On Doing Good Things – Pastor’s Reflection (October 2, 2016)
This weekend will complete our “startup” season with the resumption of Solemn Mass at 12 pm. Bishop John O’Hara will come to St. Vincent’s to celebrate this Mass, and, confirm young candidates from St. Vincent Ferrer High School and from our parish religious education program. Witnessing these rites will be the Freshman class of our High School and their families. We have confidence that all involved will remember not only the sacramental rites, but the singing of our new Schola Cantorum, who will make their debut at this Mass, under the direction of James Wetzel.
For several years now we have brought together the resumption of the choir, Confirmations, and the “Welcoming Mass” of the High School. Joining these elements accomplishes a dual purpose. Effectively we can begin our Parish year with a “Mass of the Holy Spirit,” seeking His direction for all our enterprises. At the same time, such a Mass manifests the complexity of our parish community, ultimately orchestrated by the Spirit. Around our altar on this first Sunday of October are residents from our neighborhood, high school families from every borough and Westchester, and gifted singers, as well as Friars and Sisters of the Order of Preachers. All of these people have come together for a Mass, but they embody the variety of people who pray, work, study, and socialize in this place all the time. Our parish stands at a social and cultural crossroads. This complexity makes us a microcosm of our city and of our Church, and complexity in human affairs is something God blesses.
From the moment of Pentecost God has made the Church not only multi-lingual but multi-cultural, indicating that the Gospel should not only penetrate every culture, but that it should bring cultures into the creative tension of communion. It would not be unfair to say that the edgy vibrancy we live with as New Yorkers gives us a clue about the spiritual reality of the living Body of Christ all over the globe.
For this reason, the Church, and by extension the Parish, defies monolithic imagery. We never achieve either the focus of the military or the galvanized passion of a movement. Instead we invite people to find their particular place in the intricate mosaic of our life so that they can find sanctification not only by being and doing their best, but by perfecting task and temperament in the crucible of context.
This means that when the Church asks, she asks double. She says, “Please take part in our life and find Christ,” then she adds, “and share Him with all the other people He loves.” She implores, “please volunteer for our committees and projects,” then she adds, “and volunteer alongside all the other volunteers.” The neighborly half of these propositions doubles the practical and emotional scale of commitment, but it multiplies even more the surprising joys of belonging and participating. Our emotional maturity and spiritual completion demand that we engage the complexity inherent in being human and in being Christian.
Complexity offers an essential watchword for the times. Our economic and political climate seems to drive people into a vain attempt to simplify social reality, or, failing that, to withdraw into a private simplicity of their own creation. Running away from circumstances offers no less futility than taking a hatchet to them. What avails for personal and social sanity is the recognition of how much and how many we must take account of to connect fully with the life God has given.
Consider the many challenges of being a single mother with an infant in our city in these times. How does one vulnerable person manage for two. The Sisters of Life offer young mothers the spiritual and practical help they need to face reality rather than to defy it or avoid it. Theirs is a work of accompanying real people, in real life, and in real time.
During October we are asked to help them with gift of real things, supplies for infants and mothers. You will find details about this drive in our bulletin. No doubt we, as a parish, have complex views on the social issues of the day. But the task of helping women help women with children impels us all to ponder the complicated people beneath the complicated issues.
The interdependent functions of a Solemn Mass teach us about the way lives are woven together in a fabric of which only God is able to see the full pattern. The women we try to help this month remind us that they and their children form part of His composition, as are so many others presented our concern by the news of these days. In Liturgy and life happiness comes in being part of.