Wednesday, July 29, 2009

*Some Churches of Kona

St. Michael the Archangel Church:

St. Peter's By-the-Sea:

St. Benedict's Painted Church:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

69. St. Michael's Chapel (Russicum)

(mass times & church info last updated 04/24/2016)
Address: 266 Mulberry St. (South of Houston)
Phone: 212.226.2644
Weekend Mass Times: 
Great Vespers: Saturdays 6pm (Church Slavonic, Modern Russian)
Divine Liturgy: Sundays 11am (Church Slavonic, Modern Russian)
Confession & other Services: contact the church for more info
Church Constructed: 1859
Parish Opened: 1935
Official Website
The Parish
On Flickr
The Russian Catholic Church
Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos
My Visit to St. Michael Church
About St. Michael the Archangel

What an experience this week! I wandered into the celebration of The Divine Liturgy. I had never attended this before and it was like entering another world, so different than the Masses I am used to.

I had plans of visiting Our Lady of Loreto church at 309 Elizabeth street in NoHo, but upon arriving at the address, it didn't appear to be a church and the door was closed and locked. I wandered around the block, happening upon a priest who I asked about the church. He told me he was a visiting priest from out of town and that there was no church. I had called Our Lady of Loreto earlier and they told me Mass was at 11am. Trying the number again, I received no answer. A mystery. If anyone out there knows anything about Our Lady of Loreto church, please fill me in...

Knowing full well that this area of the city has a few other churches, I began walking around, heading towards Mulberry street. Approaching 266 Mulberry I came upon St. Michael's Chapel. Someone had actually mentioned this chapel to me before in a comment. Peering through the window of the door I witnessed the beginning of the Divine Liturgy. There were four priests, fully decked out in traditional Byzantine Rite robes, gathered around an altar behind an ornate altar fence; I could hear the small congregation praying and singing in Russian; incense wafted through the air - immediately I was overwhelmed and my first thought was to flee. However, something made me open up the doors and walk in, standing alone in the small entryway corridor. Then, an older gentleman saw me and ushered me inside, and I entered the chapel.

It was a small room, about 15 square feet and already about 20 or so gathered there. The Liturgy had already begun and as I walked in, the commotion of singing and genuflecting and men bending over to touch the ground in solemnity filled the room and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. After dropping off my bag in a small utility room I knew I was there until the end of the service - however long that would be.

Because the singing and prayer were all in Russian, I felt like I had entered a foreign land, at a loss for what was happening. Then, Ed, who must be an usher or work for St. Michael's in some way (very nice, very welcoming,) noticed me and handed me a little booklet - the Divine Liturgy text. From there I tried to follow along with the English text, which became easier as I realized the service was going to be a blend of Russian and English.
"For the peace from above and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.
For this holy house and for those who enter with faith, reverence, and the fear of God, let us pray to the Lord.
For this city, for every city and country, and for the faithful dwelling in them, let us pray to the Lord."
- Portion of "The Great Litany," from the Divine Liturgy text
The song and the prayer that followed for the next hour and a half were incredible, and it was really something special to be in that small, intimate space of such devotion. There were no chairs, save a few exceptions for some older members of the small congregation, and though admittedly an hour and a half is a long time to stand, it seemed to fly by.

The first reading was sung, as was the Gospel of Matthew - such a different way to experience the Word of God. Then the sermon was preached by a visiting priest from their sister church in Australia, Fr. Lawrence. It was a special homily, perhaps this was again because of the closeness and proximity of those gathered together. He preached, succinctly, on the way sin "clings" to all of us, and that the young novice brother or sister who is trying to rid themselves of sin by their own doing, and not God's, is certain to be headed toward some spiritual disaster. It really made the impact and point to me today that there is no way out of sin but through Him. And I listened and took it all in, all the while I stared at the icon of St. Andrew painted on the altar gate which stared right back at me.

"Who for our salvation willed to be incarnate of the holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary,
Who without change became man and was crucified,
Who is one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit:
O Christ our God, trampling down death by death, save us!"
- Portion of "The Second Antiphon," from the Divine Liturgy text
As the time for Communion approached, Ed, who was slowly becoming more and more my guide through the Divine Liturgy (a much needed one, I must add, who helped me to feel welcome and gave me a sense of what was going on and what part I should play - the kind of guide I need in my life right now, who can point me in the right direction and lend guidance, but I digress...) asked me if I took the Eucharist. I told him I did but had no idea what to expect here. He informed me it would be intinction and quietly and quickly verbally walked me through what was to happen.

My heart was racing as the time for communion approached, and I realized this was another reason why I am on this journey of churches - to enhance the experience of the Mass for me. How great it is too feel excitement (and a little fear, or rather some trepidation) mixed with mystery and adrenaline in the presence of the Lord in the form of the Eucharist! It was different than that weekly ritual of Communion time we are all familiar with, when the ushers slowly let us rise, row by row, and we waddle up the aisle, perhaps in prayer and some meditation, but typically distracted by others in the congregation, or our fleeting thoughts, or anything else rattling around in our dumb heads.

