A jubilee is a celebration. But it is not just a celebration with a capital C, it’s a sort of festivity on steroids. The one about to be marked in our urban village has its roots in the Civil War era and reached a crescendo in 1918. It took a brave turn into the future a little more than a year ago when two church communities served by Dominican Friars began finding their way to become one united family, as united in diversity as any family inevitably is.
Under the patronage of two 14thCentury giants of their Church’s tradition: one, a Spanish-born Dominican priest, preacher and miracle worker and the second, a Dominican Laywoman dedicated to serving plague victims and named a Doctor of her Church for exercising a rare gift for high level diplomacy, neighbors recently took on the work of unifying two churches to emerge as The Parish of Saint Vincent Ferrer and Saint Catherine of Siena.
A centerpiece of the current Jubilee celebration is the 100thAnniversary of the national historic landmark Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, dedicated May 5, 2018. In the Jubilee period it will be listed in the Sacred Sites Open Weekend on the New York Landmark Conservancy website.
That centennial dedication day was, not coincidentally, the 50thjubilee of the date when a band of Dominican Friars was deployed by the Archbishop of New York to live among and serve the neighbors of what today is known as the Upper East Side. Since Dominican Friars are, by definition itinerants, they had a head start on understanding the many immigrants they met in those early years. With a history of 800 years and counting, travelling the roads of Europe, and later most of the other continents, they built a tradition of befriending and listening and preaching.
By the 50thJubilee of that initial ministry, they had partnered with iconic architect Bertram Goodhue, a premier master of stained-glass art, and other craftspeople keeping the skills of the Medieval era alive in19thCentury America. Together, they built a Church and a tradition that opens its doors to embrace and inspire parishioners and neighbors alike. And so was born one central reason for this 21stCentury Jubilee.
Historically, the custom of Jubilee stretches all the way back to Moses and his advice in the book of Leviticus defining Jubilee as nothing less than the ability deeply to change the community where it occurs. Now, in the eight days that begin April 28 and culminate May 5, the urban village you met in the first “Street Seens” is inviting friends to join and celebrate. As in all Jubilee celebrations, the celebrants will do many of the things they regularly do: share worship, fellowship, feasting, speaking, listening, and sharing good news with friends they have met and others they have not.
The Leviticus message to a people gripped in exodus and wandering was “make time to remember who you are, at your best.” And remember that’s worth celebrating. Let weekly Sabbath celebrations set a model for what you as a people are capable of being. Stop to review the who, what, when, why, and where of the six days just ended and then pause and remember and resolve. Remember where you came from and never give up on the possibility that you can find justification and even happiness in being honorable and generous: forgiving debts when you can, respecting the land by sharing it, nurturing all forms of gratitude
I will leave to learned Rabbis and Clerics and Biblical scholars the definition and implications of the Jubilee custom. But I will also note the connections I have seen in calls like that of Pope Francis who declared the Jubilee year of Mercy as a time of liberation with no less a goal than changing the quality of life: encouraging the return to the authenticity of the roots that define a person and a people. When my neighbors and fellow parishioners dedicated to social concerns and outreach entitled their recent study “Who Are We? I heard that title as a Jubilee statement.
Come and meet them and others. Come and break bread and sing and pray and count on the fellowship that has set a tone for 150 years. I wanted to carve it in stone and let it seep into my awareness of the Jubilee Celebration when I read this phrase in the most recent weekly Reflection from Very Reverend Walter Wagner, OP, pastor of the Parish of Saint Vincent Ferrer and Saint Catherine of Siena:
We honor fifteen decades of gifts beyond expectation and devotion beyond deserving..
What we celebrate is not the possession of a heritage,
but the gift of a trust to be received and handed on.
Jubilee is nothing if not inclusive, so all neighbors are encouraged to review the list of events on the Parish’s website then “Come and be welcome.” All free events are open to all comers. Follow instructions to attend the single paid event May 3. And if you have any influence with Divine or human meteorologists, focus that on the Street Fair on East 66thfrom Third to Lexington Avenues that is the final event of SVF/SCS Jubilee following the Solemn Procession and Midday Mass Saturday May 5.
Opening photo: Pixabay
Iconography by Janine Manheim