I am on vacation and not posting until after Labor Day but just let me point out if you look in the Gospels, you’ll notice that many times, Jesus visited and ate with people who were not approved of by the local moral authorities or who were denounced outright as unacceptable. Cardinal Dolan is just following His example. Why all this viciousness?
Today, July 31, is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. This is an appropriate day to write about the contributions of one of his sons, whose name is known by so few, but to whom the Catholics of New York owe so much: Father Anthony Kohlmann, S.J., the first vicar general of the Diocese of New York.
In 1808, Pope Pius VII created four new dioceses in the United States. One of them was New York. The pope named a Dominican friar, Father Luke Concannon, as the first bishop. The new bishop made plans to sail here from Naples, but Napoleon got in his way by placing an embargo on American ships. Realizing that he wasn’t going to get to his new diocese anytime soon, Bishop Concannon wrote to the pope and asked for a vicar general to be appointed in the meantime. The pope named a German Jesuit, Anthony Kohlmann, to the position while the bishop tried unsuccessfully to set sail. Bishop Concannon died in Naples in 1810 and Father Kohlmann went on serving as vicar general until 1814.
At the time of Kohlmann’s arrival, there was just one church for New York’s 14,000 Catholics, St. Peter’s. The pastor there was ill and shorthanded; the Catholics were, shall we say, a tad lukewarm in their practice of the faith. The energetic Jesuit soon could report that Mass was being celebrated in three languages, religious education classes were thriving, and the Catholics were outgrowing St. Peter’s. It was a time for a second church and what a church it would be: the first St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was built on the site of a cemetery, well north of the northern border of New York City, Canal Street. Many Catholics complained that the site was too far out of town, but Kohlmann apparently understand that the city was growing and had only one way to go: north. This was a lesson a future ordinary of New York, Archbishop John Hughes would learn, too.
So we owe what is now properly called the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral to a Jesuit. But we owe him more. Good Jesuit that he was, Father Kohlmann and his companions established a college near the first cathedral. However, the need for additional space led to the purchase of a site four miles north of New York, near Columbia University’s Elgin Gardens. The Jesuit college moved up and into a mansion that already stood there. However, the Maryland Province of the Jesuits ordered this college to be closed so that the Jesuits could concentrate on another college they ran, the one in Georgetown. And what happened to the property? It became of the site of the current St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.
Today, as we honor the founder of the Jesuits, we New Yorkers should give thanks especially for Father Anthony Kohlmann, who built the church of New York in mortar and practice.
Thanks to Thomas Young, author of a marvelous history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New World Rising (Something More Publications 2006), for the story of Anthony Kohlman, S.J.
…what some people, including some intelligent Catholics who should know better, say she was.
Is this ever going stop? Are people never going to get it through their heads that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute, not the woman caught in adultery, not a lunatic, not the sister of Lazarus, and not the woman who dried Jesus’ feet with her hair? I mention this because her feast day is July 22, which falls on a Sunday this year.
The mistake actually was an early conflation of Mary from the town of Magdala; Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha; and an unnamed woman in Luke’s Gospel, who bathed Jesus feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Also contributing to the confusion were the seven so-called demons Jesus drove from Mary Magdalene. Demons often were used to explain symptoms of illness, physical or emotional, in Mary’s time.
Pope Gregory the Great is often blamed for officially turning Mary Magdalene into a notorious woman in a sermon, but others made the mistake centuries earlier.
However, the fact is this: there is absolutely nothing in the Bible to suggest Mary of Magdalene was anything but a lady. In spite of the fact that hundreds of artists have depicted her, we don’t know if she was young or old, good looking or homely, married or single or widowed. And she wasn’t Jesus’ wife. If she had been, surely that news would have made it into one of the four gospels!
What scholars do know is that Mary must have been a woman of some high importance because both her name and her town were identified in the gospels. That was unusual. We also know that she, the Blessed Mother, and a few other women had the loyalty and courage to stay with Jesus through his crucifixion, after most of his male followers had run away. Interestingly, the Eastern churches never identified her as a fallen woman.
In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church began to rectify matters. The feasts of Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala were separated, making clear that they were two different people. In both the Roman calendar and Roman Missal, there are now no references to Mary Magdalene as a public sinner. And in his apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (“On the dignity and vocation of women”), Pope John Paul II restored her ancient title, apostola apostolorum or apostle to the apostles.
Yet the mistakes about Mary Magdalene persist and, sadly, are perpetuated by some. I wish that Pope Benedict, who is such a great scholar and who currently is writing the third volume of his masterwork on Jesus, would promulgate a really strong official statement, clearing her once and for all.
Happy Feast Day, St. Mary Magdalene. I am proud to share a name with you.
I was going to title this post “Summer School for Catechists.” However, sanity returned and I came up with something else.
How many people have grim memories of summer school? You flunked a big course, one you needed to graduate. You were mad at yourself, mad at the teacher who gave you the failing grade, and mad at your family and friends, who were at the beach having fun while you had to be stuck in a classroom.
