Never Tired of…

Manhattan New York
The first frame of Woody Allen’s Manhattan

Growing up, falling in love with New York City, and falling in love with life—all of these fit together in my memory, like the stones of the great vaulted archways of St. John the Divine.

When, long ago, I haunted the places we visited this past weekend on our parish-cluster youth pilgrimage, I learned: Loving the city and loving life means loving the Lord, means receiving His love as the gift of every shaft of light, touching every brazen human artifact, that surrounds you at this moment. For instance, a Cuban sandwich, and big cup of coffee with milk, on a cold afternoon on Broadway in West Harlem.

(Been twenty years since I ate that sandwich and drank that coffee, and still it reminds me how much God loves me.)

To share some of this enchantment with our young people, in the sunshine on the steps of Mother Cabrini Shrine, or under the Times-Square lights on a Saturday night, or confessing our sins to a kindly Franciscan in a comfortingly dark wooden confessional in a church full of candles on 37th Street, or watching the sun set behind Lady Liberty from New York Harbor—this is the privilege of my now fatherly age and the blessed sacred duty the Lord has had the kindness to give me. Not to mention the unstinting generosity of the co-workers I have.

May the graces flow on!

We prayed. We saw the grandeur. The Lord holds the future. Love for the city and life will flower in the hearts of those who are young now, as He alone wills. It takes a whole lifetime, after all, to fall in love with life completely.

…If I might, a couple comments regarding new things for me in this visit to New York–perhaps something like my one-hundred twelfth, but my first in some years…

What a Greenwich-Village sunset USED to look like
What a Greenwich-Village sunset used to look like
1. I found it crushingly painful to see the skyline of lower Manhattan with the new tower. Not that the building doesn’t have anything to offer as something architecturally interesting; it actually kinda does. And not that the memory of the human toll of 9/11 still oppresses me. To the contrary, as hopefully you know, I have found consolation in praying for the poor souls who perished ever since 9:59 am that morning.

No, the painful thing doesn’t have to do with 9/11. It has to do with the fact that the Age of the Twin Towers, as part of what New York looks like—that Age has now definitively ended. Soon, it will be altogether forgotten—except by old people like me.

Yet that Age, that picture of Manhattan towering over the world, my memories of seeing the towers with my mom and dad and brother, or seeing them from Washington Square with college chums, or from Brooklyn Promenade, or Tompkins Square Park after eating some dim sum, or the Jersey Turnpike—all those memories, so vivid in my mind, so bound-up with youth and romance and seeking adulthood—they all belong to someone whose youth is over now, and forgotten. Sad. But I’ll live.

2. The Lord always gives little bonuses to people who wake up early, no matter what. Yesterday morning I had the forty minutes of sunrise to myself, for a run, with our (blessedly inexpensive) LaGuardia hotel as a starting point.

Flying blind, so to speak, I found the meandering park that hugs Flushing Bay. I saw the Whitestone Bridge shining to the northeast, like the towers of Minas Tirith. And Citi Field waking up in the very spot where Tom Buchanan winked at Myrtle Wilson.

We, too, after breakfast in the lobby, made our way towards our East-River crossing, barreling, like Nick Carraway, towards…

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.

New York Holy Days

empire-state-building

A lot of people think of New York City as a godless place. But I am going to demonstrate with solid evidence that New York City has a lot of holiness, from one end of town to the other. Because you can take any two days on the calendar and connect them with the holiness of New York City. Let’s take tomorrow and the next day. Ready?

Ok. Anyone Ukrainian? Anybody know any Ukrainians? Anybody know where Ukraine is?

Many Ukrainians migrated to the U.S. during the 20th century. On the Lower East Side of Manhattan Island, you can find a huge, beautiful Ukrainian Catholic church, on 7th Street. And there’s a school there, K-12. Down the street you can get some great pierogis.

Wait a minute. Ukrainian Catholic? Shcho tse? What is this?

St. Josaphat made Ukrainian Catholicism possible, by his heroic self-sacrifice. He loved Christ, the Pope, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, and his country. As you may know, the Ukrainians have a beautiful way of life, and they have their own way of celebrating the Mass—a way that goes back to the most ancient times, like our way of doing it does.

St. Josaphat gave his life so that his people, with all their ancient Christian traditions, could be Catholic. He suffered martyrdom 390 years ago tomorrow. He didn’t think twice about risking his life for Christ, because he considered himself a humble servant of the Lord, simply doing his duty.

Now, speaking of humble servants of the Lord…We’ve got a connection between tomorrow and the holiness of New York, with St. Josaphat and the Ukrainian-Catholic school (like our own Roanoke Catholic School!) on the Lower East Side. But what about Wednesday?

