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  • Steve Auth

All’s Fair in Love and (Spiritual) War(fare)

Spy Wednesday

Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, So Ho.  I have to confess; I do feel a little guilty about last night.  Although one would have thought that our little 12-odd missionary band from Monday night at the big cathedral would have been outgunned and outmatched once we shifted downtown to the rough and rainy streets of SoHo, little did they know about our secret weapons:  joyful, enthusiastic, and loving seminarians from Cheshire along with four young spiritual warriors who flew in with Fr. Ryan from Benedictine College in Kansas.  After a brief training program in HQ led by the indefatigable “missionary in the back of the church”, we sent them out.  Although she’d warned them “You guys are not in Kansas anymore!”, they didn’t seem to get it and turned the tables.  Last night in Soho, it was more like “You’re not in New York, anymore.”

In short, they and the seminarians flattened the place.

Here are just a few from the mountain of stories.

“You Guys Have the Secret Sauce”

Bleeker and Lafayette, ‘The Cross Station.’  Out on ‘the cross station’, we have a small band of brothers offering prayers for people’s loved ones, then nailing them to the cross.  When I visited them 45 minutes in, they had only about 8 prayers up there; “slow night” I thought.  But by the evening’s end, they had filled the cross with prayers.  And back at mission HQ later that night, they regaled us with the stories behind every one of the prayers.  One story was particularly special.  One of the Benedictine young men with the brothers hailed down a passenger in a taxicab stuck at the light.  From the cab, the man asked them to pray for his son who was applying to Columbia.  The brothers instantly went to work on that one.  About two hours later, the man came back to the corner, on foot, smiling broadly and hugging each of them.   “This is just too wild, and I had to come back here to thank you guys.  After we talked, the taxi dropped me at my hotel and a few minutes later I got a call from my son.  He’d just an hour earlier received a letter from Columbia.  He’s in!  That’s the fastest response time to a prayer I’ve ever imagined possible!  You guys must have the secret sauce!  We’re all going to be at Mass this Sunday!”

“Sharing Jesus’s Walk to Calvary”

Bleeker and Mott, So Ho.  On my way to station 3, I passed Bleeker and Mott and to my surprise, found a small band of brothers there. Missionary veterans know Bleeker and Mott—it’s the site of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, and the source of most of the semi-violent protestors on the steps of Old St. Pat’s that got such national attention in the crazy days just after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.  If and when I send anyone up there, I always give them special instructions and preparation, but hadn’t last night because I’d meant to send them to station 3 but sent them to 6 instead—the abortion clinic.  And of course, the innocent brothers, not knowing there are laws about this stuff, actually stationed themselves right on the corner adjacent to the building.  Whoa!  They got their share of folks yelling at them, along with, by the way, folks (mostly young women by the way) cheering them on.  One particularly angry middle-aged woman called the cops, who fortunately didn’t show up before I did to rescue them.  As I led them away to safety and station 3, one of the brothers said to me, “Steve, thank you for this.  It was a great chance for us to experience, in a small way, what Jesus’ walk to calvary must have been like.  It was special.”

“Seeds Planted in Little Italy”

Spring and Elizabeth, border of Little Italy.  Down in Little Italy, the brothers are having a whale of time.  Though foot traffic was light here as elsewhere (rain will do that in SoHo), the brothers nevertheless were doing a good business reigning in souls for spiritual chats.  Rosary supplies were running low by the time I reached them.  One of the brothers had headed off with an old lady to help her carry her groceries home.  Another was talking for a long time with someone from the bowery mission who just needed a little love and respect and got a major dose of it.  Others promised to pray on the new rosaries and come back for confessions later in the week.  Seeds planted.  Back to Prince and Mott.

“Several People Crash into a Chevy”

Prince and Mott, So Ho.  Another secret weapon I felt a little guilty about was one of my colleagues from the office, who is particularly effective in talking with clients and TV anchors.  His nickname in the office is “Chevy” and frankly, half the neighborhood eventually crashed into him.  I left him on Prince and Mott and every time I returned there, he had another fish wriggling on his joyful hook.  Over the course of the evening, he not only walked multiple souls into confession, but also turned up others who wanted to help  Literally three different young people, including the manager of the famous Cup Cake Shop, all volunteered after their “crash”  to help us next year re-establish the old tradition we’d had pre-Covid of the “Via Crucis” through the neighborhood.  So that tank is now back on the battlefield as well.  Thank you, Chevy!


“An Abortion Survivor Comes Home”

St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo.  Another secret weapon we had last night was Fr. Ryan.  A young, energetic and joyful missionary priest of the Legionaries of Christ, who’d flown in from Kansas with the Benedictine College, he had not had time to register with the Archdiocese for “faculties”, and so couldn’t hear confessions at the church.  So, he volunteered instead to join us on the streets.  Goodness, gracious!  It seemed like folks were drawn to him like bees to honey.  One of the people he walked to the missionary in the back of the church was a young man code-named “Sam”.  Later in the evening, over dinner, the missionary from the back of the church gave me the story.  Sam and his twin sister were born 30 years ago.  Their Catholic mother refused their father’s insistence that they be aborted, and he never let them forget that.  “You shouldn’t be alive!”, he’d often yell at them.  “If I’d had my way, you’d have been aborted.”  “So now, frankly, I’m mad at God,” Sam confided to the missionary in the back of the church.  “Nobody wants me.  All my relationships fall apart…..”  A long chat follows.  Finally, Evelyn persuades Sam to talk to a priest in the sacrament of reconciliation.  He does and comes out crying.  Later that night, one of veteran missionary team out on Prince and Mulberry bump into him, this time with a pot of Easter lilies.  “I’m bringing these to Jesus.  Can you show me the back way into the church?”  They do, and he leaves the flowers at the foot of the altar, in front of the Eucharistic Lord in the monstrance.  Then he leaves the church, beaming.  An abortion survivor comes home.

All’s fair in Love and Spiritual Warfare.

A missionary

March 28, 2024


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