GUEST POST: NYC taxi driver thankful for Extraordinary Form, sad for dead baby.

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.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. RafqasRoad says:

    This is an exquisite recounting of the TLM; breathtaking is the only word, breathtaking!!

    I attended yesterday (Sunday) at our local TLM in Sydney (Maternal Heart of Mary), had a wonderful confession and quiet prayer before mass commenced; it is awesome!! No hymns because we’re in Advent, no organ either, but stunning chant (monophonic with ‘drone’ bass similar to Byzantine or Eastern style) and the wonder of it all, a magnificent sermon (Fr. Wong is amazing; so humble and gentle, but amazing and a stonking good preacher!!) and after mass, the prayers over the Advent wreath; as I was up front, they came and crowded around my spot; choristors on either side of me and in front, more incence and the prayers – the walls between Heaven and Earth bled away and time stood stil – it was a profound experience – as though ‘yes!! This IS the court of heaven!!’ I felt no ground beneath my feet, barely felt the guide-dog’s lead in my left hand, the boundary between myself and my surrounds melted away – if this is Paradise, I do not wish to do anything that will sabotage my arrival in the heavenly court of my Saviour!!

    After it all, I exited the church and wished to simply stand out of the way and listen to the crowd; usually parishioners will come and say hello, but my husband arrived to collect me; I didn’t want to go! leaving the group, that little church, the amazing encounter with my saviour and maker that I’d been permitted to experience was a rather disconcerting jolt indeed out of the sacred back into the profane of Sydney life (profane being the opposite of sacred in its truest sense of the word, not the modern sence of it, though many in Sydney will likely think the latter is valid also). To do this every week, even every day would be bliss!!

    Tomorrow (Tuesday) I leave Sydney for the Shoal haven. ‘Aussie Maronite’ is on the threshold of becoming ‘South Coast Catholic’. the only TLM in the new diocese is the better part of one and three quarter hours one way and inaccessible by public transport… Please pray that the TLM comes to the Shoal Haven, even a simple ‘mid week’ low mass, even the occasional offering of this mass…WOW!! I will miss it but count myself incredibly privileged to have partaken the sacraments in this form. The language has not been aa problem. I can’t read along in a missel as a sighted person can, so just soak it in and/or pray the rosary, adding my prayers silently to those of the priest (though I have been advised that some see this as rather poor form). But what a treasure!! not too long ago, it was the norm for young and old, rich and poor, simple and educated…bring it back so!!

    I prayed for this, and for it to move throughout the dioceses of Australia…

    It is truly bread of heaven!!


    Very soon to be South Coast Catholic.

  2. gloriainexcelsis says:

    That is one articulate taxi driver. And I have tears in my eyes. It’s the way I felt when I was able, for the first time in 30 years, able to experience the TLM, about 13 years ago. It was a solemn high mass with a glorious schola and choir. I cried then, too. I still do sometimes, in gratitude. Low or sung mass, it doesn’t matter.

  3. Mike says:

    This is fantastic. We need this, all over the world.

  4. If I ever visit NYC again, I want him for a cabbie!

  5. Never mind our unformed and malformed post-VatII priests; maybe the real problem with the Church is not enough cabbies like this one.

  6. JacobWall says:

    Fr. Z, were you giving Mass when this cabbie showed up? I saw this article posted on Facebook by Regina Magazine with a note implying that you were the priest mentioned in the article.

    In any case, wonder, wonderful article! This really highlights the “Church as a field hospital after the battle” imagery.

  7. Sandy says:

    Saw this last week and I, too, had tears in my eyes and had the same thought about the articulate cab driver! Wow, he could teach some bishops a thing or two.

  8. kpoterack says:

    As the editor-in-chief of the first edition of the Adoremus Hymnal, I was very touched at the thought of a NYC cabbie clutching the Adoremus Hymnal as he went to an EF Mass. Of course, I know that that hymnal was created for the OF Mass, but since we have lots of Latin and translations of prayers in common between the two forms, it could be of some use.

    Wow, I am still tickled at the thought that something I basically edited in my small apartment in Lansing, MI back in the ’90’s (via internet contact with Ignatius Press) still touches people in different parts of the country.

  9. JacobWall says:

    It was just drawn to my attention that the article actually states that Fr. John Zuhlsdorf was the celebrant. I should read more carefully.

