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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Diary of a Papist Convert

Note: this occasional series used to be titled Diary of a Newly Minted Papist. Three-and-a-half years have passed since that coin was struck and it is now somewhat tarnished and nicked. A slight revision of the title seemed to be in order.


I attended this event,

sponsored by the Catholic Artists Society, last night at this church,

                               Photo by Steve Kelly © 2009

St. Vincent Ferrer, on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Waiting for things to begin (why, oh why can't Catholics begin on time?) I looked about and took in the church. Its extraordinary beauty of course impressed me immediately; I had never been inside it before--or least so I thought. A little later, however, I felt a strong a sense of "Anglican déjà vu," that somehow, impossibly, I had been in the church before. After a time, though, I determined it was not the case but that I was simply reminded of not one but two other churches I did know well, St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and the Church of the Advent in Boston (both Episcopal, the latter where your Bloviator was confirmed an Episcopalian many years ago).

I suppose you can guess where all this is leading and sure enough, after getting home and doing some Googling, I learned all three of the churches had been designed by those godly Episcopalian architects Bertram Goodhue and Ralph Adams Cram. It was a delightful discovery; I am hardly an architectural scholar so it pleased me much to be able detect the signatures of those two in St. Vincent's. Expert or no, this I can aver this about about the churches of Goodhue and Cram: one experiences a sense of great comfort when inside them, rather like being at home, which is entirely appropriate for a house in which our Lord is present.

The Vespers and Benediction were equal to the surrounds: much plainchant and settings of Victoria and Josquin expertly sung, clouds of incense and countless servers; it was a treat for all senses, which is of course the intention. I must confess, though, to feelings of ambivalence when attending events like these, for while they fill me with gratitude and awe I also am mindful how rare they are, how they are the exception not the rule in the present Catholic Church. It is important to remember, however, as we were reminded in the lecture given by the estimable Fr. Uwe Michael Lang following, that the tide has turned for Holy Church and things are improving, however glacially. For that we must be, at once, grateful and patient.

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