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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Habit vs Custom vs Tradition

I am happy to report the Angelus was indeed recited before today's community Mass at 11:30 at the Center. If this does successfully evolve into a custom and then a tradition (that is, something done around Maryknoll more than three times in a row), this most excellent reminder of the Incarnation and devotion to Our Lady may rekindle the smoldering embers of our quickly fading spirituality.

And not a moment too soon. In an earlier post I already kvetched about priests who sat in street clothes amidst the congregants and then raised a hand during the consecration under the mistaken impression they were concelebrating, in violation of two distinct liturgical rules.

Now I focus my crosshairs on those who vest for concelebration and think that's all that is required of them. Um, no.

Nothing is more distracting during a liturgy than concelebrants who don't realize they are now "on stage" and can be clearly seen by everyone. Liturgical and prayerful "presence" require more than the minimal sitting and standing at the correct time.

As a graduate of the same high school alma mater as Isador Danielovitch, a.k.a. Isador Dempsky, a.k.a. Kirk Douglas, I know from stage presence, especially for extras, i.e. actors not in lead roles. Every gesture, every glance must add to the scene or it will diminish and distract. In recent liturgies the body language of some concelebrants bordered on disrespectful.

One maintained the classic "padrone stance" (hands behind his back) throughout the entire Mass, while he checked out various people in the congregation. News flash: we can see you. What's more, we can see exactly what and whom you are looking at. Cut it out!

Another kept his arms crossed in front of his chest. This is the classic self-defense pose, nonverbally seeking protection ( lest the Word of God upset you?)

Some held onto the hymnal for security even when no hymn was imminent.

Many maintained a minimalist pose: hands folded but lowered, as if praying apologetically.

Now to their credit, those concelebrants who do maintain a respectful prayer stance all seem to be from Asia. (But I could be prejudiced). To dissect further: the most prayerful stance seems to be of guys from Japan, Taiwan and Korea in that order. (Demerits to two old Korea hands, however, whose posture indicated boredom or a desire to be elsewhere.)

A suggestion: if you are that uncomfortable or embarrassed to be seen praying in public then do not concelebrate.

I just returned from Istanbul where, let me tell you, Muslims know how to pray with their bodies. I have seen Buddhists---and Maryknollers---express reverence during prayer in a Buddhist temple. Pictures in Maryknoll magazine of people at prayer leave no doubt what they are doing. A snapshot of Maryknoll concelebrants would leave most people scratching their heads.

If the Eucharist is our central prayer and if we are privileged to concelebrate, shouldn't our bodily posture reinforce this? How can we proclaim the Incarnation yet be reluctant to pray with our bodies? But will it take more than the recitation of the Angelus and this petulant post to whip us into shape liturgically????

Sent from my most excellent  iPhone & iPad.

A sending forth

US Regional Father Mike Duggan leads the congregation in blessing the winners of the 2010 Explore My Mission contest sponsored by our vocation department.

Katherine Dzida of Costa Mesa, CA and Daniel Wozniczka of Chicago won this years competition in which they submitted three-minute videos of their ministry. These and other entries can be viewed at

For winning, today, June 30, they and Fr. Dennis Moorman leave for a mission visit to Tanzania. Francisco Suarez (seen above in left corner) and Karen Cooper from Maryknoll Media Production will document the entire trip.

The 99th Foundation Day Mass was a joyous event, beginning with the recitation of the Angelus. (Y'all got the email, right?) Whether this becomes a tradition remains to be seen.

Sent from my most excellent  iPhone & iPad

Friday, June 25, 2010

Storm before the quiet

A storm with sudden hurricane-strength winds and possibly a tornado slipped past Maryknoll yesterday afternoon with only a 20-minute downpour and then slammed full force into Bridgeport, Conn., causing considerable damage.

The Korean Perpetual Help Sisters were enjoying some ice-cream in our dining room when the heavens opened. While this postponed by a few minutes their planned visit to the grave of their founder, Msgr. John Morris, the respite afforded them time to peruse the photo albums of Fr. Ray Sullivan, who regaled the Sisters with stories and treated them to chose a souvenir from our Gift Shop.

We dodged a weather bullet and the rain broke the humidity for now.

On again, off again and on again local Korea superior Fr. Gerry Hammond and I had time to catch up over breakfast, reminisce about back in the day when as a Peace Corps volunteer I spent six months at his place in Su Dong. We also chatted about the situation up North ( and I don't mean Canada) on this, the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. Gerry is here for his 50th. Ad multos annos!

