Posts Tagged ‘St. Patrick’s Cathedral’

Prayers for Peace

Friday, September 6th, 2013

The Holy Father has made an urgent plea to all the people of the world to set aside tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 7, as a day of prayer and fasting for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria. Here is his statement.  Cardinal Dolan has added his own request to the family of the Archdiocese of New York.

If you are a director or coordinator of a parish religious education program that meets on Saturday, please invite those in your program and their families  to offer their prayers as well.

For those of you who will be in midtown Manhattan tomorrow, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Holy See’s  ambassador to the United Nations, will offer a Mass at 5:30 pm at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Please come and, by all means, invite your family and friends to join you there.



The Patron Saint of Plan B

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

One of the many reasons I love these days of the liturgical year is that we get to revisit the Acts of the Apostles, not just on Sundays, but throughout each week as well. Even if you are unable to go to Mass every day, look at the readings from the Acts. You can find them at the U.S. Bishops’ website.

Attributed to the author of the Gospel of Luke, this book is fascinating and should provide a measure of comfort to those who worry about today’s Church. Right from the beginning, the Church – the community of believers – faced and overcame many obstacles and challenges, both external and internal.

Today’s reading shows us how the disciples of Jesus found themselves making decisions after his ascension. This is the feast of the apostle Matthias who, according to Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, should be known as “the patron saint of Plan B.” If you read Acts 1-15-17, 20-26, you’ll see why.

Judas, who had been selected  by Jesus as one of the 12 apostles, betrayed the Lord and hanged himself.  Peter knew he had to find a replacement and brought this to the brothers and sisters.  Jesus wasn’t going to make this appointment directly, so they had to come up with an alternate plan. They nominated two candidates, all prayed, and then they cast lots. “The lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.” Plan B.

Certainly Msgr. Ritchie is dealing with Plan B himself these days during the Cathedral’s restoration. He’s probably on Plan K. We in the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office certainly find ourselves having to change plans, too.  In fact, everybody has to go to Plan B or beyond at some point in his or her life.

The next time you find yourself in such a position, don’t forget to ask St. Matthias for help.

A busy week begins with a big shock

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Well, the pundits will be having a field day with the news of Pope Benedict’s resignation.  However, I think Father James Martin, SJ, has produced a thoughtful reaction to this event in America Magazine’s group blog, “In All Things”  He believes the Pope’s greatest legacy will be in his writings and I agree. I just reread the Holy Father’s encyclical  Caritas in Veritate for a catechist formation online course I facilitated last month. I commend it to you.  And then there are his volumes on Jesus of Nazareth.

Certainly, the Holy Father has earned a peaceful retirement. However – and I know I am being selfish- I hope he has one more book left in him to write.

Lent is upon us.  It’s not even two months since Christmas. But while the rest of us were catching our breaths from the holidays, the Catechetical Office’s intrepid webmaster, Jim Connell, has been busy creating a Lenten calendar titled “In Today’s Gospel”  on our website. Each day contains a small reflection and offers a question for us all to ponder.

This coming Sunday, Cardinal Dolan will accept as the elect hundreds of catechumens from all around the archdiocese, who are seeking Baptism and the other Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. The Rite of Election is reserved to the Ordinary of a diocese, so all the catechumens  should be gathering at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Keep them in prayer and, with them, those candidates for continuing conversion, already baptized, but seeking full initiation in the Roman Catholic Church, also at the Easter Vigil.

Finally, many thanks and best wishes to Bishop Dennis Sullivan, vicar general of the Archdiocese, who becomes Bishop of Camden, N.J. on Tuesday, Feb. 12. He is a true pastor, as those of us who live downtown can attest, and he will be sorely missed here at the Cardinal Cooke Center.

