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

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


April 14, 2018

Jubilee – Pastor’s Reflection (April 15, 2018)

Since you read the Bulletin you know that two weeks from today this parish will celebrate two major anniversaries, 150 years of ministry by the Dominican Friars and Sisters in this neighborhood, and 100 years of service by the current (third) Church of St. Vincent Ferrer.  We often apply the word “Jubilee” to events like this.  I wonder though if we don’t need to recall formally what a Jubilee confers and what it demands.

The Bible commands the keeping of Jubilees in Leviticus, Chapter 25.  Jubilee comes every 50 years as the most radical expression of Sabbath.  We are most familiar with the weekly Sabbath when a day of worship and leisure is commanded.  But the Law also mandated a “Sabbatical Year,” when crops could not be sown and the people were to live from the fruits of the earth.  But after seven cycles of sabbatical years came the Jubilee in which all land returned to its original ownership, slaves had to be freed and debts remitted.

At root, all Sabbath practice testifies to God as the ultimate provider, and indeed the ultimate possessor.  In the end, everything we have traces its origin to God’s work of creation.  Even our capacity to work, to amass wealth, and to organize it fulfills what God gave. In the end, there is nothing we will not leave to His disposition.  The command to practice Sabbath is the command to practice trust. Real leisure gets this point: if God has given, He will give. The truth of God’s nature gives work and worry, effort and excellence their true proportion.

Sadly, Sabbatarian rules have so often become a tool of religious oppression and a religious burden to be worked around.  On the other hand, we could describe the whole ministry of Jesus as a restoration of Sabbath rest, as a practice, as an interior disposition, and as a life with God.  The Sermon on the Mount offers the recipe for a Sabbath of the heart.

Since we try to ground the practice of our Parish in God’s Word, I ask what it means for us truly to keep a Jubilee. Naturally we would like to celebrate the achievements of the past and the strengths of the present.  We seek, humanly enough, to build the morale and loyalty of our members.  In the process we hope more of the world recognizes we are here with something to offer.  But how much more potent will all this effort be if we but start with Leviticus 25.

A Jubilee will begin with us recognizing our Parish as a work of God in its origins and in its present.  That means He gets the credit.  This truth allows us to marvel at the providence that placed us in this neighborhood so rich in resources and so connected to the whole city.  Ponder the buildings we inhabit, the art we pray with, the music that so often prays for us, and the people spirit-led to join us.  We honor fifteen decades of gifts beyond expectation and devotion beyond deserving.  Countless souls, lay, religious, and clerical have poured themselves into this part of Christ’s Body and concluded that they got more than they gave.  Ours is the story of having what we could never pay for.

If this is true, then there is no room in our jubilee for entitlement, arrogance, or sense of superiority.  The spirit of comparison would be alien to that of Jubilee. More fitting by far is to recognize the privilege of being gathered together into this wonderful work of His.  To my dying day I will be amazed by the gift of my assignment to serve among you.

If we acknowledge God’s past goodness we will find the strength to open ourselves to the future.  The God who gave will give.  Of course, reflecting on the future of our church, or of any church, yields lots of worries.  Reasonable enough!  But the Resurrected Life of Jesus in us wins, and we do not let anxiety craft our policies, any more than we let defensiveness write our sermons. Instead, we tell others the story of His goodness and bet on it ourselves.  In Jubilee we commend ourselves and each other to the Advent of His Kingdom, not foolishly, but because we see how much it has already come among us.

Our Jubilee gives us a vantage point upon past and future and then shows us ourselves as stewards of God’s unfolding work.  What we celebrate is not the possession of a heritage, but the gift of a trust, to be received and handed on. It is here that we confront the Jubilee teaching about debt, this in several ways.

First, there is the debt of our failure in stewardship. The Sabbath rest of Jubilee days will never be complete, and openness to the future will always be qualified, if there is not first the acknowledgment of failures. Here I ponder calls not returned, questions not answered, needs not perceived, names forgotten, strangers not welcomed, resources wasted, appointments missed.  I reflect on homilies below par, confessions heard with distraction, and chances for outreach blown.  I remember benefactors and volunteers not acknowledged.  Our parish like any institution, makes decisions that hurt people when they are not well thought out, and even when they are.  Finally, in our case the work of the merger certainly caused pain to many.  All of the above remains in my awareness and for my own contribution to our lapses I am most heartily sorry. But I also ask us to remember all of those who have ever been hurt or dis-edified among us, by any of us, over these many years.  May God, who has been the true benefactor, prove the truest healer.

