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  • Steve Auth

"You Guys Are Back!"

Mission Blog Day 4


Holy Thursday

 

Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo.   When on the missions, I sometimes get amazed at how the Lord seems to pop in just when we need him.  By now, you’d think nothing could amaze me given all the little miracles I and the other missionaries have witnessed over the course of 16 years of doing this, but somehow or other, I still am.  Last night was no exception.  After an unexpectedly hectic day at work, I arrived in SoHo just a mere 20 minutes ahead of our 4:00 “Go” hour—barely enough time to reorganize Mission HQ after the previous busy night with the brothers. 


Another cold and rainy evening lay ahead, and some of our team from the Cathedral had other obligations in their parishes uptown.  So we were going to be light.  Then I heard the door open, and through it burst a half-dozen, energetic, joyful veterans of the early days of the missions here, back for the first time post-Covid.  “Oh my goodness, you guys are back!”, as we hugged joyfully in HQ.  Along with them they’d brought a joyful and courageous Lumen couple, Rob and Nancy, anxious to discover the mission for themselves.   Just the lift we needed at just the moment we needed it!  Thank you, God! And all night long, the theme seemed to be just this, “You guys are back.”


“Orali has an ‘amazing’ experience"

Prince and Mott, SoHo.  Rob stops a young woman from the neighborhood on her way to work at one of the nearby clothing boutiques.  She’s in a pretty good mood.  “Hi, Steve!  I did go into the church yesterday for the first time.  I prayed for a while in there.  It was transformative-- an amazing experience.  I can’t tell you how happy I am your missionaries got me.”  “Confession?”  “No, not yet!  I’m still praying about it with that confession guide the missionary in the back of the church gave me.  I’m off tomorrow and trust me, I’m coming back.  I’m going to do it!”  Off Orali skips, into the night.

 




“Give Me Some of That”

Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, So Ho.  One of our mottos on the mission is “Love, don’t think.”  Christian love, self sacrificing love, never fails.   And another motto is “Show them the difference between ‘Happy’ and ‘Joyful.’  ‘Happy’ is fleeting, it’s wine that doesn’t satisfy.  ‘Joyful’ is confidence in the future, confidence that tomorrow, and eternity, will be even better than today.”  Love and joy converted the Roman Empire and love and joy remain an unstoppable force.  When people see this in our missionaries, they feel it.  It’s different than what they are accustomed to.  And some of them react with “Give me some of that.”


The missionaries gave me three stories last night all on this theme.  One came from Julie Ricardi, one of the early leaders of Walking with Purpose that has had such a huge impact on parishes around the country.  She’d joined us at the Cathedral on Monday and among others, she’d had a long chat with a young man named Declan.  Declan was raised in the Protestant faith but sees something lacking, in particular the sacrament of reconciliation.  After his talk with Julie, he wanted to meet with a priest but had to run that night.  She suggested he come to Old Saint Pat’s on Holy Thursday and so took the long train ride in from Connecticut to be there for him.  Agape love.  Declan never came at the appointed hour, and we don’t know why.  But as Evelen confidently explained to Julie, “Don’t worry, he’ll be back.  They always do.  Sometimes not on schedule, and sometimes after a few more pings from a loving joyful Catholic.  But sooner or later, once the Lord starts tugging at someone’s heart like this, they show up.  We’ll keep an eye out for him!”


Jeanine, the leader of the veteran team that burst into HQ last night right on schedule, led her group out on Mulberry and Prince, doing brisk “business.”  At one point she described the night like “raking leaves”.  “We just kept raking them into the church (through the back door on Mulberry) and handing them off to Evelyn and Maria back there….”  One of the souls her team raked in could have been Declan, though he wasn’t.  James was born a Christian and now, as an adult, was “looking around for a deeper faith.  This Catholic thing looks really attractive to me.  You all seem so happy.  But I’m not sure what I should do.”  The missionary in the back of the church suggested he approach the altar and sit close to Jesus Christ, and ask him.  “He’ll tell you what to do.  If it’s still to explore becoming a Catholic, come back to me and I can help you.”  After about 30 minutes in silent prayer, James came back.  Evelyn sat him down with Fr. Daniel, and the two had a very engaged talk.  We don’t know what happened, but we’re guessing James will probably join the RCIA program.


Later, a 7th Day Adventist wandered through the open front door of the church “for a look around.”  Later, he confided to the missionaries there that “Something is tugging at my heart.”  They talked about the Faith, and gave him a rosary to pray on along with a “How to Pray the Rosary” pamphlet.  We’re guessing he’ll be back too.


“Shopping for Eternity”

Prince and Mott, SoHo.  Kara stops at Prince and Mott for a rosary.  No time for a visit to the church, but loves what we’re doing.  “Where are you heading in such a hurry?”, one of the missionaries asks.  “Shopping!  Lots of Easter shopping to do and not much time to do it!”  “Kara, you have time for shopping and no time for eternity?  What are you thinking?”  Kara pauses for a moment to digest that one.  “Ok, you got me there.  Let me get this shopping done first though.  I’ll be back for the church visit tomorrow.”


“Is everyone out here this friendly?”

Prince and Mott, So Ho.  All night long, as folks passed us by, some stopped for a chat but others kept moving.  Even those, after receiving a joyful “Happy Easter”, nearly always returned the saluation.  At one point, a man came waltzing out of the church.  “Thank you again Steve!  It was amazing!”  “Love you, Frank!”  Rob turns to me, “Steve, this is not what I expected.  Everyone is so polite with the missionaries.  And who is Frank?  An old friend of yours?”  “Well, a friend for sure, but not that old of one.  Just met him tonight.  Really good guy.  As to the neighborhood in general, it wasn’t always this way.  I really can’t explain it.  But somehow over the years the missionaries melted the place, and the neighborhood went from insulting and resisting us to tolerating us to welcoming us.  It’s really just the old formula:  love and joy.”

 

“We’ll be back”

Prince and Mott, So Ho.  Leonardo and Clarence stop by the corner for a rosary on their way to Mass.  “Oh, thank goodness!  You guys are back!  We met you last year.  We were hoping to see you again!  We’re going to Mass now, how do you like that!”  “Wow!  We like that a lot….”  “But we haven’t gotten up the courage for confession… yet…..Tell you what, we’ll do it.  We’ll come back tomorrow and do it.  We’ll be back.”

Big day today.  Good Friday.  And sunny, clear weather.  We’re praying for the souls who told they’ll be back.  Please join us in prayer on that.  And if you can, please come down to SoHo.  The Lord needs you.


A missionary

March 29, 2024

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