Mother Cabrini awaits the ResurrectionNo problem. I have two nephews who live on the other end of Manhattan Island, the northern tip of it. They live at 186th Street.

Anyone know what usually happens to the body of a saint after his or her life on earth? We build a beautiful chapel or church so that people can come and pray for special help from this particular saint.

Anyway, Mother Cabrini—anyone ever heard of her? A tireless missionary nun who came to America to help the Italian immigrants. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was beatified 75 years ago Wednesday. And whenever I see my nephews, I see her, too, because her shrine is at 190th Street.

Someone I Know

Mixed up Files Basil E Frankweiler Konigsburgonce wrote a weird little weblog about walking around New York City.*

One of its posts touched on the work of Ms. E.L. Konigsburg, whom we pray will rest in peace.

(She died on Saturday, three days before William Shakespeare’s 449th birthday.)

Of all the people who have ever written books, I think I can say that E.L. Konigsburg wrote the one I have enjoyed the most in my little life.

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* I commend the short-lived blog to you to read in its entirety, if you are bored, or otherwise at a loose end. (Start at the bottom of the page, click ‘Beginning,’ then keep clicking ‘Newer.’)

91st Street Subway Station of Easter

When you ride the Seventh Avenue-Broadway IRT on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, you roll through the ghost of the 91st Street Station. The train doesn’t stop, because the station has been closed since 1959.

Book of the Holy Gospels
When you pray your way through the Easter season according to the Roman Missal–in most ecclesiastical provinces–you roll through the Seventh Sunday of Easter like a ghost station.

Because now this Sunday is the perpetual home of the Solemnity of the Ascension, transferred from Thursday. The liturgy train doesn’t stop on the pages of the Lectionary marked “Seventh Sunday of Easter” anymore.

The gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday of Easter is the priestly prayer of Jesus.

I certainly am not competent to judge great things, like how to make decisions about when people have to go to Mass.

But this situation is rather ironic.

According to the Second Vatican Council:

The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.

And yet, because going to Mass on a Thursday is too inconvient for people, we solemnly read the Prayer of the Hour of Jesus–by any estimation, one of the most important texts of Scripture, upon which the entire spiritual life of the Church is based–we read it in church…never.

(Well, only at daily Mass.)

Alas.

Perhaps you will say, ‘Father, we actually hear the priestly prayer of Jesus at EVERY Mass, because the Eucharistic Prayer is the Church’s humble echo of Her Founder’s prayer.’

You would have a fine point. I would grant your penetrating pertinacity. Praise God. You cheered me up.

But, nonetheless, it would be edifying, don’t you think, to hear the original version of the Eucharistic Prayer read from the holy book, at least every once in a while.

Doorman

I enjoyed reading this little essay about New York City doormen.

–Not just because I would have been perfectly happy to live out my earthly life as a doorman, if God willed.

–Not just because the essay’s line of argument recalls King Lear’s ‘reason not the need’ speech, my favorite speech of all time.

But also because my humble little lot as parish priest at 11th and K Streets, N.E., is not too far removed from the social niche the doormen of New York occupy. I am proud to be their confrere.

THE Tournament

I despise the term “March Madness.”* It is imprecise.

You can have the NCAA tournament. You can have it.

Take it. Do your office pool. Throw a few bucks in the kitty. Take a lot of wild guesses. Give it your best shot.

The Big East tournament is where the real action is. Big Apple. Mid-town. Basketball nirvana.

Click HERE for the bracket. Go Georgetown!

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* “I hate the phrase, like I hate hell, all euphemisms, and Duke.”

Two Closures

Usually one might not think too much about the Washington Post closing its New York bureau.

But:

On Saturday, April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II was taking his last breaths in this world.

I was watching the t.v. coverage with my brother in his office–at the New York bureau of the Washington Post.

It was Easter vacation time.

I got tired of watching t.v. I walked over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to pray and console people. Very soon the Pope died.

It was an afternoon I will never forget. May our beloved late Holy Father rest in peace.

…Here’s a question. Why aren’t the Georgetown Hoyas playing in the Old Spice Classic this year? (Feel free to comment, whether you know the answer or not.)

…Happy Thanksgiving!

Titans of the Underground, Naked Emporers

Astor PlaceIn 1956 a five-alarm fire consumed the Wanamaker’s Department Store in New York City.

Firefighters doused the burning building with their hoses for days.

They sprayed so much water that it flooded the subway station below.

The earth underneath one of the railroad beds collapsed, and a train sank five feet into the hole. Thank God, not a soul on the train was injured.

It was July 14, 11:50 p.m.

At 12:02 a.m. on July 20, the subway began operating through the Astor Place station again. Everything had been completely repaired in five days and twelve minutes.

