Monday, October 29, 2007

3. St. Paul the Apostle Church

(mass times & church info last updated 04/24/2016)
Address: Corner of Columbus Ave. & W. 60th (Office: 405 W. 59th. St.)
Phone: 212.265.3495
Weekend Mass Times:
Sat: 5:15pm (English, cantor)
Sun: 8am (English, cantor), 10am (English, choir), 12:30pm (Spanish, Coro Hispano),
5:15pm (English, Young Adult MassYA Choir)
Weekday Mass Times:
Mon-Fri: 7:30am, 12:10pm (both English)
Sat: 8:30am (English)
Sat: 4pm-4:45pm
Tue, Thu: after the 12:10pm Mass
Fri: after 7:30am Mass w/ Benediction at 12pm
Servicio de Oracion Para los Enfermos:
Ultimo viernes de mes 7:30 p.m. (Septiembre a Junio)
Official Website
Beautiful Architectural Images of St. Paul's
About the Organ
Wikipedia Entry About St. Paul's
Paulist Fathers Website
Wikipedia Article On Isaac Hecker, Founder of Paulist Fathers
Wikipedia Article About St. Paul
Daily Catholic Bible Readings
Busted Halo

During the academic year, this church offers a great 8pm Sunday Mass for Fordham University (Lincoln Center Campus) and the congegration during this Mass is typically a mix of students and non-students alike. I'm not a student and I enjoy it very much and I always see young couples with children and older people attending as well - so I assume those that go enjoy it for the same reasons I do - it's a peaceful way to wrap up a weekend/start up the week. As I mentioned in my last entry, those Sunday night masses always make me prone to an emotional experience. The three priests that I've seen when I've attended this church before have all been great (though one reminds me a great deal of James Lipton from Inside the Actor's Studio.) The church is beautifully decorated and the architecture is thrilling (consult above links to find out more.) So once again, the Mass provided some stability in my (lately) crazy and precarious life and by the time I entered into it's soothing atmoshphere right before the priest walked down the aisle, I was practically yearning to be there, sitting kneeling praying, waiting to take Communion and feel more at peace than I had been. Again, as always, it's girls, booze and Mass that are twirling around in my head.

On Saturday I attended a daily Mass and Benediction again (that same girl was there from last week - and yes she offered me as much distraction as she had before.) The first reading came from Romans, Chapter 8: "For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit." As soon as I heard it, that word "flesh", my mind dwelt on those things I have concerned myself with of late - worldy, fleshy things. My desire for the spirit is strong still, but with each action I take towards the worldy, I am killing that other more beautiful part within myself. "The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace. For the concern of the flesh is hostility toward God; it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Not only do my actions kill me, they are hateful towards God, who I strive to love. "But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you."

My head was spinning from a week that eventually spiraled away from me. My two good friends, both devoted and loyal Red Sox fans, called me out with them on Thursday to watch World Series Game 2. We found a nice chill pub in the West Village and as I was drinking some beers with them I began snapping out of the terrible, wretched feeling and mood I had been in for the last 3 weeks. Into the 5th, Boston was doing well, a great Flamenco guitarist from Spain was playing on stage, we were laughing and I walked up to the bar to grab another beer when I met her. In stage plays there's that moment when the action is suddenly focused on just one character and slowly the rest of the stage fades away and a hard spotlight hits the protagonist of the moment - that's what it was like. My friends and the game and everything else in the bar went away, went dark, and it was only her and I there, chatting each other up, both of us having already drunk too many and just beginning to drink too many more. Later I turned around just in time to see my friends leaving for the night. Her and I kept it up and ended back at her place and I woke up there in the morning.