For a truly clear heart and happy Jubilee, we who ask mercy must give it.  It will not surprise readers of the Bulletin to learn that those who minister (as clergy, staff, or volunteer) encounter from time to time the insensitive, the manipulative, the unappreciative, and the outrageous.  It will be for us to take this chance to renew our undefended stance toward our service, trying to be open to all comers.

Pastors’ hearts break when parishioners do not get along.  A Jubilee dream has those grudges disappearing as part of this amazing reset.

It comes as an extra gift that this Jubilee letter does not need to treat of financial debt.  We are blessed to be debt free, having paid an outstanding obligation to the Archdiocese that came to light at the time of the merger.  Further, our books show that no one is in debt to us. 

Thanks for sticking with a long letter.  This has been the “work” part of the Jubilee, but through these practices of acknowledgment we place ourselves in the stream of God’s goodness.  This will make for an open face and an unaffected smile when the corks are popped.  The God who gave will give. 

Easter Peace!
Fr. Walter

April 11, 2018

St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena Jubilee Celebration Schedule

Jubilee Schedule Flyer

April 07, 2018

Alive Together with Christ (April 8, 2018)

“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4-5).

“An earthly father should resemble our Heavenly Father in kindness, rather than in severity.” – Verdi, Luisa Miller.

I send my Divine Mercy Sunday greetings from Rome, where I am participating with fellow Missionaries of Mercy from throughout the world (including Fr. John Devaney, o.p.) in a training session with our Holy Father Pope Francis to help us to become more effective instruments of God’s mercy in our work as confessors and preachers of divine mercy.  It is proper to God to have mercy, and He shows His power most of all in being merciful and sparing us.  Through His mercy, we are individually redeemed, but in a way that makes us “alive together with Christ.”  We are saved not merely as individuals, but as members of the Church of God, the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ.

Over the past three years, I have been immensely privileged to be “alive together” with you while serving as Parochial Vicar at the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena.  These three years of priestly service have been the occasion for so many moments of grace and communion, and I have been grateful to be along for the ride.  To have the experience of celebrating baptisms, weddings, funerals–and every sacrament in between (save Holy Orders!)–has helped me to live out the gift of the priesthood in an affirming environment of life together in Christ.  I am grateful to Fr. Walter and my Dominican brothers for their fraternal guidance and encouragement, to the staff and volunteers of our parish for their vital support, and to each of you for your patience and encouragement along the way.  I am grateful to have been able to serve you and be with you, and I ask your
pardon for all my mistakes and faults, both those which I recall and those which my lack of self-knowledge has hidden from me.  I ask for your prayers and mercy.

I recently learned from my Prior Provincial that I will be given a new assignment this summer.  I will begin doctoral studies in liturgical theology at the University of Regensburg in Germany, where I will have the opportunity to work with a renowned liturgical scholar, Dr. Harald Buchinger.  During the course of my doctoral studies, I will be living with the Dominican friars in Munich, where I will have the opportunity to continue to participate in pastoral ministry, assisting with Masses and confessions at the historic Theatinerkirche in central Munich.  If you find yourself in Bavaria, please stop by!  It would be a delight to show you our church, or to share a pint and a pretzel.

Our Provincial has assigned a wonderful young Dominican friar to join the parish staff as Parochial Vicar: Fr. Luke Hoyt, o.p.  Fr. Luke was ordained in 2017 and spent the summer of 2017 working in the hospitals and assisting at our parish, so perhaps some of you have already met him.  He will come to New York at the end of May, so we will have a month of overlap to compare notes before I depart at the end of June.

On Thursday, June 14, 2018, at 6 pm, I will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, thanking God for his many graces over these past three years.  I hope you might be able to join us for that Mass and for a reception afterwards in the Lower Church.

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Innocent Smith, O.P.

