Communion in Spiritual Goods – Pastor’s Reflection (October 30, 2016)
These lines come to you from the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, where I sit, preparing to return to New York. The Dominicans of our St. Martin de Porres Province hosted a beautiful weekend conference to celebrate the 800th
anniversary of our Order of Preachers. The gathering included Friars, Sisters and Dominican Laity. Even the Master of the Order came from Rome to participate. Our Brothers lavished the best of southern hospitality on us. Indeed their
welcome, and their careful planning, came as a powerful “preaching to preachers.”
It was my honor to give one of the “breakout” presentations at this event.
Preaching to one’s own always comes as a great gift and a deep challenge. Such preaching bestows the honor and the demand to do new thinking. This past weekend we were all trying to pray about, and reflect upon, a very ancient life, which we live out as denizens of the present age. At such a moment, I ask myself, “what does my life offer to my times?” The question touches all of you, since you receive our preaching and our pastoral care. At one level, a homily is a talk one needs to prepare, drawing upon theological training, scriptural commentaries and the rest. At a deeper level, preaching comes as the fruit of a whole way of life, which includes study but also touches on every aspect of existence. Words
uttered in our pulpit on a Sunday morning, in our confessional on a Wednesday afternoon, or in parish study on a
Tuesday evening emerge from a life of study, prayer, and domestic life held in common.
Obviously Dominican life has evolved considerably over the last eight centuries, yet we identify elements that define it consistently in each age. If these sine qua non attributes of the Order affect the way the Friars preach and teach on a routine basis, they necessarily shape the development of our new parish. Over time we hope this makes for genuine coherence of life, in which preaching, music, social life, and educational life become more and more of a piece.
Tapping Dominican principles of life also enables our parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena to enhance the beautiful mosaic that is the local church of New York. Indeed, the very splendor of Pentecost surrounds us. Consider that the Jesuits, have a magnificent parish 1 mile from us, while just 10 blocks away the Blessed Sacrament Fathers have St. Jean Baptiste with a common life arranged around adoration of the Holy Eucharist. Meanwhile St. John Nepomucene– St-John the Martyr–St. Frances Cabrini is administered by diocesan priests. I ponder this with delight, happy in the thought of how different these parishes are.
Our role in such a singular setting is not to compete with other institutions, but to accept the challenge of being our collective best self. Since, in our city there is such a freedom of movement, we have even more opportunity to pursue this development. Indeed, the jubilee of the Order invites us to shape our growth with ever greater attention and
You will remember that last spring we had a beautiful solemn celebration of the jubilee, presided over by
Cardinal Dolan. To complement this, as we move toward the actual anniversary on December 22, I would like to speak to the community in an extended fashion about this connection of Dominican life and our parochial life. An opportunity offers itself in the week ahead.
November 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offer us a remarkable triduum, three days, for reflecting on communion in spiritual things. An order or a parish can certainly be assessed in material terms, but we only fully grasp either as a specific, real spiritual connection between people. The same holds true for marriages. On All Saints Day we celebrate not only that innumerable men and women have achieved Christian holiness but that they spend eternity wanting to share it with us. Their intercession is a spiritual good upon which we rely and God has made it effective for us. On All Souls Day we take up our own call to share the good of our prayers with those on the way of purgation, for God has made our prayer effective in their crossing the final threshold. On November 3, we honor St. Martin de Porres a Brother of our Order who shared extraordinary spiritual goods with his fellow Dominicans and with the poor of Lima.
We have festive masses planned for each of these days, and I hope these celebrations can serve as a parochial
festival of the Jubilee. Specifically, I would like to use the preaching at these Masses to speak about how a Dominican
parish, such as ours, is a community in which the Order of Preachers shares spiritual goods intimately with a portion of God’s people. It is so important to add right here that the traffic goes in two directions! Also, to speak about our
particular spiritual riches pays homage to spiritual abundance in other parts of the Church, which in fact are only blocks away.
Let me close with a vignette that I think illustrates these things. Parishioners have been asking that we develop our practice of “Family Mass.” This request has come at several times over recent years. I have always agreed in principle, but I have never seen my way clear to implementing this project with a shape congenial to my Brothers and me. Recently, it came to me how I might do this, and the upshot was our 10 am Mass on October 16, with which I was more than pleased. It took me time, but this development did occur through the meeting of minds between Dominicans and Parishioners.
I hope the St. Jude Novena brought some prayerful calm to these difficult pre-election days. Do let us keep the matter in prayer as the time draws near.