Thursday, May 13, 2021

Ascension Thursday


Ascension Thursday, May 13, 2021.

One of the many joys of being back home in New York is celebrating The Ascension of the Lord on its proper day. The experience is embellished when one gets greeted in the morning by the local news’ announcement that, in the entire city, what we New Yorkers call “alternate side of the street parking” is suspended because of the holy day. (Of course, I don't have a car and so don't park on the street. So "alternate side of the street parking" is not quite the existential issue it may be for some.)

St. Bernard of Clairvaux [1090-1153] is said to have described the Ascension as “the consummation and fulfillment of all other festivals, and a happy ending to the whole journey of the Son of God.” Growing up, of course, what I remember most about the Ascension was that we got off from school! But, of course, we had to go to Mass in the morning, and at least some of us may have noticed and may still remember the wonderful ritual of ceremonially extinguishing the Easter Candle – the symbol of the Risen Christ’s presence among us – after the reading of today’s Gospel. (One of many powerful symbols and ceremonies since pointlessly deleted in the systematic ritual impoverishment of the Church's worship in the late 20th century.)

The point of that ancient ritual, of course, was not that Jesus is gone, but that he is now present to us in an alternative and very new way. But what exactly is that new way?

Historically speaking, Ascension commemorates the last of the Risen Lord’s appearances to his disciples in the weeks after his resurrection. After Easter, the Risen Jesus no longer walked around and spent time with his disciples the way he did before he died and rose. Rather, as Luke says in today’s 1st reading [Acts 1:1-11], what he did instead was to appear a number of times to his disciples during that post-Easter period of 40 daysspeaking about the kingdom of God. Then, he was taken up, and those appearances ceased. (Hence, the traditional practice of extinguishing the Paschal Candle, the visible symbol that recalls those appearances.)

But, if Jesus doesn’t walk around and live among us on earth as he did before, then where exactly is he? And in what way are we still connected with him? Theologically speaking, the Ascension celebrates what we publicly profess every Sunday in the Creed, that he is seated at the right had of the Father, where, as the letter to the Hebrews assures us he lives forever to intercede for us [Hebrews 7:25; cf. Romans 8:34]

On the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, pilgrims can see a footprint-like depression in a rock, which purports to be the spot from which Jesus ascended into heaven (photo). The footprint and the idea that the pushed off with such force that he left a footprint in the rock may seem a bit fanciful, but it does make the important point that it is Jesus’ real human body (and thus the real human nature that we share with him) that is now in glory with God. So the Church prays today in the Eucharistic Prayer, he placed at the right hand of your glory our weak human nature, which he had united to himself. And, in the Preface, the Church prays: he ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state but that we, his members might be confident of following where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.

So the Ascension anticipates what the resurrection has made it possible for us all to hope for.

Meanwhile, in this interval between Ascension and the end - a time full of problems and challenges of every sort, of seemingly apocalyptic crises and intractable conflicts in the world and politically inspired divisions even within the Church in our country, not to mention all our own personal problems and worries - in this interval between Ascension and the end, the Risen Lord remains with us though his gift of the Holy Spirit. The Church continues Christ's life and work in our world, by the mission and action of the Holy Spirit, whose "great work," wrote Servant of God Isaac Hecker in 1873, is the salvation, the sanctification of mankind upon earth and their glorification hereafter by means of the Church."

So, far from being absent, Jesus, who lived and died and now lives again forever with his Father, is still very much present among us by the power of his promised gift of the Holy Spirit, who is always at work in the Church, through which we remain connected with him, so that, through us, he can continue his work of transforming our world. Again, as Pope Francis, has reminded us: “In the Church, holy yet made up of sinners, you will find everything you need to grow towards holiness” [Gaudete et Exsaltate (2018), 15]

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Holy See Signals "Stop"



Until this week, there was a widespread expectation that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at their forthcoming June meeting might make some sort of pronouncement regarding our second Catholic President's right receive Holy Communion. Any such pronouncement would potentially have been problematic on several counts - not least because, according to Pope Saint John Paul II's 1998 Motu Propio "On the Theological and Juridical Authority of Episcopal Conferences" (Apostolos Suos, 24), a Bishops' Conference may not normally interfere in any individual Bishop's authority in his own diocese. And, however much support any such statement might have garnered within the USCCB, it would most certainly never have not been unanimous, which it would have had to be to be issued by the Conference with the kind of doctrinal authority, to which "the faithful are obliged to adhere with a sense of religious respect to that authentic magisterium of their own Bishops" (Apostolos Suos, 22). 

