FROM THE RECTOR: SHOWING UP
Last week I was a guest at the annual conference of the North American province of the Society of Catholic Priests (SCP), which took place this year in Atlanta, Georgia. SCP describes its “twin aims [as] the cultivation of priestly spirituality and the encouragement of catholic evangelism.” The members of the North American province (SCP also has a European province) are bishops, priests, and deacons—both women and men—of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
I thought that all four of the presentations at the conference were really excellent. One of the presentations was delivered by Luke Timothy Johnson, who has just retired from a professorship at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University, in Atlanta. Born in 1943, Professor Johnson is a Roman Catholic. He was a Benedictine monk and priest at the Abbey of Saint Joseph, Saint Benedict, Louisiana, from 1963 to 1972. After leaving the monastery, he finished a doctoral program in New Testament Studies at Yale University, was married, and began a very distinguished academic career. Professor Johnson is a New Testament scholar with a wide range of interests. Both Father Smith and I use his commentary on the Gospel of Luke; two years ago, when Father Smith was teaching his bible study class here at the parish on the Acts of the Apostles, he found Johnson’s commentary on Acts to be very useful. Professor Johnson is a gifted and engaging speaker. I wish my notes from all of the talks were more complete. Here are two notes I made during Johnson’s talk, “How do we practice being Christian? With others” and “Nothing replaces our presence.”
Longtime readers of this newsletter know of my interest in Bowen Family Systems Theory—in a nutshell, what is true of our biology is true of our emotional processes. During his talk, Professor Johnson spoke about “muscular presence” and about the “muscular memory” that goes along with it. We learn how to be Christian through practice—by trying to live the Christian life, both as individuals and with others, fellow members of the Body of Christ.
Johnson reminded us that in a Benedictine monastery the oldest members process in for the main offices of the day two-by-two, behind the abbot, in order of seniority. The longer you are in a monastic community, the closer you get to the front of the procession. This image speaks to a powerful reality: those who are new to the monastic life learn how to become monks from those who have gone before them. We learn to follow Christ by getting in line, as it were, behind others, in other words, by showing up. This formation, this shaping, continues throughout our lives. Drawing on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Professor Johnson reminded us that character is habit, and habit shapes character. Saint Benedict called his monastery a “school of the Lord’s service” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict , Prol. 45, 165). This is true of every Christian congregation or community.
Our own parish community is shaped by its particular witness of welcome and worship. It is a very good thing that there is an extraordinary Episcopal parish close by Times Square. I dream of the parish having enough money to keep its doors open until nine o’clock at night every night of the week. With the scaffolding gone and the right kind of lighting on our façades and doors, I think we would be busy until we finally shut the doors for the day. It’s unusual to walk into Saint Mary’s without encountering someone at prayer, some people passing through, and others resting and sleeping. It’s all good.
Mark Searle (1941–1992) was a gifted liturgical scholar and an important consultant to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. In his talk, Johnson quoted Professor Searle as saying, “We cannot but participate if we are baptized.” Johnson added, “How we give to God is what we do for others.” (Again, I hope my notes are good.) Searle and Johnson’s words suggest to me that we are all having a marvelous conversation with God and with each other. It is more than just a good thing when we show up for God and for other people. It is at the very heart of the Christian life. To show up—in body, mind, and spirit—both for God, and for others, is where Christian worship begins. Our life in Christ, as individuals and as members of Christ’s Body, grows and develops by virtue of the character of our habits and of the habits of our character. As Professor Johnson says, “Nothing replaces our presence.” We Christians grow in many ways over the course of our lives, but we must begin somewhere. Growth begins when we show up. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Donald, Bracey, Robin, Sally, Julie, Linda, Arlene, Guy, Joanna, Jason, Dolly, Melissa, Jean, Barbara, Sharon, Philip, Juliana, Heidi, Catherine, Donald, Sam, Burton, Arpene, Takeem; Sidney, deacon; Horace, Hamilton, Gaylord, and Harry, priests; for all victims of war, poverty, famine, and disaster; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark and Nicholas; and for the repose of the soul of Michael Fahy, FDNY Battalion Chief . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . October 16: 1879 John Henry Beeril; 1880 William A. Morrill, Jr.; 1901 Henry Murrell; 1952 Kathleen G. Spencer.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
ALL SOULS’ DAY REMEMBRANCE . . . All Souls’ Day packets will be mailed to members and friends of the parish very shortly. The packet will contain a letter from the rector, a prayer-request form, the schedule of Requiem Masses, and a return envelope. Those wishing to have the names of the departed read during the Prayers of the People at the annual Parish Requiem Masses should complete the form and return it to the parish office as soon as possible. Prayers for the Departed will be offered according to the following schedule, by the last name of the person making the intention (for example, the names provided by Ms. Perez will be read at the Masses celebrated on the fourth day—Last names O–Q): 1. Thursday, November 3, Last names A–E; 2. Friday, November 4, Last names F–K; 3. Saturday, November 5, Last names L–N; 4. Monday, November 7, Last names O–Q; 5. Tuesday, November 8, Last names R–Z. Prayer requests may be mailed to the parish office in the return envelope. They may also be sent via e-mail. It is traditional for an offering to accompany the prayer requests. We encourage our members and friends to be generous.