You didn’t want to be there. The teacher wasn’t too thrilled about it either. The air-conditioning didn’t work and the soda machine in the cafeteria hadn’t been restocked since mid-June. Summer school was the closest thing to Purgatory this side of the Great Beyond and it was always hot as…well, you know.
That’s not the way the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office does summer formation classes for our parish catechists. For one thing, if you have a tablet, you can take catechist formation to the beach. Or, you can sit at your p.c. in a blissfully cool room of your choice and have your favorite beverage on hand. Many of our formation classes can go where you go because they are on line. You can work on taking some of the courses you need for certification at Level One or Level II…or you can just refresh your knowledge. There’s always a new insight to discover.
The courses are free. Check out the schedule and follow the sign-up directions that are provided along with the course descriptions. Maybe you and I will meet in the course I am moderating, starting this weekend.
Of course, if you prefer a traditional classroom format, we also are offering our Catechist Formation Summer Institute at different sites throughout the archdiocese. We work hard to pick the most convenient and comfortable venues.
Take advantage of the slower pace of summer and sign up for these courses. If you are one of our catechists, it’s likely you are a volunteer and are doing it out of love for the faith, the ministry and the children. You want to be the best catechist you can be. We, your colleagues in the Catechetical Office, applaud you and want to help you achieve that. We want you to have happy memories of the experience, too.
So charge up the tablet, slather on the sunscreen, and sign on to the course of your choice. If you run out of ice, however, we don’t deliver.
Nearly 500 people came to the Catholic Center last Saturday to discover “Joy and Hope in the Light of the Gospel” at our annual New York Catholic Bible Summit, sponsored by the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office and the American Bible Society.
The theme was based on the opening words of the landmark Vatican Council II Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. The English language keynoter, Peter Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the Vatican, spoke of the extraordinary vision and determination of the Blessed Pope John XXIII, who called the Second Vatican Council, and of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, that emerged from the council. Dei Verbum called for the Bible to be read by Catholics, who previously had been discouraged from doing that.
This coming October, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the council. What a time it was! Thanks to the TelStar communication satellite, which had been launched into orbit in May of 1962, the television networks of the time were able to broadcast all the excitement, all the ceremonies, all the reports, and plenty of speculation from the council. Families would watch this on the evening news, then sit down to dinner and talk about it.
Pope John’s pontificate lasted less than five years and yet, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he set the Catholic Church on a course of renewal that no one – and many have tried – has been able to change.
Noting the 49th anniversary of his passing on June 3, 1963, Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND, wrote a remembrance of him for the Rhode Island Catholic.
Those old enough to remember Pope John and those days can bask in the memory of his brief, but glorious time. Those who were born later…well, you missed someone and something extraordinary. I hope that Sr. Patricia will inspire you to find out more about this remarkable man of God and about the fascinating and, as you will discover, terrifying times in which he led the church.
For generations of Catholics, the least opened item on the bookshelf was the family Bible. It would come out only when a name had to be inscribed as a birth, marriage or death.
Now, of course, many Catholics read the Bible, some daily. We owe this to the Second Vatican Council, which opened 50 years ago this coming autumn, and to a document from that council titled Dei Verbum, The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. This constitution urged “all the Christian faithful… to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:8). It stated unequivocally, “For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
The successors of Blessed John XXIII, the convener of Vatican II, have reinforced this message. Just a few years ago, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI called a Synod on the Word of God. Afterwards, he wrote an exhortation titled Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord). It would be great if you could read the whole document. However, if you are pressed for time, read this section.
Here’s why. The section is one of the reasons that since 2010, the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office and our good friends at the American Bible Society have co-sponsored the annual New York Catholic Bible Summit. This summit looks at the Bible from many of the aspects that Pope described.
This year’s summit is on Saturday, June 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at the New York Catholic Center, 350 East 56 Street in Manhattan. Our theme is “Joy and Hope in the Light of the Gospel.” It comes from another famous Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope), The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. We hope you will register for the Bible Summit and join us for an informative and inspiring experience.
We have two wonderful keynoters, Peter Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican, and Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, president of the Latin American Conference of Catholic Bishops. Our topics include Scripture and the New Evangelization, the environment, spirituality, history, prayer, discipleship and much more. Here are details on the topics and their presenters in English and Spanish. The apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, will be the principal celebrant and homilist at the opening Mass and our own archbishop, Timothy Cardinal Dolan will preside.
Hope you’ll join us on June 16. We’ll be looking for you.
Many of you probably recognize this image of the Annunciation. It’s a detail from a mosaic on the front of the altar in the Lady Chapel of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s a perfect example of art as catechesis, portraying Luke 1: 26-38. But did you know that it was made by a woman artist and a New Yorker at that?
The artist’s name was Hildreth Meière and you have probably seen many of her works around the city. She is represented in two of the Cathedral’s neighboring houses of worship, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Park Avenue and 51st Street and Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue and 65th Street. You will also find her work in some of New York’s great secular landmarks, such as No. 1 Wall Street and even the Radio City Music Hall.
Meière, who was educated at Manhattan’s Convent of the Sacred Heart and studied art in the United States and Europe, worked in many media besides mosaic. She was considered one of America’s greatest mosaic artists. You can learn more about her on a website dedicated to her life and works.