One would think that those limitations would have been sufficient to discourage what must seem to many to be a strange, manifestly partisan, dangerously divisive, and pointlessly quixotic effort, which would accomplish nothing in terms of eliminating the evil of abortion, while reinforcing the perception that this whole issue has increasingly become less about life and more about partisan political advocacy.

Now, however, a direct intervention from the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has seemingly signaled a further bright red light, signaling "Stop." The "red light" came in the form of a letter from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the CDF, to Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, current President of the USCCB. The text of the letter does not seem to be accessible as yet, but several sources (Crux, America, NCR) have reported on it.

As reported by the above sources, Ladaria's letter reiterates earlier guidance requiring two stages of dialogue - first, among the bishops themselves, then, between bishops and Catholic politicians in their jurisdictions - and warns that the "possible contentious nature" of a national policy might "become a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United states." The letter also advises the U.S. Bishops "to dialogue with other episcopal conferences as this policy is formulated in order to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church." Given that no other national episcopal conference is comparably preoccupied with this issue, it may seem fairly obvious what lessons might likely be learned from dialogue with others outside the U.S.

Ladaria's letter also advised that any statement on this subject "would best be framed within the broad context of worthiness for the reception of Holy Communion on the part of all the faithful, rather than only one category of Catholics [politicians], regarding their obligation to conform their lives to the entire Gospel fo Jesus Christ as they prepare to receive the sacrament." And it pointedly states "it would be misleading if such a statement were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics."

Obviously, the debate is not about the Church's definitive teaching about abortion and euthanasia, about which there can be no legitimate dissent. Rather, the debate is about what practical political and legal approaches ("prudential judgments" in Church speak) may be most appropriate and effective in this particular pluralistic, non-confessional, secular society, in regard to which an authentic dialogue between religious and political leaders as recommended by the CDF letter would be most desirable. Indeed, a return to real dialogue about these moral, political, and legal issues among citizens in our society would be most desirable, in place of the current "culture war," tribal shouting match.

Meanwhile, within the Church, it remains the laity who are primarily responsible for political life and whatever degree of relative justice political life may at its best aspire to achieve. President Biden is not another Saint Louis IX. Nor, as president of a modern secular state, does he enjoy Louis IX's less saintly successors' authority within the Church. One of the features of the last century and more of Church history has been the progressive exclusion of lay public officials from roles of leadership and authority within the Church, thereby diminishing an entire dimension of lay representation and practical wisdom, which had been until relatively recently a taken-for-granted aspect of Catholic life. That said, Biden is certainly the most publicly prominent Catholic in this country - and (after the Pope) perhaps the most publicly prominent Catholic in the entire world. That prominence poses challenges, but it remains more an opportunity to be valued than a problem to be dismissed.

The first comparably prominent layman to exercise leadership and authority in the Church was, of course, Constantine. According to one wonderful legend, Constantine challenged the Novatian Acesius, asking why he separated himself from communion with the rest of the Church. Acesius said he objected to the Church's leniency in allowing certain Christians whom he considered sinners to participate in the sacraments. Constantine responded: Place a ladder, Acesius, and climb alone to heaven.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Unlocking the Cage



As more and more Americans get vaccinated, it is now clearly time - or at least very close to time - for most of us to start trying to live somewhat normally again (whatever "normal" might actually mean in a post-pandemic world). As someone who has not entered a restaurant since March 7, 2020, nor been to a movie theater, I need to hear that message as much as anyone. About 14 months ago, as the covid-19 pandemic spread uncontrollably and seemed poised either to kill us or totally take over the lives of those it didn't kill, we did the only thing we could. We responded by locking ourselves in a cage, guarded by distance, masks, and an abundant, obsessive-compulsive, overuse of hand sanitizer. That all made perfect sense at the time.

