Sunday, December 16, 2007

10. St. Joseph of the Holy Family (Harlem)

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 04/24/2016) 
Address: 405 W. 125th St. @ Morningside Ave.
Phone: 212.662.9125
Weekend Mass Times:
Sat: 5:30pm (English)
Sun: 8:30am (English, Family Mass), 10am (English, Gospel Mass), 12pm (Spanish)
Weekday Mass Times:
Mon-Sat: 9am (English)
Tue: 7pm (Spanish)
Fri: 7pm (Spanish)
Sat: 5-5:30pm (Or any time by contacting the rectory)
Fri: 9:30am-6:45pm (Benediction at 6:45pm in Spanish)
Official Website
St. Joseph of the Holy Family School
St. Joseph, Protector of the Holy Family
Novena Prayer to St. Joseph
Prayers to St. Joseph
Catholic Encyclopedia
St. Joseph's Day Altars
Link to a painting of a beardless Joseph by Raphael
Wikipedia: Advent
Wikipedia: Advent Wreath
St. Joseph (Battery Park City)
St. Joseph (Chinatown)
St. Joseph (Greenwich Village)
St. Joseph (Yorkville)


I chose this church for this third Sunday of Advent because last week at St. Jean Baptiste, the priest said that along with the four weeks of Advent, there are four main persons in the Gospel that are important to the whole idea of Advent: Jesus (of course), John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph.

A group of my friends threw a Christmas Party last night - we are the remnants of our two years in Africa. Some of us, landing in New York city after our "tour", maintain contact and friendship and decided it is important that even though we represent a kind of dysfunctional family - in that we are a group of people bound together from a common fate and decision, who do not always get along or see eye to eye but in the end what we have is each other - we should continue getting together at least once a year at Christmas. So we got together and celebrated and gave gifts and pretty much tied one on. And this morning, hungover as I am, I still drag myself to church because I feel I must - regardless of the "Catholicness" of me and any rules or rites or rituals that tell me it must be so that I attend church once a week, this New York city experience and the 96 churches laid out before me is my "must". It's my goal now, and sometimes it's all I have. And if you think that's sad then you've never been where I am before - a crossroads that you've lead yourself to be at from decisions that you always felt with your heart should be made, but now, looking down the next three paths you wonder if it's time to finally let regret begin sinking into your heart.

I walk into St. Joseph of the Holy Family church, just off the M60 bus - the ground is snow and slush covered, it's cold and brittle out and frankly feels fine. My head is full of fuzz and every part of my body is tired and screams for sleep. I slink into a pew and wait - I have about 10 minutes before service begins. Despite my drunken ailments, it is peaceful in here and I am glad to be here. There are several St. Joseph churches in the city - of course, he is a special Saint in the Catholic mythology. He took on a lot of brave responsibility, didn't he?

I kneel for a few moments and the ringing of the bells begins and though I know I've heard bells ring from churches on Sunday mornings in this city before, I don't quite remember it being like this - like that Poe poem - bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells.

They just keep ringing and ringing and I'm pretty sure it's not my head but outside - in that cold brittle air, from atop the church, a great ringing, a pronouncement, a presence in the neighborhood. The ringing goes on and on until the beginning of the service - bells bells bells bells bells bells bells.

The priest - who I think must have been Fr. Kelly - is once again, a dynamic speaker who walks amongst the congregation really involving them. At one point he even asks a young girl to spit out her gum and jokingly admonishes a few nuns sitting nearby for not assisting.

This is just one of the hundred parishes in Manhattan - but truly there is a special feeling here. This is a nice little church sitting up in Harlem, easy to get to by car or public transportation, kind of a gem sitting right on 125th street.

Additional Photos...

Attended 9am Saturday Mass this morning and again I heard the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells!

For some reason I've always liked this church a lot, even before the first time I wrote about it for this blog. I think I had found it previously, if I recollect correctly, and to me it's always seemed peaceful — a respite away from the regular hustle and bustle of 125th street.

Only one strong thought strikes me today: Like Joseph of the New Testament and for whom this church is named, I have been having very intense and powerful dreams of late; very vivid and detailed. But no visits from angels yet, I think.

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