Sunday, July 26, 2009

Renovation and Restoration Corner #4: Some Updates

Some exciting updates from the Renovation & Restoration front:

- We will return to the Church on the weekend of September 5-6.

- Seating will be on rented plastic chairs while pews continue to be restored.

- We will continue to worship in the Nave, without scaffolding.

- Completed: the restored angel medallions, and the painted ceiling above the Nave.

- Scaffold will remain in the Transept area.

- Continued Handicapped Accessibility

- We will return to our regular Mass Schedule (Sat 5pm, Sun 9am/11:30am/5pm) after Labor Day, on the weekend of September 12-13.

Parishioner Perspective #1 - Kim King, RSCJ


One of my favorite "rote" prayers is the Glory Be. I find its cyclical proclamation of praise to be reassuring whether in the midst of something I understand or in the midst of mystery. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be . . . History, present moment, future.

At times it calls to my mind and heart the promise of the loving, generative, fullness of God that infused life at the first creative Word. It was present then, is here to be found now, and will continue to be on into the future.

At other moments, the prayer is a reassurance of the reality of what is going on now, how ever messy, and that even in the difficulties of humans being who they are called to be, God is active and to be praised. It was messy then, is messy now, and will be messy, and that's okay . . . because it is real . . . and all a part of the journey toward becoming what we have sought all along.

This prayer came to mind last week when I had a chance to see the restoration work happening in the church building. The past is being revealed in the present moment while looking toward the years to come. What fascinated me was that the whole work seems to be geared toward the unification of these "planes." The soot, the dirt, the gunk, being stripped away, is what has accumulated between them. With their washing away comes forth the renewed opportunity to appreciate the awe and wonder of the original artisans' vision of honoring God in an edifice. The leveling of the floor smoothes the bridge so more may cross through "was and is" with safety and ease. And to watch the workers attend to the details with precision and obvious care, there is no doubt to me that the work being done now will last long into the stories of coming generations.

It felt rather medieval, this tour I had. There were workers everywhere! At least four different levels of scaffolding held countless people working on different parts of this act of revelation. There were the sounds of tools, the murmur of conversation, the dull steady thud of hammer and nail . . . As I noticed newly unveiled decorative details — flower buds no bigger than a large drawer pull on the walls of the balcony, the crisp IHS atop the confessional, the newly scrubbed marble prophetic line-up on the second floor — I could easily imagine church stonemasons of centuries past who spent time carving flourishes for reasons no greater or lesser than the glory of God. Details mattered then, as signs of honor for God as well as pride in craft. Watching the work being done in the church now, I can tell that that holds true in the present as well.

What I can't yet tell is what it will feel like to be in the space as an active member of the congregation. I had grown accustomed to the space between the planes — being able to readily feel and imagine history into the present if not see it directly. I can imagine that it might take me a while to get used to the new feeling of more immediate convergence. That's okay with me, though, and all part of the cycle.

And, actually, a gift. How often will it happen that at the same time I get to see more of what was in the beginning while living that vision in the "is now" and hoping it's around for a fair portion of the "ever shall be?"

Glory be to the journey and adventure that is God which we celebrate as community in this sacred space.

-- Kim King, RSCJ

Weekly Giveaway #11 - week of 7/20/09

Question of the week:
The renovation and restoration of our church will include new and improved accessibility ramps. (see picture above).

As part of our "green" effort, we are salvaging the existing railings and integrating them into the new accessibility ramps.

What relic is in the existing railing and to whom does it belong?

This week's give-away:
A $50 Gift Certificate to any VYNL Restaurant. Please patronize our sponsors!

The relic belongs to St. Francis Xavier. The parish lore is that it is his fingernail but it may also be a bone chip.

Gary Trout. Enjoy, Gary!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Weekly Giveaway #10 - week of 7/13/09

Question of the week:
The devotional statues [Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Fatima, Saints Jude, Anthony, Martin de Porres, and the Infant of Prague] have been removed from the church for safe keeping during construction and will be refurbished.

Where will these be located in the Church when they are returned after the work in the Church is completed?

This week's give-away:
A $25 Gift Certificate to any Garden of Eden Gourmet Market, donated by parishioner Joe Aloe. Thanks, Joe!

Devotional statues will be placed within converted Confessionals, "Shrines of the Saints," throughout the Church.

Ken Latsch. Congrats!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

" . . . Comin' for to carry me home . . . "

When the angels come to greet me (God willing!), I hope they look like the angels I've come to know and love. I hope they look like the angels that came to greet St. Francis Xavier as depicted in the large central medallion above the main altar in the Church-our spiritual home. William Lamprecht, the artist, created all the lush artwork in the magnificent Church of St. Francis Xavier; quite notably visible in the 14 medallions painted on the ceiling (each depicting a cherub holding a snow white banner telling of St. Francis Xavier's virtues), and the magnetic and stunning "Apotheosis of St. Francis Xavier" medallion.

Yet my recent hoping came not while gazing in church, but while meditating in the high school gym - our temporary spiritual home. The "Apotheosis of Xavier" is the main focus of the banners that were put up near the make shift altar.

The banners are there to remind us that we are having Mass in the gym because of an $11.5M renovation and restoration under way in the church. While focusing on the medallion I began to notice details that I had not seen before.

