Sunday, June 1, 2008

30. St. Joseph (Greenwich Village & NYU)

Address: 371 Sixth Avenue
Phone: 212-741-1274
Weekend Mass Times: Sat: 5:30pm; Sun: 9am (Liturgy of the Word for Children), 11:30am, 6pm (University Student Mass)
Weekday Mass Times: M-F: 12:10pm, 5:30pm; Sat: 12:10pm
Confession: Sat: 4:30pm-5:15pm
Vespers (Evening Prayers): M-F: 5:10pm near the tabernacle
Wikipedia Entry about the Church
Various NY Times articles
About St. Joseph
St. Joseph (Battery Park City)
St. Joseph (Chinatown)
St. Joseph (Yorkville)
St. Joseph of the Holy Family (Harlem)
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This church is small, pristine, easy to sit in and pay attention to the readings and Eucharist. They have a small rooftop area where they often throw receptions or events. It is a place where it is easy to pray and a church I assume to be an asset to the people in the area, to New York University and to New York City in general.

I enjoyed my time here today, yet after Mass I grew so solemn and despondent - there was a lonesomeness growing within, something which amasses in size day to day, something I really can't help prevent, just something that is. It's forlorn, it's stress, it's despair. All those words mean is lack of faith, strength, lack of memory, lack of thankfulness, lack of wisdom; the loss of something bigger than me and all of us within me and growing.

I've gone to confession a couple times already, and need to go again soon, because something I am just now beginning to realize I need to confess to is my judgmental attitude, my weakness in forgiving, the fact I hold grudges - and everything else that falls somewhere in between.

- - -
I just recently went to go see Prince Caspian with friends. I have always been a huge fan of these C.S. Lewis books and when I saw the first film, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I have to admit I was a little dissapointed - I considered the acting to be a bit weak, some story changes abhorent and overall it was trying to be just too Lord of the Rings. Fortunately, enough time had passed from the last time I read through the books so I was not so miffed when watching Caspian the other day, I was actually quite pleased. (All the crazy battles added and characters not included didn't bother me at all.)

If you know of the movie or the book then you know that one of the many themes of this story is the coming of age into adulthood denies one further entrance into the world of Narnia. As I watched the film, this theme played over and over again in my head. At the end of the story, Aslan the great Lion tells Peter and Susan that they can no longer come back to Narnia, as they are too old. Isn't it so true that with all the "good" adulthood brings, it too brings with it loss of innocence, (often) lack of imagination and despair in faith. Faith, imagination and innocence are all very necessary traits one should carry with them throughout life, tools that can assist during life, things which lead us to live good lives and ultimately meet the ending of our lives gracefully and with meaning.

I am thinking about all of this in the context of my own life. After my years wandering (slightly), traveling, heading to Africa - I have landed here in NYC and my main goal was to obtain adulthood, a five year plan which would bring me wealth, status, a wife, insurance - all of the very adult and very responsible things we "need" to live our lives. And none of these are bad things inherently, in fact, they are obviously all good things. But I realize that I, in my pursuit of these things, and probably others too, maybe even you, have lost other things that are important along the way. Faith, imagination and innocence. These are things I should cling to, things we should never let go of, lose touch of, let slip our grasp.

Immediately after the film ended and the credits began rolling I sat in deep thought on childlikeness versus my adultness and what I have lost and what I have failed to keep important. I am lucky enough that I have witnessed in me, over the past year, a serious return to faith. If you know anything of the Narnian world, you know the human characters that get the chance to travel there love and appreciate every single moment they have there. And if you, like me, have read the books with an open heart, you too feel a joy about Narnia and even a slight (imagination!) desire to go there yourself. As I sat during the credit roll I reflected on last week's church experience - St. Vincent Ferrer - and thought to myself that at that moment last week, sitting inside this brilliant church, that is the most recent occasion in which I have felt some kind of "magic" - possibly the kind of magic one finds in Narnia.

