From the Vicar
In the New York Times article describing the retirement of the Very Rev. James Parks Morton, the 7th Dean of our Cathedral, it mentions that his vision during his 25-year tenure (1972-1997) was to create "a 20th-century version of a medieval cathedral: a bustling, intellectually provocative town common." The continuing popularity of the utterly unique way the Cathedral celebrates the Feast of St. Francis is a testament to the lasting power of his vision.
I commend to your reading our senior warden's reflections on the very first time the Cathedral put on this special celebration. Truly, all of us who work or worship at the Cathedral are standing on the shoulders of giants.
But, as we celebrate St. Francis and the Cathedral's proud heritage of innovative liturgy and groundbreaking environmentalism with this service on Sunday, I think it's also important to reflect deeply on the question that the 10th Dean of the Cathedral, the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III, has put before all of us: "What does the Cathedral in the 21st century look like?"
The Rev. Steven Lee
From the Wardens
A short memoir by the senior warden of the first time the Cathedral put on its special Saint Francis Day service:
When I attended the first performance of the Earth Mass, it was a wonderful surprise. It occurred on a Sunday in April on or close to Earth Day. There were no animals. It was just a normal Sunday with special music. The following autumn we learned that the Earth Mass would be performed again on the feast of Saint Francis, and that there would be an animal procession, dancers, and pet blessings.
The first time the Cathedral put on its special St. Francis Day service was lovely and exuberant. Attendance was moderate. By the next year word had gotten out and Saint Francis Day, The Blessing of the Animals, became one of those signature New York City community events--like blowing up the balloons the night before Macy’s annual Thanksgiving parade. Photographs of the elephant entering the church made the New York Times. Life Magazine had a two page spread of the participants on the steps of the Cathedral with all the animals. That worried looking acolyte holding the choir cross in one hand and the second hand held out to protect herself from the elephant who kept backing up---that’s me!
With every St. Francis Day I become concerned that the central message will be lost in all the gorgeous music, dancing, energy, and the distraction of many animals sitting at their owners’ feet. But the message is never lost. It is so appropriate that we take the time to formally appreciate and thank God for the created world, the miracle of all the living creatures that surround us; that we understand that they too are our brothers and sisters.
I have always wondered why Christians did not keep the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah which celebrates the birthday of Creation just around this time of year. In a sense, at the Cathedral we are observing it in our own joyful way with St. Francis Day. And we certainly pull out all the stops. What wonders surround us! There is a quiet dignity to the parade of animals that enter the nave for their blessing at the end of the service. Joy and Wonder. Happy Saint Francis Day!
A fair takes place on the Close after the St. Francis Day service--pet blessings, animals for adoption, food, information tables and much more. The Congregation will have a table with dog and cat treats, information on our programs and… dog tags for sale designed by Hope Chang, Father Lee’s talented assistant. Proceeds from the sale of the tags will benefit Cathedral Community Cares Men’s Interview Clothing program.
If you would enjoy spending time at the Congregation Table, greeting people and admiring their animal companions, look for the Congregation of Saint Saviour banner. Greeting strangers and pilgrims is right there in the Congregation’s mission statement.
Blessings to all,
Tim Dwyer and Marsha Ra