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In the city that never sleeps, disciples now sit at the feet of the Master in an adoration chapel that never closes.
On the corner of Sixth Avenue and West Washington Place sits St. Joseph's Church in Greenwich Village — an unassuming church nestled among the low-rises and scattered trees. Past the columns in the front stand large blue doors that lead into the main church, one of the oldest in New York City.
A street-level door to the right of the church's facade leads into a split-foyer entry, with the parish office upstairs and the new adoration chapel downstairs.
On behalf of Church Militant and for our readership, I bused to the Port Authority on 42nd Street and then walked down to St. Joseph's Church, not far from Eighth Street. The parish secretary let me inside and kindly offered me a cup of water.
I then sat down with the pastor, Fr. Boniface Endorf, O.P., to discuss the adoration chapel before visiting it.
"The goal of a parish is to produce saints," Fr. Endorf explained. To that end, his parish already offers the sacrament of penance twice a day.
He noted New York City is quite secular, but further noted, direct and perpetual prayer to the heart of Jesus in the Eucharist, here in the heart of the city is transformative, both for Greenwich Village and the city as a whole.
The Dominican friar, who is both the pastor of Saint Joseph's and superior of the five friars at this location, explained the idea for an adoration chapel came from Colin Nykaza in 2018. Nykaza, who works in the young adult ministry, was trying to establish a perpetual adoration chapel in the city, to no avail. Surprisingly, the city did not have any perpetual adoration chapel before this new one at St. Joseph's was established.
Naturally, Fr. Endorf was strongly in favor of establishing such a chapel. Of course, the realization of the notion would require the construction of a room on the premises, which would require fundraising.
At first, fundraising efforts seemed hopeless. So, Fr. Endorf began to pray more earnestly, handing everything over to the will of God. Soon thereafter, the needed funds began to pour in.
However, the project took longer than expected, owing to COVID restrictions and supply-chain problems in the country. Nevertheless, the adoration chapel was finally completed. On July 30, 2023, this summer, Cdl. Timothy Dolan consecrated the new adoration chapel.
The stark contrast between trekking through the city to the church and then sitting quietly in the adoration chapel was palpable.
I had entered a refuge from the frenetic pace of New York City, to a place where Jesus offered a moment of respite and recollection, an opportunity to adore, repent, offer gratitude, and petition.
There were a few others in the chapel when I arrived, and others who came and went while I was there. All peacefully rested in Our Lord, who mysteriously rests in us when we are in a state of grace. And though I did not know any of the others present personally, I knew they were my brothers and sisters in Christ. Whereas, in the streets I felt somewhat like an outsider; here, I felt entirely at home.
As some time passed, I began to think about my whereabouts. Here, is this new adoration chapel in the heart of the "Big Apple," a nickname for New York City popularized in the 1920s. The exact origin of the nickname is contested. One website lists about six possibilities, another website, however, posits a whole different theory.
Whatever the origin, the appellation "Big Apple" turned my thoughts to original sin. Though the Hebrew word peri, simply meaning "fruit," is used in Genesis for the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil from which Adam and Eve ate in disobedience to God's command, artists have long depicted that forbidden fruit as an apple. Why exactly the apple was seen as the forbidden fruit is inconclusive; however, it is certain the symbolism has prevailed, from terms like "Adam's apple" to classic stories like Snow White and more recent ones like Twilight, which shows an apple representing "forbidden fruit" on the cover.
So regardless of the precise origin or original meaning intended by the nickname "Big Apple," the moniker seemed a fitting allusion to disobeying God, especially in a city that boasts of never sleeping. I mean, what good things happen in the dark, in the middle of the night? Even some empirical research seems to show people are more at risk for harmful behavior after midnight. Last August, such research led some scientists to call for more research into the reasons why.
Of course, believers know the empirical sciences are valuable but incapable of fully answering such questions, since the questions involve things visible and invisible — the reality of God's creation we profess every Sunday when we recite the Nicene Creed.
Regarding the spiritual side of the connection between nighttime and wickedness, the book of Proverbs offers an interesting insight, declaring: "For they sleep not except they have done evil: and their sleep is taken away unless they have made some to fall" (Proverbs 4:16).
My mind then turned to another phrase involving "fruit" used in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. The phrase (used, for example, in Deuteronomy 28:4) is "peri vitnehcha," which means "fruit of your womb." We immediately recognize this beautiful Hebrew mode of thought from the Hail Mary that echoes the words of Elizabeth to Our Lady: "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb" (Luke 1:42).
The fruit of Mary's womb is Jesus, the Word made flesh, of whom the Letter to the Hebrews declares: "Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith: Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest not: but a body thou hast fitted to me" (Hebrews 10:5).
In Genesis, after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God said, "Behold, Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil: now, therefore, lest perhaps he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" (Genesis 3:22).
The Tree of Life is the Cross on which Jesus offered Himself to conquer sin and death. Jesus is both the victim and the fruit of the sacrifice. At Mass, we take part in the sacrifice of the Eucharist, taking from the Tree of Life and eating to live forever. This is precisely why Jesus taught, "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day."
In adoration, we contemplate the sacrament of the Eucharist. We sit at the feet of the Master, and like Mary in opposition to her sister Martha, we choose the best part that will not be taken away from us (cf. Luke 10:41).
Praise God, the Big Apple, a secular place that can be seen as an allusion to humanity's ongoing rebellion against God, now has a chapel where the remedy to that rebellion is perpetually available for all who wish to adore Him.