Smells and bells and sights and sounds and snow

Yesterday, we had a beautiful solemn TLM at Holy Innocents in Manhattan, the undersigned as celebrant.  Here is a brief sample.  I set up my little camera on a ledge pointed toward the altar just to see what might happen.


After Mass a priest friend and I had lunch at the rectory including panetone and prosecco for dessert.  I always have them at least once for Christmas.


Then we went to the Met.  You saw some of my photos of that in the post about the Christ Child and the Virgin’s veil.

Here is a grand Christological Goldfinch, getting devoutly squished by Baby Jesus, courtesy of Francesco Francia, painted around 1500-10.



I get the feeling that he would rather be somewhere else.

But, some of you who haven’t been following this blog for a while, may not know what the point of the boid is in these Renaissance paintings of Madonna and Child.  The European Goldfinch has red feathers on its head.  The legend is that the finch tried to give comfort to the Lord while He was on the Cross by trying to pull thorns out of His Head.  As a result, little finch got some of His Blood on his head and stayed that way ever after.   So, in the paintings of the Madonna and Child, the finch is a symbol of the Passion and Death of the Lord, for which He was born.

We went for the lighting of the Christmas Tree in the Medieval Hall.  This is perhaps the best Christmas season thing to do in New York.

“But Father! But Father!”, you are no doubt saying.  “Wasn’t it snowing?  Was it hard to get around?  What was it like driving downtown on 7th?”

Sort of like this.  Happily, we followed some sanitation trucks with plows as we passed through Times Square.


Then I slogged over to see a movie… The King’s Speech.  GREAT.

This morning we had a little snow in Manhattan.   You may have heard.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Maria says:

    Father Z,

    What a truly enjoyable and interesting read.

    The solemn TLM was beautiful. Although I am not familiar with Latin Mass, and I do not understand a lot of what is going on here, (yet)..I was able to appreciate the beauty of the adoration involved and the singing was so deeply moving.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    As an artistic person, I was also very appreciative of your analysis of what the fittle finch represented in the painting.
    It is lovely to be able to ‘read’ what art is telling us.

    I trust and hope you had a very enjoyable evening out, and us English here in the UK cannot even cope with a little 4 inch layer of snow without chaos.
    It is interesting to see the pavements cleared so well in Manhattan.

    I have to say, I thoroughly enjoy reading what you share Father.

    God Bless,


  2. Is that a statue of Lady Liberty or one of those stand still actors? Either way, it looks cold….

    That goldfinch keeps popping up in various places. :)

  3. Beautiful Mass clip, Father. Was that John Egan with the thurible?

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    How beautiful–all of this post.

    I have a question that has been eating at me. I am a very novice member of a small Gregorian schola which I joined after the chant workship in Madison. Our choir director makes us sing at top speed–perhaps twice as fast as the chant in the video. In his opinion singing at top speed is what sounds good. When the choir prays the Angelus or Memorare together, they even say that at top speed (well, I don’t, I say it at a measured pace and finish after everyone)! If I pray the psalms and antiphons of the divine office at top speed (as I confess I do every once in a while because of not having left myself adequate time to do otherwise) I am very well aware that I am not praying with due care and recollection. And I know I don’t like it when the people who read at Mass or the celebrant saying the prayers, read rapidly and without attention. Therefore it also seems not-right to me to sing the Mass at top speed. I am almost getting to where it is technically possible for me to do it. However I have absolutely no desire to–as a person who wants to PRAY the Mass, it is painful to me. I read somewhere recently that Gregorian chant is sung speech and meant to be sung at a normal speaking pace.

    So, how common is it that chant is sung very fast, what is the thought about that, and what should I say or do? I have already made a pest of myself in this choir over other matters of what I perceived as lack of reverence and need to truly act with kindness and prudence.

  5. Elizabeth: The pace of Gregorian chant.. yes, that is a big question. However, continue to allow yourself to be guided by the fact that the texts of Gregorian chant are texts of the liturgy of Holy Mass. They have to be intelligible as speech. That helps us not to go too slowly. However, there should be a dignity of pace during Mass. Decorum, what is apt and beautiful, should set the pace. Rushing is not dignified. That applies also, I believe, to the action in the sanctuary. Too many times I have seen sacred ministers, or at least the MC, dashing around in a way that is completely out of sync with the pace of the chant. They practically run in processions, sprint from point to point in sanctuaries, make weird and overly angular turns.

