FROM SISTER LAURA KATHARINE:
INTEGRITY, SELF-KNOWLEDGE & SELF-FORGETTING
The three traditional vows, poverty, chastity, and obedience, are one aspect of the religious life that has attracted a good deal of attention down through the centuries. There are many studies of the three vows already in print, so I thought it might be useful to speak about the religious life by discussing three other facets of that life, facets which are not unrelated to the traditional vows, but which are nevertheless quite distinct. My thinking about these things — integrity, self-knowledge, and the forgetting of self — has been shaped in some new ways by my reading of a book by the late Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Basil Hume, OSB (1923–1999). Cardinal Hume was a monk, and then the abbot, of the Roman Catholic Benedictine monastic house, Ampleforth Abbey, North Yorkshire, England, before he was elevated to the episcopate in 1976. His book, The Intentional Life: Making of a Spiritual Vocation (Paraclete Press, 2004), consists of talks and teachings given to various novices while he was abbot of Ampleforth (1963-1976).
The first aspect is integrity. This is a broad term with multiple connotations, such as honor, uprightness, probity, the ability to adhere to fundamental principles, trustworthiness, and, perhaps surprisingly, wholeness, soundness, and unity. Integrity may be regarded both as a personal and as a corporate virtue, since members of religious communities are distinct individuals who try to live together as one, in a body that has a distinct corporate identity. On the personal level, individual integrity involves an awareness of, as well as the attempt to live by, one’s own principles, values, and sense of honor. To surrender any one of these things can mean relinquishing some essential part of one’s self. Living with integrity means living up to, and into, one’s core values and principles as fully as one is able. Of course, life is filled with challenges and it is not easy to live with integrity. Still, trying to do so is something that should not be dismissed. There are a number of ways a person can and will negate who they are, often without realizing it or the consequences of doing so.
Integrity is an important part of living in community as well. A community’s core values and principles are usually spelled out in the community’s constitutions and in other formal and legal documents; however, they are also part of a community’s oral traditions, things that have been practiced, observed, handed down, taught, and imitated. However, tragically, corporate integrity can also be negated in a variety of ways as well. A community needs to be aware of the risks of violating its foundational principles and failing to preserve its integrity. Religious communities are institutions of which much is not only expected but also demanded. They are not islands unto themselves, for they exist within social, cultural, political and, indeed, ecclesiastical structures. They are visible, and how they live makes a difference. A community’s internal integrity must be carefully guarded and upheld.
The second aspect, or facet, is that of self-knowledge, which can be summed up as the practice of learning about oneself. There are many masks and façades behind which we are tempted to hide and they are not easily removed. We are often invested in a self-image that we wish were real. This makes it difficult to discover who one really is. Self-knowledge is also self-discovery. Self-discovery is certainly possible, though it can be difficult to achieve. We learn from the reactions of others: what is appropriate and what is not, what behavior is pleasing and what is not. Self-knowledge is not easy and there are usually some hard knocks along the path to self-discovery as one begins to understand what is underlying the ego’s response. All the members of a religious community must try to recognize their strengths and their weaknesses, their gifts as well as their faults. They must ask some difficult questions, naming and defining the problems one has with others and asking why such problems arise. However, the rewards of self-discovery are great. Confronting these hard questions is necessary if inner change and growth are to happen. We cannot really begin to know others if we avoid knowing ourselves. The members of many religious communities live together twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They may dress the same way and share many things in common, but they do not necessarily think, react, or respond in the same way. Individuals who live in community have quite different personalities and may possess very different habits and have very different likes and dislikes. Self-knowledge helps to prevent insensitivity, indifference, self-indulgence and behaviors that are unfeeling or offensive. Self-knowledge promotes community by helping one to live with others peaceably and lovingly.
The third facet or aspect is self-forgetting. To be self-centered seems to be part of our human nature. “Self-forgetting” is an ambiguous term and can be misinterpreted. I am not talking here about a form of self-abnegation which can be seen as negative and destructive. On the contrary, I am talking about a form of “self-forgetting” that can be positive and quite productive. I believe that human beings need not be always and only selfish and self-centered. Human beings also seem to have an inherent capacity to let go of the ego’s insistent demands, desires, and personal wishes and pleasures. This “letting go” involves surrendering self-will, the desire for self-aggrandizement and self-gratification, and the need for constant recognition and approval. The ability to “forget self” can make it possible for one to recognize and support others, to allow others to have their way, and to give others the opportunity to flourish by being themselves. This may be a matter of simple courtesy, as one realizes that “I am not the only pebble on the beach.” It also means being aware of and awake to others, an awareness that is linked to the capacity to love and to care, and which also involves acknowledging and respecting others. This aspect of the religious life teaches us to go beyond self in order to meet others where they are. One learns that the more one is able to live in a way that is not self-centered, the more joy and love there is in one’s life.
