July 21, 2019
The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
O LORD, HOW I LOVE THE BEAUTY OF THY
HOUSE AND THE PLACE
WHERE THY GLORY DWELLS
On this Sunday in mid-Summer, we gather once more in Monsignor Costa Hall for Holy Mass. We will be here for several weeks as the final touches are completed on our glorious enterprise of the restoration and renewal of our parish Church. This hall, formerly called the Lower Hall, is named in honor of Monsignor Mario C. Costa. Monsignor Costa was the Pastor of St. Paul from 1975 until 2002 and is still held in high regard by so many parishioners. Although I never knew him, you did. That is why this hall was dedicated in his honor and blessed memory on October 12, 2014.
Some may recall that we were in Msgr. Costa hall for several weeks of Lent while the initial work was being done on the Church. You may recall that I tried to create a little humor when I mentioned that as a boy growing up in Lindenhurst I remember that many of our Italo-American neighbors used to finish their basements (cellars as they were called back then) and furnish them with appliances and essentially live in the basement. The upstairs floors were like museums, with baroque furnishings and were to be admired and saved only for the most special occasions. Through the kindness of one of our wonderful parishioners, I receive the Italian Tribune every week. It is my favorite newspaper and the first column I read is Uncle Floyd Vivino’s Italian Serenade. Sometimes I cannot cease my uncontrollable laughter when I read of his memories of Italo-American life in the 50’s and 60’s. One week he had a very lengthy and quite humorous article on this custom of the basement being the place of living, and the rest of the house as being a place which was saved only for special occasions. I can assure you that this will be our last time in the “basement.” Besides, we know that Bishop Barres is coming on October 27th to rededicate the Church. The Bishop and I have known one another since 1984, and so we will certainly not let the Bishop come to the basement. Thank you for your patience.
Last Sunday, Sister Maria Madre de las Americas spoke to us of her work in Egypt. Attending Mass may be a little inconvenient for us during these weeks, but as Sister told us, in Egypt Christians face difficulties to which our temporary inconveniences pale in comparison. Let us all, you and me, strive to erase the perpendicular pronoun “I” from our speech. How often do we hear “I am hot; I am cold; I do not like the breeze; I am afraid; I do not like crowds, etc. Why don’t we all follow the advice of St. John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The less we think of I and the more we think of Him, the happier we will be.
Today I would like to write about the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima and the niches of the saints. As you know, I have already written about the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe the Mother of the Americas and the Chapel of the Divine Mercy Sacred Heart. Now we move to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima.
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima is a very special grace for us all. Some older parishioners may recall that this space was originally the baptistery. The baptismal font was there. That was obvious by the lovely windows which depicted the symbols of baptism: the candle, the shell, the baptismal garment. The windows also contained the phrase “I do believe.” That is the response used in the baptismal ceremony. Many years ago, a priest who was not fond of the noise infants may make from time to time, decided to transform the baptistery into a so-called Children’s’ Room. There, families with children were confined in a very cut-off space. They were unable to be a part of the community. They could not participate in Holy Mass.
Upon the advice of a good parishioner who is a pediatrician I removed the toys from that room in 2014. It was the time of the outbreak of the Enterovirus 71. That virus is very dangerous and produces polio-like symptoms. It is spread by children sharing stuffed animals and toys which often they place in their mouths. Another physician told me she would never take her children to that room because, in her words, it was a petrie dish of disease. Besides, having been a priest for 38 years and served in many parishes, I had never seen a so-called Children’s Room and am unaware of the existence of one other than here at St. Paul’s. I have never disliked the presence of infants and little ones at Holy Mass. As Billy Graham once said of a congregation, If it ain’t cryin’; it’s dyin’.
Thus, the baptistery of the Church, planned by the original architect of the building and consecrated by Bishop Kellenberg on May 26, 1968, was no more. The baptismal font was moved into the sanctuary. In the history of Church architecture, it may be said that this is a rather unusual place for a baptismal font. As you may have noticed there has been designed a new baptistery. (I will write about that in a few weeks). Both Bishop Murphy and Bishop Andrzej found this to be the most beautiful and appropriate facet of the renovation. There will still be a children’s area in the renovated Church, but it will be in the enlarged narthex with its completely glass wall. (I will write about this, also, in the coming weeks). This area will be large and spacious. It will be filled with light and there will be a sound system so that families may indeed feel part of our worshipping community and actively participate in the Mass. Their bail has been paid. They are no longer imprisoned.
