The Easter Preaching – Pastor’s Reflection (April 16, 2017)
By tradition, “The Lord is Risen,” supplants conventional greetings during these days of joy (“He is truly Risen” providing the venerable response.) It is also the first Christian sermon, preached by Mary
Magdalene to the Apostles, garnering her the grand title of Apostle to the Apostles (Apostola Apostolorum) and the co-patronage of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans). She announced not just a fact, but a life. As He passes through doors and remains unrecognizable to His followers until the Holy Spirit lowers the barrier, Jesus without losing His humanity, has entered upon a new mode of life.
The gospels of the Easter Sundays to follow, six of them leading up to Pentecost, disclose the nature of that life and indicate that through the sacraments we have already begun to share in it. At Mass during the fifty days of Easter we always hear a first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which chronicles how men and women organized their whole lives around the Resurrection from the moment of Pentecost. Without a word of the New Testament having been written, they become Christians, through Baptism and the Breaking of the Bread, the Teachings of the Apostles and the common life. Peter, Paul, and the other Apostles do not show up throughout the Roman world with a book to talk about, but with a life to share.
The saints who followed them through the ages turn our heads because we perceive in them a life reshaped by the fact of the Resurrection. Two such are the Patrons of our Parish, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Vincent Ferrer. Both of them are Easter preachers. Like the Apostles, they walked through the world proclaiming the victory of Christ. They did not ground their work in institutions, but claimed the sacramental life as their sustenance. Each of them represents itinerancy, that aspect of life the Dominicans have inherited from the Apostles. They possessed the singular grace of having no real home, but lived lives on the road for the sake of the Gospel. They trod the byways of late Fourteenth and early Fifteenth Century Europe, a world depopulated by the Black Death and sundered by schism. In fearful times they preached from the courage of the Good Shepherd. Each challenged the age prophetically to recover the confidence that comes from Faith.
In the formation of our new parish, we are blessed to have two Patrons who accepted from Christ the gift and challenge of a life in motion. We, ourselves, have been launched into change by the decision of Christ’s Church. Our Patrons can teach us much about how to live in these times and preach to these times.
It comes to the Parish as a singular gift to the Parish that our Patrons have feast days so close
together. St. Catherine’s Day is April 29, while the Order now celebrates St. Vincent on May 5. (His feast in the general calendar is April 5, but Lent and Easter Week too frequently suppress it). This fortunate circumstance allows us to link the two feasts with a festival of prayer. So even today, as we begin the singular Octave of Easter, we will shortly celebrate our own parochial octave of prayer from April 28, the Vigil of St. Catherine, until May 5, the Feast of St. Vincent.
As with the St. Joseph and St. Jude Novenas we have already celebrated during this parish year, this Octave will be facilitated by our Dominican Shrine of St. Jude, and like the St. Jude Novena, this Octave will feature a series of special preachings. We will invite you to come to it with your prayer intentions, and we will also have a common intention as a Parish. This will be to pray for a new Pentecost; to ask the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Vincent Ferrer, that the preaching of our church may truly reach the men and women of this age.
These days of prayer will figure as the first event in a Jubilee of our own. The Dominican Friars took up their first parochial ministry in New York City in June of 1867, and the current Church of St. Vincent Ferrer was dedicated on May 5 of 1918. This gives a “Holy Year” between the 150th anniversary of our presence in the Archdiocese and the 100th anniversary of St. Vincent Ferrer Church. The Parish Year of 2017-2018 will have this Jubilee as its defining theme.
I believe that for a century and a half, Dominican women and men have undertaken in our city the Easter Preaching, after the pattern of Catherine and Vincent. I hope that our teaching, preaching, and our service in parishes and hospitals have all been a fulfillment of the Risen Lord’s greeting, “Peace be with you.”
Details on all of the above will follow soon.