Friday, March 22, 2019

Elizabeth Turnwald Has Something To Say Third Sunday of Lent

The Women Who Stayed – March 24, 2019

In the readings this Sunday, Moses encounters God – I AM – through a burning bush. He reacts how many of us likely would if faced so wholly and tangibly by the Lord. Confused and hesitant, he retreats, hiding his face, for “he was afraid to look at God.”

Fear is not an emotion I regularly attribute to my faith, nor to my experience with the Divine. A Millennial Catholic raised by the children of Vatican II, I have been primarily immersed in a culture of candlelit guitar Masses and sing-a-long renditions of “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.” A far cry from the Old Testament God who viscerally reveals himself to Moses in the desert and calls on him to lead His chosen people out of slavery, my relationship with the Lord more closely resembles the “kind and merciful” Redeemer in this week’s responsorial psalm.

Yet these two images of an infinitely multi-faceted God are more complementary than they may initially seem. Only a Creator Who loves us unconditionally, to the very core of our being, would – and could –  remain “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” while insistently and forcefully calling us to action. The God of this week’s reading is, as always, a God of love, though perhaps one of “tough love.” In a way, so is our Lenten journey.

The first part of our call to action is to fast, to suffer, and to restrain ourselves as we reimagine our positioning and privilege in the world. Lent offers a time to remain still and silent – letting God’s voice work through us, so that in this powerful pause we may see our excesses in a new light. We remove our typical numbing agents, whether they be alcohol, sugar, or binge watching an entire season of our favorite TV show. We shut off access to our usual escape routes, forcing ourselves to confront what we are escaping from in the first place. What new revelations – beautiful, frightening, mysterious – have we experienced so far during this Lenten season? What other routes of escapism do we need to close off as we grow into this time of restoration, abstinence, and solitude?

While the opportunity for reflection is at the core of our Lenten journey, this stillness and its accompanying discoveries cannot remain in a vacuum. In a few weeks, we will leave the desert, hopefully transformed, fortified, and impassioned. Moses’ encounter with God isn’t the end of the story. Though he initially shielded his eyes from the Lord, he eventually lets his human guard down and responds to God’s command. I love that Moses was reluctant. Frankly, it makes him more human to know that he suffered from imposter syndrome as much as the rest of us!

Moses’ hesitation reminds me of advice that a campus minister gave me a few years ago as I was frantically mulling over post-graduation plans, questioning my ability to make any impact on the world around me. She looked me in the eyes, reached out for my hand, and calmly stated:

“God doesn’t call the qualified. God qualifies the called.”

Those words give us space to pause, to acknowledge our self-doubt, and then to intentionally put our trust in God rather than ourselves. As we continue to walk together during this Lenten season, I invite us to reflect on what we are being called to at this very moment. How can we move past our own imposter syndrome, our self-questioning and fear, and answer the Divine’s invitation with our own message of “Here I am.”

Elizabeth Turnwald is a recent graduate of the University of Dayton, a Marianist Catholic school in Dayton, OH, where she majored in Music and Spanish with a minor in Women's and Gender Studies. She joined the Xavier community in August after moving to New York as part of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps - making for a sudden and thorough immersion into Ignatian spirituality and hospitality. She can sometimes be found making music with the Xavier Schola at the 5pm liturgy. Liz currently works at the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and will being graduate school at Boston Collegethis fall, pursuing a Master of Theological Studies. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Stephanie Castillo Samoy Has Something to Say for the Second Sunday of Lent

Homily for March 17, 2019, the Second Sunday of Lent Preached at NYC's Church of St. Francis Xavier, 11:30 a.m. Mass

Reading 1: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18 Reading 2: Philippians 3:17-4:1 Gospel: Luke 9:28-36

I stand before you, a Roman Catholic atheist, trying to make sense of my faith. And so every Sunday I come—broken, messy, humbled—to hear the stories of Jesus and his Jewish ancestors. I sit over there, with my wife, Mary, and our friends, and participate in this ritual we call “Mass.”

Sometimes I feel like a fraud because I have hate in my heart; because I do not believe the words of the Nicene Creed; because I think we have made God in the image and likeness of man. And deep in my soul, in the very marrow of my bones, I know . . . I know the mystery is so much bigger than that.

