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Michael Cremin wrote:

Hello friends,

Over the past few years, I have asked questions on what was once CPATS, and is now AskACatholic.com. I didn't always like the answers I got, but they were always given with a spirit of charity that I admit I was sometimes lacking. For that, I apologize.

After a long struggle with my Catholic faith — it's been over the course of five years now — I have finally come to terms with it all. Thank God!

Here is an easy one:

  • Where are the cool Catholic places in the Greater Boston, Massachusetts area?
  • Where are the:
    • cool shrines
    • the must-see churches
    • the bookstores
    • the feasts
    • the stuff around here, where I can take my little girls and get them enmeshed in Catholic culture?
  • Where are the Catholic Greatest Hits in Massachusetts . . . and beyond?

Thanks so much. Odd question, I realize, but . . . help me out if you can!

God bless you all,

Michael

  { Where can enmesh my little girls in a cool Catholic culture in the Greater Boston area? }

Mike replied:

Hi Michael,

Personally for me, much if not all of the strong spiritually I've received was from St. Benedict's Abbey in Harvard, Mass; right next to Action, Mass. If you wish to see what a Tridentine Mass is like, Richard can give you the scoop on that. They also have one next door in Harvard at St. Ann's House.

  • St. Paul's has a nice cathedral you may want to visit in Worcester as well as St. Joseph's in Lowell.
  • St. Joseph's Shrine in Lowell stands out to me because it depicts among other statues,
    a statue of St. Lucy, patron of eyes, holding out an eyeball on a plate : )
    It also has a bookstore as does the Abbey.
  • St. Joseph's in Webster is a minor basilica that has some really cool paintings on the ceiling of the Church interior. e.g. Kolbe and Neumann to mention a few.
    It's a Polish parish.

Hope this helps,

Mike

John replied:

Hi Michael,

Happy to hear that grace has brought you through your struggle with your faith. It's blessing for us to hear God allowed us to play a small role.

  • For starters, your young girls might enjoy the Italian feasts in the Boston's North End. They take place throughout out the summer. They honor various Patron Saints as well as Our Lady. They are not going to be replete with theology, but they are fun for kids as well as for adults.

  • One of my favorite spots is the Adoration Chapel at St. Patrick's in Natick (right on route 135 in the center of town) It's open 24/7. It's not a flashy place. It's just a small chapel with Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament. It's a great place to teach kids about quite time with Jesus.

    Spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament should be accompanied with some teaching. The ride to and from the chapel will give you some time to explain to your girls what we believe about Jesus being present in the Blessed Sacrament.

  • If you live close to Boston, then a visit to the St. Anthony's Shrine on Arch Street would be a nice trip. They have Masses throughout the day, along with Confessions. When a Mass is not be offered, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed on the Altar. You'll also find votive candles. Again, all of these things can provide teaching moments for your girls.

    You can explain Confession, the Blessed Sacrament, how candles are symbolic of our prayers. How making an offering when we light the candle is symbolic of us offering up ourselves to God. And depending on how young the kids are, they might get a kick out of flicking the switch that turns the candle on.

  • Further west in the Springfield area is the Shrine to the Divine Mercy. It's a beautiful campus and makes a nice day trip. If you do it in the fall, you can incorporate a side trip into the Berkshires to see the foliage.

  • In the Orient Heights section of East Boston there is a Shrine (Madonna Queen Shrine) that overlooks the Airport. There is a huge outdoor statue along with the Stations of the Cross. Again, you and the kids will get a kick out both the Shrine and watching the planes land and take off. If you take them there during Advent (at night), the Shrine has a beautifully lit up manger scene.

  • If you take them there during the summer, it's not too far from Revere Beach so you can have family day at the beach, stop by the Shrine on the way back, and if it's Sunday stop by one of the Italian Feasts in the North End.

Hope this helps,

John

Richard replied:

Hi, Mike —

I don't have all the answers, but would be happy to offer some nominations for the title:

Best Catholic Places to Visit in Boston and New England.

Most beautiful church building:

The Mission Church (Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help)
1545 Tremont Street., Mission Hill, Boston

Via MBTA: Green Line E-branch to Brigham Circle; walk a couple of blocks up Tremont Street.

Honorable mention:

Our Lady of Victories Church on Isabella St. in Boston.
(MBTA: Green Line to Arlington Street station)

Most beautiful cathedral in New England:

Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Providence, Rhode Island.
They had the same architect as Boston, but more money :-)

Mass with best sacred music:

St. Paul Church, corner of Bow Street and Arrow Street
Near Harvard Square, Cambridge
MBTA: Red Line, Harvard Square Station.
Sunday at 11am (from mid-September to mid-May.)

The Archdiocesan Boy Choir, based at St Paul's, sings for this beautiful Mass during the school year, and the parish maintains high ideals of Catholic sacred music.
Note: parking is often in short supply near Harvard Square.

