When I began to prepare the last service booklet as rector of Trinity Church, Michigan City, Indiana, I looked back through the newsletters from my first year there. I came across an article entitled “Essential.” It was about what it would be like if every member of the congregation on Sunday morning experienced his or her presence during worship as fundamentally essential to the service itself, like the bread and wine, like the Scriptures. I had forgotten that I have been thinking about this for so long because in the past year there has been a new intensity to my reflections on what it would be like for every person who is at Mass to experience his presence at the liturgy as essential.
Saint Paul tells us we are indeed all members of the one Body of Christ. One part of the body does not tell another, “I have no need of you.” Reflect for a minute how a tiny paper cut can make you remember how important one’s fingertips are or how a little nausea can bring life to a standstill.
The New Testament and the rites of the Church often speak of the baptized as brothers and sisters in Christ. Almost never do I feel about the other people at Mass the way I feel about my sister, Donna, and my brother, Ralph. I carry them and a very few others with me in my heart all day, all the time. Again, during the past year I have found myself wondering what Mass would be like if I ever felt about my brothers and sisters in Christ the way I feel about my sister and my brother. I wonder what our parish would be like if in our guts we were bound to one another in Christ the way our biology and our childhoods bind us to our families.
I sensed something very special the night of my first service at Saint Mary’s. There was a warmth and a caring for each other here that was palpable. I can’t begin to know if individuals in the congregation that night felt essential, but I suspect it was almost impossible to be present here and not feel the work of the Spirit trying to bind us together, to take us to a new place as a community of Christ.
It is surprising to many people when they learn that in the early centuries of the Christian era visitors were not welcome at the Sunday assemblies of Christians. I seem to recall something from Saint Benedict’s Rule, written for his monastic community in the sixth century, about how the door is to be slammed in the face of those who come to the community. Only the persistent would be admitted, because the road to Christ in community required dying to self.
I have a dream about what it might be like for the warmth, the joy and the love of a parish to be so strong that it is easy for the Spirit to bring people here to die, to rise and to live in Christ. I think Saint Mary’s is that kind of place. There is a great deal of light here within the shadows of this holy church. I think that light will continue to grow because I believe the Spirit wants us to be essential to each other in Christ.
PARISH PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Thomas, Barbara, Daisy, Shirley, Tom, Mark, Donna, Maria, Ellen, Bernadine, Gloria, Louis, Karen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ken, John, Nina, Rodney, priest, and Maurice, priest.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Genesis 2:4b-9,15-17,35-3:7, Psalm 51:1-13, Romans 5:12-21, Matthew 4:1-11 . . . Celebrant & Preacher: 9:00 Father Gerth, 10:00 AM Father Parker, 11:00 AM Father Gerth, 5:00 PM Father Shin . . . On Saturday, February 20, Father Parker will hear confessions. On Saturday, February 27, Father Smith will hear confessions.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thomas Cote, one of Thomas Cerulli’s thirteen year-old sons, is home now as he continues to recover from surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital to repair a hole between the upper chambers of his heart. Tom is doing fine and he should be back at school before it seems possible that he should be. The Rector was delighted to encounter so many visitors for Tom from the parish when he went to the hospital. Tom’s address is 25 Montross Avenue, Rutherford, New Jersey 07070 . . . Many thanks to our assisting priests, Father Choate, Canon Garrison, Father Smith, and Father Wolsoncroft, for their assistance with the Ash Wednesday Masses . . . The altar servers are meeting with the Rector on Saturday, February 27, at 10:00 AM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Many thanks to Roseanne Talbird who helped the rector with the advertising posters for Ash Wednesday . . . Father Shin will be away on Sunday, February 21, at an Asian Ministry Conference in Los Angeles. Father will return to the parish Sunday night . . . Our parish seminarian, Marc Burnette, will be away also on February 21 . . . Mark your calendars: Lenten Quiet Day with Father Kenneth Leach, Saturday, March 13, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM . . . Attendance last Sunday: 160
A NOTE FROM THE KITCHEN . . . The kitchen staff on Sundays would like to have some variety at coffee hour instead of the same thing all the time. We would be most grateful if anyone can bring in anything, especially more finger food items. We usually have enough cheese, crackers, cakes and cookies already. Thanks!
FROM PHILIP DEAN PARKER . . . We of St. Martin's Guild, which provides tours after Sunday Solemn Mass, seem perpetually to be short of members willing to carry out this important ministry of welcome. An individual may offer a tour as infrequently as once a month or less. Anyone who is interested may see me after Solemn Mass in St. Joseph's Hall or phone me at (212) 582-0807 or E-mail me on DeanParker@aol.com.
CURTAIN CALL . . . The confessional needs a new curtain for the grill screen. It is a small job and one that we suspect more than one person in the congregation might be able to do. It would be a wonderful Lenten project for someone! If you would like to give it a try, please call the parish office.
A NEW MAN OR WOMAN . . . John Mann, who has moved to England, served for years at the Wednesday evening services as lay reader for Evening Prayer and altar server for the Mass. If you would be interested in serving regularly in the evening please speak with the Rector.
A WONDERFUL SHROVE TUESDAY . . . It was a real honor for our community to have Father Choate celebrate here on Shrove Tuesday. There was a good congregation. Then, there was an elegant pancake supper in Saint Joseph’s Hall, not like the pancake suppers a certain new rector remembers from other parishes. After Mass, Amanda and Evan Crommett were at the door. Amanda, who is nine, didn’t let the Rector enter without payment. When asked whether she could make change for a twenty she said, “Yes.” And did so. Evan, who is three years-old, observed, “You have more than you gave her.” Their parents, David and Liz, were in the kitchen. Others who helped in many and various ways were Chris Babcock, Clint Best, Kathy Chase, Howard Christian, Kevin Farley, Barbara Klett and Nina Pratt. There were guests here for the concert that followed in the church. Many thanks to all who made it possible.