Gathered – Pastor’s Reflection (December 27, 2015)
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.