Sunday, April 13, 2008

Daily News staffer on the side of the angels

[Originally posted yesterday— Sunday, April 13:]

St. Michael watches over 33rd Street, December 2006.

The Church of St. Michael on 34th Street in Manhattan has suffered more than its share of vandalism; its 12-foot Sacred Heart statue was encased in fiberglass two years ago after repeated attacks by vandals. So, it is sadly no surprise that a thief tried to take the statue of St. Michael the Archangel from its pedestal on 33rd Street by the St. Michael Academy and the Presentation Sisters convent behind the church.

What is impressive is that an employee of the Daily News—whose offices are down the street from the academy and convent—spotted the stolen statue in the parking lot where the thief dumped it, and she alerted me at my home in Washington, D.C., in time for it to be retrieved.

My former co-worker Sarah, the photo editor of the News' Web site, remembered that I had a fondness for the Church of St. Michael's Sacred Heart statue and so figured I would want to know about the fate of the one of the church's namesake. Her e-mail was in my inbox when I arrived home from Sunday Mass this afternoon:
Dawn, the angel formerly resting atop a pedestal outside the St. Michael Academy seems to have made his way across the street to the parking lot on 33rd. I can call them if you want or you can shoot them an e-mail telling them that he was apparently afflicted with a case of wanderlust and is perhaps now waiting for a car to pick him up???
She attached a cell-phone snapshot.

Amazingly, although St. Michael's hasn't been my parish since I left the News ten months ago, I still had the cell phone number of its pastor, Father Myles Murphy, and managed to reach him while he was driving. Having just left the church for the day, Father was a bit stunned to get a phone call from a former parishioner in Washington, D.C., insisting his church's statue was in the parking lot across the street.

While Father Murphy phoned the convent to see if the nuns could rescue the statue, I said a prayer for the statue's safe return—the St. Michael the Archangel prayer, of course.

Father called me back a few minutes later to let me know that two of the Presentation Sisters managed to get the statue back to their convent across the street, with the "help" of a male passer-by—who charged them 25 bucks for the favor.*

Yes, you read right: A man charged a pair of aged nuns $25 to carry a statue of St. Michael the Archangel into a convent 30 feet away. Not for nothing is the neighborhood called Hell's Kitchen.

So, what was St. Michael doing down there? Given the statue's weight, it is possible that the thief or thieves meant to carry it away but gave up early on. Or perhaps the culprit realized he didn't want to be on the wrong end of the archangel's flaming sword. Whatever happened to prevent St. Michael's presumably unintentional flight, the story now has a happy ending thanks to the Daily News' Sarah, St. Michael's own guardian angel.

*If you would like to reimburse the sisters, or help fund the reinstallation of the statue, the Church of St. Michael's mailing address is 424 W. 34th St., New York, NY 10001.