Mission Blog Day 4
Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo. In his powerful Holy Thursday sermon at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Fr. Ray got pretty animated as he unwrapped the mystery of the Lord’s covenant with us. Unlike a contract or a transaction, a covenant represents a relationship between two souls, a relationship that can’t really be broken once it is entered. The Lord’s covenant with us, sealed this night 2,000 years ago and repeated at every Mass we attend, is eternal, unselfish, unbreakable. In the sacrament of Reconciliation, we speak to Him, “en persona Christi”, and He to us. And in the sacrament of the Eucharist, He and we become one body, in Christ. “Kind of mind blowing”, as Father understated.
This morning, I am reflecting on Father’s sermon last night, and of how this notion of covenant in some ways encapsulates what the SoHo mission is about. As usual, I collected dozens of stories over the evening from our many joyful missionaries: those out in the byways of the parish who invite passersby in and remind them of the Lord’s covenant with us; the missionaries in front of the church who greet them as they ente and leaver; and the “gentle souls” we place in the back of the church to delicately nudge them forward to Jesus. One story captures the work of all three groups, which I pieced together from several of them last night as they told me their part of the story….
James Re-joins the Covenant
A well-dressed young man and his girlfriend scurry by Prince and Mulberry. Our team out there, from Atlanta, hails them down.
“Excuse me, sir, would you like a rosary?”
They pause for a moment and take one.
“Yes, I guess you could say I’m Catholic, though my girlfriend is not…. Haven’t really been practicing the Faith. Kind of have my own relationship with God now…. It’s a little fuzzy. I know there’s a higher power out there, at least…. But thanks for the rosary.”
Later that evening, James decides to pay a viist to the Church to pray, while his girlfriend waits in the back. Our missionary there greets them and shows James a good quiet spot in a side pew. After a few minutes, she re-approaches him gently.
“Good evening,” she whispers. You know, we have wonderful missionary priests here in the church tonight if you would like to receive reconciliation. It’s a very beautiful thing to do just before Easter.”
James is quiet for a moment. Then he responds.
“Thank you Miss. But you see, I don’t really go to confession any more. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been to confession since my First Holy Communion over 20 years ago.”
The missionary in the back of the church doesn’t flinch.
“You know, James, almost everyone who comes in here tells me that. Many of them are afraid to go, afraid they won’t know what to say, afraid of what the priest will say, or just plain embarrassed. And you know what?”
“All God wants is for you to try. To turn to him and say you’re sorry. He already knows what you did. He just wants you to say you’re sorry and then he wants to give you a big hug.”
“Really? Is that it?”
“Can you help me get ready? I don’t remember even how to begin.”
For the next 15 minutes or so, the missionary kneels behind James, whispering questions for him to ponder as he prepares his confession. Questions about love or the lack thereof in his life, about times he’s failed others or himself, about things he’s done that he knows pulls him away from the person God wants him to be, that God made him to be.
“Ok, I’m ready.”
James heads into see Fr. Ray. They have a long talk. And then, after more prayers in the church, he strolls out, with his girlfriend who’s been patiently waiting for him in the back. He runs into one of our missionaries out front, who has just arrived on the scene from Philadelphia.
“How was your visit to the church?”
“Actually, great,” he smiles. “I’ve just come from confession! First in 20 years! I feel…. New. Free.”
“Welcome home, James.”
“What do I do now?”
“Stick with it. You have a second chance here. Try to read part of one of the gospels every day. That’s a good start. And come to Mass for Easter Sunday.”
As James heads off in the evening with his girlfriend, there is a pronounced bounce in his step. A new joy radiating from him.
He’s rejoined the Covenant. He’s back where he belongs.
“I am yours. And you are mine.”