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.


  1. Hey,

    I just received this in an email. I thought I'd include it because I want visitors to know this church has recently been renovated - redone, afresh, anew.

    I do very much plan to return there soon and take a few great snapshots.

    The Fr. also included a link in his signature for a worthy cause. And if you are reading this you should probably check it out. God bless...

    "Just when you thought you were finished…

    The Church of St. Francis Xavier has just reopened after extensive renovation and refurbishment. You might want to do a return visit.

    Thanks for your blog. God bless.

    Fr. Jim Van Dyke, S.J.
    * * *
    -The Hunger Site is a site that I have been supporting since late 1999. It is legitimate, and takes no more than a click on your part. Please check it out and, if you can, support it. And pass the word on to friends.

  2. I love this blog. Thanks for taking the time out to do this. Honestly, I used to be the EXACT same way as you. I would think about becoming a nun and having the peace that comes with it but I'd end up getting sloshed on the weekends and losing stuff (credit cards, lip gloss, ID) along the way. Soon I was thinking about becoming a nun again but would end up in the same cycle over and over. I realized that I'm just a really passionate person that feels a lot and enjoys feelings in a very profound way. Whether that was spirituality or feeling completely free after drinking a few on the weekends. I ended up just growing out of it. I realized that the longing to be a nun was just me trying to find an escape to the frustrating and depressing search for a life partner. I just thought it would be much simpler if I could dedicate myself to something so good and just have my life mapped out for me, in a way. No more feeling lost. Well, now I found that special someone and I really stopped acting like a crazy drunk on weekends because I literally grew out of it. But, that being said, if I didn't have my life feeling more settled now I'd still be hanging off the corner of the bar, dancing in the street, and considering a vocation. So there you have it. I live in NYC and have no one to go to mass with so if you ever want another Mass going friend, let me know!

  3. Ok Andrew, Day 2/Church 2 for me (August 2nd , 2011) stopped by St. Francis Xavier(1st time there in 10 or 11 long years(used to work around the corner from there)went through a personal crisis back then, wish I was a stronger person then.

    Now a few jobs later work in Chelsea. The place looks great(mini-cathederal) like.
    Do not like the fact there are glass doors and I need to be buzzed in the middle of the day to pray on my lunch hour, however, I got in easily. Left a note(on the notebook they have) what a cool concept praying for a family member and for college basketball coach I respect going through cancer.

    FYI the church is next to Xavier(one of the best) all boys catholic high schools in nyc. Jesuit run I believe.

    Keep up the site, will check another church either tomorrow or on Thursday.

  4. Has anybody stayed at the overnight shelter they

  5. I went to Xavier HS in the 1960's. I commuted from Rockland.County and sometimes would arrive pretty e as rly. Often I would find a priest saying mass at one of the several small sltars and serve as altar boy. The last time I was in the church was in 2005, when it was in the midst of renovation. And I read in Merton's Seven Storey Mountain that his visit to St. Francis Xavier played a role in his decision to convert.