"You are not in the spirit..." What grief I put upon myself! My intentions are typically to do what is right and often moral, so how is it I allow myself to slide and willingly go with her? In the past I have behaved in far simpler and far more innocent ways and felt horrible about it, Catholic guilt and all that. This time, nothing. It becomes worse. Saturday night I found myself in Williamsburg at a Drive-By-Truckers show. After the show I was headed to a friend's Halloween Party, but I was just quickly stopping by this one bar with my friend who had gone to the show with me. On my way out of that place I ran into another girl - literally almost ran into her and we suddenly had our arms around each other and before I knew it I was ditching the party, everything was going dark, I was heading home with her and once again spiralling away. "...on the contrary, you are in the flesh.

"...the concern of the flesh is death..."

Additional photos...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

2. St. Francis Xavier Church

NOTE: In 2015 this church was part of a list of churches in danger of merging with other churches or closing altogether as part of the Archdiocese of New York's great closings & mergers of 2015. This doesn't seem to have happened and this church remains open for regular Masses and other events. If you have any news about this merger or lack thereof please feel free to write in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

(mass times & church info last updated 04/04/2016)
Address: 46 W. 16th St. (Between 5th and 6th)
Phone: 212.627.2100
Weekend Mass Times:
Sat: 5pm (English)
Sun: 9am (Family Mass), 11:30am, 5pm (all English)
Weekday Mass Times:
Mon-Fri: 7:45am, 12:05pm (English, in the Mary Chapel)
Sat: 12:05pm (English)
Confession: Sat: 1pm-2pm
Official Website
Architectural Images
New York Times article on the church
Catholic Encyclopedia article on St. Francis Xavier
Wikipedia article on St. Francis Xavier

This church (as in the building) has been around since 1882. It is big; the pews have this great polished old quality about them; the entire structure strikes me as solid - a kind of firm cornerstone or foundation of faith for this neighborhood. The acoustics are good, the music sounds great within it and it's just all around comfortable and classic all at the same time. There are many decorations around; statues of various saints look down upon you from so high above you cannot tell who they signify. Large fresco paintings of the stations of the cross line the perimeter of the church. It really was quite a nice experience. I attended the 5pm Sunday service this evening and there was a nice diverse mix of people in attendance. It seems to be a parish that has a lot of community outreach programs as well as programs including focus on the gay and lesbian community, as one may expect from a church in the center of Chelsea.

I slept in this morning - I had actually meant to attend a church other than Xavier but due to a late night yesterday I decided to accept a friend's offer and go to this later Sunday evening mass. It was a good idea too - not sure if it's because the weather is getting a little colder or because the past couple weeks and this weekend have been rough and it was nice to be in the company of friends inside the sanctuary, but there was such a warm feeling I had just being there.

I've felt exhuasted and lost during the past few weeks. This evening in church (as happens often after a long weekend followed with attending a Sunday night time church service before the week rolls into gear again) I felt the emotion of the singing and the desperateness in the air of our America these days and the desperateness in me. I am in such a same state as I have been in the last few years. I am still so full of questions, and doubt; fear, and good intent; laughter, and sin.

Early this past Friday morning I woke up and found myself in our bathtub. Are you surprised? I didn't know what I was doing there either. The last thing I remembered was splashing water on my face in the sink just a foot away - so I surmise I rinsed my face and then just climbed right in the tub, like John in Norwegian Wood. The other thing I remember from that night was a beautiful bartender whose name I was told and then straightaway let slip my mind. When I asked her again, she wouldn't tell me and was quite upset. That was the end of that. I stuck around in that bar to see if I could change her mind and I ended up becoming quite sloshed. Somehow I made it home and into the bath, fully clothed - yet a despicable site nonetheless I'm sure. What am I doing approaching my thirties and acting like a college kid? Or is it behavior more befitting an alcoholic?

