Thursday, July 15, 2010

Corpus Christi Church in New York City

This morning I attended Holy Mass at Corpus Christi Church in New York City. Being a Thomas Merton devotee, I always wanted to visit the place where Merton was baptized, where he came home to the Catholic Church. In today's Gospel, from Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus exclaimed, ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

The celebrating priest offered an insightful homily - how we all must help shoulder the burdens of our neighbors. A sentiment spoken time and time again by Thomas Merton a.k.a Fr. Louis.

Here are some photos I shot today and some of Merton's own words grabbed out of the Corpus Christi Church website.

Aug. 1938, his first Mass:

I found a place that I hoped would be obscure, over on one side, in the back, and went to it without genuflecting, and knelt down. . . . Before I knew it, the priest was in the sanctuary with the two altar boys . . . . And then the next thing I knew there was someone in the pulpit. . . . It all became completely mysterious when the attention was refocused on the altar. When the silence grew more and more profound, and little bells began to ring, I got scared again and, finally, genuflecting hastily on my left knee, I hurried out of the church in the middle of the most important part of the Mass."

Sept. 1938, requesting instruction:

We sat in the little parlor by the door. And I said: "Father, I want to become a Catholic."

"The words, songs, ceremonies, signs, movements of worship are all designed to open the mind and heart of the participant to this experience of oneness in Christ. One reason why I am a Catholic, a monk and a priest today is that I first went to Mass, and kept going to Mass, in a Church where these things were realized. . . . There was nothing new or revolutionary about it; only that everything was well done, not out of aestheticism or rubrical obsessiveness, but out of love for God and His truth. It would certainly be ingratitude of me of I did not remember the atmosphere of joy, light, and at least relative openness and spontaneity that filled Corpus Christi at solemn High Mass."

(Seasons of Celebration, p. 237)

God speaks to Merton:

. . . and you shall . . . find all things in My mercy which has created you for this end and brought you from Prades [Merton's birthplace] . . . to New York to Columbia to Corpus Christi . . . to the Cistercian Abbey . . . . (SSM, pp. 422-423)


beth said...

Great photos, Brian - and excellent quotes to go with them. It really gives you a feel of Merton's world, doesn't it? What is the source of that last quote, God speaking to Merton?

Brian said...

Beth -

From the Seven Story Mountain
pp. 422-423