Last week I used the occasion of the Bulletin Letter to speak of our great joy in giving thanks to the Lord Our God. This gratitude is obviously for all the graces God has showered upon St. Paul’s parish. First and foremost were the spiritual graces with which we have been blessed in this most holy time. Easter at St. Paul’s was a time of grace, holiness and beauty. Who will ever forget our approaching the Holy Cross to kiss Our Lord’s Holy and Glorious Wounds? The magnificent hand carved wood crucifix was a gift to our Church. It was held by our young people of the Squires. Whoever believes the young are a lost generation should see the youth of St. Paul’s who serve the parish in such an admirable way.
As you know I was most encouraged by the results of our Feasibility Study. I am pleased to note the positive results of the study, which shows 98% of those responding are very satisfied or satisfied with the parish and 87% strongly agree or agree with the need to conduct a capital campaign. The financial component of the study assessed our potential at raising between $2.1 and $2.75 million in multi-year pledges. I have recently met with the Finance Committee and we are in agreement with the need to move forward with a capital campaign to provide the necessary funding for these projects. The Feasibility Study was conducted by Parish Consultants, Inc. This is a professional fund-raising company and has assured me that the results and numbers are typical of the many parish capital campaigns they have conducted in the past. In fact, our small parish has responded in greater percentage than most parishes, with over half of our active families participating in the survey. For that I am most grateful. As you know I have placed this project under the patronage of Our Lady, St. Joseph, and my own mother. I have identified my whole priesthood with this great enterprise and I will not appear before the Lord on Judgment Day empty handed. Together we will do something beautiful for God. DEUS LO VULT.
That our great enterprise together would begin during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is not an accident. It is all part of the providential plan of God, as indeed is everything that happens in our lives. Pope Francis has dedicated this year as the Year of Mercy. And he has placed the Year of Mercy under the patronage of that Star of the New Evangelization – the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe – the River of Light and Empress of the Americas. There will be features of this two fold grace in the renewal and refurbishing of the Church.
As you know I have already begun to explain to you many of the facets of the enhancement of the Church. I have dedicated three columns to the one – and most central – enhancement which is the relocation of the Tabernacle to the central and most prominent place in the Church. (At the present time the priest occupies the central and most prominent place in the Church.). In fact, the priest must actually step down to the altar of God a complete departure from the Christian tradition since the third century. Sadly, our fallen nature always wishes to be in the place of God and even the priest is prone to the temptation to believe the lie of Satan to Adam and Eve: You shall be like God. But the priest must more than any one prove the falsehood of the lie of the ancient enemy of our race and with John the Baptist cry out: He must increase but I must decrease. In the coming weeks I will continue to explain how the placement and design of the baptistery, confessional, ambry, tabernacle, altar, and altar rail articulates the nature of the church as a sacramental house.
Though not a sacrament itself, the architecture of the Church building refers to the sacraments, most especially to the Blessed Sacrament, and for this reason it can be considered a sacramental architecture. Just as a sacrament is a visible expression of an invisible reality, so does sacramental architecture portray through bricks, mortar, and iconography the mystery of salvation. Even the exterior of the Church should remind us of Holy Communion, of Baptism, of Marriage. But how?
One way is through reference to those architectural elements that articulate the sanctuary, altar, tabernacle, confessional, altar rail, and shrines within. The architecture of the sacred presents Christianity in a three-dimensional form: visually, tactilely, and sonorously in time. The sacred must come to us through all the senses, to surround us with intimations of what Moses felt in front of the burning bush, King David in front of the ark, Mary with the angel Gabriel, and the disciples at the feet of Our Lord at the foot of His Cross. The stone underfoot, the wood of our seats, the smells of incense and beeswax, and the smoothness of the marble, the strength of the cast iron grillwork and rails, and the paint of the canvas – all help to create a sense of the sacred and prepare us for the taste of the sacred bread and wine.
In the weeks ahead I will continue to teach and explain as your pastor how the architecture of the Church will help to make us saints.
How grateful we must all be that in this Year of Mercy we will begin this great enterprise together. May this Year of Mercy see a great spiritual renewal in our parish. My prayer is that this Year of Mercy will bring about many good confessions. In the sacrament of penance, the penitent opens himself to God. In asking for God’s mercy, one invites Our Lord into every nook and cranny of the soul. To do so in an authentic way, one must ask Our Lord to be Savior and Redeemer in every aspect of life.
St. John Vianney heard confessions 18 hours a day and Padre Pio heard confessions 16 hours a day. St. Philip Neri used to tell the faithful that they should go to confession so frequently that they would make the priest die from the apostolic work of hearing confessions. There is no other death worthy of a priest.
In Jesus and Mary,