Confirmation for Youth with Disabilities

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

It has been nearly 35 years since the United States Catholic Bishops issued their guidelines for the reception of the sacraments by persons with physical or developmental disabilities.  But for some reason, many families still are not aware of them.  Too many Catholics with disabilities have not received sacraments beyond that of Baptism and sometimes First Eucharist.  The Sacrament of Confirmation is a more remote possibility, perhaps because it is frequently perceived as a sacrament of completion rather than what it actually is: a sacrament of initiation.

Here is what the bishops say about the sacraments and persons with disabilities:

“It is essential that all forms of the liturgy be completely accessible to persons with disabilities, since these forms are the essence of the spiritual tie that binds the Christian community together. To exclude members of the parish from these celebrations of the life of the Church, even by passive omission, is to deny the reality of that community. Accessibility involves far more than physical alterations to parish buildings. Realistic provision must be made for persons with disabilities to participate fully in the Eucharist and other liturgical celebrations such as the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick (Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities, November 1978; revised 1989).”

Nearly 30 years ago, the late John Cardinal O’Connor, a tireless advocate for and friend to persons of all ages with disabilities, began a custom both his successors have continued: that of conferring the Sacrament of Confirmation upon youth with disabilities during his Sunday Pontifical Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  He was setting an example for all pastors and parishioners to welcome, prepare, and provide the sacraments to these young people in their parishes.  However, whether by design or by accident, he also established one of the most beloved and impressive rites on the Cathedral’s calendar.

This coming April 14, Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan will confer the Sacrament of Confirmation to youth with disabilities at the 10:15 Mass in St. Patrick’s.  If you know of a Catholic young person with physical or cognitive disabilities, who has not yet been confirmed, please tell his or her parents, family members or caregivers to e-mail Mrs. Linda Sgammato, director of special religious education for the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office. Better yet, give her a call at 212-371-1011, ext.  2852. Mrs. Sgammato will be delighted to provide more details on having this young Catholic confirmed. She will be happy to meet the candidate and his/her family in their homes, too.

Says Mrs. Sgammato: “A home visit is an opportunity to meet the candidates and families in a relaxed, informal atmosphere, to hear their stories, to share their excitement, to present the red Confirmation gown and, of course, to learn how each candidate is prepared – by a catechist in a parish program adapted to his or her needs or by faith-filled parents, family members or caregivers. It’s my honor and joy to meet them and help make possible their great day of Confirmation at the Cathedral.”

Art at the service of evangelization

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Often when we look at religious stained glass windows or mosaics, we have to crane our necks because they are above eye level.  We don’t always get to appreciate the fine work, the detail, and the precision that go into creating these pieces, many of which could be considered visual evangelization and catechesis.

This is a particular loss when it comes to the devotional art of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1948-1933) and his studio, which created devotional and other works for a fifty-year period that spanned what is often referred to as “the gilded age.”

While Tiffany worked in many media, his name is most associated with a unique style of stained glass. He and his team didn’t just use glass creatively. They created special glass that was streaky, opalescent and delicately tinted. These glass styles enabled the subjects of the windows to appear animated and filled with emotion. Backgrounds acquired dimension. Clothing looked so real that one wanted to reach out and touch the fabric. It’s not always easy to appreciate all this from ten feet below the window or across the nave of a church.

Now, the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA), which is located at the headquarters of the American Bible Society on 61 Street and Broadway in Manhattan, has provided a unique opportunity for us to see at eye level or close to it the genius of Tiffany devotional art. It’s an extraordinary collection.

There are stained glass windows from the Driehaus and Neudstadt collections, the Corning Museum of Glass, several churches, and many other sources. From St. Andrew’s Dune Church of Southampton, N.Y., there is a touching window from the legend of Arthur: young Galahad in pursuit of the Holy Grail. It is a memorial for an eighteen year-old boy.  A larger window is titled “Lydia Entertaining Christ and His Apostles.” However, MOBIA’s curators think Lydia is more likely entertaining Paul, Timothy and Silas. According to the Acts of the Apostles, she met the three of them at Philippi in Asia Minor (Acts 16:13-15.)

