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  • Steve Auth

Holy Night - 2012

St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo. Cold windy night. Quiet night. Holy night. Joyful night. A small band of 12: 4 priests, 4 brothers, 4 missionaries. Lacking anyone to man the store and Church, we decided to use the brothers for this duty, leaving our perimeter unprotected except by the Spirit. Later, the mission corps arrived, and we began manning some of the outer stations. Although traffic, and "business" was relatively light all night, Christmas-- Christ-- was in the air, and most people we met were in a joyful mood, and interactive. A couple walked by carrying a CHRISTmas tree, and when we suggested they might therefore be CHRISTians, they asserted happily that they were "Atheists and proud of it!" As they dragged the tree off into the darkness, we hailed "God bless you!", and could only pray that the light of Christ would be with them in His tree. We had several stories, fairly usual now, of friends helping friends get to Reconciliation. One group of young women, dressed for a night on the town, initially passed us giddily, seemingly uninterested. Eventually one of them confessed to being Catholic, and then turned in the other three. Half a block of walking and talking later, and all four headed into the Church for confession. In another case, a reluctant husband was finally pushed over the top and went in, when his wife declared simply, "I'm taking you in!" The mission corps, once stationed out in the perimeter, began sending in people, some who'd only grabbed a pamphlet and moved on, until they got closer to the Church, and went in. A family of tourists went in en masse; a young woman arrived with a pamphlet, seemingly distressed, and was later spotted at the evening Mass, calm and joyful. Bob was hailing down the usual bike messengers, leading another of us to accost a flower delivery boy, who promised to return after his shift. This is part of another familiar theme: that of "seeds planted, and fruits harvested." One man asked if he'd like a rosary, responded, "No thank you! I'm still praying on the one you guys gave me last year!" One of the sidewalk vendors we finally cracked last Holy Week, looked very happy this time to see us, and instantly launched into a vigorous discussion of God and religion. His cheerful wife confided, "He only talks about this stuff with you guys." On the planting front, we had three "I'll be back's" for every "I'm going in"; we are praying that the Spirit guides these souls home.

Later that night, one of us was entirely alone with the Lord, late in the Eucharistic Hour in the main church. It was a quiet, holy moment. Suddenly, a disturbed man who earlier, after Mass, had confronted Msgr. Hearn, trying to get a piece of the Eucharist to take home and "put under his bed", appeared, looking a little dangerous. He made a beeline for the altar, where the Lord was resting on display for Adoration, until he spied the missionary, kneeling strategically just for this eventuality, at the entrance of the altar. In something like a scene out of the Godfather, there was a dangerous moment when their eyes caught, sizing each other up, deciding what to do. Then, the man turned, and abruptly backed away. It left the missionary with a deeper sense of just how deeply the Lord loves us, and how vulnerable He made himself by coming to earth to save us, and how vulnerable in some forms, such as the Eucharist, He continues to make himself, solely out of love for us. Do we love like this? Quiet night. Holy night.

A missionary

December 14, 2012


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