Until May 20, the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA), located at 1865 Broadway at 61st Street in Manhattan, is celebrating the genius of this great artist with an exhibition titled “Walls Speak. The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière.”
MOBIA’s mission is to “celebrate and interpret art related to the Bible and its cultural legacy in Jewish and Christian traditions through exhibitions, education and scholarship.” In other words, the museum wishes to showcase the influence that the Bible has had on culture, especially art, with exhibits like the Meière show and another that is running concurrently, “Finding Comfort in Difficult Times. A Selection of Soldiers’ Bibles.”
Upcoming exhibits include one on printmaking and the Gutenberg printing press and another on the ecclesiastical art of Louis Comfort Tiffany, who was known for his unique stained glass. The museum also maintains a remarkable permanent collection of rare Bibles.
Do try to visit the museum and in the meantime, find out more about it here. Be sure to visit the Lady Chapel at St. Patrick’s to see the entire altar mosaic.
Many of the catechumens who signed the Book of the Elect in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the First Sunday of Lent will respond to an invitation from Timothy Cardinal Dolan that day, and return to the Cathedral this coming Sunday as newly initiated Catholics. They will join Cardinal Dolan for the Neophyte Mass at 10:15 a.m.
After Mass, three youngsters will present to Cardinal Dolan a collection of “Spiritual Bouquets” from children in parish religious education programs all over the Archdiocese. From what I could see as the bouquets came in to the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, the Cardinal is going to be one of the most prayed-for prelates in the Catholic Church.
I thought about these newly baptized and young Catholics today as I attended a Mass of Christian Burial for a 93 year-old woman whose son is a good friend of mine. In his homily, the pastor talked about this lovely lady’s graciousness, a quality that served her in her prime and later, when she had to endure the infirmities of old age and weakness.
I hope that in days and years to come, our neophytes and young Catholics will experience graciousness from the Church — meaning us, its members. That’s a quality that is not always apparent, particularly when we disagree with someone else or even among ourselves. The blogosphere is evidence of that.
Father Jim Martin, S.J., posted his take on this the other day in the “In All Things” blog at America Magazine. You may laugh or cringe…or both. However, it is worth taking to heart, especially these days when we want to be examples of graciousness to the neophytes and young Catholics in our midst. Thanks, Father Jim.
For those who are involved in the various ministries of the church, Holy Week can be very hectic. By the end of the last service on Good Friday, many of us are physically exhausted and somewhat burnt out. Those serving in the Catechumenate cannot rest until after the Easter Vigil because the needs of the catechumens and candidates need to be nurtured right through their full initiation at the Vigil.
I have always found music to be an antidote to Holy Week fatigue, in particular the St. Matthew Passion of J.S. Bach. I pick out the pieces from the oratorio that are most meaningful to me and listen to them through the week. By allowing this incredibly beautiful music to wash over me, I have a greater appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice. That makes Easter even more glorious.
Note: Mark’s account of the passion will be read on Palm Sunday this year and, as always, John’s is read on Good Friday. According to his obituary, Bach wrote five passion oratorios, including one based on Mark, but only the Matthew and John have survived. The St. John Passion is magnificent, too, but St. Matthew Passion is my favorite. The English Chamber Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic recorded them in English some years ago and these versions are still available. If, miraculously, you do have the time, go to a live performance. There will be plenty this week.
This is the opening chorale of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, “Come ye daughters, share my wailing.” It’s in German, so here’s a translation. I hope it will enrich your appreciation of this most solemn time of the year and of the indescribably generous act of love it commemorates.
“Come, ye daughters, share my wailing.
See ye! Whom?
The Bridegroom see!
See Him! How?
A Lamb is He!
O Lamb of God, most holy,
The bitter cross Thou hast taken.
Look ye! What?
How patient He.
At all times meek and lowly,
Though by Thy children forsaken.
Look! Ah, where?
Upon our guilt.
All sins by Thee were taken,
Else hope had us forsaken.
Look on Him, for love and grace,
He Himself His cross must carry!
Have mercy on us, O Jesu.
Come, ye daughters, share my wailing.
See ye! Whom?
The Bridegroom see!
See Him! How?
A Lamb is He!”
Well, now that I have your attention…!
Please let me share with you with an absolutely fascinating article about St. Patrick by Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND, who writes regularly for The Rhode Island Catholic. Sr. Patricia has peeled away the myths about Patrick, patron saint of Ireland and patron of our own Archdiocese of New York. The man she reveals was far more interesting than the image we have of the bishop in the electric green chasuble, clutching a shamrock.
Here is the real Patrick, who was born in Britain and lived along the coast of what is now England before being captured by Irish raiders, taken to Ireland and sold into slavery. That capture changed his life and Ireland’s forever. It also altered the history of New York and everywhere else the Irish people carried the faith.
By the time you finish reading Sr. Patricia’s article about her namesake, you won’t care where he was born. You’ll be so impressed by his faith, his fervor and his courage. This man was one of Christianity’s greatest and bravest evangelizers.
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!