I write to you from Nashville, Tennessee. Here, our Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia have extended a lavish southern welcome to our cloistered nuns who have gathered for their quadrennial assembly. In the life of their Association this gathering holds the place of a “chapter” among the Friars. Coming together for 10 days, the Nuns follow their accustomed rhythms of prayer, but they also socialize, receive input from speakers,
legislate for their association, and elect officials for the same. The gathering offers luxury of length, joy of
connection, and stress of governance.
I am present for this gathering because I am assigned by the Holy See to accompany the Association as an advisor and facilitator. This comes as my first service in such a role, and has impelled me to hone new skills. Yet another demanding joy and growth! Facilitation offers the daunting challenge of keeping a group together and the exhilaration of helping it find its own mind. What a happy thing to be able to say, “You know, Sisters, you are actually on the same page.” The more a group has a sense of its collective wisdom, the more confidently, and swiftly it can address the issues that emerge in its life.
The dates for this Assembly were set years ago, before I was part of the picture. So, I have been able to see for a long time that there would be a collision between this set of demands and those presented every year by the beginning of parish life. This would pose a challenge in any year, but in this year of so many initiatives it raised serious concerns for me. I took counsel with my Brothers, staff, and parishioners, and asked if we should postpone anything until my return. To a person, they said “No”. The next comment was always some form of, “it will be good for the parish to go on without you.”
This was followed by lots of planning with lots of people about lots of things. We had to get ready for the beginning of Parish Study, the all night watch on September 14-15, the beginning of religious education, the invitation to parish involvement on September 18, and the first Parish Vespers on the same day.
From idea to execution, the Community of the Parish came forward in splendid fashion to take
ownership of its own life. I could see it coming in the steady willingness of people to take on new things, or do old things in new ways. I could also hear it in the voices of people when I called to check in and heard so many fine reports, and I could read of it in the packet sent to me with the relevant programs. I can never say how encouraged and gratified I am by the investment of so many in our common good. Friars and Sisters, staff and parishioners claimed their roles with generosity and panache. What results from such commitment is not just successful events, but patterns of life that will nourish all of us for a long time to come.
Of course I also had the Nuns praying for blessings on all our endeavors, and they are a powerhouse!
As you read these lines, September wanes and October’s gifts come into view.
Next Sunday, October 2, we resume Solemn Mass at Noon at St. Vincent Ferrer. Bishop Walsh will be present to confirm our young people and the Freshmen from our High School will be present to be welcomed into our community.
We will begin a drive for supplies for infants and their mothers to assist in the work of the Sisters of Life.
We celebrate, on Friday, October 7, the great Dominican feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, with a Sung Mass and Rosary procession at St. Catherine’s.
Otherwise, we can pray for a normal month in which to enjoy God’s beautiful autumn.
Beginning this fall, the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer will host Masses sponsored by the New York Purgatorial Society once a month. The first Mass, celebrated in the Dominican Rite, will take place at the Rosary Altar at St. Vincent Ferrer on Monday, September 26, at 7 pm. The full schedule may be consulted in the image below:
In the weekly bulletins over the past few months, much has been written about music, and I urge you to visit Parish website’s bulletin archive, specifically the pastoral letters of May 8, May 15, June 5, June 26, and my letter of introduction on August 28. That music has received so much consideration in the merger and continues to be a focal point in our common life testifies to its indispensable role as handmaiden of the sacred liturgy and our clergy’s commitment to its excellence. But practically speaking what does all this mean for someone in the pews? What can you expect? And how can you most effectively take advantage of all that the Parish has to offer? Here is a start:
THE SUNG MASS
Since July, all of the Parish’s Masses with music have had essentially the same outline, providing a healthy commonality of experience. This form – Sung Mass – will continue at the evening Masses at both churches. The Mass Ordinary of the Roman Missal will be sung through Ordinary Time. The major Propers (the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion Antiphons) are chanted by the cantor in an English translation of the Latin texts found in the Graduale Romanum, the official chant book of the Roman Church. Each of the three Masses is slightly different: the Saturday 6:00 PM includes the Post-Communion hymn; the Sunday 6:00 PM is preceded by Vespers (more on that further on); and the Sunday 5:00 PM is an a cappella Mass with cantor only, offering a more contemplative variation. Several Low Masses (without music) are also offered each weekend.
THE HIGH MASS
The 10:00 AM Sunday Mass at St. Catherine’s is the Parish’s ‘Family Mass’ at which, beginning on September 11th, the burgeoning volunteer Parish Choir sings. Initial response for members has been very promising, with people joining from both churches and from the wider community! The ensemble rehearses at 9:00 AM on Sunday mornings in St. Dominic’s Hall, and any adult is welcome and encouraged to join! As the group gains traction, it will eventually become responsible for the Propers and will learn simple motets. For more information, simply contact me or stop-by after Mass.
THE SOLEMN MASS
The Solemn Mass is at the heart of the Parish’s liturgical life. As such, it is celebrated on Sundays (at 12:00 Noon at St. Vincent’s), on major feast days, and to mark important occasions in the community. Additional prayers sung by the congregation at this Mass include the Credo and a seasonally-changing Marian Antiphon after the dismissal. The celebrant’s orations and other responsory prayers (e.g. Preface dialogue) are also chanted.
