I write to you from San Francisco, where I have snatched a few days of vacation before the annual Council meeting of our Association of Cloistered Nuns. You may remember that I moonlight as their advisor. Yesterday (Sunday) I walked from Union Square through the neighborhoods of the city to the Golden Gate Bridge. Then I crossed the bridge to Marin County and walked to the charming, bayside town of Sausalito, from which I retuned to San Francisco by ferry. A head-clearing and a visual banquet all in one!
One of the many delectable courses the walk served up to me was the approach to the bridge. The
pedestrian approaches it by walking alongside the Crissy Field Wetlands and then climbing a wooded hill. The journey yields vista after vista of the bridge in its setting at the majestic break in the coastal hills that gives San Francisco Bay its entrance. What struck me as I walked, and later as I studied the pictures I took, was the essential unity of what I saw. The bridge, as a marvel of human design and construction, has so bonded with the water and hills of the Golden Gate as to become a unified composition.
The bridge does not dominate its setting by excessive monumentality, nor does it detract from it by artless utility of construction. I would go so far as to say that the bridge enhances its place. The advent of the bridge has made the Golden Gate even more of a gate.
No doubt, countless walkers before me have perceived this synergy of art and nature, and a similar
epiphany has come to me walking in Central Park, where I view the architectural ranges on each side as
enhancing the landscape. Where this harmony occurs there is not only beauty but comfort. Both settings visibly uplift thousands of people at a time, and make them feel at home. Neither the Golden Gate Bridge, nor Central Park is content to be gawked at, they both demand to be made use of, for transit, for exercise, for interpersonal conversation, and for personal space.
It strikes me that these two wonders, the park and the bridge, have something to teach me. Their timeless appeal gives them credibility as icons of the good life. They invite me to consider how I relate to my own setting, as a place, and as a landscape of relationships. I ponder that by my demeanor, deportment, or dress I may either detract, overwhelm, or enhance my context. Of course I will not insert myself successfully if I fail to perceive either myself or the context, but I will not even undertake the effort if my goal is not to be part of rather than the center of.
The Golden Gate Bridge does not exist as a monument to a person or an event, its genesis lies in being of service to the human community by addressing a fundamental issue of transportation. It is there and taking up space because it needs to be there for the economy and social connection of the Bay Area and the West Coast. But it remains remarkable because the community expended the resources to meet a need with the artistry and the diligence, indeed sacrifice, of human labor. The art of the bridge does not exceed the purpose of the bridge, but
ennobles it. Commerce and society make crossing the bridge a necessity but by its design the bridge imparts
dignity and beauty to the tasks it enables.
Those who practice ministry, or indeed any public service, sooner or later come to grips with the truth that they are servants of the experience of other people. In the work of the Liturgy, we priests work with many others to serve communal and personal interaction with God, and this truth applies in the public realm of the Mass, and in the intimacy of the confessional.
Over and over again we face the challenge of not making ourselves the point, and of not overwhelming the experience. But the proper response to this challenge is not to be a cypher. We fail in our role if, by pomposity or clownishness, we demand attention, and take it away from the real work of worship. On the other hand we
received a vocation to ordained life so that we might use our God given talents and temperament to serve worship through the synergy we establish with our companions at that moment. Since we are human, and not steel, our engagement with our context will fluctuate from day to day and evolve from year to year.
The one constant, as a demand and as an art, is that one is present as a contributor. This serves God’s
purpose of making our transit through this life noble and beautiful in expectation of what lies upon the other shore.
Wednesday, March 1st is Ash Wednesday. Ashes will be imposed at all of the Parish’s masses.
St. Vincent Ferrer
8 am – Low Mass
10 am – Sung Mass
12:10 pm – Low Mass
6 pm – Solemn Mass
7:30 pm – Holy Hour with Ashes imposed beforehand
St. Catherine of Siena
7 am – Low Mass
1 pm – Sung Mass
5:15 pm – Low Mass
A perennial question asks how preachers should behave when society struggles with issues. Obviously it’s time to entertain the question again. From my vantage point social and political issues have riveted our collective attention as at no time in my recent memory. How should the Gospel intersect with all of the tumult?
I suppose the most obvious, and convenient, answer would be that the priest should stick to talking about God and let society wrestle with its politics and culture. This idea harmonizes with our received notions of the separation of church and state, and at a deeper level it preserves a clear distinction between what is secular and what is sacred. Finally, it guarantees that going to Mass will provide relief from the relentless commentary people receive through our ever-multiplying media. Jesus himself seemed to make no comment on the political issues of his day: for example, the Gospels do not record His take on the morality of the Roman occupation of Hhis country, or of the Jewish insurgency against it.
