“No servant can serve two masters… You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mammon: opulence, deep pockets, affluence, riches, luxury, plenty) All of us must give some time to “mammon.” We need resources to live and we want more than just “enough.” We have to plan for the future. Sometimes, however, our work ethic gets in the way of our really living and participating in life. Or, we may always want “more.” Sometimes I hear people say “What ever happened to enjoying the ‘simple’ things of life, many that cost little or nothing at all?” Yes, work is necessary, but our work ethic needs to be examined frequently: what am I sacrificing; am I using my time well; what or whom do I neglect? I have always admired countries where they take a siesta in the afternoon or where they close down for a month in the summer. We can be proud of the work that we do, but sometimes our work works against us.
Many thanks to all who participated in the Gala and the Raffle. The Commemorate Journal is available at the reception desk and represents the work of many people, especially our Anniver- sary Committee and Fr. Tim Shreenan, who designed it. We will put the names of the Raffle winners in the bulletin next weekend although they have been contacted by now. Now we prepare for the celebration of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi with the Transitus on October 3 and the Masses on October 4th. This brings our 175th Anniversary to a close. Prayers and Blessings as we move into our 176th Year!
-Fr. Andrew Reitz, O.F.M.
Fr. Capistran Petrie moved to Buffalo, NY where he served as pastor of St. Patrick’s Church, and later served as the Commissary Provincial of the Commissariat of St. John Capistran, headquartered in Roebling, NJ. Fr. Lucian Gallagher, former Commissary Provincial of the Third Order Franciscans, was named guardian and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Friary and Church during the Provincial Chapter of 1943. Immediately he formulated a program for the celebration of the centenary of the church which would be observed in 1944.
Plans for the installation of a new main altar, new terrazzo floors, and a new confessional chapel were realized. The loft building adjoining the friary to the east, which was purchased in 1937, and partially converted to rooms for friars, was further renovated under Fr. Lucian’s direction. The parlor facilities were enlarged to include the ground floor of the former loft building, a new lobby was constructed at the entrance of the friary, a priests’ chapel and confessional were built, and the friary buildings were renovated as well.
During the month of October, 1944, St. Francis of Assisi celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding with a solemnity and color rarely seen in any American church. Fr. Lucian planned and executed a series of Masses which brought some of the most notable preachers in America to the little church on 31st Street.
In preparation for the Feast of St. Francis and the centenary, a solemn novena was conducted from September 26 to October 4. The centennial celebrations proper took place from October 4 to 8. On each evening of the novena, a distinguished guest preacher delivered the sermon. Fr. James M. Gillis, C.S.P., editor of The Catholic World, was the speaker on the opening day of the novena. His topic was “The Age of Saint Francis of Assisi.”
On September 27, Fr. Apollinaris Baumgartner, O.F.M., Cap., pastor of neighboring St. John the Baptist Church, spoke on the theme, “Everybody’s Saint Francis.” The next day, Fr. Albert H. Dolan, O.Carm., founder and director of the League of the Little Flower, and writer of several books on St. Therese, preached on the subject, “St. Francis, Lover of Nature and the God of Nature.” Fr. Cosmas Shaughnessy, C.P., Director of laymen’s retreats at the Passionist Monastery in Jamaica, NY, delivered a sermon on “St. Francis’ Love for the Crucified” on September 29. “ The Love of St. Francis for the Poor and Suffering” was the subject of a talk on September 30 by Fr. Edward M. Betowski, professor of homiletics at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, NY.
The sermons continued with “The Three Orders of St. Francis” by Msgr. James H. Griffiths, and “St. Francis, a Reformer of Society,” by Dom Gregory Borgstedt, O.S.B. from Portsmouth, RI. At the Solemn Transitus on October 3, Msgr. Joseph F. Flannelly, administrator of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, preached on “The Death of St. Francis.” Fr. George Rudrof, O.M.C., of Seaside Park, NJ, preached the concluding novena sermon on “The Franciscan Message to the World.”
