Sunday, December 6, 2009

82. St. Mary

(mass times & church info last updated 04/24/2016)
Address: 440 Grand St.
Phone: 212.674.3266
Weekend Mass Times: 
Sat: 5pm (English)
Sun: 8:30am (English), 10am (Spanish), 12pm (English)
Weekday Mass Times: 
Mon-Fri: 9am (Bilingual Mass in English, Spanish, some Chinese)
Confession: Sat: 4pm-5pm
Adoration: Tue, Fri: 10am-4pm
Church Constructed: 1831-1832

Official Website
About the Organ
The Lower East Side: St. Mary's Church
The Cult of the Virgin Mary in New York
The Blessed Virgin Mary


What happens to my faith sometimes?

Why do I often have so little?

In other people, in myself, the world. Why do I hold onto these worries, cling to the stress? What do I still need to learn that I've missed thus far?

Why can I not just trust? Give my worries to God? Release and let go?

These churches are further and further away from me. This one took about an hour to travel to today. I almost did not go. Having too much other things going on, too many errands, too much worry and stress, I considered just going to one of the local neighborhood churches (which at this point is either the Frances Xavier Cabrini Chapel, or Church of the Good Shepherd.) Ultimately I decided to head out, and after an hour on the subway made it to St. Mary Church in the Lower East Side.

From St. Mary's website:
"The American nation was not yet 50 years old when on May 14th, 1826, Fr. Hatton Walsh, an Irish Augustinian, stood in the pulpit to face his parishioners in a newly acquired Church on Sheriff Street, in NYC. It was the 3rd Catholic Church in New York...The reason for its establishment was compelling. St. Peter's, on Barclay Street (established 1785), and St. Patrick's Old Cathedral (established 1809), were overflowing.

To accommodate the families now located east of the Bowery, the Rev. John Power, Vicar General of the Diocese, approved the creation of a new parish...On March 27th, 1827, the feast of the Annunciation with Bishop Dubois presiding, the Church was dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Historically, St. Mary's was the first Church to be blessed by the Bishop...

Even though St. Mary's ranks third as a parish foundation, it is the oldest, complete church in the Diocese. While the Catholic Churches in Lower New York continued to grow and prosper as more and more Catholics arrived from foreign lands, mostly from Ireland, latent antagonistic feelings - anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, anti-Irish - were beginning to surface. Protestant propaganda began to arouse people to the "dangerous interests and pretensions of the Roman Catholic Church". St. Mary's was one of the first Catholic Churches to suffer from this bigotry.

On the morning of November 9th, 1831, St. Mary's Church was destroyed by fire. Vandals and saboteurs had broken in, pillaged it, secured the tongue of the bell, started a fire in three places, and burned the church to the ground. Almost everything was destroyed...

Aroused, united and determined, the parishioners of St. Mary's, with many of the outraged non-Catholic friends, mobilized to build a new Church...

On December 31, 1831, St. Mary's was able to purchase property on Grand and Ridge Streets, which became the site of the new and present St. Mary's Church. The cornerstone was laid April 30th, 1832. Soon after the basement was completed (which is now called the Bingo Hall) served as the first parish school for St. Mary's. On December 23rd [1832], a little more than one year after the destruction of the original church, the first mass was celebrated in the basement of the new St. Mary's Church."

It's a bright, white, fairly large church with a very diverse congregation. I was happy to be there on this second Sunday of Advent. I attended the 12pm Mass which turns out is a Family Mass (at least this weekend.) Something about it, and my mood, put me in the most impatient mindset however, and I felt very out of the moment. I hate when this happens. The priest was doing a very good job of describing, in brief, a bit of background about each reading, giving both historical context and narrative detail to each story - which was really interesting, and something I wish I had access to each week. Still, I just felt so out of it. After Mass, I left, my mind on my stress and the things I had to do, unable to leave any of it behind.

Strangely, it was music that helped me today turn my mind to reflect on lighter things through two specific experiences. The first happened, entering the #1 train at 82nd street around 3pm this afternoon, tired from my errands. Our subway car was joined by two mariachi musicians who began jamming immediately upon takeoff. Instantly my mood was lightened, my outlook brightened - how could one be so consumed in gloom in the midst of that always fun, bizarre and spontaneous combustion of live music on a moving subway car?

My heart lifted, exiting the subway at 181st St. I made my way to Holyrood Episcopal Church on 179th St. and Ft. Washington where the Cornerstone Chorale was performing favorite chorale arrangements from their past performances. This is a very good local city choir and always a joy to sit in a cool church on an afternoon being in the presence of their song. Heavy thoughts had been in my head, with heavy worry. As I listened to the performance, my mind was carried away as beautiful composition after composition was presented and the choir's song told the story that the world is not so dark, and that man, in God's presence, under His watchful eye, can create and produce things of great beauty and elicit the purest and best of feelings and emotions from within the soul. Then, the eighth piece was performed and I was struck, unable to control myself, tears welled up in my eyes and a lesson was instilled in me with the rapidity of a flood, a bit of Johannes Brahms Geistliches Lied (sacred song.)

"Do not be sorrowful or regretful; Be
calm, as God has ordained,
and thus my will shall be content.
What do you want to worry
about from day to day?
There is One who stands above all
who gives you, too,
what is yours. Only be steadfast in all you do,
stand firm; what God has decided,
that is and must be the best. Amen."

Later, a line from Maurice Duruflé's Ubi Caritas rung out, true too, to that within:

"Let us love each other sincerely and from the heart."

They ended the day with a Robert Frost poem (Choose Something Like a Star), set in Randall Thompson's composition Frostiana, and within this piece so fully were so much some of my very own considerations and true feelings about God, and this world, and how we humans try so desperately to gain some understanding - sometimes leaning (too heavily!) on science or fact, over feeling and faith. At some point during the middle of this piece things clicked inside me and I understood, briefly,

"O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud-
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light,
Some mystery becomes the proud,
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat,
Say something! And it says, 'I burn,'
But say with what degree of heat,
Talk Farenheit, talk Centigrade,
Use language we can comprehend,
Tell us what elements you blend,
It gives us strangely little aid,
But it does tell something in the end,
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid."

On another note - I think sometimes those few of you readers out there read some of this craziness I write and find it most necessary to pray for me. I ask today, if you are reading this, to offer a special intention and say a prayer of healing for my brother-in-law down in Texas who is very sick. He's the father of two precious little girls, and he's currently in the Intensive Care Unit and needs as many positive thoughts and prayers as possible heading his way.

Thank you.


  1. Of course I will pray (just did) for your brother-in-law. I hope it goes well. I'll keep him in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. YOur readers might want ovisit which has narrated slide tours of some of the major churches in Manhattan: St. John the Diving, St. Patrick's Cathedral, St. Thomas and more.

  3. Hello - just wanted to let you know that my brother-in-law has had a very good recovery. Thank you for your prayers.

  4. Hello Andrew. I just stumbled onto your blog while doing some research on Christianity. I've just begun exploring the religion myself. I just wanted to say that many of the concerns you have spiritually echo my own, and I'm grateful to hear your thoughts. Be well and know that you are not alone!

  5. Hello Andrew I just found this post . I will pray for him and his famiy