Thursday, September 27, 2007

Encounter with Virgin Mother

After the reception, Rita and I zigged and zagged our way west to the subway. We headed north along Madison Avenue, noting the rose window in the Lady Chapel of St. Patrick's Cathedral. I joked that we should walk around the front and get an early start on singing "Marija, Marija" this week.

After peering below grade into St. Peter's Lutheran church at Citicorp, our next destination was Lever House on Park. Rita wanted to show me a statue that she had almost literally stumbled into last week.

We walked slowly and silently around the pregnant colossus, looking up in awe. On one side the skin is drawn back, revealing muscle, sinew and the child within. All was beauty.

Even more amazing was the name of the work on a small plaque: "Virgin Mother."

I am haunted by this gigantic meditation on woman, the paradox of strength and vulnerability and the miracle of life.

I shake the hand of Lithuanian President Valdus Adamkus

Yesterday, the Lithuanian American Community held a reception for Lithuanian President, Valdus Adamkus. I sat among three other Our Lady of Vilnius parishioners and watched as the familiar faces filed in, faces that I have not seen together in one place since the closure of our church. Ramute Zukaite made her introductory remarks, once again emphasizing concerns about the preservation of Lithuanian culture.

President Adamkus took the podium and spoke, in Lithuanian. While I don't yet speak the language beyond a few words, my presence at the church has led to recognition of even more words and the capacity to get a gist. Saulius, on my left, took out a piece of scrap paper and began to write list of bulleted points in English for me, which was a big help. The President addressed remarks to our parish and then moved on to the challenges that Lithuania faces as a nation, ending on a note of hope.

Later I had the pleasure of shaking his hand. Actually, I felt such a surge of emotion that I was up to his forearm before I collected myself. I told him that it was an honor to meet him and thanked him for his interest in our church.

My father and his sisters died within months of each other in 1993. They rejoiced in Lithuanian independence and again in 1992 when the Lithuanian men's basketball team won bronze medal in the Olympics. They were so happy that they did not even make snide comments about the tie-dye outfits that the team wore on the podium. I truly felt them smiling down as I shook the hand of Valdus Adamkus.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Aches and Pains in the Mystical Body

I will confess to the world that I am wounded. We are wounded as a parish and, we bear our individual wounds as well. Despite pain and damage, we continue to move forward, supporting each other, sometimes dragging each other. As we move, we heal.

One part of the body cannot be wounded without every cell responding. As people, egos, we are not necessarily aware of this response. The brain thinks of an injury to the foot as a remote annoyance: an impediment, an obstacle. The "I" is annoyed because the afflicted part can’t function to fulfill the personal agenda.

The whole body needs to heal. To do so, each part needs the care and loving attention of the other.

I am thankful to everyone at Our Lady of Vilnius who has held me up and dragged me forward so that I can remain among them. May the decision making organs of this Mystical Body respond to this wound that is Our Lady of Vilnius with love and energy to heal.

Pray to Our Lady. She is with us despite the removal of her painting. We are all under her watchful and protective eye.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


"On 9/11, this is where we came. He held our hands and he talked to us..."

reminiscence of a parishioner


Our Lady of Vilnius also has a saint in the making

A few days ago, September 9th to be exact, the New York Times published a piece by Alex Mindlin, Turning for Help to a Saint in the Making. The piece notes that Solanus Casey was in residence at Our Lady Queen of Angels for three years and describes the hopes of the parishioners that this will awaken the archdiocese to the value of their church and parish.

Our Lady of Vilnius also has a saint in the making, Blessed George Matulaitis. Please write to the New York Times to let them know that we are in the same boat as Our Lady Queen of Angels and that our boat, too, carries a heavenly intercessor. Write a letter to the editor at the New York Times. In order to be considered for publication, a letter must be received within 7 days of the publication of the story to which it pertains. Even if they do not publish your letter, it may give them an idea for a future story. PLEASE WRITE!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell in Concert in 1970

For those who are too young to have heard it, this song was popular when I was in high school. It's more relevant now than ever.