The second Sunday of Lent, I learned, is called “Reminiscere Miserationum,” which means “remember your mercies.” We are about one-sixth of the way into this season of Lent, a time of self-reflection, and I am grateful. Grateful for the forty days in the Christian liturgical calendar when we can have the room, the space, the freedom, to really do the work of being alive.

The three readings today, at first glance, are all over the place. Abram and God and young animal sacrifices. Paul’s letter, read by his brother, coworker, and fellow soldier Epaphroditus, to citizens of Philippi, who are part of a new sect of Judaism. Jesus and three of his apostles, Peter, John, and James, with appearances by the ancient prophets Moses and Elijah.

But at second and third glance—and my countless poring over of these Scripture passages—commonalities are revealed. In the Old Testament reading, Abram, under a night sky, falls into a trance, and birds of prey and darkness terrify him. In Philippians, Paul’s words—probably delivered in a place of prayer by a river—speak of destruction, shame, and enemies of the Cross. And in the Gospel reading, the Apostles, who are on a mountain, are overcome by sleep and a cloud casts a shadow over them.

Then there’s a flame that passes through the animals, which have been cut in half, and God makes a solemn agreement with Abram: that a wide swath of land (practically the whole world as it was known back then) will go to the descendants of Abram and Sarai, who at the time had none.

Paul tells the Philippians that Jesus the Christ will change their “lowly bodies” to conform with his “glorified” one. And Jesus’s face changed; his clothing became “dazzling white.”

Transformation for all. Change. Conversion. All because of conversation, prayer, openness, and love. Abram conversing with his god. Paul conversing with his community. Jesus conversing with his friends, his wisdom figures, and his god.
Abram chooses to put his faith in God, and he is chosen. The Philippians choose to hear the good news from Paul, and they are chosen. Jesus chooses to go up to the mountain and pray, and he is chosen. “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

In my certainty about the smallness of a god we have been force-fed since birth, I am uncertain about the greatness of the mystery of Love [with a capital L].
So I go to the mountain every day. For me, the mountain is the Church of St. Francis Xavier on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. It is my rocking chair in the living room, Monday through Friday, at six o’clock in the morning. And it is the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Rockaways on Saturday. I go to the mountain, and I pray. I “enter the cloud,” and sometimes I fall into a trance as Abram did or I am overcome by sleep as were Peter, John, and James. And other times I listen as did the Philippians and Jesus.

The second Sunday of Lent . . . Reminiscere Miserationum . . . “remember your mercies.” Forty days to reflect. Always in conversation. Always in prayer. Always listening.

Yes, I stand before you, a Roman Catholic atheist. I am broken. I am a sinner. I am trying to make sense of my faith. But amid all the birds of prey swooping down on this carcass, Abram “stays” with me. Paul “loves and longs” for me. Jesus prays with me. And I hear the voice from the cloud: “You are my chosen one. Listen.”

Stephanie Castillo Samoy's twin brother, Stephen, who is about thirty-one minutes older, got her to the Church of St. Francis Xavier just in time, back in 2001! They toggle off between who leads and who follows. But as she says about their relationship: “From womb to tomb.”

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Marian Ronan Has Something To Say March 3, 2019, the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the March 3, 2019, the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Preached at Benincasa.

Reading 1: Sirach: 27: 4-7
Reading II: 1 Cor. 15:54-5
Gospel: Lk 6:39-45.

So for the past five weeks, since the 4 th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we have been
reading about Jesus’s ministry in Galilee, and about his recruitment and preparation of
disciples to share in that ministry. And for the past two weeks, Jesus’s instruction of the
disciples and of the others who have been following him has been quite inspiring. First
we had Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, telling us not just that the poor in spirit are
blessed, but that the poor themselves are. Then last week, we heard Luke 6, in which the
disciples—and we—are urged to love our enemies. The great New Testament scholar
Fred Craddock argues that the exhortation in the middle of that passage: “…love your
enemies and do good to them…Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” is the
essence of the Christian Gospel.

