St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo. In the early years of the Holy Week mission in New York, Holy Saturday was a study in will and perseverance. Most of us were pretty tired by then after a week on the streets. Our voices were shot. Our smiles faded. Our effectiveness low. Somewhere along the way, all this changed. We learned to lean into the Holy Spirit, give our tired bodies over to Him, to use us as He willed. This transformed us from tired missionaries to freshly minted apostles, pouring out love and joy on the streets. Now, anticipating the rapidly approaching Easter feast, we find ourselves with a renewed urgency to bring as many souls with us to the celebration. We call it “Last chance Saturday” for us and the souls we were sent for. By mid afternoon, although our numbers were small, the Lord was dropping baskets of fruit and wine before us. The celebration had already begun in our hearts.
Reiner, the new hat seller on our corner who said early on this week that he is not Catholic but has since spent much of his time on Prince and Mott listening to our spiritual conversations, started off the day with us in prayer that we’d both have a great “sales day.” His stall mate next door, Scott “Mr. Panic”, later came over to introduce himself as well. We know from experience their spiritual journey with us has been launched. See you in September (San Genaro mission)!
As the day rolled on, fish large and small kept jumping into our boats. Across the corner at the cupcake shop, Cathy and Ken were blue-toothing Gregorian chants into their portable speaker, subtly engulfing Prince and Mott with a diffused spirituality that seemed to penetrate the crowds. Two stories, one sad and one glad, will stand in for the many, many others.
Eric, the confused, opinionated “non denominational Christian”, returns to the corner after an initial “not interested” for a longer dose of Catholic thinking on matters of Faith and an attempt to shake us. It backfires. Frustrated, he claims we are crazy but can’t seem to tear himself away and finally is pulled off the corner by his girlfriend. First though he gives me a heartfelt hug and promises to pray for us as we do for him. He has a good heart, but his brain keeps getting in the way of faith. Whether the seed of Faith was planted in fertile soil or hard rock, we do not know.
Soon after, Sarah and her close but non-Catholic friend Elena stop to grab a Mass flyer, hurrying towards the SiHo shopping district. Sarah is Catholic, Elena not. Unlike my new friend Eric, Elena seems to look upon her friend’s Catholic faith with a certain awe and humility. Sarah is in the midst of preparing for her finals for her graduate degree from Cornell. Elena has dragged her out of her apartment for a precisely 60 minute long study break/shopping expedition. “Yes Steve, I promise, I’m going to Mass tomorrow. ” “And I’m sure you got your Easter confession in already, right Sarah?”….”Sarah?” …”Sarah?”…. “Ok, well how long then? Five years? Ten? Fifteen?…” “Steve, you see, I don’t really need to go to confession. I tell God every night I’m sorry.” “Well great! How is this going for you?” “Fine.” “Not really,” chimes in Elena. “She is pretty hard on herself. She worries too much.” A longer dialogue ensues. “You know Sarah, confession isn’t about beating yourself with a whip. It’s about making up with God through the priest, who is ‘en persona Christi.’ And you know what happens then? He tells you, ”Sarah, thank you for apologizing. I already knew all about it. Stop worrying! I’m so happy you’re back! I forgive you! I love you! You are my beloved daughter!” “Ok Steve, but I’m in this short study break and I’ve got like the biggest two exams of my life this week coming up!” “Sarah, you know what? Based on our short time together, my asessment is you already know everything you need to know to pass those exams.” “Exactly correct, Steve,” chimes in Elena. “But you know what you don’t have right now, Sarah?” “Peace of mind?” “Correct again,” says my now fellow-evangelist Elena. “Sarah, you are about to win the Trifecta here! First, you are going to go to confession, make up with God, and get peace of mind. Then, you are going on a study break with your best friend Elena here. And then, this week, you are going to crush your graduate exams.” In the pair march on a spiritual study break. Thirty minutes later, they return. Sarah is beaming, and even Elena is basking in the glow. Sarah, glassy-eyed, hugs me. “Steve! Steve! You were right! I won the Trifecta! I won it!”
Alleluia! The Lord is risen! Death is conquered! Alleluia!
April 21, 2019