 

Regensburg Cathedral

Theatinerkirche, Munich

Theatinerkirche Munich

Regensburg Cathedral

March 31, 2018

Pastels – Pastor’s Reflection (April 1, 2018)

Color is the language of Easter.  Just think of how this feast revels in its own palette.  The eggs we paint and the outfits we don, the flowers we arrange, and even the candy we devour, all sport the light, crisp shades that speak spring to the heart.  Remember that at Christmas we relished red, green, and gold opulence, but now we are far from such imperial trappings.  Here we are, loving mint green and peppermint pink.  Are your eyes not feasting on the buttercup yellows with their foils of lavender and hydrangea blue?  Wouldn’t you also like to throw a little sherbet orange into the mix.  Perhaps it’s the flowers of spring that teach us how to dress our image of the true feast of feasts.
At any time of year our colors make an assertion, even if we do not intend it.  Somehow we use Easter’s range of shades to assert life at winter’s end.  But perhaps with these colors we assert more about life than we realize.  For a few days we swath ourselves in these pastels and go for brunch, and then many of us put them away to resume raiment of more sophisticated reserve, daring intensity, or perhaps edgy minimalism.  But as the cycle of the year moves on where do Easter’s colors remain but among children?
For a glimpse of Easter in July or December visit the nursery or the nursery school, or behold what the little ones wear when they are dressed up for presentation. It’s all straight from the Easter basket.  Why?  We array our children in Easter colors all year long, but we also array ourselves in children’s colors at Easter because for us these are the hues of innocence.
Some colors seduce and others enliven.  Some shades impress and others soothe.  Some tints pack heat, while still others offer a long cool drink.  Easter’s colors are too fresh to have any such agenda.  Where Beaujolais stands among wines, so these colors stand, in the place of sheer freshness, on the arc of the spectrum.  When the colors have a cocktail party the pastels are the little kids sent in to be smiled at and then sent to bed.  We say they are pretty and mean that they are not more than pretty.  But have we reckoned with the power of pretty, the compelling appeal of innocence.
Most of us link innocence with loss.  We may have lost it by being hurt, or by making a compromise with life, and so we carry suspicion and calculation as grey baggage that is never checked.  We also presume that mature and interesting people have left innocence behind, and that the powerful and political have long discarded it.  Even so, we will do anything possible to preserve it in children.  We want for them a life that is far from the violence of guns, but also from the violence of manipulation.  We do not want them to be hurt, or to respond to being hurt by becoming violent or manipulative themselves.  How much this means to us became clear in our horror at the intrusion of violence into our schools, and in our amazement at the eloquence and gravitas of the students’ own reaction.  They have spoken to us with the power of innocence.  They have come before us without any ulterior in their agenda, and so they compel our attention.
Perhaps they can help us grasp Easter this year.  For Easter makes the astounding promise that what we crave for kids can be ours again.
Jesus lived among us and died before us in innocence.  He is the adult who never outgrew the child.  Through this “narrow way” he enters eternity.  Eternal life is not being simply allowed into God’s presence, it means being comfortable there.  God and the humanity of Jesus delight in each other’s innocence, and here lies the unceasing joy of the resurrected life.  Being perfect, that mutual delight does not exclude, and so from the resurrected communion of God and Man the Holy Spirit comes to us, and the sacramental life is established among us as the road back to innocence.
Baptism and Eucharist, Confession and the Sacrament of the Sick work in concert to give us the Risen life of Jesus as a platform for living in the world without violence or manipulation, for walking in this time as an innocent adult.  Those who let this work become reliable friends in love and marriage, in work and play.  They live without life’s greeds because they possess the security of a home in God that cannot be taken away.  Their beauty compels because we can see straight through to its source.  Those touched by Easter are the bright fresh color in the room, relishing all the other bright fresh colors in a life beyond envy and comparison.
You may well smile at the forgoing, but face it; this is what you want for yourself.  This desire has brought you to church on this Easter Day and prompted you to pick up this bulletin.  It prompted me to labor over these lines.  You and I both know who is the Giver of this desire, and who has provided the means for realizing it.
Now is the time to lay hold of Christ’s Easter gifts for ourselves and for others.  Even as Spring begins our world is grey with worry and needs the Easter color that can be ever fresh in us and among us.

Easter Peace!