Honorable mention:

St. Clement Shrine, 1105 Boylston Street, Boston, Massachusetts
MBTA: Green Line, Auditorium/ICA station
Sunday Mass at 11am

Note: this is near Fenway Park, so parking is difficult on Red Sox home game days. I recommend the Prudential Center garage.

Also: St. Teresa of Avila parish, West Roxbury, Massachusetts
The music director, Richard Bunbury, is one of Boston's best organists.

If you like chapels in odd places, Boston has a few:

  1. St. Francis Chapel in the Prudential Center Mall
    (By the entrance of the Sheraton Hotel; Masses and Confessions)

  2. St. Anthony's Shrine on Arch Street at Downtown Crossing
    (An ugly building, but the friars hear Confessions all day Monday—Saturday; 18 Masses every Saturday/Sunday)

  3. Our Lady of the Airways chapel at Logan Airport
    (Almost nothing happening there, but it's open for visits)
    — the tabernacle is in the form of a hangar

  4. St. Therese Carmelite Chapel in the basement of the North Shore Mall in Peabody
    (Masses are Monday—Saturday; Confessions are heard before each Mass.)

Prettiest Catholic campus:

Visit the campus of Boston College on a weekend — enter from the Commonwealth Avenue. The gate is in Newton; walk around a bit; visit St. Mary's Chapel, attached to the Jesuits' residence St Mary's Hall.

An educational opportunity to check out:

If attending evening college courses sounds interesting to you and fits your budget, consider taking one at Boston College from Peter Kreeft, the renowned author and philosophy professor. His evening classes don't require any specialist background and are usually organized around a topic such as love, life after death, the problem of evil and suffering, etc. Check Boston College's web site for details on evening philosophy courses (under College of Advancing Studies).

Best Lenten observances:

The Melkite-rite cathedral, Our Lady of the Annunciation, 7 VFW Parkway, in Roslindale (Boston), has wonderful Akathist services on Friday evenings in February and March, leading up to the feast of the Annunciation. The Akathist is a poem of praises about the mystery of the Incarnation.

New Year's Eve traditions:

  • At St. Benedict Abbey in Still River, end the old year with a Rosary at a rustic chapel they built in the woods — get a ride on the hay wagon rather than trekking through the snow.

  • Join the Cardinal starting around 9:30-10pm for an hour of prayer with young people and a Mass for the holy day: location varies; check the Archdiocesan web site or the Pilot for details.

A good place to attend Easter Triduum services:

St. Paul Church, Cambridge

Worth a visit:

  • Russian Icon Museum at St. Ann's Shrine, Sturbridge, Massachusetts
  • Museum of Russian Icons (a private, non-Catholic museum), Clinton, Massachusetts
  • At t. Benedict Abbey in the town of Harvard, Massachusetts, they have a room with an impressive relic collection: over 600 of them! Alas, I don't know how often this is open for visits — maybe only on special occasions? But it never hurts to ask.

Good monasteries to visit on a Sunday afternoon for Vespers and Benediction:

  • Mt. St. Mary's Abbey (Trappistine Nuns), Wrentham, Massachusetts
    Buy some of their delicious "Butter Nut Munch" chocolate candy, and attend Sunday Vespers in their little chapel. Go a little earlier and visit the nearby apple orchard barn store ("The Big Apple").

  • St. Joseph Abbey (Trappist Monks), Spencer, Massachusetts

  • St Anselm Abbey (and College), (Benedictine Monks), Manchester/Goffstown,
    New Hampshire (Sunday 5pm?): visitors sit in the choir stalls near the monks and
    sing the office along with them.

  • St Mary's Monastery (men) and St Scholastica's Priory (women), Route 32, Petersham, Massachusetts (Sunday 6pm?): sung Vespers in Latin with Gregorian chant.

Outdoors:

  • St. Anthony Church, the Portuguese parish in Cambridge, has impressive parades for a couple of feasts; I think the biggest one is the Santo Christo festival.

  • The North End has several societies that celebrate various saints, with boisterous parades and a couple of days of festivities for each, including a Mass at St Leonard's Church on Hanover Street. This sort of thing doesn't appeal to me much, but a lot of people love it.

  • Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish in Newton has an outdoor Eucharistic procession on Corpus Christi Sunday after their Tridentine Mass at noon.

Best bookstores:

Best for gifts and religious articles, pretty good for books:

Well, that's a start :-)

— Richard Chonak

Ann Jones replied:

Hi Mike,

St Anselm Abbey (and College), (Benedictine Monks), in Manchester/Goffstown, New Hampshire would be my personal favorite!

Visitors sit in the choir stalls near the monks and sing the office along with them. (Sunday 5pm?)

Ann

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