Though integrity, self-knowledge and self-forgetting are essential aspects of the religious life, I think that these things are important in the daily lives of all Christians, no matter what their vocation, no matter what their walk of life. Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Emil, Jian Guo, Noël, Jananie, Corey, Richard, Demetrio, Harriet, Sharon, Linda, Arpene, and Rowan, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Elizabeth, Nicholas, and Matthew; and for the repose of the soul of Voizell Winborn . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . October 21: 1906 Annie Steinhilber; 1959 Florence Anna Dodge; 1988 Phillip W. Callahan.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Tuesday, October 23, Saint James of Jerusalem, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Wednesday Night Bible Study continues on October 24 at 6:30 PM, on the second floor of the Mission House, immediately following Evening Prayer. This week, the class, led by Father Jay Smith, will be looking at the structure of the Lord’s Prayer as it appears in the Gospel of Matthew (6:9-13) and will try to answer questions such as: is the prayer rhythmic or poetic and, if so, why?; what is the prayer’s structure?; why does the prayer shift from second person to first person?; in what way is the prayer, as has often been argued, a “summary” of the Christian faith or a succinct guide to the Christian life?. All are welcome to join the class . . . The members and friends of the Saint Mary’s Women’s Group will be visiting the Museum of Biblical Art on Thursday, October 25, at 6:00 PM, for the “Louis C. Tiffany & Art of Devotion” exhibit. A fellowship dinner in the Lincoln Center area will follow. The museum is located at 1865 Broadway & 61st Street (northwest corner). For additional information, please speak to Renée Pecquex or Mary Robison. If you plan to attend, please RSVP using the group’s email address . . . Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, October 20. Father Stephen Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, September 27. If you do not see a priest in the church at the appointed times for confession, please speak to the sexton on duty and he will call the priest on duty; or you may call the parish office ahead of time to make an appointment.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The annual All Souls’ Day packet will be mailed this week. The envelope will contain a letter from the rector, an appeal for financial assistance, a calendar with the All Souls’ Day schedule, as well as the dates of the annual parish Requiem Masses. The packet will also include a return envelope and a form that may be used to list the names of those to be remembered at the Requiem Masses. We invite you to be generous and we encourage you to return the forms as soon as possible . . . Congratulations are in order: on October 16, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, presided over the 2012 Lambeth degree award ceremony, granting degrees to eight recipients, among whom was the Most Rev. Dr. Peter Carnley, AC, who served as VI Archbishop of Perth (1981–2005) and Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia (2000–2005). Archbishop Carnley, who is currently in New York teaching at the General Theological Seminary, is a friend of Saint Mary’s. He was with us most recently for the ordination of Mother Mary Julia Jett . . . If you are interested in being confirmed or received as a member of the Episcopal Church, please speak to Father Gerth, Father Smith, or Mother Jett. We will be confirming and receiving candidates on All Saint’s Day, Thursday, November 1 . . . Father Gerth is on vacation this week (October 16–23). He will be returning to the office on Wednesday, October 24 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 262.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude before the Solemn Mass on Sunday morning is Benedictus, Op. 59, No. 9, by Max Reger (1873–1916). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Communion Service in F by Herbert W. Sumsion (1899–1995). For thirty-nine years Sumsion was organist of Gloucester Cathedral, England, and he taught for two years prior to that appointment at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. His compositions for Anglican liturgical use are tuneful, functional, and include numerous modal inflections, a hallmark of his compositional style. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet O hearken thou, Op. 64, by Edward Elgar (1857–1934). The work was written, for chorus and orchestra, as the Communion motet for the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary and was completed in March 1911 and first performed at the coronation service in Westminster Abbey on June 22 of that year . . . Benjamin A. Kolodziej, who serves as chapel organist at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, will play the organ recital on Sunday at 4:40 PM . . . James Kennerley