Fr. Walter

March 24, 2018

Christus Factus Est… Christ Became Obedient… – Pastor’s Reflection (March 25, 2018)

The title above serves as one of the refrains of Holy Week.  As the week progresses from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday the refrain grows to include, element by element, this whole passage from St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.

Christ became obedient
for us
unto death,
even death on the Cross.
Therefore God exalted Him
and gave Him a name
which is above all names. Phil. 2:8-9

The first phrase gives context to the whole.  Holy Week hinges on “became” as a choice.  Jesus did not dream up the Passion as a plan of redemption, nor did the Father coerce him into it. Jesus recognized God’s design and accepted it with the full freedom of his will because it was God’s design.  So while the Passion was, as the word suggests, done to Jesus, he was an active participant because of his consent.  Even as the crucible of his suffering and death constricts the Savior in the extreme, it calls forth every gift of his intellect and heart.  His physical life is extinguished, but also completely fulfilled.

Christ makes the act of obedience formal in the Garden of Gethsemane with the words, “Let your will and not mine be done,” and he sets a pattern that shapes our life to the present moment.  As we celebrate Holy Week 2018 I invite us to consider how Christ’s obedience still operates to shape our parish life, both by the limits it imposes, and by the gifts it releases and directs.

First, there is the vow of obedience.  Our parish has been served by generations of Dominican Sisters and Friars who have chosen to let obedience shape their lives on a continuous basis until death.  Think of the procession of principals, pastors, teachers, Brothers, and parochial vicars (curates) who have come here because a superior made a formal command and sent them.  Having arrived they performed a specific ministry, at a specific time, for specific people, and with specific companions.  At some later time a superior gave them a new command and they left here and took up a new task.  But between those two commands, and within the boundaries of circumstance, they lent untold effort, creativity, and resourcefulness to the growth of parish and school.  They reaped a harvest sown by their predecessors, and sowed a harvest to be reaped by their successors.

But even the existence of the parish is an obedience.  The Archbishop of the day chose to erect it and confided it to the care of the Dominicans, who received it as an assignment.  The parish has never belonged to the Dominicans.  The Archbishop is its ultimate Pastor, and the Friars are his stewards.  Here we find another facet of obedience, which is the zealous spending of self for what (who) belongs to another.

The Parish practices obedience constantly.  Each time we take up a mandated second collection or respond to the Cardinal’s Appeal we submit to the decision of a legitimate superior and send elsewhere resources we might prefer to spend on our own parish.  Here is a real burden that also releases a massive potential of service throughout our whole region.

When this parish celebrates a jubilee in a few weeks the heritage of obedience will be one of the banners it raises.  We are who we are because of this quiet but powerful fact.

Consider our most recent obedience, the parish merger, now two-and-half years old.  In 2015 two groups of people submitted to the command of a legitimate superior and undertook a task they certainly would not have chosen.  That task was fraught with difficulties and resulted in pain and dislocation for many people.  But
responding to it unleashed untold creativity and resourcefulness in those same people.  Laid bare was their depth of faith and the capacity for perseverance in difficulty, a share in the kingship of Christ crucified.

The work of the merger is by no means complete, but in this Passiontide we may name the power that enables us to keep at the task.  We name this not as a boast but as a praise of his grace, ever fruitful in the world.  At each Passover Jews remember the narrow way of the Red Sea and the desert journey, not as history but as present power.  So for us, the celebration of the Lord’s obedience enables us to see the nature of his passover, and our own, now in progress.

Over and over again there is this paradox; the convenant obedience of the Jews and Christians, holy obedience does not crush the human spirit be raises it beyond its weakness and failures into the heart of God’s victory.

Let us pick up this year’s palm and get going.

Peace!
Fr. Walter

March 17, 2018

The Good, the Truth, the Beautiful – Vicar’s Reflection (March 18, 2018)

This weekend, students from Gregory the Great Academy will visit our parish for an afternoon of prayer and fellowship. Gregory the Great Academy is a Catholic boarding school in North East Pennsylvania that seeks to immerse young men in the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, educating and forming men rooted in the Faith and Catholic culture.  When I was fourteen years old, I enrolled in St. Gregory’s Academy (later renamed Gregory the Great Academy), and the formation I received there has continued to mark my life ever since.

