Patronage in Pandemic – Pastor’s Reflection
Holy Week and Easter taught us how to hold a major celebration without coming physically together. The experience will prove invaluable as another festival comes our way in the locked down Spring of 2020. Wednesday of this week will bring us to the great feast of St. Catherine of Siena and then on Tuesday, May 5 will come the Order’s celebration of St. Vincent Ferrer (for the Church at large his feast remains on April 5), and the Feast of the Dedication of St. Vincent Ferrer Church. Two years ago these days saw us gathered happily in warm sun on 66th Street as we celebrated our jubilee. How luxurious such a thing now seems!
Every year our days of patronage jostle with fellow travelers on the crowded train of the rites of Spring. In these weeks weddings, first communions, confirmations, ordinations, graduations, and their anniversaries swamp the rhythm of ordinary life and leave me gasping for the breath of quiet that comes on Memorial Day. But this year’s litany of “cancelled” and “postponed” has made the journey through May as empty as the subway.
We can neither cancel nor reschedule feasts of the Church but we can re-imagine how we celebrate them. So I propose that we commit ourselves to honoring St. Catherine and St. Vincent on time, and in a fashion that befits these times. I certainly hope this means live-streaming or pre-recording a sung Mass at each of their high altars; at the same time these liturgies should reflect the actual posture of the parish during these days.
In fact, each year we assume a stance of prayer at this time, making an octave of days from April 28, the vigil of Catherine, to May 5. The Shrine of St. Jude organizes this time and we bring to it the common intention that through the intercession of St. Catherine and St. Vincent the Lord would raise up preachers for this time. In the midst of the Easter Season, as these days always are, we beg for a new Pentecost, asking that the Holy Spirit to enable us to announce the Gospel of Christ in words and concepts recognizable to a post-Christian world.
Such a prayer intention has relevance at any time in our era and it befits our identity as a Dominican parish. In a particular way, we may rightly ask that preaching play its proper role in our emergence from the pandemic, and in our learning from the experience of it. Such a learning will save us from being sidelined by this trauma and from heedlessly forgetting it.
So we should stick to our program of prayer, but there is no reason we cannot add to it, and indeed we have, in theory, more time for it.
Ponder this: St. Catherine of Siena is the patron of those who care for the sick, those men and women who now stand in the gaping breach in the wall of our public health. How beautiful it would be if our parish undertook an intensive course of prayer for these courageous doctors, nurses, and administrators who have now coped with unprecedented circumstances for weeks on end.
We are not outside so often these days and so it came to me as a special joy one evening to be walking to over to St. Vincent Ferrer at 7 PM when the neighborhood erupted in the great clap for health workers. The gratitude and loving concern were palpable as a basis of community across so many barriers. I was alone on the sidewalk and I felt connected to the deepest yearnings of whole city. From this glimpse of urban communion comes my suggestion that we, as a Church, undertake a sustained spiritual ovation of gratitude, encouragement, and intercession. We can give thanks for their skill, compassion, and endurance, and we can seek their perseverance, respite, and personal fulfillment in this immense task.
May we also embrace in this prayer, our hospital chaplains. Frs. Jonah Pollock, John Devaney, David Adiletta, Hugh Vincent Dyer, Sr. Margaret Oettinger and their many colleagues overflow with desire to help the victims and their families, and willingly minster under all kinds of constraints, especially distance
This special work of our patronage octave will link to the usual one because the prayerful concern will itself be a timely preaching. As with all our other prayer endeavors, your own intentions are most welcome.
The Octave begins on Tuesday the 28th of April and runs through May 5. As always there will be an octave shrine in each church if you feel able to make a visit. Please feel free to leave intentions there. During the octave one of the Masses each day will be offered for its intentions.
The icon and prayer of our patronage can be found on page 4. I hope you can join us.
Published in our bulletin April 26, 2020