Pastoral Notebook / Volume One – Number One / February 2014

Let me say a word of thanks, for all of our membership, to our sister and fellow parishioner, Evelyn Theriault.  A member of Saint Gregory’s Leadership Council, I first met Evelyn when sharing an eight o’clock pew in the Chapel at Christ Church, Hamilton. She began attending Christ Church when a friend spoke to her about the preaching ministry of Fr. Liias, then Rector. Evelyn dropped anchor, bringing to an end many years of formal separation from the church. Born and raised a Roman Catholic she had set church life aside during the years of her marriage to her husband Brian, after whose death her friend’s suggestion brought her to Christ Church. Those transitions led to yet another homecoming.

In addition to bringing her love and wisdom to the Leadership Council’s discussions. Evelyn’s services have included some secretarial assistance to Fr. Liias on a temporary and volunteer basis. Liturgy and music being a frequent topic she learned of our parish’s need for a more serviceable hymn book for our Mass on Sunday. BOOK! It struck Evelyn’s mother Louise was a lover of books who had an enormous personal library and believed books to be the very best possible personal friends. It struck Evelyn that hymn books for Saint Gregory’s worship would be an appropriate and enduring remembrance for her mother as well as a continuing ministry of praise to the Most High God. Her faith response has provided the generous supply of hymn books we use every Sunday at Mass. Thank you, Evelyn!

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A moment of alarm recently was the hospitalization of our brother and Altar Server, Fred Jillson. Taken ill unexpectedly, he was taken to the North Shore branch of Lahey Clinic. Happily, he was released home after several hours, and favorable diagnosis, to the tender care of our organist — his loving wife Sheila. Our thanks go to those who responded to this unhappy emergency with fervent prayer and consoling emails. Our thanks also to the Almighty for this outcome.

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Worship at Saint Gregory on January 26th included the blessing and dedication of a magnificent work of sacred art, Face of Christ, the gift of our brother and sister, Steve and Barbara Hawley. Offered by the Hawleys in thanksgiving for the birth of their first grandson, Lucas Christopher Dolan, Face of Christ is uniquely the artistic creation of Steve Hawley, Lucas’ grandfather, a professional artist. Lucas’ uncle, Vincent Hawley, is the creator of the Sacred Mass Vessels in use at Saint Gregory each Sunday. The creation of Sacred Art is clearly a vocation that has taken residence in their household.

Face of Christ was introduced to our congregation with a lovely small brochure and our Lord’s words from Saint John, chapter twelve: When a man believes in me…when he looks at me…he sees the One who sent me.

I have long been drawn to Steve’s special gift as an artist and Face of Christ has had special meaning for me that was further enlarged in the dedication brochure’s description, “Sacred art is not simply a matter of illustrating the words and stories of Scripture: it is a visual language corresponding to that of sacred writing. In the year 787 the Seventh [Nicene] Council was convoked specifically to resolve the status of sacred art, or Iconography, within Christianity. It stated that it was not invented by painters but is an approved institution in the Catholic Church. That which the word communicates by sound, the painting demonstrates silently by representation. This second sacred language may be silent, yet — like every other language — it possesses a vocabulary and structure.” Steve goes on to add that his creative work over the past 40 years — in obedience to the Nicene vision — has been given to revealing spiritual reality inspired through the visual arts.

Completed first in 2003, Face of Christ had been in the home of a collector until his death when it became available and was once again acquired to honor God in Saint Gregory the Great Church in thanksgiving for the birth of Lucas Christopher Dolan. Steve prepared for his vocation in sacred art by studying and earning two degrees at the Boston Museum School, with earlier inspiration at Connecticut’s Farmington High School where he had the guidance of a teacher, Ralph Mattson, whom he speaks of as “a great art teacher” and whose personal faith led him more profoundly to see art as a sacred vocation.

Saint Gregory’s parish has been particularly blessed, I believe, with gifts of creativity among its membership. I’ll be addressing more of this another time, but for the moment let me mention the contribution of hymnody of our brother and cantor, Kevin McDermott. Caught up by the beauty of Face of Christ he created the words for a new hymn to adorn further the dedication of Steve and Barbara Hawley’s visual offering. In keeping with Steve’s description in the brochure, sacred art being a silent form of praising God, Kevin has given us vocal companionate praise as well. Set to “Schop,” a seventeenth-century melody most associated with Christmas, he offers words of praise in recognition of God’s purpose to speak to us of Himself as Trinity and reveals all manifestations of sacred art, beyond the powerful witness given us in sacred Scripture, as means by which we may come to know Him. You can see the painting, the brochure, and read Kevin’s hymn here.

All for the glory of God!

The peace of the Lord be always with you!

Father Wootton

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