Monday, April 28, 2008

Supplemental: God, Booze & Women

Approximately one quarter of the Catholic churches on this island I've seen, so it seems like a natural stopping point to take a brief pause for some reflection on a few of my favorite things...


I can't say much on this topic that you, if you are giving reading this blog any time at all, do not already know for yourself. Obviously, this blog experiment of mine is a search - a week by week enlightenment about the different houses of Roman Catholic worship this city offers. It's also a search for my identity which I seemed to have irresponsibly misplaced over the years, but hopefully not irreparably so - but then it's like so many blogs in this way, all of us out there in cyberdome searching. It's a journey for direction. A passage for peace. It is too, an exploration of this city which I am relatively new to, having been here for just shy of two years. I am still just a novice in a great and terrible land. My search for churches of my faith is of course my soul searching, and the searching for another soul to compliment my own. It's a scrutiny of my faith as well - my own personal internal feelings toward religion and specifically Catholicism, but an outward look at what the Catholic church is in this day and age - a dinosaur or a sanctuary? And in all this searching - for faith, for love, for awareness; for the desire of calm, and direction, and a place in this big and small world of ours; for knowledge, and sentiment and a connection of all that is my past and all that will be my future - it is truly a yearning of mine to draw closer to God - through these churches, old and beautiful as they are, through the sacraments and through this faith, born into it, having fled, and being allowed graciously to return.

Sadly, like so many of my generation, drinking is my past time. It bonds me together with people, it can set me sometimes in a certain mood that places me in the midst of people that I can share a moment with - a laugh, a confession, epiphanies. It is a wonderment and a curse that it's something I enjoy so much and that I am so damned good at.

I am having trouble letting go of my past; I have always had trouble letting go of the past. Now I must determine if it is wrong or a weakness or even some kind of sin - one that does nobody any sort of good.

I have always had trouble letting go of her...
You talk of your faith-you talk of it being too strong for me-too much-of it frightening me. It is your faith that has set me on the course that has led me here. It is that faith I saw and experienced with you that has shaped me. It is your faith that leads me from church to church around this city, exploring; that forces me to search the eyes and hearts of all I meet and encounter to see if that kind of faith resides there as it had in you. And I find it so seldom. And even sometimes I stare into the mirror and wonder if it is still there in myself.

I have trouble letting go, I dwell on the past. And it is difficult not to when I realize parts of my past have been amazing and may never come again. I do not disregard the future, or the present for that matter, I just can't always let go of where I've been, because I treasure it so badly.

I pray every day that I am doing the right thing and that God will lead me. Sometimes my worst days are my best, as I put everything in God and believe and pray that God will shield, assist, lead, provide. These are things I learned from you above all else.

I look in myself to nurture a faith as is yours. I look in all others I meet to seek your qualities. And I look to God for all other things.

Selections from a recent chapter in my catechism on what marriage should be:

a union
most sacred
most serious
established by God
a holy institution
complete and unreserved giving of self
bound together for life
hopes and disappointments
successes and failures
pleasures and pains
joys and sorrows
better or worse
richer or poorer
sickness and health
until death
solemn obligations
self sacrifice
voluntary and complete surrender
one in mind
one in heart
one in affections
pure love
true to the end

Sunday, April 27, 2008

24. St. Joseph (Yorkville)

(mass times & church info last updated 04/24/2016)
Address: 404 E. 87th St. (between 1st and York)
Phone: 212.289.6030
Weekend Mass Times: 
Sat: 4pm (English)
Sun: 8am (English, no music)
10am (English, but German Mass on 1st Sundays)
12pm (English, with choir from September-June)
2pm (Hungarian)
6pm (English)
Weekday Mass Times: 
Mon-Fri: 7am, 12:15pm, 6pm (during Lent) (all English)
Sat: 8am, 12:15pm (both English)
Confession: Sat: 3:30pm-3:45pm
Rosary: Thursdays at 6:30pm in either the church or rectory
Lectio-Divina: Every other Thursday at 7pm in the rectory
Post-Church Activity: Beers at Heidelberg
Official Website
About the Organ
German Catholics in Manhattan
About St. Joseph
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Joseph
The destruction of another St. Joseph's
United States' Catholic Catechism for Adults
Making A Good Confession
How To Confess
Mortal vs. Venial Sin
A listing of sins
Another listing of sins
St. Joseph (Battery Park City)
St. Joseph (Chinatown)
St. Joseph (Greenwich Village)
St. Joseph of the Holy Family (Harlem)
- - -
-great little german church-

Pope Benedict XVI visited here last week during his New York Tour and I wonder if he found it to be as peaceful as I did.

