Due to the inclement weather tomorrow,the Mass and picnic at the Marian Shrine,Stony Point,N.Y. , scheduled for tomorrow, is cancelled. A rain date will be announced in the future. However it is not the end. Instead we will have the same Missa Cantata tomorrow at the Church Of The Holy Innocents at 1PM. That is Sat.May25th. Father Christopher J Salvatori,S.A.C. will be the celebrant.
Our photo shows the outdoor shrine dedicated to Mary Help of Christians, erected in 1954. The grounds also include splendid life-size statues depicting the 15 mysteries of the Rosary in Italian marble, outdoor Stations of the Cross, a replica of the boyhood home of St. John Bosco and a 48 foot tall statue of Our Lady of the Rosary.
This Pentecost three “events” nicely illustrated the current state of affairs, spiritual and artistic, in the Church. First, the Vatican – under the leadership of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi – offers us a preview of its pavilion at the Venice Art Fair. Obviously concerns about the “poverty of the Church” do not affect such initiatives. The cost, however, has decreased to about $1,000,000 – well below earlier estimates. Moreover, the Vatican went out of its way to note that “sponsors” funded this amount. Obviously the criticism of the cost of the pavilion had stung. 1)
And what is the art to be exhibited? – it appears to be the usual collection of arbitrary, meaningless objects devoid of beauty, craftsmanship or any reference to the Church’s Tradition. There is talk (by Ravasi) of “creation” and even of “recreation.” And to whom is this exhibit addressed? This art obviously does not appeal to the overwhelming majority of the Catholic Laity. I very much doubt that the Catholic clergy would have any more interest in it. Whether the dominant forces of “modern art” in the West today will develop some new appreciation for the Catholic Church and its continued love affair with modernity is also very doubtful. They have gone on to bigger and better things!
Rather in such exhibits the higher clergy of the Catholic Church in Europe are primarily talking to themselves – trying to convince themselves that the supposed reconciliation between modernity and the church still lives. For those of us outside the Vatican and the Archiepiscopal sees of Europe, the important point is that this art – not any “reform of the reform” or “other modern” – is still the official artistic ideal of the Roman Catholic Church.
A second “show” this Pentecost weekend was the gathering of the lay “movements” in Rome. The spokesman for the event was another of the Vatican’s dialoguers with modernity, Archbishop Rino Fisichella. Supposedly 200,000 gathered in St. Peter’s square. Over 150 new “ecclesial realities “ – like the Neocats, Focolare, Communione & Liberazione, Sant’ Egidio etc., dispatched their foot soldiers to this event.
Now “movements” is an uncertain concept derived from the political sphere. it embraces all the new organizations that have developed over the last 60 years – although some date to the 19th century. They all are focused an the laity, usually are “creative” in theology and liturgy, and often have a strong charismatic or Pentecostal flavor. These, according to Archbishop Fisichella, are the “Fruits of Vatican II“ and the future of the Church. 2) While the first statement may be true – with some reservations – I very much doubt the second!
First, it seems odd that the paragon of such organizations – Opus Dei – does not want to be included under the ”movements” rubric. Second, the track record of such communities is anything but a record of unbroken success. For example, their typical organizational form – an absolute charismatic leader demanding blind obedience _ continues to facilitate an almost endless series of scandals.3) Third, the spread of the “lay movements,” which has taken place primarily in the Latin countries, has not arrested the decline of the Church there or elsewhere in the West – on the contrary!
For I believe that closer look would reveal whatever success the new “ecclesial realities “ have achieved has come largely at the expense of established parish structures and organizations. It is a case of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” – so bizarrely appropriate for groups that assembled this weekend in St. Peter’s Square! Indeed, the positive witness of these groups is a protest against the monotonous spiritual and liturgical void that is the life of the typical parish and religious order. Yet the hierarchy draws exactly the opposite conclusion. For the establishment, the “movements” are the last hope that the great experiment of the 1960’s continues, that despite all evidence to the contrary, the “new springtime” is still alive.
