena and its prayers will be carried out at the 12PM and 5:15PM Masses at St. Catherine’s. This year I have been asked to preach it. I am offering this topic, “The Practice of Justice and the Ground of Hope.” We will be speaking about how the work we do at perfecting human relationships gives us a deeper and more confident longing for the truly perfect relationship with God, which comes as His gift. By working with what human life can provide, we come to terms with what it cannot, and we look to Him who alone can make up the difference.
Please also mark your calendars for Sunday, November 1, the Solemnity of All Saints. We will honor this feast with Solemn Vespers at St. Vincent Ferrer at 4PM. This will be followed by a parish party. On the following day, the Commemoration of All Souls, we will celebrate a Solemn Mass for the Dead at St. Catherine’s at 6:30 PM.
This week at Parish Study, Fr. Jonah made available to us, with great clarity, St. Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of truth (veritas) as a correspondence between the idea in my mind and the reality of God, and of the world as He has made it to be.
If I seek after Truth then I will make good use of “reality checks.” For all of us baptized people, such doses of reality should come to us in the form of preaching. When I commit to worshipping with a parish, I, with intention, open myself to hearing the truth in that community. The preaching, practices, and policies of the community will activate a certain fidelity as I struggle with their divergence from my opinion. Spiritual, social, and intellectual growth demands wrestling such as this. I will avoid the work and the growth if I seek a place where they tell me what I want to hear and where nothing of their life makes me uncomfortable.
Dominicans accept a further and more intimate reality check in our common life. I find that my Brothers, and my Sisters, have ways of building me up out of discouragement and of popping my balloon of pride, without even knowing that they do this. I should imagine that marriage functions in similar ways.
I find that my leadership succeeds or fails to the extent that I make it safe for people to level with me. They may find that security in the way I interact, but I hope they also find it in my respect for the structures which give them voice. It falls to the one in charge to say over and over again, “You are a parishioner,” “You are a member of the Parish Council”, “You are a member of the Finance Council,” or “You are the one volunteering your time,” and you therefore have my ear. When distraction or emotion closes my ear, then I must seek forgiveness.
The law of the Church gives Pastors wide authority, but reality surrounds them with stakeholders, and an abundance of stakeholders brings complexity and stability. Governance that takes account of stakeholders will be more slow, and perhaps more tentative. Such a polity gives less room for grand plans swept into place. Its processes will be messier but bring durable results. A variety of stakeholders makes for a sound “reality check.” By contrast, fallen autocracies make the debris of history.
At the present time we are laying the groundwork for good decision making. The Parish Inaugural celebration and the Parish Renewal we are beginning with our Tuesday night sessions. Each took shape through the diligence and insights of the Friars; Br, Ignatius, and Frs. Jonah, Innocent, John, and David. Their efforts were matched by the creativity and good sense of our Implementation Team; Tom Warga, Lauretta Bruno, Peter Marchewka, Deacon John Powers, Alessandra Cabras, Sr. Gail Morgan, Steven Picciano, and Lou Zacharilla. I can never say thank you enough for such steady support at a very challenging time.
These events would never have come off the page without generous staff and volunteers, whose energy and demeanor really make an event, and a parish. Steve and Kim Quatela partnered with Saudhi Vargas to coordinate the many generous hands that made our reception so grand. The Liturgy could never have come off without the skillful generosity of Steve Quatela, Michael Silverstein, Mark Bani, and James Wetzel.
Such beginnings can point us toward the permanent reality checks we need. At the moment we are working toward the creation of a united Parish Council, which can be eyes, ears, and sounding board for the Pastor. The Finance Councils of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena will be meeting separately for the present as they prepare reports on the fiscal year just concluded. We will then move toward united Finance and Investment Councils.
Both former parishes have undergone, or will undergo, an audit by the Archdiocese. All of the merged parishes will experience this procedure. Such scrutiny will offer us reliable financials and a path to effective and compliant administration. As you might imagine, a number of things are tabled until the auditors finish their work.
Some may have noticed that we have already united the Prayers of the Faithful used at Sunday Mass, and by extension, the lists of sick and deceased for whom we pray. The lovely custom of praying for the sick carries with it a challenge; we often do not know when people get better, or are called home. So to keep things current here, we will adopt this policy. When names are proposed for prayer, they will be read during the Prayers of the Faithful one time. From there they will pass into the bulletin, where they will remain for three weeks. Of course, the name of a sick person may be put back on the list for another cycle.
Let me conclude by thanking everyone for the patience characterized by this entire community during recent months. This attitude has made all the difference. In these pages, we will make it our responsibility to keep you posted as there are developments.