“[And then], the Lord restored the prosperity of Job, after he had prayed for his friends; the Lord even gave to Job twice as much as he had before.”
Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo. We are definitely doing this again! What a night! The streets were packed as expected, but what we did not expect was just how “docile” (to use one missionary’s words) the souls we met would be. Out on Mulberry Street, the brothers from Cheshire set up a “Pope Booth” right outside the back entrance to the church, and were offering a highly differentiated product compared to the usual grilled sausage and fried zeppolis on offer elsewhere. At times, they were almost sweeping people into the church, to light a candle before the Lord. From there, the Spirit, or the missionaries in the back, or both, seemed to get them. Our two priests were busy all afternoon with penitents, many of whom were years away from their last Reconciliation; we had to keep both priests working in the booths right through the 7:00 Mass.
On Prince and Mott, we were the beneficiaries of the steady flow of joyful souls coming out of the church, their “confession beams” all aglow. It got to the point that we could recognize almost instantly those who had received Reconciliation, and those who hadn’t. Bob turned one of the latter right back around to “complete the trifecta” (of lighting a candle, offering a prayer message in Adoration, and receiving the grace of Confession); she re-emerged a second time 20 minutes later, relaxed, beaming, and hugging us.
Of the many stories to tell, one stands out in my mind. About half way through the evening, one of our missionaries met a man who I will call “Riccardo.” Riccardo is Catholic, and gladly took a rosary. “No time though for going to the church to light a candle. On my way home for an appointment.” “Have you been inside the church lately, Riccardo?” “Of course. I go to Mass every Sunday.” “Fantastic! That’s great! Why not come in for a couple of minutes to light a candle?” Riccardo is in a hurry, he has no time. He is also disturbed by something, the missionary can feel it. The discussion goes on. “What have you been up to lately, Riccardo?” “Trying to get my life back together.” Hmmm. “From what?” A longer discussion ensues. Riccardo is a former operations manager from a prominent New York company, college graduate. “Was making six figures.” Until the bottom dropped out. Drugs. Addiction. Legal action. Loss of his job. Despair. Depression. “One other thing, Steve. That was a white lie I told you. I haven’t been making it to Mass much lately.” “Riccardo. That was more than a white lie. Not coming to Mass is saying ‘no’ to God; it’s cutting yourself off from Him and the graces he offers all of us. It is mortal. It’s not a small ‘white lie.’” Silence. Their eyes connect. More silence. “I feel like Job. I had it all, and now I’ve been brought low.” “Riccardo, feeling like Job is ok. Job stayed faithful to God, through all his sufferings. And he got back on top, in the end. He was ‘restored’.” “That’s what I need to do Steve. Stay faithful.” “Riccardo, come in to light a candle. Put your prayers before Jesus.” “I’m in a hurry.” “You told me that 30 minutes ago Riccardo. By now, you could have been in and out of the church, with your prayers front and center up there on the altar!” The discussion continues. Riccardo is hurting real bad. The missionary begins to wonder, “Am I right to stay on this? The opportunity cost tonight is very high—we have people streaming by at 30 souls a minute, and who knows who I am not there for that may need me to be there?” But he feels pulled to Riccardo, to help this one soul get back. He stays with him. He implores him. He listens to him. He loves him. Gradually, patiently, he and Riccardo walk toward the church, candle and rosary in hand. They hug outside the church, and Riccardo walks confidently in. Later, one of the missionaries in the back of the Church, and the Spirit, guide him to Confession, and grace. He is restored.
September 23, 2016