Sunday, February 20, 2011
thirty-ninth visit: Feb 20th 2011 Ukrainian Catholicism
St John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church
109 South 7th St, Pittsburgh PA 15203
south side flats
...my personal commemoration of Andy Warhol's life (d. Feb 22, 1987) via attending his church... it is said that the repetition of the iconic screen in the Catholic church that his family attended during his youth, influenced the repetition of celebrity-icon faces in his work. (not the church pictured in this post)
More than once, well-wishers have referred to gatherings as a tour. Their kindness is valuable to me, but to be honest, the word "tour" has never seemed right... maybe because of the amount of time I spend thinking about the project when I'm not actively doing it, or the passivity the word implies. Today I have not stopped thinking about gatherings, nor have I approached it passively; but, today is the day that "tour" might be the right way to describe this Sunday's visits. What started out as 2 visits, became 3—my car following behind Father Thomas Schaefer's, from his first to his second Parish; from my first to my second visit. ...leaving yet enough time for the third (which had been originally planned as my second). And I had the pleasure of crossing my favorite bridge twice: the Hot Metal.
Today, all three of my visits are to St. John's,
and all three are Byzantine style Catholic churches:
often employ the Greek cross plan
combining elements from Greek, Roman, and Islamic styles
origin: Istanbul, Turkey, formerly Byzantium
1st of my 3 visits on 2-20-11
St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church, Jane Street, south side.
Father Thomas Schaefer.
It began with a desire to personally commemorate Andy Warhol's life (d. Feb 22, 1987), by attending his church. A member of the Door of Hope (21st visit) had told me that this was his family's choice place of worship. But I come to question this after arriving, when I learn that this particular congregation had moved to this building in 1958, well after Andy had moved to NYC. Could she have been referring to the building only, and not the people? Commonly, things are complicated that way in this city. Regardless, it still doesn't seem right to me. Some art historians and critics claim that a visit to Andy Warhol's church leaves one to wonder if he was not influenced by its interior: the repetition of portrait-like images of saints in its elaborate icon screen echos the image-repetition in Warhol's screen print portraits of celebrities. But here this notion is not as apparent as I had expected.
No loss, of course. The building is beautiful and I enjoy the quiet time. (Yes: that is a non-electric chandelier pictured above, fire-powered with real candles—the only known to still be in use in a Byzantine Church in the US.) After the service a young worshiper and her mother asks about my dress. Father Schaefer overhears me telling them about gatherings, just chatting about the project in general, mentioning nothing about my quest for the Warhol church. He offers: "Well if you'd like a double header, you could follow me to my next gig. Just five minutes away." He continues, "It's the church where Andy Warhol was baptised." Bingo. Wrong church, right priest. And I am on my way.
2nd of my 3 visits on 2-20-11
St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church, Saline Street, greenfield.
Father Thomas Schaefer.
This church is well worth a gander. And to me, the experience of service, also. Restoration completed in the 1990's renewed quality, but did not touch character, expression of ethnicity. The colors used in the interior iconic paintings are exquisite. Rich. Full. Unapologetically chromatic, never brash. I usually need the nostalgic crackle of old paint in these churches to win me over. Here not so. Fresh is done so well, that I didn't miss antiquity one bit. Father Schaefer explained that it's the largest iconic screen in the city. I'd think in several cities. Maybe he did say the US. Don't know. I do know that he said the Warhol family did not claim this as "their" church. However, Andy is buried in the associated cemetery. I didn't question further. He was getting ready to lead mass, and sometimes I prefer mysteries to remain mysteries.
3rd of my 3 visits on 2-20-11
St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church, S. 7th Street, south side flats.
Father John (Ivan) Chirovsky.
Another beautiful church. Two small children tire of sitting quietly and begin to dart about, parents supervising. A joyful focus I am always thankful for. In so many ways the Catholic services recall the Jewish services in my experience. (see esp. 6th visit)
In the basement of this church, parishioners meet every week to make perogies, sold to local businesses and families to raise funds for the church. Rumor is that they are the best you can buy.
All 3 visits:
My sister explained to me a few months ago that the scripture and homily content are pre-determined each Sunday for all Catholic churches throughout... the world(?).
So, all scriptures read today mentioned Seraphim and Cherubim, creatures that I first came to know through Madeleine L'Engle books from my childhood (see last week's post, 36th visit). At least 2 of today's 3 churches had painted images of these creatures in their interior. And at least one of my former students at MICA had addressed these as characters in her drawings, also in response to L'Engle's books. The homily at today's 3rd visit concerns the prodigal son. I had a chance for a Roshomon experience (3 takes) of this parable, except Father Schaefer explained to his parishes that he had mistakenly prepared the incorrect content for his homily. To be human, rooted, grounded. (Humus = Latin for earth, as I am reminded today by Father John Chirovsky, during this Sunday's final visit.)