Fr. Rich Augustin, here for his 25th from Korea, brought encouraging news about how our men in the Seoul house draw topics for breakfast table conversation from Knollnews. (Hi guys!) I apologize to all my faithful readers for the two-week hiatus whilst I was galavanting around Greece and Turkey the first two weeks in June. Had I known you guys actually read my ramblings, I'd have been more conscientious in posting.

Even when nothing noteworthy is going on here, I can always rant about liturgy, the tower bells, the hierarchy, the lowerarchy, vocations and cassocks, so I promise to do better. If you never want to be mentioned by name on this blog, my P/A number is 1846

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Would you believe SEVEN TENTS?

The quadrangle filled with large and small tents and connecting canopies begs the question: where are the clowns? (In the trade this is known as a "soft-ball pitch".)

June visitors

Several Perpetual Help Sisters are visiting Maryknoll today from Korea. They will start at the MK Sisters Motherhouse for a tour and lunch. After that, Yours Truly has been asked to show them around the Knoll and then take them for prayers at the grave of Fr. John Morris.

As happens every June, the Center has filled up with visiting Maryknollers,  jubilarians and guests. This weekend things get REALLY crazy when 800+ guests are expected. 

The housekeeping and physical plant people have been hard at work getting everything ready, especially setting up tables and chairs under the SEVEN tents that are needed to work around the emergency access paths. The Lady Chapel and Spellman Room too have been reconfigured with seats and TV monitors to focus attention on the main Chapel.

And last but not least a word of praise for our Sodexo Food Service who go the extra mile to accommodate this sudden influx of meal guests.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Maryknoll very intense

Four smaller tents have been erected for next week's jubilee
celebration. Because of the newly installed emergency access paths,
the tents had to go up to the side and back of the OLOM kiosk and
departure bell. Grass above the access paths has failed to thrive,
despite extra watering. Not to worry. After seven days under these
tents, our entire quadrangle will be brown and dry.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Re-interment for Br. Tom McCann

Maryknoll Brothers, Sisters, Fathers and Lay Missioners gather for the
graveside service of Maryknoll's first Brother whose remains were
moved from Los Angeles.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Brother comes home

The remains of Br. Thomas McCann, the first Maryknoll Brother, who passed away in 1922 and had been buried in Los Angeles, will be re-interred at Maryknoll, N.Y. on Friday, June 18th, following a special Mass.

A place of honor will be afforded Brother Thomas under the Celtic Cross at the entrance to the upper cemetery. The cross once stood atop the Old Farmhouse that served as the Brothers Formation House back in the day. Br. Thomas joined the Auxiliary Brothers of St. Michael in 1912 and later worked at the Japanese mission in Los Angeles.

This translation and re-internment of Brother Thomas's earthly remains mark the unofficial countdown to the centenary celebration for the Maryknoll Brothers as well as the culmination of efforts going back several years.

"We didn't want to move the body here just for the sake of moving it," says Brother Kevin Dargan who has eagerly followed the process over the years. "There is precedence." Father Price's body was brought back from Hong Kong after the completion of the seminary building, Kevin said, and Mother Mary Joseph's body was moved from her original grave here at the Fathers and Brothers cemetery across the street to the Sisters once their cemetery was created.

Speaking of the Maryknoll Sisters, several shared stories of the old days when Br. Thomas would pull up to the loading stone (that huge, flat piece of granite behind the Price Building used to assist riders in getting in and out of horse-drawn carriages) to transport Sisters to and from the convent and Ossining.

Superior General Father Ed Dougherty will be the main celebrant at the special Mass with Br. Kevin Dargan reading the biography and Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick offering what would normally be called a homily if he were a priest but must be called a reflection because he is not. Brothers will also act as honorary pall bearers.  The difference between an honorary pall bearer and an ordinary pall bearer is that too many declined to volunteer if any heavy lifting was involved.

With this, we unofficially declare our Centenary celebration open!           

The Daily Show

This just in from Father Joe LaMar:

Just an advisory that our segment on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will most likely run TODAY at 6/17 at 11:00 PM on Comedy Central.

For you'se folks who are not aware, I, Joe La Mar, with Cathy Rowan, Seamus Finn and Barbara Aires will be featured for our activities in challenging the banks on financial issues. The program was taped just prior to and immediately after the Goldman Sachs shareholders' meeting.

They took 4.5 hours of taping and had to squeeze it into 3 to 5 minutes of show time.

Here is our notice of the program coming on, hopefully, this Thursday.

Joe La Mar