Sometime in 2007, a young man, who calls himself Andrew the Sinner, decided to visit and attend mass at each of Manhattan's 96 Catholic churches. For two and a half years, he travelled uptown and downtown to fulfill his quest, and wrote a blog about it: Catholic Churches of Manhattan, a young man's turmoil in discovering 96 houses of God.
"This blog comprises a 2 1/2 year journey where I visited each of the 96 Roman Catholic churches of Manhattan for a single Mass each. I have taken photos, gathered church contact info, collected Mass, confession, and prayer times. Oh, and written some thoughts down that were going through my head at the time. Here are those journeys and that info for you, the casual church goer, devout Catholic, pilgrim, atheist, priest, nun, drunk, coward, hero or whatever you may be to use for the benefit of also finding and discovering these very holy places, these houses of God, these Catholic churches of Manhattan..."
"Another weird experience in church this week, this time verified by a friend in attendance with me. It was just a strange vibe. I decided to go to Saturday Mass because I felt I needed to go to Confession. As always, I misjudged my time allowance and ended up arriving too late for Confession, but right in time for Mass. This church is small and decorated beautifully. It (seems to me) shares Eastern and Gothic decor - but I may be very wrong. The choir and music were also very beautiful - remember how I spoke of churches sometimes carrying me off into that Narnian feeling? The music here accomplished that verily - there was something medieval about it.
...I'm not sure who out there is reading my often mediocre writings and dribblings about my typical NYC existence and the base fact that I attend Mass each week - or my slow journey towards peace. I realize though that the best part of this blog is for me - and it does not happen when writing these entries or uploading any of these photos - it happens each time I enter one of these churches and discover a new place of peace, palace of sanctuary. That is the time that is best - and whatever my writing skills are, they suffer from not being able to detail to you, the virtual reader, what I really felt or went through upon entering and hearing the music; or the emotion I sometimes feel during the Eucharist; or the peace that falls over me towards the end of each Mass....
...If you live in the city - visit some of these grand and majestic places (no matter what the actual size.) And if you live elsewhere, visit the different houses of God in your own village, town, city, metropolis, country. Sometimes, if you feel yourself spiritually stagnant - a new place of worship - even for one weekend - is enough to revitalize oneself and help you remember the fundamentals of why you go in the first place....
....All that said, I realize over my time going to these various churches (these magnificent places and I love them and they offer me welcome and a kind of sustenance I can't describe) I have missed out on that community aspect of faith - of belonging to a church and a parish and a people. This is an excercise in faith and discovery, and lately I have discovered it is a lonely one...."
The anonymous comments that follow the blog post are telling:
"This is one lovely church, home-spun. Simple elegance is the vibe there for me..." - Anon.
"I am so happy you had that good vibe at Our of Lady of Peace, you see I was baptized there, my parents were married there, my dad was baptized, made his Communion and Confirmation there along with his 4 sisters, and my gradparents were married there in the 1920;s, you can imagine the feeling I get when I walk into that beautiful little church. I cry every time...." - Anon.
"My father and his sisters were also baptized at this church and my aunt was married there. My cousin remembers a feast they had each year in the neighborhood that she believes was called the Feast of Maria Della Ponte...." - Anon.
"I just found Our Lady of Peace today and I'm so glad. Yes it is beautiful and it was very unique in that it had no crucifix but it had something else amazing too. It felt like a place that I could sit and just talk to God. I felt as tho I had just stopped by to visit my friends...." - Anon.
"I am very close to the parish of Our Lady of Peace and I glad you found it. Be sure that it is very special. All are welcome here. Father Daly is a special man, very sincere and real. He has a wonderful sense of Irish humor and he is the reason that all are welcome at Our Lady of Peace. Come and join us, you will be glad you did." - Anon.
In his quest, Andrew the Sinner captured the churches in Manhattan at a time between the last parish realignment and the next. Some of the churches he visited were already shuttered. It was a worthy project, and his blog leaves a virtual record of both churches that have been demolished and those that still remain.
One would hope that before further announcements of consolidations or closures are made, that the hierarchy of the archdiocese would make such a pilgrimage. A Narnian feeling wouldn't hurt.