2018 Holy Week Mission Blog, Day 1
St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo, 2018. One of the topics we’ve discussed with the missionaries in our missionary boot camp program has been the role of you know who—the Prince of Darkness. The Devil is a force Catholics today would generally prefer to ignore and certainly not to discuss. However, not talking about something won’t make it go away. The harsh reality is that this fallen angel has been an active force of evil in the world for as long as Adam and Eve were brought into it, and he hasn’t gone away. What we’ve learned from experience in SoHo is that he does not like what we are doing in the missions, and missionaries need to be prepared for his interventions, temptations, and tricks designed to pull us from our task. The antidote to the devil and all his works is the Heart of Jesus.
So it came as little surprise to me, that on Day 1, a few of the usual distractions were occurring. One of our lead missionary priests called out of state for a family health emergency. Our new mission sweatshirts delayed in the mail, and its pretty cold out there. The missionary in the back of the church, a key component of our human net for catching souls, had to check into the urgent care ward at a hospital uptown with some scary health symptoms just two hours before tee time. At 4:10, just as we are getting underway, a call comes in from up at the new Cathedral, where Doug is running a parallel mission. “Steve, we’re under demonic attack up here! A series of crazy little things have happened. Lost one of my priests. Spilled coffee on my tie. Yelled at one of my kids for being late. I’m at risk of losing it!” “Doug, this is normal. Head back to the Eucharist and say another prayer. Love and joy. Heart of Jesus. He’s with us. He’ll pull us through.” Regular readers of this piece know the ending. God 30, Devil 0. A blowout.
“I found my soul”
Another big point we’ve made inmissionary boot camp is the observation that each missionary who comes to SoHo seems drawn there by the Holy Spirit to bring in maybe just one soul, one unique person who they seem solely fitted to attract and bring to the church. We each have different dispositions and personalities, and the Lord somehow knows this and uses this to call in missionaries to meet one particular soul out there that He’s been trying to reel in. If we don’t persevere through the night with joy and love in our heart—and on the street– we sometimes go home without ever having met that soul. I like to tell the missionaries that just when the temptation is greatest to “take a break” or “head home early”, the soul they were meant for is probably coming around the corner. Hang in there!
We had three particular soul findings that really stood out for me tonight. The first was Angelina and her boyfriend, Ricardo. Both from Brazil, both “not Catholic” until they were, and both “in a hurry” but now in a deep conversation about eternity with the two missionaries on Prince and Mott. “It’s time to let God love you, Angelina!” “Ricardo, Psalm 139. Let’s read it. He already knows the sins you’re too embarrassed to tell the priest. He just wants you to admit to them, say you’re sorry, and then give you a big hug! He wants to make up.” “The Prodigal Son, Angelina! How much worse can this be?” Slow progress being made. Suddenly, appearing out of the blue, another missionary stalwart, Cathy, appears on the corner. “I could see you two were deep in it, and I normally don’t jump in at that point. But the Holy Spirit was prodding me, Steve….” “Angelina, look, I have something to say to you, woman to woman. Let’s go for a walk together to the church.” Off they go, Ricardo following at a distance. The couple reappears 30 minutes later, joyful and full of love.
About 5:00, Fr. Stephen arrives, filling for Fr. Michael. Marie is in the back of the church, filling in for Evelyn. One sub says to the other, “Marie, I saw a woman begging at the 6 train exit up on Bleecker. Why don’t you invite her to the church for confession?” I have passed this soul many times over the years, have talked with her, and have never, as in zero times, gotten her to confession. Marie heads out. Ten minutes later, they both return. Julie has her first confession in decades. Another soul’s course turned.
At 7:00, as the joyful evening is drawing to a close, back from the church marches another Julie. Julie is a seasoned and well known Regnum Christi member from Connecticut, on her first ever SoHo street mission. She’s been joyfully at her post all night. As she approaches me, Julie has a big smile on her face. “How was it Julie?” “Steve, I found my soul. I found her.”