Sunday, March 30, 2008

22. St. Benedict the Moor (CLOSED)

NOTE: As of April 2016 I heard that this church closed about a year ago. I'm not sure if this was due in part to the Archdiocese of New York's great closings & mergers of 2015. If I am mistaken or you have any further information on St. Benedict the Moor church either continuing to be open or not, please let me know by leaving a comment in the comments section below. If you're looking for a similar nearby church to this one, check out Sacred Heart of Jesus parish.

(church info last updated 04/04/2016)
Address: W. 53rd St. (between 8th & 9th)
Phone: 212.265.5020 (Sacred Heart of Jesus' phone number)
St. Benedict the Moor
Catholic Online: St. Benedict the Moor
Wikipedia: St. Benedict the Moor
Hell's Kitchen History

If you call the number above you will reach the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church - again, I believe they are conjoined somehow - if anyone is out there you can post a comment and let us in on the tale - as always, I tire easily of research...

As far as I know there is one Mass offered here at St. Benedict the Moor each week and that is Sunday at 12:30pm in Spanish. This is a small, clean, simple church and one very easy to find peace within. It appears renovated and even though I did not understand the language of the Mass, of course I could follow along with the ritual of the service, and participated in Communion and stuck around and took some photos.

Once again, a very nice NYC church - especially one you should visit if you live in the area and speak Spanish.

Go ahead investigate, there may be weekday services too.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

21. Ascension Church

(mass times & church info last updated 03/07/2016) 
Address: 221 W. 107th St. (Between Broadway & Amsterdam)
Phone: 212.222.0666
Weekend Mass Times:
Sat: 5pm (English), 6:15pm (Spanish)
Sunday: 8:15am (English), 9:30am (Spanish Walkirios), 11am (English/Choir), 12:30pm (Spanish Coro Hispano), 6pm (English/Jazz)
Weekday Mass Times:
Mon-Fri: 12pm (English), 7pm (Spanish)
Wed: 6pm (English)
Sat: 12:10pn (Spanish)
Sat: 4pm-5pm (bilingual)
Friday: 8:30am-7pm (Exposition)
Official Website
About the Organ
NY Times Article 1996


Fr. Duffel beginning the Palm Sunday service on the front steps of the church.


"This is my [prayer], O God of all the nations, a prayer of peace for lands afar and mine. This is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes my dreams my holy shrine; But other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean, and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine; But other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine. O hear my prayer, thou God of all the Nations, a prayer of peace for their land and for mine."

This is My Song, by Stone and Sibelius, a song sung every week at this church.

This is just one small remarkable facet of the services and human interaction as well as global mindset that this church community and parish offers a New York Catholic, young or old, Spanish or English speaking, troubled or not...

I had planned on attending St. Paul's chapel at Columbia - but finding it closed I resorted to this church, I believe my favorite in the whole city. Fr. Duffel, the attending priest is always sharp and brilliant in his sermons and you can see reflected in this church and it's community, his open perspective, spiritual insight and great big heart and welcoming demeanor.

The Palm Sunday service began outside. The Sunday evening 6pm service is a Jazz mass and though the hymns sung are familiar, there is a new spin to them to hear them like this. I don't necessarily like the jazz compared to the elegance of some of these churches organs or magnificent choirs, but there's something quite gratifying in this music and the community that it seems to bring together each week.

This church is tucked away between Broadway and Amsterdam on 107th Street - and it's truly a gem in the great Catholicness of this city. There is the typical amount of weekday services in English and Spanish that one would expect to find.

Rembrandt's "Return of the Prodigal Son" near the altar...


There is also a special Wednesday evening weekly mass at 6pm in English that offers the Novena prayer to Our Lady...

These Wednesday services have anywhere from 5 to 20 people in the congregation and there are two hymns sang at the offertory and close of Mass that I find exceptional. They are praises to Mary and there is something quite Southern about them. The fact that it's typically one or two high or deep voices struggling to bring the rest of the mid-week weary along make them all the greater hymns, not in spite of the struggle but because of it.

Mary Immaculate, Star of the Morning:

Mary Immaculate, star of the morning.
Chosen before the creation began,
Destined to bring, through the light of Your dawning,
Conquest of satan and rescue to man.

