The Angelus

Volume 12, Number 51


Clearing out some things the other day, I came across a letter from a member of the parish I served in Michigan City, Indiana.  Virginia McDavid is an English scholar.  Among her special interests is American linguistic geography.  Professor McDavid is also a dictionary usage editor.  When she found out I was using the Random House College Dictionary I had bought when I went to college, she gave me a copy of the new edition, which I still use.  She had worked on both of them.  I wish I could begin to remember all I learned from her.  I do remember how much she loved the way language changed all the time – and there was never any way for any teacher to stop it as long as a language was alive.

The letter I had saved was mostly about the word “alleluia” (which means “praise the Lord”).  I had written in the parish newsletter that this was something called an “ululation.”  Well, that was wrong.  “Ululation” means “howling” or “wailing loudly.”  “Alleluia” is something else.  Considered as a word, alleluia is a sacred sound – and not sacred song, which is another huge subject.  After doing some research, she thought there was no word for this kind of religious sound.  She concluded, “It’s rather pleasing to know there are concepts for which we lack words.”

I think a great deal of our experience of life exists beyond words.  Though it is true that through words we know many things about life and we are able to approach God, much of what we experience and know is beyond words.  A simple example: no words can ever capture what I observed when I saw my mother hold her first granddaughter for the first time.  Our words point to, but do not define, capture or control our consciousness of living.

In a very similar way, the late Aidan Kavanagh wrote, “The liturgy . . . exists not to educate but to seduce people into participating in common activity of the highest order, where one is freed to learn things which cannot be taught” (Elements of Rite: A Handbook of Liturgical Style, New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1982, 28).  Just like a hymn we know by heart, worship can move us to the edge of eternity, on the other side of words, if you will.

As we approach the end of the Church year, our gospel readings will be Jesus’ teaching in Holy Week (Sundays) and on his final journey to Jerusalem (weekdays).  I continue to be amazed at how little is recorded in the gospels about the resurrection.  Perhaps that has everything to do with the glimpse of eternity that women and men saw when they met the risen Lord.  There was very little to say.  Faith, like love, seems to thrive beyond our words. 

This brings me back to alleluia.  The words of our worship, with its symbols and signs, matter.  They don’t do it all, but they help us know God and each other.  What we say (words) and how we touch (gestures) define human relationships.  Worship is how word and gesture unite us in a particular way to each other, to God, and to the mystery of the risen Lord.  Words bring us to the place where, in the end, we have and need no words.  Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED especially for Carol, Margaret, Alan, Awilda, Ann, Joaquin, Marilyn, Averie, Lin, Tom, Sharon, Mary, Owen, Joan, Paul, Robert, Thomas, José, Daisy, Gerardo, Cesar, Chris, Rolf, William, Gert, Rick, Emil, religious, and Ryan, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially James; and for the repose of the soul of Patricia Williams . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 14: 1885 Ada Louise Woodruff; 1894 George William Sutton; 1946 Agnes Leavy Rescousie; 1963 Andrew Hegel


THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.


SPECIAL SCHEDULE FOR SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 13 . . . On Saturday, November 13, the parish clergy, our lay delegates MaryJane Boland and Marie Rosseels, and Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., will be attending the 234th Diocesan Convention at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.  The noonday services at Saint Mary’s will not be offered so that the clergy can attend Convention.


THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, November 13, 1:00 PM, Meeting of Saint Mary’s Guild . . . Concert: Saturday, November 13, 8:00 PM, Riverside Choral Society.  Patrick Gardner, conductor & James Kennerley, organist . . . The Adult Forum meets on Sunday, November 14, at 10:00 AM, in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House.  Father Peter Powell leads the second part of his three-part series on Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians . . . On November 13, confessions will only be heard at 4:00 PM.  Father Gerth will be on duty.  On November 20, Father Smith will hear confessions at 11:30 AM and 4:00 PM.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . We recently received a Letter of Transfer for Mary Gossy.  Mary is professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and of Spanish and Comparative Literatures at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.  She has been a regular visitor to Saint Mary’s for some time now and we are very happy that she has decided to make this her parish home . . . Thank you to new parishioner, Clark Maurer, who recently donated some very nice sherry for our Evensong receptions . . . Congratulations to Thomas Jayne, whose book The Finest Rooms in America: 50 Influential Interiors from the 18th Century to the Present, has just been published to much acclaim . . . Flowers are needed for December 8, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and for one Sunday of Advent when flowers are used this year, December 12.  If you would like to give them, please contact Aaron Koch in the parish office.  We are also ready to take reservations for flower memorials for Sundays and holy days in 2011.  Most of those dates are still open and unreserved . . . If you would like to sponsor, or co-sponsor, the reception following the Solemn Mass on January 6, please speak to Father Smith . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 232.


FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The organ prelude for the Solemn Mass on Sunday is Preludio al Vespro di Monteverdi by Sir Michael Tippett (1905-1998).  The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa a sei voci “In illo tempore” by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), a setting based upon a motet of Nicolas Gombert.  This work for six-part choir, published in 1610 along with the composer’s famed Vespro della Beata Vergine, is composed in what is known as stile antico, or a Palestrina-like polyphonic style that by the early seventeenth century had become decidedly old-fashioned.  Interestingly, the Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 is composed in the new style of the Baroque, or stile moderno, which featured independent instrumental parts and other new traits.  Monteverdi wrote a great deal of music, both sacred and secular, and served as maestro di cappella of Saint Mark’s Basilica, Venice, where he revolutionized a deteriorated music program.   Though organ continuo and various instruments typically would have accompanied a performance in Monteverdi’s day (with instruments doubling the vocal parts), today organ alone is used.   At the ministration of Communion, the choir will sing the motet Cantate domino, which is also by Monteverdi.  James Kennerley


STEWARDSHIP 2011 . . . Stewardship Packets were mailed on Monday, October 25.  The packet includes a pledge card, a return envelope, a letter from the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, and a fact sheet that addresses a number of frequently asked questions about stewardship and pledging.  On the reverse side of that sheet, there are three extracts from the “Why I Love Saint Mary’s” series.  Commitment Sunday is November 21, the Feast of Christ the King . . . Stewardship Campaign Progress Report: It is still very early, however initial results are encouraging.  As of November 7, we have received pledges from 32 households, for a total of $131,430.00.  This represents 28.9% of our 2011 goal.  If you need a pledge card or if you have questions, please speak to MaryJane Boland, Marie Rosseels, Steven Heffner, or Father Smith.


FROM THE PARISH ARCHIVE . . . Saint Marians are, and seem always to have been, an interesting lot, but some may be more interesting than others. Here’s an article from the New York Times, January 13, 1895: "Guy Butler, man-about-town, Indian fighter and athlete, was romantically married at 8 o'clock Tuesday evening to Miss Violet Aubrey at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin.  The bride was formerly with Louis Aldrich’s theatrical company and was this season engaged to go on tour with Miss Rose Cohghan.  Guy Butler ran away from home when he was very young and cast his lot with cowboys and Indian fighters. He took an active part in the Geronimo raids.  The death of his mother, last August, made him a rich man and he inherited money also from his father [the Confederate general, J.E. Butler].  When all this money became his he returned to New York and proceeded to spend it in a royal fashion.  In three months he ran through $50,000.  After a wedding breakfast at the St. James Hotel yesterday noon he and his wife left for Florida where they will pass their honeymoon.”  Dick Leitsch


ADVENT QUIET DAY . . . On Saturday, December 11, Father John Beddingfield will be returning to Saint Mary’s to lead a quiet day.  John will offer three meditations during the day, which begins at 10:00 AM and ends at 3:00 PM.  Those attending are invited to celebrate the Eucharist together at noonday.  Coffee and tea will be served in Saint Joseph’s Hall, beginning at 9:30 AM and a simple lunch will be provided following Mass.  Please send an e-mail to Father Jay Smith at if you think you would like to attend so he can make plans for lunch.  Father Beddingfield was sponsored for ordination by this parish; he worked here as the parish administrator before his ordination and as curate thereafter.  We are very happy, and grateful, that he has agreed to be with us in December.


CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . On Sunday, Father Peter Powell will lead the second part of his three-part series on Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.  Father Powell writes, “The class on Sunday, November 14, will include a discussion of 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 in which Paul writes about sex, sin and the congregation.  These chapters are the foundational texts for how the church treats immorality.  In interpreting them, we will look at how they are rooted in the first-century Hellenistic context and what implications that has for twenty-first-century practices.  The class next Sunday, November 21, the last in this series, will include a discussion of the “words of institution” in 1 Corinthians 11 and also 1 Corinthians 13, probably the best-known chapter in the Pauline Epistles.”  During Lent 2011, Father Powell returns and will do a close reading of 1 Corinthians 15.  The fall series will be good preparation for the Lent series, but it is not a prerequisite . . . The Adult-Forum will not meet on Sunday, November 28, the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day . . . Sunday, December 5, “Bishop Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray.  A brief introduction to a well-known work by a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain.  Led by Father Jay Smith . . . The Adult Forum will not meet between Sunday, December 12, and Sunday, January 9.  The forum resumes on Sunday, January 16, when parishioner, Professor Robert Picken, will begin a three-part series (January 16, 23, and 30) on the history of Christian mission.  The title of the series is “Matteo Ricci and The Great Encounter.”  Professor Picken will discuss the following topics: the arrival of Western intellectuals in China, when Jesuit missionaries went to that nation at the end of the sixteenth century; the initial success of those missionaries; the Chinese-rites controversy; and the failure of the China mission in the eighteenth century.  The implications for a modern-day theology of mission will be discussed.


OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are now collecting toys and other holiday gift items for children and adults which will be donated to AIDS Action International and the New York Foundling Hospital . . . We are now collecting new or very lightly used and well-laundered coats for the New York Cares Coat Drive . . . Sunday, November 14, Saint Joseph’s Hall, Book Sale.  All proceeds are used to benefit those in need.  We continue to collect non-perishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry.  Please look for the basket in the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall.  We also hope to make a cash donation to the Food Pantry to help out during the holiday season.  For more information about any or all of these projects, please speak to Father Smith.


LOOKING AHEAD . . . Sunday, November 21: Commitment Sunday: Offering of 2011 Pledge Cards . . . Also on November 21, Father Alan Moses, Vicar, All Saints Church Margaret Street, London, England, will preach at Evensong, 5:00 PM . . . Tuesday, December 7, 6:00 PM, Solemn Evensong and Legacy Society Reception . . . Wednesday, December 8, Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM, the Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, XV Bishop of New York, celebrant and preacher . . . Saturday, December 11, 10:00 AM-3:00 PM, Advent Quiet Day, led by Father John Beddingfield . . . Sunday, December 26, 5:00 PM, Christmas Lessons and Carols . . . Wednesday, January 5, Eve of the Epiphany, Solemn Evensong, 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, January 6, The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, Reception in Saint Joseph’s Hall 7:30 PM


CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, November 20, 2010, 8:00 PM, The Early Music Series of the Columbia University’s Miller Theatre : New York Polyphony.  Music of Taverner, Ockeghem, Dunstable, Brumel, des Prez, and others . . . Saturday, December 11, 2010, 8:00 PM & Monday, December 13, 2010, 8:00 PM: Voices of Ascension: Christmas Concert, Dennis Keene, artistic director . . . Saturday, December 18, 2010, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra.  Annual NYRO Benefit Concert...and the 100th birthday of Samuel Barber.  David Leibowitz, music director & Eric Jacobsen, cello.  Music by Barber, Schumann, and Rimsky-Korsakoff.  For information and to purchase tickets:, 212.662.8383 or


CELEBRATE A NEW MINISTRY . . . On Saturday, November 20, at 11:00 AM, at Saint John’s Church, Huntington, New York, the bishop of Long Island will institute and induct the Reverend Allen Shin as rector.  The preacher will be the Right Reverend Frank T. Griswold.  Members of the Saint Mary’s community are invited to attend.  Visit the web page of Saint John's Church, Huntington, LI, NY for directions by car.  The Huntington Station of the Long Island Railroad is near but not within walking distance of the church – allow time to take a cab if you plan to travel by train.  Father Shin was a member of the Saint Mary’s staff, first as assistant and then as curate, from 1996 to 2001.  Please keep Allen and his wife, Clara Mun, in your prayers.




The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector
The Reverend James Ross Smith, curate
The Reverend Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, deacon
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus


Saint Mary’s Mission House
Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B.
Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B.
The Community of St. John Baptist


The Parish Musicians
Mr. James Kennerley, organist and music director
Mr. Lawrence Trupiano, organ curator


The Parish Staff
Mr. Aaron Koch, business manager

Mr. Miguel Gonzalez, Mr. Mario Martinez, Mr. H. Antonio Santiago, sextons