FROM FATHER SMITH: THE SPIRIT HELPS US IN OUR WEAKNESS
The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class met for the last time two weeks ago and has now begun its summer break. Our studies will resume in October. Last night, to mark the occasion, the members of the class, Mother Mary Julia Jett, and I headed over to a local Thai restaurant. We spoke of many things, as Saint Marians tend to do; and we actually discussed Scripture over our green curry and Pad Thai. We talked about the Lord’s Prayer, the class’s topic for a good part of the past year. One person talked about how the Lord’s Prayer reminded her of her childhood, since it was the first prayer that she had ever learned. Others talked about how, for some people, the Our Father seems to be the prayer that lives on in the mind, or on the lips, when memory fades or when death draws near. Those observations made me think of something that I learned in the class this year: Jesus has given us a prayer that is both comprehensive and concise. It says much, but says it with remarkable economy. Unlike the authors of many modern prayers, Jesus apparently did not feel the need to say everything or to tell God a lot of things that he already knows. I think the genius of the Lord’s Prayer is that its structure and words seem necessary, even perfect, to us. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Still, the prayer says just enough, no more than is needed, which allows each one of us to mean the prayer differently each time we pray it. The prayer may be economical, but it is also roomy. Jesus leaves space in the prayer for us to pray it in a new way, this day and every day, every time we pray it.
I like the paradox. Prayer is words and words are important, sometimes even essential; but that’s not all prayer is. Sometimes prayer is wordless and sometimes it is halting and inarticulate. As the members of the class pointed out, for children, language is something strange and new and, for some of those who are elderly, language has begun to slip away, becoming strange again; and yet both young and old often pray beautifully and well, even when words don’t come easily. There’s a lesson in that. Sometimes words fail us. Sometimes our words seem forced or false, and sometimes there are no words at all for the prayers of the heart; and when that happens, prayer often takes place in silence.
Silence, of course, is not the same thing as absence. Prayer is never just a one-sided conversation, though we often think it is, or try to make it so. It is often when words fail us that we discover that we do not pray alone. The Holy Spirit, our advocate and helper, prays with us. Saint Paul puts it this way, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And the one who searches our hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). I find this reassuring. The point of prayer is not control, or eloquence, or mastery, or expertise. The point is to begin to pray and keep on praying, because the Holy Spirit, ever patient, prays with us, bringing form out of chaos, light out of darkness, saying what we do not, or cannot, say for ourselves. Jay Smith
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Penny, Jeff, Peter, Denise, Charles, Casey, Jack, Richard, John, Kelli, Nancy, Eloise, Sharon, Linda, Cheryl, Wayne, Christopher, Jane, Diana, Dolores, Eileen, Arpene, Jacob, Gregory, Lura Grace, religious, Rowan, priest, Paulette, priest, and Thomas, bishop; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Marc, John, Elizabeth, and Nicholas; for all those affected by the storms in Oklahoma City; and for the repose of the soul of Laura Benadides . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 26: 1911 Annie E. Steinert; 1918 Dora Maxwell; 1920 Elizabeth Baker; 1936 Evan Styles Potter; 1970 Elizabeth Saracena.
FRIDAY ABSTINENCE . . . The Fridays of the Easter Season, which concluded on Sunday, May 19, the Day of Pentecost, are not days of abstinence. But the ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. Friday abstinence returns on May 24.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . May 26, Trinity Sunday, Solemn Mass and Te Deum, 11:00 AM and the final service of Solemn Evensong & Benediction until October (Evening Prayer is read on Sundays at 5:00 PM in the summertime) . . . Monday, May 27, Memorial Day. Federal Holiday schedule. The church will open at 10:00 AM and close at 2:00 PM. Only the noonday services are offered. The parish office will be closed . . . Friday, May 31, The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mass 12:10 PM & Sung Mass 6:00 PM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Daniel Philip Ferguson Lee was baptized at the Solemn Mass on the Day of Pentecost. It was a joyous occasion. Daniel’s mother, Daylene Hunte Lee, first came to Saint Mary’s as a child and served at the altar during that time. She and Daniel’s father, Felipe Lee, were married here in 2010 . . . We have received a Letter of Transfer for Adam Morrow. Adam has already begun serving at the altar. It is good to have him here at Saint Mary’s . . . Congratulations to parishioner Julia Heard Miranda who graduated from the General Theological Seminary on May 15. She was awarded the MA degree cum laude. Her thesis was entitled, “Human Body for Heavenly Work: An Examination and Survey of the Historical Theology of the Priesthood through the Lens of Patristic Authors and their Contemporary Counterparts.” Julia has been admitted to the Master of Sacred Theology program at General, where she will continue her studies in the fall . . . The exhibition Devoción, works and photographs by Máximo Cólon, continues in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . The Rector will be away on behalf of the parish from Wednesday, May 22, through Friday, May 24 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday, The Day of Pentecost 280.
AIDS WALK 2013 . . . The AIDS Walk was last Sunday, May 19. The Saint Mary’s Team was here for Solemn Mass and then walked in the rain behind the crowd of some 30,000 walkers. The Walk is one of Saint Mary’s major outreach efforts, and we were very successful thanks to the generosity of many friends and members of the parish. Our initial goal was $20,000. Due to the success of our fundraising efforts, we were able to increase the goal to $23,000; and, as of May 22, we have raised almost $24,500. The money we raise is used by Gay Men’s Health Crisis in the fight against AIDS and to provide education, treatment, and care for people who are at risk of infection, are HIV-positive, or have AIDS. We can still accept and count contributions until the middle of June, and it would be wonderful if we could reach our new goal of $25,000. Every donation helps! A link to our team’s web page is here. If you have questions, contact Father Jay Smith or MaryJane Boland, the team coordinator. Thank you so much to the many people who have supported the Team this year. Once the books close on AIDS Walk 2013, we will provide final numbers and a fact sheet about the support we received.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The setting of the Mass ordinary on Sunday is The Office of Holy Communion (“Collegium Regale”) by Herbert Howells (1892–1983). This work was composed in 1956 as part of a collection of liturgical music, begun in 1944, for the choir of King’s College, Cambridge (hence the Latin ascription in the title). Like much of the composer’s choral music, this work is atmospheric and diverse in style and mood, though a sense of melancholy joy pervades much of it, particularly in Gloria in excelsis Deo. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Libera nos, salva nos by John Sheppard (c. 1515–1559/60). Sheppard, along with such composers as Thomas Tallis and Christopher Tye, was among the English musicians whose careers spanned the Reformation and the significant resulting changes in liturgical practice. Sheppard was Informator Choristorum of Magdalen College, Oxford, in the 1640s. In the college statutes, Magdalen's founder, William Wayneflete, ordained that college members should recite the antiphon to the Trinity each morning and night, and Sheppard's pair of settings of Libera nos, salva nos appear to have been written for this purpose, probably for use at the end of Compline. This setting weaves a complex web of soaring polyphonic lines around the lowest voice part, which presents the plainsong melody in long note values. During the solemn censing, the choir sings Te Deum to Anglican chant. The chants are by James Kennerley (b. 1984) and Sir John Goss (1800–1880). Goss’s chant is a musical paraphrase of Martin Luther’s chorale Ein feste burg ist unser Gott (“A mighty fortress is our God”) . . . At 4:40 PM on Sunday, I will play the organ recital before Evensong, my final recital here at Saint Mary’s. Music will be by Bach and Wagner. James Kennerley
RECORDINGS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . As many of you know, Saint Mary’s is fortunate to possess one of the finest pipe organs in the United States, renowned worldwide for its vast tonal palate and particular beauty of tone. Matched with an unparalleled acoustic of our magnificent church, the combination is one that is hard to match, even in the great cathedrals of Europe. As such, several artists have recorded on the instrument. Most recently, David Enlow recorded the complete works of César Franck, which is available for purchase from the music office. Paul Jacobs, professor of organ studies at The Juilliard School, recorded Olivier Messiaen’s monumental Livre du Saint-Sacrement in 2009. The recording proceeded to win the Grammy Award for best instrumental solo recording. Click here for more details.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Electronic versions of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger’s Guide to Free Food and Assistance are available here . . . We continue to gather non-perishable food items for Saint Clement’s Pantry. Please contact Sister Deborah Francis for more information about the Pantry’s work . . . Information about disaster relief in the aftermath of the tornadoes in Oklahoma is available on the website of the Diocese of Oklahoma. Information about Red Cross Disaster Relief is available here.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . June 2, The Body & Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi, Solemn Mass, Procession to Times Square, and Eucharistic Benediction 11:00 AM . . . Tuesday, June 11, Saint Barnabas, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Monday, June 24, The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Mass 12:10 PM, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Friday, June 28, The Eve of Saint Peter & Saint Paul, Sung Mass 6:00 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Morgan Library and Museum: “Illuminating Faith: The Eucharist in Medieval Life and Art,” May 17–September 2, 2013. From the Morgan website, “Featuring more than sixty-five exquisitely illuminated manuscripts, Illuminating Faith offers glimpses into medieval culture, and explores the ways in which artists of the [medieval] period depicted the celebration of the sacrament and its powerful hold on society. The exhibition presents some of the Morgan’s finest works, including the Hours of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, one of the greatest of all Books of Hours; the exquisite Preparation for Mass of Pope Leo X, which remained at the Vatican until it was looted by Napoleon's troops in 1798; a private prayer book commissioned by Anne de Bretagne, queen of France, for her son the dauphin, Charles-Orland; and a number of rarely-exhibited Missals. Also on display will be objects used in medieval Eucharistic rituals, such as a chalice, ciborium, pax, altar card, and monstrances.” The Morgan is located at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street.