From Father Smith: Working, Praying, and Giving to Spread God’s Kingdom
Many years ago, while wandering through the galleries containing the Met’s permanent collection of European paintings and feeling overwhelmed, and not a little bit bored, by all those grand scenes drawn from classical mythology, I came across a painting that told a different, more contemporary kind of story. It was a large canvas, by an artist whose name I don’t remember and, in my ignorance, probably didn’t recognize. The picture depicted a large, luxurious room in some Roman palazzo where two portly, dangerously red-faced, and sumptuously dressed prelates sat in throne-like chairs listening with a certain attitude – perhaps boredom, perhaps disdain – to a tall, pale, intense, ascetic-looking friar dressed in a shabby, brown habit. One could tell – and perhaps the title of the painting confirmed this, I can’t remember now – that the friar was asking these way-too-worldly, even corrupt, ecclesiastics for money, seeking support for his missionary work. Looking at the picture one was not optimistic about the poor friar’s chances of walking out the door with a check in his hand. The picture was too large and detailed to be considered a political cartoon, but in a way that’s exactly what it was. It was satire and social criticism, with a decidedly anti-clerical bent. As a result, and given my particular mindset at the time, I saw the painting’s challenge, its “message,” as a contrast between an institutional church grown self-indulgent, worldly, and corrupt and something else, some other group of people “who really cared” and were now doing what the church no longer cared enough to do.
But as I’ve thought about that painting over and over again through the years, I’ve realized that that is not what the picture was “saying” at all, at least not to me, not now. The painting challenges Christians to be disciples of Christ. It doesn’t “say” that the Holy Spirit has abandoned the church or given up on its members. The true Christian in the painting was the Christ-like, no doubt idealized, friar; and if anyone in that painting’s story was “spiritual,” if anyone had a prayer life, it was certainly the friar. It was the bored and worldly prelates, not the friar, who had severed the organic connections among work, prayer, worship, an attentive reading of Scripture and the church’s mission to the world, to the poor, and those in need.
During last week’s liturgical conference here at Saint Mary’s, Bishop Griswold, Father Gerth, and a number of the other participants talked about those very connections and stressed their importance. One obvious point of departure was the link between the Eucharistic meal and Jesus’ call to his disciples to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and to clothe the naked; and as the day went on and the conversation progressed, it was extremely interesting that the participants had begun to think and talk about the connections between the sacrament of baptism (and our attempts to celebrate that sacrament in a way that is worthy of its God-given grace and power) and our parishes’ mission in and to the world.
Here at Saint Mary’s we are presented with a number of challenges as we continue to figure out how we are called as a community to be disciples of Christ and as we try, as best we can, to act in concrete ways to serve those who are in need. We are not an extremely large parish and we do not have unlimited resources; we are forced to choose outreach projects with care, realizing that we can’t do everything, whatever our ambitions or our dreams might be; our parishioners come from near and far and many people cannot be here as often as they might like. We are not just a “neighborhood church.” Still, we do have many resources, some of which we perhaps take a little bit for granted.
How this parish has done mission and outreach has changed over the decades. People have come and gone. The neighborhood has changed. The energy for certain projects has waxed and waned; but, I think it is true to say that Saint Mary’s has never severed the essential links among prayer, worship, spirituality, personal transformation and mission. Not every parish can say the same. We know what feeds us here and gives us strength. I think we have some sense here of what the Catechism means when it says that the duty of all Christians “is to follow Christ; to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God.” I think we know it is the grace of God that has given us the strength to do the things that we are already doing – the support of the Honduras mission, the AIDS Walk, the Gift Collection for the Cathedral’s Saint Nicholas Celebration, the New York Cares Coat Collection, parishioners’ individual volunteer outreach efforts, and the financial support directed to a number of shelters, food pantries, struggling parishes, and after-school programs. We are neither lazy nor indifferent. However, it may be a good time for us, once again, to take a look at mission and outreach here at Saint Mary’s, to review, to assess, to plan, and, yes, to brainstorm and dream. I hope in the next few weeks to be able to gather those who are interested in talking about those issues to continue an ongoing conversation. If you are interested in participating, please let me know; and thanks to all for all that you do. James Ross Smith
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Samuel and Charles, priest, who are hospitalized, and for Bill, Steven, Donna, Laura, Clare, Madeleine, Marc, Linda, Janelle, Joanne, José, Kevin, Olga, Jennie, Gloria, William, Gert, Mary, Terry, Daisy, Katherine, Rozalind, Marietta, Connie, and Rick; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Timothy, Benjamin, Christopher, Marc, Keith, Dennis, Terrance, Steven, Patrick, Andrew and Brendan. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . October 12: 1925 Philip; 1933 Helen; 1935 Fred; 1940 Matilda; 1950 Amy.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday School for children starts this Sunday, October 12 . . . The 10:00 AM Sunday Adult Forum, October 12: “Opening the Good Book” (part 2 of 4) will focus on the topic: The Bible As We Have Received It . . . Monday, October 13, Columbus Day, Federal Holiday Schedule – the Parish Office is closed, only the noon services are offered, and the church closes at 2:00 PM . . . The 7:00 PM Wednesday Night Dinner & Bible Study, October 15, will focus on the activities of the prophet Samuel . . . Saturday, October 18, is the Feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist . . . Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, October 11; Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, October 18.
