I was an altar boy as a kid, and attended Catholic schools all the way from kindergarden to Grade 16, my last year at St. Francis College. And, I even got a valve transplant at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn in 2009.
Still: I have never been particularly religious, and never really ‘bought in.’ Paradoxically, though, I was infused with the symbolism and majesty. I still have a drawer-ful of prayerbooks and missals, as well as tomes of Catholic faith and instruction. Some of it still makes perfect sense to me. And, I really enjoyed the way the Catholic books were laid out and illustrated, with 4-color paintings here, and simple woodcuts there. There were large illuminated initial letters, as was done with medieval tomes like the Book of Kells.
When I was a boy, there was a shop on 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge called the Catholic Shop where I spent a lot of allowance money on these beautiful books, and beautiful they were. Sadly, some of my favorites were lost to time, but I still have quite a few in a desk drawer.
An ancestor of the same shop is found on 79th Street, just east of 5th Avenue. I’d look in the window now and then but the place seemed mainly to deal in vestments, chausibles, sashes and chalices instead of books. I’ve seen a couple of recent photos of the place gated up like this.
I’ll have to stop by one day to see if it’s still open for business.
And I like that just the facts, ma’am stencil-lettered white and black sign.