MOBIA’s exhibit also contains magnificent mosaics, including one named “Fathers of the Church,” featuring St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Ambrose. And there’s more, too much more to itemize here.

Tiffany’s devotional art was commissioned mostly by Protestant and Jewish congregations. However, some Catholic Churches in our own archdiocese have Tiffany windows and the altar of St. Michael and St. Louis in St. Patrick’s Cathedral is associated with Tiffany. Maybe your church has a Tiffany touch.

The exhibit is on through Jan. 20, 2013, and admission is free.  You can preview the exhibition, “Louis C. Tiffany and the Art of Devotion, here.  If you really want a treat, find out when MOBIA’s own experts are giving tours.

Fine religious art can evangelize and catechize. The medieval cathedral builders knew that and filled their churches with stained glass and sculpture. The Renaissance painters and sculptures knew it, too. Certainly Tiffany understood the power of great devotional art. It’s true today.  Modern church art may be different from that of earlier periods but if it is good, it can be a powerful tool of evangelization. How appropriate for a Year of Faith.

On Ignatius’ feast day, thanks to an early New York Jesuit

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Today, July 31, is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. This is an appropriate day to write about the contributions of one of his sons, whose name is known by so few, but to whom the Catholics of New York owe so much: Father Anthony Kohlmann, S.J., the first vicar general of the Diocese of New York.

In 1808, Pope Pius VII created four new dioceses in the United States. One of them was New York. The pope named a Dominican friar, Father Luke Concannon, as the first bishop. The new bishop made plans to sail here from Naples, but Napoleon got in his way by placing an embargo on American ships. Realizing that he wasn’t going to get to his new diocese anytime soon, Bishop Concannon wrote to the pope and asked for a vicar general to be appointed in the meantime. The pope named a German Jesuit, Anthony Kohlmann, to the position while the bishop tried unsuccessfully to set sail. Bishop Concannon died in Naples in 1810 and Father Kohlmann went on serving as vicar general until 1814.

At the time of Kohlmann’s arrival, there was just one church for New York’s 14,000 Catholics, St. Peter’s. The pastor there was ill and shorthanded; the Catholics were, shall we say, a tad lukewarm in their practice of the faith. The energetic Jesuit soon could report that Mass was being celebrated in three languages, religious education classes were thriving, and the Catholics were outgrowing St. Peter’s.  It was a time for a second church and what a church it would be: the first St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  It was built on the site of a cemetery, well north of the northern border of New York City, Canal Street. Many Catholics complained that the site was too far out of town, but Kohlmann apparently understand that the city was growing and had only one way to go: north. This was a lesson a future ordinary of New York, Archbishop John Hughes would learn, too.

So we owe what is now properly called the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral to a Jesuit. But we owe him more. Good Jesuit that he was, Father Kohlmann and his companions established a college near the first cathedral. However, the need for additional space led to the purchase of a site four miles north of New York, near Columbia University’s Elgin Gardens. The Jesuit college moved up and into a mansion that already stood there. However, the Maryland Province of the Jesuits ordered this college to be closed so that the Jesuits could concentrate on another college they ran, the one in Georgetown. And what happened to the property? It became of the site of the current St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.

Today, as we honor the founder of the Jesuits, we New Yorkers should give thanks especially for Father Anthony Kohlmann, who built the church of New York in mortar and practice.

Thanks to Thomas Young, author of a marvelous history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New World Rising (Something More Publications 2006), for the story of Anthony Kohlman, S.J.

Woman’s work: art that catechizes

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012


Many of you probably recognize this image of the Annunciation. It’s a detail from a mosaic on the front of the altar in the Lady Chapel of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s a perfect example of art as catechesis, portraying Luke 1: 26-38. But did you know that it was made by a woman artist and a New Yorker at that?

The artist’s name was Hildreth Meière and you have probably seen many of her works around the city. She is represented in two of the Cathedral’s neighboring houses of worship, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Park Avenue and 51st Street and Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue and 65th Street. You will also find her work in some of New York’s great secular landmarks, such as No. 1 Wall Street and even the Radio City Music Hall.