Over my past three years at St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena, my ministry here has been enriched in many ways by my experiences as a high school student at St. Gregory’s Academy.  The motto of the Academy, Bonum, Verum, Pulchrum (The Good, the True, and the Beautiful),encapsulates our desire to come to know God under His aspects of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, and the importance of living out the virtues, becoming obedient to the truth, and being lovers of spiritual beauty.  While at the Academy, I was immersed in Gregorian chant and the sacred liturgy, learning to sing and participate in the liturgies that were chanted each day in our school chapel.  In addition to the sacred music, the school has a lively folk music tradition, and I quickly fell in love with Irish traditional music.  In my literature classes, I was taught to memorize and internalize poetry and to appreciate the Good and Great Books, and in religion classes I began to study theology and read the Bible more deeply.  Playing rugby taught me important lessons about fortitude and perseverance, and pilgrimages to France during summer vacations introduced me to monastic life and the adventurous way of the pilgrim.  These early experiences, refined and broadened by my Dominican formation, have been an integral foundation for my ministry at this parish, whether it be in preaching, adult catechesis, or liturgical and musical ministries.

I am grateful to Fr. Walter for the opportunity to welcome the students from my alma mater to our parish on Saturday, March 24, where they will sing at a Dominican Rite Mass at 12:30 pm at the Church of St. Catherine of Siena and afterwards share more about their life and studies at aninformation session in St. Dominic’s Hall at St. Catherine of Siena.  All are welcome who would like to be edified by the singing of the students or who might be interested in supporting the educational efforts of the Academy.

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Innocent, o.p.

P.S. To learn more about Gregory the Great Academy, visit www.gregorythegreatacademy.org or write to
135 St. Gregory’s Place, Elmhurst Twp, PA 18444.

 

St. Gregory the Great Photo

March 15, 2018

St. Patrick’s Eve Vespers and Concert

To celebrate the Solemnity of St. Patrick, the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena will offer Solemn First Vespers for the Feast of St. Patrick followed by a concert of Irish Traditional Music.

Vespers will take place at 7 pm at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, sung in Gregorian chant, followed by the concert at 7:30 pm. The concert will feature Willie Kelly (fiddle) and Christy McNamara (concertina), two musicians well versed in the County Clare style of Irish traditional music. They will be joined for some sets by Fr. Innocent Smith, O.P. (flute).

A free-will offering will be taken for the concert.

For more information, click here.

March 12, 2018

Holy Week Schedule 2018

Holy Week 2018

Palm Sunday, March 25

4 pm Saturday (March 24): Low Vigil Mass – St. Catherine
6 pm Saturday (March 24): Sung Vigil Mass – St. Vincent 
8 am: Low Mass – St. Vincent
9:30 am: Sung Mass – St. Vincent
10 am: Low Mass – St. Catherine
11:15 am:  Blessing of Palms and Procession – St. Catherine
12 noon: Solemn Mass – St. Vincent
5 pm: Sung Mass – St. Catherine

5:30 pm: Solemn Vespers – St. Vincent
6 pm: Sung Mass – St. Vincent

Holy Thursday, March 29

9 am: Office of Readings & Morning Prayer – St. Vincent
4 pm: Low Mass of the Lord’s Supper – St. Catherine
6:30 pm: Solemn Mass of the Lord’s Supper – St. Vincent
8:30 pm: Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – St. Vincent

11:45 pm: Compline – St. Vincent

Good Friday, March 30

8 am: Office of Readings & Morning Prayer – St. Catherine
9 am: Office of Readings & Morning Prayer – St. Vincent
12 noon: Seven Last Words of Christ – St. Catherine
3 pm: Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion – St. Vincent
5:15 pm: Sung Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion – St. Catherine

7 pm: Watch at the Sepulcher – St. Vincent
(Singing of the Lamentations and Compline)

Holy Saturday, March 31 

8 am: Office of Readings & Morning Prayer – St. Catherine
9 am: Office of Readings & Morning Prayer – St. Vincent
10 am – 12 noon: Confessions – St. Vincent
11 am – 12 noon: Confessions – St. Catherine

*The Churches will close at 12 noon. St. Vincent will open at 7 pm.

