Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Supplemental: Christmas at Home

It was over Thanksgiving and now this visit home at Christmas that I begin to realize how much I dislike the parish and church I attended while growing up. I'm not sure precisely when it was constructed - maybe 1970 - but it's one of those bland modern buildings that feels soulless and cold. Having visited and experienced these 50+ Manhattan churches (old and modern alike) with their beautiful architecture and wonderful sculptures and divine stained glass images and artwork, my old church on these visits home leaves me with such an emptiness inside after attending Mass here. Of course, I attend with my family and this is always a welcome change to my journeys alone in the city; and the priests at my old church often have good things to say; but as I look around in the middle of the service and am greeted with blank beige brick walls, ugly red carpeting, stucco-esque ceilings and two statues buried back in the recesses of the church, I feel deflated and soon enough drab and bland and blank all over.

Is it some kind of vibrancy I've found in these city churches that attracts me so, compared to the bleakness of these other holy houses buried in the suburbs of the rest of the country; or is there something exceptionally bad about the church I grew up with? Or is psychology somehow more involved and I just relate the first 20 years of my life, Catholicism shoved down my throat, with this building, and thus harbor no good will towards it. Soon after I left home, and escaped the bonds of my church's monotony, did I happen to wander into exceptional churches, or were they just "not" my old church?

The little Catholic hogan on the Navajo reservation, with it's scent of burning sage and wood, and the Jesuit priest from Chicago - that was a very special church. But then again, there was St. Joseph's in the middle of the western suburbs of Chicago that I loved - that place was certainly suburbia church bliss at it's finest. The church I found in Africa, where I tried to attend once a month, a lone white man among a family of Indian Catholics - that was certainly a great experience. Finding myself away from home and family I always feel more intensely bonded with the Catholic services that I attend and am sometimes inundated with the desire to return home and experience these feelings with my family at our parish church - but always returning there for holidays or special occasions or months-at-a-time long sabbaticals from my life I can never appreciate any of the good things my church offers, only it's uninspiredness - it's blah factor.

The emptiness of the church decor is sometimes reflected in it's parishioners. And there's such a whiteness about them too. I hate to be an asshole here, but as a friend and I were reflecting on it the other night, the church doesn't offer a single Spanish Mass - and I'm from a city that's more than 30% Hispanic! It's a mystery to me about my church, but I can only think this mystery exists in so many other towns around the country.

My best friend in NYC, who comes from my same hometown, calls the place Krypton, and vows never to return here, minus the occasional funeral he must attend. I, myself, have always tried to think about the best parts this place offers, yet this time around I'm finding it a harder and harder feat to accomplish.

My hometown leaves me feeling this emptiness and I desire to return to the city and my life there to see where it leads me. Surely, the best part of my old town and the only reason I return is my family's presence - I grieve when I am away from them and I am saddened I cannot take them with me.

The Sunday after Christmas we attended a different church in town than we usually do - this one resembling a more traditional, classic church decor - and one I have become familiar with in NYC. I felt more at home here than I ever did in my old church and the priest was quick and brilliant. As it was the Feast of the Holy Family, he drew everyone's attention to a stain glass at the back of the church - Jesus in the temple with Mary and Joseph looking on. He made a point about families and values - meal times together, respect for one another, togetherness, etc. And I stared at it and loved it and got what he was talking about.

As I leave my family in a few days and go back to my life I carry them and all they mean to me with me. I will remember what this priest said, using the Holy Family as my model for what I want to have one day in the future and what I want to become.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

50. Church of Our Saviour (Now the Parish of Our Saviour, Saint Stephen and Our Lady of the Scapular, and the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary)

NOTE: In 2015 this church merged with two churches: Our Lady of the Scapular & St. Stephen Church and the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary of St. Stephen as part of the Archdiocese of New York's great closings & mergers of 2015. Only this church and the Sacred Hearts Chapel will remain open for regular Masses and other events. This combined parish is now called the Parish of Our Saviour, Saint Stephen and Our Lady of the Scapular, and the Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. 

