St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan is a hub for many this time of year, as Catholics and Christians congregate for mass and tourists from all walks of life flock for its rich history, beauty, and status as a New York City icon.
But before the massive structure amid the hustle and bustle on Fifth Avenue was erected, there was the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located roughly fifty city blocks south on the borderline between the neighborhoods of SoHo and Nolita.
The distinction between buildings is literal for most, separated by distance and design; but for Jonathan Morris, the demarcation between old Cathedral and new Cathedral – between old life and new life – is very much figurative.
Morris, who hosts Fox Nation’s ‘Christmas at the Cathedral,’ a new streamable special that takes subscribers down memory lane — literally, from 52nd Street to Mulberry — recounted his own past as a Catholic priest in a recent interview with Fox News Digital.
“I was very involved with working with young adults,” Morris said, recalling his service at the Old St. Pat’s, where he formed a 7:00pm mass specifically targeting young professionals. “It was a very meaningful time for me, even as I struggled, wondering whether I was in the right place.”
Following a 17-year stint in the priesthood, Morris was laicized in 2019 after his request to be removed from active ministry was granted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan and a request for dispensation from the clerical state was approved by Pope Francis. Shortly after, the Fox News contributor co-founded ‘Morris & Larson Advisors,’ an executive coaching leadership development firm.
It was also soon after when he proposed to his now-wife, ABC News’ Kaitlyn Folmer, whom he ultimately married at the new St. Pat’s.
“To think that, years later, 10 years, 11 years later, I would be watching my wife walk down the aisle of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown… it points to me that, with God, anything is possible,” Morris said.
“When mind, body, and spirit are properly ordered toward the good that God has invited us to, that’s when we flourish.” – Jonathan Morris
“It also points toward, I believe, God’s plan for us being tied to what I like to call fulfillment and flourishing,” he continued.
In the interview, Morris described flourishing as a beautiful melding, a recipe or concoction of love for our own happiness:
“It’s when mind, body, and spirit are properly ordered toward the good that God has invited us to — that’s when we flourish,” he said. “And I think all of us have that experience in different times of our lives.”
Morris’ journey toward fulfillment – from Father within the church, to father of a newborn (he and his wife welcomed a baby boy in October) – has not been without its challenges.
“My path, and I think everyone’s path, even when it is going in the right direction, is not without its major challenges, and even pain,” he told Fox News Digital. “And that pain can get in the way of our happiness, no doubt.”
It has even been, as it is for many of us, a challenge for Morris to find new ways to pray.
“I try to choose participation based on an intentional choice and desire of mine,” Morris advised, underscoring the difference between making the deliberate decision to do something difficult, and deriving a choice from a false sense of obligation. “I sit in the pews [now] and of course, for many years, I was the one on the altar.”
Despite the imperfection of the church’s leaders, as Morris eloquently described, it doesn’t stop him from committing to finding a ‘very personal, real, and profound contact with friendship with God.’
“As I see it, we were made by God as spiritual beings. And what will we do about it is what we refer to as religion,” Morris said, offering up an important insight into the common spirituality vs. religion debate.
“In other words, religion is the practice of worship of God. And in our life, if we’re not practicing our worship of God… our spirituality gets weak and lazy,” Morris explained. “And so I would say everyone has to find their own way of practicing this.”
“Practice requires work, and that’s going to be uncomfortable.” – Jonathan Morris
“Practice requires work, and that’s going to be uncomfortable,” he continued. “Sometimes, just like if we practice a sport, or we practice a hobby, we don’t get better by sitting on the couch. We get better when we practice.”
“And so if it [religion] feels a little restrictive, maybe it’s a good thing,” he posited. “The question is, why does it feel restricted? Is it because we feel that we’re too concerned about what other people think of us? Or, is it difficult because we’re actually practicing and getting better at something?”
Morris confessed that he doesn’t always practice very well.
“And I’m okay with that,” he jested.
St Patrick’s Cathedral Manhattan New York
When asked what his message is to those who make their way into the historic landmark that is St. Patrick’s Cathedral this holiday season, Morris responded by articulating the transcendental properties of being: “humankind’s natural pursuit of what is true, good and beautiful.”
And, for him, this trinity of properties is found at the marvelous structure on Fifth Ave.
“Whether you’re going for an intimate conversation with God, whether you’re going in pursuit of the sacraments of the church, or whether you’re just attracted to the truth that you find in the building, the goodness that you find in the building and the beauty, it’s usually an attraction to the transcendental beauty,” Morris said of the two-million-per-year visitors the church receives.
“All those pathways…lead us to God.” – Jonathan Morris
“I think it’s that all of those pathways [to the Cathedral] lead us to the same person, who is God – to the same being, who is God,” he continued. “And so I love the fact that people are walking through the cathedral and have no idea what it even represents.”
“People from all religious backgrounds and no religious background are able to see in the beauty of the cathedral – something that is deep, that connects with them deeply, in a deeply personal, intimate way. And I think that eventually leads us, if we pursue it, leads us to God himself.”
Good things come in virtual packages. From now until January 3, everyone can get 35% off any of Fox Nation’s yearly plans when they use the promo code CELEBRATE at checkout.
Fox Nation programs are viewable on-demand and from your mobile device app, but only for Fox Nation subscribers. Go to Fox Nation to start a free trial and watch the extensive library from your favorite Fox News personalities.