While in Manhattan yesterday, I spied something unusual sticking out of a sidewalk garbage can. It was a pair of crutches. The receptacle was located on the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and 14th Street, a mile or so from 34th Street. The close proximity to where a celebrated miracle once occurred—with the real Santa Claus coming through as he did—made me wonder if another one had come to pass. Perhaps I just missed the miracle of somebody lame being made to walk. Timing, after all, is everything in life. I would have been more than happy to place my foldable cane in that container and hop on the subway sans an assistive device. Better luck next time.
While on the subject of matters ethereal, a local church is in the news. I just read where the Archdiocese of New York officially “deconsecrated” the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—Visitation, for short—a neighborhood institution for as long as I’ve been alive and then some. While growing up in Kingsbridge and Riverdale, Catholics one and all belonged to a parish. It was part of our DNAs—American, New Yorker, Bronx resident, and—in my case—member of St. John’s parish.
When I was a boy in the 1960s and 1970s, the Catholic Church was thriving. However, its days of wine and roses were numbered. The priests were still largely respected. St. John’s men of the cloth were on the benign side of the ledger, with one notable exception, the monsignor. While the church elders revered the guy—they loved the unbeatable combination of businessman and disciplinarian—the younger set, including me, saw something else. The monsignor was a self-righteous, petulant scold, certainly not what I perceived as a humble servant of God. But those were the days when priests aplenty received their “calling” from on high. Something happened on the way to the sacristy room. Nowadays, few are called and even less are chosen. Apparently, the Almighty is back at the drawing board with respect to His calling formula. The red flag: an all-too-high percentage of molesters getting accepted into that special fraternity.
I was educated in Catholic schools from the first grade through college. It was a solid, predominantly secular education in which students were thought to think for themselves and to reason. God as one entity was hard enough to conceptualize. But God in three persons—blessed trinity—was an even tougher pill to swallow. A good education teaches one not to accept things purely on faith and to follow the truth wherever it may lead. That’s the Catholic Church’s present-day dilemma.
The Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was originally located to the east of its present location. It was compelled to move a short distance to the west during the building of the Major Deegan Expressway, I-87. Visitation’s current property is considerable and worth a whole lot as a piece of real estate. I suppose the Almighty Dollar trumps the Almighty in this instance. But far be it for me to believe the Catholic Church hierarchy would have anything but the best interests of their parishioners at heart. And if you believe that, I have a church to sell you in the Bronx.
(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)