It was a miracle of decisiveness, engineering efficiency, and wholesome pride.

John Catoe and Jim Graham
John Catoe and Jim Graham

I thought of this when the following happened yesterday:

The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority Board, chaired by D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, voted 4 to 1 to renew the contract of Metro chief John Catoe.

At that very moment, FBI agents were in the office of Councilman Graham’s chief of staff Ted Loza, collecting evidence for a bribery case against him.

The day before, Graham had said that Metro has been subject to demonic attack this year.

“We’re having the heavens open, and all manner of demons have been unleashed.”

He really did say this. Councilman Graham said it when he was asked by a reporter whether or not Catoe should have to take any of the blame for the fact that Metro has become a tragic laughingstock.

devilPerhaps the venerable Councilman was just being poetic when he chalked the problems up to demons from heaven.

Hopefully the man is aware that God and the good angels are in heaven, and the demons are in the other place.

Hopefully he knows that demons tend to focus on enticing people to commit sins, like taking bribes or attempting to “marry” someone of the same sex.

On the other hand, fatal subway crashes, endless delays, surprise station closures, and other signs of managerial incompetence are usually atributable to human error.

…For the record, my disapproval of John Catoe’s regime began two years ago, when he instituted the following public-address message in the stations:

We have a lot of escalators in our system. You’ll notice that most people stand on the right side. And while you’re riding, hold the handrail for your safety. Enjoy your trip, and thank you for riding Metro.

This is not an effective message. It is an effete message.

But Catoe did not want to insist that anyone stand to the right. He didn’t want to give an order. He thought doing so would only encourage Type-A personalities to rush through stations in a furious hurry on the left.

Call me a Type-A personality if you want–call me something worse–but I do not think “stand to the right” is a suggestion. It is like the eleventh Commandment. It is escalator Rule Number One.

To review:

1956 in New York: The I.R.T. has a subway station which has been flooded by the Fire Department, and there is a train sunk into the roadbed. Everything is fully repaired and operational five days later.

2009 in Washington: John Catoe does not want to encourage rushing. It is the deadliest, most bogged-down year in the history of Metro. The WMATA Board renews his contract and gives him a standing ovation.

metro car

Go West, Number Seven! and Cetera

rhymes_with_orange

…Would that the disease really were the “swine” flu, in the imprecatory sense of the word ‘swine.’ Then only the most low-down, dirty, rotten scoundrels could contract it.

Judge John T. Noonan
Judge John T. Noonan
…The latest news out of South Bend, Indiana, is that Judge John T. Noonan will speak along with President Obama at the Notre Dame graduation.

(Mary Ann Glendon, who was previously scheduled to speak, perspicaciously declined the Laetare Award earlier this week.)

Please refrain from throwing tomatoes: For my money, of the three orators (Obama, Glendon, Noonan), Noonan promises to be the most interesting.

I am not claiming that he is correct in all his opinions. I do not even know what all his opinions are. I am simply saying that he is a very smart man, with a subtle, penetrating mind. His Power to Dissolve is one of the more illuminating books I have ever read. (It is about ecclesiastical marriage law.)

…The number seven subway in New York City is a delightful line.

sevenYou can ride it between Times Square and Grand Central in lieu of the tedious “Shuttle.” You can ride it out to Shea Stadium and the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, which is where one of the wonders of the world is kept: the New York City Panorama.

The day after I ran the New York Marathon, I parked at a Queens diner, ate an omelette, and paid the owner ten dollars to keep an eye on my car for a few hours. Then I rode the Seven to Manhattan for a wonderful day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, lunch with my brother, etc. Basically, the number seven is sweet.

Now the Number Seven is being extended by two stops to the west. And Archbishop Dolan blessed the huge tunnel drills!

What a world we live in, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! There is hardly time to take it all in. Can you believe that, on top of all this, the weekend will feature:

Caps. Celtics-Bulls. And of course, Nowitzness.

Christmas Octave Travels

nyc-skyline

The Redskins went out of town. The Hoyas headed north. So Preacher and Big Daddy took a trip, too. We wound up here in the Big Apple.

No problem.
Whip up on the Huskies? Summers: No problem.
First of all, let’s say this, regarding the game in Hartford, CT, last evening: Yeeeaahhhhh!!!

ESPN2 commentators Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas had a pre-set narrative for the game, which they refused to give up until the last minute. The narrative was this: Connecticut is going to win this game because Georgetown is inexperienced.

With about a minute left to play, Shulman and Bilas recognized what everyone else had noticed 37 minutes earlier: The Hoyas DOMINATED in every way. Monroe conducted a clinic. Freeman quietly scored at will. The Hoyas whupped #2 UConn!!!

Continue reading “Christmas Octave Travels”