Msgr. Lisante and Our Lady of Lourdes
Newsday published a couple of articles about a situation at Our Lady of Lourdes in Massapequa Park and their new pastor Msgr. Lisante. The second article can be read here. The controversy boils down to: Msgr. Lisante had invited Fr. Blockley - a priest from the South Pacific to assist in the summers for the past eight years at Lisante's former parish -St. Thomas the Apostle in West Hempstead. When Msgr. Lisante was made pastor at OLL Blockley was invited to help out this summer. Fr. Blockley however was not in good standing with his Diocese and did not have his Bishop's permission to be here. Bishop Murphy expelled Blockley from the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Meanwhile, there was a statue of Our Lady of Fatima that was removed from the left side of the sanctuary after 25 years and this also caused an uproar. I have a few observations:
1) Shame on Msgr. Lisante for not following the procedure for bringing in outside priests to the Diocese. This is standard procedure and especially important after the priest scandals exposed in 2002. When tens of thousands of Catholic mothers, fathers, and grandparents have to attend classes on prevention of child abuse in order to volunteer at parishes, all because of the actions of priests and bishops, it is simply incredible that a priest cannot follow procedure. And shame on the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle for not discovering the status of Fr. Blockley sooner and exposing it. While Fr. Blockley is not accused of anything (he seems to be on the outs with his bishop on issues not relating to children or anything criminal), it is very important to make sure priests are in good standing.
2) The removal of a statue from a sanctuary is usually not a good sign. There are those who would love to remove any sign of traditional Catholicism in our Churches but I thought this had pretty much ended in the 1990's. However, OLL was always a weird looking Church - a modern design with traditional things thrown in there by people attempting to make the Church look Catholic. The result was a hodgepodge, so having the statue moved may not have been so bad.
3) The Newsday article mentions bloggers associated with the parish so I did some digging around and discovered Save Our Lady of Lourdes. From this blog I learned a couple of more things: Apparently, chairs were put in front of the altar and the altar crucifix was removed. If this is true then this is a shame. I was never fond of the sanctuary of OLL or the Liturgies celebrated there. But the altar crucifix was a positive. Chairs do not belong in front of any altar and most parishes with this arrangement were corrected in the 1980's and 1990's.
4) Msgr. Lisante is a good priest and very personable. I hope his abundance of talents can help him lead the parish of OLL and pull the parish together. So far, if he has authorized or done these changes, he is off to a very bad start.
5) The Save Our Lady of Lourdes blog has some excellent posts on restoring traditional aspects of parish Churches. It rightly calls for a complete overhaul of the sanctuary. I hope Msgr. Lisante will look into some of this, although I don't think he is of the Benedict XVI mindset of the 'hermeneutic of continuity' when it comes to Liturgy and Church design.