The Other Engagement
St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo. What a night! Stock market down violently. Incoming calls from one of the networks, “Steve, can you come on the program this afternoon?” “Sorry, I have another engagement….”
Ten minutes later I am at 32 Prince, where 70 young seminarians are anxiously waiting for orders. We divide them into 14 teams, 12 of which we send to carefully chosen stations around the parish perimeter. The last two teams are the singing groups. We send these out in separate directions with maps in hand with the goal of serenading the neighborhood while linking up with each of the other 12 teams along the way. Soon, all are joyfully off to the uplifting carol, “Feliz Navidad!” I divide our most experienced missionaries between the corner of Prince and Mott and the church itself. Msgr. Sakano brings the Lord to the altar, and with five Legionaries manning the confessionals, our team is complete.
Most of the evening I am out in the byways with the brothers, who I often find joyfully and earnestly engaged with a variety of passersby. Through the long cold night, the neighborhood seems drawn to them. Every 30 minutes or so I cross paths with one of our roving band of carolers, who usually have a train of souls joyfully following, sometimes in dance mode and other times as the chorus. (Picking these off for a trip to the church was frankly too easy, like shooting fish in a barrel.) At one point I overheard a passerby proclaim, “They can’t be drunk! They are singing too clearly.” “Oh, they’re drunk alright! Drunk on Jesus!”
Back at the church, all the commotion was stirring up souls, despite the cold and lower than usual foot traffic. By the time I got back to Prince and Mott at 7:15, the radiant faces of our missionaries told me all that I needed to know. Souls had been saved, or at least put on the path to salvation, in our little corner of Bethlehem in SoHo. Some of their stories follow below.
What a joyful evening! What a privilege to be a part of this, to feel so tangibly the Holy Spirit working through us to give His love and mercy to people so desperately in need of it! What a way to prepare for Christmas!
Glad I had another engagement.
From the cupcake corner. It’s Mission Monday and just like the weather man our team leader warns us about the bitter wind chill in the city. “Bundle up.” He wants us to man our post so much so he advises us on the weather. And we wonder are the Seminarians freezing dressed with just coats? Didn’t they get the message? We’re wearing two hats and they have none.
So we’re standing on “cupcake corner” – there’s a bakery there- we’re getting ready to work. What are we going to say? I invite a young lady to go to confession and she says yes. This good work seems more difficult when people are wired with white earbuds and tuning everything out. “So we got our first yes so NOW we’re on a roll!” And yes indeed there were many stone cold faces and my fellow missionary seemed to have some doubts about how the night would be. There’s nothing or no one to judge. That’s God’s job, truly! Those that we invited to make contrition came back to us on their own and thanked us sincerely for the invitation. They were smiling ear to ear and thanking us multiple times. “Yes, those priests are amazing!” It was a very busy night and time flew.
Sometimes seasoned missionaries need a little inspiration. Moments later one of the seminarians reminded us about why he was there with us. “The love of Jesus Christ is the greatest gift we can share.”
And there was my friend being reminded by another seminarian that if you truly believe in Him you’ll be able to do your evangelization and the Truth will come out.
A radiant smile with a heart filled with joy is a humble gift and inviting people to pray and or go to confession is another gift that we ourselves can offer with thanks and praise for all our loving Father has done for us.
1 Thessalonians 1:6–7 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
Thank you for having organized the missions for us yesterday. I had a beautiful experience of getting one young lady, who was a fallen away Catholic for 7 years, go to confession. I was so happy! Really, it was a team member who got her to go to confession. I just walked this young woman into the Church.
Yours in Christ, Br. Felipe Chavez, LC