But that was then, and now is now. Thanks to the scientific miracle of highly effective vaccines developed with unprecedented speed, it is possible to stop the transmission of the virus - assuming, of course, people all get vaccinated. Sadly, many people around the world do not yet have that opportunity, and until they do the virus will to some extent remain a a real and permanent threat to all of humanity.  Sadly, too, there are many who now have the opportunity to get vaccinated but have not done so for political reasons. The only morally response to that is to require proof of vaccination - for schools, for example, much as has long been the case with regard to other vaccinations.

But, back to my problem. After 14 months, it has become easy to stay inside and not go anywhere. Too easy. And, all too often, the impression has sometimes been given that getting vaccinated makes little difference and that one should still maintain distance, wear a mask, etc. Of course, as long as there are unvaccinated people among us, some of those precautions may still make sense in certain settings. As long as I can't be confident that absolutely everyone on the bus has been fully vaccinated, I want the bus to require everyone to wear a mask. That makes sense.

But it also makes sense to start unlocking one's personal cage. Once you have been vaccinated and your family and friends as well, what then should you be doing? For sure, still wear a mask on the bus - for society's sake. But, as importantly, take that bus and go somewhere!


Sunday, May 9, 2021

Living Lies



“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz [Cheney] is not the best fit,” according to Ohio Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the nine other Republican House members who, with Cheney, chose to acknowledge their Emperor's lack of clothes and accordingly voted to impeach President Trump in January. Clearly, lying is indeed now a prerequisite for whatever passes for "leadership" among the Trump personality-cult that is the contemporary opposition party. When Utah Republicans booed their Senator and 2012 presidential standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, who as senator twice voted to convict Trump, they called him (of all absurd things) a "communist." Romney responded “aren’t you embarrassed?” Obviously, most Republicans are not.

Indeed, whatever one thinks of the "severely conservative" (as he called himself in 2012) Romney (of whom I am no more a fan than I am of Liz Cheney, neither of whom could I ever imagine voting for), he is obviously no "communist." Calling rival American politicians "communist" was always a bizarre and unprincipled tactic even in the worst years of the Cold War. Its evident absurdity three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union just exemplifies even further the  fantasy world which the Trump cult increasingly inhabits and its commitment to lies and more lies. One of the many ironies of our current crisis is that that Trump cult's organizational expression in the contemporary Republican party, in its sectarian character and its indifference to truth, increasingly rather resembles the only actual "communist" entity of any remaining significance still in existence, the Chinese Communist Party. And both seem to be devoted to Lenin's infamous call to employ "a language which sows among the masses hate, revulsion, and scorn toward those who disagree with us.”

The overused (and at times tiresome) terminological distinction between being both/and as opposed to either/or nonetheless has some real meaning and value in politics. A healthy, well balanced society needs both its left and right wings, both progressive advocacy and cautious conservatism. If the Left's political purpose is to push society forward towards a more just and equitable future, the Right's role is to steer society prudently according to the truth of human nature and the lessons of human history. Even if the United States somehow survives the Republican party's Trumpist abandonment of constitutional democratic norms of governance (a survival which is by no means a certainty at this stage), the absence of anything resembling a serious conservative opposition party has already decisively damaged American politics for a long time to come.

(Photo: The Emperor's New ClothesIllustration by Vilhelm Pedersen, Hans Christian Andersen's first illustrator.)

Friday, May 7, 2021

Making Sense of Mother's Day


A friend of mine once characterized Mother's Day as "a conspiracy of florists and greeting card companies." It is hard to disagree completely with that characterization; but, as with most such witticisms, it gets the story only partly right.

A more pointed critique would be that Mother's Day (and Father's Day and, for that matter, the way we obsessively "honor" our veterans) are all examples of our very American tendency to "honor" people in symbolic, virtue-signaling ways, which are completely contradicted by prevailing public policies. Somehow a society that falls all over itself to "honor" mothers every May manages to have the least pro-family, pro-mother, pro-child policies of any other comparably advanced society.