The former baptistery and children’s room is now the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. It is most appropriate for our Church. The initial phase of our project began in the Year of Mercy proclaimed by the Pope for 2016. Then in 2017 we celebrated the Holy Year of Fatima to mark the centennial of the apparitions at Fatima. That is why we have the shrine of the Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Fatima.
This chapel commemorates the apparition of the Holy Virgin to the three little shepherd children of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Our Lady appeared on the 13th of each month from May until October 1917. (In August she appeared on the 18th at Aljustrel because the children had been imprisoned by the Masonic government). In October of 1917 the great Miracle of the Sun occurred which convinced many of the truth of the apparition. In 1987, I was in Fatima with my parents. On the evening of August 18th, my father was missing from the group. When we arrived at Aljustrel, there he was. Despite his deafness from being in antiaircraft in the South Pacific and despite walking with a cane, he had walked on his knees from Fatima to Aljustrel to fulfill a vow to Our Lady for sparing his life in the Battle of Guadalcanal.
At Fatima, Our Lady asked the children to make known to the world the richness and love of her Immaculate Heart. She asked that the children make known that the faithful should pray the Holy Rosary. This Chapel will be adorned with images of the mysteries of the Rosary. There will also be new stained-glass windows placed there. As many have noticed the Crucifix which hung above the altar is beautifully mounted on the wall of this chapel. Please approach the crucifix and touch or kiss Our Lord’s wounded feet. Please approach the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and there look into her loving eyes. The Rosary she holds is not from an artist; but rather it was made by one of our parishioners. Please take notice of the blue canopy above Our Lady with its twelve stars, as described in the Book of Revelation, the last of the Bible.
All of this has been made possible by the extreme generosity of a parishioner who does not want his name known. He has given it in memory of his late mother. May God reward him and all who have made this wonderful work possible. I once more ask of those who have not participated in this glorious enterprise to pray and to consider doing so. I will be writing to those who have not pledged inviting them to do so. Please join me in this wondrous endeavor. God will not be outdone in generosity.
Now I will write briefly about the niches of the Saints.
As we know, in the past there were two lovely reliefs hanging in these two niches. One of St. Joseph and one of Our Lady. These reliefs have been moved to the south transept where one may still venerate them. A relief is what is called decorative art, not devotional art. Now we approach them and touch them.
The three statues on the left side (Gospel side) of the Church are of St. Ann, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the glorious grandmother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Then is St. Paul, the patron of our parish. St. Paul is always pictured holding a sword. Then is St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the Little Flower and Doctor of the Church. I personally am most grateful to the donors who gave this statue. St. Therese promised she would spend her heaven doing good on earth. Je veux passer mon ciel a faire du bon sur la terre. The donors are a wonderful couple, a philosopher and a scientist. St. Therese promised that she would pray for priests for she was aware of the attacks of the devil upon them. I pray before that statue each day. These statues, like all the statues in the Church, are hand carved from wood and were made in the north of Italy where wood carving is still an art that is passed down from one generation to the next.
The three statues on the right side of the Church (the Epistle side) are first (left to right) St. Anthony, perhaps the most popular saint in the Church. He is a worker of miracles. There is a lovely shrine in Lisbon built over the place of his birth and a great basilica in Padova in Italy (near Venice) where his body may be found. The next statue is of St. Peter, always pictured holding the keys of the kingdom of heaven which Our Lord promised to give him in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew. Finally, we see the statue of St. Padre Pio. He is easily the most recognizable of the saints since he died on September 23, 1968. The face, which is carved from wood, is a remarkable likeness to him. His eyes meet ours. Padre Pio bore the wounds of Our Lord (the stigmata). He is the only priest to have done so. The wounds are covered by the gloves he always wore (with the fingers free). He is depicted vested for hearing confessions. He confessed penitents 18 hours a day and generally spent 2 minutes with each penitent. He realized that the best confessions are concise, contrite, complete, and clear. The four C’s.
The lovely statues of Sts. Peter and Paul will eventually be moved into the sanctuary and placed on the marble ledges there. Two new statues are being shipped to us of two very well known saints: St. Jude, the saint of the impossible, and St. Francis, perhaps the best known and most loved of all the saints.
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda