churches

Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Last week was a hectic one. I accepted a new job, to start in a couple weeks, and had to give notice everywhere that I was leaving both my current job and apartment. I had a music gig on Thursday in the city, one that I couldn’t practice for during the week due to a miserable cold. I was too tired to be excited for anything.

But I got into the city early, knowing there was a place I could rest before the bustle of the gig. I’d been to the same place a year prior, when I was still learning that it’s okay to go into churches on days that are not Sunday. I was still figuring out this whole “Catholic” thing, often forgetting that I wasn’t a foreigner, and that these holy places were now a type of home for me.

The Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is a small chapel. In the few times I’ve been there, it’s sparsely occupied. You can hardly believe it’s in the midst of a bustling city, because you can hardly hear the traffic once inside. There’s music as you enter the space, and a place to rest, and the presence of God.

St. Elizabeth lived next door to the building for a few years before moving to Italy. It’s had several iterations since then, but ultimately found a home as a shrine to the first American-born saint. It’s a cozy chapel. I still remember stumbling upon it a year ago, amazed by the peace I felt when stepping through the doors. Now, as I sat in the same pew a year later, I remembered that first visit: It was pouring. The rain had lashed against the door outside, and the few people inside glanced at one another. Glad I’m not out there, we all seemed to say, as we waited out the storm.

I remember the sound of the rain more than the music. I remember standing by an intricately-designed window, barely able to see outside due to the decorated glass and pounding rain. I’ve always liked rainstorms, and that corner by St. Elizabeth’s statue seemed a fine place to witness it.

There was no such rain this time. In fact, it was the perfect evening for the event to come, where people would socialize on the patio with drinks and listen to my flute as they looked out on the water. But I still looked forward to a break at the shrine. It was some mid-week time to calm my mind and organize all the things that had happened that week. I was still sick, too, and I like to think it cleared my sinuses as well.

I don’t often find myself in that area of Manhattan. In fact, I seem to only be there once a year, for this same event. But I’m adding St. Elizabeth’s shrine to that annual ritual. A calm in the storm, so to speak. And maybe literally, too.