OKTOBERFEST . . . All Saint Marians are invited to come and celebrate the arrival of autumn here at the parish on Saturday, October 22, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. The supper is potluck. Please contact Grace Bruni if you’re able to bring a dish to share. Beverages—beer and soft drinks—will be provided. Following supper, we will adjourn to the organ loft for our annual rousing hymn sing, led by organist and music director David Hurd. Oktoberfest has become an annual event here at Saint Mary’s. It’s a wonderful opportunity to spend some time with fellow parishioners and to meet new people. Saint Marians are encouraged to invite their friends and neighbors to Oktoberfest. The event is a great way to introduce newcomers to the parish.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, October 16, 2016, The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Adult Education 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass with Organ and Choir 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong & Benediction 5:00 PM . . . Tuesday, October 18, Saint Luke the Evangelist, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Saturday, October 22, 6:00 to 9:00 PM, Oktoberfest, in Saint Joseph’s Hall and the Organ Loft . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on October 19 at 6:30 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall. . . On Wednesdays, the daily 12:10 PM Eucharist is a Sung Mass; on Thursdays the daily 12:10 PM Eucharist is a Mass with Healing Service.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Linda Bridges remains at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center for treatment. Please keep her in your prayers . . . Altar Flowers are needed for the following Sundays: October 23 and 30, November 6 and 13, and December 11 (Rose Sunday) . . . Coffee Hour: A Reminder . . . Don’t be shy, channel your inner extrovert, welcome the stranger and the visitor! It can actually be fun . . . Seeking donors: we hope to receive donations for the receptions in Saint Joseph’s Hall on November 1 and December 8. (Donations for hospitality on Sundays are also always welcome.) When making donations, please write “Hospitality” in the memo line of your check. Altar Flowers are needed for the following Sundays: October 23 and 30, and November 6 and 13. We are very grateful to all those who continue to help with these crucial ministries . . . Father Gerth will be away from the parish on vacation between Friday, October 14, and Friday, October 21 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 177.
MUSIC NOTES . . . The setting of the Mass at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is Canterbury Mass by Anthony Piccolo (b. 1946). Piccolo’s note on the 1996 published edition reads: “Written in 1978 for Dr. Allan Wicks and the Choir of Canterbury Cathedral, these settings were intended for use in the Cathedral’s resonant nave during the rebuilding of the organ. They are here presented somewhat revised and in accordance with current liturgical practice.” The Mass is scored for unaccompanied mixed choir, mostly in four parts but with occasional further division of voices. The text is disposed efficiently with occasional overlapping of text phrases. Piccolo grew up in New Jersey and completed a Master’s degree at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland. During a subsequent nine-year residence in England he sang with the cathedral choirs of Lichfield, Canterbury and Saint Paul’s, London, and performed extensively as a pianist. Returning to the United States, he has remained very active as a composer, pianist, and conductor in a variety of venues. The Communion motet, Almighty and everlasting God, by Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625), is a setting of the collect formerly attached to the Third Sunday after Epiphany. Although one of the more modest of Gibbons’s compositions for the English service, it is an important early example of the English full anthem and served as a model for the close-following generations of distinguished church music composers that included John Blow and Henry Purcell. The organ prelude is the second movement of Suite in Three Movements for Organ, which I originally composed in 1998 for that year’s national convention of the Organ Historical Society. It was substantially revised in 2010 and subsequently published. Ostinato is a set of twelve variations on an implied four-measure ground. Beginning with a single melodic voice, additional voices gradually are added as the variations progress, culminating in the tenth variation. The eleventh variation decreases into the twelfth in which the original melody, now harmonized, is restated. —David Hurd