(mass times & church info last updated 03/31/2016)
Address: 59 Park Avenue (at 38th St.)
Phone: 212.679.8166
Weekend Mass Times: 
Sat: 5pm (English)
Sun: 9am, 11am (Choral), 5pm (all English)
Weekday Mass Times: 
Mon-Fri: 7:45am, 12:05pm (both English)
Sat: 12:05pm (English)
Sat: 4:30pm-4:55pm
Sun: 10:30am-10:50am
Mon-Fri: 7:10am-7:40am
Fridays after the 7:45am Mass: 8:15am-11:55am
Official Website
About the Organ
Yelp review
Panoramic Photo Viewer (pretty sweet)


For the past three Sundays of Advent, I revisited two of my very favorite churches in the city: St. Paul the Apostle and Ascension.

Finally, having some time after finishing moving and my work slowing down right before the holiday, I was able to go explore a new church. Per Bill's advice in my first entry, I decided to see what the midtown east Church of Our Saviour offered.

It is precisely as he mentioned - small, elegant and beautiful. The Christmas decorations accented the aesthetics wonderfully - and it was nice to gather in here, away from the cold snowy weekend, on this Saturday night before Christmas.

It was kind of a cozy feeling in this church on this cold night - partly because of the warm colors inside the building, but also it's smaller size than a lot of the other midtown churches.

The priest, I assume it was Fr. Rutler who I keep reading about on the web, had an intense and dramatic tone with which he delivered the sermon. I can say his words were very good and very thorough. Sadly, this Saturday night mass did not offer any music, I wonder if the Sunday services are accompanied with any.

I attended this church tonight with my girlfriend. Things have been good with us lately and though all these thoughts race through my head - fears, anxieties, pressures, and of course, a young man's angsty madness - most all of our steps together are steps forward and as time goes on I feel better and better about us.

We recently saw the theatre company Dzieci's performance of Fool's Mass. Has anyone ever seen this? It was an incredible experience. It's a play about how a group of "fools" (village idiot types, idiot savantes, etc.) in the 16th century attempt to carry on with a Mass after they discover the priest has died right before it's about to begin. We kind of wandered into this, not knowing what to expect, worried it would be either offensive to the mentally handicapped or sacrilegious. In my opinion, it was neither. In my opinion, it was a near perfectly done spiritual slapstick exercise - and it had a good point about religion and God and we lowly ones down here on earth in all that we do to honor God. Most of all, however, it was funny. I laughed my ass off and often couldn't stop. I have not laughed this long or this hard in quite some time. I'm not sure if it was my own 30 years of pent-up Catholicity finding some (ir)reverent release, or the sheer cleverness of the actors' buffoonery - but there was some magical mix in their performance and I loved it. When I wasn't laughing out loud or struggling to hold back my laughter during the more solemn moments, there were tears streaming down my face - mostly from the laughter and of joy, but some from the pure sweetness of the message of this very real and brilliant comedy of errors. It was like an enjoyable and poignant comic sermon.

Next Christmastime, if you have the chance to see Fool's Mass - go see it. After enjoying it so much in the company of my girlfriend whose tastes run a bit more conservative than mine, and my married friend who claims he is an atheist, and witnessing them enjoy it as well, I think whatever your tastes and whoever you are, you will most likely enjoy it and get something out of it as well.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Supplemental: Halfway

I have now ventured out and visited over half of the Catholic Churches on this damned and blessed island - though recently not with any sort of intended regularity because of life's distractions.

1) Work.

Attempting to work a lot, save money and climb out of debt as this bad winter of an economic crisis swallows us whole - I hear it will continue for about the next five years. This house of cards we have built up with our debt is falling down upon us, and I am to blame, like so many others, having spent and traveled and drank my own share away. We have all become prodigal sons and daughters. We have done fucked up. I am trying to rectify my own situation, paying it off a penny at a time.

2) Moving.

Nearing the top of my list of 10 hardest things to do in life is finding an apartment in NYC. What a pain in the ass! It combines all the insecurities and self-doubt of job-seeking with all the insecurities and self-loathing of entering into a relationship. Like a job hunt, you don't know if you've got what it takes for them to accept you. And like a relationship, you're looking for that impossible perfect match that you'll most likely never find.