The Schola Cantorum, the Parish’s professional ensemble of eight singers, will sing for this Mass, beginning on October 2nd. Schola Cantorum is the official term used by the Roman Church to denote a liturgical choir and literally means ‘school of singing’. The Schola will chant the Latin Propers (including the Alleluia) according to the Dominican Graduale, the chant book particular to the Order of Preachers. Offertory and Communion motets will follow the Antiphons, and on feast days a choral Ordinary will be offered. This broad range of repertoire will survey the very best in the treasured patrimony of Catholic polyphony.
Vespers will be offered each Sunday at 5:15 PM at St. Vincent’s, beginning September 18th. This sung Office of Evening Prayer includes a hymn, a selection of psalms, a Scripture reading, a responsory, and the Magnificat – the Canticle of Mary.
Public celebration of the Divine Office in the modern Church is unfortunately rare, and thus the typical person may be apprehensive to attend a service with which he is unaccustomed, for fear of not knowing what to do. To combat this unfamiliarity, a 4:30 PM instructional class in St. Vincent’s Parish Hall will precede the liturgy. At first, this class will simply cover the basics of how to chant those parts for which the congregation is responsible. Eventually, the class’s scope will expand to include some musical and liturgical history. While in some respects the experience will be cumulative, do not be discouraged from attending if you can only do so occasionally!
BEYOND THE FALL
This is just a foretaste of things to come! A brochure will soon be distributed detailing all of the musical liturgies for the season, including weekday feasts and special services such as Lessons and Carols! The brochure, as well as a forthcoming appeal letter, will also provide information about the Parish’s Friends of Music – the apparatus through which you can financially support the program. People from both churches have been very generous in the past, and I entreat your continued benevolence. More importantly, I hope that you will participate evermore fully in the liturgical role given to you by Mother Church as members of the faithful: to sing with a full heart and listen with an open mind. The leaflets we print are meant to aid in both actions, so please use them! And above all, as you offer prayers, please include one for the musicians of the Parish, that we may worthily magnify God’s holy name through the work of our vocation.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Beginning on Sunday, September 18, the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena will celebrate Vespers each Sunday evening at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer. This sung Office of Evening Prayer includes a hymn, a selection of psalms, a Scripture reading, a responsory, and the Magnificat – the Canticle of Mary.
At 4:30 pm, a singing class will be offered to allow anyone who attends to learn the chants for that week. Vespers will then be celebrated at 5:15 pm. All are welcome!
9/14 offers a way to look at 9/11.
This Week we celebrate the Triumph of the Cross. Historically, the feast commemorates the finding of the True Cross by St. Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. But at a deeper level the day celebrates God’s great work of reversal. The cross began life as an
instrument of execution, with the same claim to exaltation, as say a guillotine or an electric chair. Yet Christ has left us the Cross as an emblem of redemption and mercy. Now we wear it around our necks, gold leaf it and mount it on our churches, and lovingly trace it upon ourselves at life’s most crucial moments. How does this reorientation come about?
The answer appears in the very Passion of the Lord. Alone in the Garden, Jesus reveals that He in His
humanity, does not want the Cross. Further, the authorities lay it on his shoulders as a burden unmanageable even for one whose humanity is faultless. After carrying it to Golgotha, the Cross becomes an instrument of degradation, pain, and death. But from Jesus Crucified flee his friends and followers, and by its earthly power it seems to evaporate the effectiveness of his ministry.
In short, the cross brings down upon Jesus what we fear most, falling alone to the bottom of life. The Cross invites us to recognize that we are all at risk of losing health, wealth, companions, and even reputation. Of course, in death, we all fall to the bottom. Moreover, the exalted Cross of Christ does not promise Christians that this will not happen to us, but it does signify that God is more powerful than falling to the bottom of life and so the Resurrection shines out from the Death of Christ as the Father’s testimony to this.
The mystery of the Cross makes it powerful for us to look straight at the things we fear. First, we admit the truth of our fears, grounded in a realization of the fragility of human life and circumstance. Then, in faith we recognize that God is more powerful than what we fear, even if what we fear transpires.
As a daily challenge, I try to look directly at the homeless in our streets, and to see in them my own
economic, even emotional vulnerability. The cliché, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” captures this. But my gaze must also draw upon my faith to recognize that even if I were to lose my human moorings, I would not lose God. Resurrection faith is not magical, it takes clear account of the vicissitudes of human life, but also of a vastly more potent divine life.
For people of faith a commemoration such as 9/11 demands contemplation on several levels. First we gaze upon the terrible loss of life, and the gratuitous violence that wrought it. But then we also allow the attacks to show us the fragility of our civilization, even in this technological age. Subsequent terrorist attacks, and the rise of ISIS have continued to impress this message upon our minds and imaginations. Hopefully a deep
consideration of our social vulnerability does not shut us down, but enables us to grasp the preciousness of the common life we share. Further, an anniversary such as this draws the roots of our faith further down into the soil of God to find the water of reassurance that no terrorism is more powerful than God, even if it appears to succeed.