Three of my favorite things include girls, drinking and going to Mass. Not necessarily in that order. This is the source of so much questionable behavior in my life. You see, over the past 5 or so years I have spent a lot of time wondering if I should head towards a vocation of priesthood. In my volunteer time in Africa - where I spent near two years alone - I realized that this could never be - I simply knew that I wanted to be married one day. I knew a life without a woman couldn't be for me. It was a kind of two year discernment where at the end I hadn't realized what I wanted to do but rather what I didn't want to do. But the thought still plagues me. My intense joy in attending Mass is one of the things that convinces me I should look into the priesthood. My intense desire to be with girls is what advises me otherwise. The drinking often leads to poor choices concerning girls and this behavior subsequently leads me to entertain the idea of the priesthood once again. And this troubles me so I go back to the drink, back to the girls, back to the church - a bizarre cycle for sure. But one I'm fairly certain will resolve itself before too long.

Reading into a little bit about St. Francis Xavier Church I read that Thomas Merton, while attending Benediction at this church, realized his vocation and that his path lay in the monastery. The other day I attended a Benediction at another church, yet all I could think about was the girl sitting behind me and if I should ask her out for coffee. The Merton tidbit got me to remembering a prayer that he had written that I read over and over again when I was in Africa and which always delivers to me such peace and calm -

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my peril's alone." - THOUGHTS IN SOLITUDE

*Apologies again for the poor quality photos.

additional photos...
**Note: I came here today for the 7:45am weekday Mass and found the main church empty.  I began walking around quietly taking photos, enjoying the newly renovated space and beauty of this gorgeous place.  As I approached the back I could hear a voice.  I made my way toward the sound and discovered a small chapel behind the altar. The voice was that of a priest, and he was celebrating Mass with about ten folks gathered together.  I assume this is where the weekday Masses are probably always celebrated. It was a nice little space with 2 large windows overlooking the neighborhood and some trees.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

1. St. Agnes Church

(mass times & church info last updated 04/01/2016)
Address: 143 E. 43rd St. @ Lexington
Phone: 212.682.5722
Weekend Mass Times:
Sat: 5:10pm (English)
Sun: 8:30am, 10am, 11am (Latin Mass), 12:30pm, 5:15pm, 7pm (all English)
Weekday Mass Times:
M-F: 7:10am, 8:10am, 12:10pm, 12:40pm, 1:10pm, 5:10pm (all English)
Sat: 8:10am, 12:10pm (both English)
Holy Day Mass Times:
Day before: 5:10pm
Day of: 7:10am, 7:40am, 8:10am, 8:40am, 11:40am, 12:10pm, 12:40pm, 1:10pm, 1:40pm, 5:10pm (High Mass), 6:10pm (all English)
Civic Holiday Mass Times:
8:10am, 12:10pm, 1:10pm (all English)
Mon-Fri: 7:30-8:30am, 12:40pm-1:40pm, 5pm-5:30pm
Sat: 11:45am-12:30pm, 4:45pm-5:30pm
Mon-Fri: after the 5:10pm Mass
Sat: after the 12:10pm Mass
Mon-Fri: 1:40pm-4:55pm (with Benediction)
First Fridays: 9:40am-12pm; 1:40pm-4:55pm (with Benediction)
Sacred Heart of Jesus Vigil Mass:
First Fridays at at 5:10pm, followed by Exposition, with Benediction at 7pm
Miraculous Medal Novena:
Mondays prayed after all Masses
Saint Michael Novena:
Wednesdays prayed after all Masses
Sacred Heart of Jesus Novena:
Fridays prayed after all Masses
Divine Mercy Chaplet:
Mon-Fri: 3pm
Vespers and Benediction:
Mon-Fri: 4:55pm
Post-Church Brunch: Frontier Cafe - 39th and Lexington
Post-Church Activity: Chill out in Bryant Park
Official Website
Church basics and specifics about the organ
A Mystery Shopper of places of worship
About the early 1990's fire and rebuilding
Some pictures and interior detail
More pictures
Wikipedia article on St. Agnes

The walk in Grand Central to the Lexington passage is so much better on a weekend morning when the crowds of commuters are not so high in number. As one who undergoes the daily Metro-North grind, it’s a rarity to enjoy the architecture and brilliance of the place because of the usual rush and frenzy of catching one’s train, preceded by a hurry to catch one’s morning cup of coffee and possibly one’s morning bagel with spread or one’s greasy egg and cheese and bacon from Junior’s, and finally one’s Times or rather more typically, one’s AM New York. This morning, however – this Sunday morning – I can take my time and appreciate the excellent space that is Grand Central, as I step through it on my way to attend the 10am Mass at the Church of St. Agnes.