I've only been searching less than a couple weeks, but all the pain and duress that I underwent two years ago finding a place have rushed back upon me. The search should be easy enough: we know what kind of place we want, we know where we want/have to live, and it's currently a renter's market out there. But oh how I forgot the stress one endures on this search! You find something great that you think will work and some other dope comes along and steals it out from under you. Or you find a kind of perfect place that no one else seems interested in and you struggle to figure out what's wrong with it - knowing full well it's only a matter of time (hours after you move in, probably) before you're all too likely to discover the reason.

Twenty-five blocks further north, downsizing a bit, paying a little less, taking on an additional roommate. Isn't life here in this towering institution a little insane? I'm 30 years old and I need roommates to survive! Doesn't adulthood suggest one be living and sustaining life on their own or at least with a spouse? And here I am in a three bedroom, two roommates, paying a fortune (considering,) don't own a car, certainly don't own an apartment or a house, live far from my family, looking for a job that suits me better than the one I currently have, and filled with so much doubt - wondering if this is the life I am supposed to be living.

3) Women.

I don't even know how to describe what's going on in the relationship I find myself in. We've been arguing - about what I've no idea. I can't tell if we go well together or if we're just trying to tell ourselves that we do.

She can be sweet and good and wonderful but then there is this other side that conflicts with the very basics of my human getup. She seems to lack a kind of passion that my soul screams a necessity. I don't know for sure if she is hoping in the future one day to build a life together, or is simply going about planning her life and allowing me to be a part of it.

Will this year be just another Christmas gift exchange with another beautiful face I will not go on to live my life with?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

49. St. Mark the Evangelist

(mass times & church info last updated 04/24/2016)
Address: 65 W. 138th St.
Phone: 212.281.4931
Weekend Mass Times: 
Sat: 5pm (English)
Sun: 8:30am (English), 11:15am (English), 5pm (French & Creole)
Weekday Mass Times: 
Mon-Fri: 12:15pm (English)
Confession: anytime by request
Official Website
Mark the Evangelist (Wikipedia)
St. Mark (Catholic Encyclopedia)


I have to say, I am very happy about the results of this week's election. Still though, only about 62% of the voting population actually voted - I do wonder what the results would have been if everyone had cast his or her ballot.

As someone prayed today aloud, Lord, hear our prayer to give President-elect Obama guidance and wisdom in all that he does, and watch over his family that they remain safe. This too is my prayer this week and over the next four years, and I encourage you to pray the same.

St. Mark the Evangelist is a small, older parish in the heart of Harlem. It's a mainly African-American parish. The hymns were sweet, there's a big feeling of community here, and of course peace time was so enjoyable as everyone in the congregation walked around offering a sign of peace to one another.

Something lifted me out of my funk this past week and whether it was the election results or prayers said for me or my spiritual advisement session or a combination of the above, I don't know. I realize that lately spiritually I have been selfish. I've neglected prayer for others and I need to work on this. I feel that so many people are praying for me and I need to return the karmic favor to them, my friends, loved ones, and the world.

Today was the dedication of the Pope's cathedral - I learned that this occurs every November 9th. Today it correlated with the Gospel about Jesus and the money-lenders in the temple, as well as St. Paul's letter about the body being a temple of God. It carried special meaning for me today having lately so focused much of my attention on these holy buildings in this city. These readings carry so much layered meanings if you think about yourself as a place for the Lord, the many churches across the land as places for the Lord, as well as the Church itself a place for the Lord. Many, and one. Together.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

48. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

(mass times & church info last updated 04/29/2016) 
Address: 448 E. 116th St.
Phone: 212.534.0681
Weekend Mass Times:
Sat: 5pm (English), 6:30pm (Spanish)
Sun: 8am (Spanish), 9:15am (English), 10:30am (Latin), 11:45am (Spanish), 1pm (English), 2pm (Polish)
Weekday Mass Times:
Mon-Fri: 7am, 9am (both English)
Sat: 9am (English)
Confession: upon request
Sacred Heart Devotion: First Fridays: 9am
Our Lady Devotion: First Saturdays: 9am (Mass, Novena, Benediction)
Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
Carmelite Spirituality and the Practice of Mental Prayer
Devotions to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

What is with me lately? It's taking far too long to post my entries, and I seem to not have as much to say either (or is it not that much to complain about or to verbalize my fears and anxieties about?)

