Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Archbishop, His Mother and New York

I have a newspaper cartoon which I cut out years ago and hung up in my basement. It pictures two men sitting on a mountaintop, one saying to the other, "I'd have attained enlightenment long ago if only I had listened to my mother." I thought of it, when I listened to Archbishop Timothy Dolan's first interview on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral on Monday. He told news reporters, that his mother told him, regarding his big move to New York, "Trust in God and just be yourself and you'll be fine." Good motherly advice. But this is New York so I would add the following advice, "Choose your words wisely, the world is listening." 
I enjoyed watching the video of the news conference. I think the archbishop will be great for New York, he has a great style and a good sense of humor. In my humble opinion, he should get out there with the people, walk the streets of NY and get a feel for the amazing energy and diversity in the city, which makes it one of the greatest cities in the world, if not the greatest.
I go into the city often as I love art museums and New York is a great cultural city. Recently I went to the International Center for Photography on the Avenue of the Americas. I saw the exhibit of the photographer-Edward Steichen: In High Fashion-The Conde Nast Years-1923-1937. (I love old photographs and I have a great photograph of my father when he was a child, as well as others, that I cherish.) This exhibit contained 175 works from the Conde Nast archives. There were vintage photographs of writers, movie stars, models and movie directors. I was especially interested in studying the faces of the writers. They had a different look, deep and penetrating facial expressions, which fascinated me. 
Walking the streets of New York will be an education in itself, if the new Archbishop decides to do that. People watching is a great pastime in New York and you can learn a lot from just observing New Yorkers. It won't take long before the Archbishop realizes there are young people from all over the U.S. and the world living in New York neighborhoods. They are everywhere and as I've mentioned before , some are Catholic, as everyone knows. Now whether they are practicing Catholics is another story. So that is one great challenge for the new Archbishop..... how is he going to reach out to the thousands of young people living in Manhattan neighborhoods, right near him? Of course, he also has to reach out to the people Upstate, in S.I., and elsewhere in his archdiocese. But the young people of Manhattan, who've moved from the boroughs, the suburbs and from towns and cities around the country and elsewhere are busy working and doing lots of interesting and fun things in Manhattan...but are they practicing their faith? A fair question and a great challenge. I believe we have to offer prayer experiences for young adults that would appeal to them, such as evening prayer, lectio divina and also social justice projects. I'm sure parishes are already doing creative things to attract young adults in their midst. 
God is very much alive in New York City. Faith and belief has always been important to New Yorkers. New York is important to people of various religions. There is tremendous faith in NY. But there is also secularism and it's part of the culture here too. And sadly, it's growing. I'm not sure how to do it, but evangelization efforts need to concentrate on young people living in New York. They're creative, intelligent, young, with lots of energy...if all that energy could be utilized for good, for social justice projects, for building and deepening faith, then that would be a great thing!

An interesting quote-
If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.     (John D. Rockefeller, industrialist, philanthropist-1839-1937)