My step today is almost a limp (but not quite) lingering all the way from last weekend's jazz party in Brooklyn where I had departed in fury over this lame chick (obviously, she wasn't lame to me at the time) and stormed down the street kicking everything in sight - from abandoned beer bottles into brick walled sides of buildings to (mistakenly) those black painted and deviously disguised concrete trash cans that my right foot sent nowhere. The next morning a tremendous hangover melancholia hung about me while this raging pain pulsed through my foot. It was Sunday before 10am but that whole week was done before it began - wrath and sadness filled my cup, intruded into my work week, and disquieted my generally tranquil dispostion.

A week later I hobbled out of the Grand Central terminal on my way to St. Agnes', my roommate accompanying me. We found ourselves on Lexington and 43rd, and I could see the cross on the top of the Church of St. Agnes. We walked along 43rd and made it in just in time as the singing was beginning and these were my first thoughts:

The architecture looked very new – the websites where I briefly discerned some info about the church had described it Neo-classical. The fire that occurred here in the early 90’s must have performed quite a number because nothing (with the exception of some of the exterior) resembled something built in 1873. One of the websites detailing the fire and reconstruction had mentioned that (then attorney) Rudy Gulliani, upon seeing the fire from his office window next door, had rushed into the burning church to see if anyone was trapped inside and while there prevented the looting of church property. Very brave of him and though he in no way belongs in the White House in 2009, a tale like that does go to show that there is good in everyone, and great deeds to be done...

Yet, in spite of the fire and loss and because of the reconstruction, it is a beautiful church and there is quite a bit of intense religious art to view. I was pleasantly surprised while taking Communion to confront a painting I just viewed yesterday in the Met - The Holy Family with Saints Anne and Catherine of Alexandria, by Jusepe de Ribera. I had stared at it for a few minutes in the museum as it had caught my eye because, not only is it an incredible work, but it had also been featured in a Sopranos episode I viewed recently - Carmella is overcome with emotion viewing the scene. The one hanging in the transept of St. Agnes contains only the figures of the child Christ, Mary and St. Catherine. St. Anne and St. Joseph are not included. In the museum I was struck by the stern gaze of St. Joseph looking straight at you, into you, the viewer. That look tells me that he is a new father and must already be filled with worry and stress and, perhaps, purpose. He seems to inquire of the viewer, are you ready for this, would you be ready if this responsibility was handed to you? As I had this thought I couldn’t help but smile. My good friend and his wife practice that very naturally planned and very Catholic Rythmn Method. Once a week, in a straightforward and utterly honest manner, he tells me verbatim, I fear I may have impregnated my wife. We have a chuckle that is always followed by an awkward silence and then further chuckling. For the moment, the coast is clear for them but when that time finally rolls around, I think I'll grab my friend and take him to the Met to the European paintings wing and show him this painting and describe to him my thoughts about that stare of St. Joseph.

After Communion, I am calmed and pleased by the painting I just viewed and the beauty of the church I am in; and happy my roommate has come along to share this Sunday morning; and just in general pleased with everything for that moment, right then and there. Nevermind the awful week I feel I just endured or the stress of the work week that is coming around the corner; or the girl from last weekend; or the fact that I lost many hundreds of dollars and possessions when a freak shelf-falling-off-the-wall accident claimed our new TV and laptop. Never mind that – for now St. Agnes' is a very great church to be in.