Why am I still journeying to these churches? Since dating my recent girlfriend I find myself torn these Sundays. Either continue my ramble around the city from holy house to house (alone) or attend with her, at her nearby church - a great one by the way, one I reviewed with zeal. I certainly enjoy attending with her but feel it's slightly more a social outing and less of a spiritual emotional experience - the kind I have when going to these strange new places alone. I have asked her to attend new churches with me, but she prefers her own parish week to week and doesn't quite grasp why I do what I do even though I've tried to explain it's one way I search for and discover God - through each new church, religious art, stained glass, and experience.

So today I traveled to the East Side's Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. It's a convent and a church. Not sure what I was expecting, but once I entered this church I was very happy for coming. Another beautiful church and this one seems like a secret somehow, tucked away far east on 116th.

But upon sitting down with the services beginning I began to space out (it was a Spanish service, something I typically enjoy but today just made me feel aloof.) There was quite a few people gathered in the congregation but participation in the service seemed low. Come Communion time most of the assembled did not go up, and me in my daze waited and waited and waited, expecting a point when everyone would stand up and go receive, and it never came, and I just sat (or kneeled - can't remember) and did nothing and missed out on Communion

I attended a service I could not understand, missed out on the part that brings me the most peace and joy, and did not even enjoy the "socialness" that my friends did attending their parish. All of this lead me to question why am I doing any of this? What is it proving? Is it helping me spiritually or not? Is it gaining me anything? Should it?

The financial crisis our country is now facing me plagues me as does the upcoming vote - both play constantly on my mind. We are an indebted nation full of indebted people who have bought more than we can afford with money we do not have. It is my fault as it is your fault and ultimately some kind of sin. Greed? Worse?

Things are bad.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

47. St. Charles Borromeo (Now Church of St. Charles Borromeo & Chapel of the Resurrection)

NOTE: In 2015 this church merged with the Church of the Resurrection as part of the Archdiocese of New York's great closings & mergers of 2015. Both places of worship continue to be open for regular Masses and other events. This new combined parish is called the Church of Charles Borromeo & Chapel of the Resurrection.

(mass times & church info last updated 03/31/2016)
Address: 211 W. 141st St.
Phone: 212.281.2100 or 212.281.2100
Weekend Mass Times: 
Sat: 5:30pm (English)
Sun: 8am, 9:30am, 11:45am (all English)
Weekday Mass Times: 
Mon-Sat: 8:30am (English)
Confession: Sat: 5pm-5:20pm
Miraculous Medal Devotion: Mondays 9am
Sacred Heart Devotion: Fridays 9am
Holy Hour Devotion: Saturdays 4pm-5pm

Official Website
Harlem's Cathedral
St. Charles Borromeo
St. Charles Borromeo School


This is a very modern church sitting in the middle of Harlem - very different looking than the many other churches I've visited here in the city. I think that it would be a very different experience if I came back here on a Sunday - there is probably a lot more energy. As it was, this morning there were only about six of us gathered together. It's a unique place for sure. I wish I could enjoy it more but I'm quite distracted.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

46. Church of the Good Shepherd

(mass times & church info last updated 03/10/2016)
Address: 608 Isham St. (Broadway & 208 St.)
Phone: 212.567.1300
Weekend Mass Times: 
Sat: 5pm (English)
Sun: 8:30am (English), 10am (Spanish / Choir), 12pm (English / Choir), 6pm (Spanish), 8pm (English)
Weekday Mass Times: 
Mon-Thu: 7:30am, 12pm (both English)
Tue: 7:30pm (Spanish)
Fri: 7:30am (English), 12pm (Spanish)
Sat: 12pm (English)
Confession: Saturdays: 4pm
Holy Days & Vigils: 7:30am (English), 12pm (English), 7:30pm (Spanish)
Church Constructed: 1912
Official Website
About the Organ

This is the northernmost Catholic Church of Manhattan. And a very pretty parish.