  10. Magpie says:

    The New Mass, like New Coke, just isn’t doing it. There are no wide eyes, and no tears. Just that dead look in their eyes.

  11. kpoterack,

    When our TLM community first got off the ground in 2005, the Adoremus Hymnal was the first hymnal our fledgling choir adopted–not only for its hymns but especially for its settings of the standard Gregorian chant Masses (Missa de Angelus, etc), the Marian antiphons, etc. Perhaps few OF parishes have used it as much as us in the EF. (Though I must add that we have recently changed to the Campion missal & hymnal.)

  12. Jamey Brown says:

    Fr. Z, you of course, were the celebrant at this Mass [Really?!?] but I didn’t mention you initially because I didn’t want people to think that the Mass only seemed reverent because of the well known Priest saying it. Frankly–and I would never lie to a Priest–I didn’t even know you were the Celebrant until after the Mass. I was already knocked out by the reverence of the Mass.
    I have since decided to put the comment about you in it since it was an important item. I edited the column last night but absent mindedly omitted the comment about you–senior moment.
    Today, however, I put the comment about you into the article although it doesn’t show up on your blog. I think it would if you could “refresh” it.
    I have enjoyed your blog–even though you didn’t print a humorous bit I sent you last month. I think it a very valuable service you do for our Lord.
    Have a blessed Advent.

  13. Transportsjoie says:

    Praise God for the graces that flow to us at the TLM and every Holy Mass, and praise God for tears which signify that the whole person has been touched by grace. Everything about the TLM evokes a response in us that is too deep and profound for words.

  14. Jamey Brown says:

    Yes, Fr. Z was the Celebrant. I explained above why I didn’t mention him initially. He’s in the new edited version of the article–along with the rest of the article which includes the jaw dropping quote from Fr. George Rutler (Administrator of The Church of the Holy Innocents) about the Liturgy being the primary source for evangelization.
    My Adoremus Hymnal I bought from EWTN 6 years ago when I converted so I could sing along with their televised Masses. I thank you immensely for editing it (even though you are from Michigan. I’m from Northwest Indiana and that’s Notre Dame country. We don’t take too kindly to Michigan, but you seem like an all right guy). Have a Blessed Advent everyone.

  15. kpoterack says:

    Henry Edwards,

    Thanks for the info. I am glad that it was of use to you fellows in the EF! It warms the cockles of my OF/EF heart!

  16. Lin says:

    Father Z and Jamey Brown………Thank you! Best post ever!

  17. I don’t like to repeat myself here, but please pray that Holy Innocents is not closed, which I see as a very real possibility given the archdiocese’s plans for Manhattan. As for the extraordinary form of Mass, that requires separate prayers. Almost as soon as Father Rutler was moved from Our Saviour, the new pastor determined that he could no longer guarantee a priest for the 9 AM Sunday Mass in the extraordinary form and discontinued it, telling everyone to go to St. Agnes. Take nothing for granted. Pray hard, work hard, and persevere.

  18. LadyMarchmain says:

    Reading this was almost as good as being there! Thank you, Mr. Brown and Fr. Z!

  19. New Sister says:

    Such a moving account – thanks for sharing this.

  20. Jamey Brown says:

    Fr. Z, does your [Really?!?] comment imply that you weren’t the Celebrant? If not I will edit the published article and change it. I am sorry. Two ladies told me after the Mass that it was you. Either way it was still one glorious Mass.

  21. Jamey Brown says: Fr. Z, does your [Really?!?]

    No, it only means that I am surprised that it was I who was saying that Mass. I didn’t see a date. If someone told I was the celebrant, then I am sure I was the celebrant. They know me there.

  22. Jamey Brown says:

    Fr. Z, then yes! you were the Celebrant! Two ladies who go to Mass every day told me and it looked like you. It was Nov.1 All Saints’ Day. It was a Latin Solemn Mass with 2 Deacons and everything was sung, even the readings. Your homily was passionate and you mentioned “millions and millions of people in heaven” and “the Mass is a foretaste of heaven.” The second quote I used in an edited version of the article along with your name. The mention is in the new current version of the post on Catholic Stand. All I can say is thank you, thank you. It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw in my life!

  23. Ben Kenobi says:

    Well, sir, you have a real talent for exposition. Thank you for your encouraging account.

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