Without some context, this week’s reading may seem a good bit less inspiring.
Jesus is calling on the disciples, and us, not to think too highly of ourselves: don’t be a
hypocrite, don’t criticize others when what you are doing is as bad or worse. If you lack
discernment, the person you are leading is going to fall into a pit along with you.
Before becoming too discouraged by this, though, it’s helpful to bear in mind here
that Jesus has his reasons for leaning harder on his disciples—and on us—than he has
been doing. The end of his Galilean ministry is in sight and soon Jesus will be on his way
to Jerusalem and the crucifixion. In the Gospel this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, he will
continue to urge his disciples to avoid hypocrisy as he does here—pray and give alms in
secret, not in order to receive praise. And next week, he will be leaning on himself to
resist temptation as well, going into the desert for forty days to fast and pray.
But even now, it’s not all entirely discouraging, because at the end of this week’s
Gospel Luke begins to talk about trees. Now admittedly his discussion of the trees is a
bit more black and white than some of us may find entirely helpful: bad trees, bad fruit.
And the crucifixion itself will take place on the wood of a tree in six weeks or so. But
trees also produce good fruit, as Luke goes on to reminds us,

We actually already encountered this tree-based flash of hope in today’s first
reading, taken from the Book of Sirach, —even before Jesus begins warning the disciples
about hypocrisy. At first, the reading doesn’t seem a lot more encouraging, nothing
more than a sort of a prelude to the Gospel’s discourse about hypocrisy: just as the
refuse remains after a sieve is shaken, and what comes out of a person’s reasoning
shows who she is, so the fruit of a tree —good or bad—discloses the kind of cultivation a
tree has received.

But the Book of Sirach, sometimes called the Book of Ecclesiasticus, is, at least
according to the Catholic Church, part of the Wisdom literature of the “Old Testament.”
I say this this way because the Jews don’t consider it part of their Scriptures, and most
Protestant denominations don’t either. But we do. And one real advantage to including
Sirach in our Scriptures, and thus in the lectionary, is that it includes some theologically
important, and beautiful, passages about Sophia, the female figure of Wisdom who
vastly expands our vision of God. And one of the most powerful representations of
Sophia/Wisdom in the Book of Sirach is Sophia as a tree. So just after this passage in
which we encounter a fairly limited representation of a tree, one that only bears good
fruit if it is cultivated properly, we hear of the glorious Sophia who has ”taken root in a
privileged people,…grown tall as a cedar on Lebanon, as tall as the rose bushes of
Jericho…I have spread my branches like a terebinth,” she tells us. “Approach me you
who desire me and take your fill of my fruits.” The author of the Book of Sirach knows
well that with Sophia much more is possible than sieves full of refuse or the bad fruit of
bad trees or, for that matter, of hypocritical disciples. And of course, we also encounter
another such a beautiful tree in Psalm 92 which we read today, the Psalms being
another book in the Wisdom literature.

Indeed, in a few weeks Luke’s Jesus himself will move on from his sermon to the
disciples about good and bad fruit to a far less black and white parable, this one about
the owner of an orchard who orders his gardener to cut down a fig tree because it has
borne no fruit for three years. But the gardener convinces him to give the tree another
year so he can cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it.
And then just before the Last Supper, Luke’s Jesus tells us an even more inspiring
parable, in which, just as we know that summer is near when we see the fig tree and
every tree in bud, so when the disciples see the things happening that Jesus has been
telling them about—signs in the sun and moon and stars, the clamor of the ocean and its
waves, -we will know that the kingdom of God is near.

So when Luke goes on later, in Acts, to speak multiple times of Jesus who was
slain and hung on a tree, he knows very well that there is more to expect from trees than
death and fruitlessness. And so should we, as our Savior, the fruit of the tree of the
crucifixion rises up before us on Easter morning.

Let me conclude with a question. At this time, when the dead wood of the cross
seems to be everywhere: with the Trump administration demonizing our Latinx sisters
and brothers, and tearing their infants from the breasts of their mothers; when that
same administration, by abandoning crucial treaties, has moved the nuclear doomsday
clock closer to midnight than it has been since 1953; and when the United States has
withdrawn from global climate change agreements, thus moving us even closer to
environmental catastrophe than we already were, what are we to do? What, for you, is
the route from the dead wood of this cross to the fruit-filled tree of resurrected Wisdom?