The Saturday 4pm mass, I have to say, has quite a few older people in attendance, though I did see a few young faces - and heading to the Heidelberg Restaurant afterwards was way too much fun to have on a Saturday afternoon. My main focus of this week's visit wasn't necessarily to view the art or structure of the church, though again, it is another beautiful gem of Manhattan Catholicism, it was of a more reconciling nature.

- - -
A few days ago...
A whole whole lot on my mind this week that doesn't necessarily have anything to do directly with St. Joseph's in Yorkville, but read on and you may see the connection...

Girls never want to just be friends unless it is I who am pursuing them...

If anything is true about me it is that I am a sinful sinful man. I've just recently broke up with another sweet gal who was beautiful and smart and sexy and a good person. My problem is I keep ending these relationships with these great girls because I feel I can do better. What an ass I am! On the way down, knowing it would end soon, I ended up kissing another girl, who I stupidly began to think I could end up with, happily, all because she was Catholic and nice, and beautiful, completely disregarding the bigger picture that she and I didn't have a whole lot of other stuff in common and that she is one of those people who constantly busy themselves running from activity to activity with very little room to breathe because every action has got to have some point, some purpose; idle time to sit and to wonder doesn't really exist for these people. And perhaps I am just jealous of this type, perhaps I have all too much time on my hands and am currently unhappy with my life, my situation. Today, having gotten only a few slim hours of sleep because I had to spend time in the bars last night with my friend who was in town and forced myself to awake early this morning to have breakfast with this girl - a strange breakfast, by the way, in which I was realizing I probably didn't even really like her like I thought I might as she went on and on discussing the busy, varying and dizzying details of her life, and after which she told me she didn't want a relationship - I walked around in a daze, a zombie-like shuffle, in and out of extreme moods that dipped to despair and alighted at the top of the world

i think somebody had to be praying for me somewhere

and I felt utterly alone, without friends or a home or a future; with family far away, with people here in the city that I know either moving away or losing touch - it's like a countdown to city anonymity. I am in the middle of indecision. I have discerned I do not want to be alone for my life (ala the priesthood) but it seems I can't get too close to others either.

Because this girl was Catholic I tricked myself into believing that everything else I wanted from a relationship would evolve naturally - ignoring a host of problems right around the corner. It is indeed best she doesn't want the relationship to happen, it saved us both from a few uncomfortable months of boy/girl fights and troubles - however, it did hurt, my feelings were bruised, I was rejected on some level and though it saved us from an ultimate catastrophe, it in itself and today was a minor catastrophe.

What's worse is this girl is my Confirmation sponsor.
- - -
Attending Confirmation classes has been very enjoyable thus far. I'm learning a bit about the Church and with friends in grad schools and continuing ed classes, I feel like this is my own bit of continuing ed. I can't really see myself going to class for any other degrees; I might go for some additional skill sets and knowledge in my profession, but outside of that the only thing I'd really want to do is progress further along in theological studies. But again, I am not going to be a priest, my God, I want a wife, I even have three names for my daughters already picked out. But perhaps there's something in the religious field in my future - theologian someday, or maybe a deacon?

Something that struck me the other day while reading my catechism was that the candidate for confirmation should be in a state of grace - without serious sin.

I realized suddenly that before my confirmation date rolls around, I will need to go to confession - a sacrament I have not received in 6 or 7 years.