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, October 15, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra. Music by Vaughan Williams, Mendelssohn, and Prokofiev. Admission is free. A $10.00 donation is suggested and greatly appreciated . . . Friday, October 21, 7:30 PM, Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival: The Berlin Radio Choir. The program includes choral works by J. S. Bach, Brahms, Schütz, and Schoenberg, as well as Knut Nystedt’s haunting meditation, Immortal Bach. Tickets may be purchased online . . . Saturday, October 29, 7:30 PM, Trident Ensemble, “Untold Peace.” From the ensemble’s website, “War is one of the few constants in human culture; yet this human impulse toward destruction has provided countless composers with a source of creative inspiration. Wars are remembered, valorized, and sometimes even glamorized in music. But what about peace? There are many songs that call for peace, and many compositions lament a loss of peace. But there are far fewer works that celebrate a time of peace than those that celebrate a time of war. Stories of peace often remain untold. Paradoxically, it is only through our relationship with war that we understand and remember peace. Join Trident as we explore works inspired by armed conflict, and reflect on the feelings of remorse, remembrance, supplication, and even joy, that follow in its wake. Light is not light without dark but can peace exist without war?” Doors open at 7:00 PM. Tickets may be purchased online.
ADULT EDUCATION The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class has begun its fall semester. This year the class, which is led by Father Jay Smith, is reading Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The class meets next on October 19 at 6:30 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall and will continue reading Chapter 1 . . . The Adult Forum continues on Sunday, October 16, at 10:00 AM. Sister Monica Clare, C.S.J.B., will make the second presentation in our series “Learning How to Live and Pray with Holy Men and Women.” Sister will be talking about Thomas Merton, the well-known twentieth-century Trappist monk, poet, and spiritual writer. On October 23, Father Jay Smith will be discussing the Desert Fathers and Mothers.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Homeless Ministry: We are looking for donations of clothing for distribution to the homeless in our neighborhood: jeans and slacks in a variety of sizes for both men and women; packs of new underwear and socks for both women and men; sweaters, sweatshirts, jackets and coats; dress shirts and outfits suitable for job interviews, and other items. Sister Monica tells us this week that we are especially short of women’s underwear, in various sizes. Cash donations to this ministry are also welcome!
A WALK TO FIGHT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE . . . Michael Reid is a Saint Marian and the assistant to the director at the Ronald M. Loeb Center for Alzheimer’s Disease at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. He writes, “I will be the team captain for Mount Sinai at the upcoming Alzheimer’s Walk on Sunday, October 16. If any Saint Mary’s members would care to sponsor our effort (or walk with us), we would welcome their support, particularly if it’s honoring someone from the Saint Mary’s community who has Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. Our team is listed on the Walk’s team list as ‘ADRC and Loeb Center at Mount Sinai.’ We were one of the largest groups and largest fundraisers at last year’s walk, and we hope to surpass last year’s effort on both fronts.” Information about donations and volunteering to walk is available online.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Monday, October 24, Saint James of Jerusalem (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Friday, October 28, Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Monday, October 31, Eve of All Saints’ Day, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Tuesday, November 1, All Saints’ Day, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM. The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold is the celebrant and preacher at the Solemn Mass . . . Wednesday, November 2, All Souls’ Day, 12:10 PM Sung Mass and 6:00 PM Solemn Mass . . . Sunday, November 6, Daylight Saving Time ends . . . November 3–5, 7–8, Parish Requiem Masses (Mass at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM, except on Saturday, November 5, when only the 12:10 PM Mass is a Requiem Mass).
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Christopher Howatt is the business manager here at Saint Mary’s. Chris is also a very talented musician and a member of our very fine parish choir. During the month of November, Chris will be performing at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West Forty-sixth Street (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues), right here in our neighborhood. Performances are Sunday, November 6 and 13, at 3:00 PM, and Friday, November 11, at 9:30 PM. The program includes a wide range of music from standards through contemporary music. Cover charge is $15.00, with a two-drink minimum. Cash only. Reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made by phone at 212-757-0788, any day after 4:00 PM, or online. From the event postcard, “On cabaret stages, Christopher Howatt would normally be found behind the piano serving as music director. But, in Hear My Song, Chris steps out from behind the keyboard and into the spotlight center stage.”