The Angelus

Volume 15, Number 13

FROM FATHER SMITH: FAITH & WORK

On three recent Sundays, the adult-education class heard presentations by six Saint Marians, who spoke about the relationship between faith and work in their lives, their professions, and their workplaces. We heard from a librarian and a newspaper editor; a human-resources professional and a pathologist; and from a high-school teacher and a psychiatrist. The presentations were uniformly good. Not surprisingly, some common themes emerged during the three-week series, but it was also very helpful to hear about individual experiences, problems, questions, and approaches.

When I first invited some of our presenters to participate, they assumed that I wanted them to talk about evangelism. That is, they thought I was interested in finding out how much they did, or didn’t, proselytize in the workplace. In fact, I had no such test in mind; and proselytism wasn’t the first item on my agenda. I was much more interested in having a wide-ranging conversation about what impact faith, prayer, and spirituality play in our work lives. I was especially interested in hearing lay people talk about these issues. (Once, when I worked at a parish in New Haven, Connecticut, the parish secretary asked me, “Why is it that all you priests have ‘callings’ and the rest of us just have jobs?”) I have long wondered why Episcopalians spend such a proportionally large amount of time and energy talking about discerning vocations to the ordained ministry, to say nothing of the notorious “ordination process,” while seeming to talk relatively infrequently about how Christian disciples actually live and work in the so-called “secular” world. (It must be said that there have been efforts to remedy this situation. A number of Episcopalians have directed me recently to a website called www.thehighcalling.org, which addresses these issues in a very interesting and helpful way.)

Some of the observations made, and the questions raised, by our six presenters are well worth mentioning. Working in a religious institution makes some things easier—there, one does not need to “come out” as a Christian, for example—but questions remain. One still needs to figure out how to work patiently, fairly, productively and well with fellow staff members and with those whom one is called to serve. Working in a religious institution does not mean that one is living in the Kingdom of God! Working in institutions in which secularism is the reigning ideology does present particular challenges. In those settings, one needs to figure out when or how to talk about one’s beliefs and faith commitments. In such situations, one can encounter a great deal of ignorance, if not outright hostility, towards Christianity and, indeed, toward all religions. Addressing such ignorance can be trying, but it can also help one to define one’s own beliefs and to find strategies to talk about those beliefs calmly, productively, and even with a sense of humor. Sometimes “coming out” as a Christian allows one’s fellow employees to talk about family or personal problems in a way that they might not otherwise do. Sometimes one discovers that having a prayer life, having read Scripture, and having some experience in reflecting on moral problems, results in being asked to take on certain tasks in the workplace. Your supervisor may not share your beliefs, but she may still assume that those beliefs will help you make ethical decisions and help others do the same. Sometimes one discovers that there is a distinct interaction between what one “does on Sundays” and what one “does on Mondays.” Prayer, fellowship, worship, and Scripture are a support; and they provide a framework for action and decision-making. They also help one to think about how one’s work is a vocation (yes, lay people do have “callings”). Similarly, the Anglican tradition provides us with a wealth of resources that one can bring into the workplace in order to provide support and focus. One presenter mentioned posting a particularly helpful prayer on his desk, humming hymns in moments of stress, praying with like-minded colleagues, and thinking about how those he served were truly and fully human, children of God, made in God’s image.

At a number of points during those six presentations I thought about the Benedictine motto ora et labora, “faith and work.” Two books, both in print and relatively inexpensive, discuss this theme in some very helpful ways (there are certainly others; work is a very important part of Benedictine life and spirituality): Esther de Waal’s Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict and Joan Chittister’s The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages. Sister Joan makes the following observation:

There is little room for excursion into the quixotic in the Rule of Benedict. If any chapter proves that point best, it may well be the chapter on work. Benedict doesn’t belabor the point but he clearly makes it: Benedictine life is immersed in the sanctity of the real and work is a fundamental part of it. The function of the spiritual life is not to escape into the next world; it is to live well in this one. The monastic engages in creative work as a way to be responsible for the up-building of the community. Work periods, in fact, are specified just as prayer periods are. Work and prayer are opposite sides of the great coin of a life that is both holy and useful, immersed in God and dedicated to the transcendent in the human. (Joan Chittister, O.S.B., The Rule of Benedict, New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1992, 132).