This disconnect may matter more than ever right now, when the Great Recession followed by a global Pandemic have highlighted the hopeless dysfunction and inequality in our society and the damage done in particular to children and families. And, speaking of children and families, have we not noticed that marriages are fewer, family-formation is down and our national birthrate is shockingly low (the lowest since 1979)?

So maybe Mother's Day might be reimagined as an occasion for actually thinking about (and eventually doing something about) this disastrous state of affairs. In which case, all the money spent to enrich those florists and greeting card companies might turn out to be well spent!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

What Would Karl Say?



When I was in college and grad school in the late 1960s and early-mid1970s, Karl Marx, who would be 203 years old today, was all the rage - in particular, the writings and ideas of the so-called "Young" Marx - the Feuerbachian transformer of Hegeliansm and theorist of Entfremdung ("alienation"), popularized by "Frankfurt School" critical theorists like Theodore Adorno, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, and Jurgen Habermas. Simultaneously critical of both capitalism and of Leninist communism, and turned on by existentialism and Freudianism and whatever else seemed to fill in the gaps, my generation of students absorbed the vocabulary and some of the substance of the "Young" Marx's critique of society, starting with Ludwig Feuerbach's critique of religion.

Even then, however, the real-world prospects for any transformation of the world in any way that even remotely resembled Marxist categories appeared increasingly unlikely - and, if any thing, even less so after the collapse of the pseudo-Marxist Soviet regime two decades later.

As my one-time mentor Sheldon Wolin wrote in 2004, Marx's "predictions of the inevitable collapse/overthrow of advanced capitalism by a successful working-class revolution seem a relic of nineteenth-century romanticism. Instead of a steady growth in proletarian power, let alone in revolutionary ardor, organized labor underwent a dramatic, seemingly irreversible decline during the latter half of the twentieth century, suggesting that it is the workers who have been defeated - but by a different revolution" [Politics and Vision, Princeton U. Pr., 2004, p. 407].

Back in my day, "old left" ideas about proletarian revolution were giving way to "new left" alternative "revolutionary" identities, much as traditional liberal and social democratic commitments to the working classes have since been replaced by the vagaries and superficialities of "woke" progressivism.

Yet Marxist language and categories continue to enjoy a remarkable shelf life. For me, what remains interesting and viable from the historical wreckage of Marxism is what was perhaps Marx's main observation and insight - his recognition and appreciation of capitalism as the ultimate global agent of modernity's destruction of all that preceded it. 

As Ferris Jabr wrote in last Sunday's NY Times Magazine, "significantly elongating life without sustaining well-being is pointless" ["How Long Can We Live?"] Analogously, that is what global capitalism has done, it has radically improved human productive capacity, while radically altering and undermining the spiritual and moral dimensions of human life and the political character of society, thus preventing the political order from remedying the damage inflicted by capitalism on its citizens and (as we have more recently come to appreciate) upon our common home, the natural world. Thus, to quote Wolin again, Marx "set out to probe the question of why the state failed to promote that generality of shared advantages and burdens for its members which, according to Hegel, was the true mark of the political [p.412].

That probe remains the preeminent challenge for any post-capitalist political theory, as, analogously, the post-capitalist practical political challenge must be to rebuild a constituency to maximize rational political action and to minimize capitalist market mystification that disempowers citizens, as the governing political orthodoxies have been doing in American politics since 1980.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Slowing Down the Conclave



Alberto Melloni, professor of history of Christianity at the University of Modena/Reggio Emilia, has written an interesting and provocative piece in the April 24 issue of The Tablet, "How to Elect a Pope," in which he argues for reforms in the current conclave procedure. He makes some very valid and useful points. Unfortunately he begins with an apocalyptic scenario, which he says "demands an urgent revision of the rules," a scenario the risks of which he himself acknowledges no revision in the rules would effectively eliminate.

Melloni worries, rightly, that "well funded and well organised lobbyists and campaigners" and "powerful pressure groups or the emperors of social media" may in effect wield the infamous "veto," which Catholic monarchs wielded in papal elections as recently as 1903. His greatest fear seems to be the "revelation" of some supposed past behavior "rendering a newly elected pope unsuitable for office," the very thing that was attempted in 2013 when accusations were thrown against the new Pope Francis about his behavior during Argentina's 1970's "Dirty War." He is right that all such risks cannot be eliminated, and my guess is that, barring the highly implausible election of a very young, totally unknown prelate, who had never said or done anything of note, such scenarios will be increasingly likely, because that is the world and media universe we are now living in.