Bend from your throne at the voice of our crying.
Look to this earth where Your footsteps have trod.
Stretch out Your arms to us, living and dying.
Mary Immaculate, Mother of God.

We sinners honor Your sinless perfection.
Fallen and weak, for God's mercy we plead.
Grant us the shield of Your mighty protection.
Measure Your aid by the depth of our need.

Bend from your throne at the voice of our crying.
Look to this earth where Your footsteps have trod.
Stretch out Your arms to us, living and dying.
Mary Immaculate, Mother of God.

Mother of Christ:

Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
What shall I ask of Thee?
I do not sigh for the wealth of earth,
For the joys that fade and flee,
But, Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
This do I long to see,
The bliss untold which Your Arms enfold,
The treasure upon Your Knee

Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
I toss on a stormy sea.
O lift Your Child as a beacon light,
To the port where I fain would be,
And, Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ
This do I ask of Thee,
When the voyage is o'er, O stand on the shore,
And show Him at last to me.


Holy Thursday service is my favorite mass of the year. Everything from the focus on the Eucharist to the latin at the end of the service is beautiful and sweet and sacred and intimate.

Ascension church offers all this within a bilingual service. Though I have to admit to not arriving early and therefore having to stand in the back due to the crowd throughout the service and at times becoming annoyed because of this and even impatient with the dual language structure of the event, I understand how great it is that this church offers it and that it's possible for me to even stand in the back, crammed between hispanic men and women and their grandchildren.

Holy Thursday is an amazing service and during one can almost think it's a typical service. Then comes the moment, right after Communion, that your realize something else entirely is about to go on. The lights begin dimming, or shutting off one after another - the priest begins down the aisle holding the Eucharist, incense burning then the Latin singing begins and you are suddenly aware you are in the presence of something big, something grand and immense that's bigger than you, bigger even then the church you are standing in - and depending where you are, that church can be pretty big.

Ascension Church also let the church doors open until 12 midnight this evening, as those who wished, could come and spend some quiet time with the Lord.


Today during the 3pm Good Friday Service I began feeling nearly "churched" out. Last night's bilingual service mixed with this morning's prayer had me kind of exhausted. Then, during the veneration of the cross, something came over me, something turned me so suddenly emotional - I was all caught up in the march of the cross to the altar symbolizing Christ's walk to Golgatha and His sacrifice for us and I was humbled at the simple fact that all we can do is kneel in front of a cross and kiss it's base.

I also joined the Spanish Stations of the Cross procession around the neighborhood from 6:45pm-8:00pm. The singing as we walked in between stations was quite stirring and though I did not understand the language being spoken, I kind of zoned out and meditated throughout the entire walk.

It was good.


The 37 Catechumens at the Easter service.

Well, I did it. I decided to go to the long Easter vigil service. I have to admit that at first, in the dark, reading after reading, I was growing a little tired and wondering what I was doing there - then, there came a moment during the Mass, right after Fr. Duffel baptized a young girl and proceeded to process throughout the church blessing the rest of the congregation, shaking Holy Water on us, there was a Mexican hymn being sung - of course an uproarious, energizing tune - and the Spanish priest on the altar began dancing and it hit me suddenly - there is no need for the sadness, no reason for that cloud hanging over in the light of all we really do have down here and can accomplish and strive for.

There is no darkness in this light.
- - -
additional photos...
(They have renovated the wall behind the altar, revealing the original art and it is beautiful. Compare this photo with the ones above and you will see...)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

20. Grotto Church of Notre Dame

 (mass times & church info last updated 03/10/2016) 
Address: 405 W. 114th St. (West of Morningside Park)
Phone: 212.866.1500
Weekend Mass Times:
Sat: 5:30pm (English)
Sun: 9:30am (Amsterdam Nursing Home), 10am (French), 11:30am (English), 1pm (Spanish), 5:30pm (English)
Weekday Mass Times:
Mon-Fri: 12:05pm, 5:30pm (both English)
Sat: 12:05pm (English)
Confession: Sat: 4:30pm (and by appointment)
Pre/Post-Church Activity: Walk through Morningside Park
Official Website
Columbia Catholic Ministry
Morningside Heights Site
Marian Shrines in the U.S.


