FROM JOHN BEDDINGFIELD: WHO’S TO BLAME?
It happened again the other night. We had just concluded Evensong & Benediction with the visiting choir of men and boys from Christ Church, Greenwich. The service was glorious. The singing was prayerful, the preaching was strong, the incense dense and mysterious. But then, someone pointed out to me that we had not made a special sign made for the street, announcing the guest choir.
A sign! Oh, no. I couldn’t believe there had been no sign. How many people might have come in from the street, had there been a more specific welcome? How many people might have been touched by God in some new way, had they attended? Whose fault was it? Almost automatically, my mind raced through a list of possible suspects to blame for our not having made the sign. I couldn’t blame the rector—he is on vacation. I couldn’t blame the parish secretary—she is recovering from pneumonia. I couldn’t blame the music director—he has enough to worry about. And so, slowly, but surely, my list ran out of possibilities. There at the very end, after running through perhaps the entire church staff and many of the congregation, it faintly occurred to me that a special sign for a visiting choir is particularly the kind of thing that is often MY responsibility.
The tendency to blame is an old one. When God asked Adam if he had eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam blamed Eve. When Eve was asked, she blamed the serpent. This tendency to blame is the real residue of original sin, according to one of the early Desert Fathers, Dorotheos of Gaza. Some might ask, “Why didn’t God simply forgive Adam and Eve. Why does God hold a grudge about original sin?” The answer, from Dorotheos, lies in the fact that neither Adam nor Eve ever ASKED for forgiveness. Instead, they shifted the blame and refused to take responsibility.
We see the shifting of blame all around us. It is an epidemic in our culture. A teenager blames his family for the violence he has committed. A thief blames the economy for his desperation. A spouse blames a partner for the loss of love in a relationship. Israel blames the Palestinians. The Palestinians blame economic and social forces. A church official blames a subordinate, a pastor or priest blames societal forces of loneliness and depression, and the media blame the Church for being out of touch and irrelevant. And the cycle of blame continues on and on.
Blame continues to bounce from one person to another, like a ball out of control, until something interrupts its frenzy. One thing that interrupts the cycle of blame is confession. To pause, to think, to pray, to assess realistically one’s situation, one’s culpability or lack of culpability—to live with humility, as the Desert Fathers would remind us. This stops and transforms blame. Humility allows us to laugh at our mistakes when they are silly or slight. Humility moves us to cry for our sins. Humility also helps us to begin the slow work of repentance and healing. Dorotheos says, “Humility is a great thing and is powerful to bring down grace to the soul.” May we tire of shifting blame. May we grow in humility. John Beddingfield, rector’s administrative assistant and postulant for holy orders in the Diocese of New York
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Bettyann, Eileen, Fred, Jerri, Myra, Mary, Sarah, Doreen, Mabel, Gloria, Marion, Olga, Peter, Betty, Kenneth, Maureen, Marie, Rick, Edgar, John, Joanne, Barbara, and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 6: 1991 Homer Lee Hennig.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 17:22-31, Psalm 148:7-14, 1 Peter 3:8-18, John 15:1-8 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, May 4, by Father Weiler and on Saturday, May 11 by Father Smith . . . Since this Sunday is the first Sunday in May, during the procession at the end of Solemn Mass, flowers will be placed at the shrines to Our Lady . . . The Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day are traditionally observed as Rogation Days, from the Latin word, rogare (to ask). These days of fasting and prayer often include intercessions for a bountiful harvest.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Sunday, May 5, at the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Antiphon IV (Lo, the winter is past), and Antiphon V (How fair and pleasant art thou), Op. 18, by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) and the postlude will be Präludium in c-moll, BWV 546, by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Dixit Maria’ by Hans Leo Hassler (1562-1612). The motet at Communion is a setting of Regina caeli, the Eastertide prayers to our Lady, by Cristóbal de Morales (c. 1500-1553). On Ascension Day, Thursday, May 9, there will be an organ recital at 5:30 played by Robert McCormick. The recital precedes the Solemn Mass and will include works of Vaughan Williams, Mendelssohn, and Bach. The Mass ordinary that evening is Missa ‘Ascendens Christus in altum’ by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), based on his motet of the same name. The motet at Communion is Ascendit Deus by Peter Philips (1560/61-1628). The English-born Philips was a Roman Catholic and spent most of his life working in Belgium, where he could practice his faith and compose Latin works without abandon. The postlude will be Grand Choeur Dialogué by Eugène Gigout (1822-1890).
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The Rector is on vacation through Wednesday, May 8 . . . May 6-12 is Nurses’ Week. Say a prayer for those who serve others and speak a kind word to any nurses you may know . . . If you should see the movie, “Changing Lanes,” look closely at the scenes when the character played by Samuel Jackson attends an AA meeting (once very early in the movie and once toward the end.) The scenes were filmed in Saint Joseph’s Hall before last summer’s renovations . . . Attendance last Sunday 307.
NOTE FROM THE WEBMASTER . . . I am very happy to announce that we have launched a link from our home page (http://www.stmvirgin.org) that enables our web visitors to make charitable donations to Saint Mary's online. The process is facilitated by the secure servers at Network For Good, a not-for-profit internet resource founded and sponsored by AOL; AOL Time Warner Foundation, Cisco Systems, Cisco Foundation, and Yahoo. It draws on information stored on the charitable database run by Guidestar. Donations made online go directly and entirely to Saint Mary’s. Network for Good does not charge us fees of any kind. Your donation routes directly to Saint Mary's account along with your name and/or email (unless, of course you wish to remain anonymous). Privacy features are ensured. The interface is simple, the process is very quick, and the network is stable and secure. Transactions are processed via credit card. Once a donation is made, a verification email is generated and sent immediately to you, and is valid as a receipt of a tax-deductible charitable donation. We hope some of you will find this service helpful. Noel Hennelly
CHRISTIAN FORMATION NEWS . . . “The Eucharist in Christian Thought and Spirituality” begins on May 8 and will continue on Wednesday evenings through May 22. Led by Mr. Junius Johnson, a Ph.D. student in the religious studies department at Yale University, the class will examine some of the basic theological issues at stake in any formulation of the doctrine of the Eucharist, and will then go on to consider and discuss some of the most important ways that Christians throughout the centuries have thought about the Eucharist. The course will conclude with a brief study of the place of Eucharistic spirituality within Christian spirituality generally.
WALKING TOUR OF CHURCHES . . . Saturday, May 11 continues our tour of New York City churches, begun last year. Father Weiler and Mr. Ben Northrup, an architect and friend of the curate, will lead an all-day walking tour of historical Episcopal Churches of the Upper East Side. Call Father Weiler at 212-869-5830 for more information.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Monday Rogation Day
Tuesday Rogation Day
Wednesday Rogation Day
Eve of Ascension Day 6:00 PM
Thursday Ascension Day
Sung Mass 12:00 PM, Procession & Solemn Mass 6:00 PM
Friday Easter Weekday No Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.