8 pm: Solemn Vigil of Easter – St. Vincent

Easter Sunday, April 1

8 am: Low Mass – St. Vincent
9:30 am: Sung Mass – St. Vincent
10 am: Sung Mass – St. Catherine
12 noon: Solemn Mass – St. Vincent

On Easter Sunday there will be no Evening Masses

March 10, 2018

Behold the Faithful Servant – Pastor’s Reflection (March 11, 2018)

You read these lines on rose-hued Laetare Sunday, lit up by the return of daylight savings time.  I hope the change of color and light nudges us to stop and look for a sign of spring. St. Joseph’s Feast on March 19 always holds that promise for me. I find that each year when the cycle of nature comes out of “sleep mode,” I receive something very predictable as a miracle.  Actually, though, nature’s rhythm nourishes in me that gift of hope which lies beyond nature.  Longer days direct the heart to days without nights, and tender shoots point skyward to a flowering not followed by a fall of leaves.

St. Joseph fosters this growth with his timely celebration, as he does with his example.  He stands among us as an image of hope ordering a human life, for he sees spring coming even as he walks in winter.  We need his perseverance in the present and his confidence for the future. So, I hope that in hope you will join us in nine days of prayer leading to his feast.

As Joseph receives Mary and her unborn child into his home, he stakes his life on a promise, and so he sets out in hope for Bethlehem, and then to Egypt and back again. For this righteous man, fostering the two lives entrusted to his care will blaze the trail to fulfillment and happiness such as only God can give.  On earth, Joseph found happiness in risking all for two people. Imagine then his joy at interceding for all of us as Patron of the Universal Church.

For us too, real happiness will lie in seeking the well-being of our neighbors, for in the simple act of desiring happiness for those we love we attain it for ourselves.  Here lies the joyful secret of intercessory prayer. In this spirit we may pray with St. Joseph for those we love who have ceased to practice their faith. It will serve as an act of hope and a growth in happiness to intercede for all kinds of people we know who no longer exercise the abundance of their baptismal gifts.  Our call is to invite them to take up again a public stance of service before God and neighbor, at Mass and throughout their lives.

How many are the reasons that good people make the step away from the Catholic Church in particular, and from organized religion in general.  All kinds of very real hurts and disappointments cause our children and grandchildren, siblings and friends to decide that it will be more peaceful and productive for them to be “spiritual but not religious.”  Praying these men and women resume the sacramental life will entail the petition that they find the happiness of joining and of being connected, even though belonging brings exposure to human weakness. Despite its risks, belonging brings a grounding that human beings crave naturally, and for Christians a supernatural fulfillment.  Attending Mass and sharing in the prayer life of the Church re-unites people with their vocation, for at our baptism we were commissioned not only to know God personally but serve Him in concert with others.  St. Joseph’s story exemplifies this principle. Consider how his walk through life with Mary and Jesus left him vulnerable to the sad and tragic strategies of Herod, but that none of these deterred him from fostering their well-being and thereby finding the happiness of the just.

Who are the good but hurt people in your life who need our prayer that they may replace alienation with communion?

You can pray for the lapsed Catholics you love, and ask us to pray with you, during this Novena sponsored by the Dominican Shrine of St. Jude.  These nine days of prayer will begin on Sunday March 11, and continue until St. Joseph’s Day, Monday, March 19.  The prayers of the Novena will be said at all the Masses in both churches of our Parish.  Each possesses a beautiful altar of St. Joseph and these altars will be arranged as places of petition for the Novena.  You will find cards with the novena prayers and slips for petitions, should you wish to submit them.

To this common intention that lapsed Catholics resume the practice of their faith please add your own petitions confided to St. Joseph’s friendship.

This Novena of prayer will serve as part of the evangelical mission of our parish, our hope that more people would share with us the closeness we have to God in Jesus Christ. Indeed your prayer will encourage the preaching of the Dominican Friars who serve the Shrine and the Parish, for we also claim St. Joseph as our particular and powerful patron.

