On Study and Normalcy – Pastor’s Reflection (September 27, 2015)
I write to you on the Tuesday before the Holy Father’s visit. I expect that by the time you read these lines we will all be looking for some normalcy in our city. Normalcy connotes a lack of commotion and the presence of familiarity. But it also confers the space to make sense of things. Let me wrap these sentiments in liturgical colors and say that the long “green” days give us a chance to receive into ourselves the intensity of a “white” and “purple” day, or not. We have all lived through a momentous event, and we now have a choice. We can take time and ponder what it means to perceive so closely the universality of the Church, or we can scurry off to the next experience.
This week, I ask us; how do we take in what happens to us? Do we consume events in the manner of food or drink, or do we let them teach us? Of course, we live in New York, a city which condenses great experiences into brief moments, in small spaces. In such a place, happenings can provide a steady diet of stimulation and distraction. So, we finish seeing the Pope and then we are off to savor Antarctic nouvelle cuisine on offer in Far Rockaway. But when do we sit and ask what events mean, or take the time to perceive how they have affected us?
If I seek a spiritual life, I must leave some time empty, for reflection, reaction, and contemplation. I must consider. I must change. I must marvel at what lies beyond my changing.
In our parish we stand back before the extraordinary events of our merger. Last week’s inaugural celebration summed up in its movements all that we have been through. Shared worship and shared fellowship have begun to happen, and now it will be for us to discern for what purpose God has arranged it so. But first, I must thank all those whose hands and voices made Sunday’s Morning Prayer, Rosary Procession, and Solemn Mass speak so eloquently and clearly of God’s presence in our community, as Initiator, as Companion, as Goal. The generosity of so many points to a deeper, broader, community emerging from the challenges of merger, and this community will surely be His work.
Dominicans use study in normal time to comprehend extraordinary time. The relation of study to normalcy is so important that it is symbiotic. We use the normal for study, but study also fosters the normal. By its nature, study generates equilibrium and perspective. I propose that the spirit of study can help our new parish find its new normal and live in it comfortably.
The value of normal time shines forth when it is taken away. If we glimpsed a new normal coming to us last Sunday, the normal many of us knew at St. Vincent Ferrer will recede irrevocably with the departure, next week, of our beloved Pat Keegan.
It would be fair to say that for over three decades Pat has been the normal for the Friars, Sisters, and Laity who made up St. Vincent Ferrer Parish. Pat knows everybody, she can find anything, and she can make any setting lovely. Her good sense and discretion have steered eight Pastors away from sure disaster, and her courage has sustained the initiative of us all. In Pat, the whole parish has found an indefatigable companion.
Here I would offer my own testimony. As a first-time Pastor, I know that I could not have managed without Pat’s encouragement and her candor. Her prudence, her sense of proportion, and her charity have tought pastoral ministry more thoroughly and move lovingly than any tome. I can never be grateful enough for all this pedagogy.
In light of the foregoing, I for one must rely once more on her wisdom: if she says its time, its time. So we will press on. In God’s own way, this change must bring new growth for Pat and for us.
I hope that those of you who know Pat will stop by the Priory on Monday evening, September 28, between 6 and 8 PM to wish Pat well. Loving hands will have something prepared for you to eat and drink.