"The Little Roman Catholic Church Around the Corner”
GO TELL, the story of Holy Innocents, one of New York’s most interesting churches, means to tell the story in a measure of the City itself for the past seventy-six years.
In 1870, the makeup of Holy Innocents was semi-rural-middle class predominantly, with a scattering of poor and a good proportion of the wealthy. The second definite stage in the history of Holy Innocents took place at the turn of the century. Slowly, but certainly, theaters were popping up in and around Thirty-fourth Street. The Herald Building reared its head on Thirty-fourth Street and Sixth Avenue. The Press was sharing quarters with the Stage. The theater and business pushed onward, and residents had to seek other homes in other sections of the City.
Now came the third stage. The Great War was over – 1919 – and there came with it a still greater change. By now the theater people had pitched their tents farther northward and with them went the Press and Time Square, and the Great White Way came into being. Herald Square, with its famous clock, retained its name but lost its significance. Herald Square now became Shopping Square and giant buildings shot up on all sides, swamping only apparently the devotional and beautiful Church of the Holy Innocents. These lofty buildings soon housed New York’s famed Garment Industry.
In 1931, Holy Innocents became definitely a Parish, Shrine and Mission Church. The watchword of Holy Innocents is, “Service”, Confessions are heard at all times and at all hours. There is a two-twenty a.m. Mass every Sunday and Holyday of Obligation. There are two outstanding Shrines in Holy Innocents. Both have conduced much to Holy Innocents’ spiritual fame: both are spiritual magnets which seem never to lose attracting power over souls.
“The Return Crucifix” is first. Its large and lifelike figure in the rear, right corner of the edifice, maybe the most touched and most kissed Crucifix in New York. The second is a most unusual painting of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, the Madonna of New York. For a long time, this painting hung in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the rear of a pillar on the Gospel side. In 1931 it became the prized treasure of the Church of the Holy Innocents.
The kind of devotee worshipping at Holy Innocents is most varied. The poor are there, many of them, but elbowing up the aisle with them to venerate “The Return Crucifix” and the Miraculous Picture you will find evening gowns and tuxes and seals and minks, many of them. Shoppers pray here by the side of machine girls; the boys and girls of the theater, forgetting paint and makeup and tap and toe dancing, are gazing directly into the face of Jesus of “The Return Crucifix” and Our Mother of Perpetual Help – the Mother of us all. Everyone worships here because all the world may be found here. “While New York plays, we pray.”
Today Holy Innocents is a greater, grander, bigger, better and more universal Parish than ever. Holy Innocents is enjoying its second hey-day. And why? Because of Christ of “The Return Crucifix” and Mary of Perpetual Help.
RIGHT REVEREND ALOYSIUS C. DINEEN,
Rector – The Padre of Broadway.