That said, Melloni does raise some other important concerns and does make some very sensible suggestions to address them. At present, we have more cardinals than ever, from more far away places than ever - a far cry from when there were only a few cardinals all or most of whom lived in Rome and participate in the government of the Church. At the same time, the cardinals seldom meet together, and have not done so now for some time. This means that a conclave could be composed of cardinals most of whom do not know each other and have little experience of interacting with one another. That alone would make it hard for them individually to decide whom to vote for and for sufficient votes to coalesce around an appropriate choice. All of which seem to highlight Melloni's fear of outside pressures in the pre-conclave.

So Melloni proposes that the cardinals (all of them, including the non-electors) should all live together at Santa Marta from the time they arrive. This would help them get to know one another and hopefully offer "more opportunities for genuine dialogue." Less logically in my opinion, he then proposes to restrict the general congregations to the cardinal electors alone. This might make the meetings somewhat more manageable in terms of size, but might also diminish the quality of the discussion by eliminating some of the most experienced voices. He further would exclude all cardinals over 75, further diminishing the pool of experienced participants. Had such a rule been in force, we would, of course, have no Pope Francis and would have never had Pope Saint John XXIII (and possibly no Vatican II). I am all for reforming the process, but not necessarily by reducing either the number of participants or the number of papabili.

To my mind, his most important proposal and the one most likely to produce real benefit is to start with only one ballot per day, gradually increasing the number if the conclave continues beyond a few days. As he points out, the two 21st-century conclaves "each lasted less than 28 hours." Quick conclaves please the press, but do not promote deliberation and discernment and do not necessarily benefit the Church. They favor obvious front-runners, especially so given the already mentioned ignorance so many cardinals may have about one another and about the multiplicity of options they might have if they took the time to consider them all. 

I am sure some might fear that a longer conclave would give the impression of a Church divided and conflicted (which, of course, happens to be the case right now anyway, something everyone already knows about). To me, that is either a rationalization for our contemporary shortened attention span or yet another unjustified concession to the media and its politicized and sensationalized agenda. In fact, I think a conclave that lasted as long as a full week might well offer the necessary opportunities for deliberation, debate, and discernment, which really should be the point of a conclave.

Melloni's bottom-line is that he wants to avoid the risks to the Church posed by conclaves "such as we had in 2005 and 2013, run according to the same rules and in the same conditions, but with a group of cardinals even less familiar with each other, and perhaps even more emotionally exposed and vulnerable to external pressures and manoeuverings." On that, I think, he is right.

Most modern popes have tinkered with the electoral process. Pope Francis would do well to slow down the next conclave by implementing Melloni's proposals regarding the number and frequency of ballots.


Sunday, May 2, 2021

Discernment Now as Then


The Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 2, 2021.

Every day during this and every Easter season, the Church at Mass reads from the Acts of the Apostles – the evangelist Luke’s account of how the Risen Christ’s parting gift of the Holy Spirit transformed a small group of 120 disciples into a missionary movement that spread from Jerusalem to Rome and how that small Jewish sect became a world Church with a universal mission.

To us who already know the larger story, the Church’s growth and expansion may seem like a natural development, both obvious and inevitable. Back then, however, it was one learning experience after another. And one of the leading figures in that process was Saint Paul, who makes his first Sunday appearance in this year’s Sunday selections from Acts in today’s 1st reading [Acts 9:26-31].

At that point Paul – then still known as Saul – was not yet the leading figure he would soon become. In fact, when he first tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem, they were all afraid of him, not knowing that he was a disciple. That was hardly surprising, given his recent history as a ferocious persecutor of the new Christian movement. As we all know, our past actions often linger with us long after we would like them to be forgotten. (Not for nothing have some argued for a "right to be forgotten" in social media!)

So what we now take for granted, namely that every new member of the Church needs a sponsor, turned out to be the case even then for Saul, who was, in effect, sponsored by Barnabas, who took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and in effect testified to them that Saul’s conversion was the real deal.