I know there's many Catholics out there who have, like me, neglected this sacrament, however, I now plan on making at least one confession prior to my confirmation and then maintaining this practice regularly. This comes straight from my catechism book:

"Despite society's efforts to downplay the reality of sin, there is an instinctive recognition of its existence. Children generally know, even when not told, when they have done something morally wrong. Adults readily admit the evil of terrorism, unjust wars, lies, unfair treatment of people, and similar matters. Society as a whole must also learn to admit the evil of abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and obtaining stem cells from embryos, which results in the death of embryonic human life. Denying evil corrupts us spiritually and psychologically. Rationalizing our own evil is even more destructive."
It's time I admit to what I have been doing

- - -
After Mass and confession...
After 6 years, it feels good to get things off your chest. Waiting in line for the confessional, however, I felt kind of gross, and sick in the pit of my stomach. I was nervous. It is no easy task to admit you have done something wrong, and it's even harder to admit your sin to God, even though He already knows it. And it's difficult to tell all these things to a man of God. And when I reflected on my sin and what I would say, I realized that I was most likely sharing the same other things that everyone else tells him - because we all suffer from a condition, the human condition, and it is all so difficult to live on this planet and do everything correctly - we are flawed and we fail and we get up again just to fail all over. But, yet, there is God's grace and providence and forgiveness and with all that, God help us, maybe we can get along and fail a little less, striving and moving towards what God wants from us.

- - -
"You believe in the Angels, or the saints. Or that there's such a thing as a state of grace. And you believe it, but it hasn't anything to do with reality."

-Sean Penn in State of Grace (*Perhaps misquoted slightly)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

* Yankee Stadium (Papal Mass)

Celebrated on April 20th at 2:30pm

Additional Links:

- Pope's Visit Homepage

- Pope's Official Itinerary

- Wikipedia: Pontifical High Mass

- Papal Visit Article

- Catholic Sites in NYC

- Daily News Article About Yankee Stadium

- Clergy Garments

- Another Catholic Blog
- - -
Heavenly Father, we raise our minds and hearts to You as we look forward to the visit in April of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Let his teaching inspire us to greater Faith. Let his wisdom inspire us to greater Hope. Let his example inspire us to greater Love for all in our Archdiocese, our nation, and the world. We ask this in the name of Jesus Our Lord and Savior. Amen.
(Edward Cardinal Egan)

- - -
Saturday Night Before the Mass
Here are a few of my thoughts before I attend, what looks to be, an all day event at Yankee Stadium tomorrow to participate in this Papal event.

First off, I received my ticket to attend the mass this week in the mail, and my dearest friend in the world couldn't help but laugh when he saw it, despite himself, as he began the refrain of that classic original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tune, "I've got a golden ticket, I've got a golden ticket..."

I must admit there is something in all this that seems a little bit ostentatious. Along with the ticket I received a flyer listing Papal merchandise for sale - including "Christ Our Hope" backpacks and travel mugs, baseball jerseys with Benedict inscribed on them, hats and even papal teddy bears. I understand that some of the revenue from these products goes to counterbalance the extreme cost of the Holy Father's visit to the States, it just seems a bit much though.

I do suspect I will be at Yankee Stadium tomorrow in the midst of 57,000 people (for once not complaining about the attendance of the congregation, huh?) at this mega-mass and dearly wishing for the silence and solace of one of the many quieter and more peaceful parish churches I've been to or have yet to visit.

All that being said, I am grateful that I do have this garish ticket and am lucky enough to attend the papal event. This could very well be the only time in my life I have the chance to see the pope, even if it may be from an obstructed view, very far away with the option of seeing him up on the jumbotron.

- - -
9:29 am
Well, that was relatively painless. I exited the subway at Yankee Stadium around 9am and there were plenty of police and event staff directing everyone to the right gates, seats etc.

I would hate to be secret service here as most likely everyone in the crowd wears a guilty expression. I mean, we're all Catholic after all.

Somehow I've managed to get a really good seat, slightly to the left of home plate. The weather is overcast and slightly chill. This is not good baseball weather for sure. Over on the jumbotron Fox news is showing the Pope's visit to Ground Zero. Bells rings over the loud speaker - canned bells, of course.

Now there's only one decision to make before Mass begins in the afternoon. Should my lunch be popcorn, peanuts or cracker jacks?
- - -
Been sitting here in the stands watching various types. Some gentlemen wear crazy fluffy hats - are these the Knights of Columbus?

