Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena

A Parish of the Archdiocese of New York served by the Dominican Friars


November 29, 2017

Living in the Light of the Kingdom – Pastor’s Reflection (November 26, 2017)

This feast speaks to our parish with singular eloquence. Those who designed St. Vincent Ferrer Church possessed an extraordinary sense of Christ’s Kingship and they expressed in it the unique juxtaposition of the High Altar and the Great East Window.

At the top of the altarpiece, now more deeply illuminated by LED vault lights, Christ stands in the royal robes of a conventional monarch and he reigns over human time. From his throne a procession of holy men and women marches down to the altar bearing the Kingdom from Pentecost to the present moment. Caught up in this movement are the twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, and the founders of religious communities. In the wake of this vanguard come the saints of the Dominican Order carrying the Lord’s reign in the vessel of our particular way of life. At the center of the composition, St. Vincent Ferrer stands preaching. He demonstrates how his extraordinary apostolate is but a moment in the ongoing advent of the reign of Christ.

High above, in the East Window Christ, completes that reign in glorious stained glass color, arriving at time’s end to fulfill all and inaugurate the age of our complete intimacy with the Trinity. This window offers an icon of the final Passover, set out in the Book of Revelation and preached by Vincent Ferrer.

What actually happens at the High Altar makes the crucial link between the history of time and the end of time. When we celebrate Mass and receive Communion we receive Christ through the hands of apostolic tradition. Indeed, though the readings and chants, as well as the architecture, we are connected to the whole tradition of the holy men and women who have moved through time to timelessness. But we also receive Christ into ourselves so that we may be ready to greet him when time is done. This readiness means more than being found without bad behavior: it refers to the state of desiring God, and communion with my neighbor as a central means to possessing Him.

Here I see that the Kingdom of Christ is already coming in our lives. Through the mystery of Baptism, the Eucharist, and the other sacraments, Christ works to make us ready for Himself. The sacraments animate a whole way of living centered on receiving and living God’s Word. The effect of this is to reorient our whole self so that instead of fearing His coming, we are anxious for it.

While time lasts, the Sermon on the Mount speaks most clearly about the Kingdom’s transformative work in us.  The sacraments give us a lens for reading the teachings of beatitude (true happiness). They teach us to read, “love your enemies,” without sweaty fear, or glib dismissal, but to recognize that the love of God is so active that it is giving us a new sense of self and a new sense of others. As it does we acquire solidarity with others we never thought possible, and so the Kingdom comes.

As the course of renewal proceeds we have the company of the Holy Spirit leading from within, and we have the companionship of Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in our tabernacle, which means “tent.” Our
Eucharistic Lord makes His camp with us as we move through time toward Him. The High Altar at St. Vincent Ferrer makes this point with its gold and enamel tabernacle and amplifies it with the marble throne above and behind it. Here on solemn occasions the Blessed Sacrament takes its place as the visible unifying element of the whole composition, as it also propels the whole Christian life.

Next weekend, the First Sunday of Advent, will offer the opportunity to experience this iconographic banquet as we have our annual All Night Watch with the Blessed Sacrament at St. Vincent Ferrer. (Each church is called to have such a period, and we have one at St. Catherine’s on September 14, the Feast of the Holy Cross.) We will expose the Blessed Sacrament after the Vigil Mass on Saturday, December 2 and pray through the night with Our Lord until Morning Prayer and Benediction at 6 am.

Here is a chance to begin a busy time of year by becoming grounded in the gentle kingdom that is taking us over from the inside out, but is also all around us since it is doing the same thing in so many others. St. Vincent Ferrer High School and the Sisters of Life will join us in this holy enterprise.

The schedule is below.