Yet there was a third event taking place this Pentecost. As always some 10,000 – 15,000 youthful pilgrims proceeded from Paris to Chartres – through, it seems, somewhat adverse weather this year. (Tragically, because of Church politics, a comparable if somewhat smaller number undertake this same weekend a pilgrimage in the opposite direction – Chartres to Paris.) The relationship with the local bishops has improved – the Paris to Chartres pilgrims are now welcomed by the local hierarchs and their representatives. Yet it would be far from the truth to say that the pilgrimage for Tradition is “sponsored “ by the French Church – let alone by the Vatican. These groups follow no charismatic leaders, do not seek new liturgies or theologies but rely entirely on the unbroken Tradition of the Church. No Cardinals or Archbishops hold laudatory news conferences. The secular world is indifferent or hostile. Yet is there a better example of the laity spontaneously and publicly giving witness in shared prayer and sacrifice? 4) A quiet , personal example that paradoxically is more in tune with the actual if largely unexpressed needs of modern man, more respectful of his dignity and intelligence, than the extravagant shows and media initiatives that have dominated evangelization in the Church for these last 30 years and more….
1)http://magister.blogautore.espresso.repubblica.it/2013/05/17/alla-biennale-di-venezia-anticipi-di-ricreazione/ ; http://fidesetforma.blogspot.com/2013/05/santa-sede-alla-biennale-confermate-le.html
3) For example, see last week:http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2013/05/18/operation-verite-pour-les-freres-de-saint-jean-eclabousses-par-les-scandales_3313590_3224.html ( Thanks to Jean Kinzler at le Forum Catholique)
Sunday, 19 May, is Pentecost Sunday, Whitsunday. Historically, the Vigil of Pentecost was a day of fasting.
Solemn Mass, 9:30 am at St. Mary Church
New Haven, Connecticut
Solemn Mass at 2 PM at St Stanislaus Church (State & Eld Streets).
Sleepy Hollow, New York
Sung Mass at 3 PM atImmaculate Conception Church; Sleepy Hollow, NY
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it was a fortunate audience who had the chance to hear last Saturday the final performance this season of Poulenc’s Dialogues. The staging – from 1977 – was magnificent, the performances of the singers almost uniformly splendid and the conducting inspired. Poulenc’s modern musical idiom – if very much restrained here – works well in conveying the feverish, oppressive even nightmarish atmosphere of France in the revolution – or that of twentieth century totalitarianism.
For when Gertrud von le Fort published in 1931 the story upon which Bernanos’s libretto is based, the First World War had just ended and Catholics had experienced the persecutions in Mexico and the Soviet Union; the Spanish Civil War and its massacres, the Second World War and the conquests of communism in Europe and Asia stood immediately before. After the Second World War, Bernanos could survey all this. So possible martyrdom had become a reality for a large part of the Catholic world. For that world Bernanos crafted an extraordinary libretto of utter honesty, of bleak realism, of the courageous faith of flawed human beings in the face of seeming doom.
Soon, after the Council, Catholics had no more appetite for such depictions and such a message. I believe it was Mircea Eliade who interpreted the sudden rise of Teilhardianism in the early 1960’s as the Catholic repudiation of the “existentialist” spiritual drama and intensity of the Catholic Literary Revival with its focus on sin, redemption conversion and martyrdom. The soft and optimistic “spirit of Vatican II” is not that of Bernanos’ Dialogues.
In a similar manner, the Council paradoxically made impossible works like this opera. For those instances in the 1940’s and 50’s where “modern art” had achieved something in the spiritual realm – like Poulenc’s Dialogues or the churches of Matisse or Le Corbusier – had only come about through the fruitful confrontation of modernity with the still intact forms of belief and liturgy of traditional Catholicism. After the 1960’s such interaction was no longer possible – the Church either opted for junk or pandered to the worst excesses of a “modern art” gone mad.