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring in a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor. Our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
Pope Francis: “The Joy of the Gospel: God’s word teaches that our brothers and sisters are the prolongation of the incarnation for each of us. ‘As you did for one of these my brethren, you did to me.’ The way we treat others has a transcendent dimension. ‘The measure you give will be the measure you get.’ It corresponds to the mercy which God has shown us. ‘Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged, do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you… For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’ What these passages make clear is the absolute priority of ‘going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters’ as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift.”
Many people in the time of Jesus were surprised that he would give his attention and time to various individuals whom he met along the way. In today’s Gospel we hear the statement: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”We are all sinners and yet Jesus chooses to welcome us and eat with us frequently. To those critics who say that the church is too open and welcoming to certain individuals, we must remember that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” And we must remember what Pope Francis once said: “Who am I to judge?” Today, Jesus speaks about the lost sheep, the prodigal son, and other situations where someone or something is lost and then found. When we enter into situations with the type of heart that Jesus shows us, we bring a great gift to others and to our world.
On September 17 we celebrate the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. He loved to withdraw to an isolated cave or mountain after he had been preaching and caring for people. This is what gave him the ability to be the loving and approachable person that he was. Those who wrote about him would speak about him as being an “alter Christus”, another Christ and at times “il santo”, the saint. In 1214 while he was praying at Mount La Verna, a Seraph appeared in the sky and marked St. Francis with the marks of the crucified Christ. When you visit Assisi, you can travel to La Verna and visit the shrine dedicated to this event in St. Francis’ life.
-Fr. Andrew Reitz, O.F.M.
P.S. A Memorial Mass for 9/11 Workers will be celebrated on Tuesday, September 17 at 4:30 PM in the Upper Church.
Fr. Samuel Grega was succeeded as pastor by Fr. Capistran Petrie, who served from 1937 until
1943. A former professor at St. Bonaventure College, his character and pastoral zeal would guide St. Francis Church towards its one-hundredth year of service in New York City.
Fr. Capistran enlarged the parlor facilities to develop the ministry of pastoral counselling. He also introduced Friday devotions in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows, bringing three Servite Fathers from Chicago to begin the new devotion here. It was estimated that 30,000 people attended the 23 devotions offered on the first day. In the course of time, however, as the devotion was introduced into other New York churches, Fr. Capistran reduced the number of Friday services at St. Francis Church, and he initiated the popular and traditional devotion
of the Way of the Cross.
In the early years of World War II, Fr. Capistran had a special place in his heart for the many service men and women. In 1941 he obtained permission from the Military Vicar the Armed Forces, Archbishop Francis Spellman, to offer Mass Sunday afternoons at 3:00 PM for the exclusive convenience of men and women in the uniform of the country’s service. During one of the Masses, Archbishop Spellman slipped quietly into back pew to observe the Mass. The faith and devotion of the so impressed him that, at the end of the Mass, he went to the altar and asked the priest’s permission to speak to the congretation. His concluding words were, “What I have seen here today, I shall not quickly forget.” The fact that he performed this quasi-liturgical act attired in street clothes, a daringly unepiscopal gesture in 1941, heightened the significance of the moment for the friars and people alike.
Brothers were stationed at each of the church’s entrances with strict instructions to deny entrance to any person not in military uniform. Even the determined Massachusetts politician, James Michael Curley, was unable to elicit an assenting “Hurrah” from Fr. Capistran’s vigilant porters. Unaccustomed to being denied exemption, the former governor of Massachusetts reported his exclusion to Archbishop Spellman, and he expected his fellow Bostonian to vindicate him and admonish the friars. When Spellman later brought the complaint to Fr. Capistran, the Archbishop congratulated him for exercising due vigilance and for perpetrating the year’s most humorous “teapot tempest.” “How did you find out?” Fr. Capistran asked. The Archbishop replied: “His Honor came up here and complained to me. I told him he will have to join the Army if he wants to get in.”
This series of articles on the history of our parish is adapted from the writings of Fr. Flavian Walsh, O.F.M., Pastor from 1985-87.
The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency.
Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to one another, to our
families, and to the larger society. Laudato Sí of Pope Francis: Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development. It has also to do with the overall welfare of society and the development of a variety of intermediate groups, applying the principle of subsidiarity. Outstanding among those groups is the family, as the basic cell of society. Finally, the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.