I made my way to the altar, spoke my name, then the priest dipped the bread into the wine and using a little spoon dropped it into my mouth. The deacon wiped my lips with a cloth and I kissed the base of the chalice as I had witnessed the others in the chapel do. To the left of the altar, a small table had been set up between two priests (or maybe they were deacons or acolytes, I'm not sure) that contained another plate of bread and small ladles of wine. My hand was shaking as I picked up the ladle. I quickly drank the wine, took another portion of bread, crossed myself clumsily and went back to my place against the wall to listen to the post-Communion hymns and prayers.

"I believe Lord, and profess that you are in truth the Christ, the son of the living God, come to the world to save sinners, of whom I am the greatest. I believe also that this is really your sacred body and that this is really your precious blood. And so I pray to you, have mercy on me and pardon my offenses, deliberate and indeliberate, in word and deed, remembered and long-forgotten: and grant that I may without condemnation share your sacred mysteries, for the remission of sins and for eternal life Amen.

This day receive me, Son of God, to eat your sacramental supper: for I shall not betray the sacrament to your enemies, nor give you a kiss like Judas, but like the thief acknowledge you: Remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

May this sharing in your holy mysteries, Lord, be for me not to judgment or to damnation, but to the healing of soul and body."
- From prayer card handed out before Communion
After the services, Ed instructed me to venerate the cross, and I followed in line with the rest, kissing the base of a small Byzantine-style cross held in the hands of the priest, who, after my veneration was done, told me that coffee would be served after the Liturgy and I should attend. All of the parishioners at St. Michael's were like this - warm, welcoming and sincere. I told one woman, Colleen, that I had just kind of wandered in, and she told me that many of the congregation had discovered the chapel similarly, hearing music from the street, and peering in to discover what was happening inside. Another man too, Auggie, was so considerate and welcoming when I met him after Mass, as were so many from this church, that just thinking back on my short time there today I am filled with such warm, pleasant special memories.

I would say attending the Divine Liturgy here at St. Michael's is another "must" for any New York city Catholic.

I left the small chapel on Mulberry street, filled with peace, and another feeling - a strange fulfilled calm within me that stayed there through the walk to and ride on the subway home, and into the weeks ahead...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

68. St. Elizabeth of Hungary (CLOSED, but under review)

NOTE: In 2015 this church closed down and was merged with the church of St. Monica (as well as the church of St. Stephen of Hungary) as part of the Archdiocese of New York's great closings & mergers of 2015. St. Monica's will be the main church open for regular Masses and other events, although St. Stephen's is currently open for an 11:30am Sunday Mass (see here). This combined parish is called the Parish of St. Monica, St. Stephen of Hungary, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. However, the parishioners of St. Elizabeth of Hungary have been working diligently to prevent their church from closing as they work to save their very, very beautiful church. I applaud this effort as this was yet another of my favorite churches I visited during my journey, one which comforted me greatly. If you wish to help the good folks of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, you can find out more about their progress here, or sign this petition to help save the church or join their Facebook page. If anyone has any info as to whether any Masses are currently being offered at St. Elizabeth of Hungary, please leave a note in the comments section below.

(church info last updated 04/04/2016)
Address: 211 E. 83rd (@ 2nd Ave.)
Phone: 212.734.5747

Old, Original St. Elizabeth Website
New, Official Parish Website
About the Organ
New York City's Hungarian Churches
About St. Elizabeth of Hungary
More about St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Even more about St. Elizabeth of Hungary


According to The Spiritual Traveler, this church was originally a Lutheran church from the 1890's.

I loved it here today. Why is it I find daily Mass so much more appealing than Sundays? Perhaps, because it is the Mass boiled down to its most basic, simplest form. There is prayer, some Old Testament, a Gospel, a quick (sometimes down and dirty) homily of a few direct and poignant minutes, the Eucharist, more prayer and a closing. I always feel so much better and alive when I hit weekday Mass in the mornings, it is the daily vitamin that I need, that daily dose of something vital.

The priest today was fantastic too. I could hear him so clearly. Would that I have some kind of transcript of his words, for they all seemed so precious, yet they flew at me at such speed, hitting me, sinking in, but I could not catch them all to relate them here to you verbatim. I enjoyed the reading today, the last little bit of Exodus which saw Joseph forgive his brothers, stating, "Have no fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people. Therefore have no fear."

And this part of the Gospel, Jesus' words (Matthew 10:24-33):
"What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father."
It speaks to me, telling - no, reminding - me that I need to strive to proclaim my faith more than I do. I realize, in this task and many others related, I am lazy, slothful (pretty much guilty of all seven deadly sins, in one way or another.)

