If the last two nights were the story of a handful of missionaries panning for souls in a fast moving, at times overwhelming, secular river of souls, tonight was almost the polar opposite.  Tonight, the entire Cheshire seminary arrived, in force.  We sent them out in teams of four into the streets, throughout the parish environs. One large team walked the entire parish with a cross while chanting melancholic Lenten hymns, and collecting souls.  Brothers in the byways.  Here are some of their stories.

Man’s Best Friend Wins Again

Corner of Prince and Mott, SoHo.  The evening gets off to an uplifting start that reminds us the Holy Spirit is present, and in good humor.  A middle aged man is out walking his dog.  Fairly large animal.  The missionaries on Prince and Mott invite him in for an improbable visit to the church.  “Guys, no way!  Chester and I are heading home to dinner!”  “Adam, just for a few minutes.  Light a candle for us.  We’re trying to make a cross of candles in there.”  “Can’t do it.  Right Chester?  We’re heading home for your favorite chopped beef dinner!”  Chester sits down on the street corner.  Adam gives him a tug, then another.  Chester lies down.  Not moving.  “Did you say someone could watch Chester for me?”  “Absolutely.  We do this thing all the time.”  Andrew, freshly arrived for the mission from Ave Maria University, grabs the reigns.  Adam marches into church, candle in hand.  Man’s best friend wins again.

A Soul Receives Prayers at the Abortion Clinic

Corner of Mott and Bleecker, SoHo.  Brother Ramon’s team arrives across from the abortion clinic.  He deploys his small group across the two streets from the clinic, and silently they walk back and forth praying the rosary, surrounding the clinic in prayer.  A few minutes later, two young women emerge.  One is sobbing uncontrollably, the other is trying to comfort her.  The brothers keep praying.  Somehow, they feel a connection to this young woman.  She seems aware of their presence, but otherwise does not engage them.  Then, a young man pulls up in a car.  They climb in, and drive off into the darkness. The moment passes.

Victoria Reverses Course

Corner of Houston and Mulberry, So Ho.  The brothers are joyfully encountering souls passing through at a rapid clip.  Victoria arrives.  Has a rosary.  “I’ve been to the church.  One of the brothers down on Prince sent me in!  Beautiful!”  “That’s wonderful Victoria!  Thank you for coming…..  Did you get a chance to light a candle and get to confession?”  “Candle?  Confession?  No, I didn’t.  My goodness.  What was I thinking?”  Victoria takes a candle, and reverses course.  Back to the church.

A Seed Planted

Corner of Prince and Crosby, SoHo.  A young family emerges out of the stream of pedestrians.  “Are you Catholic?  Anyone here Catholic?”  The mother looks up, briefly makes eye contact with the missionary, then looks down.  “No, we’re not.”  “Really?  You look Catholic to me.”  The missionary walks with them, begins talking to the 10 year old son.  Happy little kid.  “My Mom IS Catholic.  So am I,”  he proclaims.  The missionary gives him a candle to light in the church.  The mother keeps walking.  They catch up to her.  She looks the other way, tells us she’s busy.  She grabs the child’s hand, and walks off into into the pedestrian river on Layfayette.  We lose her.  But maybe a seed has been planted.

Healing in the Church

 St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo.  The back of the church crew is busy all night with a steady stream of visitors being driven in by the brothers in the byways.  Jordan tells one of the missionaries he does not need confession.  “I confess to God directly.  I don’t need a priest.”  “Wow!  That’s terrific.  Sometimes I feel that way too.  But you know, I have two reasons why I like to go to confession.”  “What are they?”  “Well, for one, it just gives me great comfort to hear the voice of God, through the priest, telling me that I am forgiven.  Without that, I think I would doubt that I was forgiven.  The second reason…”   “Forget the second reason!  The first is good enough.  Which priest can I go to?”    Mary finds a Muslim woman in the back of the church with a candle, given to her by one of the street missionaries.  “Here Mary.  I can’t light this.  I’m a Muslim.”  “Of course you can light it..  We would be delighted to have you light a candle for us.  This is a house of God. You can light a candle and give a prayer intention.”  The  woman lights her candle, and kneels near the front of the church to pray.  As she’s leaving, she finds Mary.  “Thank you Mary.  This is a beautiful place.  You seem so young and so in love with God.  Thank you for welcoming me here.”  Theresa returns to the back of the church after lighting her candle and praying for a long time.  She is crying.  “Mary, my grandmother died a year ago.  We were very close.  This is the first time in a year that I could feel her presence.  Right here.  I finally feel I am healed.”  Later, a 12 year old boy appears, alone.  “I was in Catholic school until 4th grade, but my mother isn’t Catholic anymore and she pulled me out.  I love this church.  My parents won’t come here anymore, but I like it here.  I feel peaceful here.”  The missionary in the back gives Jonathan a hug, and finds a brother to speak with him.  The two spend an hour together, talking about God.  Jonathan leaves later, with a smile on his face.

Heart of Jesus

Corner of Layfayette and Kenmare, SoHo.   Brother Leonardo’s team is sent out to the triangular park bordering Layfayette and Kenmare.   Brother deploys his small team to all four corners, each brother alone at his post.  Vulnerable positioning.  A homeless man on a wheelchair approaches Br. Felipe, standing bravely alone at the far southern end of the triangle.  “Do you have a few dollars you can give me Father?”  “I’m sorry,  I’m just a brother.  But in any case, I take a vow of poverty.  I don’t have a dime.  But I have a Rosary.  It’s worth more.  You can use it to pray to Mary.”  Michael has a fresh gash on his forehead, with a band-aid over it.  “I was beaten and robbed for $6 last night.  I feel so defeated.”  Michael  begins to cry.  “You know Michael, Good Friday is almost here.  On Good Friday, we celebrate the Jesus’ passion on the cross.  He suffered greatly to save us.  He loves us.  He loves you.”  Michael is crying more now.  “Jesus loves you Michael.  You are not alone.  Jesus suffered a blow similar to the one you have now on your forehead.  But Jesus knew that his father had not abandoned him.  And he has not abandoned you.”  Michael is wiping the tears from his eyes.  They hold hands silently for a moment, brothers in Christ.  Then, Michael  begins to shake Br. Felipe’s hand firmly, with a sincerity and love that was deeply moving.  Brother pats him lovingly on the shoulder.  Michael straightens up, thanks him one more time, and wheels himself off into the bustle of Lafayette.  I arrive on the corner just minutes before this, and snap a photo from afar.  “Brother, that was very beautiful.  That’s what this mission is all about.”  “Steve, this was very deep for me.  I felt what it will be like to be a priest.  I felt what it is like to reach out to a suffering soul in need of the love of Christ.  I felt the heart of a Jesus.”

A missionary