    Also, in chant, there is going to be a slight difference in the pace of a psalm tone and the pace of, say, a Gradual.

    I sometimes get the feeling that people who rush chant, or go to slowly, just don’t understand the Latin or haven’t really spent any time before Mass thinking about the feast and what the text is doing. Similarly, each movement from point A to B in a sanctuary, has a purpose. If you anticipate what you are to do and what is coming next, you needn’t rush.

  6. mobrien says:

    I loved the Times Sq. Pictures! I think the newyorktimes is still requesting readers to submit photos! Yours are really great

  7. Ed the Roman says:

    I’ve found that I chant best when I am speaking, but speaking with the tone.

  8. mobrien: Did you just suggest that I submit something … anything… to the NY Times?

    Are you fairly new here? o{];¬)

  9. iudicame says:

    Tough stuff in the world and at home – All erased by that little video clip. Thanks Father for the daily doses of reality.


  10. Denis Crnkovic says:

    Very nice video of the TLM. As for the snow… rather whimpy, wouldn’t you say?

  11. introibo says:

    Back to the Pannetone – I am an avid baker – I make some 15 types of cookies at Christmas plus poppy seed/nut breads. But I have never been able to reproduce that great boxed pannetone which is so prevalent at Christmastime. I LOVE it. I happily buy several…they keep for awhile….

  12. RCOkie says:

    You are lucky to have gotten a picture of the Christmas tree. When I went to take one, I was told by security “no pictures of the tree.” (The “no photo” sign was another side of the tree from where I was standing so I couldn’t see it.) I especially love the choir screen in the background.

  13. Elizabeth D says:

    Thank you Fr Z. I agree with dignity of pace, and I’m not in favor of going too slowly. The contrast is obvious between the fast speed at which our schola sings familiar hymns like the Salve Regina, or familiar, English recessional hymns, vs the way they are sung at any other time. Comparing a bit of chant that is easy to pick out, to me the pace at which the choir in the video sings Gloria Patri, for instance, is beautiful–whereas we sing in a great anxious rush. “Gloria PatrietFilio etSpirituiSanct o, sicuteratinprincipio, etnuncetsem per!!” It is not a dignified pace–in my opinion. From limited conversations with the young priest who usually celebrates the sung Masses, it seemed like he was also unhappy with the choir director for a variety of reasons and trying to seek solutions. I think I have to be patient about it.

  14. Bob says:

    My panettone looks more like a peasant loaf, guess I’m going to have to get a proper baking pan.

  15. becket1 says:

    Nice TLM Father.

  16. Rob Cartusciello says:


    Wouldn’t it have been easier to simply take the subway?

    Then you would have a chance to hit Papaya King Hot Dogs near the Lexington & 86th St. Station. It is not a sophisticated meal, but it is worth a trip.

  17. Rob: I don’t have to go that far for a Papaya King Hot Dogs. Besides, I always get off at 77th.

    And once we had the car up there, well… we figured we might take it along too, once we were ready to go.

  18. cyejbv says:

    Thanks for posting that painting Father Z, ESPECIALLY entreating us to look closer… Jesus’ Holy little chubby baby hand ‘devoutly squishing’ that goldfinch made me reflect and smile. Your verbiage helps too! :) The legend of the goldfinch you shared, -which I haven’t heard, thanks for that- did remind me of a couple other bird legends I’ve heard.
    The Swallow got it’s name because it was flying and flitting above Christ on the Cross, cooing “Svala, Svala” which is “Console, Console” (Norwegian? Scandinavian?…sorry I don’t remember) and so became the Bird of Consolation, or the “Swallow”.
    The Crossbill is so called because it tried to pull the nails out of the Cross to free Christ. It failed but Christ noticed the little birds attempts and so honored it with a crossed beak so all would know and remember it’s bravery. The red feathers of the Crossbill are also from the blood of Christ.

