One can’t take a trip to NYC and not stop in to visit the breathtaking Cathedral of St. Patrick (commonly known to us growing up as St. Patrick’s Cathedral.)
It is located on Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st in Manhattan. It is right across the Street from Rockefeller Center, another “must see” in Manhattan. By no means do you have to be a Roman Catholic to appreciate the magnificence of this neo-gothic structure. Of course, for our family , being Catholic simply added to the experience. For us, this was the “St. Peters Basilica” of the Americas.
There was never a bad time to visit the Cathedral, but the in holiday seasons, it was a “must go”. Easter, Christmas and New Years always drew huge crowds, many times with the line to get in extending a block or two down 5th Avenue.
For us, it was always a time with family, the majority of it with Mom, Dad and Aunt Fil. The typical visit involved waiting in the line to get in and then following the crowd as they basically circled the inside of the Building. Ornate stained glass windows , beautiful statues , and small alters lined the building , all surrounding the main seating area and alter.
I always enjoyed looking at the faces of all the people visiting the Cathedral. The look was one that was a cross between awe and respect. Whether believer or not, it was hard not to feel the need for reverence to one degree or another. When I looked into moms face, I saw the love she had for God; she felt she was His very presence as she walked through the building. She often stopped by an Altar to light a candle and to pray. She prayed with her eyes fixed on a particular painting or stature. She seemed to have a particular love for the replica of The Pieta. She looked with such sorrow into “the eyes”of Mary as she cradled her crucified, dead Son. I knew, absolutely knew, that Mom was praying for Rob and I: Appealing to Jesus’ mother to watch over her two sons. It made me feel awkward, strange and good at the same time. It’s hard for a guy who knows he’s not cool, but pretends to be cool, to see his mom pray for him.
Dad would be silent through most of the visit, but he clearly enjoyed it, felt the same reverence and most definitely loved seeing his wife, whom he felt was angelic anyway, so much in the moment of prayer and worship.
It took about 30-45 minutes to make the walk around the Cathedral, counting the stops for prayer and candle lighting. When it was over we would take one more long glance around the building. There was little doubt that each of us, in our own way, felt we were in a Holy place, a safe place. There may have been a slight reluctance to leave and re-emerge into the bustling, loud, noisy streets of Manhattan. The holiday, be it Easter, Christmas or the beginning of a new year, now felt complete. We had made our pilgrimage to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.
Much later in life, after I left the Catholic Church, I found that a visit to The Cathedral never lost the feeling of reverence that I had experienced as a child. There was, and I believe always will be, a very special place in my heart for this beautiful piece of architecture. The memories are all good, and I’m thankful for that.
It’s a piece of New York that was a sanctuary and Lord knows we all need a sanctuary.