6 pm Sung Vigil Mass
7 pm The First Vespers (Evening Prayer) of Advent
7:30 pm Enthronement of the Blessed Sacrament
10 pm Night Prayer (Compline)
11 pm Chaplet of Divine Mercy
12 am The Midnight Office (Matins)
2 am The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary
3 am The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary
Followed by Graveyard Shift Conference
4 am The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary
5 am The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary
6 am Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Benediction
6:30 am Missa Cantata by Candle light in the Dominican Rite
May these days renew your hope.
Fr. Walter

November 28, 2017

Living in the Light of the Kingdom – Pastor’s Reflection (November 26, 2017)

This feast speaks to our parish with singular eloquence. Those who designed St. Vincent Ferrer Church possessed an extraordinary sense of Christ’s Kingship and they expressed in it the unique juxtaposition of the High Altar and the Great East Window.

At the top of the altarpiece, now more deeply illuminated by LED vault lights, Christ stands in the royal robes of a conventional monarch and he reigns over human time. From his throne a procession of holy men and women marches down to the altar bearing the Kingdom from Pentecost to the present moment. Caught up in this movement are the twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, and the founders of religious communities. In the wake of this vanguard come the saints of the Dominican Order carrying the Lord’s reign in the vessel of our particular way of life. At the center of the composition, St. Vincent Ferrer stands preaching. He demonstrates how his extraordinary apostolate is but a moment in the ongoing advent of the reign of Christ.

High above, in the East Window Christ, completes that reign in glorious stained glass color, arriving at time’s end to fulfill all and inaugurate the age of our complete intimacy with the Trinity. This window offers an icon of the final Passover, set out in the Book of Revelation and preached by Vincent Ferrer.

What actually happens at the High Altar makes the crucial link between the history of time and the end of time. When we celebrate Mass and receive Communion we receive Christ through the hands of apostolic tradition. Indeed, though the readings and chants, as well as the architecture, we are connected to the whole tradition of the holy men and women who have moved through time to timelessness. But we also receive Christ into ourselves so that we may be ready to greet him when time is done. This readiness means more than being found without bad behavior: it refers to the state of desiring God, and communion with my neighbor as a central means to possessing Him.

Here I see that the Kingdom of Christ is already coming in our lives. Through the mystery of Baptism, the Eucharist, and the other sacraments, Christ works to make us ready for Himself. The sacraments animate a whole way of living centered on receiving and living God’s Word. The effect of this is to reorient our whole self so that instead of fearing His coming, we are anxious for it.

While time lasts, the Sermon on the Mount speaks most clearly about the Kingdom’s transformative work in us.  The sacraments give us a lens for reading the teachings of beatitude (true happiness). They teach us to read, “love your enemies,” without sweaty fear, or glib dismissal, but to recognize that the love of God is so active that it is giving us a new sense of self and a new sense of others. As it does we acquire solidarity with others we never thought possible, and so the Kingdom comes.

As the course of renewal proceeds we have the company of the Holy Spirit leading from within, and we have the companionship of Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in our tabernacle, which means “tent.” Our Eucharistic Lord makes His camp with us as we move through time toward Him. The High Altar at St. Vincent Ferrer makes this point with its gold and enamel tabernacle and amplifies it with the marble throne above and behind it. Here on solemn occasions the Blessed Sacrament takes its place as the visible unifying element of the whole composition, as it also propels the whole Christian life.

Next weekend, the First Sunday of Advent, will offer the opportunity to experience this iconographic banquet as we have our annual All Night Watch with the Blessed Sacrament at St. Vincent Ferrer. (Each church is called to have such a period, and we have one at St. Catherine’s on September 14, the Feast of the Holy Cross.) We will expose the Blessed Sacrament after the Vigil Mass on Saturday, December 2 and pray through the night with Our Lord until Morning Prayer and Benediction at 6 am.

Here is a chance to begin a busy time of year by becoming grounded in the gentle kingdom that is taking us over from the inside out, but is also all around us since it is doing the same thing in so many others. St. Vincent Ferrer High School and the Sisters of Life will join us in this holy enterprise.

The schedule is below.