After Mass, I headed to the Guggenheim again. I enjoyed it, as I typically do, but today realized once you enter here, you begin a journey as you do in no other museum. Walking the ramp, viewing the exhibit, going up and up and up, you are, in a sense, ascending to the heavens of Frank Lloyd Wright's vision. It can be a great experience, especially if you arrive before the crowds and can ascend alone, with some peace and decency. Arriving near the top, I did something fairly meta: sitting on the highest bench, looking down below at the spiral, down into the lobby, I pulled out my iPod for a few minutes and watched a few minutes of the Guggenheim scene from The International - a bad movie for sure, that scene the only reason to put up with the whole thing. It eventually became too weird and bizarre for me to handle, so I walked away, descending the space and out into the fresh air, on a truly beautiful day in the city.

And now, for whatever reason, some friends of mine are meeting up way down Coney Island way. I do not look forward to the trip down, and even less to the trip back. If only I had some kind of magic, flying shoes, or maybe a jetpack.

"Days full of rain,
Sky's coming down again,
I get so tired of these same old blues.
Same old songs,
It won't be long,
Before I'll be trying on,
My flying shoes."
- Townes Van Zandt

Coney Island...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

67. Church of the Guardian Angel (Now Parish of Guardian Angel/St. Columba)

NOTE: In 2015 this church merged with St. Columba Church as part of the Archdiocese of New York's great closings & mergers of 2015. Both churches will remain open for regular Masses and other events. This new combined parish is called Parish of Guardian Angel / St. Columba.

(mass times & church info last updated 03/10/2016)
Address: 193 Tenth Ave. (@ 22nd St.)
Phone: 212.929.5966
Weekend Mass Times: 
Sat: 5pm (English)
Sun: 9am, 12pm (both English)
Weekday Mass Times: 
Mon-Fri: 12:10pm (English)
Confession: Sat: 4pm-4:45pm
Church Constructed: 1930
Official Website
Architecture & History
Detail of External Hand-Carved Limestone Frieze
The Society of St. Hugh of Cluny
About the Organ
Guardian Angel School
About Guardian Angels
Feast of the Guardian Angels

Angel of God,
My guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here,
Ever this day,
Be at my side,
To Light and to Guard,
To Rule and to Guide.
This is a prayer my mother used to pray with me when I was young, and one I hope to pray someday with my own children. In my quick research, I've just discovered the Church's official stance on Guardian Angels:
"That every individual soul has a guardian angel has never been defined by the Church, and is, consequently, not an article of faith; but it is the "mind of the Church", as St. Jerome expressed it: "how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it." (Comm. in Matt., xviii, lib. II)."
(From Catholic Encyclopedia,
"The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it. Jesus' words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father."

Devotion to the angels is, at base, an expression of faith in God's enduring love and providential care extended to each person day in and day out until life's end."

I, myself, believe in them - strongly. My own angel has always protected me powerfully. I can't explain it, but I have always been kept very safe from external harm, despite some (a lot of!) stupid situations I have gotten myself in. Remarkably safe. So I will continue to say this prayer to my own Guardian Angel, and I am thankful every day for the protection that I, and we all, are given from a higher source, from God and the angels above.

Church of the Guardian Angel in Chelsea sits right on the corner of 10th Avenue and 22nd street, and I'm surprised I hadn't noticed it before. The doors leading to 10th open right into the main church - no foyer or hall, nothing separating the public street life from the interior of this sacred space, save for the wooden double door. It's a nice simple church, another one easy to pray in. There are a few statues (many of angels,) a small side chapel or two, and elegant sculpted stone or clay stations of the cross.

It's getting hotter these days and I couldn't help but notice there was, of course, no air conditioning and such little ventilation at first (though later I realized fans lining the left side of the church worked with all their might to cool the entirety,) that I did wonder, how do the spiritual seekers of Chelsea worship in comfort? Now, I realize this is the first Mass I've been to this summer since the heat's really beginning to hit, and thus my reflection on the air temperature, but it did make me think that this might be a very nice church to visit during the winter.

The second reading struck me especially today, from the 2nd letter of Paul to the Corinthians. It deals with Paul's prayer to God to deliver him from an affliction, and the response of the Lord that is basically, weakness can only make one stronger. I cannot say right away why it speaks to me louder than the other readings today, I can only say that I will read it repeatedly this week to discover what it's trying to say to me:

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness."
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

After Mass, realizing that the High Line was right around the corner, I grabbed an ice cream and visited this new site to the city. Its a nice park (probably will be even better after its full completion - next year hopefully?) I like what they're doing with the wild flowers and overgrowth concept, and those big wooden lawn chairs seem like a great idea for a sunny day picnic, but it was a bit crowded, and the areas where the train line narrows seemed kind of full. Still, it's a cool place. But no Inwood Park.