I think this episode raises an interesting question which in some sense is always with us. How do we remain open to the possibility that God is telling us something new or doing something unexpected, while at the same time distinguishing what is truly from God from what is not, what is authentically holy from what is transient, temporary, a passing fad, or just plain false? Not for nothing has Pope Francis warned against “all those forms of ersatz spirituality – having nothing to do with God – that dominate the current religious marketplace.”

In the current environment, it is easy to observe how politics decisively defines the identities of more and more Americans, and how for many one's religious affiliation - one's identification with a particular denomination or with a specific faction within that denomination - is determined increasingly by one's political identity. Whereas once upon a time one's religious beliefs might have been thought to form - or at least inform - one's political positions, nowadays the reverse seems increasingly true.

Hence the importance of what is classically called discernmentAnd so we speak, perhaps sometimes too simplistically or casually, of discerning one's calling in life, or of discerning what God is calling us to do in new situations as they arise in our lives. Acts illustrates how the apostolic community did its discernment – by looking at the results. Anticipating John’s injunction in today’s 2nd reading [1 John 3:18-24] that love is not just about word or speech but about deed and truth, Barnabas told the apostles about Saul’s encounter with the Risen Christ and confirmed its authenticity by the evidence of the genuineness of Saul’s personal transformation and what Saul was newly contributing to the Church's life and mission. As Saint Therese of Lisieux famously said: “Love proves itself by deeds.”

As a practical matter, that is one more obvious reason why being – and remaining – connected with the larger Church community is so important, lest we grow isolated from the experience of others in the community and lose the much needed sense of perspective which we get from interaction with others and learning to appreciate their experiences. Saul had been personally called by the Risen Christ to become his apostle. Even so, Saul still had to have his credentials validated, so to speak, by the judgment of the authorized leaders of the Church, who in turn based their judgment on what the Church community was actually experiencing with Saul, as attested by Barnabas.

As Jesus’ farewell address in John’s gospel illustrates [John 15:1-8], the future for which we hope is already present in our union with the Risen Lord – a union which is not Jesus and me alone, or Jesus and me and my friends alone, or Jesus and me and my political party alone, but rather Jesus and the entire universal Church, toto orbe terrarum ("throughout the whole world"). The choice for a life in union with Christ is a choice of a life of communion with Christ’s Body, the Church, within which we are both welcomed and challenged, forgiven and fed, taught and transformed.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Joseph Opifex



From pre-Christian springtime fertility festival to the day designated by the Second International for its Marxist-themed workers' holiday, May Day has been all things to all people. In 1955, Pope Pius XII tried to compete with the Communist workers' holiday by establishing a new liturgical feast of Saint Joseph the Worker (Sanctus Joseph Opifex). While the new festival failed, obviously, to outperform the more popular May Day, in the process it did displace in the Catholic calendar another relatively modern feast, that of the Patronage of Saint Joseph, celebrated in the 19th century on the Third Sunday after Easter and in the 20th century on the Third Wednesday after Easter. Pius XII's ineffective innovation still survives - somewhat vestigially and not much noticed - in the contemporary calendar. That said, its annual occurrence in this Year of Saint Joseph offers another occasion to consider Saint Joseph's significance. 

In 2005, the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI (whose own name was, of course, Joseph) made the best of what the calendar offered, somewhat counterfactually calling this observance in honor of Saint Joseph the Worker "a liturgical Memorial very dear to the Christian people." Recalling how it had been established "to highlight the importance of work and of the presence of Christ and his Church in the working world," he expressed his "hope that work will be available, especially for young people, and that working conditions may be ever more respectful of the dignity of the human person." Sixteen years later, after a world-wide economic recession, a pandemic, and other more prosaic efforts by global capitalism and the elites it enriches to diminish further the power of workers and all respect for the dignity of the human person, Pope Benedict's words seem as significant today as they were then. The approaching 130th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's famous encyclical Rerum Novarum two weeks from today further highlights the need for new responses to these persistent problems which have particularly characterized the past 40 years.

(Photo: Saint Joseph's Altar, Saint Paul the Apostle Church, NY, NY)