It was impressive to see that each of these performances was nearly sold out and that so many young people attended. It was even more heartening to see in the audience musicians active in Catholic music and quite a few seminarians as well (2 in cassocks!). These young Catholics are rediscovering the links between the arts and the sacred lost to the Catholics of my generation. Those links that produced – not just in the middle ages or the Byzantine Empire but as recently as 1957 – a masterpiece like the Dialogues.
Our Lady of Lourdes
467 West 142nd Street
West 142nd Street and environs – Hamilton Heights – is a remarkably serene oasis tucked away in upper Manhattan. East of Broadway are quiet tree-lined streets featuring rows of townhouses, circa 1900, displaying a variety of stone facings. It reminds a visitor more of parts of Brooklyn Heights or Park Slope than Manhattan. Here and there are the vestiges of Catholicism – still existent or long since vanished – in upper Manhattan. The very name of Convent Avenue reminds us of the former Manhattanville Convent and school further south in the West 130’s. That institution had fled the growing problems of Harlem as early as the late 1940’s. That’s a story in itself: one of the most prestigious Catholic secondary schools and colleges for girls in New York flees to the supposed refuge of the suburbs, goes secular as early as 1966 and ends up as the undistinguished nondenominational operation that exists in Purchase today.
Our Lady of Lourdes, like St. James, Old St Patrick’s, St. Elizabeth of Hungary or St. Bernard’s is blessed in that it remains embedded in the original streetscape. The church, faced with white stone, takes a leading role in the architecture of West 142nd street yet complements rather than overpowers its neighbors. It is a handsome rectangular edifice with a series of elaborately carved Gothic arches on the main floor – a touch of Venice on New York. On a second look, though, Our Lady of Lourdes does appear distinctly unusual for a church. There is a very good reason for that – this building was assembled largely from parts of demolished secular buildings!
For in 1900 Fr. Joseph McMahon set out to build a church for the new parish of Our Lady of Lourdes. Now in New York of 1900 and especially on the West Side it was no longer sufficient for a new church building to follow a canonical style (or at least the Victorian idea of such). Rather, in each case something distinctive and original had to be found. Added to Fr. McMahon’s difficulties was a dearth of funds which seemed to preclude anything but a very modest structure But the pastor solved both issues in the most radical and brilliant way: by re-using components of grand structures elsewhere in the City that for one reason or another were in the process of demolition.
The lower course of the facade was taken from the National Academy of Design building on 23rd Street and Fourth Avenue. The upper part of the façade was from the mansion of A.T. Stewart – the creator of Macy’s as a great department store and the founder of Garden City on Long Island. Iron beams and windows came from the Catholic Orphan Asylum at 50th Street. Finally, for the rear façade of the church, Fr. McMahon was able to secure the original apse of (new) St Patrick’s cathedral – demolished to make room for the present Lady Chapel. Yet all these fragments flow into and form a consistent whole rather than remaining an eclectic jumble. Our Lady of Lourdes was finished in 1903. 1)
The interior is somewhat disappointing after the grand exterior – a simple, moderately sized rectangular space supported by thin columns, and only adequately lit by smallish windows. Water damage has left its mark; paint is peeling everywhere. But upon closer examination the visitor discovers to his delight the immense wealth of decoration found almost everywhere in this church. It reflects the high quality of ecclesiastical art of that time. Indeed here and there it appears too rich, fantastic and extravagant. For example, there are the strange, exuberantly carved open brackets set against the side walls – were they intended as supports for galleries that have since disappeared or which were never built in the first place? But the furnishings of the sanctuary – the altar, tabernacle and metal work – are of the highest quality. The altar and other stone carvings are a mixture of white marble “Irish Gothic” interspersed with influences of the Renaissance and the Cosmati. The relatively few large windows in the sanctuary are superb – both those supposedly from St. Patrick’s and those created for Our Lady of Lourdes. In the rear of the church is chapel with large pieta; a Lourdes grotto is downstairs.