I went to the 8pm Mass tonight and I have to admit the churches that have these later Sunday Masses are so convenient - except this one being so far away kind of negates this. If you by chance live in the Heights or up here in Inwood you should definitely drop by. The entire church is constructed from a beautiful white stone - and being inside makes one feel like they are in a giant hall - or some grand carved cavern.

This weekend I found my church excursion to bring me to a neighborhood I had never visited only passed by (one of the reasons I began this strange pilgrimage in the first place) - Inwood. The neighborhood is kinda wacky. I got off the subway and was confused by the swerving Broadway takes to the west. The scenary was a mixture of peoples, traffic, bodegas, businesses and nice little restaurants. Confused at first and finding myself a little lost I was a little hesitant to be walking around this part of Inwood at night on my way there. However, on the way back I realized there was nothing to fear - it's a nice area. Of course the unknown is the only thing to fear and hopefully by the end of these journeys I'll have covered every neighborhood in Manhattan and then perhaps move on to another borough.

I have somehow stumbled onto the most mature relationship I have ever been in. And it perplexes me on a daily basis - perhaps because this kind of thing is new to me.

I'm not sure if there's been a change that has happened within me; maybe there has always been an internal spiritual, physical and emotional connection that our hearts, minds and bodies knew about immediately before we were able to comprehend what was going on; or maybe all the timing of life has just gotten right - I'm not sure. All I know is that this thing I'm in - it still could turn out to be very special and right - I just need the patience and understanding to see it through.

Of course, I don't doubt that it could go all wrong as well. I just need to wait and see. And to pray. And to receive prayers.

By the way, I thank you for them.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

45. St. Paul (Now St. Paul's - Holy Rosary)

NOTE: In 2015 this church was set to merge with Holy Rosary Church as part of the Archdiocese of New York's great closings & mergers of 2015. This combined parish is called St. Paul's Church - Holy Rosary. Only St. Paul's was to remain open for regular Masses and other events, however it seems that regular Masses are indeed continuing at Holy Rosary during this transitional period. If you have any news about this merger please feel free to write in the comments section at the bottom of this post. 

(mass times & church info last updated 03/22/2016)
Address: 113 E. 117th St. (near Park ave.)
Phone: 212.534.4422
Weekend Mass Times:
Sat: 5:30pm (Spanish)
Sun: 9am (English), 10:30am (Spanish), 12:30pm (English)
Weekday Mass Times:
Mon-Sat: 9am (Spanish)
Tue-Fri: 7pm (English)
During the Masses and during office hours
Mon-Sat: 8am-9am
Fri: 8am-7pm
Official Website
About the Organ


I think this is one of the first churches I ever visited in New York. I used to have some friends that lived in an apartment over here in Spanish Harlem and one Sunday morning, waking up on the couch after one of their parties, I dragged myself into St. Paul's for Mass.

Today I attended the Saturday morning Spanish Mass. Once again, I could not understand the language but I sat there and reflected on things and prayed silently and took in the beauty of this large church.

The pews are the old-timey kind with individual pull down seats.

This is a good place for prayer.

If ever I thought or feared I was an alcoholic I should have have told myself to be patient and await my 30th year on this earth. What used to be so much joy and exaltation is now turned merely into a costly tiresome exercise that almost bores me and certainly does not deliver to me what once was certain elation.

I have a bad feeling that the girl I have been seeing will seriously end up hurting me.

What should my litmus test be to discern whether she and I are compatible? If I'll be able to be what she wants? If she is what I am even looking for and need? It's not possible, is it, to find out all these things before too much time passes and an overwhelming amount of energy and emotion is put into it?

And it's too bad if things don't turn out all right, as I had really been starting to convince myself she may be the one. But I feel she is holding back, pulling away and I am perplexed as this is something I usually do myself and have not in a long time been on the receiving end.

