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?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vermont Pharmacy: The "Our Lady of Vilnius" of the Apothecary World

Yesterday's New York Times Metro Section featured an article by Kareem Fahim, Filling in a Few Blanks in an Old Brooklyn Real Estate Mystery. The store in many ways reminded me of Our Lady of Vilnius. I actually felt a pang when I saw that wood framed screen door because it was so much like the one on the back of our rectory. Even the title resonates. I suspect our church and the rectory harbor some real estate mysteries of their own. Here are some quotes:

"Dust has settled on a generation of clutter",

"The shuttered pharmacy could be a location in a film about some mysterious cataclysm — killer spores? aliens? — that emptied a 1950s town, or it could be a scene from a blighted city, the commercial casualty of a Main Street abandoned by shoppers and hope.

Instead, it is a curiosity. The longtimers seem to know more about the place than they let on, about the eccentric homeopath, Mark Stein, who owns the building and is still seen visiting. The new residents peer into the windows and move on, knowing little about the puppeteers who helped run the place; or the gunrunner who worked as a clerk in a pharmacy that occupied the space before; or, in much earlier days, the British gentleman-thief with a taste for diamonds who lived upstairs. No one seems to know exactly why it shut down.

It’s frozen in time,” said Franco Ficili, the president of La Societa di Pozzallo, a cultural club for natives of a Sicilian town that sits across the street from the pharmacy. “I’m here 30 years. He just closed his door. What he does in there, I have no idea.”"

Mr. Fahim's imaginative and poetic take on this pharmacy could well be applied to our church and rectory. I wish that he would turn his gaze here and plumb our mysteries, too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Encouragement from the Traffic Jam!

This morning at work I received a business e-mail from a colleague. After the business part, there was a postscript:

"I saw the vigil in front of Our Lady of Vilnius on Sunday afternoon as I was driving into the Holland Tunnel - very pretty, with all the bright yellow, red & green flags! Best of luck to you all!"

- John

Friday, July 18, 2008

We Need Heroes. We have Them.

Today" brought my attention to a review of the new Batman flick "Dark Knight." In this review Justin Chang of states:

"Using five strongly developed characters to anchor a drama with life-or-death implications for the entire metropolis, the Nolans have taken Bob Kane's comic book template and crafted an anguished, eloquent meditation on ideas of justice and power, corruption and anarchy, and, of course, the need for heroes like Batman -- -"

...or Jesus Christ or anyone who is moved to action in the name of justice and compassion. I am happy to stand with my family of heroes as we continue to struggle against all odds to preserve our piece of Gotham's past, present and future. Feel free to join us.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Idoneus per Cardinal Egan

The Latin Mass is receiving a lot of discussion in Catholic forums online. A piece titled "Summorum Pontificum" One Year Later (Part 1) addresses many of the issues raised, among them competence to say the Latin Mass, as below:

"For example, "Summorum Pontificum" says priests must be idoneus, "capable, competent" to say Mass with the older book. Idoneus, a technical term, refers to the minimum requirements for competence, not to expertise.

Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, a distinguished canonist in his day, correctly stated that idoneus, as far as the Latin language is concerned, means that the priest must be able to pronounce the words properly. That is the minimum."

Cardinal Egan is quoted in the media as stating that Father Sawicki was not fluent Lithuanian. This statement is, at times, listed among the reasons for closing Our Lady of Vilnius.

Is "idoneus" different for a priest saying Mass in a vernacular that is not his native tongue? Is fluency required? Why should that case be any different from the Latin Mass.

Please discuss. Inquiring minds want to know.