JOINING SAINT MARY’S . . . Father Smith is preparing several people to be presented to the Bishop at the Solemn Mass on the Eve of All Saints’ Day to mark their formal affiliation with the Episcopal Church or with Saint Mary’s. If you would like to know more about baptism, confirmation, or reception into the Episcopal Church, please contact Father Smith.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Altar flowers are still needed this month for Sunday, October 26. Please contact Sandra Schubert in the parish office if you would like to donate flowers or to learn about what’s involved in making such a donation . . . This year’s Marian Hymn Sing & Oktoberfest was a smashing success! We had about 45 people in attendance. We enjoyed fantastic German food, sang lots of great hymns, and were treated to a remarkable tutorial on Saint Mary’s organ by James Kennerley. Many thanks to everyone who provided food, beverages, and helped to set up for the event and clean up afterwards . . . Attendance: Last Sunday: 301
SAVE THE DATES . . . Friday, October 31, 2008, the Eve of All Saints’ Day, Solemn Pontifical Mass, 6:00 PM, the Right Reverend Mark Sisk, Bishop of New York, celebrant and preacher . . . Monday, November 3, All Souls Day (transferred), Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM . . . The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine will be celebrating the restoration of the interior of the cathedral on Sunday, November 30. Of special note is the Open House at 2:00 PM followed by Choral Evensong at 4:00 PM; and on Saturday, December 6, the Feast of Saint Nicholas, there are celebrations of a different kind at the Cathedral. Full details are available online at www.stjohndivine.org.
CHILDCARE & SUNDAY SCHOOL FOR CHILDREN . . . Children are always welcome at Mass at Saint Mary’s. The Rector encourages families with children to sit at the front of the church – so the children can see easily and clearly. Childcare is for younger children in the Saint Benedict’s Nursery & Playroom which is open and available every Sunday from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM . . . Sunday School for Children resumes October 12 at 10:00 AM, and meets in the Morning Room (follow the blue signs in Saint Joseph’s Hall to the Morning Room), and will be led by Deacon Jedediah Fox.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The Saint Mary’s Singers will rehearse this coming Sunday, October 12, from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM and will then sing at Solemn Evensong and Benediction at 5:00 PM on October 18. We would love to have you join us – if you are interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. . . The prelude before Mass this Sunday is Andante, K. 616, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791), and the Parish Choir will sing. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mozart’s Missa Brevis in D major, K. 194, composed in 1774. Although accompanied today on the organ, Mozart’s masses were performed with orchestra: this Mass has parts for two violins, bass, organ and three trombones (doubling the lower-voice parts), which is a typical scoring for his Masses (music of this time usually included a viola part). The music is simple and brief, as implied by its title (“A Brief Mass”). These features were a direct response to the strict rules set out by Salzburg’s Archbishop Colloredo, Mozart’s benefactor at the time. James Kennerley
CHRISTIAN FORMATION FOR ADULTS . . . The October 10:00 AM Sunday Adult Forum: “Opening the Good Book” (part 1 of 4) began very well (attendance 13). Part 2 of 4 will be offered this Sunday, October 12. Father Mead will lead the class and focus on the topic: The Bible as We Have Received It. Parts 3 and 4 (Sundays, October 19 & 26) will be led by Father Smith and focus on methods of biblical interpretation . . . This season’s 7:00 PM Wednesday Night Dinner & Bible Study began on October 8 (attendance 12). We are examining the Prophets and eating well (we had Indian food for dinner). The class on October 15 will focus on the activities of the prophet Samuel. A $5 (minimum) donation is requested to cover the cost of the food . . . All are welcome to attend every class. All classes meet on the second-floor Large Classroom in the Mission House (accessible from 133 West 46th Street and from the church Narthex on 46th Street). If you have any questions, please contact Father Mead.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Columbus Day – Federal Holiday Schedule
Tuesday Samuel I. J. Schereschewsky, Bishop of Shanghai, 1906
Wednesday Teresa of Avila, Nun, 1582
Friday Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and Martyr, c. 115 Abstinence
Eve of Saint Luke the Evangelist
Saturday Saint Luke the Evangelist
Eve of the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost