Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cardinal Egan Gazes on a Pearl of Great Price

In the image to the left St. Stanislaus Kostka gazes upon the child Jesus. This textile art of embroidery and applique was once the standard of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish, borne aloft in parades. When the parading days were done, this work adorned the wall between the sacristy and the altar of the church. This morning it hung on the southern wall of the Church of St. Matthew. The church of St. Stanislaus Kostka was closed in 2005, more than a year before its official suppression as part of the archdiocesan realignment. The altar, some statues, some sacramentals and some stained glass now reside in the Church of St. Matthew, the larger parish that once shared the same geographical boundaries.

Today Cardinal Egan came to visit the parish of St. Matthew and gaze upon the remnants of St. Stanislaus, the artifacts and the people as well.

At 10:00 AM Father Fernan stood at the foot of the driveway awaiting the Cardinal's arrival. The St. Stanislaus "Society" as we are now called, was having our weekly coffee social in the rectory meeting room giving us a bird's eye view as the sleek black minivan rolled up and turned into the driveway.

Cardinal Egan and his retinue alit and, after greeting Father Fernan and joshing with Father Smyth, they all piled back in and visited St. Stanislaus at the Cardinal's request. I wished that I could have been a fly on the wall on that event, but sanity prevailed and I stayed with my friends at coffee instead of tearing down Whitman Street to head them off at the pass.

I went over to the church early to get a good seat. Some journalists were roaming around taking photos of the St. Stanislaus patrimony, so I decided to do the same thing myself. This is a photo of the altar of St. Stanislaus, now ensconced in an alcove that once housed Father Smyth's confessional.

The Cardinal gave a very smooth homily, beginning with the rhetorical question of why the parish was a pearl of great price. Of course cynicism led my mind to wander to the minivan's ride to the church of St. Stanislaus on Main Street with a possible side trip to the spacious lot housing the rectory on the corner of Washington and Warburton, but I opened my heart to the Cardinal's message as he went on to explain the importance of the pulpit, where the Word is preached, the altar where the Sacrifice is offered and the front door by which we leave to do His work as members of the Mystical Body of Christ. I held my small icon of Our Lady of Vilnius in my hand, the same one that accompanied me to two courtrooms and the Pope's Mass at Yankee Stadium. Danielle, to my left, pointed to the icon and said, "Maybe that's your sacrifice." Well maybe it is. The parishes of Our Lady of Vilnius and St. Stanislaus Kostka are my sacrifice.

No one could doubt the value of the Cardinal's words, but he spoke in generalities, from a perspective where all parishes are pearls of great price for the same reason. Those of us who are very up close and personal see pearls of even greater price than the Cardinal can behold. I wish the Cardinal would ask us real questions, not rhetorical questions. I wish he had come before the closings, not after, to examine all of these pearls born of a grain of sand each with their spectacular beauties and their unique flaws. I wish that one of these luminiscent gems could still live and glow and kindle fire in hearts. Cardinal Egan gestured towards the altar and stained glass from St. Stanislaus, referring to them as "remembrances"

Can we save Our Lady of Vilnius from becoming a remembrance? Can the Cardinal come to see the beauty of this tiny pearl?


Anonymous said...

Way, way back in first grade Sister Mary Alacquoe was answering the questions of a classmate who told how every Wednesday afternoon he answered the door and their was a very polite lady from Jehovah's Witnesses. The woman always carried a Bible and would stand at the doorway reading and quoting scripture in an effort to convert this little six year old parochial school student.
I'm reminded of Sister's response - "anyone can quote scripture to their own advantage" - when I read here about Cardinal Egan's talk about the "pearl of great price." It's a powerful image - to think of a precious, luminescent, lustrous pearl embodied in the tapestry, the altar, the crucifix. We are transfixed by the beauty before us and so is Cardinal Egan. However, we all should focus on the part of that lovely phrase which is not so easy to understand or visualize - the "great price."
All of these items were purchased at an economic price - they did not materialize out of thin air. They were paid for by long hours of immigrant
work, some of it surely rewarding and much of it simply gruelling labor to raise and support a Catholic family. Out of the currency gained by this labor further sacrifices were made by these working class people for their church, for the glory of God, to honor St. Stanislaus Kostka, to remember Our Lady of Vilnius. What item of clothing was not purchased? what toys were not bought? what entertainment was passed up? what vacations were shortened or not even taken? so these good people would have a church worthy of their aspirations and a place to meet and be a community of God's people.
The Cardinal can talk all he wants about the altar of sacrifice. The real altar of sacrifice in this matter is labor of the people who actually purchased these "pearls of great price."
Ellen Halloran

Nobody's Wife said...

Thank you for reading and adding your thoughts. I should send you my thoughts and then I should make your comments the post. You're too good for my blog. Get thee to dotCommonweal!