The websites call it a commuter church and it’s mass schedule is definately set up to accommodate travelers coming in at all times (again, as one who takes these trains into and out of the city, I will definitely keep this place in mind for future daily mass and Holy Days.)

The artwork and statues are beautiful and there is a simple and pretty stone figure of St. Agnes outside the building. I did not catch the priest’s name – he was African and a good speaker. The Gospel was the one about the 10 lepers who Christ heals and only one of them comes back to say thank you. The priest compared these references to leprosy in that day to our current world HIV/AIDS crisis where many millions lay uncared for, neglected and negated. My thoughts (which have such a way of being carried away during the time I spend in Mass – I think I must have a slight undiagnosed case of ADD) turned to my own time in Africa where I fully realized the scale of that epidemic – no, pandemic. There was that one time, that crazy night - driving around with a South African volunteer with the body of an AIDS victim in the back of his truck who we had gone to visit that day and found she had died during the night. And as we drove around searching out a funeral home that was still open and would take her, as we passed the many other homes and shacks, I asked myself how many others were laying and dying behind these walls and closed doors?

My thoughts returned to the present, and I snapped out of my memories, and before long the Mass was completed and I took some time to walk around and enjoy the rest of the church. And after, whether it be the very pleasant day greeting us as we exited, or the simple joy of having come to Midtown and seen a new church, or brunch at the Frontier Cafe, or a nice hour spent in Bryant Park - something finally snapped me out of my putrid and selfish mood I had found myself stuck in all week. Something had come and rescued me and let me know that other things were just around the corner.

*Please forgive the incredibly poor quality of some of the images attached here. For the most part they are taken with my Blackberry camera which I feel is an incredibly inadequate camera for a cell phone these days, especially a cell phone that is as prestigious and expensive as a Blackberry. 

Additional Photos...


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Intro to Catholic Churches of Manhattan

A blog is a glob is a blog.

Hello, and how are you?

When I was out of the country that was when this whole thing hit. What's a blog, we asked each other. I dunno, what's bluetooth? When one has partaken of too much wine, perchance? And then we all came back and realized we would soon be in the thick of it. Blogospheres and social-effing computing. Reality on Web 2.0, on-line gaming that's not gaming because all you do is create an alter-ego, dress it up, spend money on it and walk around trying to impress the other pixelated people you bump into - it's almost too similar to life here in the Big Apple - only less less real. Not the big Apple computer store hidden away underground like some crowded gigantuam treasure chest that too many everyones have heard about on 59th street. But close enough.

This blog intends to be a discovery into the almost 100 Catholic churches that now stand in Manhattan and exist as parts of working public parishes of New York City. The list I am working from comes from the Archdiocese of New York website ( Each week I plan on visiting a new church for the Sunday Liturgy/Eucharist and then writing (sorry, "blogging") about my experience there. However, because this post is serving as the introduction to what this blog will contain, a few warnings...

*I have a friend working as an attorney in the city, he is an old buddy and I respect his career decision - however, I am not one and my research skills would not prove otherwise. While I'll enjoy going to each one of these holy holy places and experiencing the Mass and all that entails and then writing something down here about my trip to them, I do not intend on providing an accurate history or knowledge base of either the building or the area or the architecture or some little story about some dear old woman who has passed 100 years of age and still attends services every single day. If I encounter these gems by chance along the way, sure, maybe I'll include them - but for the most part don't expect too much. If you're a college student doing research on the web, look elsewhere. This site will merely give you location details, mass times and a few words about my encounter with these churches.

*I fully reserve the right to skip weeks at a time without posting.

*I must forewarn that I may occasionally digress from my experiences at the Mass/church into little anecdotes of my own, from either stories in my past that I consider worthwhile passing along, or the common BS that we deal with each week that I feel desire enough to rid myself of by dumping it up on the web with all the other trash, dirt and porn out there.