Though none said it, each of our six presenters was, it seemed to me, trying in his or her own way to talk about work as sacrament. That is, they were trying to articulate how grace can be experienced in our everyday lives. Perhaps it’s worth saying in this season of Lent that the humdrum and the mundane are just as good an arena as any for our Lenten practices. In his Rule, Saint Benedict insists that “all the monastic utensils and goods of the monastery” are to be treated as if they were “the sacred vessels” (31.10). As Esther de Waal points out, there is a clue here, and a hint (Seeking God, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1984, 99-111). We can experience the sacred—and God can find us—in the office, at the computer, in the factory, at the sickbed, in the shop, in the restaurant, in our own kitchens, gardens, garages, and laundry rooms. All we need to do is look—and listen. Jay Smith

 

YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Sharon, Michael, Eleanor, Richard, Julie, Christopher, Jane, Stephanie, Diana, Kathy, James, Chelsea, Robert, Tiffany, Wendy, Stephen, Dolores, Wayne, Philip, Eileen, Linda, Arpene, Rowan, priest, Paulette, priest, and Christopher, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, Elizabeth, and Nicholas; and for the repose of the souls of Krisleah Passaro, Errol Perez, and Emil Denworth, religious . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 24: 1898 Betsy Louise Humphrey; 1949 Emily Copeland; 1962 Willis O. Warren; 1967 Morton M. Presting.

 

IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Errol Perez, the father of parishioner Ronald Perez, died in Trinidad, after a brief illness, on Sunday, February 17 . . . Brother Emil Denworth, FMS, died at his home, Champagnat Hall, Mount Saint Michael Academy, Bronx, New York, on Monday, February 18. Brother Emil entered the Marist Order in 1963. He served as a secondary-school teacher and administrator at high schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York City, until his retirement in 2006. He was a great friend of Saint Mary’s and served the parish in a number of ways. He was a faithful member of our guild of ushers until failing health made it difficult for him to be with us on Sunday mornings. A Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated at Mount Saint Michael’s on Thursday, February 21. A Requiem Mass for Brother Emil will be celebrated at Saint Mary’s at a later date, at which time his ashes will be placed in the columbarium in the Lady Chapel . . . Krisleah Passaro died at her home in New Jersey on Thursday, February 21, after a long illness. Krisleah was a singer and a teacher of music. She is survived by her husband Michele, and her twin sons, Michele and Max. The boys were baptized here at Saint Mary’s in 2004. Please keep Errol, Krisleah, Brother Emil, their family and friends, the Marist brothers, and all who mourn in your prayers.

 

THE WEEKDAYS OF LENT are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. The Fridays of Lent are also traditionally observed by abstinence from flesh meats.

 

STATIONS OF THE CROSS are offered on all Fridays in Lent at 6:30 PM, which follows 6:00 PM Evening Prayer.

 

THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Church School for younger children meets this Sunday at 9:45 AM in the Parish House . . . The Adult Forum continues this Sunday at 10:00 AM, in the Mission House . . . Monday, February 25, Saint Matthias the Apostle (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on Wednesday, February 27, at 6:30 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Friday, March 1, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross . . . Father Jim Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, February 23. Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, March 2.

 

LITURGICAL NOTE ABOUT LENT . . . During Lent our sung and solemn Masses are marked by silence and very little use of the organ. There are also no preludes and postludes—and no recitals. Organist and music director James Kennerley reminds us, “The organ will next be heard in its full majesty at the Easter Vigil.” For some this restraint will be new, but I think you will look forward to it, as I do, every year. This restraint gives Lenten services a marked and appropriate simplicity, in great contrast to the richness of the rest of the year. S.G.