Marian Ronan is Research Professor of Catholic Studies at New York Theological Seminary here in Manhattan, and the author or co-author of seven books, including Tracing the Sign of the Cross: Sexuality, Mourning, and the Future of American Catholicism (Columbia University Press 2009). She is also the former president of the Women’s Ordination Conference. A Xavier parishioner from 1985 to 1992, she is now a member of Our Lady of Refuge in Brooklyn but enjoys attending events at Xavier.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Kathleen Connell and Dianne Weyers Have Something To Say

It is my great privilege and pleasure to be with you all today to continue that great Christian tradition of praying for the dead in the assurance of faith and the belief that what we engage in here today is a ceremony of handing over our loved one, in the company of the angels, to the care of our God.   I thank Fr. Dan for inviting me to participate in this celebration and to preach.

There are those who say that our focus at such a service should be not on Dianne, but on Jesus.  Our goal today should be to praise and thank our God for God’s great mercy and not to say warm fuzzy things about our departed friend.  To them I say, “You didn’t know Dianne!”  And I quote for them, 

Matthew 5:16 let your light shine before others,  so they will see the good things you do. And they will bring glory to your Mother/Father God who is in heaven.

I maintain that our sister’s light shone so brightly, that its radiance will lead us to glorifying God.  I suggest that it is our Christian duty to pay attention to it so that we might emulate her.  I maintain that she had a proverbial PhD in spiritual practice.  I would challenge those of us who might be less advanced on the journey, as it were, to gaze on her light and see if there weren’t something there that we might take on as a spiritual practice. 

As a young woman, Dianne dedicated her life to God as a nun.  Sadly, the convent was not the sanctuary that it should have been but was rather a place of abuse.  So she left.  But she didn’t forget her vows.  At her 70th birthday celebration ten years ago, several of us were at her birthday Mass where we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of her final vows.  Dianne renewed those vows that day in our presence.  She never stopped dedicating her life to God.  She just changed how she did it.

Like Job in the first reading, Dianne trusted in her Redeemer.  That is how she survived for more than half a century as a victim of medical malpractice.  As I thought about how Dianne did this, another woman came to mind, Immaculée Ilibagiza, the Rwandan woman who wrote, “Left To Tell; Discover God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.”  She tells of how she survived the holocaust by strengthening her relationship with God.  In her book Immaculée acknowledges the horror and atrocities of the holocaust but does not dwell on them.  Instead she tells the story of her relationship with God and how it saved her.

Dianne did the same.  She spoke of the reality of how her body terrorized her.  But that was never the focus.  Her focus was always where God was with her in that experience.  Our sister participated actively in the Passion of Our Lord.

While I admired Immaculée from afar, with Dianne, I had a real life experience of this profound kind of faith witness.
In our first reading we hear: If only this were on paper!   What a book it would make!   If only my words were engraved forever in granite!

Well, in fact, her story is on paper! In many a notebook!  For decades, over thirty years, Dianne journaled using the Progoff Intensive Journal Method which promises that you will connect with your real self. And develop a more meaningful life. Well, it worked for Dianne!!!  Her whole life was about being connected to her real self and she knew that self to be a daughter of the Most High.

Now her story was not written in granite, but thanks to our brothers and sisters from St. Luke in the Fields, her journals have been preserved in the Lesbian Archives - as well as her art work.  Speaking of which … 
I was at another funeral Mass recently and I heard this reading and I said, “Oh, we have to add that to Dianne’s readings.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."
"Yes," said the Spirit,
"let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.”

for their works accompany them.

Her works!  What wonderful, wonderful works!  Her art!  Anyone who was ever in her apartment was treated to a contemporary museum of dreamwork.   This wasn’t just a hobby.  She had to monitor how much time she spent on her art work.  Each moment in an upright position was precious.  And what did she do with those moments?  She dedicated them to what God was saying to with her.   John Sanford, the Episcopal priest and Jungian and spiritual psychotherapist, calls “Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language.”  God hasn’t forgotten that language; we have!!  Dianne spoke that language fluently and honored each message from God with a piece of art.  She surrounded herself with that art as a constant reminder of God’s love and support in her very challenging life. 

