Cafe Societal, SoHo. From the very first encounter on this Advent mission, recounted in “Putting Christ Back in Christmas”, to one of the very last encounters of the evening, “odd coincidences” seemed to be a theme. And as later we share stories and a warm meal late into the night at Louie’s, the odd coincidences are piling up. News flash: in the spiritual life, there are no coincidences. Everything for a reason.
A Four Bagger
Mott between Houston and Prince, So Ho. Mark recounts one such coincidence that occurred early in the evening. Out on Mott, a family in a van parks right where he is stationed. As they step out, he invites the man to church and confession. “Oh thanks, but not tonight. We are on our way to dinner… You know, my wife here and I were married in that church.” “Really?” Mark responds. ” My wife and I were too.” They converse fondly about their weddings here at Old St. Pat’s. Then, Mark pops the question again. “You know, Jose, wouldn’t it be a great birthday gift to Jesus for you and your whole family to receive the sacrament of reconciliation tonight in the church you were married in?” “How special.” An odd coincidence delivers the night’s first four-bagger.
Now I’m Here
St. Pat’s Old Cathedral, SoHo. One of the missionaries helping in the church notices a man spending a long time writing out his prayer intention before Jesus. She feels a connection to him and draws near. She invites him to confession. “No thank you. I’m mad at God. He let my parents die. And since then, I’ve been away from the Church for a long time.” “Well Joseph, let me tell you something we have in common. I also fell away from the Church for a long time, not for the same reason as you but in a way I guess I was also mad at God. And you know what? That sucks. But now I’m here.” “How did you wind up here, as a missionary.” “An odd coincidence., many years ago….” Later, in tears, Joseph sits down for his first confession in 20 years. Thanks to a chance meeting in church. Now he’s here, too.
He’s the One
Mulberry, near the back of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. Then there is Lauren, a young vibrant volunteer who joined us tonight for the first time. “A man passed me dressed as a kind of punk rocker– pretty wild. I asked him if he’s Catholic, and he just kept walking. But I felt some connection. Kind of inexplicable. ‘He’s the one! He’s the one Steve told me I’d meet. He’s the soul I’m looking for! I feel it.’ I chased him down the street. We ended up having long chat. ‘Come into the church. Light a candle.,’ I offered. ‘I can’t. I’m scared. I’ve done too many bad things in my life. And besides, I’m not even Catholic,’ he countered. ‘No worse than many of us John. The Lord loves you. He will forgive his son. Go talk to him at least.’ ‘I can’t go in alone. Will you go with me?’ Lauren walks John to the church; prays quietly with him there for twenty minutes or so. Later, as he leaves, he tells her he will become a Catholic because of her. A chance meeting?
Rendezvous with God at the Cupcake Shop
Little Cupcake Shop, SoHo. Monica and Andrea have slipped into the cupcake shop for a little warmth and, ok, a cupcake. Their rosary supply is short following a productive night out on the streets. In fact, they have just two left. They offer them to a couple at the next table. Incredibly, the pair accept the rosaries eagerly. A discussion of faith and entity, over cupcakes, ensues. After 15 minutes, all four head for Old St Pat’s and confession. “Right place, right time.” Lucky?
Last Confession of the Night
In front of 32 Prince, SoHo. Finally, Fr. Eric… It’s 9:00. We’re all finally leaving Mission HQ, cold, tired, and hungry, but somehow energized. As we lock up and walk out the gate at 32 Prince, a man walks by and asks us if we know where the confessions are. He doesn’t see Fr. Eric’s collar under his coat. “Well, they were at the church till about an hour ago.” ” Oh gee, that’s too bad. I missed the chance.” ” No, you didn’t. We can do one right here and now, in the courtyard. Let’s go!” Last confession of the night. We just happened to be there as he walked past. Odd coincidence.
December 20, 2021