During Mass I looked high up, above the altar, and stared at a statue of an angel that rests in front of the three high stained glass windows, and felt comforted as it watched over the celebration. Comforted also by the two angels that flanked the altar to either side. And comforted by, what I believe to be, unseen angels, around and above us, keeping watch over over us, protecting.

A bit of a song my dearest friend shared with me, so long ago...
"Misguided angel hangin' over me,
Heart like a Gabriel, pure and white as ivory,
Soul like a Lucifer, black and cold like a piece of lead,
Misguided angel, love you 'til I'm dead."

- The Cowboy Junkies

Friday, July 3, 2009

66. St. Monica (Now the Parish of St. Monica's, St. Stephen of Hungary, St. Elizabeth of Hungary)

NOTE: In 2015 the churches of St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Stephen of Hungary closed down and were merged into the church of St. Monica as part of the Archdiocese of New York's great closings & mergers of 2015. St. Monica's will be the main church open for regular Masses and other events, although St. Stephen's is currently open for an 11:30am Sunday Mass (see here). This combined parish is called the Parish of St. Monica, St. Stephen of Hungary, St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

(mass times & church info last updated 04/04/2016) 
Address: 413 E. 79th St. (@1st Ave.)
Phone: 212.288.6250 or 212.288.6251
Weekend Mass Times:
Sat:  5:30pm (English)
Sun: 7:30am, 9am, 10:30am, 12pm (all English)
Sun: 11:30am at St. Stephen of Hungary (English) (Until further notice)
Weekday Mass Times:
Mon-Fri: 7:30am, 12pm (both English)
Sat: 12pm (English)
Sat: 5pm, or anytime by appointment
Rosary: After all weekday Masses
Every Friday after the 12pm Mass until 3pm, with Benediction following the Divine Mercy Chaplet
Divine Mercy Chaplet: 
Mon-Fri: 3pm
Miraculous Medal Devotion: 
Mondays after each Mass
Official Website
About the Organ
About St. Monica


Well, it happened again. I journeyed far to the East side to attend St. Monica's 12pm daily Mass (joyously having today off for the holiday weekend - how I love these three day weekends,) and upon arriving I found the main church closed for renovations (painting, in this case) and Masses being held in the downstairs "church" (really just a basement with altar, chairs and a priest.) But it's all right, you know? I realized this being my first time back in attendance in almost a month, it brought my focus more to the actual ceremony and celebration of the Mass - the Word, the Eucharist, and prayer - a good thing.

I liked it down there today, an Indian priest leading the liturgy, I enjoyed the calm of us 10 or so gathered together, enjoyed receiving the Sacrament, enjoyed quiet prayer time for my friends, family and complete strangers. Somehow, in the blur of the last month, I allowed my Metrocard to expire and so on the M101 bus today became "that guy" who walks around with two dollar bills in his hand begging for quarters - forgetting the price had just gone up to $2.25! I was able to find two wonderful women who helped me out, one who was willing to loan me that extra quarter - it was in thankfulness for her generosity and for her that I prayed, and for a lesson learned: carry change with you when going to the bus, either for your own sake or for someone else's.

I'm beginning to suspect that some of my friends may have discovered this blog and that I am the author. If this is true, than it puts my writing in an uncomfortable position. This anonymity that the web offers is a strange sort of security blanket. If there are those that I know who know it is me writing and read these words, then I feel I may not be able to be as honest as I'd like. Not that I'd ever write anything down here that I shouldn't be able to tell anyone to their face, but no doubt I have done just this and it's my own damn fault for "diarying" in public. More like diarrhea-ing, eh? I wonder if it's better for me to find out for sure (from them) that they know, rather than just suspecting it, as it's already influencing my writing anyway. Or is it better for me to come clean? To admit I have this crazy, rambling secret which has become just one of my many addictions. Either way - if they do already know, or if people I know are to find out one day, how will I feel? Embarrassed? Guilty? Caught?

After Mass, I snuck into the main church and was able to take a few of these pictures below, before a man in coveralls on his lunch break shooed me away. The statues were shrouded, scaffolding and paint tarps covered every inch of the place. But still, it's beauty shone through.

Additional Photos...

Five years ago when I first visited this church, the main sanctuary was kept from me. The renovations had shut us out. Except for these 3 dark images above, I knew nothing about how the place would look. Well, I'm happy to report that after five years (that have flown by, quite frankly), this church is painted anew and it's beauty obvious to all who enter. I've had my own renovations (spiritual, mental and emotional ones, that is) and I feel as different today than then as the pictures differ from above and below. Enjoy these new images of the Church of St. Monica (that poor woman, who spent years praying for her reckless son thousands of years ago.)