- Steve Auth
Love In The City
Mission Blog Day Five
Good Friday, April 7, 2023
Prince and Mott, So Ho. Cold, brisk wind blowing out of the north. From near and far, through the long day and evening, missionaries are streaming in from all directions. Some, seasoned veterans of missions past; others, arriving for the first time. And as if on queue, it seems every time one of them needs to leave, another instantly arrives to fill the breach in the line. It seems almost as if the missionaries out on Prince and Mott are walking people into the basilica in a continuous procession, handing them over to the missionaries in the back for further prayer, reflection, and eventually, confession. My head is a jumble of dozens of long, joyful conversations with souls out on the streets.
The mix of personalities and backgrounds impresses the newcomers most of all.
“Where are all these people coming from, Steve? Such a diversity of backgrounds! And incredible how they seem so willing to talk with us.”
“I can’t explain it, really. It just seems to happen. Somehow, the Holy Spirit just seems to bring them here, to this spot. We just need to keep loving them in the rest of the way. That’s our part. It’s all we need to do….”
Over the course of the week, we’ve distributed some 2,000 rosaries, which given the yields in So Ho these days, means we’ve introduced Jesus to nearly another 100,000 souls. Many of them passed us with not a second look, others with a brief word or “Happy Easter”, and others paused for a chat, an encounter. Some of those were long and deep, and many ended in the church or at least with a warm embrace in the chilly afternoon air. As for the others, we don’t know. A seed planted, for sure. A seed of love.
The folks from the neighborhood, of course, know us well from many years in the streets, and all, Catholic or not, greet us with a genuine smile and often a hug. Most eagerly accept a new rosary to join their “missionary rosaries” collection back home, or to re-gift to a friend, as we encourage them to do. Mark, the jewelry seller on the corner, though not Catholic, seems to welcome our presence and our company. We chat off and on through the afternoon when one or the other of us is not engaged with “a customer.”
I have dozens of stories to tell. Here are a representative three from a day when we “loved ‘em in.”
"Aces Gets Pinged"
A man with an “ACES” smock on (he does clean up in the neighborhood) came up to me and asked me to pray for him. I said sure, what’s going on? He told me he is in recovery and that it was difficult.
I asked his name
I asked if he minded if we prayed right then.
He said that would be good.
So, I prayed over Brian and he was grateful.
I asked if he was Catholic, and he said yes, but he’s been away.
I asked if he wanted to come into church to speak with a priest who could really help him on his journey.
He pointed at his smock and garbage pail and said he was on the clock.
I offered him a rosary as a reminder that Christ and His church were waiting to welcome him back and walk with him.
He thanked me, said this meant a lot, and walked away.
Maybe one of those 150 touches Evelyn talks about.
- Steve Kenny
“One Step Closer”
St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, Mott Street Entrance. A missionary is exiting the basilica after having walked another soul into the church. He spots John, a casually-dressed middle-aged man standing in front of the “Confessions” sign.
“Thinking about confession today? Good thing to do. It’s Good Friday.”
“No, not really. Well, yeah, I guess I was thinking about that. It’s been a long, long time…”
John is a self-described “former Catholic” who still comes to Mass “occasionally.” He’s a big fan of Christian values and virtues, less of the Cross, “Catholic guilt”, and the reality of sin.
“Well, John, I hear ‘ya. But sin is a reality. It’s our fallen nature. You must agree that when you sin, whether you feel guilt or not, you must feel like you’re not living up to the person God created you to be, don’t you?”
John is quiet. Thinking. The missionary senses he wants to come home, but he’s just not ready to take the last step. He’s outside the wall, looking at the confession sign.
A few minutes later, John and the missionary hug lovingly. He takes a prayer card about Mary Magdalen and her own journey home. Then he heads off towards Bleeker. Not home yet, but a step closer.
“Simon Carries Jesus’ Cross”
Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, So Ho. One of the missionaries in the back of the church spots “Simon”, praying quietly before the upcoming “Way of the Cross.” She approaches him gently.
“Would you like to go to confession now? We have several wonderful missionary priests today hearing confessions for Good Friday.”
“Thank you. But I haven’t been to confession in a long time and I don’t feel like I need to go.”
“It’s not as difficult as it seems, you know. I can help you get ready.”
“Thank you, miss, but really… no. I’m just not ready.”
A few minutes later, Fr. Daniel emerges from the sacristy with the cross for the procession. Without having observed the recent interaction at all, he picks Simon out of the crowd. Again, I can’t make this stuff up.
“Sir, can you help me? I need someone to carry the cross for the procession. Would you be willing to?”
Simon instantly accepts the offer, and proceeds to carry the cross through all 14 stations.
At the end of the service, Simon asks Father if he can hear his confession. They sit down for a long talk.
Carrying the cross can do that to you.
”Steve Finds Love in the City”
Prince and Mott, So Ho. 7:59 pm. It’s dark and cold out on Prince and Mott, and two missionaries stand together, greeting souls. Another has been sent to take down the confession signs, and put them away for another mission. A young man in his early 30’s approaches in the fading light. Last soul of the night.
“Excuse me, sir. Would you like a rosary?”
“Yes, thank you. That would really complete the evening for me. It’s been a really surprisingly wonderful night!”, he beams.
“You got to confession, then?”
“How did you know?”
“It’s actually pretty easy to tell. Most people who’ve been to confession here come out like you, glowing. Can I ask you something? How did it happen?”
“It was the little missionary in the back of the church. I just went in to say a prayer, and then she approached me and told me I should go to confession. When I told her I had too many sins to confess, she just said, “Everyone has too many sins to confess. Don’t worry. The Lord already knows what you did. He just wants you to come in and tell him and say you’re sorry. Then he’s going to give you a big hug.”
“And how did it go? Did you get that big hug?”
“I sure did. And let me tell you, I really needed it. I think that’s kind of my problem. I’ve forgotten how to love.”
“You’ve forgotten how to love like Christ, you mean Steve. The unselfish, agape love of Christ. That’s the real love.”
“Yes, that’s it. I’ve been finding myself in all these shallow, non-fulfilling relationships, and I’m getting depressed about it. Just this morning, I was watching another YouTube video on how to love. But it’s not the kind of love you’re talking about. It’s not the kind of love I experienced in that confessional, or with that woman in the church, or with you here on this corner. It’s a sort of fake love. This is the real deal.”
“I feel like I’ve found love, after all.”
Steve and the missionary hug each other tight.
And with that, Steve heads off into the cold night. He’s found Love in the city.
April 8, 2023