Thursday, November 24, 2011

Feeding the Hungry - THANKSGIVING DAY

Families, members of Generations of Faith & St. Vincent de Paul, gather in the St. Benedict's Parking lot at 7:30 AM to receive donations of breakfast food to take down to Little Portion Friary, a homeless shelter on Main Street.  Dozens of people baked, purchased food, or volunteered to serve a delicious meal to Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor.  Special thanks to Denise Levy and her family for coordinating this wonderful activity which embodies the spirit of this day.

Friday, November 18, 2011


The wedding feast continues. Today’s first reading and psalm are often used at weddings. This time, Wisdom appears in the guise of a housewife who is busy about building up her family. The worthy wife is a mirror-image of all of us, as are the servants of the gospel story, who are to be productive as we wait for the master’s return. We hope to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” This is the text of “My Reward,” which we also sang last week. The theme of loving service is reflected in the 18th-century hymn text “Love consecrates the humblest act,” from which come the verses for this week’s communion processional. We will gather and go out to “City of God,” a musical meditation on light which at this time of year is growing scarcer as the days grow shorter. St. Paul pep-talks the Thessalonians: “We are sons of the morning! We are daughters of day!” Just as the bridegroom arrived at an unexpected hour in last week’s gospel, St. Paul warns the Thessalonians that the reign of God may surprise us like a thief in the night or like labor pains. Our artificial attempts at peace and security fall far short of the master’s requirements. In her book The Eighth Day of Creation, Elizabeth O’Connor meditates in depth on the parable of the talents as an exercise in community building. Those who are willing to take a risk are rewarded with the joy of creativity. But our sympathy is with the servant who, out of fear, takes the reasonable and prudent course and buries his money. How could the master be so unfeeling as to cast him out of the house? And yet, if we have not been invited use our creativity for the building-up of the household, we too will feel as if we are on the outside looking in, frustrated and angry. How much of this frustration fuels the “Occupy America” demonstrations?  What is the resonance for someone who has worked for years developing certain skills and talents, and now is told they are obsolete or useless, in particular veterans returning from combat? How important is it for the church to be a place where, in the words of the hymn “Come, Host of Heaven’s
High Dwelling Place
,” “the loser may find his worth, the stranger find a friend, the hopeless find their faith, and aimless find an end”?
         Our offertory hymn, “America the Beautiful,” doubles as a recognition of the blessings of the harvest and the sacrifices of those who defend our country.


This weekend’s scripture anticipates the Advent theme of watchful waiting and preparation.  St. Paul reminds us to keep our eye on the prize, for this is the reward for all our work. Those who seek Wisdom will be busy, like Gerard Manley Hopkins’ peace-dove, who “comes with work to do, he does not come to coo, he comes to brood and sit.” The bridesmaids of the gospel story had time to brood and sit, as long as their lamps were full of oil. Certainly, those who suddenly find themselves jobless in this economy will need to take stock. What oil will keep our lamps burning till the king arrives — faith? hope? charity? wisdom? works? prayer? Whatever fuels them, our lamps will have to be lit to recognize the bridegroom if he appears unexpectedly in the dark.
       The traditional November commemoration of saints and souls will be expressed in our communion processional for the next 3 weeks. The refrain, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup,” is one of the memorial acclamations (now to be called “the mystery of faith”) from the revised missal and the one very similar to what we currently use. The verses this week echo St. Paul’s theme in Lucien Deiss’ familiar setting of 2 Timothy from the 60s, “Keep In Mind.” At 10:00, the verses reflect our Christian work: Jean Anthony Greif’s “We Are the Light of the World,” also written in the 60s. The first reading is reflected in “Eye Has Not Seen” (“teach us the wisdom of God”) and “Jesu, Joy of Our Desiring” (“holy wisdom, love most bright”). Certainly wisdom is all things bright and beautiful, brightening up the skies in our darkest night, and this is the text for “Song of Hope,” from the Robbie Seay Band. Another praise song, “My Reward,” is based on the texts from Matthew 25 which we will hear this week and next. We honor the saints as those who have brought wisdom to power, and so we begin the organ Masses with “For All the Saints.”


