• Mass Times

• Coming Events

• Sacraments

• Ministries

• Parish Staff

• Consultative Bodies

• Photo Gallery

• Virtual Tour

• History

• Contribute


• Bulletin

• In Your Midst

• Pastor's Desk


• Becoming Catholic

• Bookstore

• Faith Formation

• Funerals

• Immigrant Assistance

• Liturgy

• Mental Health

• Music

• Outreach/Advocacy

• Pastoral Care

• Weddings

• Young Adults

• Youth Ministry




Malachi Black, "Entering Saint Patrick’s Cathedral" (2020)
Read the poem here:  https://poets.org/poem/entering-saint-patricks-cathedral
Explore more poems by Malachi Black here: http://www.malachiblack.com/
Hello there. Corinna Laughlin here with the poem of the week.
This week, I’ve chosen “Entering Saint Patrick’s Cathedral” by Malachi Black, a brand-new poem which appeared earlier this year.
Malachi Black is a young poet. Born in Boston, he now teaches at the University of San Diego, a Catholic university, and themes of faith are woven through a number of his poems.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is the Cathedral church of the Archdiocese of New York. Of course, it’s much more than that. In many ways, it’s an icon for the Catholic Church in the United States. It’s welcomed Popes and countless visitors—not only Catholics but people of all faiths. It’s also an icon of the Church in this country in its setting—it’s not set among fields or in the middle of a park. It’s in the heart of midtown Manhattan, surrounded by skyscrapers, cultural landmarks like Rockefeller Center, and Fifth Avenue shops like Louis Vuitton, Sak’s, Cartier, and even Victoria’s Secret. Amid the comings and goings, the buying and selling, of one of New York’s busiest streets, St. Patrick’s is a reminder of the presence and of the beauty and importance of faith amid all the other aspects of life that demand our attention.
In his poem, Malachi Black vividly captures two contrasting worlds: the world outside the Cathedral, and the world inside. He steps out of the rain, and as the door slowly closes, the sounds of the city fade and the quiet of the church takes over. The rapid movement of the city—Black mentions cars, bicycles, trucks, and taxis—gives way to stillness. The difference is stark—the door seals out the world “like a coffin lid.”
We know from the beginning that the speaker isn’t here as a tourist. He comes in respectfully, carrying his coat, dripping from the rain. He stands there and clears his throat, about to speak. But first he takes a moment to get accustomed to the atmosphere, so different from the haste of the exterior world. We get the sense that the Cathedral is filled—not with people, but with something else. The chill he feels is “dense” with “old Hail Marys,” like whispered by the people in the pews. It’s as if every prayer uttered here has left its mark, become part of the place. Above him, the stained glass windows gather “the dead and martyred” in vivid color, and before him is “the golden holy altar” and the pipes of the organ, both of which are silent now, but which are filled with potential. The altar holds “its silence like a bell,” and the organ, too, is “alive with a vibration tolling / out from the incarnate / source of holy sound.” The altar, on this quiet, rainy day, is like a bell, waiting to ring; and the organ—like those “old Hail Marys”—has left its imprint on the place, and is “alive” even when silent.
At the end of the poem, as the ceiling bends above him, “like an ear,” listening, he does not speak. In this place, so filled with presence—of those who have come before, of saints, of God—simply being present to all this is in itself prayer. The poem ends with a simple statement: “My body is my prayer.”
I am reminded of some favorite lines from Emily Dickinson on prayer: “awed beyond my errand — / I worshipped — did not ‘pray’ —“ (F525, 1863).
Although this poem is about Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, I think it says something about all great cathedrals, and of course, I include our own St. James Cathedral among them! A cathedral, by its nature, stands in the heart of the city, immersed in the world, yet it invites us to glimpse the world that is yet to be, the heavenly city. When we pray here, we are never alone: we are surrounded not only by the images of saints, but by the saints themselves, and those who have gone before us—what the letter to the Hebrews calls “a great cloud of witnesses.”



Return to St. James Cathedral Parish Website

804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303