It must be the mother in me but when I heard the words, “Their works accompany them,” I had this crazy thought that I hope God had a VERY big refrigerator!   When both of my children were in COLLEGE, they each got 100 on a midterm. IN COLLEGE, each of them brought their paper home to Mommy to be hung on the refrigerator!!!  Another memory came to me.  After my father died, we were cleaning out his top dresser drawer, where he kept things that were important.  There was a little note that I had written to him as a young child.  It said, “Dear Mr. Conway, I have taken time out of my busy day to write you this note.  Love, your little angle, Kathy”   I never could spell!

There may not be a big heavenly refrigerator, but that need to experience that we are loved and affirmed, the desire to please a loved one and the delight taken by the other in that precious desire to please - that is very real.  And that is the relationship Diane had and HAS with her God.  But now it’s the real deal.  It always was the real deal, but as St. Paul says, “when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”  For Dianne, the perfect has come!!

St. Augustine said, “…our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee”  And, as we shall hear in the poem Dianne wanted read at her celebration, it is a love and relationship Dianne longed for.

Our Second reading was the one that we chose immediately.  

"These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  "For this reason they stand before God's throne and worship God day and night in God’s temple”.

The time of great distress is over. No more pain.  No more worrying about finding spare parts for a front-wheel drive scooter that they no longer make.  No more having to navigate areas that are not handicapped accessible.  No more having to deal with the emotional torment that was her apartment building.  Our sister washed her robe in the blood of the Lamb.  She participated in his Passion more than any of us might want to.

It filled us with such joy to picture our sister in her white robe, standing before God’s throne, praising God day and night.”   Just hanging out with her in that joy, leads me to immediately praising God with her.  Joy is important.  Find it somewhere, anywhere.  It’s God’s way of keeping your head above water.  

Dianne found her joy in her family, in her friends, in her art, at Xavier, at St. Luke’s, at her 12 Step Meetings.  All of these where consolations that kept her head above water. 

 In our gospel Jesus tells us

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

I suggest that when we hear these words, we usually think that the place Jesus is preparing for us is in heaven?   I remember when I was in my twenties, my first spiritual director suggested to me that it didn’t necessarily mean after I died, but that Jesus was doing it right now.  Jesus is preparing a place for us right now! “so that where I am, there you may also be.”  And the converse of that, of course, would be, “Where you are, Jesus is also.”

We gather today to celebrate Dianne’s entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  But Jesus came for Dianne ..80 years ago.  He claimed her and snatched her from the power of death in the waters of Baptism.  She had been living in the Kingdom of Heaven for ..80.. years, now it’s just different. 

Earlier in John’s gospel, in chapter 6, Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” He didn’t say, “If you believe, you will have eternal life when you die.”  No, you have it now.  Eternal life has already begun! We are already living in the Kingdom of God.  

How does one live in the Kingdom of God now?  Jesus gives us the answer. 
He says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

Now when Jesus spoke those words, he did it in his native tongue, Aramaic. He said,
“Ina(i)na r’cha wa shrara w’chayye.”

In Aramaic, a word can have seven or eight meanings at once.  When Jesus’ words were written down, they were written down in Greek and the Evangelist picked one of those meanings.  So immediately, we lost a lot of the nuances of Jesus’ message.  I’d like to share with you some alternative translations based on the work of Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz, who has been studying Jesus’ words in Aramaic for over thirty years.  

The “I am” is the path, the sense of true direction, and the life force to travel.

The ego, fully aware of its limitation, declares a road, provides a compass, and fuels the journey.

For Dianne, Jesus was her path/ her road.  Jesus was her compass and Jesus was her fuel for the journey. I think we can all rest assured that when Dianne entered Jesus’ loving embrace, she heard the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”


