2017-10-01 – St. Michael the Archangel – John 1:47-51

Fr. Rutler’s homily podcast.

The writer Flannery O’Connor, in her wit, did not think highly of local Catholic newspapers. They devoted more space to advertisements such as “Let a Catholic exterminator get rid of your pests” than to illuminating discussion of great issues. Much ecclesiastical “happy news” gingerly sidesteps challenging thought, churning out folksy columns as if to prove Chesterton’s definition of journalism as “writing badly.” Happily, this monopoly on banality is changing with the decline of the print media and the spread of websites.

But “parish pump” news deserves its place. I do not mean endless photographs of smiling people receiving awards for conspicuous philanthropy. Our Lord never named any apostle “Man of the Year.” But the principle of subsidiarity holds that the life of the local parish is the core of how grace works. Our parish newsletter now has over 7,000 international subscribers, and obviously most of them are not parishioners, as our local population in this commercial neighborhood is small, albeit growing and getting younger. So I ask your indulgence to mention a few local items as we celebrate the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, our parish patron.

An admirable inspiration chose Saint Michael as protector here in Hell’s Kitchen, just as the Church of the Holy Innocents where I was administrator, was so named when it was built in what then was a neighborhood notorious for an unfamiliarity with innocence. I still find penciled petitions on the stones of St. Michael’s pleading protection in days when knifings and shootings were more commonplace than now. At the Sunday Masses, we pray the Prayer to Saint Michael for persecuted Christians far away, but also for our own people here in the largest real estate development in the history of our nation. Those new skyscrapers are rising at a cost that is more than material. In just the past two weeks, three young workers on three buildings near the church were killed, and others injured.

To make our church ever more visible as a spiritual center in this urban development, we are making extensive repairs and improving its aesthetic (and, we hope, ascetic) quality. Over the summer the sanctuary was further embellished, and I spent my vacation gold-leafing more of the woodwork and training volunteers to assist. The carpeting around the middle altar has been replaced with marble matching the rest of the sanctuary, a two-month labor. Various statues have been restored to their original appearance or replaced by classical ones. All this has been done with the strictest economies and donated labor. Also, I am grateful for your patience as we transition to a new program for our expanding mailing list. Your support to meet the modest cost is vital and thankworthy.

Finally, and typical of domestic life in Manhattan, the digging and blasting all around keep the exterminator busy. And I have not asked if he is Catholic.

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