Saturday, December 6, 2008
"There surely is need of youth and innocence"
Today is the birthday of journalist and poet Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), most famous for his poem "Trees." Kilmer, who was killed in France in World War I, was a convert to the Catholic Church; his journey to Rome was driven by the illness of his little daughter Rose, who died of polio at the age of five.
While discerning the path of his conversion, Kilmer would stop every day at the Church of the Holy Innocents, above, in what was once the red-light district of New York City (it's now the Garment District), on his way to his office at the New York Times. This church has had an almost mystical importance in my life, and I know it's also a place of great spiritual significance to my friend and "antiphonal blogger" Fallen Sparrow. Kilmer wrote about the church to his spiritual advisor, Father James J. Daly:
Just off Broadway, on the way from the Hudson Tube Station to the Times Building, there is a Church, called the Church of the Holy Innocents. Since it is in the heart of the Tenderloin, this name is strangely appropriate - for there surely is need of youth and innocence. Well, every morning for months I stopped on my way to the office and prayed in this Church for faith. When faith did come, it came, I think, by way of my little paralyzed daughter. Her lifeless hands led me; I think her tiny feet know beautiful paths. You understand this and it gives me a selfish pleasure to write it down.
It's appropriate, then, that the Church of the Holy Innocents has a shrine dedicated to unborn children. Anyone who's lost an unborn child, for whatever reason, can enroll the child online in the Shrine's Book of Life. Indeed, the name of one of my four unborn little ones is inscribed there.