Last Saturday, a friend and I traveled to New York on a Starr Tours to see Circ de Sole, Zakaran. For those who do not do circ de Sole often, there are now several performances going on in different parts of the county. Each has its own name related to the theme of the show. One is in Las Vegas, another, in Orlando, etc. The themes are hardly relevant to audience enjoyment; the acts are pure, high quality circus, without live animals. The themes are more marketing tools. I digress.
The bus arrived in the Big Apple at 10:30 A.M.; the show started at 2:00 P.M. That gave us tourists time to explore the Radio City neighborhood and to eat lunch. Neither my friend nor I had been to Saint Patrick’s for many years. In my case, for fifty years. We decided to join the tail end of a group of Italian tourists heading across the street to the cathedral.
Internally, I smiled at the fact that Italian tourists were heading to what, given Italian history, was a “new” cathedral. My friend and I peeled off from the group as we entered the vestibule where a table was set up to inspect the contents of any bag brought into the building. Several other security persons lurked in the background. The place was crowded with gawkers and “photographers” who ignored the “No Pictures” sign. With cell phones having the capacity to take pictures, the guards had to choose their victims carefully. Cell phones were allowed.
All of the above aside, once I looked up at the stained glass windows, my mind settled into admiring the rich tones of the glass in the windows and the gothic architectural features. What a testament to the Irish saloon keepers and assorted Italian and Eastern European immigrants that paid for this structure. Some of them with hard-earned coins, others with the skills brought with them from across the sea. The stone work in the side chapels spoke of centuries of tradition.
In one side chapel, a group of African-Americans spontaneously sang a beautiful old hymn about Jesus. We stopped to listen to the sweet harmony. We learned that this group was a group of Pro-life Black Catholics. This was their second annual pilgrimage to Saint Patrick’s where they sang hymns and prayed the Rosary. This experience provided a tender moment to store in my book of memories.
We lit few candles at the alters of some of our favorite saints, asking them to pray for us and for the world.
As we left, I noted the irony of the huge Art Deco bronze of Hercules directly across the street from the entrance to Saint Patrick’s. One can’t help but wonder at the placement of this universally recognized pagan image across from a Catholic cathedral built at a time of great Protestant fervor and fear.