“As a body is one though it has many parts of the body, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-13
Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo. Beautiful, joyful “early summer” evening in SoHo! The late afternoon sun was shining warmly on our faces, and joy was in the air all around. Once again, our hit ratios were stunningly high, especially right outside the Basilica where Lumen brother Frank was stationed, literally ushering in souls off of Mott. During the closing Mass, I was struck by the cross of candles, representing the collective prayers of the evening’s “catch”, laid out on the altar. So many diverse souls had prayed there that night, from so many countries and backgrounds, even faiths. Who of the variety of people we had sent in had lit each of the candles on the altar, now joined together, forming one cross?….
Tiffany from Haiti and her boyfriend Wadell from the Bronx are passing through Prince and Mott towards the subway and home. “At least come in to light a candle, Tiffany. Pray a little. It’s Holy Week.” “We can’t, we’re in a hurry to get home.” “Hurrying to what? The usual everyday clutter! This is your chance to light a candle together before the Lord, to get your lives on a straight path.” “Tiffany, come on. It will only take a minute,” Wadell pleads. In they sashay, a missionary with them, talking animatedly about the Faith.
Erica, from the “foreign country” of California, comes back to the corner. “Wow! I feel sooooo much better! It’s been several years since I went to confession. I can’t believe I was so worried about it. I feel so much lighter, happier, joyful! Thank you for stopping me. The world has gotten so secular, and I realize my faith is so beautiful in comparison. I really have to go deeper.” Together, we reflect on John 21. “Peter was discouraged, in a state of sin for having denied Jesus three times. It’s weighing him down. He doesn’t feel right. He decides to go fishing. Is he giving up, or just distracting himself? (Something we all tend to do, Erica!) John, his beloved friend, sticks with him, looking for his chance to bring Peter home. John, not Peter, recognizes Christ on the shore. When Peter ‘hears’ John’s call, ‘It’s the Lord!’, Peter, who still can’t recognize Jesus, jumps overboard to his God. He reconciles with him. A weight has been lifted. He goes out ‘into deep water.’ He builds the Church.” “Oh, Steve, that’s me! That’s me!”
Khalid, a Muslim from Morocco, walks by. “You Christians all want to kill us!” A long discussion ensues. We have lots in common. Abraham, the father of both faiths. God, who inspired Mohammed, is the same God we worship. Jesus is at least a great prophet in a Muslim context. “But the world is going to hell! There’s too many mother-______s” trying to get us!” “Khalid, can you stop using these kinds of words out here on the street! You’re bigger than this. You’re a child of God. Come on!” ……”Khalid, you are trying to rile me up, but it’s not going to work. I love you too much. You’re my brother. Love will always conquer hate.” “No way!”…..”Khalid, I want you to go into the church to a light a candle before God, and to pray for me. Can you do this for me?” Somehow, someway (the Holy Spirit, perhaps?) Khalid finds the strength to head into a church for the first time in his life….
Bob is engaged with a young man named, I am not kidding, “Jesus.” He has a t-shirt on, “Kill them all.” “You know, Jesus, even though you don’t think you’re Catholic, you are. Once you’re baptized Catholic, you’re forever Catholic, a child of God. And he is seeking you always. Come back. Ask for his forgiveness.” Jesus is deep in thought, engaged. Tiffany and Wadell stop by, 30 minutes after their “quick visit.” All smiles. “Thank you for asking us in. It was really beautiful.” Jesus takes a rosary and promises to come back for confession later this week….
Coachella, a Catholic from Eastern Europe, chases down her friends Amanda and Amir, who have hurried off further down Prince. Amanda is Jewish, Amir is Muslim. “Amanda! Amir! Come on! Let’s all go in together a light a candle! This is the real St. Patrick’s! The original cathedral!” Khalid comes by. “I did it Steve. I lit the candle for you. I prayed for you guys!” “Thank you brother. I love you.” Amanda and Amir do an about-face and go into the church with their friend Coachella.
Jake, a young man with long hair and large bright blue eyeglasses on (the kind of “unlikely” Catholic we’ve learned to not overlook), stops when asked if he’s Catholic. His friend Luca keeps moving. Luca is “Not Catholic!”, but Jake is. “Hold on a minute, here,” says Jake. “I’m Catholic and I’d like a rosary please.” “Luca, are you really not Catholic?” asks Bob. “Well, my mother was.” “We have a lot of that going on tonight, Luca. And here’s the good news—you are Catholic if you were baptized Catholic!” “Wow, then I am Catholic after all!” They both head in to pray.
Frank stops a mother and her daughters on their way past the front gate. The two daughters, seeing their mother engaging, hurry off across the street. “Confessions available? Right now? Thank you! I’m going in!” The two daughters, watching from afar, turn tail and follow their mom into the church. “Frank, thank you, thank you, thank you. I never would have gotten them into this church without you.”
Dmitri, an Orthodox Christian from Georgia (the country), is engaged with Bob. “I have a a cousin who is Chinese and wants to join the Catholic Church. Can I bring him tomorrow?” Duhh…. A moment later, Jake, glowing, comes by to show us how he’s hung the rosary gift proudly around his neck.
Maria from Italy hurries past, with her young nephew Joseph. “No time! No time!” “Maria, really? With a name like that! You’re named after our Blessed Mother! What if she had ‘No Time’ for the angel Gabriel?” As we walk to the church together to pray, Maria already seems less frazzled. “Why are you guys doing this? Catholics never do this sort of thing? This is really kind of crazy.” “Because we love you Maria, we love the Faith, and we love Christ. And this is the most joyful thing we can think to do for Holy Week!” Good answer.