Our liturgy begins with a solemn pronouncement to priests, which we have adapted to the classic praise song “Awesome God.” The musical question, “What Does the Lord Require” strikes a similar stentorian note. With Election Day only a week away, it would not be amiss to apply Malachi’s warnings as well to public servants, who more and more seem to be caught up with the trappings of office and the arrogance of ideology rather than discerning the real needs of those they are supposed to serve. St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he’s “Been So Busy” working on their behalf that he “ain’t got time to die.” This metaphor for selfless busy-ness and work is from a classic spiritual, quoted by Grayson Brown in his setting. Paul’s description of his gentle example as that of a nursing mother picks up an image from our Psalm 131. We will sing Lucien Deiss’ setting from the early days of English liturgy, “My soul is longing for your peace.”
      Other hymns are meditations on the theme of humility. “I Come With Joy, A Child of God,” to the early-American tune Land of Rest, sings: “As Christ breaks bread and bids us share, each proud division ends. The love that made us, makes us one, and strangers now are friends.” “Jesu, Jesu,” set to a melody from Ghana, and Richard Gilliard’s “The Servant Song” are both hymns we sing on Holy Thursday. “Lord, When You Came to the Seashore,” translated from the poem by Basque Fr. Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936–1991), is a conversation between God and a simple, open heart. We go out to Shaker wisdom in the hymn “Simple Gifts,” which reminds us that if we “come down where we ought to be,” bowing, bending and turning are the movements of a dance rather than gestures of subservience. At 10:00 the choir sings “In the Hands of God,” by the Christian band The Newsboys, and we conclude with “We Will Serve the Lord,” by Rory Cooney, a parish musician in Illinois.(


     Today’s Exodus reading is a stern reminder to a world grappling with immigration law, the plight of refugees, the challenges of diversity, and paralysis of government when it comes to moving beyond mere law enforcement to legislating justice. The obvious question is, who are the aliens? (or the alienated.) And then: “Remember when you were aliens.” Here is yet another exhortation to see the world and humanity as the One who created them does. Though borders are often delineated by geography, such as rivers or mountains, they are still human inventions, accidents of history, which may not respect the reality of what’s on the ground. Remember Robert Frost’s poem. “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/ What I was walling in or walling out,/ And to whom I was like to give offense./ Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,/ That wants it down.” Presumably walls will have to fall as we learn to love our neighbor as ourselves, and by that means to love God with our all-in-all.
     The Thessalonians’ vibrant faith was to move Christianity beyond its borders to neighboring Mediterranean peoples. The gospel’s offer of life to the full (John 10:10) on this Respect Life Sunday is expressed in the hymn “Abundant Life,” with text by Ruth Duck, a prominent contemporary hymnist.  Her text echoes the Exodus warnings about the plight of aliens, widows, orphans, and the poor. These same concerns are found in “The Cry of the Poor,” which is a setting of Psalm 34. The gospel call to love of God and neighbor is carried out in two hymns from Iona Abbey, “I’ll Love the Lord” (in dialogue form) and “The Love of God Comes Close,” a call to move beyond walls and barriers to reach those who are alienated. At 10:00 the choir will sing “Shelter,” recorded by the praise band Jars of Clay, with its chant, “In the shelter of each other, we will live, we will live.” The 11:30 choir will sing Dave Brubeck’s setting of today’s Psalm 18, “All My Hope.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans' Day - Lest We Forget

Say a prayer for all our Veterans today!  Thank them personally for their service.

As our on-line commemoration today, here is John McCrae's famous poem "In Flanders Fields."  John McCrae was a Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel.  He penned this poem  in 1915 after seeing a friend killed in battle. It is often recited on this day and many of us remember memorizing it at school.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
   Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Outreach to the Hungry - a story

During mass today, Father Joe Porpiglia called up the children who were going to make their first Penance this year, along with any other children in attendance.

Upon dismissal of them, he asked them to process down the aisle, carrying the food donations from the congregation to the altar. Along with the Generations of Faith children, there was an extraordinary number of kids who were bringing up the food. It really was a sight to behold.

As the procession continued, I heard a small child behind me, Ashlynn, who was talking in her sweet voice to her mother: "Where are they going? What are they carrying?" Her mother whispered back, "they are carrying bags of food to children and families who do not have enough food to eat."

Her small voice persisted, "do we have enough food?" to which her mom replied, "yes, honey, we have enough food."

I thought this was so telling that even the smallest of the small in our parish was gathering the significance of this wonderful gesture of feeding those who hunger. And, at this small, tender age, she was questioning and wondering why.

We are so grateful to all who donate to those in need in our community and we thank you.

Agnes Smith
VP St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Benedict's