But He did give the Sermon on the Mount, and therein, per last Sunday’s Gospel, He referred to us as the “Salt of the Earth,” and the “Light of the World.” The “Similies of Salt and Light” mandate us to engage comprehensively with society. Interacting with the culture and politics of our times comprises a vital part of being Christian. We buy and sell, go to restaurants and movies, and take political action as Christians, not in spite of our religion, nor compartmentalized from it. “A city set on a hill” (the assembly of Christians) is still a city, and its citizens must have commerce with each other, and with those of other cities. We hope the Church illumines the world around her not by avoiding the square and the market, but by entering them with the ethics and insights given by her Master. Indeed, when he says that we should render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar He is telling us to pay taxes and so makes public duties moral acts.
But does the social comprehensiveness of the Gospel make the Minister of the Gospel authoritative in the social sphere, qualified, ex officio, to weigh in definitively on current issues? If we accept this, relevance begins to outweigh other values and the line between preacher and “talking head” begins to blur.
How do we strike the right balance in such live times?
Perhaps it lies within the teaching itself. The Sermon on the Mount issues a call to conversion that touches each aspect of life and works steadily against any compartmentalization of life. The truth of the Christian me undermines the walls protecting the non-Christian me. Quite naturally, I resist, but in the end, the Spirit persuades more eloquently than my contrary inclinations. But there is no way for me to change that does not in the end affect my engagement with you. In this way the Gospel quietly disrupts social patterns, challenging patterns of doing business, and of course meddles in romance.
It follows that if the preacher has the task of articulating a call to growth, he must address all the ways in which his hearers interact with the world. One of our jobs in the pulpit is to show people the deep significance of ordinary life. Indeed, part of the beauty of each Christian life is the impact it has on the life around it. At the same time his work must respect the singular quality of each life. I try not to tell people what to do: rather I seek to show them the tools the Gospel gives for reaching a conclusion that is genuinely their own. I have found that people receive preaching and apply it in ways helpful to them, that never occurred to me. If I keep this in mind then what I do remains truly a ministry, a service.
In the case of culture and politics this often means coming at an issue “sideways.” The work here is to show people the Gospel’s surprising take on life which often shows the points in common that lie beneath so many disputes and the human sameness behind so much apparent disparity. Indeed, what Jesus offers us in his teaching and sacraments is a new way of seeing events and people. For this reason, we cannot insulate ourselves from our times, for studying them gives the raw material grace uses to train us in the ways of challenge, in the ways of mercy, and in the ways of contemplation.
This past Sunday Fr. Walter announced to the parish the beginning of the Cardinal’s Appeal for 2017. The following Archdiocesan materials will supplement his preaching.
There are so many reasons why the Appeal is important, not only to those in need in the archdiocese, but also to us, in our parish community. Your support of the Appeal helps countless people, and sustains the fabric of our ministries throughout our parishes.
If you have not already, you will be receiving a letter from Cardinal Dolan, along with materials that illustrate the deep importance of the Cardinal’s Appeal to our community. Part of being a steward means living with trust in God’s generosity and responsibly tending that which God has entrusted to us. Cardinal Dolan is
asking you to participate by making a gift to this important annual initiative.
Your Gift to the Appeal:
- Supports offices, ministries, and programs throughout the archdiocese that nurture and encourage our journey in faith;
- Helps educate our children in our Catholic schools and religious education programs;
- Provides for retired priests and religious by giving them the retirement care they deserve after
decades of service;
- Helps to educate our future clergy and prepare them for a life of service; and
- Helps fund Catholic Charities, which provides loving care to millions of people in our archdiocese.
Our Parish relies significantly on the following services:
- Assists the parish in all phases of capital projects and construction in the areas of finance,
engineering, legal, and quality control.
- Offers real estate advice to the administration on leases, rentals, and sales.
- Monitors quality and services provided by insurance and risk management services in the areas of injury and property damage, construction and maintenance, personnel, and Safe Environment programs.
- Provides legal advice and representation on all parish related matters.
The archdiocesan goal for the 2017 Appeal is $20 million. And our individual parish goal is $232,500. Please that you prayerfully consider your gift. There are 1604 households at our parish and last year, 177 parishioners participated in the Appeal. The hope is that we not only surpass our monetary goal, but also surpass last year’s total participation. It is only with your support that this campaign can be a success. We all have in our hearts the capacity to give as Jesus asked us to do.
The Appeal pledge cards can be found by the entrance of both churches and they can either be mailed to the Appeal office or placed in the collection basket.
You can also pledge online at www.cardinalsappeal.org.
If you need time to think about your gift, you will be given an opportunity to make your pledge during Mass on Commitment Weekend right after the start of Lent. Thank you so much for your support of the Appeal and please pray for its success at our parish.