We're in for quite a show today - there's a concert from 12-2pm featuring Harry Connick Jr., Jose Feliciano, the Harlem Gospel Choir and a bunch of other performers. There's also an orchestra that will be playing the music of the Mass.

I've been reading the New York Times and though I'm typically more interested in articles on the Obama-Clinton battle, there's a bunch of Pope-related articles that have caught my attention this morning. The one I just read talks about the continuing love so many Catholics had for Pope John Paul II. People adored him, Catholic and non-Catholic alike - he was a star. Lately in discussions with friends I've heard a lot of comments about how Pope Benedict is not as well received or liked. Strange but, during the reign of John Paul I had plenty of issues with the Church, youthful rebellion and kind of general and complete disdain for the hierarchy of the entire institution. Back in 1996 or whenever it was that John Paul came to the States, to Denver, my mom tried to persuade me to go on a youth trip to see him - and I wanted absolutely no part of it. But now, I am in a very "Catholic" time in my life and for me to have the chance to see the High Pontiff I count myself extremely lucky and blessed. Because, at the time, I dismissed John Paul and the Church at that time, for me Benedict is my Pope.

I am having an awakening this year and he is the Pope of these times - despite what some say about his past, the fact he was part of the Hitler Youth and some claims he may have been an artillery soldier in the Nazi army, he is here now, led on a strange and bizarre path, and I am here too.
- - -
Wow. What an experience. Going to this Papal Mass was really amazing. Everything was so nice. The Pope drove past in his Popemobile maybe 20 feet away from where I was sitting. The crowd was going crazy and cheering and chanting his name and there was just something so wonderful about it all. A great experience and I treasure the fact I was there.

And the concert before - it was so fun to be there for. The orchestra was beautiful. Unfortunately the speakers they had didn't really blast the sound all that well-don't know if they were setup to be better for spoken word or if it was the gold papal finish they were covered in but the sound they emitted wasn't always that great. But that is the slightest beginning and absolute end of any complaining I'm gonna do about this event. The choirs were amazing, the singers we soulful. Jose Feliciano came out and sang Lean on Me and everyones demeanor in the congregation seemed so happy. Harry Connick Jr.'s How Great Thou Art was my favorite of the day, second only to the orchestras' great big Beethoven finale.

The procession of the clergy and the bishops and His Holiness was something I will probably never again witness in my life.

The Mass was good, it was just good and I can say no more. Other highlights of my day included seeing Governor Patterson, the monks of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and, I believe, Fr. Damien the former Abbot of Gethsemane Monastery in Kentucky - a place every American Catholic should visit in his/her lifetime, in my opinion.

And now, where am I now? Well, after standing in a crowded Yankee Stadium hallway with 2,000 other people and realizing the subways would be overcrowded for a bit, I of course wandered into a local bar - and what a blessing this has been! I'm at a place called the Yankee Tavern and I'm feeling it's a pretty special place as far as Yankee drinking holes go. There's a bartender, Willie, who you can tell right off has a heart and that extra something that signifies a great bartender - after all they're born, not made. There's a gang of local Bronx cops who are buying each other rounds in the corner and hailing one of their buddies because he shook the Pope's hand. That's something special, huh? And I'm surrounded by Yankee Stadium staff, who again and again talk about how special the day was - whether they are Catholic or not - there was really truly something going on at the ballpark today.

- - -
Around 7 o'clock they pulled out a microphone and a PA system and this whole place suddenly turned into a karaoke bar. As they were beginning to announce the evening though, they toasted New York's finest, the cops in the corner I told you about. And the one officer who shook the Pope's hand was given the mic and he exclaimed what an honor it was and then led the bar in chants of "Let's go Benedict, let's go Benedict..." And the like. We all cheered his Holiness, Il Papa.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

* St. John - St. Matthew - Emmanuel (Lutheran Church in Brooklyn)

Address: 283 Prospect Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Phone: 718-768-0528
Sunday Worship Service: 11am
Post-Church Brunch:
Post-Church Activity:
- - -
I'm going to to a Lutheran Church today in Brooklyn because my friend is getting baptised.