Meière, who was educated at Manhattan’s Convent of the Sacred Heart and studied art in the United States and Europe, worked in many media besides mosaic. She was considered one of America’s greatest mosaic artists. You can learn more about her on a website dedicated to her life and works.

Until May 20, the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA), located at 1865 Broadway at 61st Street in Manhattan, is celebrating the genius of this great artist with an exhibition titled “Walls Speak. The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière.”

MOBIA’s mission is to “celebrate and interpret art related to the Bible and its cultural legacy in Jewish and Christian traditions through exhibitions, education and scholarship.” In other words, the museum wishes to showcase the influence that the Bible has had on culture, especially art, with exhibits like the Meière show and another that is running concurrently, “Finding Comfort in Difficult Times. A Selection of Soldiers’ Bibles.”

Upcoming exhibits include one on printmaking and the Gutenberg printing press and another on the ecclesiastical art of Louis Comfort Tiffany, who was known for his unique stained glass. The museum also maintains a remarkable permanent collection of rare Bibles.

Do try to visit the museum and in the meantime, find out more about it here.  Be sure to visit the Lady Chapel at St. Patrick’s to see the entire altar mosaic.

Of wooden soldiers and crèches and courtesy

Friday, November 18th, 2011


By chance and the kindness of a friend, who had an extra ticket, I saw the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show last Monday. The last time I saw that show, I think it was still accompanied by a movie.

There were some new offerings, including a neat one about a mom and her daughter playing a video game, and some 3-D videos. Of course, there were plenty of set pieces, including the always-impressive “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” with the Rockettes. “The Living Nativity” has endured as well, complete with Mary, Joseph, the Infant Jesus, the shepherds, the sheep, the Magi, and their dromedaries. By the way, if you are really lucky and are near the Music Hall early in the morning, you’ll see those great, marvelous Arabian camels taking their morning walk. That’s a picture you’ll want to capture.

Isn’t it interesting that with the fuss every Christmas about Nativity scenes on municipal property, the concerns about the expression “Happy Holidays,” and all the rest of the noise, “The Living Nativity” endures? It wouldn’t be in the show if people didn’t love it so much. Now, of course, the Radio City Music Hall in not municipal property and there are many shouts of “Happy Holidays” in the show, but I think we can take some lessons.

If we love something enough, we can protect it – not by shouting and suing but by bearing witness to it. And we can all do our bit.  Think about your Christmas lawn display. Do you have a crèche (not one of those dreadful inflatable ones) out there? Do you have a crèche in the house, in a prominent place where your guests can see it?

When you come to Manhattan with your friends of other faith traditions and go to see the Rockefeller Center tree, do you invite them to see the crèche nearby at St. Patrick’s Cathedral? It will be up by the end of next week. And if you miss the live camels at Radio City, you can always check out the very large wooden one in the Cathedral. He has to be seen to be believed.

None of this is proselytizing or forcing your beliefs on other people. It’s just saying who you are.

Now, if you’ll permit me: a word about “Happy Holidays.” There are so many faith traditions in this country, especially here in New York where I live, and it’s nice when we can acknowledge someone’s religious holiday. For example, most New Yorkers like to say “Happy Chanukah” to our Jewish friends.  However if we are not sure of another person’s religion, “Happy Holidays” is a way to avoid offering some one felicitations for a feast he or she doesn’t observe. Sometimes, saying “Happy Holidays” is just good manners.

The All-Star Saints of August

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Have you noticed that certain months of the year produce a particularly stellar selection of famous saints’ feasts? August is one of those months, beginning on the first day with St. Alphonsus Liguori, doctor of the church and founder of the Redemptorists. Actually, this celebration of saintly all-stars really begins on July 31 with the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola. Ignatius’ day fell on a Sunday this year, which is why you didn’t hear much too about him in church. But the Jesuit blogs were busy.