    I’ve never seen a TLM, nor any part of one, in person or video. I missed the Christmas Eve broadcast from the Vatican, and now I cannot get my Quicktime to cooperate to watch the clip you posted Father Z. GRR! I will get it fixed… on the other hand maybe if I had a Mac I wouldn’t have these problems…. :)

  19. cyejbv: If I had a Mac it might be easier to post the videos too!

  20. cyejbv says:

    Did everyone hear that…. without that Mac Father Z cannot as easily instruct and inspire poor confused converts like myself!
    Hence, I’m challenging everyone to divvy some of your Christmas $ money to a needed cause! I feel confident that had that video been posted with a Mac I could have accessed it.
    anyone going to see my $10?….

    p.s. Father you can get me that CC cookie recipe of your moms later.
    hehe ;-)

  21. Childermass says:

    I too saw the King’s Speech, Father. And I concur. Astounding acting, not in a showy way, but just right! The British have such a way of making such finely mounted productions with little money.

    Did you get the same NYC movie ticket sticker shock that I got?

    While in New York I also saw the sad-but-beautiful Jacques Tati-esque animated film The Illusionist.

    I happily missed the snow. I’m from Syracuse, New York (over 6 feet fallen thus far), so I know snow, and I made a quick decision to get out of town and up to Boston before the blizzard hit.

    And I’m happy I did, or I would have been stuck in New York till tomorrow (not that such is a bad thing!). I’m glad to have met you at at last on Friday night. I shall mark the occasion with my first purchase of Mystic Monk. :)

  22. benedetta says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for this beautiful post and also second the Buon Compleanno!

  23. Sleepyhead says:

    In the final photo, what’s the ‘ghostly’ figure beside the statue?

    “Your verbiage helps too!”


  24. irishgirl says:

    Happy Birthday, Father Z! You missed being born on Christmas by three days!
    I see that you’re having a good time in NYC in spite of the snow. Well, you’re from Minnesota, so this is nothing compared to what the upper Midwest gets!
    Childermass-I live just to the east of you. We don’t have as much snow as you do in Syracuse—I’m kind of glad. Hope you got back home safely (to the home of the ‘Golden Snowball’ …[ducks] ) !

  25. irishgirl: Thanks for the Birthday greetings! Belated, however. My birthday is 28 October.

  26. benedetta says:

    irishgirl: are you in the diocese of Ogdensburg by any chance?

  27. Childermass says:


    Fortunately I live in Boston now, though I was born and grew up in the Syracuse area. I spent most of my childhood in the northern fringes of the Syracuse area, and the snowfall reaches Biblical proportions there. Syracuse “only” averages over 10 feet a season, but in Oswego county some towns average 25 feet!

    Incidentally, I feel like I’m in Syracuse at the moment. Boston got 1.5-2 feet of snow on Sunday and Monday.

    Do you live near Utica?

  28. irishgirl says:

    Fr. Z-oops, my apologies. I thought your birthday was today…[slaps hand to forehead]. DUH!
    benedetta (love your name, BTW)-I’m in the Syracuse diocese. Our Bishop, Robert Cunningham, was your Bishop before he came here. Seems that Ogdensburg is a ‘training ground’ for new Bishops; the last three weren’t there for too long before going on to ‘bigger and better places’!
    Childermass-I’m a Utican, born and bred! I’m proud to be from the same city as Blessed Mother Marianne Cope! And yes, I understand about the ‘Biblical proportions’ of lake-effect snows! I’ve seen my share of big blizzards in my life…1966…1993 to name two.

  29. benedetta says:

    irishgirl: Alas I do not live in the Ogdensburg diocese but currently in another upstate one with a somewhat notorious reputation. I have connections, through family, with both Ogdensburg and Utica. Benedetta is the name of one of my maternal ancestors but based on the other side of my family I might also be privileged to be called an Irish girl…Certainly none could have predicted that over the course of maybe two or three generations the faith of their families would be up against such a challenge! Deemed mission territory and now again in such a short time…
    So, irishgirl, in the New Year let us together look forward to a Catholic renewal of our Empire State!

  30. irishgirl says:

    Amen, benedetta! We have many Saints and Blesseds with New York ‘connections”: Sts. Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil, and John Lalande; Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton; Saint John Neumann, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini; Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha; Blessed Marianne Cope; Venerable Pierre Toussaint.
    May their prayers help us to a true Catholic renewal of our state!

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