Today we hear Jesus say: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot
be my disciple.” Many of Jesus’ words are challenging and can easily upset us, but after you
think about them for a while, they begin to make sense. Each of our lives has many crosses
and rather than let them conquer us, with Jesus we can reach goals that we may never have thought that we could achieve. In the previous sentence, when we hear Jesus saying about “hating” certain people, we need to look at what Jesus “means” by this. He wants us to have priorities in our lives- everything does not have the same value. Jesus wants us to have him as the center of our lives. He realizes that we are people pulled in many directions and it is important for us to continue to refocus ourselves to what is important and life giving. We always need to keep in mind that, whenever we encounter Scriptures that may seem strange, we
should ask ourselves “what does this mean” and not take them “literally.”
Today is the annual Walk in Memory of Fr. Mychal Judge. We are grateful for the many people who have travelled distances to join in this walk. On September 11th we will have our annual Mass for the 9/11 victims; many of whom are still dealing with health situations. Please join us in this tribute to all those who suffered from this tragic event in our history.
September 8th is also the commemoration of the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary!
-Fr. Andrew Reitz, O.F.M
The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society – in economics and politics, in law and policy – directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened.
The family is thus an agent of pastoral activity through its explicit proclamation of the Gospel and its legacy of varied forms of witness, namely solidarity with the poor, openness to a diversity of people, the protection of creation, moral and material solidarity with other families… and the transformation of unjust social structures.
…by their innermost nature men and women are social beings and unless they relate themselves to others they can neither live nor develop their potential. Local individuals and groups can make a real difference.
They are able to instill a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land.
The Great Depression impacted New Yorkers with hardship and turmoil, and brought an abrupt end
to a decade of nonchalance. With the election of Fiorello La Guardia as mayor, New York City finally entered an era of honest leadership which brought an atmosphere of decency and obvious compassion after years of scandal and corruption. The 1930s proved to be a remarkable comeback decade for the seven million inhabitants of the city.
At the Provincial Chapter of 1931 Fr. Mathias Faust was elected to the office of Minister Provincial, and Fr. Samuel Grega was appointed to succeed him as guardian and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Monastery and Church.
Fr. Samuel was one of the most colorful and entertaining friars to ever live and minister at 31st Street. He was born in Taszo, Hungary on August 10, 1886, and
came to America as a youth to study for the Franciscan priesthood at the minor seminary in Callicoon, NY. Fr. Samuel’s bombastic and flamboyant style as a preacher of parish missions for several years would make his 37 years of pastoral ministry at St. Francis Church.
After Fr. Samuel became the pastor of St. Francis he endeared himself to thousands as a wise counselor and compassionate confessor. He made a notable contribution to the devotional life of St. Francis Church by introducing a great variety of popular devotions. The Tuesday service in honor of St. Anthony of Padua, which always drew large numbers of devotees, became so popular that 13 additional devotions had to be introduced each Tuesday in order to accommodate the ever increasing crowds. A perpetual novena to St. Joseph was initiated on Wednesdays, and this immediately proved popular with the people. He introduced weekly devotions in honor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. But, without doubt, “the little church among the skyscrapers” became best known for the Holy Hour which was held every Thursday at noon, in the late afternoon, and in the evening.
To satisfy the demands of so many devotees of the church, the community of friars had gradually increased. In 1932, 31 priests were ministering at St. Francis Church. By 1944, the centenary years, more than 50 priests were stationed at the friary on West 31st Street. In order to accommodate the increase of friars, the parochial school was transformed into a friary annex.
Fr. Samuel continued to serve as a dedicated preacher and a popular confessor at St. Francis until 1967 when ill health forced the 80-year-old friar to go to the Province’s infirmary. His ministry was marked by a patient, kind and joyful spirit which touched the lives of thousands during his 37 years here. When he was buried from St. Francis Church on March 14, 1968, the upper church was filled to capacity with friars, sisters, relatives and friends of the simple friar who loved everyone.
This series of articles on the history of our parish is adapted from the writ- ings of Fr. Flavian Walsh, O.F.M., Pastor from 1985-87.
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