About Rev. Kathleen Connell
While in my twenties, I first came to Xavier - the high school, not the parish - in the ‘70s because my Jesuit spiritual director lived and taught there.  My then husband and I did the Spiritual Exercises in the 19th annotation when the Jesuits were just beginning to bring it back.  We were guinea pigs, as it were.  I can’t remember the exact connection that brought me to the Church of St. Francis Xavier but I arrived there in the 90’s and I schlepped into the city from Queens every week for Mass because I insist on worshipping where there is good music and good liturgy.  I loved being able to worship and then go downstairs to serve at the Welcome Table.  I was a  member of the Liturgy Committee and I led Dances of Universal Peace at the parish.  I was also a presenter at the Lay Spirituality Annual Day of workshops.  I am a woman who left.  In 2001 I left the Roman Church to be ordained.  The process of leaving a church that I loved with my whole heart and soul was excruciating, but I came to understand that while I loved it, it did not love me or want me to be who I was.  It was very healing, and truthfully very anxiety provoking, for me to return to Xavier for Dianne’s Mass.  However, the loving, welcoming spirit of Xavier was once again an oasis of healing love.  It was a privilege and pleasure for me to preach at our beloved sister, Dianne's Mass.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Boreta Singleton Has Something To Say February 10th 2019 Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The first reading from Isaiah brings to mind the familiar song "Here I am Lord" set by many composers-- Dan Schutte being the most famous but also our former Xavier music director, Michael Ward. It also  reminds me during this Black History Month of my many ancestors and their White allies who gave themselves generously to the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King said "yes" many times, but when he began receiving death threats, he questioned his involvement in the ministry of bringing racial justice to our country. In his autobiography,  he speaks about the terror he felt as he paced the floor one night. His wife answered the phone several times that evening, and on the other end was a person threatening to bomb their home, harm their children or kill him. The night before a brick was thrown through their front window, almost injuring his children.  Dr. King felt paralyzed with fear, but he said he sensed God saying to him, "Martin, I am with you even in these difficulties." And he said that he knew God called him, despite his fears, to press on and call all others to join him on the civil rights  journey.  He renewed his "yes" to God. 
Jesus, in today's Gospel, not only calls Peter and the disciples to "catch people," but calls us too to press on in the struggle to build God's kingdom here on earth.     Dr. King, empowered by God's grace, called on not only African Americans  but also the White clergy and their congregations across our country to join him in the pursuit of justice. The brutality of the Selma march had been seen worldwide on television, and Dr. King discerned that the tide of the movement needed to change. Soon, Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy , in addition to others, and even leaders with no religion, joined the movement and were visibly present, unafraid to face the cruelty of their opponents. In a recent interview with Michelle  Alexander (author of "The New Jim Crow") , Angela Davis ( civil rights activist) echoed a similar way of thinking. When asked by Dr. Alexander who were her White allies, Dr. Davis stated, "I have no White allies. I have White brothers and sisters, White aunts and uncles, White friends and lovers who help me on the journey to justice. " Let us, too, join together  and,  regardless of  race, gender, ability, religion or age,  "catch people" in imitation of Jesus and the disciples. Let us invite them to join us on the journey to build God's kingdom here on earth. May  you and I respond to God's desires  for justice and peace in our world as Isaiah did:  "Here I am, Lord, send me!" 

Boreta Singleton has been  a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier Parish  since 2003 and  is a member of the  choir, serves as a Spiritual Director in  the ISEL program and as a  liturgical minister.  She is  currently at St. Peter's Prep High School in Jersey City and ministers as  the Director of Faculty Formation.  Boreta lives in the Bronx, and sings with  The Ignatian Schola  and the chorus of  Choral Chameleon.   

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Elisa Balestra Has Something To Say

