08 June 2007

Meeting Matt

When it hit me that I didn't actually have to stick around Los Angeles all summer (my summer courses are both in the second session), I decided to head to the Catskills to spend some time with my folks at their place. I remembered that Matt of the Shrine of the Holy Whapping lives in New York City now. Matt has been corresponding with Lizzy and I since July 2003, a few months after Lizzy and I started our blog, and just as he and a few friends started their now very popular blog (in fact, Matt and Dan said we were part of their inspiration).

Since the distance from the Catskills to New York City is not quite as insurmountable as the distance between Notre Dame and Gonzaga, Matt and I decided to meet halfway. Poughkeepsie was decided on as the destination for an afternoon of Catholic blogger nerdiness.

After I picked Matt up from the train station and after a couple preliminary wrong turns, we headed to the Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, just north of Poughkeepsie.
We had a charming and informative tour guide, who can be seen in this picture. The house was really beautiful, but as the guide pointed out, rich people seem to build grand houses as temples to themselves, and the Vanderbilts were no exception.

Perhaps this is why, as Matt noted, the railing around Mrs. Vanderbilt's bed looked like an altar rail. On going into the next room, we realized that the oversized adornment at the head of Mr. Vanderbilt's bed vaguely resembled a reredos.

After we'd had our fill of the architecture and interior decor (not that I had nearly enough time to gawk at the gilded Steinway, but we weren't allowed to go back into rooms we'd already passed), Matt and I took a stroll through the beautiful gardens.

The gardens really were lovely. This photo was taken from the inside of a garden structure that, if enclosed, could have been a pretty chapel.

Matt treated me to lunch at one of the many chrome diners that dot the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains. Matt had a sandwich called the HBO Special. We're still not sure why it was called that, or whether HBO knows that a diner in Poughkeepsie named a sandwich after them. I had a salad. We didn't play with the jukebox tune selector that adorned the table, although I was intrigued by it.

After lunch we drove around Poughkeepsie itself, admiring the quaint Victorian houses and stopping periodically to examine interesting churches. First up: Christ Church Episcopal.

I wish we could have taken pictures inside this lovely brownstone building, but there were some folks with guitars who appeared to be practicing for a wedding and we didn't want to disturb them. The interior was a lovely combination of rich red walls, lovely stained glass, and dark wood. The ceiling had some pretty carvings that might have been improved by some gilding, or at least gold paint, by way of highlights. There was a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in one of the side chapels, standing in a sea of flowers. The sign had advertised "Missa en Espanol" but the presence of the statue was still surprising.

Next up was First Presbyterian.

The church was locked, so we didn't see the inside, but the outside provided plenty of intricate carvings too look at, as well as some pretty landscaping. Poughkeepsie's First Presbyterian Church also wins the prize for the strangest church sign ever:

Yes, all those worshiping groups are sharing the same building. Amazing.

After passing two sort of ugly Catholic churches that we were not inclined to photograph, I remembered that I'd seen something interesting on the road to the train station. A church calling itself "Anglican Catholic" was there. It was also locked, but the exterior was really lovely. We could almost smell the incense. It wins the prize for prettiest church doors:

Aren't they lovely? The rest of the exterior was pretty too. The stained glass looked quite nice, as did the tower at the back and the statue of the Blessed Virgin in the side yard. I doubt the church is well-attended, though--it didn't even have a parking lot.

On the way to the Anglican Catholic church, Matt noticed an interesting-looking church tower looming above the trees. We headed for it, and found a gem of a Catholic church overlooking the river.

It's pretty clear that Our Lady of Mount Carmel started out as the Italian parish, even though the first pastor was named Michael Riordan:

The interior of the church was lovely, and I particularly enjoyed their Stations of the Cross:

Some of the elements of the interior of the church were new, and some were original to the church. They had an impressive collection of relics displayed on a shelf below a statue of Our Lady, including relics of the True Cross, Pope St. Pius X, St. Lucy, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John Bosco, and others. There were around twenty reliquaries and many of them had multiple relics in them.

The day concluded with meeting a friend of Matt's for coffee. We hung out in the coffee shop for about two hours before they decided to close and kicked us out. We strolled along the river, chatting about liturgy, liturgical music, and other music (Matt's friend majored in music as an undergrad though it isn't his profession currently). It was a really enjoyable day, Catholic nerds hanging out, checking out architecture and chatting about Catholic stuff. I can't think of many people that I could have spent a day like that with, other than Lizzy and my fiancé. I certainly ended up with a slightly different perspective on some aspects of the liturgy, specifically the indult question and legitimate development, about which I may post at a later date.

Hopefully Matt will post his side of the story soon on his blog. He took a lot of lovely pictures of things I didn't photograph, so be sure and watch for an update from him!

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