It is an incredible experience when folks you met in periods past reappear, call you by name, greet you with a warm hello and a firm handshake or a big hug! The missionaries understand so well the brotherhood we share with all members of the Church. The souls they touch are special to them as a strong, spiritual bond is forged after the soul-baring, sometimes emotional encounters on the streets.
Tony returned last night. He came for the evening Mass. The reunion was joyful. No more of the tears shared 2 years before. He lives in Brooklyn, but he came because he knew the Regnum Christi missionaries will be here. He still wears the peace he went home with at our first meeting. Better yet, he promised to come one day this week to wear the missionary t-shirt, eager to share with others like him the treasure he lost and has found!
Nina lives in the neighborhood. Perhaps it was her choice; she crossed Prince into Mott street and was met by a missionary who offered her a rosary. The conversation was short. “Yes, you have given me a rosary every year and I always declined your invitation to go reconcile with the Lord.” The missionary wondered how many years it must have been? Nina continued, “I have been thinking of your invitation and I have been reflecting on my life. Today, I will accept that invitation. It is time for me to return.” How beautiful to see the seed planted has grown big and robust to bear fruit!
Jenn also lives in the neighborhood. She drops in at Old St. Patrick’s once in a while to say a little prayer. That’s as far as she has gone. The last 10+ years of her life have been difficult. A good job lost that resulted in a really tough financial period, a boyfriend lost to a good friend, memories of physical abuse as a child, her mother’s declining health, all weighed her down. She recalled being so hungry at times that she has gone to stores, picked up an apple or a pear, ate it quickly while pretending to shop. It is hard to imagine this is the story of this tall, well-dressed, attractive woman looking very self-assured.
She is in a different, much better place now. She felt the tug of love from the One who never forgot her, eager for her return. She saw the missionaries around and saw the “Confessions this way” signs. She was tempted. ” I wanted to simply march into the church and go straight to the confession box!” Alas, she could not find the courage to do it…..until she was approached by a missionary. There were highly charged emotions as she was helped to prepare for confession. She said ” I will not leave out a thing! I have done them all. I want to get cleaned.” The story ends as Fr. Jason described her …..”joyfully skipping to receive the Lord at Mass”.
There are many more stories, we could not write them all. They fill our hearts to the brim! So many souls are waiting to be invited back! We need to be on the streets again tomorrow! The mission last night also reminds us, all sinners, of our Lord eagerly waiting for us to return to Him! Like the father of the prodigal son, he runs to meet his returning child and he spares nothing in celebration!