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    A View from the Pew

    An Epiphany on the Feast of Epiphany at St. Malachy's, NYC 

    Feast of Epiphany, January 9, 2012

    Drawn to St. Malichy’s Church ( in New York City for many years now, my husband Pat suggested that we celebrate the 5:00 pm Vigil Mass yesterday at the church otherwise known as The Actor’s Chapel after spending Saturday in the Big Apple. (Mass also occurs at 11:00 pm for the convenience of both artists and those who enjoy their performances. Curtain down; Eucharist up.)

    St. Malachy’s Church on 239 West 49th Street sits on across the street from the Eugene O’Neill Theater, which currently houses the hit musical ‘The Book of Mormon’, which I found completely ironic. If you want to see this award winning Broadway show, plan to wait for at least two years for tickets. Would that ALL of our churches clamor with that kind of success because of the irresistible nature of the beauty of our liturgies through the ministry of the arts.

    At St. Malachy’s, you can anticipate a warm welcome from the greeters and the priests who meet  a diversity of Catholic visitors from all over the world and from St. Malichy’s parishioners. Countless actors and actresses and a deeply committed Arts community continue to gather in this church on Broadway for over 100 years history, worshipping God who “brings together the sense of the good and the beautiful, awakening the energies of mind and heart, which brings together the sense of the good and the beautiful.” – from The Way of Beauty, Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists (April 4, 1999).

    Musicians, artists, dancers and actors will find this pearl of a chapel particularly appealing. Icons of St. Cecilia and Blessed Dina, patrons of musicians, St. Genesius, patron of actors, St.Vitus, patron  of dancers and Blessed Fra Angelico, patron of artists all nest within their own niches just left of the portal. Within their Universal Prayer in the liturgy, St. Malachi’s always includes  the call for vocations to the ministry of the arts. I always find myself moved and profoundly grateful for my own call as a composer, musician and author. I’m in good company.

    Pat and I celebrated the Vigil Mass on the Feast of the Epiphany with a full house of Catholics who responded robustly, sang with gusto and worshipped heartily assisted by the prayers and music found within St. Malachy’s worship aid. The music program included the Regent Square as a gathering hymn (Angels from the Realms of Glory) and an expertly sung Penitential Rite, which gifted cantor Nathalie Dalziel, a young Westminister graduate plunging into the New York City opera scene led from the choir section with no microphone device. We heard every bell toned note she sang along with perfect diction from this vibrant and very pleasant young woman who discreetly led us in sung prayer. Everyone responded without a hint of hesitation.

    I also found Nathalie’s chanting of the Gloria on a single note of particular interest because of its innovative accompaniment by proficient and personable assistant organist David Ball, an undergraduate organ major at Julliard. The music program also included a Proulx psalm setting and sung from the Ambo, the Gregory Murray Gospel Acclamation, the revised Community Mass with a Danish Amen and a Latin Agnus Dei. Christmas carols appropriately served as the hymn for the Preparation of Gifs and Communion Procession. An expertly executed prelude and postlude affirmed my belief that good music keeps ‘em coming. Well done, David and Nathalie. St. Malachy’s must be so grateful that you serve them as pastoral musicians. I know I am!

    Ordinarily when we visit the Actor’s Chapel, the pastor, Father Richard Baker, presides. A very dynamic and charismatic man with many pastoral, teaching and administrative skills, we always enjoy worshipping with him. However, yesterday proved to be an exception. Pat and I met Fr. Edward Beck, C.P., a Roman Catholic priest of the Passionate Community in Pelham, NY who assists at St. Malachy’s. In addition to authoring three popular books published by Doubleday (God Underneath, Unlikely Ways and Soul Provider), conducting workshops and retreat on spirituality and a regular commentator on religion and faith for national news networks like CNN and Fox, Fr. Beck serves as the program host of Focus on Faith on the ABC Now Network and is executive producer and host of The Sunday Mass, a national broadcast. He told us that we could watch a televised Mass from St. Malachy’s every Sunday at 6:30 on ABC Family Channel. I plan to tune in next week before I head into Boston to do music.