And I determined right then and there, with credits rolling and my friends sitting nearby, to rid myself of as much "adultness" as safely possible and again open myself to the childlikeness that gets you into Narnia, that opens up the kingdom of heaven to you.

And I began trying to compile a list of my adult-like atrocities, and I realized it is quite difficult to do, because so many of these adult-like things are so pragmatic here and "seemingly" necessary - I have to develop and use a kind of filter to determine the differences. For instance:

1) My job is necessary, but any kind of love or obsession with money that comes with it, the acquisition and accumulation of wealth and status and fortune could very well border on an "adultness" trait,

2) Relationships - my intense desire right now to find the "right" girl to be with and to marry is not in itself "adult" or wrong, but it's all about how I go about it. I mentioned that I have begun online dating - this is the very definition of pragmatic "adultness" Where is the adventure, where is the fun? When an online-instigated date finally happens - both parties have come to it with so much intention and built up expectation that there is no naturalness to it. You are both looking for someone, you both have traits that you each find attractive - but when meeting in person there is no chemistry. I'm somewhat outgoing, personally, and when I meet a stranger conversation comes naturally, and laughter and some fun, but where is the chemistry? Where are the pheromones? The internet removes these from the dating/mating act completely. Not to mention that online dating opens one up to so many chances and possibilities that I, in my bad habit of a way, cannot stop thinking about all the other possibilities I may be losing out on when I begin "chatting" with or seeing one of the girls. Also, none of them are what I expect or hope for or similar to the idea I have of them in my head when I meet them. They're all a bit older looking than their pictures show; they're all a little bit spastic or mental as the years creep by and they haven't found the person they want to marry. After a short experience with the whole thing, I feel I'm not cut out for online dating - and it's all only made me realize that these "Catholics" I'm looking for are no better and no worse than any of the other non-Catholic girls I've been dating. Then why is it so important to me?

3) Alcohol - why is it that we all need such quantities and regular amounts of alcohol to get on with our lives? Children abound in energy, never needing or desiring to poison themselves with these substances to "alter" their moods and their minds. We are a community of people gathering and poisoning ourselves in order to celebrate - celebrate what?

4) Clothing - I get so caught up in how I look, how I am reflected in other people's eyes, how I look compared to these other people. Truly something "adult" and decadent and misleading and wrong. Of course, one has to look nice - but being in this city - along with all the regular, humble, plain and wonderful folk, there are those who are so pompous, so into their image and their stance and status - and why is it that I fall into this trap, as well as the many others, which lead me to follow everything material that has so little to do with grace?

These are just some of the few of the "adult-like" traps that "get" me from day to day.

My friend and I began discussing the other Narnia books in detail after we left the theater. We spoke about the final book, The Last Battle, and the fate of one of the characters, Susan. We couldn't remember what happens to her in the end - we knew she suffers some kind of loss of belief in Narnia and she may or may not enter Narnia or "heaven" in the end, but the book leaves it very ambiguous - and this whole concept of what happens to Susan fits right in with the overall theme I walked away with from Prince Caspian.


Some would also claim that Susan is excluded from Narnia simply because she doesn't believe in Narnia any longer: Lewis is alluding to loss of faith, and of imagination, when we fail to retain "childlike" simplicity. This could be said to lend negative connotations to faith, suggesting that to believe, one's mind must remain childish and simplistic. It could also be said that Susan's attitude is the opposite of Jesus' teachings, "Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven." [Matt 18:2-4]. The 'growing up' mentioned is saying that Susan doesn't have the right attitude in respects to Narnia and as such cannot go there.
And what of my attitudes, my respects, my beliefs? Am I too far gone adult? Have I lost enough of the innocence there ever was in me to prevent ever traveling to that Narnian otherworld, that heaven which I most dearly hope awaits us all, even the sorriest sinner out there, one who continually lapses and falls and fails and disappoints?

1 comment:

  1. The priest there told me that he thinks the statue is not of St Joseph but probably of Aristotle which somehow ended up at the church and was pressed into service. Humerous story if true.

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