Café Societal, So Ho. It’s 9:00 pm on Reconciliation Monday and the missionary team leaders are gathered at “Louie’s” to share a hot meal and stories about an incredible day and evening in the vineyard of the Lord. Our young and enthusiastic seminarians, all 55 of them, have recently departed for the long ride home to the Legion’s seminary in Cheshire. They’ve left us with their stories from their stations out on the periphery of the parish, supplemented by the recountings of the lay missionaries manning the stations closer into the church.
Although seemingly all over the map, as I listen to them, I increasingly hear a common thread. It relates back to something I’d said to them earlier in the day, just before the excited yet nervous missionaries were about to burst forth out of Mission HQ to their assignments around the streets of the parish. “It’s going to be cold out there tonight. And dark. And probably it will take 50 rejections to find one person willing to talk to you. Don’t give up. Stay joyful. Persevere in love. Remember, each of you was called here today to bring home someone that you uniquely can connect with. Don’t quit until you find them. Keep looking until you find your soul.” Here are some of their stories.
What a Christmas Gift!
Bleecker Street Subway Station, SoHo. Up at the Bleecker Street Subway stop, the brothers manning the prayer cross found more than one of their souls. By the time I got up there at about 5:00 pm, they already had over two dozen prayers nailed to the cross, all from busy Christmas shoppers who’d stopped to share their hopes and dreams with the young men standing bravely in the cold, that somehow seemed to draw them in like a magnet on the busy street corner. Just as I arrived, a 30 something man, who talking excitedly with the brothers as he nailed his prayer to the cross, looked one right in the eye and thanked him. “You guys are terrific. I’ve stumbled across missionaries of other faiths before in New York, but never Catholics! I’m so proud of you guys! Catholic missionaries in New York! Wow! Please keep it up. What a Christmas gift!
A Soul Comes Back
Lafayette and Spring, SoHo. Out on Lafayette and Spring, Brother Jose Andres’ team is braving the cold, distributing smiles and joy to everyone that passes by. Christie approaches them, replying “no” to their simple question, “Are you Catholic?” Then, pausing for a moment, she changes her mind. “Actually, yes, I’m Catholic. But I don’t practice anymore. And I’m in a hurry, so no, I don’t want to go to confession.” “Thank you, but no, I don’t need a rosary either. I’ve got one already.” Then she slips off into the night…..
About 30 minutes later, Br. Jose is surprised to see Christie returning… with tears in her eyes. “You know, you brothers are so sweet. I turned you down for that rosary that you offered so freely. I didn’t want to make a commitment to you. I wanted to keep moving on. But the longer I walked, the longer I realized I’d missed an opportunity, a gift from God. So yes, please, can I have that rosary?” Br. Jose offers to pray it with her. “I would love to, but I know I’ll just end up crying. But thank you.” Christie is actually already crying. But her tears seem to be more tears of joy than sadness. Joy that God still loves her. She heads off once again into the night, this time more light-footed, more sure.
The Girl in the Green Coat
Prince and Mott, So Ho. Back at Prince and Mott, three of our Lumen missionaries are passing out rosaries and candles for prayers in the church, and business is pretty brisk. Frank offers a rosary to a young woman wearing a green coat, but she declines and heads off before he can get her name. A few minutes later, she re-approaches the corner from the opposite direction, and this time Patrick and his wife Susie offer her a rosary. She again politely declines and heads off– this time, south. Minutes later, she’s back for the third time. “You know, fellas, I really would like one of those rosaries. I think I need one. And I think I need some time in that church of yours. Can one of you take me in?”
December 27, 2021