It is a cold, windy night in Soho. The advent mission is rarely an easy one. Folks are always in a hurry. In a hurry to run to dinner. In a hurry to meet up with friends, in a hurry to shop for Christmas gifts. In a hurry to get out of the cold. It is not surprising to find many unwilling to share a word with the street missionaries, who are giving out candles to passersby to be offered in the Church. The Brothers from Cheshire are singing joyfully on the streets, drawing smiles from those who are in a hurry.
A middle aged woman and a younger woman were in a hurry, too. Yet, they were unable to resist Bob’s invitation to take candles. While they resisted his persistent invitation to go to confession, they agreed to go to the Cathedral to light their candles. Hearing that they have no intention to go to confession, the missionary in the back of the Church thought it will be good to share with them the story of St Jerome. It is said that St Jerome took around 40 years to translate the Greek bible into Latin. When he completed the translation, he traveled to the Holy Land in celebration. At the time, there were many grottoes around the old city. One day as Christmas time approached, Jerome visited a grotto dedicated to the Blessed Mother. While praying, Jesus appeared to him. The story goes on to say that Jesus asked Jerome what gift he has for him. Excited and proud of his accomplishment, Jerome declared, “Lord, I just finished translating the bible into Latin! Now more people, the whole world will be able to read your word!” Jesus simply looked down, seemingly unimpressed. Determined to please Jesus, Jerome offered to give his possessions to the poor. Still, the Lord said not a word. Should he go on a pilgrimage? Should he live in the dessert? He offered to do many sacrifices. Alas! The Lord still simply looked at the ground between them. In desperation, Jerome asked, “Lord, please tell me what I can do to please you!” Jesus replied, “ I only want one thing of you. I want your sins!”
The missionary explained that what prevents us from getting close to Jesus is this wall of sins, our sins. It is a wall that Jesus can not break down to come close to us. Only we can break down this wall by repenting for these sins and by asking God’s forgiveness. Will you give Christ this ultimate gift that he may be able to extend his loving hand to you? The two women thought the stories were beautiful! Yet, they still thought that today is not the day to brave the confessional. No amount of reassurance of God’s mercy would move them. They only came to light their candles! The missionary in the front of the Church helped them with their candles and suggested confession as well! The younger woman was adamant in declaring that they are not going to confession! They are in a hurry and ought to be on their way. They lit their candles and stooped down in adoration to put their lit candles in front of the Blessed Sacrament. From this point until they returned to the back of the Church to exit, something happened…..
Miracles happen in the presence of the Lord.
When they returned to the back of the Church, the missionary took the younger woman’s hands and, ignoring her previous protestations, asked if she was ready to gift the ultimate gift to Christ. She replied Yes! she was ready, she wanted to go to confession and off she went! The missionary turned to the older woman and said it will be wonderful if she, too, can get ready for Christmas! Tears flowing, she declared that the younger woman was her daughter. She can not possibly go to confession. She also has not been to Church in many years and had forgotten how it is done. Besides, she is comfortable only in French. Hugging her tightly, she was reassured that all that will not prevent her from receiving God’s mercy. Another missionary in the back of the Church, a spiritual guide, gently helped her prepare, while the other missionary canvassed the priests to find out who spoke french! Not one of them spoke french! Fr Mark H, having worked at the Vatican for 8 years, must have been exposed to enough french. That’ll do! The evening ended with the two women in tears hugging. They admitted to feeling like they are floating in air! Hugs and kisses in thanksgiving. They then returned to the corner of Prince and Mott to thank the missionary there for having shepherded them to the Church, literally and figuratively!
The young Brother from Cheshire brought in a young woman holding a rosary. She asked if a priest can bless her rosary. The missionary in the back of the Church said there are priests in Church. While she is there, perhaps she can first light a candle by the altar, pray in adoration for a little while because the Blessed Sacrament is there. Then, she can take advantage of what is wonderful going on in Church; missionary priests are hearing confessions, preparing all for Christmas! After that, the priest can bless her rosary. She looked at the altar and saw the soft glow of the many candles in front. Then she saw the Blessed Sacrament. Without hesitation, she said Yes! she will do what was suggested. The young Brother was ecstatic! He has been conversing with the young lady for 40 minutes! She admitted to him that she has been away from the Church for many years. She feels the desire to come back but she does not know how and where to begin. Brother suggested that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the best place to start. Yet, even after 40 minutes, she could not agree to go to confession.
Brother did not give up. He gave her a rosary. Unaware that the rosaries have all been blessed, he suggested they walk to Church so that her rosary may be blessed by a priest. His persistence bore fruit. She was not able to resist the beauty she saw and the warmth she felt in the Church, a beauty that welcomed her back with love! The young Brother set the stage; the miracle happened in the presence of Christ.
A missionary in Church
Thy Kingdom Come!
Dear Stephen in Christ,
I want to give you thanks for your great sacrifice of coming to us to have the missions. At that night you said something that enlightened my mind and consequently my life: you spoke about joy and said that joy is not that superficial happiness, but the well grounded confidence in God despite all the hardships and struggles we might have. Now I know that if someone is smiling although he is going through a hard time, he is not a hypocrite or lacking authenticity. He smiles because he confronts the hardship not with feelings but with faith, which provides to him convictions so that he can act wanting to be for the others what he is called to be: a God’s instrument.
Yes, from now on I decide to smile, because nothing can deprive us from loving and self-giving and the only thing we should fear is not to be able to give more from ourselves because of selfishness.
Count on my prayers for you and all your family! Let’s keep praying for all those souls that we have met in these past missions! Thank you for everything!
In Christ and in Regnum Christi, Br Axel Hernandez LC