Procession – Pastor’s Reflection (September 20, 2015)
This Sunday’s inaugural Mass for our new parish will feature a procession from St. Vincent’s where we will celebrate Morning Prayer, to St. Catherine of Siena where we will celebrate Mass. The movement of the group through the neighborhood will make a powerful statement of our Community’s presence to anyone who might be astir at that early hour for New York on a Sunday.
But our shared movement will speak more loudly and eloquently to us. To move together in any common purpose is to discover a heightened solidarity. Processions in faith go further, because they make tangible for a moment the movement of the faithful toward God. From the moment of our baptism we started walking, and all along we have shared the journey. We move intimately in the procession of generations that is our family. Our seniors represent continuity and constancy until they step across the horizon, and we hear the crying of the babies behind us. By analogy, we take a place in the Church’s pilgrimage through time, marveling that St. Catherine of Siena, St. Vincent Ferrer, and all the others who have crossed the last frontier retain a living connection to those of us who trudge along behind them.
The image of a procession conjures something well-defined and choreographed. Real life though orchestrates something far less orderly. On Sunday I think we will move as a free-form crowd behind our cross, and that will tell the neighborhood everything. In the last four months, the wind of the Holy Spirit has blown us together and placed us on a new homeward route. The experience possesses the sense of commotion that must have accompanied Pentecost and it is far from over. Yet, as then, God animates, keeping us in motion toward Him along pathways traced by His love and not by our sensibilities.
So we fall into a place among the crowd as it sets out for the next way station on its journey. “Procession” offers a way to understand Sunday morning, a way to conceive of our merger, and a way to enter into life.
I hope that you may also be carried along into the crowd of Parish Study. We aim to tackle all this newness through a process of learning, reflection and study. On Tuesdays at 7 PM we will address carefully and candidly the question, “who are we?” Who are we as Catholic Christians gathered in a Dominican parish in a secular city? Why do we continue in this way of worship and fellowship? What good word do we have for the great crowd surrounding us on all sides. Please join us this Tuesday, September 22, at 7 PM in the Parish Hall at St. Vincent Ferrer to begin this shared enterprise. In October, meetings shift to St. Catherine’s.
The Holy Father’s arrival will set in motion crowds of Christians and crowds of the curious. May we as good contemplative students look beyond the human spectacle of the multitude and perceive the longing it carries with it. May the Servant of the Servants of God have the grace to speak to the heart of the crowd. What he begins this week may our new parish continue in its evangelical life
The hardest part of walking in a procession organized by the Spirit is that we do not get to stay in step with our companions. Grappling with the way people move in and out of our lives provides a lifetime project of sanctification. Our community has had ample opportunity for this exercise in recent weeks, but now we must grapple some more.
37 years ago Pat Keegan took her place in the procession with the Friars, Sisters, and People of St. Vincent Ferrer. Ever since, she has walked with us, and her discretion, prudence, and graciousness have kept us all moving forward. Pat’s ministry of welcome, encouragement, and consolation have provided the tune to which we have all walked. Now, however, Pat sees that her path is taking a different direction. After much prayer and thought, she has decided it is time to begin a new chapter of life.
I, for one, cannot imagine St. Vincent Ferrer, or even my day, without Pat’s presence. The procession teaches though! I may not claim as mine the companion given to me as a gift. I can be sad at losing Pat, or I can be amazed at the gift of us having had Pat for so long. Humanly speaking, many of us will do some of both.
This week, please take the time to come give Pat your good wishes. Also, come to wish her well on the evening of Monday, September 28, from 6 to 8 PM in the parlors of the Priory.
Please pray for our Parish, our City, and our Archdiocese as we traverse a singular week in this season of change.