6 pm Sung Vigil Mass
7 pm The First Vespers (Evening Prayer) of Advent
7:30 pm Enthronement of the Blessed Sacrament
10 pm Night Prayer (Compline)
11 pm Chaplet of Divine Mercy
12 am The Midnight Office (Matins)
2 am The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary
3 am The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary
Followed by Graveyard Shift Conference
4 am The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary
5 am The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary
6 am Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Benediction
6:30 am Missa Cantata by Candle light in the Dominican Rite
May these days renew your hope.
Fr. Walter

November 18, 2017

Opportunities for Prayer and Reflection This Advent

Saturday, December 2
Our Parish Advent Retreat

Come for a morning of reflection before things get too busy.  Let’s look together for a way to celebrate Christmas well in the midst of a challenging year.  We begin at 9 am  and finish with Mass at Noon.  Our work will be to take seriously Isaiah’s prophetic image of the Peaceable Kingdom (Chapter 11: 1-9).

 

Saturday, December 2 – Sunday, December 3
Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist through the night. 

Our annual period of solemn exposition will begin  after the 6 pm Vigil Mass on Saturday, December 2, and end with Benediction and Mass by candlelight in the early morning of December 3.  In Advent we present God with all the “dead ends” of life and ask for the coming of his Kingdom.  To do this, we must see the brokenness of the world and see beyond it in faith and hope.  We hope this Night Watch will give everyone the chance to carry out this crucial inner work of the season. Some features of the night to note:

The Blessed Sacrament will exposed on its throne above the High Altar.
The church will be specially illuminated for prayer.
There will be common prayer at the beginning of each hour.
Morning Prayer and Benediction wil be followed by a special “Mass by candle light” in the Dominican Rite, a “Rorate Mass.”

Advent has some of the loveliest sacred music of the year.  Please come savor this at two celebrations of Lessons and Carols.  On Thursday, December 7, the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception, we will honor the Blessed Mother in Scripture and in music (St. Vincent Ferrer at 7 pm).  On Sunday,
December 17, we draw on the witness of the ancient prophets as we prepare more directly for
Christmas (St. Catherine of Siena at 3 pm).

Finally, we will have nine days of prayer before Christmas.  During this time we will accompany Mary in her “expectation,” and we will seek her prayers that children everywhere may be safe, not only on Christmas but each day of their lives.  Novena services will be at 6 am (Misa de Gallo) at St. Vincent Ferrer,
5:15 pm St. Catherine of Siena, and 6 pm at St. Vincent Ferrer.  Novena prayers will be said at all the Masses.

November 18, 2017

Surprised By The Familiar – Pastor’s Reflection (November 19, 2017)

Amazement on a trip gratifies, but amazement at home really equips a person for Thanksgiving Day.  How priceless is the familiar becoming extraordinary!

Such a sensation overtook me yesterday afternoon (Sunday, November 12) when we hosted a recital for the principal Organist for the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris, Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin.  Her entire presentation revealed the capacities of our Schantz organ in a way I do not get to contemplate while I say Mass.  The organ evokes marvelous emotional variety, particularly as it interacts with the vaulted structure of the church.  Several factors enhanced my savoring of the music.  First, we had a large and attentive crowd.  Second, through the Archdiocese we worked out an arrangement with Con-Ed for additional LED conversion in both of our churches. The electricians had just replaced the vault lighting at St. Vincent Ferrer.  The amazing contours of the church interior were bathed in a soft, gentle, and economical light. (By the way, another crew has re-lit the parish offices at St. Catherine of Siena and is now working on the hanging chandeliers and shrine lights in the church.)  Third, it came to me as a great pleasure to watch James Wetzel welcome people to this program and, in a congenial way, to invite them to peruse the opportunities offered by the life of our parish.

