You are everywhere present and fill all things.
Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life, come and dwell within us,
Cleanse us of all stain, and save our souls,
O Gracious Lord!
We are blessed to have two confessionals in the transepts of the Church. These are much calmer and less disordered areas. They afford the penitent a place to confess in discreet anonymity, calm and serenity. It is my hope that the two nave confessionals will become then the very niches of which I have written above. They will be the dwelling of the holy ones among us. And to be certain that the future ages will never forget that this great undertaking began in the Jubilee of Mercy, the two confessionals then will be two shrines: one of the Divine Mercy – the great devotion that God Our Lord gave to our own modern times so much in need of the Mercy of God. That Divine Mercy, deserved by none yet accessible to all, will stand with us in the nave of the Church. And Pope Francis who has proclaimed the Jubilee Year of Mercy, has confided the year to the Virgin of Guadalupe who says to us as she did to the poor to whom she appeared on December 12, 1531, Am I not here who am your Mother? What is it that you need? Thus shall we ever be covered with that ocean of Divine Mercy through the patronage of the Holy Mother of God.
Tomorrow the Keck Group, Inc. will take a small sample of one of our pews to demonstrate what can be done to restore them. The Keck Group is the finest company in our country that does Pew Restoration. It is this company which restored and refurbished the pews of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue, Old St. Patricks’s on Mulberry Street, and St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. As everyone is well aware our pews are in desperate need of attention, restoration and refurbishing. In some cases the kneelers are irreparably broken. It is not my intention to see the pews and kneelers continue to deteriorate. I know that it is not your intention either. The pews are of very good quality oak. Wood is a living thing which must be nurtured and cared for. It is a wondrous thing that we are beginning to restore our pews.
I will continue to write each week about different aspects of the Church building.
Trustees: Many may know that each parish has two trustees. They are appointed by the Bishop himself at the request of the pastor to serve, generally speaking, two three year terms for a total of six years. They assist the pastor in offering counsel and advice and the pastor seeks their wisdom. When a new pastor is appointed he may ask the Bishop to appoint two new trustees since the serving trustees would naturally have been appointed by the previous pastor. (Such is often the case in parishes, as it is in many secular enterprises). When I came to St. Paul’s three years ago however I soon realized that there would be absolutely no need for me to ask the Bishop to appoint new trustees. Both trustees were (and are) outstanding men who have helped me in countless ways. Monsignor Clerkin had asked the Bishop to appoint Mr. Michael Maturo and Mr. James Black, Esq. to serve as trustees. I relied on them very heavily, and I am grateful to Monsignor Clerkin for having asked the Bishop to appoint them. Mr. Maturo’s six years term as trustee expired on December 31, 2014. As you may recall, I appointed Mr. Anthony Kozhipatt as a new trustee. His term began on January 1, 2015. Mr. Black’s six years term expired on December 31, 2015. In his place I have appointed Mr. Joseph Palumbo as our new trustee. His term began January 1, 2016. As we move into a new and definitive time in our parish history I have every confidence in our new trustees. At the same time I express sincere gratitude to Mr. Black, Mr. Maturo, and all our former trustees for their selfless dedication to St. Paul’s and its pastors.
The Holy Spirit is the sanctifier who makes all the members of the Church holy. Thus do we have in our churches the images (statues, icons, paintings) of the saints to remind us that holiness can be and has been lived in the lives of individuals like ourselves. That is why the images of the saints in a church building are so important.
The church building is designed for the liturgy, which is the summit and font of our life. But it should also accommodate and support private or group devotions, which spring from the liturgy and lead back to it. These two elements of liturgy and devotion, which are related insofar as they feed one another spiritually, should be considered in the design of the Church. What better place to invoke the intercession of the saints than in the nave of the Church, in the presence of the altar and the site of the liturgy? To support devotion, chapels or devotional shrines should be integrated with, and distinguished from, the nave by being given their own place such as in niches, side walls, or separate chapels. It is not proper to relegate images of the saints to the least noticeable areas of the church (such as the rear).
Devotional images, including shrines to the Mother of God or to the saints, and Stations of the Cross, surround us with material images of the invisible reality – the communion of saints and the truths of the faith. Just as Mary always points us toward her Divine Son – Do whatever He tells you (John 2.6) – so these images of devotion point us toward their liturgical consummation: Christ’s Eucharistic sacrifice exemplified in the altar and tabernacle. In many ways the shrines become miniature churches, daughters of the main sanctuary, and in that way they help prepare us for, and remind us of, the centrality of the liturgy in the lives of the saints and in our lives.
When one walks through the portal of the Church, one has entered into the House of God the Gate of Heaven. At the great Basilica of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, there is at the central portal the glorious tree of life in stone. It has been worn away with the faithful touching it throughout the centuries.
From thy bright heavenly throne!
Come, take possession of our souls,
And make them all thine own!
Enlighten my understanding
In order that I may know Your commands;
Strengthen my heart against the snares of the enemy;
Enkindle my will. I have heard your voice,
And I do not want to harden my heart and resist, saying,
“Later…tomorrow, nunc coepi, now I begin,
Lest there be no tomorrow for me
O Spirit of Truth and Wisdom, O Spirit of Understanding and Counsel;
Spirit of Joy and Peace! I want what you want, because you want it,
As you want it, when you want it!
Monsignor James F. Pereda