“Her middle name is Grace”

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 “Her middle name is Grace”

Good Friday. The big city. Bond market open. Non-farm payrolls number not good. Rainy, dark. Lots of dark. And in the dark, the light of the cross—the triumph of light over darkness, love over hate, good over evil. The transformative power of grace—hand-delivered to us by God himself, through his beloved son, who was nailed to the cross on this very day, for us. No, who was held on the cross by His love, by Grace. Grace was the theme on this “good-est” of all days, Good Friday. Non-farm payrolls number? What non-farm payrolls number?

As has become our custom, the day got off early to a kick start by our RC youth team, carrying two crosses from Times Square and the upper East Side, collecting prayer intentions all the way down to So Ho. Plenty of the usual jeering, snide comments, and worse, indifference. Yet, amidst the sea of indifference, many hearts were touched and moved. Roger met a young man in great pain, who’d grown up moving from foster home to foster home; he prayed to be loved. We assured him with a hug that he was. One of our missionaries asked a young police officer along the way fora prayer intntion. She looked sad and distraught, and wanted us to pray that she die. We pray instead that she comes to know life through Jesus. Kyla and Matty see two women, alone, standing against a wall, confused. They don’t know how to pray. Our young teens hold their hands and pray together with them. Katie and others experienced very similar cases of helping teach others how to pray.

David meets a young man leaving a grocery store. He has a prayer intention—that he discern his vocation. He’s been seeking a sign from God if he really wants him to become a Catholic priest, and he sees the face of Christ in young David. David asks him if he wants to talk with one of our brothers, someone “better qualified.” “No thank you,” he replies. “You were all I needed. You were my sign.”

Katie and her fellow missionary get split off from their team, seemingly lost down a different side street. Making their way to So HO on their own, a man noticed their mission shirts and asked, “Are you also with those missionaries that have seen all over the city?” “Yes, is everything ok?” “Please just tell them that, thanks to them, I went to confession after a long time away, at Old St. Pat’s yesterday. I’m so very, very grateful. I’m beaming!”

Of course, there were many confrontations along the way too. The teens were prepared for this and handled them extraordinarily well. Many non-Catholics who after a little resistance, ended up offering prayer intentions for the teens to nail to the cross. Abagail confronted an angry woman, apparently fallen away from the faith, who called her over to demand “answers”. Abby and her partner never caved into the hate. A few minutes later, they parted with a prayer intention—“for healing in the Church.” Duncan bravely walks over to a man clearly angry, snickering at the cross as the team walks by. He asks him for a prayer intention. The man melts. They pray for his mother, who is dying of cancer. Tim spoke with an angry old man who shouted “I don’t love God.”. “That’s ok. He loves you.”

Chris, Duncan, and Timmy found a homeless man named Richard out on broadway, in Times Square. He asked what they were up to. Richard had fallen away from the Church years ago, and was out in the streets, alone—literally and figuratively. They spoke for a long time as they proceeded along, and eventually Richard asked if he could carry the cross to SoHo. He did, and when they made it to Old St. Pat’s, he leaned the cross against the walls of the Church and went inside for his first confession in years. He emerged with a halo, and was made an honorary member of the mission, given a shirt by the teens for his service to the mission.

Later in the afternoon, after the Good Friday service and Msgr. Sakano’s moving sermon on the power of the cross to transform us, to give us the grace to be “lights in the darkness,” the teens joined with the parish on the Via Crucis through Little Italy. Many tales stream in of the impact of the solemn procession on the neighborhood, but one in particular seems to sum up the power of Christian witness to the human soul. A missionary saw a mother following her little four year old boy backwards, against the current of the crowd, toward one of the shopkeepers, standing in the doorway of his shop, meditating on the Way. The boy had in his hands a blue rosary, given to him by one of the missionaries, a gift that had delighted him. He walked up to the pensive storeowner, gave him his precious blue rosary, and just smiled.

Today, in addition to the teens, we had RC teams sprinkled all around the neighborhood, witnessing Christ’s love, handing out rosaries, talking about faith, inviting people to Church. Another RC team was in the Church, praying for grace. Out on Prince and Mott, and back in the Church, business was brisk all day, as soul after soul, stirred by all the love and grace in the neighborhood, simply fell into our laps. Our six priests were going hard at from noon to 8, often with lines 2 or 3 deep at each confession area. And so much healing ensued. “God must have put you in my path.” “Thank you for being there for me.” “That was incredible.” “I’m so ready for Easter now.” This blog is already too long and I have so many more stories to tell. One will have to do.

A middle aged couple passed us, on their way to dinner. A discussion ensued. The man was just back from “20 years away” and had met the woman recently. He’d found his faith somewhere in the depths of prison, and had gotten his girlfriend to start going to Mass after many years away. Confession? You’re kidding? We talked for a long time about the grace of this sacrament, and the transformative power of grace. She becomes more agitated. Starts smoking. The conversation moves on. Finally, almost in tears, the missionary and the boyfriend escort her into the sacrament. He pulls the missionary aside, and says, “You know what got her? You kept talking about grace.” “Yes, Grace is what it’s all about.” “No, you don’t get it. Her middle name is Grace.”

A missionary

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