    Obviously very comfortable in his role as a presider and preacher (I told him so after Mass), Fr. Beck’s homily took the Feast of Epiphany in an unexpected direction. He spoke about the people who dream and those who kill dreams, citing public figures whom we associate with that metaphor - John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, Jesus– all killed because they dreamed a vision of peace, justice, equality and love. Hope slain by naysayers. Three men from the East who defied logic and envisioned a child-king that prompted them to follow a star -- and then the dream killer, Herod, followed the dreamers and attempted to assassinate them. Those who dream and those who kill dreams.

    As I listened to Fr. Beck’s insightful homily, he caught me off guard. “I don’t know where you are in your lives,” he said honestly. “Some of you may be experiencing financial difficulty, or problems with spouses or children or other relationships. Maybe you’re out of work or you have health challenges. “ He went on to say that wherever we are in our lives, this feast day of Epiphany brings us a star of hope in a Child that brings the light into a world of darkness, no matter what it is and no matter who tries to kill our dreams. And then I had a thought.

    Sometimes the ‘killers’ of our own dreams lie within us and wait to ambush us when we seem to be the most vulnerable. We hope for wellness; despair can kill our optimism. We hope for just wages and work; dejection  can paralyze self confidence and kill our desire to move forward. We hope for right relationships: insecurity may break down communication that kills potential reconciliation. We hope to fashion a new world through creative ventures; fear of failure freezes our attempts and kills our enthusiasm.

    I suggest that often times, the dream slayers often times come from within us, our bosom enemies that wait to steal our dreams like dementors through fear, envy, greed, self pity, despair - all the snipers that kill our hopes and dreams for a life lived within God’s reign. In short, I had an epiphany on the feast of the same name. Thank you Fr. Beck. I think I needed to hear your words today.

    I thought about St. Malachy’s as we met with our friends Joe and Kathy Menino in the city after church. Both actors, authors and artists with many years of experience between them, Joe and Kathy dream a just dream that all people should experience live theater no matter the cost. They accept no payment as members of their theater board, insuring that the actors and musicians they hire are paid just wages while they go without. Further, they accept payment for the shows at the Phoenix based on what people can afford. Great theater for an affordable price for those who may not be able to experience live theater. Now that’s a dream worth dreaming and what St. Malachy’s prays for on a weekly basis. (For more information on Phoenix Theater Ensemble, go to 

    I thought about St. Malachy's as we applauded a newly married couple processing down Broadway across from Sardi's in their wedding regalia, European style and dreaming the dreams that young lovers do when they begin life together as husband and wife. 

    I thought about St. Malachy’s as I accidentally (and fortuitously!) met Marilyn Maye ( and Lainie Kazan ( two goddesses of the Performing Arts for years as they lived the dream of entertainment as an art form. Miss Maye and her staff graciously invited me to Feinstein’s on April 24 to see her show to mark my 60th birthday and celebrate a new phase in my own life as an artist. I plan to do just that. Koinonia at its best – genuine hospitality on the streets of New York.

    I thought about St. Malachy’s today as I remembered the beautiful music that helped me to pray yesterday through the efforts of two young, hard working and dedicated musicians who love and serve the Church on a weekly basis while dreaming of life on a stage or an organ position in a college.

    I thought about St. Malachy’s today as my seven month old nephew was initiated as a Christian, making his mother’s dream of her family life as a Roman Catholics take shape in our midst. It doesn’t get any better than that.

    Epiphany occurs daily, employing our dreams of hope and possibility if we can remember that Christ is the light that led three men from the East to worship a child born in poverty and powerlessness.  If we can rely on that light and take a different route past the assassins that try to consistently steal our joy as they try to prevail through terror and supremacy, as Herod attempted, then we really can create the reign of God here and now, in this time and place.

    Dream on. Try to stay out of the line of fire.