I have written many times about the Church of the Holy Innocents in Manhattan. This church has become a spiritual oasis for many.
Look at this at Catholic Stand from a New York taxi driver:
In this town even going to church can be pierced with the nails of the Culture of Death. I am sure you have all had similar experiences. On All Saints Day I take the day off from cab driving to attend Mass, but I also make the decision to really make it a holy day and to attend my first Extraordinary Form Mass. I get off the F-train across the street from Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret.
Normally I would never give it a second thought but this time of year they are gearing up for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. My eyes flash on Victoria’s Secret Store across the street. It dawns on me a few Sundays later that this is the very store where a 17-year old mother of two was arrested October 17th for shoplifting a pair of skinny jeans. One of her two children, a dead newborn was found in her bag. Officials are awaiting autopsy reports to see if she will be charged with murder. I would think about this in the weeks to come, but today I am trying to find a new church.
I make my way past hundreds of people on the sidewalk. It is easy to tell the tourists from the natives. The New Yorkers usually have that 1000-yard stare, that dead look in the eye that sees, but does not see. The tourists have that wonder still in their eyes, open. That’s why I like picking up the tourists in my cab. They are not so jaded. They still like to talk.
Most people today on the sidewalk are wearing blue jeans and sneakers, but some have green hair or orange hair or purple hair. Some have tattoos and nose piercings or lip piercings or eyebrow piercings. Some look bizarre with spiked hair or Mohican haircuts. And then it dawns on me that I am the freak here: the only one in suit and tie and carrying a red Adoremus Hymnal. So be it.
I walk up Broadway to 37th Street. I look both ways down the street searching, but I don’t see a church. Then I make out a white cross but that can’t be it. It looks like one of those old Protestant crosses that are in front of their small and sometimes storefront churches. In desperation I walk closer and make out the words in red: Holy Innocents Catholic Church.
The building is not at first impressive, obscured by the huge glass and steel office buildings around it. I kneel and make the sign of the cross and enter. Inside is a glorious Catholic Church. The Sanctuary is all in pristine white. Beautiful sculptures of angels all in white: St. Michael with his sword and St. Gabriel who would say the words that would change the course of human history. Innocence is unmistakably proclaimed here. I notice most of the parishioners are dressed up—many of the women wearing Mantillas, the Chapel Veils, and many men in suits or dress clothes. For the first time today I don’t feel out of place.
I look up to the vaulted ceiling and the choir starts. A Gregorian chant, and my legs wobble as the six torch bearers, the thurible carriers and the Priest and Deacons enter. At the Kyrie Eleison I sob for the first time—it is so breathtakingly beautiful. The choir is world class. My thoughts are that they are professionals from the Theatre or show business. Some of the hymns are thePolyphony of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina with the bass, altos, tenors and sopranos singing different parts. The soprano is the best voice I have ever heard. Her voice soars up to the vaulted ceiling along with the curling wisps of incense, trilling the r’s as she hits the high notes.
We sing the Gloria, the Credo, and the Our Father in Latin to those sacred Latin melodies. I cry for the second, third, and fourth time. The Priest and Deacons are facing the High Altar and genuflecting or bowing to it while incensing it often. The Priest is saying the prayers for us and I’m fine with that. I don’t need to be saying the prayers along with him to feel I am participating. I amparticipating by being here. He is our shepherd and he prays for us. That’s the way our elder brothers the Hebrews did it for 2,000 years before Christ, and that’s mostly how the Holy Roman Catholic Church has done it for most of the last 2,000 years up until post Vatican II.
At one point in the Mass the Priests sprinkles the parishioners with Holy Water and the altar servers incense them. I get lost and don’t know what is happening a few times, but I am fine with that. I am lost in Christ’s Church and that is one good place to be lost. I tried to prepare by reading my Adoremus Hymnal beforehand but my memory is really bad this last decade or so and I just can’t retain things. I better learn by the time I get to heaven though, if the Lord in his bountiful mercy grants that divine grace to me that my whole life is aimed at receiving. I better learn it because the heavenly banquet is going on all the time there. I find afterwards that there was a pamphlet with everything listed, all the readings and translations on a table that I didn’t see. Well, next time.
The climax of the Mass is the Eucharist, “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No.1324). I see the Altar Rails. I am stunned and grateful that they are still here and haven’t been taken out and made into S.U.V.s. I fall to my knees before it sobbing for the final time. I receive the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and I get up wobbly, dizzy. I walk very slowly back to the pew and fall to my knees.