Is this relationship karma? Am I being put through the pain and the process that I myself have enacted on others?

We shall see.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

44. Church of the Incarnation

(mass times & church info last updated 03/23/2016)  
Address: 1290 St. Nicholas Blvd. @ 175th St.
Phone: 212.927.7474
Weekend Mass Times:
Sat: 5:30pm (English), 7:30pm (Spanish)
Sun: 8am (English), 9am (Spanish), 10:30am (English upper church), 10:30am (Spanish lower church), 12pm (Spanish), 1pm (Spanish), 1:30pm (English)
Weekday Mass Times:
M-F: 8am (English), 12pm (Spanish), 7:30pm (Spanish)
Sat: 9am (English)
Confession: Sat: 4pm-5:30pm
Adoration: Fri: 4pm-7pm
Official Website
About the Organ
The Incarnation

Rushing out of the apartment today, I forgot my camera and what a shame because this is a really beautiful church (So I had to depend on my Blackberry camera again - shame shame shame!) I have been to this church before when I was staying in Washington Heights and for some reason I had never experienced what I did today: realizing the absolute gorgeousness of the stone of the building and the clarity of the stained glass. Perhaps this was because it was a little far to walk down the discombobulation of St. Nicholas Avenue - due to the other worldness of the place - it seems like such a different country here in this part of the Heights. In the past, I have also been down to the basement for a Spanish Mass one Sunday morning which was one of the most celebratory experiences I've ever had in my Catholic search of New York. The main church reminds me of the Cloisters. It is simple and grand stone, lovely, peaceful.

Yes, these days I am finding some peace. Most of the times.

All I do I do to seek the Almighty. Too often I error and merely seek out more worldly pursuits, those things that lead me to a selfish sense of some kind of euphoria: that high that drinking or drugs delivers; mere earthly pleasures like the gluttony of too much food and drink; escape into the awful and misinformed mirror that is television and pop culture. But going to these churches I feel I am honestly seeking out, in some kind of honest yet unrealized manner, the Almighty...

In a recent Anne Rice interview I was watching, she recounts how she visted the churches of Brazil without any clue as to why, until later she realized it was because of her own journey seeking Christ.

So I seek and seek and I seek. And always I continue seeking. And the reason for this is all too often a kind of loneliness that abides in me that I can never quite get away from.

It was brought up to me a few weeks ago, around the same time as the idea of receiving three wishes each time you enter a new church, that as we humans face our loneliness, perhaps God too has a kind of loneliness. Perhaps this is why we were created in the first place. If you think about how we are made in God's image (and this should be taken to mean as sentient thoughtful creatures as well as any of our physical manifestations, that every thought, feeling and emotion is somehow reflected in the Almighty as well, or more likely God's feelings reflected in us,) then it is not ridiculous to ponder that God too may feel lonely at times.

Recently I had my first impulse to flee from my, what has so far been a going-somewhat-very-well, relationship that I find myself in. Is it fear of loss or failure? Is it something biological and forever ingrained? Can it be helped?

Thankfully, the feeling passes and I remain because I wish to remain because I know there is something meaningful I have found here. Even when she and I slip into some kind of uncomfortable awkwardness - one where we don't seem to be on the same plane - that inevitable boy-girl relationshipness, I so far choose to stay and not run, even though something in me screams to flee flee flee. Why is it that at the beginning when we enter into relationships we project so much of what we want, as opposed to really seeing the beauty that is there to begin with? We all have these plans and desires and when we find something that is good we can't always take it at face value for the goodness that it offers, we always want it to give us more of something that exists in our imaginations, that we want but don't necessarily need, that we think could be better.

Why do we do this?

Why can't we just be grateful for what we do have?

Why do we suffer from this awful human condition?

And have all these feeling existed since the very beginning, somewhere within our Creator?

additional photos...
Rereading my post from that day back in September of '08, I realize I should certainly have fled that relationship as soon as I even had an inkling there were problems. Instead, I ignored that little voice that we should all strive to listen to as often as possible. The voice that is always there, guiding us for the better.