Upon this foundation of well-being, providence rested something spectacular.  After she completed the scheduled works of her program, Mme. Cauchefer-Choplin addressed the crowd and invited us to listen to an improvisation.  She began to play and immediately articulated two themes, the Dominican Salve Ragina and Immaculate Mary.  Here were two most familiar lines of music and she made magic of them.  She played with them across every mood and volume of the spectrum and I suspect that nary a stop went unheard.  Taking this in, I was struck by how improvisation of this sort demands equal parts play and discipline.  On the one hand it demands imaginative, “out of the box” thinking, on the other it requires a thorough command of the instrument’s potential and of the musical tradition.  I just sat there and hoped she would not stop.

I have heard our organ for many days each week over the last seven years, but this gracious lady from Paris introduced it to me all over again.  To say she is a virtuosa states the obvious, but so is James and I get to hear him all the time.  What set me up for the grace of this experience was taking the time for it.  Quite simply, at 3 pm on Sunday I chose to take an hour of real leisure and it paid me back in spades.  I found that at the end of this time I returned to reality and sailed through vespers and the 6 pm Mass on a flying carpet of energy.

Thanksgiving will now usher in a season replete with chances for real leisure and they are chances to be amazed by the goodness and beauty in our own lives.  This year, more than ever, we need to grab them.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Fr. Walter

November 17, 2017

Mass for St. Cecilia’s Day (November 22, 2017)

In honor of the feast of St. Cecilia and in commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Lou Harrison (1917-2003), the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer will offer a Solemn Mass for the Feast of St. Cecilia. The Propers and Ordinary of Lou Harrison’s “Mass for St. Cecilia’s Day” (1986) will be sung by the Schola Cantorum of St. Vincent Ferrer under the direction of Mr. James Wetzel.

Mass-for-St.Cecilia

November 11, 2017

Discerning the Communion of Saints – Pastor’s Reflection (November 12, 2017)

As I write these lines on Monday morning we are reeling from yet another senseless shooting. All of a sudden people in Manhattan perceive a connection to the living and the dead in a small town in Texas. That we can embrace in prayer those we will never know gives us a window on to the mystery of the communion of saints.

How amazing that God has linked human souls in a network of interdependence that crosses the barriers of time and space which give life the shape we know. Those who have completed their journey have been commissioned to help us, and we have been entrusted with those souls whose formation God completes in the process we call purgation. We often treat this purgatory as a kind of detention, but it is also a place of promise where God completes the work He began in baptism and prepares the soul to be with Him.

The more we can see how God has designed interdependence into human life we know, the more we can rely on that network which is so far beyond our imagining. This Saturday, November 11 we remind ourselves that the international network of democracies we rely upon for peace and stability came about through the staggering sacrifices made by our veterans in the terrible wars of the Twentieth Century. Perhaps now more than ever we perceive the preciousness and vulnerability of this legacy.

Think of the cooperation and mutual concern that make it possible to pull off something on the scale of the New York Marathon. The “buy in” of government, commerce, citizens, and athletes makes a great experience for thousands who run and more thousands who cheer them on. It’s also a marvel that one can stand back and contemplate a world-wide coming-together conducted safely on our streets. How great that civil society did not run scared after the attacks of October 30. People refused to be frightened away from the public square, and so dashed terror’s hopes.

But even as New Yorkers re-claimed their streets the citizens of Sutherland Springs, Texas were assaulted in their place of worship, the setting where we would like to believe any group of Americans could have their defenses down. One single Sunday presents us with the strength and the vulnerability of present society. Everywhere the internet shows us at the same time the dazzling benefits and the terrifying damage of the radical connectedness we have achieved.

Facing such perils we might be forgiven for wanting to disconnect and find safety behind cyber and conventional ramparts. But even if we could make such a withdrawal practically, it may not be advisable spiritually. Consider that the interdependent, interconnected world order technology has facilitated on our streets and in our computers looks more like the Order among souls God has designed around the work of Christ, where even the living and the dead have been brought into reliance on each other. However serious their dangers, the new connections humans have made may further God’s plan to fulfill all things.

