In this second epiphany, or manifestation of the Lord, the Father not only identifies Jesus as His beloved Son, but commissions Him to preach by telling us to listen to Him. Here begins the public ministry by which, in words and deeds, Jesus will make clear the intent of God regarding us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ, the new Moses, will show us God’s purpose to make His Law an unceasing dynamo of change in our hearts. All of His healings will go beneath the surface of people corroborating this plan to make them loving and living worshippers of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All of this ministry will have credibility because that life with God to which He summons us already exist in Him. This love becomes palpable on the Cross, by which that life and love in Him comes to be in us. Thus, Jesus is His own preaching, and His words and deeds clarifies the impression He gives to the eyes of faith, even as a wordless infant.
His continuing ministry will be clear this Sunday at St. Catherine’s when men and women declare themselves for receiving the sacraments at Easter. I hope it will be palpable next weekend when the St. Catherine’s community takes a close look at its finances.
As I write you these lines I prepare to do a week of retreat preaching for our Dominican Sisters in Nashville. Such a privileged time as retreat serves to disclose what the Lord wants to say to the listeners, and to the speaker. Its greatest gift comes in the particular epiphany of Intimacy with Christ.
Throughout my time in New York I have tried to preach one retreat a year as I think it promotes my own spiritual development which I hope benefits you.
Always we seek to carry preaching beyond the bounds of the Sunday Homily. Thus in Parish Study we usually explore a biblical text or church document in depth. Another preaching people often seek is the overview. They express a desire to go deeper with their faith, or to reconnect with it after having been away from its practice for some time. To meet this need we offer the series entitled “Upper Room” after the place where Jesus disclosed his Eucharistic identity at the Last Supper and assembled His Apostles and His Mother to await the Holy Spirit. We begin this program each January and continue with it until the Day of Pentecost, which falls this year on May 15. Our textbook is the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, whose singular iconography captures so much of the Gospel. For adult Catholics who complete this program I am able to offer the Sacrament of Confirmation on Pentecost. If you would be interested in this program, please know that we will begin to meet this year on January 24 at 4PM, at St. Vincent’s. It would be helpful if you would call Rachel Miller at (212) 744-2080 to let us know. If you do not get the chance to make the call, come anyway.
An essential eloquence of Jesus’ preaching in this parish is the involvement of lay people in its liturgical ministry as readers and as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. This winter we will sponsor retreats for both groups, so that we can offer spiritual support, practical formation, and a formal re-commissioning. This work will provide another bond of unity in the new parish. The retreat for Lectors will be on January 30, and that for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion will be on February 20. Please hold these Saturday Mornings as they apply.
I hope that this weekend you will welcome the young preachers from the House of Studies as they come to ask for your support. Theirs is a good cause, and a real financial need. For all of us, these young men are the future. Please encourage them if you can.
May your winter pass swiftly!
I hope this finds you savoring a delicious post-Christmas lull. Because of bulletin deadlines, I write you on December 18, and it is all yet to come. But here is something for me to send forward in time for your reading pleasure. Yesterday, December 17, I was opening Christmas cards, and I looked inside one of them to find the greeting, “Happy Holiday to a great people!” I think this is the first time the whole parish community has gotten a Christmas wish. It gave me joyful pause to think that someone would look upon the whole panorama of us and perceive such a wonderful thing. Somehow the welcome received and the cohesiveness experienced made the Holy Spirit’s gathering work tangible to our well-wisher.
Since the season of gatherings still obtains I pause to think of the ways in which I have been gathered.How marvelous, and maybe frightening, is God’s work of inserting me into circles of people. Around the 2015 Christmas tree I recognize that I am a Catholic, an American, a Wagner, a New Yorker in the Archdiocese of New York, a Dominican Friar, serving in the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena, and residing with my Brethren at 411 East 68th, and none of these circles has an opt out clause. Each of these gatherings has true roots in God, and represents a truth of me that I must heed. Each of them continues to shape mind and heart, to stretch me, constrain me, to tire me and energize me.
How is it that the series of my associations seems tailored to me? Together they form a context that serves me a constantly evolving cocktail of challenge, consolation, and perplexity. In really clear moments I perceive this as God’s elixir of happiness, and so I stay in the setting until God places me in a new one.
Somehow the secret of family is the realization that I did not choose them. In faith I perceive that God chose them for me and vice versa. God’s choice of me for a group shows me God’s choice of me for myself. By His grace I hold a place in His world and a summons to His eternity.
As Christmas unfolds, consider that God places His Son in a concentric series of relationships. At its heart lies the uniquely privileged bond He has with Mary and Joseph, but the arrival of shepherds and wise men reveal that the Chosen People, and then every people, will come as givers, not options, into His life. They will comprise the reality that Jesus obeys all the way to the Cross.
In this parish we now experience God’s gathering enterprise in surprising and potent ways, and winter does not portend a let-up. Some highlights:
On Sunday, January 3, the Feast of the Epiphany, we will continue our custom of having a festive Parish Coffee around the tree in the Parlors at St. Vincent’s
On the weekend of January 17, the Finance Council of St. Catherine’s will make presentations after all the Masses on the state of the Parish finances.
On the following weekend, January 24, St. Catherine’s will host a Parish Coffee after the Noon Mass. At this we have a kind of listening session in regard to the previous week’s presentation. From then on, we hope to have Parish Coffees at
St. Catherine’s after the noon Mass on the Third Sunday of each month.
That same afternoon, January 24, at 4 pm, at St. Vincent’s, I will begin a series of presentations which I call “The Upper Room.” These talks provide, I hope, an overview of, and deeper acquaintance with, the content of the Faith. We use the church of St. Vincent Ferrer as our text, and try to read deeply into its art. These talks are open to anyone who would like to reconnect to the Faith or delve deeper into its depths. It also serves to prepare adults for the Sacrament of Confirmation. So if you are an adult Catholic who would like to receive the sacrament, I can confirm you at Pentecost of 2016. This will be May 15 at noon, at St. Catherine’s. Sessions last an hour and fifteen minutes so that participants can attend the 5:30 pm Mass if they wish.
In these pages you will soon see a list of events for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which lasts from January 18 – January 25. Also coming, a schedule of Saturday morning retreats for the winter.
St. Catherine’s will help us through the bleak mid-winter by hosting a celebration of the Lord’s Presentation in the Temple on February 2. This promises to be a lovely, candle-lit affirmation of faith. On Friday, February 5, we hope to continue the festivities with a Parish Mardi Gras. Details to follow.
Let me close with the hope that you and I both get some quiet days right about now.