 My name is Elisa Balestra and I have been a parishioner at Xavier since 1999. Many more of you precede me by decades – what a richness of community! For almost five years, I have been a member of Xavier’s Finance Council, and on behalf of them I want to thank you for the support you have extended to our entire Xavier family over the last year.  YOU are the Parish and your gifts, whether it is your time or your money, have helped define the remarkable, dynamic, lay-centric community that is Xavier. It is that time of the year when Jim Martinez (this time from a distance) and Nancy Fava lend their talents in producing our annual report. (We have copies in the back of the church.)  I want to pause here – and take note of the fact that we are a local parish that publishes an 18 page, ready for audit annual report highlighting the life and activity that takes place here - we are engaged locally and internationally. 
Thank you for your gifts – thank you for allowing them to flourish in their varied and generous forms: participation within the ministries, groups, as lectors and Eucharistic ministers, volunteers at the Welcome Table, the choir, the bell choir – I could go on, and after perusing the website this week I realized it could fill the remainder of this pulpit address by naming them all – we are truly an anomaly in 2018; the level of programing here is typically seen at academic institutions. In addition to giving thanks for your support, I am also here to ask that it continue.
Perhaps one of the most powerful gifts for me, one that I didn’t realize until I recently lost someone very dear, is intrinsically woven into the fabric of the Xavier community. Our parish provides a valuable space for discernment and the opportunity for dialogue on what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. You are welcoming of outsiders, those who question and those who have been and might still be angry, struggling with their relationship with God. I know how challenging and sometimes sad it has been here over the last few months. But what is remarkable in both grief and injury is that Christ is with you, along with the love that comes from the community - the community we believe to be the Body of Christ, the Xavier community, which provides its own new opportunities for healing. 
So when I ask you to consider supporting Xavier weekly or monthly with a gift, however you would like to do it – I am asking myself to consider this as well, and pause to examine what it takes to keep the lights on, to keep staff here to lock up at the end of a group meeting or a class, or at the end of your event. Our donations support a shared practice, blending the voices of the laity with the liturgy – together we are a strong and powerful group; we have a choice to continue to engage with these questions, to reflect, to listen, to take action, to do the small things we can  - here at Xavier.
May I remind you that we are an exceptional Parish, at a pivotal point in the timeline for the larger Catholic Church – we have an opportunity, at a local level, to further refine and define what is the meaning of the Body of Christ, continue to be a beacon and expand our important and measured voice in future challenging times for the Church. We are an intentional spiritual community – I see it every time I come in contact with you.  We are worth investing in.
Finally, and I know you have heard this a lot, please consider joining your fellow parishioners in giving through Faith Direct, or through thoughtful consideration, making a regular commitment to Xavier so we can continue to grow and develop as a beacon for many. Help us to continue creating a vibrant space to find peace and examine an active faith.  As I can attest, we do this not only for ourselves but for those who have yet to understand they need us. Thank you for your time and attention.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Jackie Perez Has Something To Say The Feast of the Epiphany 2019

Angels, Dreams, and a Star

The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ, God’s presence in the world in the human form of Jesus.

God’s coming into the world actually begins much sooner. The angel Gabriel appears before Mary announcing the birth of Jesus. In a dream, an angel appears to Joseph instructing him to have no fear to take the pregnant Mary as his wife. Angels appear to Shepherds in the fields instructing them go to Bethlehem where the baby Jesus can be found. And Magi follow a star which would lead them to Jesus, the newborn King.

Herod did not understand, and feared Jesus’ “power” to be greater than his own and instructed the Magi to find this “newborn King”. The Magi however, upon seeing Jesus are filled with joy rather than fear. Christ’s divinity is made manifest in the persons of the Magi.

And what about us? Are we open to God’s presence? Do we trust in God choosing the way of the love as the Magi did or like Herod do we choose the way of fear, feeling threatened or jealous of others. God’s glory is often manifested where we least expect it. But it is always there. God is always here.

We must allow for wonder, awe and mystery in our lives. The place where our Epiphanies can be found. The angels, dreams and stars in our lives, those humble, often unassuming events and people who come in and out of our lives revealing God’s love. A love not just for Kings and Magi, but for shepherds, refugees, the outcast and marginalized. A love for all of us.


Jackie Perez first came to Xavier in 1991 while training in the Internal Medicine Residency Program at St. Vincent’s Hospital. She joined the Xavier choir in 1993 and over the years has served the parish as a liturgical minister (Coordinator, Lector, Eucharistic and Hospitality Minister), member (and Chair) of the Liturgy Committee, and twice member of the Pastoral Council. Trained in Ignatian Spirituality and the Exercises, Jackie is a Spiritual Director, has directed the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Living (19th Anotation), facilitated Ignatian retreats and conferences, led days of prayer and reflection and has had the privilege to preach and preside for various parish Liturgies. Jackie’s main focus at Xavier these days is as Assistant Music Director, directing the Family Faith Choir and Xavier Schola. Outside of Xavier, Jackie is the Director and Co-Founder of The Ignatian Schola (, and a Lector for (televised) The Sunday Mass ( She continues to use her medical skills as the Health Care Coordinator for the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus and part-time in the NYU Langone Community Medicine Program at the clinic in the Barbara S. Kleiman Homeless Shelter in Brooklyn. 

The Ignatian Schola is a New York-based vocal ensemble composed of Jesuits and lay colleagues. Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, the Schola is dedicated to the exploration of musical prayer in the service of faith and the promotion of justice.