I invite you to celebrate with our parish community the great feast of the Holy Cross, this coming
Wednesday, September 14, and its companion Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on the following day, Thursday, September 15. These days offer a singular chance to behold God’s presence to the suffering and through the suffering. He does not take away the bottom of human life, but makes it the way to His life.
Triumph of the Holy Cross — Our Lady of Sorrows
All Night Vigil
September 14–15, 2016
Church of St. Catherine of Siena
411 East 68th Street, New York, NY
6:00 pm Confessions
6:30 pm Mass for the Triumph of the Holy Cross
7:30 pm Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
7:30 pm Confessions
7:30 pm Vespers (with the Sisters of Life)
7:50 pm The Source (with the Sisters of Life)
10:00 pm Office of Readings / Compline
12:00 am Divine Mercy Chaplet
2:00 am Joyful Mysteries
3:00 am Sorrowful Mysteries
4:00 am Luminous Mysteries
5:00 am Glorious Mysteries
6:00 am Lauds
6:00 am Confessions
6:45 am Benediction
7:00 am Mass for Our Lady of Sorrows
Special Prayer Intentions:
For the victims of terrorism
For the sick and those who care for them
These days invite us to consider work, and perhaps we do so from a variety of angles. Some of us are grateful for the work we have, and some of us are longing to have any kind of work at all. Work fulfills many of us profoundly, and others it oppresses in equal measure. For many, work is something to resume at this time; others have come to summer’s end without letting up and their frustration simmers.
Perhaps we take note more slowly of work we share. Some things rate as group tasks. For example, presidential elections are a common work of the whole national electorate. In general people feel obliged to ponder the options and come to some kind of decision, even if they do not actually vote. For most of us this discernment includes talking to our friends and trading thoughts back and forth. Everyone engages this endeavor in some way, unless they avoid every means of public communication.
Moments like this elicit a desire to be part of them. Fourth of July fireworks offer a great visual and sonic spectacle, but they also put us in touch with the gift of being a resident of the United States, and so people drive, walk, and sail to be part of them, or they make sure to bring a national moment into their living room via TV.
The time for a very solemn shared work approaches. It will be our task to remember those who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In remembering them, we also recall the horror that overtook them and deplore the attacks on innocent life that have followed in its wake. This is to stand for the sanctity of lives, and for the holiness of life; shared life at work, at play, and at worship. We assert the godliness of ordinary life; in building things, in raising children, and in making love. The fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 falls on a Sunday, and so we are positioned to participate as a community in this city’s, and this nations, shared task of commemoration.
We will commemorate these fallen at the 10 AM High Mass at St. Catherine’s. After Mass, there will be procession to the Altar of the Holy Souls for prayers. Since this altar is a “purgatorial” altar, it invites us to remember that for God all souls live and that Christ’s redemptive purpose is never frustrated except by explicit rejection. Terrorism never has success against God.
May we, in this liturgy, disabuse ourselves about the capacity of violence either to change our minds or to make us afraid. May we harken again to the clarity and absolute power of the Cross of Christ.
As God’s providence would have it the feast of the Cross follows 9/11 by three days. On Wednesday, September 14 we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and its companion, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows follows the next day. The Passion of the Lord and the Compassion of the Sorrowful Mother together speak volumes about God’s regard for those who suffer and those who walk with them.
How privileged is our parish to have so close at hand the mysteries of passion and compassion. The patients at Sloan Kettering, New York Presbyterian, and the Hospital for Special Surgery, as well as the residents of Mary Manning Walsh Home have the help of doctors, nurses, and scientists who undertake the shared work of restoring health. They have the support of family and friends who want them back to normal. But, at some point, the sick and the elderly and those who care for them must face together the limits of human health and life with dignity and clarity. Even with all our advances we have not escaped suffering, and suffering with.
Perhaps this experience can strengthen our faith as we pray about the world’s great sufferings of late. Human violence and natural disaster have handed out a great deal of pain to innocent people. So September 14 and 15 offer us a chance for solidarity with those suffering close at hand and far away.
Here is an invitation to our parish to take on another shared work, one of prayer. We would like offer a night of prayer with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament as an intercession for those we know who suffer, and those we do not know, especially victims of terror. These latter would include:
those trapped in Syrian towns and cities.
those caught in the domain of Isis.
those made to flee their homelands by violence.
those lives disrupted physically or emotionally by terrorists.
This night of prayer will take place at St. Catherine of Siena Church, in the heart of the hospital neighborhood. It will begin with a Sung Mass for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross at 6:30 PM followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament through the night until the 7 AM Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Common prayer will punctuate the silence in various ways. But nothing is so lovely as the shared silence of common intercession. You can pray for your loved ones and for the world and know fellow travelers around you are doing the same.
Some may be moved to spend the whole night in prayer, others may come for an hour before or after work, but the deepest beauty of the prayer lies in the shared enterprise of it. In the end our witness to faith, and against violence, is that for Christians, suffering incites not the scattering of fear but the communion of charity.
Blessings to you at summer’s end.