Lenten Peace!
Fr.  Walter

March 03, 2018

Reverie In A Rocking Chair – Pastor’s Reflection (March 4, 2018)

I write you this Sunday as the recipient of a very unexpected gift.  In our constant quest for more time to edit the Parish Bulletin I compose this letter for March 4 on February 22, and I write it in the gentle pinelands of East Texas.  As many of you know I “moonlight” by working with the contemplative nuns of our order.  I am here attending the council meeting of their association, which I am charged to advise.  The time with the nuns has been happy and fruitful.  Their company nourishes me to return with new zest to my day job.

This week’s singular gift of these days is an old rocking chair sitting quietly in the long arched porch of the monastery.  What a thought that in the middle of February I could perch in such a setting and listen to birds and crickets in a gentle woodland.  A gift of distilled serenity!

I tried to use the bonanza of veranda time in winter gratefully and productively, for in the quiet I could appreciate all the other gifts coming at me with such velocity.  Let me take a chance to mention some of the things I have been pondering in my rocker.  First I pondered the things we have to be grateful for.  Winter seemed to fly past on the wings of some great happenings.

On February 2 we celebrated the light-filled Feast of the Presentation, and those many who came out for the Solemn Mass and reception had the chance to recognize that this beautiful mystery offers a wonderful stance on living.  February 10 brought us to the Parish Mardi Gras.  This evening brought together fabulous decor, delicious food, and wonderful guests.  What a pleasure to see people settle in for a good time, and in so doing to become yet more at home in the Community of the Parish.  I came away so grateful for all the love that went into these celebrations and for being joined to it by a happy assignment.

To me Ash Wednesday ranks as one of the great days of the year.  Obviously the numbers of people coming to church move me greatly, but beyond that I relish being able to make pastoral contact with people I do not usually see.  Somehow the seconds it takes to impose ashes on a frantic commuter in the vestibule turn into an important sermon.  On this day we cross a line into the non-practicing world with a gesture that goes beyond and below words.

As you know, on February 17 we had the joy of welcoming Cardinal Dolan for the opening Mass of our Jubilee celebration.  Once again, so much wonderful work went into the liturgy and reception that I came away moved by the dedication of the people with whom I share life.  The highest complement I can pay the Mass and party is that they were true, that is, they gave an accurate picture of us.  In his homily, the Cardinal described how we are seen in the Catholic world of New York.  As he spoke, I was grateful for the great pillar that allowed me to be overcome by emotion.  The most moving part was that I recognized the group His Eminence was describing.

I hope you got a glimpse of the Icon we presented to Cardinal Dolan.  It was also on the program for the Mass and figured on two of the flyers we circulated.  The Icon was “written” by Janine Manheim, who also painted the triptych of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The image features St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena standing together in a red field, representing the Holy Spirit animated their life and ministry.  Together the hold the Book of the Gospels, which is open to St. Matthew’s similes of salt and light, incidentally the Godspel traditionally read on St. Vincent’s feast.  This testifies to the evangelical power of their preaching, and the hope the parish has for its own preaching under their patronage.  The base of the Icon refers to the “Holy Preaching” by which we Dominicans refer to our life and ministry which radically include each other.

During the Jubilee celebrations we plan for April and May we plan to bless a larger version of this image for each of our churches.

In my rocker I reflected on another facet of my winter life that has shot past me, and that is retreat season.  For me the Saturday mornings of winter equal retreat.  By the time you read these lines we will have held retreats for Lectors, high school parents, Ministers of Holy Communion, single women, and for the whole parish.  The intimacy of this preaching and prayer never ceases develop my own spiritual life.  On St. Patrick’s Day we hope to have one of these retreats with our servers.

After the familiar rites of St. Patrick, St. Joseph and Holy Week, there will unfold a series of extraordinary springtime gifts.  Please keep an eye peeled for our Jubilee celebrations, set for the days from Aprll 28 to May 5.  On May 10,  Ascension Thursday, we will host an ecumenical service of lessons and carols for the season.  My own jubilee (silver) follows on Pentecost which is May 20 this year.

The pace will not relent.  Beginning June 4 we friars celebrate a chapter at Providence College.  These
multi-week assemblies are the means by which we friars govern ourselves.   A number of us will be absent for this time.

As I survey all this activity I am grateful for the Lord who gave me the respite in that rocker, but who has throughout my life insisted that I get out of rockers and keep walking.

Blessings on your Lent.
Fr.  Walter