Back to August.  The fourth day of the month celebrates St. John Vianney, patron of priests. Yesterday, Aug. 8th, was the Feast of St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers, and of recently canonized St. Mary McKillop, the pride of Australia. Today, the 9th, is for St. Edith Stein, who was executed during World War II in the Auschwitz gas chamber, and tomorrow commemorates St. Lawrence the Martyr, who may hold the record for the most gruesome death.  On Aug. 11th, the Church celebrates three famous females: the saints Susanna, Clare and Philomena. Another famous female saint is venerated on August 12, St. Jane Frances de Chantal. Two days later comes the feast of s second 20th century martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe, who took the place of a doomed young husband at Auschwitz. His feast falls on Sunday this year. Of course, on Aug. 15, the church will observe the Feast of the Assumption.

For those of you who are of Hungarian descent, the feast of your national patron, St. Stephen the Great. is on Aug. 16.  Aug. 18 is the feast of St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who ended the persecutions against Christians in the year 312. Helena is credited with the discovery of the cross of Christ. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, monastic reformer, is honored on Aug. 20, while the feast of Pope St. Pius X is the next day. Aug. 22 is the feast of St. Andrew the Scot, who actually was an Irishman. The feast of St. Rose of Lima, patroness of the Americas, is on Aug. 23, followed the next day by the feasts of St. Bartholomew and St. Nathanial, who were the same man! Don’t ask me how that happened.

Aug. 25 brings the feast of King St. Louis of France, credited with discovering Jesus’ crown of thorns, then building the exquisite St. Chapelle in Paris to house the crown and other precious relics. That church is the inspiration for the Lady Chapel in our own St. Patrick’s Cathedral and for St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hartford, Conn. St. Louis shares Aug. 25 with St. Genesius, patron of actors, who was converted while satirizing the role of a catechumen about to be baptized. God touched him right in the middle of the performance.  On Aug. 27, one of the great women of the church is honored – St. Monica, mater to St. Augustine of Hippo, whose feast is the very next day.

Who’s your patron saint? Google your name and find its origin. Maybe you carry the name of one of these or the hundreds of August saints I haven’t mentioned. Maybe some facet of your personality or life resembles that of your namesake.  Or, if you have an August birthday, find out whose feast it is. Celebrate your connection.

I’ll be on vacation for the next few weeks but if I see something interesting, I’ll post. Enjoy the rest of this saint-rich month.

Make 2011 your “Matthew Year.”

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

This is just my personal opinion, but I think making ambitious New Year’s resolutions is a big waste of time. Most of them don’t last as long as a live Christmas tree in an apartment.

Instead, let me share a great idea with you. Father Chris at St. Patrick’s Cathedral proposed it in his homily at the Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God this past Friday evening.

Take 10 minutes day – at a time of your choosing – with the Bible. Father Chris suggested Matthew’s Gospel because we will be reading it a great deal this year. Whether you have a pocket Bible, a web site or a Bible app on your mobile device, keep it close to you. Here’s his suggestions for using those 10 minutes with Matthew.

For about a minute, just think about the fact that you are –as we all are at all times – in the presence of God. Then open your Bible to Matthew’s Gospel and begin reading it, just a few verses at a time. Take about four minutes to read it slowly, maybe more than once. Then, for the next three or four minutes, just open your mind to the Spirit of God and think about what you have read and what it means to you. Finally, say a meaningful Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13).

That’s all. Just about 10 minutes could make all the difference in how you live each day this year.

Of course, if you are interested in a more in-depth look at Scripture, be sure to check out The New York Catholic Bible School, which is sponsored by the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office. This will involve a considerably larger commitment of time but if you have desire, do check it out.

And while I am it, may I suggest you circle the date of Saturday, June 25: the day of our second annual New York Catholic Bible Summit. More information will be available shortly on our Catechetical Office website.  We’ve a great line-up of speakers and topics this year.

May 2011 bring you peace and joy.