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . The Stewardship Committee plans to mail the annual stewardship packet on Monday, October 29. Commitment Sunday is November 25, the Last Sunday after Pentecost. For more information, please contact MaryJane Boland. Please pray for the success of the campaign. We are grateful to all those who give so generously to support the mission of the parish.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . The autumn schedule for our adult-education offerings has now been posted on our website . . . Sunday, October 21, 28: Father Jim Pace will draw on his pastoral, theological, and medical knowledge and experience as he leads the class in a discussion of three Prayer Book rites, the Reconciliation of a Penitent, Ministration to the Sick, and Ministration at the Time of Death . . . Sunday, November 4, 11, 18: Father Peter Powell begins his series on the Letter to the Romans. Father Powell writes, “Like Rome in Paul’s day Saint Mary’s sits at the ‘crossroads of the world.’ Realizing the sophistication of his audience, Paul introduces himself to the Romans and plunges into the issues of being Christian. His letter is as relevant today as it was in the middle of the first century; it is usually the starting point for scholars seeking to establish what it means to be a Christian. Many things we take for granted as part of Christianity were not clear to Paul or to the Romans. There is, for instance, no developed doctrine of the Trinity in Paul. In Romans, Paul writes about God’s faithfulness, not Christ’s. The Risen Lord is clearly subordinate to the Father. In Romans Paul argues that one can be Christian without being Jewish. While this is obvious to us it raises the question of whether we have to meet the current requirements of Christianity to be faithful. In other words, can one be ‘spiritual but not religious’? This is very much a contemporary question as many people we know reject the church but embrace spirituality. I believe that Paul would argue that spirituality needs a context in order to be viable. In this course we’ll examine Paul’s letter to the Romans as an introduction of the implications of Christianity for us.”
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Monday, October 29, Saint Simon & Saint Jude (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . All Saints’ Day is Thursday, November 1. Solemn Evensong will be offered on Wednesday, October 31, at 6:00 PM. The music at Evensong includes Short Service by Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625) and O Quam gloriosam by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548–1611). The celebrant and preacher for the Solemn Mass on All Saints’ Day will be the Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church . . . All Souls’ Day is Friday, November 2. Solemn Mass will be at 6:00 PM. Full details about the service schedule for these days and the choral music can be found on the parish webpage.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are beginning now to gather toys and other gift items for children of all ages. They will be donated in November to the New York Foundling Hospital and AIDS Action International. Donations can be left, with a note on them explaining what they are for, in the parish kitchen or you may give the items to Father Jay Smith . . . We are also receiving donations of small- or medium-sized luggage to be used by children in foster care. The luggage is given to the Foundling Hospital. Please contact Father Jay Smith if you would like to make such a donation. . . We recently updated and printed a new edition of our brochure, “Resources and Assistance for Those in Need.” Please look for copies on the ushers’ table and in the sacristy. One useful item that we added to the latest edition of our brochure is a link to the Coalition for the Homeless website’s resource guide. The Coalition describes this digital guide as “an online version of the widely popular Coalition for the Homeless Resource Guide. In it, we provide the most comprehensive catalog of emergency services – shelter, outreach, soup kitchens, etc. – available for homeless families and individuals in New York City.”
THE VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM (VAP) . . . The exhibition of Erick Sánchez’s Genesis paintings opens in Saint Joseph’s Hall on All Saints’ Day, Thursday, November 1, at the reception following the Solemn Mass. Thank you so much to all those who have supported this project so enthusiastically. Your generosity has been inspiring and is much appreciated. You can already see images of some of the paintings in the Genesis series by visiting Erick’s website. José Vidal
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Museum of Biblical Art, 1865 Broadway at 61st Street, Louis C. Tiffany & the Art of Devotion, October 12, 2012–January 20, 2013. The exhibition will consider the array of church decorations and memorials that Louis C. Tiffany (1848-1933) produced beginning in the early 1880s. . . Friday, October 26, 6:00 PM, “Sweet Dreams: A Documentary Film about Women Healing Rwanda,” will be shown at the General Theological Seminary. This presentation is co-sponsored by the Society of Saint Blandina at General Theological Seminary and Anglican Women's Empowerment. Details and tickets available online here . . . On Tuesday, November 13, the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire, will visit the General Theological Seminary for a screening of Love Free or Die, a documentary about the bishop’s life, ministry, and advocacy on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. After the screening, Bishop Robinson will be available to speak with the audience. Admission is free and open to the public. The screening begins at 7:45 PM in Seabury Auditorium.