Regretfully, as in so many other churches, the conciliar “renewal” has left its mark especially on the sanctuary – only a remnant of the original elaborate metal and stone communion rail survives. The sanctuary is also cluttered with all kinds of inappropriate gear.
So Fr. McMahon could well feel proud of his achievement – one that fits in so well with the ecological ethos of today – the creation of a grand edifice primarily out of recycled elements! Nowadays, of course, when Catholic churches utilize older furnishings and decoration they come not from the secular realm but from cannibalizing the ever more numerous demolished Catholic churches….
But Our Lady of Lourdes parish has soldiered on over the years. In the course of time the parish became almost entirely Hispanic. This is very much a working class parish. As time went on, parts of the church fell into disrepair. A few years ago the New York Times featured a somewhat wistful interview with the pastor – seemingly a reflection on the decline of Catholicism in New York 2)
Yet the parish school continues to function. A repainting of the interior is underway. Gentrification will pose the same problems – and perhaps opportunities – for Our Lady of Lourdes that it has to half the parishes of New York City. And the challenges of the present day would be as nothing if today’s New York Catholics could summon up a fraction of the ingenuity and audacity – combined with (Traditional) faith – which Fr. McMahon possessed a century ago.
1) Gray, Christopher; Streetscapes/the 1903 Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, on West 142nd Street; a Coat of Many Colors, a Building of Many Parts in The New York Times, August 3, 2003.
2) Fernandez, Manny, A Parish Priest, Witness to Great Change in The New York Times, April 16, 2009
The Catholic Artists Society’s Annual Mass for Artists will be offered at the Church of Our Saviour in New York City at 1pm on Saturday, June 29th – the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul.
Father Gerald Murray, pastor of Manhattan’s Church of the Holy Family, will be the celebrant. There will be a reception in the undercroft after Mass – an opportunity for members and patrons to meet and converse.
On Tuesday, July 16th, at 12:00 there will be a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the Feast of OUr Lady of Mount Carmel.
The Celebrant will be Arthur Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson.
The Mass will be celebrated at:
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
259 Oliver Street
Following the Mass there will be a procession through the neighborhood with an Italian Marching Band.
The 18th annual “Pilgrimage for Restoration” to the shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York will take place this year on Friday to Sunday, September 20-22. For further information and registration see HERE.
(Above and below: scenes from the 2010 Pilgrimage)
(Of course since the last pilgrimage, Kateri Tekakwitha has been canonized by Pope Benedict on October 21, 2012. She was born in nearby Fonda)
Holy Mother Church reserves this reading from the thirty first chapter of the Proverbs of Solomon to be chanted during the Nocturns of the Office of Matins of Sainted Matrons.
“Who shall find a valiant woman? far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. She will render him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She hath sought wool and flax, and hath wrought by the counsel of her hands. She is like the merchant’ s ship, she bringeth her bread from afar. And she hath risen in the night, and given a prey to her household, and victuals to her maidens. She hath considered a field, and bought it: with the fruit of her hands she hath planted a vineyard. She hath girded her loins with strength, and hath strengthened her arm. She hath tasted and seen that her traffic is good: her lamp shall not be put out in the night. She hath put out her hand to strong things, and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle. She hath opened her hand to the needy, and stretched out her hands to the poor. She shall not fear for her house in the cold of snow: for all her domestics are clothed with double garments. She hath made for herself clothing of tapestry: fine linen, and purple is her covering. Her husband is honourable in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land. She made fine linen, and sold it, and delivered a girdle to the Chanaanite merchant. Strength and beauty are her clothing, and she shall laugh in the latter day.She hath opened her mouth to wisdom, and the law of clemency is on her tongue. She hath looked well to the paths of her house, and hath not eaten her bread idle. Her children rose up, and called her blessed: her husband, and he praised her. Many daughters have gathered together riches: thou hast surpassed them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: the woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands: and let her works praise her in the gates.”
Not to mention that it would be amazingly appropriate for the civil celebration kept on the second Sunday of May. Happy Mother’s Day!