 

AROUND THE PARISH . . . A couple of years ago, the Digital Communication department of the Episcopal Church Center, came to Saint Mary’s on a Friday afternoon in Lent and taped Stations of the Cross. The video can be accessed here. We are grateful to our friends at the Church Center for making and distributing the video. It was a pleasure working with them . . . We welcome donations for flowers used to decorate the church at Easter. Donations are also needed for the large palms used to decorate the altar on Palm Sunday and for flowers for all the Sundays in April. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . We also welcome donations to support our ministry of hospitality. Donations are needed for the Easter-Vigil reception and for the reception on the feast of the Annunciation on April 8. We are also glad to receive donations to support our hospitality efforts on Sundays. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch . . . The Rector is currently away from the parish. He returns on Sunday, February 24. Father Smith will be away beginning Friday, March 8. He returns to the parish on Sunday, March 17 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 233.

 

FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The setting of the Mass ordinary at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is Missa brevis C-dur, KV 259 (“Orgelsolo”) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791). An early work, this setting was probably composed in Salzburg in 1776. It is quite brief with a condensed setting of the text, as is the case with several of Mozart’s other Masses of that period. This may be due to the views of the prince-archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg, who preferred simple and straightforward music during the liturgy. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Miserere nostri, Domine by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585), a hauntingly beautiful setting, outwardly simple. A true example of ars est celare artem (“it is art to conceal art”), the inner workings of the piece are nonetheless highly complex and masterfully constructed. The work is an ingeniously-crafted canon, where each of the voice parts are based on the same melodic line, heard in varying mutations, rhythms and at various points of entry. James Kennerley

 

ADULT EDUCATION . . . On Sunday, February 24, Father Peter Powell will continue his series on Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans . . . On Wednesday, February 27, at 6:30 PM, the Bible Study Class will continue its discussion of the Book of the Prophet Zechariah. The class is led by Mother Mary Julia Jett . . . The Adult Forum will not meet on Palm Sunday, Easter Day, or the Second Sunday of Easter (March 24, 31, or April 7) . . . On April 14 and 21, Dr. Dennis Raverty will teach a class entitled, Christian Themes and Subjects in the Work of the Avant-Garde School of Paris 1879–1940 . . . On April 28, as well as on May 5 and 12, Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will teach a class entitled Angles of Anglican Poetry: Clerics, Converts, Contrarians and Crossovers. The class will be studying the poetry of Donne, Herbert, Hopkins, Rossetti, and Eliot, as well as others “who might surprise us with their aptness for the theme, often covert, or even subverted or sub-conscious.”  The Sunday-morning Adult Forum takes place in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class is held, when possible, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Newcomers are always welcome at all of our adult-education classes. No prior preparation is necessary. J.R.S.

 

AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . The Metropolitan Japanese Ministry invites you to a Silent Auction and Concert to support the Wakamatsu Sei Ai Kindergarten and the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Sunday, March 10, 3:30-6:30 PM, the Church of Saint James the Less, 10 Church Lane, Scarsdale, NY. Admission $20.00. For more information: 914-723-6118 or mjm.ny@mindspring.com.

 

OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to gather warm clothing—socks, coats of all sizes, sweaters, and sweatshirts—and blankets for distribution to the homeless in our neighborhood. Some of those items, as well as non-perishable food items, will be sent to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please speak to Mother Mary Julia about our efforts here at the parish. Please contact Sister Deborah Francis for more information about the Pantry’s work . . . The Book Sale continues on Sunday. All proceeds benefit those in need. Thank you to all those who have donated books for the sale. Your generosity is most appreciated.

 

MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Sunday, March 10, Daylight Saving Time begins . . . Monday, March 18, Meeting of the Board of Trustees . . . Tuesday, March 19, Saint Joseph, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Sunday, March 24, Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday . . . Monday, March 25, Monday in Holy Week. The Feast of the Annunciation is transferred to Monday, April 8.