Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, So Ho. Cold, blustery night in New York City. We’ve had worse! We all know what to do. By the time I arrive from work, John has the mission store set up. Lumen brother Ray and RC woman Marie are on the streets, the priests established in the Church. As often happens on cold afternoons, passersby are especially hurried, anxious to get in out of the cold. Still, somehow, the Holy Spirit keeps our three priests busy most of the evening, and we even pull Msgr. Sakano into the fray at points. Our missionary in the back of the Church is having an especially hot hand inviting Church visitors, sent in by our missionaries outside for a prayer and a little relief from the cold, to receive reconciliation and experience the full mercy of our Lord.
A key theme of the evening seemed to be “I’ll be back.” For sure, while we had several souls head straight in for confession, we had at least as many tell us in some form or another that they would think about it. One missionary engaged a young Muslim man for nearly 30 minutes, talking about the relationship between their faiths. (By some “coincidence”, the missionary is a Muslim convert.) He focused mostly on Mary, venerated in both faiths. Eventually, “Ron” headed into the Church to talk with one of our priests. His wife is Catholic (we snagged her later) and he wants to convert. “I’ll be back.” Jochen, a businessman from Germany in a nice suit, gladly takes a services schedule and promises to return on Good Friday. “I love going to confession on Good Friday. It makes me feel close to Him. I’ll be back.” Jose, a bike delivery person, is flagged down on Prince. Heading back to his restaurant for another pickup. “Yes, I need to go. Friday looks great. I can come in the afternoon before work! I’ll be back!” In the back of the Church, Evelyn engages a self dedicated atheist, “former Catholic”, who still is drawn to the beauty of the place, if not its Creator. More going on here than first appears. In all likelihood, “he’ll be back,” she tells me over dinner later at Louie’s. On it went. Planting seeds in souls who we pray will return to experience the Lord’s love.
Ray spent 20 minutes outside the cupcake shop with a 50 year old man who had not been to confession “in 30 years.” “I’ve seen worse!”, Ray replied encouragingly. “My wife is very anti-Catholic…. The kids have no interest. I wish I could fix this.” “He can help you.” Silence. “John, what else is wrong here. You look worried.” “I just got some bad news, real bad…..” Quiet. “You have to take the first step, John. You have to ask for His love.” John is still, deep in thought. He wants to come into that Church, but something is holding him back. Then, from behind Ray, a voice on the bench in front of the store, “Let’s go John! This has gone far enough. We’ve got to get home for dinner.” The wife! There the whole time! With that, John abruptly departs, hurrying off with his partner into the dusk. We never got an “I’ll be back.” But we pray we will.