Traditionally, Labor Day is a dividing line of sorts in New York, with the lazy days of summer on one side and the opening of schools and parish programs such as religious education on the other.
Activities and programs in the archdiocese, another regular feature of our issues, also naturally spring back to life in September after a break during the summer.
An early indicator of the renewed vitality is what the Catholic New York staff calls “parade season.” It normally begins this coming weekend with the annual Labor Day march and includes in quick succession through Columbus Day weekend the annual German-American Steuben Day, Pulaski Day, Hispanic Day and Columbus Day marches.
As we all know, though, 2020 is a year like no other, and large outdoor gatherings, especially of the sort that bring people together in close proximity for blocks and blocks to cheer marchers, are currently prohibited by New York City due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There are several good reasons CNY covers these parades each year. Along with the fact that they each include Catholic contingents along their lines of march on Fifth Avenue, they feature ample opportunities for great photos.
Additionally, the Fifth Avenue parades, which include the St. Patrick’s Day and Puerto Rican Day parades in the spring, are reviewed from the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral by Cardinal Dolan, another prelate or Msgr. Robert Ritchie, the cathedral’s rector. Ticketed guests from around the archdiocese join their archbishop outside the cathedral to lend an enthusiastic show of Catholic support as marchers pass by.
Most importantly, the parades are preceded by Masses in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, often with special homilists and recognition of the parade grand marshals and their aides. The Labor Day Mass, which I’ve covered at least a couple times in recent years, includes a stirring procession of labor representatives into the cathedral while holding aloft their union banners, which are presented together at the front of the cathedral.
The liturgies show the Catholic fabric is part of the marchers’ lives, along with their particular ethnic background, and is also being celebrated that day.
This year, when the virus has taken away or interrupted so much, it’s important to hold tight to those traditions, even at a time when it is not currently possible to march proudly in the streets or wave flags while watching from city sidewalks.
Many of the parades are offering virtual online activities to enjoy as a way of staying connected.
I’d also like to suggest that regular parade-goers think about visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral sometime during the weekend your favorite parade normally steps off. Masses are currently being offered at 8 a.m. and noon on Saturdays, and at 10:15 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sundays. (Visitors must wear masks.)
And if you haven’t yet been back to your own parish church, that might be a more practical first stop to consider, either for Mass or to offer a prayer for a personal intention.