I am going on a journey, you see, that you cannot attend with me, you cannot come along, as it is you I am going to see.

I have, for the past few weeks, tried to decipher why I am so exhausted despite my Lenten sacrifice of giving up alcohol. Seemingly, restricting myself from the toxins of the drink, I should be energized and invigorated. Yet, I go through each day feeling numbed, foggy and removed. I've been told this is because I use drinking to deaden myself to things, and now without that buffer and distraction, I find myself inundated with these things that tire me and wear on my mind.

In church tonight, I felt the lights on the ceiling were all too bright - everything in the place seemed bright and clear. I wondered, am I like some infant - new to the world for the first time, beginning to see clearly and tired by all the information pouring in?

This Grotto Church of Notre Dame is a beautiful structure. One of the best looking churches in the city. It has a rock/grotto backdrop serving as the altar, pristine statues and a calmness. The priests are all Polish, I believe, but I don't think any Polish masses are celebrated here. I've been here before, as it's right around the corner from my house, and sometimes I have trouble understanding the priests during the homilies - however the rest of my experiences here have always been great.

There is a garden outside and peace within.

From the Fodor's Review:
A French neoclassical building (1911), this Roman Catholic church has a grand interior, including a replica of the French grotto of Lourdes behind its altar. It once served a predominantly French community of immigrants, but like the neighborhood, today's congregation is more ethnically diverse, with Irish, German, Italian, African-American, Hispanic, and Filipino members.

*Having been Baptized a month after birth, proceeding with Penance and the Eucharist in grade school, and dropping out of Confirmation classes while in high school because I just couldn't stand being in that classroom back then and there, I have decided to begin Adult Confirmation here in New York.

Additional Photos...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

19. Sacred Heart of Jesus

(mass times & church info last updated 03/31/2016)
Address: 457 W. 51st St. (between 9th & 10th Aves.)
Phone: 212.265.5020
Weekend Mass Times: 
Sat: 5pm (English), 7pm (Spanish)
Sun: 9:30am (Family Mass, English), 11am (Spanish), 12:30pm (English)
Weekday Mass Times: 
Mon-Fri: 8:30am (English)
Sat: 9am (English)
Confession: Sat: 4pm-5pm
Adoration: First Thursdays 7pm
Official Website
About the Organ
Catholic Online: Sacred Heart of Jesus School
The Sacred Heart of Jesus
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus


I went to Saturday mass today as I am forced to work tomorrow - on a Sunday! It's a terrible thing to miss one's weekend, one's peace time, one's respite.

I went to this church tonight thinking at first I was attending St. Benedict the Moor church - however I quickly realized it was Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. Quick research suggests St. Benedict the Moor church was once a larger parish that has since been taken over by the Church if the Sacred Heart of Jesus - I don't really know. Perhaps if you are reading this and have some knowledge on the matter you can post a comment. It seems St. Benedict the Moor church is still around, right around the corner on 53rd street - very small and now, I believe, offering only a 12:30pm Spanish mass. I may find myself there next week.

If you've been reading any of these posts then you know things are not well with me. What does it mean, a young man approaching thirty, church-going though he is, job and apartment in New York, all the beginnings of a good long life, but lost, seemingly free but stuck in many ways, desperate in others, drunk as often as he can be, fighting his notion of poverty but not very fiercely, and spending so many nights and days and moments of all this existence puzzled and perplexed and weeping?

I realize something over coffee alone, overhearing a somewhat dynamic conversation between a young woman and her pregnant friend about religion and family and sex and baby names.

Something just clicked, you know?

The pregnant friend never got up to use the restroom as I so willed her, pouring glass afer glass of water to persuade, so I never gained the chance I thought of to ask the other one out.

And so I walked out, alone into the cold, for a little while longer. And next week, church again...

*I feel obligated to include this next picture which appears on many internet searches of "Sacred Heart of Jesus". This is a picture which hangs in my family's home (and I'm sure in many Catholic homes across the world) and which when I see brings me back to my parent's hallway, the dim lights of a Saturday evening at home, comfort and safety.

additional photos...
*Note: attended the 12:10pm Mass today in a small side chapel to the main church. this is a very nice church and i found myself more at peace today and joy than the first time i arrived here...