Now, I realize I'm such a typical cradle Catholic who does not know a lot of the specifics rules and regulations of the church, or has chosen to ignore the ones I do, or has devised my own set of rules to live as a Catholic by - which I am beginning to understand as wrong - one cannot claim to be a part of something and receive the benefits and gifts it offers only to ignore some of the guidelines, commands and commandments when they become inconvenient.

So today, for instance, I'm selecting to attend a Lutheran service instead of attending Catholic Mass. I'm fairly certain that as a practicing Roman Catholic I am expected to go to Catholic Mass every weekend. There is no law stating that I cannot attend a Protestant service, as long as I fulfill my Catholic obligation by going to Catholic service as well to receive Holy Eucharist. I had planned on going to Catholic church yesterday evening but I decided to volunteer with NYCares out in Brooklyn for Hands on New York Day. I was on the fence about volunteering, but I decided it would be a good thing so I opted out of Catholic Church and decided it would be fine enough for me to just attend the Lutheran service this morning. Needless to say I am already beginning to feel guilty about this.

Anyway, enough about that - I will go to St. JME and worship and get a lot out of the service and my friend's baptism and it will be a good day. By the way, did you know that in cases of emergency, any Christian can perform baptism on someone? This is straight from my catechism book:

In times of necessity such as danger of death, all persons can baptize. The person baptizing must intend to do what the Church does by pouring water three times on the candidate's head while saying, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

If you are reading this and the NYCares program interested you at all, I highly suggest you look into volunteering. Yesterday, I spent a great morning and afternoon working outside in Brooklyn's Marine Park - a place I didn't even know existed! I was able to discover a part of this city, help clean it up a bit, meet some fellow folk and generally spend a Saturday doing something worthwhile. Best part? Aside from doing a good deed, they threw us a great after party sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery! It was two hours of free food and beer. Because I was by myself I decided my best plan of action for the two hours would be to find a stool at the bar and drink as much as I could. And that I did, creating conversation with strangers as they struggled for the bartender's attention so they themselves could lay claim to the prize - free beer.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

23. St. Catherine of Genoa

(mass times & church info last updated 04/04/2016)
Address: 506 W. 153rd St. (between Broadway and Amsterdam)
Phone: 212.862.6130
Weekend Mass Times: 
Sat: 5pm (English), 7pm (Spanish)
Sun: 9:30am (English, Family Mass), 11am (Spanish), 12:30pm (English), 5pm (Haitian Creole)
Weekday Mass Times: 
Mon-Fri: 8am (English), 7pm (Spanish, except for Monday Federal Holidays)
Saturday: 9am (Spanish)
Confession: Sat: 4pm-4:30pm
Post-Church Activity: Investigating Trinity Church Cemetery (though barred by the gate)
Official Website
Catholic New York Article (2012)
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Catherine of Genoa
Life and Doctrine of St. Catherine of Genoa
Medieval Saints with New York Catholic Churches
New York's Landmark Conservancy
Trinity Cemetery

"It's a dreary day and this is a dreary church."

That's what I had planned to write as I walked to St. Catherine on this chilly overcast day. My hangover had something to do with it too, I guess - since my 40 day Lenten fast from booze I can't handle the stuff like I used to.

When I walked into the church, however, I knew I couldn't end up writing that - because there was nothing dreary about the church - except the lack of congregation. It's a mostly wooden church with beautiful stained glass that was somehow bright despite the cloudiness of the day.

When I departed - the clouds were still there, however the day wasn't so dreary anymore.

A hymn sung at church today...

Christ Be Beside Me

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me, King of my heart.
Christ be within me, Christ be below me,
Christ be above me, never to part.

Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me, shield in the strife.
Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising, light of my heart.

Christ be in all hearts thinking about me,
Christ be on all tongues telling of me.
Christ be the vision in eyes that see me,
In ears that hear me Christ ever be.

Looking over the wrought iron fence of the Trinity Church Cemetery at the immense Episcopal church across the way - Church of the Intercession, I believe