Category Archives: Religion

Here’s the Church and Here’s the Steeple

stpatsThe death watch at St. Patrick’s church in Watervliet seems to go on forever.

Unwanted by the Albany Diocese, the St. Patrick’s property was sold off to a developer, and where people once prayed, they now will shop. Yes, I suppose it’s a little sad; the building holds many memories — and in terms of the environment, a nice old church has more eye appeal than a supermarket. By the time you read this, it will most likely just be a pile of rubble.

When it comes to buildings like this, everything’s relative. In our young country a church built in 1891 seems ancient. In Europe, something constructed in 1891 would not be thought of as terribly old. When I visited Transylvania, there were truly historic churches everywhere, like the Sibiu Lutheran Cathedral, which was completed in 1520. Now that’s old!

Sibiu Lutheran Cathedral

Naturally, the St. Patrick’s demolition has turned into a media orgy, with some stories bordering on the ridiculous, like the apparation of a “face” on the wall. Could it be St. Patrick? We’ll never know.

One funny thing about all this, though: throughout the week, local news outlets have had to station photographers at the church, because nobody wants to be the guy who missed the bell tower coming down. Are we sentimental or do we just like watching buildings demolished. I’m voting on the latter.

The Power of Prayer

On hearing that Rick Santorum dropped his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, I quipped, “Thank you, God!”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I prayed for Santorum to lose, but I’m pretty sure Santorum prayed for victory — and that being the case, I stand by my first remark: “Thank you, God!”

But seriously, it seems unlikely that God will listen to your prayers and make things happen. Prayer may bring you comfort and give you strength, but if it caused worldly things to change, we’d all be lottery millionaires.

By the way, “Thank you God,” is also one of my all time favorite movie quotes:

If ever a movie line belonged on the American Film Institute’s list of top movie quotes, it’s that one. It’s certainly better than, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

Let My People Go (have a bowl of cereal)

Price Chopper rolled out the Passover items this week. At my store they loaded up a big table right next to the produce section. In Bethlehem there’s always a lot of Passover stuff; pickings are probably slim in a place like Granville.

Magic Max's Fruity Magic LoopsWhat caught my eye immediately was the breakfast cereal, Magic Max’s Fruity Magic Loops. Basically, it’s Manischewitz’s kosher for Passover take on Fruit Loops. Instead of Toucan Sam on the box it’s Magic Max, who is a magician of sorts with a Star of David shaped head. Naturally, it’s made with tapioca and potato starch, rather than wheat products.

I had to have a box, but almost changed my mind when I saw the price: $5.99. We all know breakfast cereal is expensive, but this was for a 5.5 ounce box, making these $17.44 per pound. A few aisles over, Fruit Loops cost just $5.23 per pound — and Price Chopper’s Fruit Whirls, only $2.67 per pound.

I eagerly opened the box in the car because I couldn’t wait to try them. The verdict? Terrible. Fruity Magic Loops have an odd, chalky consistency unlike any breakfast cereal I’ve ever tasted. You would never grab a handful of these and stuff them in your mouth as a quick snack — not that I would eat cereal out of the box with my hands, or anything.

Magic Max’s Fruity Magic Loops are like something you’d make kids eat to punish them — but maybe that’s part of the point. If they tasted exactly like Fruit Loops, you would lose the significance of doing something special, wouldn’t you?

We learn small lessons in strange places, sometimes even in a box of cereal. For that I am grateful — but I do believe if I want to experience a bit of Passover, I’ll just stick to the matzah.

On Football and Prayer

I don’t understand all the fuss over Tim Tebow because I pray all the time during football.

In fact, everyone in my house can hear me praying during NFL games, invoking the name of our Lord and Savior, especially when the NY Jets are playing.

“JESUS CHRIST!”

My wife will call out from the other room, “No swearing!”

I inform her that I am not taking the name of the Lord in vain, but in fact praying for strength. And what could be holier than screaming out the name of the Lord on the Sabbath? Then, another incompletion.

“JESUS CHRIST!”

“Stop that,” she will shout back.

What is with this infernal woman — does she not recognize my prayers?

I should mention here that I am not praying for God to alter the outcome of the game — no, I would never pray for victory, except maybe during the playoffs. Instead I am asking the Lord to help me survive a brutal ordeal. I pray for patience, resolve, fortitude. And maybe just a little for the Patriots to lose.

Holy Water

Baptismal font in the Catholic church on Inis Meáin, Aran Islands, Galway.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The font, if not of impermeable stone, must be lined with metal; it must be used exclusively for baptism, and to guard it against profanation, securely covered and locked. Frequency of thirteenth-century legislation on this point throughout Northern Europe reveals the prevalence of a passing superstitious belief in the magical efficacy of the font and its waters.

No, that’s not much of a lock — but enough to comply with the age-old belief that the baptismal waters needed to be protected.

The Pilgrims

Catholicism is everywhere in Ireland.

We visited a church on Inis Meáin, one of the Aran Islands, and during our ten minutes there three different people came in to say a prayer and light a candle. Considering less than 200 people live on the island, that’s really something. As we walked the narrow lanes, among the stone walls and tidy cottages, there were numerous well-tended garden shrines.

Scattered across the Arans you can see where monks and saints prayed 1500 years ago. Today it still seems it would be a good place for those seeking the monastic life.

Naturally we thought it would be a good idea to go to mass during our trip; how this came to be was nothing short of providence.

Late on Saturday afternoon we visited Gallarus Oratory on the Dingle Peninsula. It’s Irish name, Séipéilín Ghallarais, means The Church of the Place of the Foreigners. This couldn’t have been more appropriate.

Just before we got there, a bus arrived carrying a tour group from a church in Frederickburg, Virgina. Their pastor, Fr. Don Rooney, was saying mass just outside the ancient chapel, and we joined the group in their celebration.

The best part was afterward when Father Rooney and his parishioners told us how happy they were to have us among them. These pilgrims on their bus were doing what the earliest Christians did, travelling far from home, and carrying with them the word of God.

Dude, Can This Really Be a Coincidence?

Luke 4:20
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

There. Now you know how this whole “420” thing got started, man.

Ghosts of Pitchers and Shakers

This is the view from behind home plate at Heritage Park. Once upon a time, if you sat in this spot you could watch a baseball game. Now you can sit and watch the weeds grow.

You can tell where the field was, but any hint of the game they played here, the baselines, pitcher’s mound, the dugouts — they are all obliterated.

Heritage Park was once home to the Albany-Colonie A’s, Yankees and finally the Diamond Dogs. I always thought they should have named a team The Shakers, in memory of the people who lived here communally, worshipped, and worked the land.

While baseball is just a memory, you can glimpse the shadow of the Shakers all around. Just beyond what was once the baseball stadium is a Shaker cemetery and what’s left of their orchards. Farther off you can see some of their buildings still standing on what was  America’s first Shaker settlement.

Shaker founder Ann Lee told her followers, “Do your work as though you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow.”

Not bad advice, whether you are swinging a bat or plowing a field.

The Jesus Limo

It turns out I’m not the only one who’s seen the “Jesus limo” — and today it showed up in front of my office downtown.

The white stretch limousine belongs to the Eternity Church on Clinton Avenue in Albany — and it’s not just to get people thinking about religion. Minister Ivan Shkinder told me that while some churches have a bus or van, his uses the limo to help people get around town to jobs, appointments, or the doctor’s office.

Yes, I peeked in the back. No, Jesus was not in there — but considering how they use car, maybe he really is riding along.