Many of the rich architectural details of the Church, built by the famous architect Patrick C. Keely, have been obscured by decades of fundamental neglect. The Church has not been painted in more than 70 years and just recently the exterior of the Church was "sealed" to allow the interior renovation and restoration to move forward. Years of candle smoke and incense alone have muted the grandeur of the space and nearly 130 years of standing in one place can take a toll on anything!

Fortunately, we are moving forward in renewal, renovation and restoration. Steps are being taken to ensure the glory and grandeur of our home is not lost and forgotten, but lives on for future generations. The rich history and heritage of the Xavier community began with Father John Larkin, S.J. Many know the story of Larkin making the full day's journey from Fordham to Manhattan to found the Xavier community in 1847 - with just fifty cents in his pocket. Today, his perseverance and courage have given us a thriving, dynamic, welcoming and distinguished community. It seems there are still deep veins of Xavier blood that run through us all. Once a parishioner at Xavier, always a parishioner. Whoever you are the sense of community is undeniable.

As I continued to muse on the details of the central medallion, listening to the strong, proud voices of my fellow parishioners lovingly belting out the last song of Mass I couldn't help but be incredibly grateful of where I was, who I am becoming, and what I have found in Xavier.

It was then that it hit me — how fortunate to call Xavier my home.

Since Xavier himself is the reason for both school and church, it is fitting then that it was the "Apotheosis of St. Francis Xavier" that I focused on while in the high school gym for Mass . . . for it is that same medallion, which the high school (through the generosity of Father Daniel Gatti, S.J. and the Board of Trustees of the High School) is helping to restore.

How many times has an angel been there for you? Perhaps that is how you ended up here at Xavier -- an angel invited you. Now, it is time to help restore an angel or another favorite part of the church.

Participate in our Renovation and Restoration - pledge now.

"A band of angels comin' after me
Comin' for to carry me home."

I'll see you at Xavier (home)!

Patrick Brewis
Director, Capital Campaign
"Labors of Love Attract Community"

Share your special memories of the Church of St. Francis Xavier with us! Participate in this historic opportunity of renewing, renovating and restoring the Church! Contact Patrick Brewis, Capital Campaign Director at (212) 627-2100 ext. 206, or visit our web site at Naming opportunities are still available.

Renovation and Restoration Corner #3: Plaster and Painting

Our Church has not been painted in probably over 70 years. Evergreene Painting Studios has begun to repair the plaster and paint our Church. The first step is to wash all the walls, then paint them with a primer coat.

The primer highlights the cracks in the plaster. There are many more than we could ever really see, given the lighting and dirt and grime on the walls. (Photo on left)

The plaster is then repaired and made ready for the final coat. (Photo on right)

Weekly Giveaway #9 - week of 7/6/09

Question of the week:
We are in the midst of a major renovation and restoration of our Church, in part because our Church was built so long ago.

In what month and year was the cornerstone laid for our present Church?

This week's give-away:
Brunch for two at Hollywood Diner. Please patronize our sponsors!

May 1878.

Joe Aloe. Enjoy, Joe!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Renovation and Restoration Corner #2: Debuts in the Bulletin!

Last week a new feature was added to this web site entitled RENOVATION & RESTORATION CORNER . . . It debuted with Fr. Joe's article about the fascinating mystery of the partial news clipping found during the dismantling of the Jesuit Martyrs' Shrine.  (For more information, click here.)

This week is our second feature on the web and we are instituting the feature in the bulletin as well.  My hope is to highlight the progress being made in the Church.  Also, to show those who have already donated what their participation has helped to make possible.  For others, it shows how you can help us to continue MOVING FORWARD with your commitment to a pledge to our Capital Campaign.  

Unlike last week, there's no mystery to be solved- just clues as to how well we are progressing with the renewal of our magnificent Church.  

As you can see from the pictures, the Church interior is in the midst of major construction.  The old flooring has been removed (imagine the treasures found!) and the uneven floors throughout the Church made even ( . . .  and the rough places plain . . . )!

Paint primer has been applied to the Mezzanine (think balcony) level and the ceiling of the nave and the pews have been sent to a "pew spa" for restoration.  

Please be assured of our gratitude for those who have already committed to their pledge. For those who are still discerning, imagine how proud you will feel to be a part of this historic opportunity! 

To pledge or donate now or for more information on how you can participate in the Capital Campaign, contact Capital Campaign Director, Patrick Brewis at or (212) 627-2100, ext. 206

Architect's depiction of the transepts and sanctuary renovation.
(Courtesy of Thomas A. Fenniman, Architect)

View of construction under way in the transepts, looking west.
(Photo: Carlos Martín)

View from the Mezzanine, looking down on the east transept.
(Photo: Carlos Martín)

Weekly Giveaway #8 - week of 6/29/09

Question of the Week:
All of our ceiling medallions are in great need of repair throughout the Church.

What is the name of the largest medallion over the center altar?

This week's give-away:
A real steal (or steel) for those budding chefs: a Shun Classic Vegetable knife which measures 3 and 1/2 inches. Its straight edge is excellent for detail work on small fruits and vegetables!

Donated by parishioner Larry Kiss. Thanks, Larry!

The Apotheosis of St. Francis Xavier.

Michael Morrison.  Enjoy, Michael!