Monday, April 21, 2008

My kind of Pope!

"Benedict’s kindness toward the strays of Rome is already the stuff of Vatican legend. His house in Germany, its garden guarded by a cat statue, was filled with cats when Benedict lived there full time before he was posted to the Vatican in 1982. "

This is a quote from today's "New York Times" article titled Cat Lovers Appreciate Soul Mate in Vatican. Normally I will curl up on top of the Times for a nap or bat a paw at it while it's being read, but today I nearly shredded the paper in my enthusiasm for this article. Please read the rest of this inspiring story.

Papal Blessing

A miniature reproduction of the Our Lady of Vilnius altar icon attended Pope Benedict XVI's Mass at Yankee Stadium and received the papal blessing offered at the end of the Mass.

Our Lithuanian-American chorister held up the little icon as the Holy Father paused briefly before the choir in his popemobile.

The archdiocese closed our church but we are still present, still hopeful, still faithful and still part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Danute: We mourn another passing

Grazina called yesterday and left a message that Danute Strout had passed away. We had visited her in the hospital last Sunday, realizing the gravity of her condition.

Danute had been living with cancer since I first met her three years ago. Sometimes she wore a wig, sometimes her own hair. Sometimes she had a rattly cough. She did not let these things diminish the pleasure she took in life. She joined in our protests and social gatherings and graciously offered us hospitality. She was very proud of her heritage and was eager to share its riches with initiates like me. I remember sitting across the table from her last spring in Kenny's Broome Street Bar as she spoke enthusiastically about her upcoming vacation in Lietuva.

Last November, after our committee to save the church had met, Danute invited us to her home for a snack. She proudly served us her zeppelinai and mushroom gravy, hardly a snack but more of a special occasion meal.

I will miss her smile, her fortitude, her kindness and her love of life. Whenever we gather she will always be with us and in our prayers.

Benedictus Qui Venit

On April 30, 2007 The New York Post carried a brief item by Dan Mangan: "POPE WANTS TO SAVE N.Y. CHURCH: LITHUANIA PREZ." The item begins:

"Pope Benedict XVI wants to see a lower Manhattan church shuttered by Edward Cardinal Egan reopened, according to a European head of state."

The inclusion of Our Lady of Vilnius Church on President Adamkus' agenda during his audience with the Pope was confirmed on the Lithuanian government's web site.

Today Pope Benedict XVI arrived in New York. During his 3 day visits he may pass very closely by our unassuming church nestled in its side street. The Holy Father might have glanced out of the helicopter carrying him to the UN and unwittingly seen the roof of Our Lady of Vilnius.

As I blog, my television is tuned to coverage of the Holy Father's visit. On EWTN Father Richard Neuhaus was explaining why the Pope addressed the UN in French saying that the Holy Father recognizes that "...Man is dependent on culture. Culture is dependent on tradition." EWTN then went dark, so I turned to CBS where Pablo Guzman was offering some historical information on St. Joseph's Church in Yorkville, where Pope Benedict will attend vespers this evening. Mr. Guzman stated that there is a German Mass on Sunday followed by a coffee hour.

A native New Yorker, I am more of a skeptic than a cynic. As irrational as it seems, I have really been waiting in joyful hope for this papal visit. As noted above, we have a Bavarian Pope who believes in the importance of culture. A church that holds Mass in the mother tongue and has a coffee social is hosting him.

I feel a certain electricity in the air. This will be a weekend that many Catholics will converge. Everyone who values the unique culture of Our Lady of Vilnius should pray early and often throughout the Papal visit that the Holy Spirit blows the dust off of this archdiocese, renews our faith and influences the powers of this archbishopric to honor the values expressed by Our Holy Father.

Pray for the survival of our parish and our church!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Valio! Valio! Valio! and "long years" to Pope Benedict from the steps of Our Lady of Vilnius

This Sunday, when we gathered, we celebrated the birthday of Deacon Vytas, whose presence is always so welcome and inspiring.

One of our parishioners also reminded us of the birthday of Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday. As we sang and toasted and wished Vytas "long years" in Lithuanian, we also wished the same for Pope Benedict and included him in our prayers.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Satyagraha and Our Lady of Vilnius

When I am not standing in a holy place singing "Marija, Marija," I sing in two choruses. The leader of one of them also works for The Metropolitan Opera, so we have been privileged to hear some technical detail of the chorus's preparation for Philip Glass's "Satyagraha." In today's New York Times, Anthony Thomasini reviews this production: "Fanciful Visions on the Mahatma’s Road to Truth and Simplicity". This opera is based on a period of Mahatma Gandhi's life when he set about helping Indians in South Africa achieve human and civil rights. The word sanskrit "satyagraha" has been translated to mean "reality force" or "truth force": another way of standing in a holy place, and perhaps the only way.

Let us all aspire to be "SATYAGRAHI," as described below:

A) A satyagrahi (one who practices satyagraha) must be willing to shoulder any sacrifice which is occasioned by the struggle which they have initiated, rather than pushing such sacrifice or suffering onto their opponent, lest the opponent become alienated and access to their portion of the truth become lost.

B) The satyagrahi must always provide a face-saving "way out" for the opponents. The goal is to discover a wider vista of truth and justice, not to achieve victory over the opponent.

I will strive for the above AND, I'm going to the opera. It's sung in Sanskrit. Maybe it will help me with my Lithuanian!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Come Stand With Us in the Holy Place

As the anticipation mounts for the visit of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, we continue to gather on Sunday and pray for the restoration of our parish and of our church. We assemble at 10:30 AM across the street from the main entrance of the Cathedral of St. Patrick. We sing, we pray and we communicate.

Afterwards we head downtown to Our Lady of Vilnius, 570 Broome Street, where we ask Our Lady for her mercy and protection. Afterwards, we share refreshments and enjoy good fellowship.

"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place."
-Matthew 24:15
We invite you to stand with us in the holy place.