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
Email: church@stagneschurchnyc.org
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...



  1. Very nice words about the painting. Hahaha... perhaps you are unconsciously discerning Your purpose
    Today is the Feast of St. Benedict. I'm not from New York but I shall pass by St. Agnes for mass now on my way to Grand Central Terminal. Thanks for the info on St. Agnes. Now I know where to go. Cheers!!

  2. Hi there,
    Interesting blog. You have overlooked one of the City's most attractive Catholic churches: the Church of Our Saviour on 59 Park at E.38th. St. From the flavor of your commentary, I think you will find visiting the smallish, elegant church fulfilling.

    Bill Powers

  3. Thanks, Bill. Will have to check it out soon. Cheers.

  4. Dear Andrew, I absolutely love your blog. I've spent years, I feel, on looking for something like that! Let me explain. I'm a model and a photographer (both careers going extremely well). I grew up in Europe (many countries - my mother is a journalist). I loved visiting their beautiful churches, worshiping there and drinking up their visitors' faith and devotion and respect for the divine that seemed the be ingrained in their DNA! Then I came to the US and I found many people that love God too, but I was missing the beauty of European churches. Long story short, I started a project a little more specific than just visiting and finding beautiful churches in the US. (I've visited about 100 of them - in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and even NJ!). My project is finding beautiful sculptures of saints. I photograph them in the way them brings them to life.

    I've studied historical amazing women in midieval ages and women of the Bible at Berkley University, and I've been so inspired by them - not by Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan, as the girls of today are inspired by. I wand to capture the beauty of the sains in New York churches and make a portfolio for the people in my industry - people in contemporary arts and fashion. I want to show that they are waaay more moving than any Kate Moss can ever be. And inspiring and timeless!

    If you are interested, I'd love and appreciate beyond words your help - did you find any statues in the churches you've visited so far that stood out as particular beautiful (they can be extremely simple) and moving?

    Thank you so so so much in advance!

  5. Hi, Thanks for your comment.

    Right off the top of my head St. Catherine of Siena had statues (little chapels, maybe) of saints which struck me as spectacular - each had their own dedicated space - it's an amazing church if you have not seen it either way - I definitely suggest it: 411 East 68th Street @ 1st Ave., 212.988.8300

    If I think of more I will let you know - most of these churches I've been to have great statues. Oh - St. Jean Baptiste has a statue of St. Anne that I adore: Lexington at 76th St., 212.288.5082



    Good luck!

  6. In answer to your observation about the newness of the church, I believe it was almost a complete rebuild - the fire in 1992 was devastating to the building and to the faithful - I remember that day as my office is a few blocks away. T

  7. Thank you for your blog! Now I know where to go to church in Manhattan, very near to my hotel.
    All the best and God bless!

  8. In 1965 I came to NYC to work for Pan Am,and happen upon St Agnes, on my way to work. It became my daily stop and the pastor,a gentle, happy priest, always made my day. The church was a welcoming place. What fond memories...


  9. My German Ancestors were members of the parish in 1878 shortly after it was built. They lived only two blocks away on East 42nd Street. I was very pleased to learn that the parish hosted Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen's radio and televison broadcasts.

  10. At some point in early 1964, I dropped into St. Agnes for mass. I'd never been there before. I must have entered through a side door, because on the opposite side, in my immediate field of vision, was a huge, freshly-painted mural of John XXIII and JFK walking hand-in-hand into heaven. The priest was an old curmudgeon who spent half the sermon rattling off what was on sale in the gift shop.