We can see this first in the good that has been accomplished already by a global economy, and indeed a global society. But we can also see this in the rethinking that these advances demand. How, for instance, do we bring interpersonal and social justice to this new frontier? In a more interconnected world how do we value the distinctiveness of cultures as something to offer the world rather than to be defended from it? How do we give people the sense of safety to navigate cyber streets and city streets?

Faith always nudges us to “opt in” to our times, so that as people of faith we can be part of their real improvement.

Autumn Peace!
Fr. Walter
P.S. I would like to thank the many people who made our celebrations of all Saints and All Souls so
life-giving. Long-time parishioners attended the All Saints Vigil on Tuesday night and came away nourished by what the young adults provided. Many came to the end of life session sponsored by the Dominican
Foundation and reported that it was practically and spiritually helpful to them. Here I saw in daily life the interdependence that God fosters.

November 11, 2017

Sadness, Hope, and Reversal of Fortune – DFHCMNY

DFHCMNY_Reflections_2017_09_24_Sadness, Hope, and Reversal of Fortune

November 04, 2017

The Fruits of Endurance – Pastor’s Reflection (November 5, 2017)

You are reading this letter on the weekend of the New York Marathon, when those who run endure to their limits, and the rest of us stand back in amazement at endurance embodied. The runner gains more than the finish line, for the ability to run stems from a long regimen of training. So we honor the runner’s completion of the course and the discipline that allowed him or her to begin it.

Yesterday (Last Sunday for you) I undertook my own, relatively pale endurance and preached all of our Masses. I got to introduce and hear each of the presentations offered by our Finance Council on how we stand as of the conclusion of our first fiscal year as a united parish. As the 6 pm Mass ended on Sunday evening I found myself elated by the dedication of the Councilors and the attentiveness of each congregation. The whole day spoke to me of the maturity our parish has achieved by sticking with a long regimen of change, some of it in directions they would not choose.

I witnessed this process up-close as the Finance Councilors came together in April and, ably supported by Lee Ann Rubino, worked through the summer to study our financial situation and the history that led to it. They prepared the reports you heard, reviewed the budget for this new fiscal year, selected a money manager for our portfolio, and worked with that company to balance and structure it.

I would like to supplement last weekend’s presentation by mentioning one aspect of that structure. Since the 1980’s the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer maintained a restricted fund to support maintenance of, and improvements to, the fabric of the church. Pastors drew upon it to replace the roof and to paint and clean the exterior walls. We used it most recently to replace the sidewalk outside the church. This fund remains intact in the newly structured portfolio. We have created a similar fund for the fabric of St. Catherine’s Church. Into it we have placed the portfolio of the Parish of
St. Catherine of Siena. Monies donated to this fund will be used for maintenance of, and improvements to, the fabric of St. Catherine’s Church. We hope that this honors all the effort undertaken by the Friars and people of St. Catherine’s to raise these funds in the first place.

What became palpable to me as the Councilors spoke was that a crucial aspect of our communal life was in place. With this comes relief, gratitude, and the freedom to set other things in place

Alongside the Finance Council stands a number of strong parish organizations and each of these has worked through our years of change with patience and suppleness. We need now to access the experience and insights of these core parishioners. I think we can do this by the way we structure the Pastoral Council. This consultative body serves the Pastor as his “eyes and ears,”  as a sounding board, and as a disseminator of information. Through the years of our merger we were served admirably by an interim Pastoral Council which completed it work in June. I have been meeting with parishioners and assembling a new Council. I anticipate that it will be complete and begin its work in January. In addition to providing the helps I mention above, it will serve to structure our range of committees and guilds, so that the social and charitable life of the parish rests on its own firm foundation.

When the Pastoral Council begins to meet the structure of our parish governance will be in place and we can turn our gaze outward with confidence.

I have long felt that the order that emerges has more beauty and endurance than the order which is imposed, and so I have tried to accept the discipline of slow-growing each aspect of our life so that it emerges from a real basis in the life of the parish, and meet a real need in that same life. So I thank you for your patience with the lack of certainty this may entail from time to time.

Peace!
Fr. Walter