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.
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.
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.
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.