APB Out for Missing Rutas!

"Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone... "

Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi"

Up until a few weeks ago, I never heard of "rutas". It wasn't until Rita, not Ruta, began stroking it and saying that it needed water that the untidy plant in the cement container pervaded my consciousness.

Today Rita raised the alarum that the "rutas" was missing! Indeed the cement containers had migrated further down the block (quite a feat considering their heft!) and no longer held the beloved and esteemed rutas.

I did a fast search and learned that this is a very potent and desirable herb. The first page that I found, The Ruta Page, recounts a ruta theft.

I am appealing to the public to let us know what has happened to our ruta! All tips and leads will be kept confidential.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

We're Still Out There! Come Join Us!

Singing Across the Canyon

Every Sunday at 10:30 AM we gather across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral in the shadow of Atlas. We hold our signs, wave our flags, meet, greet and inform the curious onlookers.

At 11:15 AM the great bronze center doors of the Cathedral open. We can see the gold cross moving up the center aisle in recessional. We can see them turn left at the back of the cathedral. We can see the golden canopy above the altar and feel the energy to which we are aligned. Sometimes a celebrant comes out and shakes the hands of the faithful as they stream out.

As Rita raises her silver cross and small icon of Our Lady, we raise our voices in song: Marija, Marija. They stand on the steps, looking. We feel like we are reaching them. We are reaching into the Cathedral with our plea. It is going up the center aisle, toward the altar. It is rising, floating above the exhaust of tourist buses on Fifth Avenue. They are curious. Our hearts are open. Our eyes meet. We are educating each other in faith.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Members of our community are visiting Lithuania

This summer our ranks have thinned somewhat because some of our parishioners are spending their vacation in Lithuania.

Not merely resting, visiting family and enjoying themselves, they are also meeting with Lithuanian clergy and spreading the truth. If you speak the language, you can read about it in Bernardinai, "Vilniuje bei Kaune viešintys JAV lietuviai toliau kelia Aušros Vartų bažnyčios Niujorke išsaugojimo klausimą" .

If you don't speak Lithuanian, just be glad that our friends are working to save our parish, even on vacation.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


The view from inside our shrine, uploaded to Flickr by lightxposr on April 8, 2007.

Beauty in a Beholder's Eye

Today I belatedly found this on Flickr. This photo of our door and flowers was uploaded on April 7, 2007 by a photographer who calls himself "lightxposr."

Visit this picture on Flickr to view it in different sizes and to see more of this photographer's work.

Thank you, lightxposr, for saving this bit of beauty for all to see.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Outside of the church

After 5:00 PM Mass at St. Matthew's, I stayed behind to sit before the Mary altar and sing "Marija, Marija." Since the strains of this hymn have been silenced it has been my practice to make them heard by singing the hymn in any church where I attend Mass.

When I sing, I pray the words of the hymn and attach it to my intention for the survival of Lithuanian spirituality in the Archdiocese. As I left, I saw one of my favorite singing companions and fellow choristers from the church of St. Stanislaus Kostka. She had remained behind to pray before the image of Divine Mercy. She is in her 80's, a native of Hastings-on-Hudson and a lifelong parishioner of St. Stanislaus Kostka. She had been a choir member since the age of 6.

"I thought I recognized that voice," she said. "Yes," I answered, "I sing this hymn in every church I attend. It is my prayer for Our Lady of Vilnius." "Did you see that woman on the news who had her funeral in front of that closed church in Harlem?" she asked. I told her that I had and that I had met many of those women and admired their spirit.

"Well, that's the way I feel," she said. I want to have my funeral in front of St. Stanislaus."

You can take us out of our spiritual homes, but you can't take our spiritual homes out of us. That is our gift to the archdiocese, the gift that will ultimately be its salvation.